Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Monday, May 25, 2021

Survivalism with an upper-middle-class sheen has been in vogue for more than a year now. But the late economic collapse has encouraged a surge in food-and-security stockpiling in residential subdivisions:

Art Markman, a cognitive psychologist, said he’s not surprised by the reaction to the nation’s financial woes - even though it may seem irrational. In an increasingly global and automated society, most people are dependent on strangers and systems they don’t understand - and the human brain isn’t programmed to work that way.

“We have no real causal understanding of the way our world works at all,” said Markman, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin. “When times are good, you trust that things are working, but when times are bad you realize you don’t have a clue what you would do if the supermarket didn’t have goods on the shelves and that if the banks disappear, you have no idea where your money is.”

Those preparing for the worst echo those thoughts and say learning to be self sufficient makes them feel more in control amid mounting uncertainty - even if it seems crazy to their friends and families.

That’s all it comes down to: A hands-on attempt at peace of mind. Really just one more instance of conjuring up a persecution complex among those affluent enough to lack for things about which to worry. If this paranoia is manifesting in the suburbs, I can only imagine the Unabomber-type McMansions that are setting up in the further-flung exurbs…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/25/2009 03:36:42 PM
Category: Society
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I had absolutely no intention of Twitter-following Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.

But that was before I saw that he was using a Robotron: 2084 graphic for his @trent_reznor avatar. Since I’m rather fond of that game myself, and like to use the above screenshot image detail as a default glyph for this blog’s Videogames category, that was enough for me to click on the Follow button.

I don’t know how often Reznor switches out his avatar. I suppose as soon as he does, I’ll have an excuse to unfollow him. Wouldn’t be the first time I determined what appears in my Twitter-stream content on the basis of those little pictures.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/25/2009 02:55:45 PM
Category: Celebrity, Internet, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Celebrity stalking, 140 characters at a time? That seems to be the premise behind a planned Twitter-based television show:

The social-networking service has teamed with Reveille productions and Brillstein Entertainment to develop an unscripted series based on the site, which invites brief, 140-character postings from members all over the world.

The show would harness Twitter to put players on the trail of celebrities in a competitive format.

The producers call their planned series the first to bring the immediacy of Twitter to the TV screen.

“Competitive format” tweeting? Sounds a bit shaky to me. And I’m sure it’ll piss off the hardcore Twitterati by deflecting focus away from regular folks, in favor of the likes of @THE_REAL_SHAQ, @oprah, and @britneyspears.

If this TMZ-patterned concept tanks, maybe they can repurpose it by selling it to C-SPAN as a Congressional online reality show.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/25/2009 01:05:22 PM
Category: Celebrity, Internet, Politics, TV
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Sunday, May 24, 2021

making believe
Disney’s sorority of princess characters has spawned a backlash, as parents and academics question the long-term effects on the target audience:

“It just encourages parents who put their kids on a pedestal - and who encourage their kids a lot and rarely criticize,” says Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State who’s done research on the way parenting affects children. “You could label that kind of parenting ‘princess parenting.’”…

Among other things, she and co-author W. Keith Campbell found the rate that college-age women were developing narcissistic traits was four times that of men, when analyzing surveys taken from 2002 through 2007. It should be noted that, overall, men of that age group still are more likely to exhibit narcissistic traits, including the belief that “If I ruled the world, it would be a much better place.”

“But women are catching up, fast,” Twenge says. And she thinks the princess syndrome is a factor, given that this generation of young women was young when some of the newer and most popular Disney princess films were released.

I thought it was pretty obvious that a lifelong princess mentality had gotten ingrained when Disney Bridal came out. Although with a choice between animated princess and soft-core porn starlet, maybe the staying-single option is most appealing of all…

As far as an overload of tykes in tiaras, I don’t see how that fantasy roleplay is any more insidious than other childhood fare. The ditzy types who cling to it past elementary school have deeper issues anyway, and would have glommed onto any other motif to fill the void; a princess fixation only makes it that much more obvious.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/24/2009 01:59:20 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture, Society, Women
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rabbito bandito
This fist-sized piece of graffiti was planted at the corner of Bleecker Street and Broadway, on a big brown building. Black spraypaint filling in what’s obviously a stenciled outline. Nice, clean lines on a slick piece of artwork, so I took the 10 seconds necessary to snap a cameraphone photo (full-sized on Flickr).

