Cawnpore and Perseus in Print. Buy a Book, Get the eBook Free from Amazon

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Cawnpore and Perseus are now available in the Createspace eStore and on Amazon.com (and other bookstores.) Buy a physical copy of either from Amazon, get the eBook free.

Coming soon: Hercules, the not-a-sequel to Perseus.

Why Is College So Expensive?

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In The New York Times, Paul Campos has an excellent piece on why college tuition is so damned high. Contrary to the usual progressive whinging, it’s not thanks to reduced public spending. While states may have (and often have not) reduced their spending on their university systems, the federal government has more than picked up the tab between the Pell Grant (almost $40 billion this past year), the GI Bill (about $42 billion), and subsidized student loans. The federal government has seen growth in spending for education rise five times faster than the military budget since the Vietnam days. Even the alleged “cuts” by states is bogus:

State appropriations reached a record inflation-adjusted high of $86.6 billion in 2009. They declined as a consequence of the Great Recession, but have since risen to $81 billion.

And despite that, the cost of education has not gone down. To get more of that tasty federal dosh, universities keep raising prices — up about four fold from the ’60s — knowing that the feds will alway pony up Pell or GI Bill cash, and students, not hit immediately by the damage of student debt, will cover with more loans.

So why is this the case, when universities are cutting tenure positions for part time instructors, and faculty find themselves with increasing workloads that dramatically reduce their use to the students? Campos points to one of the main issues in nearly every organization as the culprit: administration. Professors are making fairly close to the same amount of money they made in the golden age of 1960s academia, but their work load has increased, thanks to constant refrains of “everyone needs a college degree” that have been sung since the 1980s. This push to load up on a liberal arts education has not served the students of the United States particularly well. Depending on your major, a college degree is definitely worth it…if you went into math, the sciences, technology, or some medical service field. But for that multitude humanities and liberal arts majors, certification inflation has made even Starbucks jobs are getting hard to come by. Meanwhile, the administration of public universities has metastasized and is killing off the institutions that they feed on.

According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

These are positions that are mostly not income-generating ones. Each bum in a classroom seat is income generating; those students are there to learn from professors. They (and the sports teams they general piss and moan about getting too much money, but which often generate as much from their programs as they use) are the moneymakers. Worse, these administrative positions are often vastly better paid than the faculty. In some cases, this might be warranted; often they are not.

In this, universities are symptomatic of an issue that infects nearly every business, every government office, every charitable institution, military bureacracies, even vast criminal enterprises — there is a large pool of sclerotic middle management that does very little, but in their efforts to appear relevant and necessary, often create huge inefficiencies in their host group. In the military, this is often seen in the NCO corps or the field rank officers where that slack-jawed “leader” is promoted to prevent them from getting too many people killed; we often called them the “shit fairies”, because they came in just to crap on everything. These are the street lieutenants in gangs who loyal enough to mostly trust, but not with the money. These are the vast hordes of school administrators at your public schools who make for times the teachers and do nothing…but attend teachers’ union meetings. They’re the ass kissers who are just connected enough to not get fired, but not really good enough at doing to leave in the field, or the lab, or the workspace; but they are also not the idea guys, the big sellers, the motivators. They are costly and the arrest progress much of the time.

sS an aside, recently, in discussing the idea of the basic income guarantees, one of my mathematicians friends made a much better case for the BIG than any of the true believers. He pointed out that, in essence, middle management is where those just motivated enough to keep their jobs, but not talented or motivated enough to excel fall. Their employment is a systemic income guarantee program. After all, you need people to make enough money to buy the crap necessary to keep the economy healthy; iWatches aren’t gonna buy themselves.

Much of the problem from government spending on down to university budgets is this class of ticks, who suck more money than they’re worth out of the host body, and return very little, if anything. Much like a corporation, or a government department, cost containment and efficiencies could be realized by pairing out redundant positions and departments (looking at you most of DHS), and paying the people what their labor is actually worth. In the case of universities, streamlining multiple lines of administration is a good start, but it does not address the issues created by having a third party pay for a service for the customer. There is no incentive for the customer to be savvy about their educational choices — that BA in Art History was a great idea! — and there’s no real way for the third party payer to judge quality and value of the service being delivered; just as in medical case insurance, loan and grant providers are not the receiver of the goods and services.

Fortunately, the glut of useless bachelor and masters degree holders, and the much degraded quality of education they’ve been provided with by small faculties who are overly politicized and under-motivated, is starting to limit demand for higher education. Students and their helicopter parents have begun to realize that accruing massive debt for a degree of middling utility is not a wise use of a student’s time or money. Those who just want to learn can do so quite easily with an internet connection and some reading time; those who need certification are already behind the eight ball, for the time being. This reduced demand is already showing in dropping enrollment stats around American higher education facilities — roughly 20% drops in enrollment over the last three years. Charging Jaguar prices for a Ford Aspire isn’t a healthy, or sustainable business model, but the subsidizing of public universities has insulated them, until recently, from the realities of the world.

