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Listening to Albums

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 22:38

It has been easy to forget about albums, the collection of songs that would encompass an entire CD, and vinyl and cassettes before that, with the fractured attention in the online era. It has also been easy to forget about record stores, since they have largely disappeared outside of the occasional vinyl record shop these days. Every now and then, an artist will promote their album, asking us to buy it on such and such a date, when I have, for a few years now, been a subscriber to Apple Music, giving me unlimited access to whatever they happen to have on file. Up until about early 2017, I hadn't made much use of it, though it had come in handy when someone had discussed something they thought I'd be interested in. Discovery of new music has become somewhat more difficult after music blogs stopped really being a thing, and it's impossible to rely on Facebook and Twitter for anything involving focus.

I've been a longtime reader of Pitchfork, and I still take their reviews seriously. The end of year is my favourite time, since anything I would have missed over the course of 11 months had a chance to come back on my radar. I have often committed to listening to the top 100 tracks of the year, with the top albums being a bit daunting. Their album list trends towards the mainstream, and I was craving something a little more daring. In late 2016 or early 2017, a friend pointed out The Quietus's top 100 list, and it satisfied the criteria of being just a little outside of what I would find on Pitchfork. Not content to listen to the albums in order, though, once the top 100 list comes out, I shuffle the list and make an effort to listen to each of them.

About 90% of the albums can be found on Apple Music, with the rest being streamable from Bandcamp. It has been the rare album that I can listen straight through in one go, since it's rare that I have an hour or so at a time to focus on any one thing. That said, since early 2017, I've listened to over 150 unique albums, ranging in genre from rap to electronic to experimental to bluegrass to metal. While metal is the music I have most difficulty with, a commitment is a commitment. I've been able t hook up my Last.fm profile with my iPhone, which has required installing a separate app called QuietScrob and ensuring that albums are in "my library" before playing. For any new-to-me artist that I like, I check Songkick to see if they're playing in whatever city I happen to be in, and I declare my plains both on Songkick and on Facebook if either is possible. Songkick has been good for getting notified of old faves rolling through town, too.

Published by Richard on October 16th, 2018

Listening to Albums

Just a Gwai Lo - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 22:38

It has been easy to forget about albums, the collection of songs that would encompass an entire CD, and vinyl and cassettes before that, with the fractured attention in the online era. It has also been easy to forget about record stores, since they have largely disappeared outside of the occasional vinyl record shop these days. Every now and then, an artist will promote their album, asking us to buy it on such and such a date, when I have, for a few years now, been a subscriber to Apple Music, giving me unlimited access to whatever they happen to have on file.

Published by Richard on October 16th, 2018

I've Read From A Book for 6 Months Straight

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 01:30

Apparently one way to form a habit is to do that thing once a day and make a streak. Apps like Snapchat encourage streaks of sending someone in particular a message or photo, and Timehop keeps track of how many days in a row you check in on your past social media activities. It had recently occurred to me that I had stopped doing something I used to love, which is to read books.

I have recently come to regret not so much the polarized nature of Twitter but rather its effect of fracturing my attention. A tweet about one topic is followed by another, with links out to articles that I would feel hurried to read because there was another tweet waiting for me to react to. To stretch out my attention span, I wanted to get back into reading books though it had felt like there wasn't a satisfying reward mechanism to get me hooked again. That was until the Bookly iPhone app crossed my radar. I had used a few apps in the past to track the amount of time spent reading, which would give me an idea of how long it took me to read an entire book, and at what pace I read. The Bookly app added to that the concept of a reading streak, and that was exactly what I needed.

A new job in a new city made it difficult to find time to read books in the last couple of years. Recently, I set out to read a book (dead trees editions) for about 15 minutes a day for 30 days straight. On May 19th of this year, I hit that goal. I have since read from a book, either dead trees or electronic edition (mostly the latter) for 180 days in a row. I still post my progress to Goodreads, and by the end of the year I hope to have read a modest 20 books. I'm in awe of those who read 100 or more books, which is doable with planning and persistence. Reading before work and not before bed is definitely a great tip, though for me, my commute is fairly short, and time seems to go by a lot faster in the morning than it does in the evening. I've so far been able to carve out time every day, and hope to be able to do it every day for the, weeks, months and years to come.