Why this long-eared rabbit is wearing that kerchief mask, I have no idea. Reminiscent of bandit wear, so maybe he’s getting set to do a crime — aside from the obvious public-defacement one that he represents.

This is the second instance of bunny-based street art that I’ve noticed recently. I like this one better.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/24/2009 01:14:12 PM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Photography
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Saturday, May 23, 2021

Clutch Tees delivered! After I blogged about the Caddyshack “Bushwood Country Club” t-shirt my friend sent me as a birthday present, I promptly emailed the permalink to get a gift certificate for another Clutch shirt. Sure enough, they sent back the $25 voucher, to be applied toward the purchase of another tee.

And I chose the one pictured above, which I’m wearing right now. Frankly, it was the only other one in their collection (aside from the Bushwood one I already have) that I could see wearing without incurring lost-youth embarrassment. The “Give Peas A Chance” tagline is cutesy, but I can live with it, and I liked the simple smiley-faced green sprites. They look good against the light-blue cloth, too (which is much darker in real life than in the photo here). Worth the minor-grade blog shilling.

So the net result is that I got two birthday t-shirts. I guess I could submit this post for yet another gift certificate, but I think I’ll stop at just two.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/23/2009 06:49:38 PM
Category: Bloggin', Fashion, Pop Culture
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Following the thematic design from last year’s summertime promotion, the Public Theater is once again showing off some uniquely-conceived visuals in support of its Shakespeare in the Park productions.

This summer, the two plays are Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and Euripides’ “The Bacchae”. The iconic touches are just right: A classic Greek sculpture mock-vandalized with a cheesy mustache, combining to represent the essence of both stories. Nicely minimalist to get the point across.

Like last year, I had to snap this subway poster with my cameraphone, with only fair results (and only slightly improved on Flickr). I really wish either the Public or their creative agency, Pentagram Design, would put this stuff online.

For comparison, here’s the poster from last year’s combination of “Hamlet” and the hippie-musical “Hair”:
You can see they followed the same template, and since it’s so visually arresting, why not? Fact is, for me, the attention to the offbeat typography is at least as captivating as the images used. So I’m happy to come across it during my subway-tunnel traverses.

As for catching the productions, I’m leaning more toward “Bacchae”, just because it’s more compact and I prefer an ancient Greek tragedy to a medieval English comedy. Plus, the “outlawing of desire” theme faintly echoes the current-day gay-marriage debate, so there’s that timeliness angle. Although Anne Hathaway’s participation in “Twelfth Night” is tempting me…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/23/2009 06:15:46 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, New Yorkin'
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Even though it has previously applied the trademarked “Take The Train To The Game” tagline to all the area’s major-league sports venues, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has noticeably ramped up that promotion for the just-completed Metro North Railroad Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station stop.

“Take The Train To The Game” is a catchy little turn of the phrase. Catchier still if you’re a New York child of the ’70s and still remember — no, make that “can’t possibly forget” — the similar “Take The Train To The Plane” jingle in the old JFK Express television commercials.

So why not leverage that old campaign now? The MTA should collaborate with the Yankees to cook up a nostalgic ad or two that repurposes that brain-burrowing two-verse ditty:

A mock-nostalgic sarcastic tone would work well. An inside joke to those of us old enough to get it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/23/2009 10:50:30 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Baseball, History, New Yorkin', TV
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Friday, May 22, 2021

Overheard earlier today, in a crowded coffee shop:

Guy1: Good one! Check out the raconteur!
Guy2: Where?
Guy1: You.
Guy2: What?
Guy1: What?
Guy2: You said, “Check out the rack on her”.

Good instincts — why listen when you can look?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/22/2009 03:21:45 PM
Category: Comedy, Wordsmithing
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tweet tweet biiitch
Perhaps only Andy Milonakis could have crafted this white-boy rap shout-out called “Let Me Twitter Dat”:

Nicely captures tweet-compulsive disorder. @andymilonakis himself doesn’t really suffer from it, nor does his collaborator @KooolKojak (is KK also Greek like Andy — is “Kojak” a clue?).

I miss Andy’s old show

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/22/2009 12:04:35 PM
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Internet
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While you’d assume that corporate social media outreach — i.e., putting companies like Pepsi and FedEx on Facebook, Twitter and the like — would be the province of existing PR folks and marketeers, it’s becoming apparent that it requires a different sort of corporate-communications animal:

Having a social media aficionado on staff is one way to create conversation about a brand, the same way hip-hop record executives in the 1990s used urban street teams to promote new musicians. And it is a rare example these days of a growth industry: Forrester Research, a research and marketing firm, has 12 analysts advising more than 100 companies on how to use social networks to get customers to do things like open bank accounts or buy more face cream.

