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Shadowbanned!

While certainly no badge of honor, I was once banned from Twitter for 48 hours for (I think) telling Mitch McConnell to go die in a fire. I say no badge because it's not like I'm proud of it and I say I think because it could have been for telling Stephen Miller to go fuck himself. Who can remember? I'm not looking it up.

I should also note that I do not rescind those remarks. I've mostly stopped calling GOP politicians disingenuous fucks on social media, but that's mostly because we are no longer living under an active threat from the Orange Menace. Things are still bad, the threat is still real, but take it from someone who has been more angry than not for forty years, you can't maintain it 24-7-365.

Before I could us social media to yell at vile politicians who lie to their constituents faces so they can fleece the public and make their smug selves richer, I did it here! It's perhaps the most consistent feature of the ol' bloggy blog. I imagine most of it doesn't age well (which could be said for everything here) but nothing makes me angrier than hypocrisy, and when you need to pump out content per your own maxim like I used to do here, it's an easy 500 words.

I've always wondered when my bloviating via tbaggervance.com would come back to bite me, which is a tad hubristic, but I've said some nasty shit here I'm sure. But when I got an email from Google telling me to remove the bullying and/or hate speech from the years 2016-2019 from my website, all I could do is laugh.

I started hosting this site on University of Michigan servers waaaaay back in its first iteration in the mid 1990s. About 10 years ago I switched to a private server for several reasons, but one of them was so I could host ads. I figured ideally I could pay for what it costs me to host the site by throwing up some advertisements. The site started to lose readers and I started to write less and that didn't work at all.

However, that's the only thing Google can threaten me with - not being able to host their ads. To which I say, your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries. Saying our last president is a misogynistic, racist fuckwit isn't trolling. Saying Kevin McCarthy is a boot licking, lying asshat isn't punching down. The Republican party exists to make money for rich old white guys based on half of this country's fear of minorities and hatred of women. Full stop. You can keep your $20 a year. I may only be yelling into the ether, but sometimes that's all you have.

Posted 9:33am
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The Toxicity of Nostalgia (and logic fallacies)

In the parlance of our times, being told I'm wrong when I'm sure I'm right is triggering. It's a deep seeded scar on my psyche from being very young, very smart and dismissed. As an adult I understand the impulse to tell a precocious know-it-all twerp to go away, but I still carry around pain from being right about things and not being listened to. It's a thirteen piece set of matched baggage I've been lugging around for forty plus years.

It's what made me an asshole in my teens and twenties and as I just noted, something that I still carry around. Now that I'm a middle aged, I don't get dismissed as much. When I do, it's usually over something that has a degree of subjectivity, and I can let it go. Mostly. Usually. I swear I can admit when I'm wrong. More than I used to anyway.

However, there's a particular brand of disagreement that takes me back to being seven years old and will send me into a spiral that I can't let go. It sits at the intersection of memory and nostalgia, and the fallacy that what you remember is actually what happened.

The BDGF has a friend that seems to live to tell me I'm wrong. That's an impulse I can understand, because when you live your life as a know-it-all, people love to point out when you're wrong. This person is ten years older than me, so her "trump card" is usually "YOU WEREN'T THERE", because she was 17 in 1982 and I was seven, so my "opinion" on when Prince's 1999 came out isn't as valid as hers. This particular brand of bullshit will cause me to raise my voice.

Last night's round of disagreements started with her telling a story about how she met John Denver and lamenting that she couldn't tell the story for a long time because people didn't think John Denver was cool, but now people have come around on John Denver and she gets to tell the story. That's a fine statement and I get what she meant to a degree, but I noted that John Denver was always cool because he hosted the Grammys for like a decade AND he hosted The Muppet Show. Now this is a silly disagreement about the coolness and popularity of John Denver, wherein I assert that people who hosted The Muppet Show are inherently cool and someone else says that's a child's assertion. No big deal. I have no stake in John Denver's level of cool or his place in the zeitgeist, but I feel like she's dismissing my opinion because of my age, so my antennae are up.

