December 13, 2009

Late Fall Cabin Fever

It has been a chilly and dry late Fall.  Last weekend there were single digit temperatures, severe windchill, and no decent snow in the vicinity.  Despite some grand designs earlier in the week, we decided to stay home.  However, by Sunday afternoon, knowing I'd be working the next weekend, I had developed a severe case of cabin fever.  So I decided to take a walk across the hill above our house.


A week earlier I had forced the kids to come on a walk with me along nearly the same route.  I was careful not to call it a hike or even a walk so that it didn't seem like a punishment.  Instead I called it an adventure, an "explore."  When they asked how long we would be walking I told them we would keep walking until they saw 10 deer or 10 interesting things.  They didn't much care for this requirement so they immediately began trying to negotiate a deal.  Was a coyote worth two deer?  How much were birds or chipmunks or the moose worth?  Is a rock considered interesting?

Most of their proposals were shot down though I did agree that a coyote would be worth about 3 deer.  Deer have been far fewer this fall, I'm not sure why, and we didn't see any.  So we kept walking.

Over the course of our exploration the kids did discover part of a deer antler, a dead baby deer skeleton, a piece of a coyote's jaw with several sharp molars still intact, and several striped feathers that I'm not sure what kind of bird they are from.  We also found an old metal washtub and a rusted 5 gallon paint can.  They almost fulfilled the "10 interesting things" requirement, but not quite.  As the sun started to sink in the sky, I figured this was a pretty good haul and we headed back.

Near the top of the hill there is a barbed wire fence surrounding several large fields, along the edge of the palouse.  I spotted two hunters mounting a tree stand on the far side of the fence, looking into the forest where we were.  I waved and one waved back.  We were probably ruining their chances of getting a kill, but I'm not sure why they were hunting so close to town.  They even had a four wheeler in case they got something.  I'm not against hunting, but I don't like lazy hunters near my house.

On my walk I was hoping I'd have more success since I could move quicker and scramble across steeper sections of the hill that I hadn't wanted to drag the kids across.  Fresh, untapped territory.  Perhaps I moved too quickly because I didn't find as many small artifacts as the kids.  Instead I found big things, like this felled tree with its bark "skeleton" left behind.


Or this lonely basalt outcropping in the middle of a nice stand of trees.  I had my GPS with me and took a waypoint.  I was tempted to make a little geocache, but since it is on private land it didn't make much sense.


I also found a little tributary stream off Hangman Creek.  It was frozen (the white stuff is ice).


I also came across a short trail that connects a small private road off of Hangman Valley road and S Southfork Ln. 

Before long the sun hung low in the sky and, despite my short list of "finds" for the day, I figured it was time to head home.  I laughed to myself that I wasn't able to fill the required list of 10 things myself, though actually completing the list wasn't the point. 

Ironically, however, on my way back, near the top of the hill where I had seen the hunters several days earlier, I startled a group of about 10 deer and slowly herded them north.  I smiled and laughed to myself again--good thing they weren't here the other day, otherwise the walk with my kids would have been too short and at least one of the deer could have ended up in pieces in someone's freezer.

I sure hope it snows soon.


December 8, 2009

Christmas Shopping with Ansel

Last Saturday I took Ansel Christmas shopping.  We went to the Children's Corner Bookshop which is a locally owned kid's bookstore in the mall that we go to quite often when we're out downtown.  He likes to play with this little mix and match bear that they have open for kids to play with.  Every time he picks it up he has to piece together the following combination:


And then he says:  "the bear is dressed for church but he doesn't want to go."

October 27, 2009

Birthday Hike


On the first in-town-day-off in three weeks, we finally had a birthday celebration of sorts.  Since it was "my day" I chose to force the kids on yet another family hike.

I read somewhere recently that there are something like 75 lakes within three hours of Spokane.  I haven't done any formal fact checking about that claim, but I imagine it is plausible.  Saturday we took in yet another of said lakes--Lower Lake Stevens which is situated in the Idaho Panhandle National forest (southern edge of Coer d'Alene NF and northern edge of St. Joe NF) at the Idaho-Montana border.

Circumstance smiled and after a rainy Friday, Saturday promised blue sky with a few scattered clouds.  Temperatures were in the upper 40s in the morning, mid 50s by the afternoon.  Fortunately or unfortunately, we were headed up in altitude where the high was expected to reach a balmy 34.