“Twitter has gotten to this place that everyone is interested in it,” said Josh Bernoff, a Forrester analyst and co-author of a book about social technologies. But interest does not equal ability, he said. The qualities that make someone a good social media maven — which include being available round-the-clock to anyone who writes — are different than the skills used by mainstream corporate publicists.

“They are not acting like spokespeople, but real people,” Mr. Bernoff said. “You have to be careful about what you say while, at the same time, be much more personal than the average corporate P.R. guy. You need people who understand the mores and etiquette. Not everyone knows how to do that.”

Strategically, it’s akin to guerrilla marketing, then: Unconventional delivery and messaging — that, of course, eventually leads back to making a buck for your Corporate Overlord :) That’s business!

Like any communication channel, though, it’s going to have a short shelf life:

Of course, any new technology has its limits. Twitter, for instance, was not devised to solve complex problems, and companies that tweet too much run the risk of irritating people. “It is not right for saying anything meaningful,” said Paul Gillin, a technology journalist who wrote a book about using social media for marketing. “All anyone has to do is tweet their dissatisfaction and a company will cave in to their demands,” he said. “It does little to encourage loyalty.”

Not only that, but I think there’s only a small segment of consumers who want to be engaged with their endproducts. They might well represent an evangelizing/influential vanguard, but they don’t necessarily make or break a brand or product. Eventually, all that social media presence has to circle back to basic competency in the core business; without that, it’s nothing but hype.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/22/2009 11:28:28 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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Thursday, May 21, 2021

Just a thought:

If I were Princess Superstar, I’d be mighty pissed about Lady Gaga not only stealing my bad-girl rapper/dancehall queen schtick, but also riding it to big-time mainstream success.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/21/2009 04:07:42 PM
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Women
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The news broke last night: Four jihadist-wannabes were arrested while attempting to blow up a carbomb in front of a synagogue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Disturbing enough. More disturbing from my personal perspective: All four of these jokers resided in, and laid their terrorist plans, in the town I grew up in:

The men, all of whom live in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City, had met in prison. [James] Cromitie, 44, who authorities described as the plot’s leader, had lived in Brooklyn and had as many as 27 arrests for minor crimes both in upstate New York and in New York City, [NYC police commissioner Raymond] Kelly said. Mr. Cromitie, David Williams, and Onta Williams were native-born Americans, while [Laguerre] Payen was born in Haiti and is a Haitian citizen.

The four men arrested are all Muslim, a law enforcement official said. Mr. Cromitie, whose parents had lived in Afghanistan before his birth, had told the informant that he was upset about the war in Afghanistan and that that he wanted to do “something to America.” Mr. Cromitie stated “the best target” — the World Trade Center — “was hit already,” according to the complaint.

And further on the Newburgh angle was their intent to shoot down military planes at Stewart Airport Air National Guard Base.

I’m compelled to make note of this because of my connection with the town. That said, it’s not like I feel any more affected by this brush with “homegrown” terror than anyone else. Yes, the proximity is slightly jarring: The conspirators lived not all that far away from my childhood house, and likewise Stewart isn’t that far away from that location either (in fact, planes flying into Stewart are a common sight and sound overhead in my old neighborhood). And I’ve mentioned before how socio-economically distressed Newburgh has been for decades now, so it’s not a big shock that something like this could be germinating in the area.

Still, I don’t take away from this that Newburgh is a unique case. Desperate times abound for all sorts of people in all corners of the country, and a similar scenario could (and probably will) play out in any one of a thousand small burghs. This time out, it just happened to be one with which I’m all too familiar.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/21/2009 02:54:51 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics, True Crime
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Today is my name day.

What’s a “name day”, you say? Good question. At root, it’s a like a birthday, except that instead of celebrating your age, you’re celebrating your first name — or really, the Christian saint of whom you’re a namesake. Therefore, it’s a locked-in date that you “share” with other people that share your name; if you happen to have a non-traditional name that doesn’t match with a saint, then you’re out of luck. It’s apparently not uncommon throughout Europe, although I’m familiar with only the Greek (Orthodox) version.