Well over an hour later, somehow Prince comes up and this same person says that in 1983, Prince was bigger than Michael Jackson. So now I'm compelled to note that Thriller came out in late 1982 and it's literally* the biggest selling album of all time. I'm going to skip the particulars of the myriad things that she got factually incorrect, because despite me correcting the record (that were being fact checked in my favor in real time) she was "right" because I wasn't there. Everybody wanted to fuck Prince and not Michael Jackson, so I'm a child and an idiot.

So a couple of things. I like Prince more than Michael Jackson. I don't think many people would argue that Prince is sexier than Michael Jackson. This person yelling at me in my car could have said "Prince was bigger than Michael Jackson in my high school" and I probably would have said "Sounds like a cool high school. Wish I went there." Instead, it was she was older than I was in 1982, so I'm wrong.

I get that experience is king, but I also get that personal memories and anecdotal evidence are shit. Did more people want to fuck Prince than Michael Jackson? Probably. Was Prince more popular than MJ in this person's high school? Maybe. Was this person conflating the popularity of Prince in 1984 when Purple Rain came out and she was a senior in high school, with Prince in 1982/3 when 1999 was relatively dwarfed by Thriller? I think so. Was Prince bigger than MJ in 1983 in the world at large? Definitely not.

I get this a silly thing and I hope it doesn't come off as white male privilege or entitlement. But I think this type of thinking is near the heart of a lot of the problems we have as a society. Your memories aren't fact. Your experience isn't universal. Asserting that the way you remember it is how it was is toxic. Anecdotal evidence isn't really evidence at all. When we're talking about John Denver and Prince and if Pearl Jam or Nirvana was more popular or important in 1992 who could really give a shit. But I don't have to extrapolate this out for you to see how applying it to actual important shit is a big problem. If we can't agree on which album sold more copies, good luck fixing climate change.

*This is somewhat nebulous and deals with certified copies against estimates and yadda yadda yadda, but it's also a fairly uncontroversial statement, especially in context.

Posted 9:33am
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October 15th, 2021

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- Ce soir! There's still two things missing in my life from the before times. The first is my Geeks Who Drink Show, which is still in limbo with no good news to report, but I am working on it. The other is live music. It's the BDGF and I's favorite, and it's just starting to become available again. We're taking full advantage by driving down to Columbus tonight to see Cheekface, our favorite band we discovered during covidtimes. Then it's Tokyo Police Club, Nada Surf, The Flaming Lips and The New Pornographers all in the next two months. The BDGF said "Buy 'em all" when stuff started to go on sale six months ago, so I did. Here's to masked up music in fully vaccinated venues! And getting out of Columbus toute suite.

- I've been building again. First I did this nightstand for next to the bed in our office/guest room to match the desk and filing cabinet I built:

 

Then I had a bunch of cedar scraps from all the outdoor furniture I built, so I made some oars/paddles:

Speaking of...

- I'm not a "camper" per se. The max I can do is about two nights, then I need a shower and a kitchen. But I do love those two days excursions. I like the disconnect. I like nature (again, for about two days) and since the BDGF is really not a camper, I like the solitude. I've been trying to get up north to go back to the Sturgeon River, but rain and cold have been preventing that from being a good time. So keeping an eye on the forecast, I'm going to try a single night 20 minutes north of Ann Arbor on Monday, where I can take one of our kayaks out and run the new paddle through its paces.

- I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the Michigan Wolverines are undefeated as we find ourselves in the middle of October. I'm dramatically self-aware of how my relationship with sports has changed over the years. I gave up the NFL and I almost never turn on any sport anymore unless Michigan is playing. Hell, a lot of assumptions I had in my twenties about my relationship to Michigan football have changed. A lot of it is stuff that has always been true and are now just more in the open, some things are because I've changed, but whatever the reasons, it's not the same game it was when I was a kid. That's fine. It's necessary. If there's one thing I don't want to be as I get older, it's one of those assholes who complains that everything was better when I was a kid. Anyway enough of that - whatever my relationship was and is going to be going forward, there's always part of my identity that will be wrapped up in Michigan football - because of my dad and because the people I see at the tailgate every home game (for twenty plus years now) are my family. And that means I need to enjoy it when things are going well. Time makes the highs not as high and lows not so low, but damnit we haven't lost a game yet, and that is fun even when you're down on the road to Nebraska in the second half. This isn't a national championship team and in all likelihood will lose to Ohio again, but it's something of a motto of mine to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And right now, things are good.