The kids did a good job of not complaining during the hike--even Savanna.  Emmy, however, couldn't help but complain about cold feet, cold hands, and a cold face.  She is forever underdressing and we've stopped forcing her to bundle up.  We paid for it this time with her fragile tears and uncharacteristic frown.  They don't know it, but they're being groomed for summer backpacking (if we're lucky possibly even to the Enchantments in the North Cascades).


Vanessa was satisfied with the scenery which offered ample photo opportunities, but lamented the mid day light which is always a challenge when taking photos. 


I, in the meantime, have been spending all my free time growing ever more facial hair.  I may start scaring small children soon.  


Here is a tree on  the edge of a clearing, steaming in the morning sun--taking in the last warmth of the season.


Ansel was very excited when we hit a dusting of snow at around 5000 feet and started eating all he could get his hands on.  In the photo above he is licking stray crystals from his hand after removing his glove.  To my satisfaction he kept exclaiming "I love snow"--though I think he may mean the taste rather than the winter fun it affords.


Key to any family hike is good food.  We were prepared for  the cold with our little stove and had hot chocolate and soup when we reached the lake.  Vanessa did a good job of documenting everything, even the food.


The kids shared the hot chocolate and the heat of the cup.


Lower Stevens Lake.  There is an upper Stevens Lake that we didn't have the heart to force the kids to go to (it's just past the trees in the left of the photo).  Amazing fall colors with contrasting snow--there's such a narrow window for this, I'm glad we didn't miss it this year.


Lower down the Western Larch (Tamarack) were in full color.

Later we dropped by our favorite North Idaho mining town, and discovered the center of the universe on a sewer drain cover in the middle of an intersection.



I suppose I agree, or at least I won't argue the point.


October 18, 2009

"They Speak Italian in Idaho" or "They Speak Idaho in Italy"

Being novice travellers, this was probably the greatest cultural exchange on our recent trip to Italy:

Italian Stop Sign from Corey Judd on Vimeo.

Apparently "stop" doesn't translate well, maybe it would say something like "fermo" or "arrestarsi" if you are actually required to come to a complete stop.  Of course treating a stop sign as a yield sign when no one else is around sounds awfully reasonable.  Seems as though I've seen that idea somewhere before:

Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

Ah yes, who would have guessed that Idaho is as progressive as Western Europe (and more progressive than *gasp* Oregon).

September 17, 2009

What is the Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow?


It looks like it's the Zip Trip at Spokane-Cheney and 195.  Who would have guessed.

A great rain ride this morning, mostly because my late night efforts to mount my fenders were vindicated, but also because I saw the boldest rainbow I've seen in quite some time.

September 14, 2009

Weekend Adventure and Spokefest 2009


Sal decided he wasn't riding on the back of my bike for 21 miles, so I rode alone while Veep watched the kids ride the short loop in the park and took photos.  Always taking photos.  I didn't think her camera would make our son a celebrity for a day, but it did.  At least at school.  Check out photo 5 on the link.  Sal's teacher called him a movie star, and his buddy at school wished he had his photo in the paper too.  And Veep even got recognized at Les Schwab, where she was getting new tires for my car.  



We got a flat on Saturday driving on dirt roads in Idaho that we probably shouldn't have been driving on in a small passenger car.  But I decided it was time to see something new and go somewhere we haven't been before so we headed south on a gravel road by the Cataldo mission.  The idea was to scout out some good terrain for skiing this winter and take a hike.  The St. Joe National Forest is beautiful.  We made our way to Crystal Lake which ended up being a great family hike--short enough for the kids but challenging and scenic enough for the grown ups.  I whole heartedly recommended it.  Afterward we kept heading south and dropped down onto the St. Joe river road--only after negotiating some steep rocky road.  When we hit asphalt it was clear that we had a flat.  I just wonder how long we had it before we noticed.


The flat tire delay kept us from getting back home in time for dinner.  The kids were complaining they were starving so, in a stroke of genius, Veep and I decided to keep the adventure going and stop at the Couer d'Alene Casino buffet--and see some thing else we'd never seen.  Needless to say, a casino buffet isn't really our style and, while it was sort of fun to do something different, we will probably never see the place again (especially now since it doesn't look like the new highway is going to go right by it).