Published by Richard on October 15th, 2018

I've Read From A Book for 6 Months Straight

Just a Gwai Lo - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 01:30

A new job in a new city made it difficult to find time to read books in the last couple of years. I set out to read from a book every day from now on.

Published by Richard on October 15th, 2018

Fantasy Pools

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 21:47

Have I told you that I’m part of a baseball fantasy pool? While growing up, I played and watched baseball, and being one of the taller players, naturally I was assigned first base. I distinctly remember the time I sat on the family home’s deck and told my parents I wanted to focus on basketball instead, which was the right decision. I would cheer for the Blue Jays, and now that I think about it, the 1994 strike coupled with graduating high school and focusing on my floundering at university (which I would recover from), I lost interest. Fast-forward to 2007, with only 3 channels on my TV, the CBC started showing Blue Jays games again. I bought an HD over-the-air receiver, and fell in love with a young utility player named José Bautista.

Years of fandom since then did not lead to an interest in joining a fantasy baseball team, though. I didn’t the appeal of following a list of players, or being an armchair GM for ballplayers across several teams.

At least not until saying yes last year. I got my chance to be creative with my team name (Batter’s Eye, after the background to what the hitter sees behind the pitcher so that he can see the ball betterf), and happily overpaid for Josh Donaldson following his MVP season. I haven’t made the playoffs yet, but it has been enjoyable to look at who’s trending for picking up on waivers and making trades that will hopefully benefit all parties.

I’ve since joined a basketball fantasy pool in order to feel better connected to the game, especially the NBA players. Being a big guy myself, I have mixed feelings about the trend towards three pointers. On the one hand, I get that you have to go with what works, but on the other hand, the big men are so athletic and fun to watch when they post up.

I named my team Paper Towels after the time that Trump “shot” paper towels to people waiting for provisions in Puerto Rico, with my icon being the paper towels as they leave the President’s hands. It symbolized a moment where he thought he was helping, was enjoying the moment, but seems to have misread the seriousness of the situation. Or maybe he didn’t care. It’s an iconic moment in my mind, so I wanted to memorialize it.

I don’t intend to win at all costs, but I also don’t intend to be a doormat. I dress active players as often as I can, and make trades when they seem good. I reject my fair of trades if it doesn’t work for me, though I don’t propose any, not really knowing what I need. It has been a fun way to keep track of individual players without cheering for a single team, that being an emotionally draining enterprise. At least with a fantasy pool, I have some measure of impact on the outcome.

Published by Richard on October 14th, 2018

Fantasy Pools

Just a Gwai Lo - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 21:47

Have I told you that I’m part of a baseball fantasy pool? While growing up, I played and watched baseball, and being one of the taller players, naturally I was assigned first base. I distinctly remember the time I sat on the family home’s deck and told my parents I wanted to focus on basketball instead, which was the right decision. I would cheer for the Blue Jays, and now that I think about it, the 1994 strike coupled with graduating high school and focusing on my floundering at university (which I would recover from), I lost interest.

Published by Richard on October 14th, 2018

Three Plants

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:53

The other life form in my apartment (until I started bringing in flowers) was a aloe vera plant. I had no strong desire to extract the aloe vera itself, and living alone, I wanted something to care for that wasn't just me. I have on my Sunday routine to water the plant, and so far so good. Except for the first year or so, I had watered it too much. After giving it to a friend in Toronto to care for it for 3 weeks while I was out of town, she and her partner gave it a name (Lady Jane, after Lady Jane Grey but mainly because they like the sound of it), and, noticing it was unhealthy, even drew up plans for its rehabilitation:

On its arrival back at my apartment, I propped it up with some chopsticks and twist ties:

It's doing well, now, though still with its supports. Today, that same friend has given me 2 more plants to take care of:

They don't yet have names, so I will take suggestions. I'm also looking forward to potentially taking in a 4th plant once I get my second bookshelf, one that will drape down the side of it, potentially.