- Finally, unlike her older siblings, the BDGF's littlest hasn't been a stranger since going to college less than a mile from our house. It's quite lovely for the BDGF as an easing into an empty nest, and I don't mind it either. And now the big one is back too! She finally has her own place, which means I get to build her a bed frame, and we'll get to see her more than we did when she was in the wilds of Montana. Out of the house but close might be the ideal way to keep children.

Posted 2:30pm
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August 24th, 2021

Hello Goodbye Hello Goodbye

I have been sapped of whatever nostalgia I have for my hometown. I think the country's political environment combined with the death of both my parents finally swept away any fond memories I had and replaced them with the overwhelming disdain that was always there but masked by my friendships.So I can't go home again, or have no desire to anyway. I don't want to drive by my old house or eat at some old favorite restaurant. There's no high school reunions in my future.

What I do have is Montreal. If the 21st century has allowed us to pick our families, then I'm adopting Montreal as my home town. After being away for 20 months (TWENTY MONTHS!) it felt like going home after a long absence. The list of restaurants and stores and attractions and activities to get done in the eleven days we were back was looooooooong. It made for a whirlwind tour that felt all too quick and a little too jam packed. But most importantly, it felt like home. It felt comfortable. It was like a long, satisfying exhale.

Of course we came back to Ann Arbor to find ourselves with a mere six days to go before we become empty nesters. While waiting so long for our return to Montreal sucked, getting to do it with the BDGF's littlest right before she heads off to Michigan Engineering was a special something. I was a tad shocked she agreed to even come so close to her leaving for college, but she was excited to join us, which I think means we did something right along the way.

So it's a whole new adventure for her and for us. Hers is much more exciting, but both contain a plethora of possibilities. If you're me, that comes with a side of anxiety. Since her older siblings didn't have the best Michigan experience, I'm nervous about the littlest not finding her place there. And of course what do us olds do now that there's no children at home? I'm choosing to be mostly excited about all of it. I already know that I'll be esctatic to have a kid come home from college, which I guess is my new homecoming/reunion. You get the nostalgia of the past plus the promise of the future. That's something to look forward to.

Posted 11:51am
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July 30th, 2021

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- We went to Montana! Pretty much everything to see there is right in the name, outside of the BDGF's oldest, which is why we went, so mission accomplished.

- I have returned to the cinema with a vengeance, thanks to our Gold Card membership at the Michigan Theater and their fantastic repertory lineup (We saw Jaws and The Empire Strikes Back last week!) But I'd be remiss if I didn't point out two brand spanking new music docs that we saw out and about but you can watch from the comfort of your own home. The Sparks Brothers is Edgar Wright's career spanning doc of the oft overlooked by the general population synth pop duo Sparks (see it cold, no prior knowledge required. It's on VOD.) The other is Summer of Soul, Questlove's ode to the long forgotten Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969. Watch on Hulu to see performances by Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and to see the Pips work.

-Bob Odenkirk got sick (bad) and looks to have come through OK (hooray!) But even moreso than that making me happy (in the innocuous sense of our headline), is the outpouring of love and support for him between those two events. It goes without saying that we should show and tell people how we feel about them while they are here and what Bob went through gives us a scare an an opportunity to do that, but what we saw in this case was how much everyone loved and respected him. When you've been around for as long as Bob has, you've had the chance to step on or over people, and from all the evidence presented, he never did that. To see someone you respect and admire respected and admired by their peers feels vindicating. It rarely feels like nice people win, except for when it happens.

