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I am writing this month, but I can't do Nanowrimo for reasons. One: I don't seem able to focus on very large projects at this time. I'm just grateful I can write at all! Anything longer than a short tends to get lost in the underbrush of a no-longer-chemo-brain. So I'm writing shorts, cleaning up old stuff, submitting a bit. I decided that since it's really unlikely for me to make enough money to be thrown off of Medi-Cal in the near future, it's dumb not to submit. Actually--did I explain this?--being thrown off Medi-Cal is not the thing I fear. What I'm afraid of is getting put into the grey category where they don't throw you off Medi-Cal but they require you to pay several hundred dollars (for some people, thousands!) before they will pay for anything. It would be better to get thrown all the way off and pay the (newly) normal subsidized premiums and copays, but that doesn't happen immediately. Worse, I have no idea what would trigger which alternative. So, just as in the case of facing up to cancer, etc., I just have to live my life.

I already submitted two things--one at the end of last month, but I'm counting it in this month. That was a near-future sort-of fantasy about a woman who is being moved out of her inundated neighborhood to find that her new neighborhood is pretty watery itself. And also pretty strange. The other is "John Brown's Body," which is ten years old and looks it, but it's going to a reprint market and its datedness might be interesting in the light of how things are working out, politically, these days. I mean it's sort of the opposite to everything!

I wrote a flash piece but my first reader (you know who you are) said what I was feeling--that the story felt like the unshot gun on the mantle. So now it's turning into a novella. I think it's kind of a time paradox story, but maybe not: some mysteries are not to be understood by the author. An old lady returns to the mysterious coastal village she spent a summer in during her childhood, and finds things to be somewhat different from how she remembered them, but some things are entirely too similar. The best part is the setting, of course. I think, despite what I said about my brain not being able to handle longer projects, that this is not too much for me to handle. Again, there are parts of the story that can't decide whether they are near-future sf or fantasy.

During the summer I was working on two short novels, but due to chemotherapy I could only move them forward a bit. One was about girls who save the world by means of their special relationship with crows and pigeons respectively. Honestly, the hardest part of that one is working out a believable mechanism for them to save even a shred of the world. And yet, parts of the world do get saved on a regular basis.

The other is low-fantasy in that it is set in the same fantasy world--but a different corner of it--and it is unlikely that much of the fantasy elements will come to bear on the story. It's an enemies-to-lovers story happening in the interstices of a larger drama of bandit freedom fighters and also referencing the earliest days of the motion picture industry as experienced by eager innovators in other corners of the world. But not our world. Informed by the last years of the Ottoman empire but in no way an analog for it.

On other fronts: I am a third of the way through radiation therapy. The only bothersome effect is my own body's ridiculous response to any postural demand, which is to spasm painfully somewhere. I have to lie in a comfortable position on a well-constructed individualized support for less than half an hour a day, and my body's response to this is to develop stiff painful areas in my neck, back, and arm. Not the side being radiated. The other side. My radiated breast is a little red, and maybe a bit sensitive, but not so as I'd care, especially with this other crap going on.

Continuing with the health care theme, I've restarted physical therapy. I'd gotten de-conditioned and I'd gained weight during chemo, because I spent a lot of the day sleeping or lying in bed reading. Now my energy level is back to its normal (kind of low) levels, and I'm getting more exercise, but there's some damage to undo. Also, I've been using the BiPAP machine for two months and it is not creating as dramatic a difference as one might expect. However, the doctor has some suspicions about my oxygen uptake which we're going to measure next week & discuss next month.

AND last but not least in this theme, today I got cortisone shots in both thumbs to fight severe trigger finger. It's the second round. The first wore off two months ago but the PA's not willing to give me shots more often than every six months. So if this happens again we're looking at surgery. I'm not afraid of surgery. I'm afraid of being the little old lady who collects all the surgeries, and also the fact that I've been enjoying my surgical experiences feels a little perverse to me, so I drag my feet for that reason too.