(I regret to inform you that after I took the photo of all 3 plants, Lady Jane lost an arm.)

Published by Richard on October 13th, 2018

Three Plants

Just a Gwai Lo - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:53

The three other life forms in my apartment.

Published by Richard on October 13th, 2018

UNO Synth Day 2

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 21:45

The real magic from the UNO Synth will come not from being a standalone synthesizer but rather an instrument in an orchestra. After playing around with modifying the preset sounds and playing the demo patterns at lunchtime today, I figured out how to use the sequencer without the aid of the manual, and the video tutorial is very good. I have watched the tutorial on the sequencer, and the possibilities are exciting.

Since I have the connectors to do it, I hooked up my Teenage Engineering Rhythm and tried to get it to sync. I was so far successful only in manually syncing a pattern on the Rhythm and the UNO, only out of sheer luck, and on the first try. After watching a video on syncing a PO-12 with a Korg Volca, it didn't make obvious how to do the same with the UNO, and any videos on how to sync an the UNO with a Pocket Operator have so far not yet been made.

So far it's fun to sit on the couch and listen in using my headphones and rely on batteries for power, meaning I can work with it untethered from an electrical outlet. Conceivably I could use it on my commute, if my transit commute were long enough. With 17 minutes on a streetcar being my typical travel time, I'll barely get it out of my bag before I arrive at my stop.

Published by Richard on October 12th, 2018

UNO Synth Day 2

Just a Gwai Lo - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 21:45

The real magic from the UNO Synth will come not from being a standalone synthesizer but rather an instrument in an orchestra. After playing around with modifying the preset sounds and playing the demo patterns at lunchtime today, I figured out how to use the sequencer without the aid of the manual, and the video tutorial is very good. I have watched the tutorial on the sequencer, and the possibilities are exciting.

Published by Richard on October 12th, 2018

New Arrival: The UNO Synth

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 21:13

Toronto held a synthesizer expo in August of this year, and it coincided with a pager duty shift. That meant I was able to visit, but I couldn't hang around it long. The purpose of my attendance was to gather information, and to see if Teenage Engineering would have a booth. They did not. I talked to the Roland folks, and mentioned that I was new to synths, and told them I was looking at the Pocket Operator series. The salesman would hip me to the Korg Monotron Duo as another fun way to experience a small, cheap synth, and after watching some YouTube, long story short, a unit is in the mail. (From Japan for some reason.) At the synth expo, would be intimidated by the modular rack you see below:



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Synthia!

A post shared by Richard Brynjólfsson (@richardbrynjolfs) on Aug 19, 2018 at 10:35am PDT

Right across the aisle, I met my first, true love of synthesizers, the IK Multimedia UNO Synth:

(None of the people in that photograph are me, and it was taken by the IK Multimedia rep.)

I tried a few notes and twibbled a few knobs, and when picking it up, I was stunned how light it was. It felt like it barely existed. It was for sale at the expo and Moog Audio (a synthesizer and guitar effects pedals shop with stores in Toronto and Montréal), and they were selling it for a promotional price of $200 Canadian. Since I had only heard about it then, and hadn't even gotten started with synths (that would happen a month later), I couldn't pull the trigger. The promotional price lasted, as advertised, that weekend, and after I had decided to plunk down the money, the price went up to its manufacturer suggested price of $250.

Another month of visiting Moog Audio and watching YouTube videos would go by, the price remaining the same. A week ago, the idea of finding it on Craigslist or eBay occurred to me, and I did find a few units on the auction site. One unit had a starting price of $100 USD, which made me wonder how that unit was acquired. I decided it was none of my business, and set a mental bid limit of $200 Canadian, and just kept bidding until I reached that price. Thanksgiving Monday was the last day of bidding and, a little bit hungover from drinking a few beers the night before, I had somehow woken up at 7:00 AM, looked at my phone, and noticed I had been outbid, but was still under my self-imposed limit. I would sleepily miscalculate what I needed to bid to stay under $200 (it would work out to about $218), but I figured that would be OK, since Ontario taxes is 13%, and $218 would be under the $226 full price of the promotional price. I expected to be outbid, since that was still cheaper than retail price, but due to some miracle, someone didn't want it more than I did.