- After 15 months of being on a week/off a week at work, I'm back to being permanently on-site. I will miss working from the couch for several hours every morning and just being at home to putter around the house waiting for someone to need my expertice, but it's nice being back. I'm a structure guy and perhaps more importantly, I need to be in the building to do my job effectively. Trying to walk people through shit remotely is painful. I can fix anything when I can put my hands on it, so that's making things easier. Don't get me wrong, this little "experiment" proved to me that I will be a good retiree someday (hopefully soon) but for now, while I still have the energy and urgency to do stuff, it's helpful to know that I need to manage my time rather than say "I'll get to it eventually" which is what infects me when I'm home all week in my basement.

- Finally, the border is on the verge of reopening, which means we are on the verge of returning to Montreal! How does one spend 10 days in your home away from home when you haven't been there 20 months? Do you visit all of your favorites that you haven't seen in forever and miss terribly, or try all of the things you've been reading about in the interim or have been meaning to do for years? Chances are, both, or as much as time allows anyway. Nous retournons a Montreal! That's all that matters.

Posted 2:58pm
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June 29th, 2021

Waterfall, nothing can harm me at all

For someone with perpetual wanderlust, the BDGF's psyche took a beating during lockdown. With vaccines and restrictions being lifted, it was so ordered that the minute school was over, we needed to go somewhere. Doctor's orders.

But since the Canadian border is closed and there's probably not enough open anywhere to justify getting on a plane, we kept it close to home and traveled across Ohio and into Pennsylvania to experience whatever we could find around there. Turns out, the answer was waterfalls.

We started at a restaurant built over a waterfall, got the man made variety at Cedar Point, caught a plethora in Cuyahoga National Park, and then ended up at one of the most famous houses in America.

Seeing Fallingwater was a bucket list thing for me, so the whole trip it was worth it just to checkmark that. We're headed to Montana to visit Cassidy in two weeks, so the wanderlust isn't satiated yet. If you hear about a woman caught trying to swim across the Detroit River, you'll know who to expect.

Posted 12:42pm
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June 14th, 2021

She persisted

Someone* once said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. I know what he was getting at. We have all probably gained a new level of understanding what he meant over the last year. I have two modes: I either wallow or work my way through things. Over the course of a 15+ month panademic, I did both. A lot.

This promising young woman pictured above horrifically lost her dad at the beginning of her junior year of high school and then lost the rest of her experience to a virus. Nevertheless, she will be an engineering student at the University of Michigan next fall.

This was not a fait accompli. She put in the work to make it happen. She had a ton of shit thrown at her that would have made me want to give up or at least take the easy route. She could have done that. No one would have thought any less of her.

Nevertheless she's going to be freshman at one of the world's top engineering schools in two and a half months. I couldn't be prouder of her. Not everyone works through trauma after trauma without complaining and comes through successful. Most lead lives of quiet desperation. She persists.

*Henry David Thoreau

Posted 12:42pm
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April 6th, 2021

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- Shark Attack! Our household generally prefers the city vacation, where we hit museums and restaurants and enjoy the wonders of public transportation. However things being how they are, we decided to spend this spring break in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the stomping grounds of my Uncle Shark. We cruised the Blue Ridge Parkway, stood atop the highest point East of the Mississippi, and punched some waterfalls. I'm still immediately going back to Montreal when the border opens up, but we had a pretty good time hanging out outdoors.

- The weather is finally turning so I'm back in the garage building shit. Here's a shelf I built and a little insight into my design process (spoiler: there isn't much)

- This is Drake and Diane. They are my duck friends. Every day I walk around Barton Pond and for the last few months, I've seen this cute couple and said hi. Now they seem to be very reticent to leave a certain part of the pond and are being stalked by Canadian Geese, so it may soon be time to make way for ducklings. Keep watching this space!

- It's that time of year again where we push to acknowledge that Geeks Who Drink - and specifically the Tuesday night version at Mash hosted by yours truly - is the best trivia night in Ann Arbor. Have we had a trivia night at Mash in the last year? Of course not. I'll still argue we're the best and deserve your vote, which you can cast daily here. (You may have to write in Geeks Who Drink @ Mash)

- And finally, in the not-so-innocuous, the BDGF's littlest has accepted her offer to join the University of Michigan Engineering program next year. We of course couldn't be prouder and I'm particularly proud that we are five for five in our household when it comes to Michigan matriculation. Hail to the Victors.