In a world where supply and demand held sway, this would have already sorted itself out, but so long as there is a source of state monies that feed the self-sustaining bureaucracies of the university systems around the nation, this problem is unlikely to sort itself out soon.

First Impressions: Apple MacBook Air 13″ (Late 2015)

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Sooooo…I was doing some quick shopping yesterday, and when I came out of the Albertson’s, I found (or rather didn’t find) my backpack with my old Air in it missing. A quick call to the Albuquerque Police Department got me a “file a report online”…nice. After using my iPad to call it in, and to file an insurance claim, I got permission from “She Who Must Be Obeyed” to pick up a new laptop. A not-impressive visit to the Apple Store — usually so helpful — and I had my new MacBook Air 13″.

Setup was both very easy and a giant pain in the ass. The initial setup, with iCloud, setting up the email accounts, etc. was fast and flawless. Software upgrades and adding Sophos anti-virus, Caffeine, and Dropbox, had me on the latest Yosemite version within an hour of getting the thing home. Then I started trying to get it to do handoff with my iPhone and iPad. Getting iMessages and FaceTime turned into an hour long exercise in swearing and gnashing of teeth. The issue turned out to be the iPhone, in the end — between two-step authentication, app-specific passwords, yadda yadda I finally got it working, but it was not exactly “Just working”.

So, how’s it stack up to the old Air? It looks almost exactly the same as the last version, except the power cable is different. I swear, Apple changes its power cables every damned iteration of a machine so you have a collection of useless power cables. It’s got a Thunderbolt port, two USB ports, an SD card slot (which is very handy for an extra “hard drive”.) It’s got a 1440×900 screen resolution with an Intel HD 6000 with 1536mb card. There’s backlit keys, where the old late 2010 didn’t.

Performance is noticeably better for video. YouTube, both Flash and H265 ran smoothly and the fans never kicked on. I have most of my media on a 2TB external drive that the old Air hated talking to. The new Air played all of Zombieland last night over wifi from the external drive without the fan coming on, nor any lag. So for video playback, it’s much, much improved.

Battery life is incredible! The original 2010 Air was getting me seven hours of use after four years of service, still pretty damned good for a new laptop. The 2015 Air gave me six hours of use, including watching a full movie, and still had 50% of the battery left. With moderate internet use, I should be able to get a good 10-12 hours of use out of the laptop.

The latest iteration of OS X Yosemite has a few nice touches, the most obvious being the new Photos app. It’s a lot like iPhoto, but with a much more stripped down interface, and it seems to be less intrusive (so far) when trying to, well, anything. iPhoto used to jump to the rescue whenever you tried to sync devices; Photos does this, too, unfortunately. I loaded a 32gb-sized photo library into Photos and it took about three hours with organizing, etc. I didn’t really see a dramatic difference between the function of the two programs, save Photos seems faster — especially pulling pics from the SD card. Likewise, iTunes seems a bit less sludgy, lately, and was pulling from the SD card library, or from the external hard drive with nary a hiccup. The old Air would have be stuttering and freezing during the whole process.

So in closing, the new MacBook Air isn’t the hot, trendy machine it was four years ago, but it’s still a damned good computer with got a lot going for it, and I would suggest the utility is higher than the new MacBook. (The point of which, I will admit, eludes me.) The battery life is second to no other laptop, it is remarkably able at handling big projects and gaming, and with a 256GB SSD and a 256GB SDXC card, it’s equal to the base MacBook Pro for storage space. It’s thin and light — especially useful for someone on the go a lot (or who rides a motorcycle and doesn’t want a ton of weight slung over his shoulder…) It’s less pricey than the model was a few years ago, gives better performance, and still looks great when you’re pretending to write your novel at the local coffeeshop.

Progressives Freak Out About Indiana Law They Obviously Haven’t Read

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Before we get all butthurt about the rest of the piece: 1) About the only people I discriminate against a folks with bad tattoos…you obviously make bad decisions, but hey! that’ll look great at 65! 2) I live in a state with a RFRA and that didn’t lead to flaming pyres with homosexuals roasting upon them. 3) As a libertarian (or “real liberal”) I don’t care what you do, so long as you don’t scare the horse, and everyone’s on board with it. So check the pro- or anti-gay bullshit at the door if you choose to comment.

