georges' blog

December 19, 2008

Review: They Might Be Giants Friday Night Video Podcast

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendall @ 4:15 pm

The occasion of our family’s first grand car trip–we’re driving from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles–reacquainted me with the They Might Be Giant’s Friday Night Video Podcast. This is one of the most awesome podcasts by any measure. And I am not exaggerating. It features John and John of TMBG as sock puppets. They enjoy some amusing banter as you would expect in any talk or variety show and then they introduce video clips from their children’s albums Here Come the 1, 2, 3’s and Here Come the A, B, C’s. Our children love the podcasts. And unlike some children’s programs their offbeat sense of humor and lyrics as well as their catchy tunes are very appealing to adults–at least Claudia and me.

If you are a fan of TMBG, Cake, or Bare Naked Ladies, you will enjoy the music. Your kids will too. And they’ll learn about the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and other things like conifers and Davy Crocket–well, maybe not too much about Davy Crocket. The biggest bummer of the podcast is that they took a vacation in the summer of 2008 and apparently haven’t come back. We look forward to their return. In the mean time we will probably have to pick up one or more of their CD/DVD collections.

Check them out on iTunes. Or you will get a sample of their some 813 Mile Car Trip in our road trip galley to be posted soon.

June 27, 2008

Phanfare Update: They don’t suck so bad…

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 11:48 pm

I need to set the record straight. After taking pains to migrate my photo gallery to SmugMug, I contacted customer service at Phanfare to cancel my account. They did so quickly and painlessly but included this bit of information in the message:

I know you have likely moved your site, but I did want to tell you that as of June 1st, there will be an additional option in 2.0 to allow you to share your albums publicly (with everyone at your URL) without requiring a login or registration. Based on all the feedback, we decided to allow this change to make the system more useful for people who really did want an open URL. There is still a Phanfare header on the pages, but other than that, the pages are unchanged.

Just wanted to pass that along…

A few comments:

  1. I had moved my galleries–to smugmug. And it was not a painless process. I tried out both Migratr and Smugglr. And neither worked effortlessly. In the end I had two copies of every photo, so I had to manually delete the duplicates. Also, all the galleries were private. So I had to manually set each one to public. At least all the captions and album descriptions were imported.
  2. “Thank you, for finally listening and catching a clue!” I was pretty upset with the changes that came with 2.0, specifically that users could not share their galleries without registration. Based on the reactions on their forum and the few comments I received to my post, there were a lot of unhappy (and some down right angry) users out there. I knew I wasn’t alone. I was glad that they had come to their senses and responded favorably to the public outcry.
  3. “Could you have figured this out sooner and let me know sooner?” Apparently, I acted just days ahead of this going out to all Phanfare users.

So… what does that all mean?

I’ve already swallowed the pill of moving my galleries to SmugMug. I am still feeling burned by the whole thing.

Why would I even consider going back to Phanfare?

Here’s the deal…

On the positive side: Yes, I’ve moved my galleries to SmugMug. That’s a realatively done deal. Also, in the meantime, SmugMug upgraded the feature set for “power user.” This is the package that has the same annual price as Phanfare. They now offer custom URLs for their power user. Awesome. So, feature-wise, did I lose anything by moving to SmugMug?

On the negative side: SmugMug does not support sub-galleries. This made the migration and organization of my galleries clunky. Also, SmugMug’s uploader is simply primitive. Phanfare simply has the coolest upload and organization utility out there. Also, Phanfare offers a lifetime membership–pay for five years up front and you are good for life. That is a pretty good deal. With SmugMug you’ll be paying that annual membership until you die.

On balance, as I see it, Phanfare is simply better.

So, the question is, was I able to put my hurt behind me and trust Phanfare again?

I decided that I could give them another chance. But I wouldn’t make it easy for them. Let’s not forget, so far I’ve paid the price for Phanfare’s mistakes. I moved my stuff to SmugMug and I was beyond the two week money back guaranty window. I was out time and money. Phanfare would have to meet me half-way at least. I extended the olive branch. I wrote Phanfare customer support and said they could have me back as a customer if they’d reinstate my lifetime membership less the $59.99 I paid to SmugMug. They accepted. So, Phanfare got me back. They admitted they were wrong. They paid a small penalty for their mistakes. I was out some time, but not any money. And I got back on with a service that is nearly everything I am looking for in a photo host. I’ll give them a chance. I will trust again.