Posted 9:55am
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March 26th, 2021

It's Checklist Season!

Remember a few years ago when Hanukkah was on Thanksgiving? That was weird. Once I was in Las Vegas on St. Patrick's Day which was also the second weekend of March Madness and that was a confluence of events that took years off of my life. But hey, sometimes your birthday is on a Friday.

Thanks to the pandemic my two annual checklist events are overlapping this year as the Oscars got pushed back while the NCAA men's basketball tournament is taking place, so it's nothing but clipboards and different colored markers over at my house.

First, let's look at March Madness. I'm not the world's biggest college basketball fan, but I am a nationally recognized opportunity to gamble enthusiast. Over the years I've dabbled in all kinds of brackets, but for the last few years I'm down to two: one monster with a few thousand players where if you get lucky you could buy a decent certified pre-owned car, and one with a couple of hundred entrants where a win means a significantly upgraded vacation. I've also taken to picking Michigan to go all the way in one of my brackets and then going with some kind of chalk in the other. And good news! Thanks to Oral Roberts and chaos tournament, IF Michigan wins out, I'll be looking at a significantly upgraded vacation.

The other boxes I'm ticking are for my annual #Oscarquest where I attempt to watch every film nominated for an Academy Award. It's good news here as well, as I'm down to my last half dozen watches (minus the shorts, which I will knock out in the theater when they do that bit, which I've confirmed they are still doing this year.) Nomadland will probably win the top two awards, which I am on board with. I hate that I'm Thinking of Ending Things got so little love, and that I had to watch Mulan, which had no redeeming qualities (I suppose you could say it had Donny Yen in it, but they squandered him.) It's not as bad as Hillbilly Elegy, but few things are. I probably never would have watched the Hong Kong film Better Days without #Oscarquest, and that's why I still do this dumb thing.

So things are getting back to normal? I kind of buried the lede in that the last two members of my household got their first shots last night, so we're officially a month from freedom. I mean, I bought concert tickets today! They're for November, but still... Everyone is eligible soon. Everything's coming up Milhouse...

Posted 10:44am
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March 8th, 2021

Getting together with strangers in the dark

I just bought a magazine! No really! I'm not going on a train nor airplane (obv.) and nobody I know was mentioned in it. There was no former nor current Michigan Wolverine on the cover that I might someday somehow get to autograph it (I think those are the last 5 magazine purchases I made in the last 15 years.) I had to go to three different stores over the course of two weeks to even find the thing. Perhaps that's not surprising as I just talked about the demise of the format, but I digress.

I purchased the March 2021 issue of Empire Magazine, wherein Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim, Baby Driver) curates anecdotes from some of the world's greatest filmmakers recounting their favorite cinematic experiences. Going to the movies is my second most missed activity from the past year's hellscape, so I really wanted to learn what all those people depicted above remembered most about all those hours we've collectively spent sitting in the dark being nervous, scared, elated and relieved.

And spoiler alert, it's great. I'm actually not even all the way through it yet as I'm parsing it out and savoring it like a delicacy I don't know when I'll get more of. Most of the recollections are of two varieties: the first is a moment when the author was in a theater and remembers everyone in said theater losing their collective shit. Think when Indy shoots the swordsman or when we see Jaws for the first time. Just great movie moments that always play better when you're surrounded by strangers. The others are more of a “this screening was great because of this great idiosyncratic thing that happened during it.” Think of first date at a horror movie or seeing Spinal Tap for the first time with your college roommates.

With that in mind, please allow me to share two of my favorite memories. They kinda sorta fall into each of those two categories, if you'll indulge me.