It's time to go to radiation or I'd expound about Zluta and the state of my house, but that will have to wait for another day, because after radiation Zluta and I will take a walk and after that I will want to clean house a bit before time for dancing.
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I told myself that I would return to not-Poland in March, and I have, armed with the realization that there are several stories in there and I need tell only one or two of them in any particular volume.

Also: this morning I pitched an idea to a website for a "personal essay," which I think is a pretty likely subject. I am going to try to do more of those.

Truffle update: she had her 2nd followup visit Monday and the vet said her sutures look very good, and she could go back to eating normal food. But even though her appetite has returned in full glory, Truffle is amazingly picky just now, and will not eat any form of commercial dog food: for this reason, Dr. Hoban said "Go to the drive through and get her a plain hamburger with nothing on it but the bun." And so I did. And then I stopped at the grocery store for ground beef and potatoes, which she also recommended, and while I was there I got her fried chicken thighs (she has lost a lot of weight over the last year and a couple-few pounds the last week or two, and I think her refusal to eat anything but boiled chicken breast has given her a diet that is too lean, so that's why). Of course I fed those to her in little pieces to avoid bones and globs of fat. When we got home she explained to me that she was still quite hungry and no, boiled chicken breast was no longer very interesting, couldn't she have more more more of the rich stuff? With some trepidation I cooked her some of the beef and potatoes and she inhaled it and went to sleep, making the air around us quite fragrant.

Needless to say, I'm not indulging her to that degree every day. Particulary since I spent a half hour yeasterday cleaning up the evidence that it was too much. She got tuna and potato for last night's dinner and this morning's breakfast largely because yesterday she found my stash of cooked beef and potato when I was cleaning the refrigerator so there was nothing ready (the rest of the beef was frozen because I thought I had made enough to last for a bit). I would have let her have no supper because she had eaten so much but her argument that she was verrrrry hungry and neeeeded mooore fooood was quite compelling. This morning she appears to have decided that tuna is not delicious enough, or that she is not hungry enough.

Of course it is in my mind that when an animal is ready to die they generally stop eating but this is clearly not that. She'll still come running for a liver treat and she represents quite effectively that she is hungry: she's just picky.  She's always had her opinions about food, this is just more defined.

Lest you think I do nothing but dog stuff, I'm also working on the garden. I have hired a friend (Zack's ex actually) to help me with the stuff that requires more leg stability than I currently have (because we all know how well "I'll do that after I recover from surgery" works out), like pruning and so forth, and while she's here, I weed and plant and so on. I planted kale and radishes last week, and this week I planted some irises that somebody was giving away a while ago. I don't know what kind they are but I have rarely met an iris I didn't like. When I asked the person what kind of iris they were she said "They're real!" and also that they were blue and brown (by which I think she means maroon, but we'll see). I asked her if the petals looked like they had caterpillars on them and she didn't know what I was talking about. The leaves are kind of short and stocky for irises, and the corms are big and stout. So altogether it's a mystery.

Phenological observations: the Satsuma plum tree is in full bloom and the top half of it has leaves burst out but not completely unfurled. The Italian prune has buds only, but it is yet an infant.

A few days ago I made a cake of lemons, walnut flour and poppy seeds. I may not do the poppy seed part again: I have so much trouble getting them out of my teeth. I cut the cake into witsy-bitsy pieces, which is enjoyable, but now I am finding that my favorite way to eat them is with heavy cream poured on them. Not frosting: not sweetened whipped cream: just plain, unsweetened heavy cream.

Last night's musical discovery is "Lemonade Joe" (Limonadovy Joe), a Czech movie from 1964 which is an affectionate parody of the American Western. Cinematically it is interesting in the way it tints the film to match the content of the scene (mostly yellow--for sunshine, I think--and red for when the barmaid sings, and blue for when the bad guys gather) and the way that it uses deep focus and active cameras at the same time to set up Breughel-esque busy crowd scenes in the saloon and on the street. But musically! I'm actually shocked I have never run into that soundtrack before. Whoever wrote the music had a much more than passing familiarity with the standards of American popular and folk music, and also really, really loved every note of it. There would be just enough of a familiar tune to get your expectations in gear, and the next notes and chords would be totally unexpected and completely, perfectly right.  The exceptions would be the songs sung by the missionary girl: they sound sort of, well, Czech, to me. To add to the hilarity, the title character sings in word-salad English.