March 28, 2008

Renting Movies at iTunes

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 11:17 pm

I’m not going to say yet that I’m addicted to renting movies at iTunes, but we’ve done it three times in about a week and I just have to say, “I like it.” I’m sure we’ll slow down, like immediately, but it really is a convenient way to rent quality films just as soon as they are out and you don’t even have to leave the house. As I said in an earlier post, being able to watch while it is downloading is choice. My experience is that after about a hour of lead time, the remainder downloads concurrently with watching. But, also, I was able to just grab a flick that I knew I wanted to watch though I didn’t know how soon. You have a month to watch, so you can load up a couple of flicks no problem.

So, I’m not a junkie, but am converted and a satisfied customer.

March 22, 2008

On-demand video is the way of the future revisited.

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 12:46 am

I guess it was at MacWord 2008 that Steve Jobs announced that Apple would start renting movies through iTunes. Well, a few nights ago, Claudia and I rented our first film through the iTunes store. We rented Michael Clayton. It was a decent film, but not one we would necessarily want in our personal library. So, it was a perfect occasion for renting. However, our local video stores are a bit slow to acquire new releases. So, iTunes came to our rescue and overall, it was a good renting and viewing experience. We live halfway around the world, but the download was still only about two and a half hours–1.5 GB. iTunes let’s you start watching while it’s still downloading. So, after about two-thirds was downloaded, we started watching and the download finished before the movie did, so our viewing was not interrupted. We’ve done the same with LOST which we purchase through the iTunes store as well so we’re used to this routine. We aren’t used to broadband performance in the States, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people stateside are able to purchase and start viewing immediately or nearly immediately. But I would expect that just about anyone could purchase a movie rental before dinner and by the time the kid’s are tucked in, enough or all of the movie would be downloaded and mom and dad could settle in for a little home theater. Anyhow, Apple gets my thumbs up for putting together an on-demand video paradigm that just works.

Another service to keep your eye on is These guys are offering commercial TV for free on-demand. There are commercials, but you’ll get fewer commercial-minutes than broadcast television. Unfortunately, these guys aren’t allowing viewing from overseas, but we’ll see if I can’t figure out a way around that!

I said on-demand video was the way of the future and I’m sure there is more to come.

Desktop Blogging Apps

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 12:21 am

I like the freedom to edit my blog, basically any where I am by jumping on any computer with an Internet connection and logging into the admin interface at This is particularly nice on any Mac machine which spell checks for you in any browser by default. However, on my own machines, I’ve gotten into the habit of using desktop blogging software. I like the convenience. It’s faster. You’ve got spell check. You’ve got other admin features. You can save local copies to work offline. Anyhow, I just like it. It feels right. On my Windows machines, for this purpose, I use (this may come as a surprise) Microsoft Word 2007. The blogging features work nicely. And since we all have spent a lot of time in Word, it is comfortable. You’ve got all the language tools you need: spell check, grammar check, and thesaurus. I need all the help I can get. At one point (before Office 2007 came out) it seemed like I often found myself editing in Word and then copying over to the browser interface anyhow. Now to be able to simply post when I’m finished is a great little time saver. The thing is, I just got a new MacBook Air, which has become my main portable. I’ve got both Office 2008 and iWork. But Word 2008 for Mac doesn’t have the blogging facilities of Word 2007 for Windows. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would see here a deliberate effort by Microsoft to cripple their Mac offering to undermine their competitor, Apple. It is rather inexplicable. I generally find that the Mac products from Microsoft are classier and “funner” than their Windows counterparts. Anyhow, since Word 2008 doesn’t have the blogging facility, where does that leave me for a desktop blogging app for Mac? Well, there are a lot of voices out there. It is hard to tell who is out front, but I’m placing my bets on ecto. It has a feature rich editor. All the admin functions you need. And it is priced better than its main competition. I’ve drafted this post using ecto. We’ll se how it goes.