As for Spokefest, it is always fun to see a lot of other bicycle enthusiasts crammed into one place.  I tried to ride the route kind of quick so that Veep could have a turn too.  I drafted off the Badlands Bicycle Club most of the way, then slowed a bit and started getting passed.  Not that I was racing, but I did catch a few people on the way up doomsday hill.  I don't think of myself as a climber in any respect given I weigh over 200 lbs., but I suppose all the commuting I do riding up and over the South Hill every day has actually helped.

All in all a good weekend--especially since I've worked the past two weekends and am working next weekend.  Sheesh, enough already.

BTW, Veep got a new lens which I think has inspired her to learn more technical photography skills.  I think it is paying off.  Thanks for letting me use some of the photos you so painstakingly take.

September 6, 2009

License to Ride


I had to renew my car's registration this past month.  And after a little deliberation I decided to drop some money on a "Share the Road" license plate.  I mainly did so because the extra cost would be a contribution to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.  I struggled a little with the irony of using a license plate to promote bicycling.  However, when I'm on my bike and I see cars with such license plates two things come to mind:

1.  I figure the driver is somewhat of a cyclist themselves and, as such, will be courteous and drive safely near me.

2.  I also wonder if they are wishing, like I do when I'm driving and pass someone cycling, they were riding their bike at that moment rather than sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Neither one of these assumptions are probably true all the time but it's nice to believe that they are.

In other bike related matters, the other day I came across this article via the blogosphere.  While somewhat inflammatory and confrontational, he makes some good observations about how the tendency to create artificial rules and standards can actually make cycling less accessible to the general public.  Of course I wear a helmet (and insist my kids do too) and recently spent a bit of money on a new bike so I'm a lousy bicycle advocate.  In some respects I think the article feels like the ultimate chatroom/forum "shut up and ride" comment.

In other bike related matters, I'm excited about the upcoming, second annual Spokefest.  This is one of my favorite new Spokane events as it follows the tradition of cramming lots of people into downtown and Riverfront Park, as mentioned in Out There Monthly.  I am considering riding The Big Dummy with my five year old on the back.  I need to do some fine tuning of the shifting cable for the Rohloff and make sure the little guy is up for the 21 mile ride first.  I'd love to get my girls to pedal the long route as well but am not sure that is in the cards this year.  Maybe next year.

Finally, I wanted to share a couple videos.

This first video is from a blog I've started following recently.  It's maintained by a photographer who is on an extended bike tour of the U.S. with his girlfriend.  He is very talented and does a great job documenting their adventures by both stills and video.  This video caught my imagination last week, both because of the great scenery of the San Juan Islands (Orcaas Island here) and its nicely chosen soundtrack by Modest Mouse from nearby Issaquah. - Riding on Orcas Island from Russ Roca on Vimeo.

The only thing I would change would be to make it longer so I don't have to keep pressing play.

This second video was forwarded to me by my Dad who just got back from a year in China.  I know China is crowded, but 16 people on one bicycle?  This kind of steals the show from all the other artistic cycling videos that have been bouncing around the blogosphere.

But I'd have to say, the time and dedication artistic cycling requires really limits its accessibility for the general population.  They're skilled gymnasts, but terrible bicycle advocates:)

August 17, 2009

The Circle of Life Rambles On

Things in life come and go.  Lately my big left toenail has done more going than coming.  It got ripped off a year and a half ago while moving a couch from our rental house into our new home.  It was nearly all the way back in, looked almost normal, when it got torn off again a few days ago.  On a whim, I was moving a chair in the living room when it got bumped.  It must not have been as normal as it looked because one scrape with the wooden foot of the chair and it popped up like the trunk of a car.  The first thing I did was find Veep and ask for her help.  The first thing she did was let out an obligatory howl of disgust, "eeeewwwww."  And then, without even blinking, "Do you want me to get the kids so they can see too?"

After about fifteen minutes of kind of dabbing the thing, trying to get it to lay back down properly, I accepted the fact that I was going to have to debride it.  With only a little hesitation, I grabbed the sucker and quickly yanked it clean.  A very strange feeling.