And truthfully, I’m not even all that familiar with that. I never remember when mine is, nor anyone else’s for that matter. If my mother hadn’t reminded me earlier this week, I certainly would have overlooked it again this year. It means something to her, and the fact that my brother and I don’t care for the custom is one more thing that we argue about with her.

Not that the two of us are the only ones who whiff on this. I mentioned it to a cousin who shares today’s name day with me, and she was also unaware. Obviously, it’s a generational thing, along with a cultural one — obviously it’s never caught on in the US, primarily because of the lack of saints among Protestants. I wonder just how celebrated the name day is in Greece and other European countries; I’ve never gotten the sense that it was as big a deal as a birthday, although I’m sure that varies across regions.

Anyway. Nothing in the way of commemoration for this day, other than this online note. I am heading up to Broadway later tonight to catch a show, and while that’s purely coincidental, I guess I can consider it my name-day dividend.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/21/2009 01:23:52 PM
Category: General
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Wednesday, May 20, 2021

Thanks to their shared lettering, I always figured that there was some sort of inverse relationship between the otherwise diametrically-opposed online acronyms WTF (”What The Fuck!”) and FTW (”For The Win!”).

So it’s actually a little depressing to find out that they can often mean the same exact thing.

Which foils the idea of parsing them, ala WTF::FTW. Not that I was ever much of a fan of leetspeak to begin with.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/20/2009 06:11:07 PM
Category: Internet, Wordsmithing
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If you’ve got a request in with the U.S. Copyright Office, don’t hold your breath on getting your official seal anytime soon: Typical bureaucratic ineptness has caused a massive backlog that’s taking up to a year and a half to process routine registrations.

Leading some to severely lose their cool:

“What the hell is the matter with that [expletive] software of yours?” one author wrote in a March 22 e-mail to the copyright agency. “I’ve spent more than three hours and a ton of grief trying to register my literary work and upload it. That [expletive] told me at least four times that an error had occurred and then it stopped dead. Why? Who sold you that [expletive] and why did you buy it?”

The author was trying to copyright a children’s book.

Seriously though, why bother to register a copyright through the government anyway? It’s largely unnecessary. As the Feds point out, a work is automatically born copyrighted.

The concern about theft and subsequent burden of proof over ownership in court overlooks the current state of affairs — namely, that anyone trying to steal an original work would presumably try to register the copyright themselves, but would have to undergo the same extended waiting period that everyone does. So a thief would be just as hamstrung as the true author of the work in trying to swipe copyrighted material. After that, it’s simply a case of producing publication evidence — easy enough when you can simply publish something online and then reference back to the Internet Archive to establish a timestamp — and the case is closed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/20/2009 10:58:29 AM
Category: Creative, Political
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Tuesday, May 19, 2021

As much of a kick as it was to meet Peter Himler, head of PR/Media Consultancy Flatiron Communications, face-to-face last night at his Media Relations Summit Tweet-Up (versus solely through Twitter), I got an even bigger kick from seeing his business card.

Because as you can see above, Peter has loaded up his calling card with just about every conceivable method of contact that exists these days. Ten lines’ worth, in fact:

1. Landline phone
2. Mobile phone
3. Fax
4. GTalk (Google’s chat client)
5. Twitter
6. Personal email
7. Business email
8. Skype
9. Business website
10. Personal blog

So really, you’ve got no excuse to not be able to get in touch with him, because he’s providing multi-channel accessibility in a 3.5×2-inch square. And there’s even some room left over (barely).

At least I know that, when I revise my next set of business cards, I can jam in all the communication touchpoints that are fit to print. No danger of coming off as cluttered, if this example is representative of the prevailing aesthetic on the social media landscape.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/19/2009 11:13:01 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Society
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Being a hockey fan, I’m well-accustomed to the denigration of the sport in general and the National Hockey League in particular, to the point where they’re not considered to be on the same relevancy level as the major-league editions of football, baseball, and basketball. So it is that, for instance, a dissection of the identity crisis suffered by Columbus (Ohio) lists as one problem the lack of any major-league sports teams in the city — disregarding the local NHL club and thereby underlining the lack of consideration for hockey as a big-league concern.

But when the sportsbiz calls for some time in front of the judge, it seems that the Big Three consider their on-ice brethren to be cut from the same cloth as they are:

The NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA have lined up in support of the NHL’s court fight to block the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes and move to southern Canada.