March 7, 2008

News Flash: Phanfare Sucks

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 10:30 pm

The information in this post is no longer accurate. Phanfare has back-peddled on many of the lame changes they had made. I for one am very pleased about that and say as much in a follow-on post here.

I got this email today saying “Congratulations! Your Phanfare account has been upgraded.” Phanfare is guilty of misusing both the words “congratulations” and “upgraded.” Instead it should have said, “Aha! We got you. You thought we were friends. You didn’t see this coming, but we just [expletive removed] you royal! Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Just wanted to go public on this one. Phanfare sucks. They’ve turned their backs on their loyal (and very happy) customers in order to try to grab a slice of the social networking and photo printing pie. I was one of those very happy Phanfare customers. Their ease of use was truly second to none. This was a choice feature. I wanted something that Claudia could use easily. It is important that managing your galleries is easy, so you keep them up to date. Phanfare’s client was a pleasure to use. It allowed you to edit galleries, descriptions, captions, everything while the pictures upload in the background. If you made changes on the fly. No problem, the client kept track of it. If you disconnected. It finished next time you’re connected. I wanted my galleries to be ad-free and require no login. They had it. I wanted unlimited storage and user access to my hi-res, full-sized originals. Check. If I wanted to use a custom URL, like, I could. Their only weaknesses were that their themes were a bit limited and thumbnails were cropped to a square. Other than that I was really content. I was also committed. I bought the $300 lifetime membership. Pricey, but it was supposed to be a lifetime. Little did know they’d pull the rug off from under me in less than a year.

Now they are requiring that your visitors also get free Phanfare accounts. They’ll need to sign in in order to view your galleries. You’ll be able to see their pictures as well, and keep up-to-date with any activity in their accounts. But this is not how I use my account. This is not how I ever intend to use my account. I’m not interested in trying to get all my friends and family on this service! I just want them to view my pictures!

Well, I’m done with Phanfare. I used to love ’em. Now I hate ’em. They betrayed me. I’m going to have to spend who knows how many hours getting my pictures moved over to a new service. I didn’t want any of my regular visitors to get sucked into Phanfare’s new scam, so I tried to move quickly. I got my smugmug account set up and a couple of my most recent galleries moved over. And I got my links at my website updated. All in less than 24 hours after receiving the bad news. Unfortunately, I wasn’t faster than my mom. She tried to check out our gallery today and was greeted with the “You must sign in to view this gallery” notice. So, she’s one of the new Phanfare 2.0 users. So Phanfare’s user stats are skyrocketing, but I predict it will amount to nothing. They’ll have 99% inactive accounts. What good is that?

Anyhow about smugmug. It has most of the features I want. And the price is essentially the same as Phanfare, only they don’t offer a lifetime membership. They have more themes and more customization. That’s good. But their user interface is not as great as Phanfare. Also you don’t get the custom URL unless you buy the $149 per year pro account. I’m not willing to pay $80 per year for that feature. You get a lot more features with the pro account, of course, but that’s really the only one I’m interested in.

Other disgruntled Phanfare users out there? You might also give a look. They have a lot of the same basic features as Phanfare, but the price is a lot more affordable–$19.95 per year. Again, like smugmug, their client is not anywhere as cool as Phanfare, but what can you do?

October 28, 2007

Book Review: Kingdom Triangle

Filed under: Books,Spirituality — kendall @ 7:43 am

J. P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. 237pp. Hardcover.

I just finished reading Kingdom Triangle and though the book was at times a difficult read Moreland doesn’t dumb-down the material in the least the critically important message of the book was not lost. Moreland exposes the two primary ideologies that compete with and undermine the Christian worldview in the West: naturalism and post-modernism. He then develops a three pronged strategy the Kingdom triangle for defending and reclaiming New Testament Christianity. Moreland is quoted as saying that this is the most important book he has written yet. I significant statement since he has written numerous books. And several are hugely popular. I would add to his personal evaluation that this book is among the most important books for the Western church in this century and should be read and headed by every pastor in the Western world. I know I said something similar about Greg Boyd’s book, Myth of a Christian Nation, but really both books are fantastic and important reads especially for American Christians.

In the first half of the book, Moreland gives a modest survey of both naturalism and post-modernism. He concludes and I think correctly, that these are the main enemies of the Christian worldview in the Western world. Though many Christians would reject both ideologies outright, Moreland demonstrates how naturalistic and post-modern thinking has infiltrated the church.