Below is a picture I snapped after cleaning it up.  It is small so you don't have to see it if you don't want to.  Click on the toenail to see the full size version (pun intended, sorry).


Fortunately it's not too painful and doesn't interfere with biking whatsoever.  Which got me thinking, what are toenails or fingernails for?  I assume they're some sort of vestigial claws, but I don't know that for sure.  In fact, after about 10 years of medical training, I don't remember a single lecture or article that stated "finger and toenails are important because..."  Anatomy was mentioned, how to treat a subungual hematoma or toenail fungus was mentioned, but an essential function or purpose was never alluded to.  I'm sure a quick Google (or Yahoo) search could clear it up but I'll leave that to the gods of the internet.

In keeping with my theme in the title, I was out in the garden the other evening, harvesting some sweet homegrown organic tomatoes when I saw this:


Those are several wasps attacking a grub.  I've never seen anything like it before.  I usually despise wasps and have spent several hours this spring and summer knocking countless nests down from under our eaves and deck.  As a result we've had fewer stings this year (excluding a friend's 7 year old son who, unfortunately, was the first to sit at the table on our deck after we had been out of town for 4 weeks where the wasps had built a large nest with many young larvae they were aggressively "protecting" and stung him no less than 8 times).  

I've always questioned the value of wasps, since I don't think they do much to pollinate flowers the way bees do, and only seem to annoy and possibly sting.  So the above photo was singular in that I now see their value in pest control.  I honestly had never thought about why these particular hymenoptera are a necessary part of life, but apparently they are.  I will, however,  continue to destroy their nests near the house, but will revere their homes on the edge of the yard.

I've mentioned frogs before on this blog.  We have a lot of frogs around our house.  And now that we actually have irrigation in the yard, we have many more.  Last summer I befriended a single frog in our garage.  This year we've found countless frogs bounding around the garage at night.  When the light is flipped on, several small and medium sized frogs can be seem making punctuated getaways to the fringes of the storage area. 

 However, we recently got a furry little black kitten to keep our poor neglected children company.


As reluctant pet owners, Veep and I have insisted the cat's digs are in the garage where his smell will be less noticeable.  True to his species, this as yet nameless cat is a hunter.  I initially thought it cute to see it chase a few hopping frogs around before bedtime.  This, unfortunately, has been to the dismay of the now threatened garage frog populace.  At least twice now we've chased down funky garage smells only to discover disemboweled amphibian corpses.  I'm not sure there is an answer to this problem and have so far let the order of things alone.


Finally, my latest little home project is building some bird houses for the back yard.  We've put up several bird feeders and have attracted a whole host of hummingbirds, robins, and finches.  Unfortunately, the seed has also fortified our burgeoning population of chipmunks that live in the apartment-like rockwork we had installed last fall.  So far they haven't been too bad of pests, but I'm concerned they may overwhelm our garden some day.  But how to control chipmunks?  Apparently it is illegal to kill them in Washington state, so I haven't invested in a nail gun or poison.  The other night, however, the answer became clear. 


Around bedtime Monday we heard an animal shrieking outside our bedroom window, a new animal sound we hadn't heard before.  I went out on the back deck to investigate, only to see a dark winged flash at the edge of the back yard lights.  Squinting, we cold make out a large screech owl on a tree branch.  He continued to scream, perhaps a mating call or hunting call, I don't know.  But it became clear that he could prove to be a big help with the chipmunks--if he hadn't already been snacking on them.  In fact he returned a few nights later when the kids spotted him from the basement windows.  Ironically, their screeches of excitement drowned out the owl's calls and it didn't stick around long.




Don't get me wrong, I don't mind having a few chipmunks in the yard.  But with lots of rocks to hide in and free bird seed to eat, their life is much easier than nature intended.  And thus nature's answer--the screech owl.  So along with several small cedar birdhouses, I'm planning on building a larger one, sized to accomodate a friendly neighborhood owl.  It may hoot or screech in the middle of the night, but we've already been conditioned to loud bird calls by the roosters at each of our neighbors' houses throughout the summer.


And thus the circle of life continues uninterrupted.

August 11, 2009

Preemptive Nostalgia

I'm glad that all my kids like the occasional cheap Greek food meal.  The girls won't eat Thai and Sal always acts like he doesn't like Mexican (even though he always eats it).  So Greek is one thing we can all agree on.