Oh, I should add: I owe this discovery to Kip Williams, who tweeted a mention of it in context of discovering that the movie has its own TV Tropes page. In the interest of public service, I am not linking to that: if you have a block of time you can sacrifice to TV Tropes, you can search it yourself.

Alas, the streaming version I was able to find has subtitles in Greek. I believe you can find subtitles in Russian and German also, and Kip has it in English. He says the dialog is priceless, and I believe I will soon discover that for myself. But I can attest to the fact that the movie makes quite as much sense as it needs to if you don't understand the dialog (I got "please," "thank you," "one,two, three," and a few other words. Yay for studying Czech inconsistently off and on for five years!)
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Now I have five stories out. At least three of them are long shots, but I like the stories and this is the best I can think to do with them at the moment.
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1. Tonight's favorite: Taraf de Haïdouks, Romani-Romanian band. I shouldn't have to tell you not to read the comments, but of course I did, and now I know thatr there are people who are unable to parse "Romani-Romanian" in four languages, and also that for some people the important thing about this music is that Romanians should actgually be called Vlachs (not actually true unless you are a loony, but why else would you be talking about this in youtube comments?).

2. Also, now I want to write a story in this setting, which is an urban neighborhood made of facades only, for police training exercises.

3. I just saw some people who said that a lifetime in the abolition movement means nothing because Susan B. Anthony said something stupid to Frederick Douglass once. This actually happened weeks ago, but I just saw it.

4. Also I saw somebody lie about what I said in the comments of one of James Nicoll's posts, but I'm not going to go say anything more because I don't want to argue with this person, who is so over the top in their second- and third- hand accusations that I don't put anything past them.  Then I saw in their comments that this person has at least one friend who thinks they are consistently bullshit-free.

5. I wonder how many stories I have to sell before it stops being an event of amazement and wonder that I have to tell all my friends about and starts being a routine part of my life?

6. Truffle likes having another dog in the house so much I wonder...
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In a week and a half we're going to walk up to the hilltop amphitheater to see the opera Čert a Kača (The Devil and Kate) at Divoká Šárka, which is a park in Prague. Today we went walking there to go to the restaurant Šárka which is a little higher along the path. There, Frank had barbecued boar's ribs, and Hana had a rather bland Chicken Cordon Bleu, and I had Czech food. This time it was okay pork in Universal Brown Sauce (not bad but disappointing compared to the really nice sauce I had in Strakonice last week), really nice potato knedlicky (that's an accomplishment, as this kind of dumpling is often just like eating lead), and a sweet and sour cabbage dish with caraway that I thought would be better with less sweet and sour and less cooking so it was less soft. It was nice enough, though.

I can't upload pictures tonight because the batteries for the camera are charging, so you have to take my word for it that the park is beautiful. You know those Romantic landscape paintings? They might as well have been painted in Divoká Šárka. The rock outcroppings and swift little river are that dramatic. It's what passes for wilderness in Central Europe -- no, really, even if it wasn't in the city limits, it would be no wilder than this anywhere in the region. So while it is a park that people go camping and hiking in, you get to it on a regular city bus, and there are restaurants and a swimming pool and houses and fruit trees and farm fields in it.

The fruit trees have a story. Empress Maria Theresa had a lot of interest in fruit trees. She required the roads to all be lined with them and undertook schemes to get householders to plant more of them. Consequently, to this day, parks and roadsides all over Prague are thickly planted with apples, cherries, elderberries, all kinds of plums, and other things I don't recognize. When I leave the apartment, I graze on the plums (which are totally in season here -- the fruit is so much later than in California that the cherries just ended) in the park or on the way to the bus stop. Being plums, they have hybridized to a high degree, and no two trees are alike.