Not thinking I would be in town when it eventually was delivered, I had it go directly to the post office with FlexDelivery, a service Canada Post offers to have packages sent directly to the post office with a unique address where they email you when something arrives. I got the notification today, 2 days after the message from eBay indicating it was shipped, and not realizing what it was for, I matched up the tracking info start date with the shipping date. And here it is:



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New Arrival

A post shared by Richard Brynjólfsson (@richardbrynjolfs) on Oct 11, 2018 at 4:37pm PDT

The getting started tutorial](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uROaDUZq9zU) doesn't linger on any of the features, so tonight I have watched it with lots of pausing and rewinding. I like that style a lot, actually. There's no wasted time, and I can still go through it at my own pace. I've already downloaded the controller software, and the only disappointment so far is that I can't update the firmware. I had heard from the IK Multimedia rep at the synth expo that turning it off resets the unit, so after I recalled that, taking out the battery took it out of bootloader mode. So far I love everything about it, from how it looks to how it feels to how it's controlled. I can't wait to make interesting noise with it!

Published by Richard on October 11th, 2018

New Arrival: The UNO Synth

Just a Gwai Lo - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 21:13

Toronto held a synthesizer expo in August of this year, and it coincided with a pager duty shift. That meant I was able to visit, but I couldn't hang around it long. The purpose of my attendance was to gather information, and to see if Teenage Engineering would have a booth. They did not. I talked to the Roland folks, and mentioned that I was new to synths, and told them I was looking at the Pocket Operator series.

Published by Richard on October 11th, 2018

How I Use OmniFocus Notes

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 11:38

I use OmniFocus to keep track of what needs to be done on an individual level. All sorts of projects, from buying and framing art to starting hobbies to making notes about things to look up later get jotted down in OF. If I was ever lacking in things to do, that is no longer the case, with almost 900 open actions in 117 projects. (Not included: routine tasks that a checklist is a better fit for.) OF does not track tasks that work expects me to do, since in that case I'm accountable to others, and priority set not necessarily by me. In tickets, I always try to log what I did at the time of doing it, so that others can piece together later what happened.

So I do the same in OF notes for a task. If it's a repeating task, I write down if anything had changed since the last time and whether there were roadblocks I came across so that when I do it the next time, I can avoid them. For tasks waiting on something to happen (a delivery, for example), I make a note of the updates that come my way. Every entry in the notes gets a date associated with it, just in case I need to look up when I did something that has to do with that task.

I try not to put notes from a call or meeting in OF, since they end up being harder to find. I settled (finally) on the iOS/Mac Notes app, which syncs across all the devices I use at the moment. Whenever possible, I add a link in the OF note to something that's referenceable by URL. A Day One journal entry would be a good example, or a web page that came in handy when looking into something.

I wish there was Markdown in OF notes, but there is quite a bit possible with formatting without it, so it would only solve the problem of making bullet lists easier. (I have a text expansion shortcut for the bullet • for when typing a bullet list out on a Mac.) Sometimes OF notes become blog posts, like a forthcoming one on a synthesizer purchase, on its way from who-knows-where, the outcome of which I'm still not sure of. Usually, though, it's a way for me to track what I did and when over the lifetime of a task, and to be able to bring up a timeline if need be.

Published by Richard on October 10th, 2018

How I Use OmniFocus Notes

Just a Gwai Lo - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 11:38

I use OmniFocus to keep track of what needs to be done on an individual level. All sorts of projects, from buying and framing art to starting hobbies to making notes about things to look up later get jotted down in OF. If I was ever lacking in things to do, that is no longer the case, with almost 900 open actions in 117 projects.