The first was in 1999. My friend and I were going to see South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and we decided to get super baked in the parking lot beforehand. If you're going to see a South Park movie, it seemed silly not to. For context, pot was not legal and while I had been high quite a bit in my day, I wasn't super used to doing it in public. I was probably finally in a place as an adult where I felt like I had the authority to do it? Like I could get away with it. ANYWAY, we went in, purchased our tickets and on our way to the concession stand ran into half a dozen people from my work.

Now while these people were probably less than 10 years older than me and couldn't give two shits about what I had ingested as a film enhancer, as someone not accustomed to being publicly high the paranoia kicked in. Not crippling panic attack, but “Oh shit I'm high and there's no way they won't know.” So I fumbled through some pleasantries (Gotta go, movie's gonna start!) and some more at the concession counter and made my way into the relative safety of the theater. Then the picture started and I laughed so hard I could barely catch my breath for the first twenty minutes. You guys, I know I was high, but I've never laughed harder in my life. To this day. I forgot about what anyone was going to think of me the next day and laughed so hard I had to literally take a knee during the dance remix of “Uncle Fucka.” That's the power of cinema.

On the other end of the spectrum, in 2016 I drove to Royal Oak (north of Detroit) to see the documentary about James Baldwin I am Not Your Negro. It's (putting it simply) about the struggle for civil rights. I had driven to Royal Oak because it wasn't on the schedule at my local art house and I wanted to make sure I saw it. Eventually it came to Ann Arbor and I went to see it again with some friends and you can't imagine (or maybe you can, who am I to say) the difference seeing a documentary about racial justice with a mostly black audience just outside Detroit and with a lilly white one in a college town.

I can't tell you anymore what the specific reactions were or to what parts of the movie, other than they were stark. Maybe I can say that in Ann Arbor there was an air of sadness and in Royal Oak everyone was just agreeing with Baldwin, affirming “I know that's right” with their response. It's not that anyone in either audience was being told something they didn't know necessarily, but the white audience maybe felt a little shame, and the black audience was saying “finally, someone is saying this.” I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth with five year old recollections, but those two screenings crystallized something in me that I often think or even say I know, but still have a visceral reaction to when put in front of me. That's the power of cinema.

So you can't run out to the cinema right now, even though if you're reading this you probably want to. But perhaps let it serve as a reminder that the cinemas need your money too. Netflix and Disney+ and the rest are great, but they can't replace going to the movies. Really nothing can, and we all desperately need to remember that. Support your local arthouse especially. Seeing Indiana Jones or Casablanca or 2001 or even The Room is a different experience once you're in the dark and surrounded by strangers staring up at the same thirty foot tall screen. It's something that needs saving as much as anything we share collectively.

Posted 11:01am
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February 9th, 2021

Vaccination Street

 

I'm fully vaccinated! I'm finally a 1%er! I'm invincible!

I feel like I have the appropriate guilt about being one of the first people to be vaccinated against COVID. I took a job 25 years ago because my roommate picked a flyer up off the ground at Angel Hall and kept that job when I graduated because they offered me health insurance and I needed it for my 3 year old. It's never paid overly well but the benefits were pretty good - never so much as now.

So I got lucky. The weight is somewhat lifted. The BDGF is only three weeks behind me, so soon it'll be even lighter. The weather will change and we can all go outside and it will be lighter still. There's no counting down the days because who the fuck knows, but I can imagine going to the movies. Imagine sitting at a bar. Imagine being in my house alone because all the other residents are out doing something.

The last year sucked. I'll never stop being angry at every asshole I know who voted for Trump who apparently wanted to see what happens when you face a crisis without leadership nor competency. I'll always be bewildered at every person I see not bothering to respect any of the protocols. I'm anxious and sad and tired and all of the things this has wrought. And as I've said, this fucking shit has affected me so little compared to most people.

Which is why I'm praying or hoping or wishing or whatever my functional equivalent is to all that nonsense that you all get to join me ASAP. I want you singing the baseline to Fascination Street as you confidently stride down the road. Having something to look forward to is one of the most important things in life, and as I wanted this for myself I just as badly want it for you, so we can go out for a drink toute suite. It's been too long.

Posted 11:59am
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