Divoká Šárka has a story of its own. It's all legend but the Czechs used to call it history. Back in the mists of time, the Czechs had a queen, Libuše. The men were kind of restive that she had ended up in charge, but she handled them carefully. She gave herself an air of deference and when the time came to marry she put on a full-force visionary search for the right man -- who happened to be a plowman, Přemysl, who she was already in love with. So she did all right. Then when she died the Czech men went full-force patriarchy and the young women revolted. One of the leaders was Divoká (wild) Šárka, about whose demise there are at least three conflicting versions I have read or heard -- either she was captured and killed by the men, or she leapt from the rocks rather than give in to the men, or she seduced and killed the men's general and then leapt to her death in remorse.

I really feel the fact that I weigh fifteen pounds more than I did a year ago. I really need my walking sticks and I sweat a lot hiking in the muggy Prague weather. Did I mention it rained quite hard for a while? But we were under the shelter at the restaurant, and we waited it out. Anyway, one of my goals on returning is to lose that weight and the weight I meant to lose during the year I was gaining all that.

Frank and Hana continue to struggle with getting UK administrative stuff squared away. Hana found a source for Czechs talking about moving to the UK, and picked up some tips that may be valuable.

Also, today, I (e)mailed off the galleys for Outside and submitted The Conduit to Tor's new e-imprint. I didn't finish the tree-hugger story but I still intend to do that in the morning and barely meet the deadline.
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Halloween came and went. Fifteen (twenty, it says here, now) thousand people downtown in costumes a large number of which were creepy or salacious or both -- I guess that's what Halloween is all about. We more or less live downtown but we don't go o9ut on Halloween, we hand out candy, and when we find them, cooler things than that. Last year it was little tiny play dough containers. Couldn't find them this year.

So when you see "20 thousand downtown" remember that the city's population is aboutn 55K. That is, a crowd the size of more than a third of the total population of the city was contained in about four blocks.

The police made 61 arrests, mostly for being drunk, some for being disorderly, some for having an open container of liquor where you're not supposed to. A policeman got stabbed, but he's sort of all right, having got stitches. For some reason not related to the constituional separation of powers the police announced that they would triple the fines. Isn't that the job of the courts?

My younger, single coworkers went downtown and didn't get to bed until really late. One went as the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, except her outfit looked more like an illustration in a fetish graphic novel. I wonder if her costume was Japanese in (design)origin? It wasn't expensive enough to be actually from Japan. How times change: I remember as a child how everything inexpensive was Japanese and a lot of people took Japanese origin to mean poor workmanship, but my mother explained it was that the workers were paid so very little. And the other one was dressed as Raggedy Ann, again with a short poofy skirt that made her so nervous she pulled the stockings right up to her butt and wore bike shorts on top of them to hold them in place.

There wasn't anything more innocent than that.

On an entirely different front, among Frank's things, along with four pocket knives (I still the grey mini Swiss Army one), I found an mp3 player. It's labelled "Evolution technologies EV-LX64" and it does not work. It uses AAA batteries, but the ones we have are old too, so I don't know if they are good. What else I have learned is this: it was produced in 2002. The company that made it is now called "Now Evolution." It takes SmartMedia cards, which seem to exist but are not inexpensive and almost but not quite the same size and configuration as the SanDisk I already have (alas, they are not interchangeable). It has 64 mb of internal memory which I gather is equivalent to about five songs. But there are two slots for the SmartMedia cards which are possibly made in modern sizes now. It has a little screen: I don't know if it will play videos, assuming you could fit one on to the cards. I don't know if it can be made to work at all. Googling is so far not productive.

And finally: I am officially as of today over halfway. I have lost 36 pounds in seven months (30 weeks, by counting on my knuckles). I am up to fifty of my exercise, except the modified pushups, which are reasonable to lag behind the others because of my hands worth a crap thing.

I have submitted a recipe for warm-pallette coleslaw to Sunset, and bookmarked the recipe submitting page, because it's really hard to find.
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Two times in the last week I've had someone say "You must really be bored." The first time it was because I was photographing a dead pelican at Its Beach. The second time it was because I said I had been reading up on wild grasses at Light house Field. Both time my response was "No, I'm just interested in stuff."