Veep took the night off on Friday and we hit up Santorini's.  Their hummus and gyros are in league with D'Lish's double cheese burgers and Linnie's Massamun curry.

And even though they don't ride their bikes much, I'm glad my kids are still sort of willing to humor us and go on a few family rides a year.




Even in overwhelming heat.



This was last weekend on our yearly tour of the "Route of the Hiawatha."  The girls were better about riding through the tunnels this time.  Veep was there too--she was the one taking all the pictures.  I love my powerful Tri-Newt light in the tunnels--you can actually see the walls.

I've got to admit that over the past few months I've developed a midlife crisis of sorts.  No, there's no new sports car or hair plugs, just the realization that my kids are growing and time is passing.  I came across this picture of our two girls the other day.  It was buried at the end of a powerpoint presentation I was re-using at work, which I had made about 8 years ago--a nice reprieve at the end of a boring lecture.

Savanna and Emmy

It kind of snuck up and slapped me in the face.  This is how they looked when we moved to Spokane.  At that age their world consisted almost entirely of fairies and playgrounds.  And they interacted with us all the time--too much if you had asked me back then.  Now they have their friends, books, and computers and they only need us to provide food and shelter--at least it seems that way in relative terms.  They require more than that, but it is so much less than before that it feels like too little.  I guess I'm just realizing that I should enjoy them now because who knows what will happen in a couple years when they're teenagers.  I'm pretty sure they'll be just fine, but I still wonder.  Still, if I could "Benjamin Button" them back to the above photo I would.

It's good to know that they can still be tempted by balloons.  This was at a Mexican restaurant in McCall, ID in July (Sal lost the fight for where to eat).  I didn't think they'd take our waiter up on his offer of balloons, but they did without hesitation.


Then they sucked the helium out of one and let the other free on the lake.


I suppose that's better than being too old for balloons entirely.

August 6, 2009

Slack Line Zombie




My mug while slacklining isn't too much different from these promising youngsters playing video games.

I set up our new slack line in the yard this evening after dinner, before the thunder started rolling in.  It is challenging.  I wore rock climbing shoes because the ground underneath is rocky and hard and hurts in bare feet--I couldn't find a good place to put the line that was over nice soft grass.  Perhaps I'll collect pine needles to make a soft landing pad while I learn the basics.  During the short time I was out there I looked most like the third photo.  It was fun though.  I could easily burn a few hours everyday trying to figure it out.  I'm positive it's been said before, but the time required to master this sport is probably what puts the "slack" in slack line.

A video for your enjoyment:

Summer is moving along quickly.  We've had a lot of heat here in the Northwest--some real "dog days."  We are going to escape in a few weeks to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast.  With our luck it will be cold by then.  Also, Veep and I now have tickets to Venice, Italy for the first part of October.  This will be her first trip across the Atlantic and only my second.  We are excited and reading up in some signature "Rick Steve's" travel guides--seeing as how he knows what he's doing and he's not at all nerdy now that he's come out in support of the decriminalization of marijuana.  Of course he still sort of reminds me of the Tim Calhoun character on SNL.  In any case, he can still write a mean guide to tourism, it just might take a little longer to write.

July 14, 2009

This Blog Has Been Called Due to Weather

It has been terrible weather for blogging lately, so I haven't.

Ate lunch at De Leon's yesterday--tasty tacos and tamales--and noticed an interesting sandwich board outside.  Pedicab in Spokane.  We're big time now.


I rode my new Seven down to Boise a couple weeks ago--fun and generally satisfying trip though I have some saddle issues I need to work out.  When the weather turns perhaps I'll give a report.  Facebook is really killing my blogging.

June 2, 2009

It's a . . .

I've found that there are two things that I never regret:

1.  Spending time with my kids.
2.  Riding my bike to work.

I've laid awake trying to figure out a third thing that I categorically would never regret but haven't come up with one.  

Today, however, I opted to drive to work because of my bicycle, or more specifically, because of the arrival of my new bicycle frame.  The bike shop closes at 6 pm and since I wanted to get downtown from the valley after work so I could see the frame being pulled out of the box, I decided to drive in this morning.  I made it out of work a few minutes early and to Two Wheel Transit a few minutes after 5 pm.  I nervously watched as the box cutters trimmed the packing tape and anxiously helped pull the top off the unusually large frame carton.  