Naturalism, in short, is the view that everything has its beginning and end in the physical world; there is nothing outside of the physical world. Unless something can be measured or experienced with the five senses then it is at best unimportant and at worst does not exist. This has tremendous bearing on the subject of knowledge. Essentially, to the naturalist, what can be known is limited to scientific knowledge. Or at least, that scientific knowledge is an “immeasurably superior kind of knowledge.” All other kinds of knowledge are relegated, at best to a second-class form of knowledge and along with it all associated “non-scientific” academic endeavors. Spiritual or metaphysical knowledge is even worse off. For this reason, when experts are needed, Christian theologians and pastors are not consulted. Presumably pastors and Christian theologians have nothing of importance to add to any substantive discussion. What they could contribute is at best speculation and at worst fantasy. Naturalism is, at its heart, atheistic and possesses an agenda to characterize Christianity as irrelevant and Christians as lunatics. Though this agenda is the same for all things spiritual, Christianity seems to take the hardest shots.

The postmodernist, on the other hand, is not so quick to dismiss the metaphysical. Postmodernism attempts to navigate the middle ground by affirming spiritual realities. However, it does so uncritically. Postmodernism at its heart is universalist. It makes no effort to evaluate competing and often conflicting ideologies. It basically says, “What’s true for you is true for you and what is true for me is true for me.” Scientific knowledge is certain but other “truths” are relative. Postmodernism attempts to affirm spiritual truth but in the end diminishes it. The net result is not all that different than naturalism scientific knowledge is king and spiritual truth is less important or simply unimportant. “What is important to you, well that is fine for you, but I can take it or leave it.”

Moorland proposes three strategies for not just defending a Biblical worldview, but attacking competing worldviews head on. We must reclaim the Christian mind, soul, and spirit. This is the Kingdom Triangle.

In order to reclaim the Christian mind, we must not capitulate to those who would argue that Christian knowledge is of a lesser substance than scientific knowledge. Historical truth is valid. The methods by which we establish what happened in the past are well established. The Christian faith is a historical faith. Our faith is based on facts. Our spiritual knowledge is real knowledge. We should not be bashful about that. Moreover, spiritual people can actually know more than naturalists because in addition to spiritual knowledge all of the scientific fields are open to us. We can know about the world and the universe. We need not be threatened by scientific inquiry. Science, in fact, has its beginning with God. Moreover, we can know God and know about God. We can know things through revelation. This is the difference between what Moreland describes as a thick view of reality and a thin view of reality. Naturalism is thin. What can be known is limited to just scientific knowledge. Similarly post-modernism is thin. There are non-scientific truths, but what is true for you may not be true for everyone it may not be true for anyone but you. So again, non-scientific knowledge is inferior to scientific knowledge, because truth is not absolute. According to postmodernism, what can really be known is also essentially limited to scientific knowledge. Christians can know more than what can be observed with the telescope and the microscope.

The second side of the Kingdom Triangle is the renovation of the Christian soul. By this Moreland means that we must reconnect with God on an emotional level. Moreland observes that Christians have bought the world’s view of what it means to be happy. Happiness is a “pleasurable satisfaction that depends on external circumstances going well for you.” However, Christian happiness is a “life well lived, a life of virtue and character that manifests wisdom, kindness, and goodness. It is the abundant life that Jesus talks about in John 10:10. It does require a sense of well-being, but that is distinct from a sense of pleasurable satisfaction. Moreland offers two approaches to entering into the life of virtue. First is to kill bad habits and develop good habits. Habits, good and bad, reside in our flesh. We must exercise our flesh through discipline in order to train ourselves to walk in virtue. We exercise abstinence disciplines like fasting, frugality, solitude, and sacrifice and we exercise engagement disciplines like prayer, study, worship, and fellowship. There is more to it than that, though. If there weren’t then Christianity would be mere asceticism. We need to train our hearts to discern the Spirit of God. Toward this end, Moreland offers a spiritual exercise. Step 1: Focus your attention on your physical heart muscle. Moreland asserts that when the Bible talks about the heart, it is more than merely symbolic. There is some focus somehow with the soul and emotion that is felt in that part of the body. Sure we know from science that emotion is actually in different parts of the brain, but I would agree with Moreland, that you will not likely make a connection with your emotions by trying to concentrate on your emotional centers of your brain you feel in your heart, in your chest. Step 2: Using the acrostic CFAN, recall a memory emotion associated with the relevant memory and let that emotion dwell and dominate the heart area. CFAN stands for compassion, forgiveness, appreciation, and nonjudgementalism. Recall an instance when you either gave or received love, forgiveness, joy, or acceptance. The important thing is not just to remember the experience, but to feel it. This exercise will help you be more in tune with God’s emotions toward you and through you.