The pelican appeared to have a couple of plastic bags in its beak. Looking at the photos more closely I have to admit I don't know what I'm seeing. There's been a lot of young dead pelicans on the bay lately. They all appear to have starved to death. The thinking is that the pelicans have made their comeback, but fish stocks are low. Yesterday I tried to take a picture that would have been gorgeous, of a raft of at least fory pelicans flying through the fog, but I just couldn't get it.

don't look at these. they're gross )
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So Ralan's has two new anthology listings, basically forthelove (I can't bring myself to use Ralan's spelling for this), but both of them are ocean-themed anthologies, and one is to benefit the Surfrider Foundation, which is a very cool thing. I have a story I have always loved, which is not one thing and not the other: it has a mundane science fiction background (sea level rise, abandoned coastal neighborhoods) and a fantasy twist (encounter with the magical). And it has kelp harvesting and kayaks. I don't have it on computer, just on paper (it's from before the Great Serial Disasters), so I'll need to retype it: but I'm a better writer now, so I'd probably want to rework it a lot anyway.

Tomorrow is Emma's surgery. Sunday I think will be my first work day at my sister in law's house, tiling two tiny bathrooms and two tiny kitchens.

NPR, PBS

Jun. 12th, 2006 08:48 pm
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Move On is organizing a petition drive to stop the funding cut for NPR and PBS. Now, I'm never satisfied with public radio and public television -- they're just too far to the right and they cave in over everything: but they're the most centrist media we have, and they do a better job of reporting a wider view of our society than any other media. Silencing public radio and telvision, together with removing net neutrality (and all the sneaky little provisions: less public-access television, no more local control over cable, etc.etc.), is a move to silence the vast majority of Americans -- all the minorities of which the majority of the country is made, actually, leaving only one small minority with a voice -- those who already have disproportionate power and wealth and control of the other media.

Mostly it will be Tuesday when you read this. Sign the petition immediately, Tuesday's the deadline.

On another front: Escape Pod did not want Seven Little Men.
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So, I had this attack story which fit no guidelines I knew about. I saw a set of guidelines which was remotely like the story, but different in significant ways (including length). Knowing this to be a longshot, I queried the length requirement and the publisher graciously invited me to send the story along. Very soon after I received a polite rejection mentioning a couple of reasons why it didn't work for them along with a little faint praise.

I wanted to argue with them and pout and stuff. I wanted to tell them they didn't know what they were talking about, that the story was perfect for anybody just as it is.

I really had no call to: the story was not really what they had asked for and the terms they used to tell me why they didn't want it were perfectly reasonable.

But the story has no home, and I'm grumpy about it because I like it.


Oh well. It's not quite true it has no home: there's a couple of nonpaying outfits that would love it. Not overlapping in any way with the paying world.

On another front, I queried Firefox News about whether they'd like any articles about water issues for the science fiction writer.

This is entirely coincidental to the fact that I spent the day learning a whole new set of water quality tests for the dry-season Urban Watch program. I am now a volunteer employee of NOAA, I signed the papers (this only entitles me to workers' comp if I break my shoulder slipping around the creeksides or something).
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I just confirmed that the onliest bra that ever works on my body -- fits and doesn't make me scream after half an hour of wear and doesn't wear out in three minutes -- has indeed been discontinued by Vanity Fair. I've been wearing that bra for twenty years, maybe twenty-five. It's not that I refuse to wear another bra on principle -- I try them on sometimes -- but I'm not willing to be uncomfortable around my tender mammaries, okay? Not to mention armpits, back and shoulders.

I found a place that was selling them for $13 (they used to be more than twice that except I only ever bought them on sale). I ordered a dozen. Yep. A dozen. I might change size, but not enough to make a difference (experience shows)

For the record, they are the Vanity Fair Cotton Lace Piquant, out of which I studiously cut the underwires and then they are as comfortable as a comfortable thing.

On other fronts:

"Rubaiyyat of Omar Camacho" to Iris Print.

The rewritten "Tasmanian Flower Basket" to Fantasy Magazine.

My new submission tracker is set up: now I must spend way too much time reconstructing the information that was garbled away from the old one. Which is why I mention submissions here, by the way, it is a failsafe in case I lose the information elsewhere.