It's a beautiful, precise, shiny, sleek, and silvery masterwork of welding and bent metal.  Here's a peek:


I felt like a new parent, awkwardly holding it, setting it down before I was really ready to let go of it.  I lingered awkwardly in the shop, but realized there wasn't much to do with it until it's built.  So, like a proud pop, I snapped a few quick pictures and headed home.


All I really heard was a suggestion that it could be ready by the weekend.  I'll have a hard time not holding them to that as a promise.

May 30, 2009

Raging rivers, Sasquatch, Seeds, and War

I seem only to be able to post about a week after I come up with an idea.  And by idea I mean any weak notion of something even remotely blog worthy.

Last Friday I enjoyed a nice ride to work up north.  I don't get to make this trip very often so it was a privilege to ride through downtown and cross the river.


Looking east, upriver in the morning.


Looking west, down the falls in the evening.

I like the drama of the Spring runoff but rarely get a chance to just sit and watch the river.

Saturday I took in some music at the Gorge.  The Sasquatch festival has become a Memorial Day tradition and I've managed to make it there for one day of the weekend for 5 out of the past 6 years.  This year we had a babysitter all set up so Veep and I could go but Sal came down with a monster fever the night before and morning o,f so she decided to stay home (which was a good idea because he only got worse--ended up being strep which we got him antibiotics for Sunday morning).  My brother in law pinch hit and made a good concert going partner instead.

While there are many large music festivals around the country each Summer, I believe that Sasquatch consistently has the most interesting and extensive line up of bands (at least for my tastes) and is solidly placed on my list of reasons I love Spokane (even though one could effectively argue that the festival has nothing to do with Spokane and is probably located at the Gorge more for its proximity to Seattle.  To that argument I would say that while that may be true I still have easy access to a great music event and don't have to live in the crowded, unruly metropolis that is Seattle).  Each year that I have gone I've seen a band I already know and enjoy, I've discovered at least one band that I didn't know and end up really enjoying, and I've had some sort of strange experience.  For example, I've seen Wilco, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, the Flaming Lips, and M. Ward.  I've discovered the New Pornographers, Architecture in Helsinki, and Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band.  There have been hail storms for Neko Case, a streaker for The Shins, and a distraction that proved the Decemberists are seasoned professionals (JD knows what I'm talking about).  Anyway, Saturday I got to see some great music.  And at the end of the day, Bon Iver got the gold star for best performance with artistic depth and soul.  I was blown away by how loud they were with such a quiet album.  If you live within 300 miles of a place where they will be playing, you would be well advised to drive (or ride) that distance without a second thought and take in the show.  Even with "technical difficulties" on Saturday, they delivered.  I even captured a song with a new little flipHD camera I got last week:

Bon Iver, For Emma, Sasquatch 2009 from Corey Judd on Vimeo.

So then Sunday was plant day.  We had a family seed planting party and transferred tomato and cucumber plants to our new garden (more on that in another post--maybe in a week).  Feeling inspired we went up to Manito park (another reason I love Spokane--a classic city park with colorful, mature, well-tended gardens of all kinds) and perused the perrenial garden.  Veep took pictures and I took notes on different plants we may want to incorporate into our yard.  The kids rolled down the hill at the north end of the Duncan garden, something we haven't done in a while.  Not five minutes later there were literally 20 kids rolling down the hill, a great moment (I count myself as one of the kids).




 Then we strolled through the lilac garden which was bursting with blossoms and sweet smells (as usual, Veep led the way).  May in Spokane makes one rescind all the bad things you said about the weather in late March and early April.  It is all worth it if you end up with amazing weather like we've been having.




Monday we celebrated the holiday by watching the Civil War re-enactment out at Riverside state park.  It was the first time I had seen a reenactment.  It was a great way to remember those who have fought and died and a reminder of the many grave complexities of war (and a good way to see black powder rifles).  I was moved by their memorial service at the end of the battle.  Sal just wanted more cannon.




We capped the weekend with a fire on the back patio with roasted marshmallows and s'mores.  A satisfying and full 3 day weekend.  Until next year.

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