The third side of the Kingdom Triangle requires us to restore God’s Kingdom’s miraculous power. Moreland seasons this chapter with several testimonies of miraculous or supernatural events in recent years. His intention is not to chronicle and support with concrete empirical evidence miracle stories. However, his assertion is that there are more and more such testimonies being reported every day. Rumors and false stories have been always been circulated. However, he asserts that these are increasingly coming from credible witnesses not known for exaggeration. He does not assert that all the stories circulating today can be verified, but where there is smoke there is fire. And there is more smoke than ever before. He make a couple of statements in this chapter that I found mind-blowing. First, he states that “Fewer and fewer Christian scholars hold to cessationism, and it may fairly be called an increasingly marginalized viewpoint.” This he does not say is sure evidence that cessationism is wrong, but he states that one must seriously consider why this viewpoint is losing acceptance among Christian scholars. Secondly he makes reference to a book edited by Daniel Wallace and M. James Sawyer titled Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? Remarkably these cessationist authors criticize the view or at least practice of most cessationists as reactionary against Pentecostals and Charismatics. These authors argue that there is way for cessationists to cultivate a supernatural lifestyle that is biblical and consistent with their Theology. Moreland’s conclusion in this chapter is that all evangelical Christians, regardless of their particular theological persuasion must reconnect with God’s miraculous power and cultivate a greater expectation for the supernatural to occur. He suggests that we need to become naturally supernatural, by which he means that we need to look for ways for God to work through us miraculously as we go about our daily lives.

Again, I was very impressed with this book on a variety of levels. I think Moreland’s case against naturalism and post-modernism and its influence on the church is substantive. I like his recipe for taking these challenges head on. If you are not impressed with his practical steps toward reclaiming a Christian heart, mind, and spirit, come up with your own, but do not take this threat lightly.

October 4, 2007

Making Hummus

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendall @ 6:00 pm

Kendall's Hummus
I simply have to follow-up on the recent posting of my no-longer secret hummus recipe. Well, just reading that recipe got my salivary glands going, so I had to make it. I’ve made it three times since I posted, and here are some pics from one of those times.
Licking the bowl.
Now I’m still evaluating, but I’m not sure if we are doing something right or wrong as parents. I mean kids are supposed to lick the bowl when you make a cake, right? I mean, are our kids a little weird? Or have we simply somehow managed to get them to actually like food that is good for you? Hmm?

You can see more hummus and other pictures at our gallery,

Radiohead Rocks

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendall @ 5:52 pm

I just finished viewing a news report about Radiohead ( releasing their new album. I’m not a big Radiohead fan. But I have to say that these guys are cutting edge by the way they are releasing their new album. The only way to get their album is direct from them. Moreover, they are advance releasing their album by download. In fact, you’ll get the music two months early by downloading. But all that isn’t revolutionary. Lots of bands are doing that already. In fact, Steve Jobs made that point that point recently at the September iPod Special Event ( He stated that half of all music released this year has been released digitally only–never released on CD at all. The majority of music is never going to CD. That’s cool. But what Radiohead has done is even cooler. They are letting the buyer decide how much to pay for their album. That’s right, you can pay a nickel or twenty bucks for their new album. You decide. See a lot of people already decide. They decide that the music they listen to is not worth $10 or $15 per album and they download the music illegally. Radiohead is saying, “Fine, $10 is too much. How much are you willing to pay?” If they get only $1 per album that is money in their pocket–the reward for their talent and creativity that they might not otherwise see. I applaud their courage to take this risk and demonstrate a lot of trust in their fans. I’m looking forward to seeing how the experiment unfolds.