Zoom.
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However, I did finally get those five stories mailed today. And I used the treadmill at Gloria's house though it was terribly boring because I couldn't get my book to stay in a readable position. The book is Kim which I read four times forty years ago. I wanted to read Zola, but I keep having this problem -- I hate the books. Is it the translation? Or is Zola really hateful?

We saw "Akeelah and the Bee" today and it is very heartwarming and sentimental, but it is also interesting and cool. There's some stuff about redemption through what? the dictionary? competition? helping? reconciliation? jumping rope? I'm not sure. Maybe all of these things.

Gloria's on a new medicine for the dementia, its stats look good. In general, her cognitive deterioriation has been accelerating, and physically she's been getting frailer. But this last two days, while she's been really very befuddled, she's been engaged, and her eyes have the light of human intelligence in them. No thanks to her regular doctor, who did not prescribe the medicine, and who, when I took her in last week for pelvic pain (and a history of bladder infections and intestinal difficulties) prescribed 800 mg of ibuprofen twice a day. No, we didn't do it. The other doctor gave her the dementia medicine and treated her bladder infection.

Tedious bad radio luck and annoying music most of the last two days no matter what station I turn to but I hit "The Elvis Blues" on the way home.I started free-associating about songs in general.

On another front -- I finally know how Winston got his own apartment.  And it sucks that there's only one person in the whole wide world who's actually read The Conduit besides me and who therefore has a chance in hell of knowing or caring anything about it.  Since Forager Girl is the protagonist of the next thing I'm writing when I finish Afterwar  (real soon now, I've got five or no more than ten pages to go, and I'm able to do this again), I understand that Winston is a major supporting character.  And he also gets a true lover in this book, in the process of F.G. getting hers.  I'm pretty happy with the way it's shaping up and it just might be one of those fast ones like The Conduit.  

I'm about to get maudlin about writing all these terrific things and not getting them read, so I'm off to bed.

January

Feb. 2nd, 2006 11:57 am
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I read:
I Capture the Castle
Shadow in Ombria
Perfect Circle
California Landscape (geological history)
a nameless book for review
I saw:
Walk the Line (with Elizabeth)
I wrote:
the end of the draft of the story about the man who made a deal with the devil for a bigger vineyard
I went to San Francisco: seven times
I also visited my grandniece Julianna
I paid my late property taxes and helped Emma to apply for a union scholarship (I still have to file some old income taxes, and this year's)
I cleared the floor in the library and the laundry room
I went for I think six walks in the forest, and got lost once
I took about three hundred pictures, mostly of mushrooms in the forest
I wrote only five of the impeachment letters
I made an agreement with Zac about the shed after having found out that no company will sell us insurance until the old shed is down
I took in both cars for maintenance

February
I plan to take six walks in the forest and twelve shorter walks with the dog
I'm signed up for two water treatment plant tours
I plan to file this year's taxes and FAFSAs for both Frank and Emma
I plan to find out what I need to do to get the old taxes taken care of
I plan to go to the Parks and Rec old folks' fincancial class, to get the house etc. lined up so as to make things as convenient as possible for Frank and Emma when the inevitable happens
I plan to clear out the upstairs and get Emma's old computer set up there
I plan to update my scrapbook with photos of urban-rural Santa Cruz County
I plan to get the rest of The Donor online, to finish "Raining Here" and revise the devil deal vineyard story. I also plan to get Bella and Chain updated to the current time. And to start a new short story.
I plan to submit the new stories and the stories which have come back ("Convoy" and I forget which else and I can't check because I'm not home).
I plan to query agents for The Conduit. And to consider putting Esperanza Highway online.
This month is also he month for the fiftieth anniversary of my uncle and aunt in Los Angeles and the Chinese New Year Parade.

Today is Groundhog Day and the fifteenth anniversary of my mother's death.

I am not sure I saved the little brown bird that banged its head repeatedly trying to fly out Gloria's windows. It's breathing, and I set it in the sun, but it is either still stunned or dying.

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