The other major sports leagues, including the office of baseball commissioner Bud Selig, filed statements in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Monday in support of the NHL.

All three statements ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to “respect the National Hockey League’s rules and procedures regarding ownership transfer and relocation.”

The statements of baseball and the NBA ask that the court “not set precedent that could severely disrupt the business of professional hockey,” baseball, basketball and other major league sports.

The NFL statement had similar wording, asking the court to avoid a “precedent that has the potential to undermine or disrupt the business of professional hockey, football or other major league sports.”

Nothing like litigation to bring family members together. Not that the economies of scale, labor issues, and political-economic arena strategies didn’t already make it obvious.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/19/2009 09:24:32 PM
Category: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, SportsBiz, True Crime
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Monday, May 18, 2021

You’re looking at an early birthday gift I just received from my friend Kirby. I guess it caught his eye on the Clutch Tees catalogue; the combination of green (my favorite color) and the Caddyshack referential (one of my favorite movies) doubtlessly triggered the purchase.

I’ll conveniently overlook the subtle attempt to prematurely age me by a whole month :)

It is a good-looking t-shirt. (I would have posted a pic of me actually wearing it, but I gave up after taking a half-dozen fairly crappy shots of myself looking gawkishly dorky.) The Bushwood Country Club logo (accompanied by the “It’s In The Hole!” crest) is hardly an officially-sanctioned symbol, but then, none of these ironically-hip humor tees are ever formally sanctioned. I wonder how they get away with using some of those unmistakable catchphrases and such; I’m guess there’s enough legal leeway in fair-use provision that the movie studios can’t (or won’t) sue.

Or if they do, they can do so after I cash in on my forthcoming free shirt from Clutch. Because that is the deal they’re cutting for any bloggage tossed their way, and that is, of course, what this post amounts to. I would feel bad about the quasi-shilling, but since I would be blogging about getting the gift anyway, my conscience is clear.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/18/2009 11:44:42 AM
Category: Fashion, Movies, Pop Culture
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If you’re the type that still clings to a TV news anchorman as some sort of authoritative voice to deliver you the news, then the idea of that same talking-head grooving as a music blogger is probably jarring. But that’s the incongruity you’re stuck with, should you come across BriTunes or Amplified, the pop-culture side projects of the two frontmen at NBC News and ABC News:

[ABC's Dan] Harris, 37, anchors ABC’s “World News” on Sundays and is a general assignment reporter who spent six months in Iraq. He has a “Nightline” piece coming this week on children in the Congo being accused of witchcraft and subjected to abusive exorcisms. [NBC's Brian] Williams, who turned 50 last month, is a news traditionalist with such a formal manner on “Nightly News” that his bosses once worried that viewers would have a hard time relating to him.

Their musical credentials were met with some suspicion in the rock world. “There is sort of a feeling of ‘What are these interlopers doing in our special little space?’” Harris said.

If the hard news business ever goes soft, I suppose Harris and Williams could apply for jobs at Pitchfork

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/18/2009 11:07:32 AM
Category: Bloggin', Celebrity, Pop Culture, TV
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If your book intake consists of merely reading with your eyes or hearing with your ears, apparently you’re missing out by not using your mouth:

It’s part of a pattern. Instead of making music at home, we listen to recordings of professional musicians. When people talk about the [audiobooks] they’ve heard, they’re often talking about the quality of the readers, who are usually professional. The way we listen to books has been de-socialized, stripped of context, which has the solitary virtue of being extremely convenient.

But listening aloud, valuable as it is, isn’t the same as reading aloud. Both require a great deal of attention. Both are good ways to learn something important about the rhythms of language. But one of the most basic tests of comprehension is to ask someone to read aloud from a book. It reveals far more than whether the reader understands the words. It reveals how far into the words — and the pattern of the words — the reader really sees.

Can’t say that I agree, because reading for me remains a visual activity. I’ve never taken to audiobooks, because like any audio-visual adaptation, they force both a linear pace and a specific interpretation upon you — you might as well just watch a movie. With the written word, you can read at your own pace, and keep certain elements of the narrative neutral (or at least appropriately ambiguous).

I don’t see how that intake is improved by reciting it. Again, audiblizing the read just imposes your pace and interpretation onto whoever’s listening to you, as described above. It injects a group activity vibe to this media exercise, but one that’s inferior to the solitary experience.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/18/2009 09:56:55 AM
Category: Creative, Publishing
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