September 3, 2007

On-demand video is the way of the future.

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 3:22 pm

On-demand video is the way of the future and anyone who says differently is smoking crack. I don’t know where Greg Sandoval of is coming from. In an August 31 article, NBC, Apple play game of brinkmanship, he wrote:

…nobody has really answered the question of whether people need to watch longer-format shows on their computers when the TV experience isn’t broken.

If nobody has answered that question yet, then I’ll answer it now. The TV experience is broken, badly. Sure there are still armies of people who will uncritically be spoon-fed unsolicited advertising while their televisions are on practically 24/7, however, there is an increasing number of people who are turning off their TV’s altogether and choosing deliberately and consciously what media and advertising they will consume. People are buying DVDs of movies and favorite TV shows. Many people illegally download shows via BitTorrent or other file-sharing apps. I don’t know what the numbers are, but for decades people have recorded TV shows on video cassettes and watched them later fast-forwarding through the commercials. We did this for years when the best TV was Fox Sunday night, with the Simpsons followed by the X-Files. Sunday evening we were generally in church. Thanks to programmable VCRs, we were free to schedule our lives as we saw fit, rather than let the networks do it for us. The birth of Tivo and other genius PVRs were an inevitable evolution from the crude VCR. They allow viewers to watch what they want, when they want, and commercial-free. Now, there are online services, like Apple iTunes and Joost, where people can legally purchase and download movies and TV shows commercial free.

I firmly believe that writers, directors, actors and everybody involved in making quality movies and TV shows deserve to get paid. (Just a point of clarification, yes, there is such a thing as a quality TV show. I haven’t really felt this way since David Duchovny left the X-Files, but Lost brought me back around. This is another post though.) So, since these people deserve to get paid, but many of us hate the commercial interruptions–passionately–and we are skipping the commercials any way we can, I’d say the TV experience is broken. It only makes sense that those of us who are happy to pay for the entertainment we consume have legitimate avenues by which to obtain our favorite programming. Since Apple is the leading distributor of legal media downloads it is reasonable for major media outlets to partner with them. They should have multiple channel partners. But for NBC to cut off Apple is just plain stupid and demonstrates how they are mired in a 20th century paradigm.

My post is in danger of going off in another direction here. Essentially, what is NBC about? Are they about creating quality programming? No, they are about selling advertising time. That is it. The only reason there is competition to create “quality” programming is that the better the programs, the greater the number of viewers, and the more we can charge the advertisers for time. Who are NBC’s customers? You and other viewers? Bah! Do not kid yourselves. The advertisers are the only customers NBC cares about. Viewers are like subjects in a scientific experiment. “How can we keep these laboratory animals glued to the TV screen?” That is all they care about. “But, what about ‘educational programming’ and the news?” you ask. Again, don’t kid yourselves. It’s all entertainment. The news is entertainment. There is no analysis. There is only sensationalism. However, every once in a while, by accident, they get the right people together and they actually produce something halfway decent. (Understand that this is completely different from movies, where their revenue directly correlates to how many people are willing pay to watch the show.) Also, don’t misunderstand me, NBC is not alone here. ALL the major networks operate this way.

So, now you see. NBC and the other networks are not really interested in producing and selling quality programs they are only interested in selling advertising time. NBC is clearly unwilling to observe the signs of the times and the mass migration away from commercial television. They think that if they pretend that people still only want broadcast television where they decide what you will see and when that that will make it so. They long for the good old days, but those days are fading. It is true that youtube is not a TV killer. Nor is iTunes. But, increasingly, my generation and younger will be ditching their TV’s. Our family has not had cable or satellite TV in years. We have never had more than one TV set. Now we don’t even have one. We only have a projector that we use for DVDs and streaming media. We have several PCs. Practically one for every one in the house. And we are not alone. I guarantee that in the not too distant future, the majority of Westerners will be consuming their video entertainment on-demand, fee for service, and commercial free. NBC would be wise to recognize this and continue to provide their content at a reasonable cost and commercial free via legal downloads. It doesn’t have do be iTunes. But, this is the way of the future and they had better transform themselves to conform to that or they will be a thing of the past.

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