Published by Richard on October 10th, 2018

Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York) All-Candidates' Meeting

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 23:25

Spadina-Fort York is a federal riding, a provincial riding, and a Toronto ward, and the boundaries are identical. Being from British Columbia, and having spent most of my adulthood in Vancouver (which does not have a ward system), the riding boundaries do not match at all. The recent changes to the wards in Toronto (from 44 to a proposed 47 to an eventual 25) set the wards to match the provincial (and therefore federal) ridings. So we will have a situation where Toronto has a councillor, MPP (member of provincial parliament) and MP (federal member of parliament) represent the exact same people but with different responsibilities.

I live in the Garment District of Toronto, which is a postage stamp neighbourhood comprising the area bounded by Spadina to Bathurst and Queen to King. I tell people I live at Queen and Spadina, though King and Spadina would be just as accurate. (Queen St. seems more famous than King St. to me.) I've been a member of the Garment District Neighbourhood Association as soon as I heard about it in 2016, and have gained their trust such that help run their Twitter and Instagram accounts and, to a lesser extent, their Facebook account. I have no plans on running for a board position, but I do like staying involved with them, helping make the neighbourhood as good as it can be.

Tonight, along with 7 other neighbourhood associations, the GDNA presented and all-candidates meeting featuring men and women running for council.

The MPP Chris Glover addressed the crowd (he noted he was allotted 45 seconds and stayed within that time).

The candidates, seated randomly, would answer questions in that order, always starting with a the candidate next on the list for each question (so that people only went first once at most). Each got two minutes to speak. Everybody more or less stuck to time. I took notes on my iPhone, and there was no break for me for my fingers to regain their composure. (It would later emerge that the meeting was recorded.) The themes were housing affordability, community safety, population growth in the ward/riding, waterfront protection and revitalization (the riding includes the waterfront along Queens Quay, not to mention Toronto Islands and the Billy Bishop airport), and infrastructure (especially as it relates to flood protection). I barely heard mention of the King St. transit pilot, and not a peep from it from the candidate most opposed to it. To say I'm a supporter of the King St. transit pilot would be an understatement. Three or four candidates stood out for me as potentially getting my vote: the incumbent Joe Cressy, litigation lawyer April Engelberg, former banker and current officer in Her Majesty's Royal Canadian Navy Kevin Vuong (the only candidate on my list not to use Nation Builder for his website), and businessman Rick Myers.

Due to the uncertainty around the which ward system the election would run under, and due to my not being in town on election day, I've had to rush somewhat to judgment on who I will end up voting for. Of the four above, I have little doubt they will remain involved in their communities and in politics, whether or not they call themselves a politician. Advance voting starts tomorrow, so I have about 48 hours to come down on a decision. I was heartened by what I saw at the all-candidates' meeting. Some clearly were not put on this earth to serve in public office, and some had the earnest belief that they can make a difference in their communities that I admire, so I hope that the latter will continue with that attitude afterwards and stay politically even though their candidacy for council is a long shot.

Published by Richard on October 9th, 2018

Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York) All-Candidates' Meeting

Just a Gwai Lo - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 23:25

Spadina-Fort York is a federal riding, a provincial riding, and a Toronto ward, and the boundaries are identical. Being from British Columbia, and having spent most of my adulthood in Vancouver (which does not have a ward system), the riding boundaries do not match at all. The recent changes to the wards in Toronto (from 44 to a proposed 47 to an eventual 25) set the wards to match the provincial (and therefore federal) ridings.

Published by Richard on October 9th, 2018

I Own a SodaStream

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 20:19

For years (really, years and years), I was and still am a loyal Coca-Cola drinker. At every job, it would take about a week for colleagues to realize just how often I drank it. There haven't been many days that have gone by where I haven't had a Coke, which I alternate between thinking of as a mark of shame and shrugging off as an aspect of my personality. I'm not saying I can tell the difference in a blind taste test, but Pepsi cola lacks the zing that Coca-Cola has. I've come to believe that it depends on the location of the bottling plant, and for some reason, Vancouver has the best Coke I've tried.

As a Coke drinker, I always order that at restaurants, and more than half the time, the server says they don't serve Coke, and they inevitably follow that up with "Is Pepsi OK?" One day, someone will say "No, it's not OK" and make a big stink about it. I never will. It's why this reaction to the sale of SodaStream to Pepsi is so funny:

I do not have an obvious place in my apartment to put it, so it sometimes sits on the coffee table or dinner table. One day my little flat in downtown Toronto is going to burst with the amount of stuff that's crammed into it.

After deciding not to buy the syrups, mainly because I care more about the fizz than the taste of soda, buying a SodaStream should dramatically cut down on the amount of my sugar intake. Other SodaStream owners I've talked to play up how much money they're saving, though it's rare to hear them say they've bought the syrup. I'm under no illusions that it will save me much money, or, more importantly, that I'll notice either way.

I can tell you what day it was that I finally surrendered and bought one: It was the day Pepsi bought the company, August 20th, 2018. I considered buying it online, though for a reason I can't remember, I wanted to buy it from a store. The website I could find it at The Bay. North America's oldest company, it's a department store with a location near my office. I would find SodaStream units in the lower level of the Eaton Centre location, and while I hummed and hawed about the price (it was $10 more than an online price), the salesman said he could honour the "special" they had recently. I bought it that day mostly to be able to say I bought it the day Pepsi purchased the company, in the belief that they're going to screw it up somehow.

And I left it in its packaging for a month. I did eventually take it out of the box, and that first day, it sprayed all over my counter. The next bottles came out better as I got the hang of it. I did go almost a full day without a Coke, and since the whole had felt a bit off, despite drinking coffee for caffeine and SodaStream water for the fizziness. So I won't totally cut Coke out of my diet, but I do see myself cutting out a large chunk of it.

Published by Richard on October 8th, 2018

I Own a SodaStream

Just a Gwai Lo - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 20:19

For years (really, years and years), I was and still am a loyal Coca-Cola drinker. At every job, it would take about a week for colleagues to realize just how often I drank it. There haven't been many days that have gone by where I haven't had a Coke, which I alternate between thinking of as a mark of shame and shrugging off as an aspect of my personality. I'm not saying I can tell the difference in a blind taste test, but Pepsi cola lacks the zing that Coca-Cola has.

Published by Richard on October 8th, 2018

My Sunday Routine

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 19:14

Back when I thought I wanted to be a sysadmin, I read Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas A. Limoncelli. The sections that appealed to me the most were about routines. The routine of his that I always remember is that he gasses up his car on Sundays. Despite being a believer in the cashless society, the thing I always do now on Sundays is get cash. That way I don't have to think about it for another week.

My Sunday routine is a list of tasks, all requiring a low amount of brain power, all which can be done in a single evening. I use the process.st recurring checklist app to remind me what to do for my Sunday routine. I got the idea of having a written-out routine after reading the article Atul Gawande wrote about checklists. (He would turn that article into a book, which I would also read.) On my "Sunday Routine" checklist are things like "take out the recycling and the trash"; "water the plant"; "download and queue up podcasts"; "charge all the things"; "fill the kettle and make some fizzy water with the SodaStream"; and other mundane but necessary things that I'd rather not do on workdays.

My hope my Sunday routine would be to offload some mental energy to a written list. I would say that has happened, but I can't say for sure that it has added to the amount of energy I have for the rest of the week. At least everything that need to get done gets done. I've added other checklists to my life, including a "Leaving Home Checklist" (so I don't forget my resuseable coffee cup and turn off the lights) and a Start Work Checklist (for all of the system I have to log into before starting my pager duty shifts in the mornings). That has led to less forgetting to do the important but brainless things I have to do every day so I don't think of it a block away from my apartment or the easy things are out of the way when getting to work.

Published by Richard on October 7th, 2018

My Sunday Routine

Just a Gwai Lo - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 19:14

Back when I thought I wanted to be a sysadmin, I read Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas A. Limoncelli. The sections that appealed to me the most were about routines. The routine of his that I always remember is that he gasses up his car on Sundays. Despite being a believer in the cashless society, the thing I always do now on Sundays is get cash. That way I don't have to think about it for another week.

Published by Richard on October 7th, 2018

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