Oh, you might need this…

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Indiana joined the ranks of 19 other states, and the federal government, that have some version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or “riff-ra”) last week and the interwebz melted down with deliriously outrageous outrage. Apparently, the passage of this bill will lead to some manner of Auschwitz-style oppression of homosexuals in the state. You’d be well forgiven for thinking this if you’ve been getting your news Facefuck Facebook or some other mainstream media outlet (except Fox…then civilization is imperiled by the protests.) However, unless you are protesting and boycotting the other states on the map below, you’re a fucking hypocrite…or just really uninformed. You choose:

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So doing what I know not a single one of the people complaining on Facebook has done, I RTFM (military folks know what this means, for the rest of you…) I read the damned bill before I opined. Novel, I know. Here’s a quick comparison of RFRA for those of you who can’t click here and read it.

What RFRA does, in this case, is — as in all of the other instances of this sort of law — establish that the state cannot “burden an individual’s exercise of religion unless the burden is of a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Here are some examples of what that means:

  1. The government’s compelling someone to do something that violates his religious beliefs, or prohibiting someone from doing something that is mandated by his religious beliefs.
  2. The government’s denying someone a tax exemption or unemployment compensation unless he does something that violates his religious beliefs, or refrains from something that is mandated by his religious beliefs.
  3. As to state and federal constitutional regimes, it’s not clear whether the above also applies when the objector’s conduct is merely motivated by his religious beliefs (e.g., the objector thinks it’s a religiously valuable thing for him to stay home on the Sabbath, rather than a religious commandment) and not actually mandated by those beliefs. The federal RFRA, many state RFRAs, and RLUIPA expressly apply to “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by … a system of religious belief.”
  4. The beliefs need not be longstanding, central to the claimant’s religious beliefs, internally consistent, consistent with any written scripture, or reasonable from the judge’s perspective. They need only be sincere.

RFRA laws got their start in 1993, mostly due to the 1990 Employment Division v. Smith decision (Google it — research is good for you…) with a federal law that “statutory presumptive entitlement to exemption from generally applicable laws.” This doesn’t not abnegate other civil rights or legal obligations, but places the burden — rightfully — on the government not the plaintiff and states the State cannot compel you to do something against your conscience. You know, that conscience that people respect until it doesn’t align with their conscience.. RFRA, as The Washington Post tells us, are “…about accommodating religious belief, not authorizing discrimination…” no matter what Tim Cook’s (or your Facebook friend from England or France or Germany, or wherever they are whinging from) opinion on the matter might be.

“But, Scott,” someone is currently wheezing through their vapors, “It will be used to discriminate against gay people!” 1) Happy people are cool and shouldn’t be discriminated against, no matter their sexual orientation, but in case you mean homosexual, then 2) no it fucking won’t. How do I know? Let’s look at a few cases where RFRA laws were involved in legal cases concerning discrimination by businesses against homosexuals.

New Mexico has a RFRA. We’re also a recent cynosure for religious vs. homosexual personal rights. Here’s some ways this has played out.

1) In 2006, a New Mexico church was using hoasca tea in their ceremonies…because it gets you high, if we’re going to be honest, but let’s assume that it is vital to their communications with whatever Almighty they worship. The federal government used the Controlled Substances Act to seize their hoasca and harass the membership. In a rare moment of protecting the interests of the people, the Supreme Court found against the government, thanks to RFRA.

2) Last year, a Elaine Photography was found to have violated the civil rights of a homosexual couple when they refused to provide services for their wedding. So right there is your precedent for why the Indiana law won’t discriminate against gays. It’s settled law.

But that’s just New Mexico, you say? I read in The Atlantic that it’s different in significant ways! Nope. But it says that religious protections exist even when the government isn’t involved in the case…well, that’s the pesky First Amendment for you; you can’t discriminate against me because I’m Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, an agnostic, or a Scientologist. Well…Scientologist…

It also establishes that companies, not just non-profits have the right to religious protections, similar to the Texas RFRA. This is due to the recent Burwel v Hobby Lobby decision. And what about Burwell v Hobby Lobby you ask? Even the creepily progressive rag Slate couldn’t find fault here –even Sam Alito, not a favorite of the Progressives, said the ruling was not a “…shield [for]…religious practice to escape legal sanction…” So that’s, again, precedence set by the Supreme Court of the nation. Nowhere, over the two decades of RFRA, has it been used successfully to discriminate against homosexuals.

You are, simply, wrong.

So why is everyone so fired up about this law? Here’s the truth: Progressives are trying to get in front of the 2016 election, in which Indiana governor Mike Pence was seen as a strong contender for the Republicans. They only wish this was happening in Wisconsin so they could go after Scott Walker. It’s political theater produced to make people who read headlines like they were the full story have a visceral, emotional reaction that goes viral on FaceTwitSpace.

You have, simply, been used.

Another Glaring Example of Why Government Regulatory Agencies Don’t Work

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The Daily Caller brings us the saga of Andy Slavitt — the Deputy Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It seems when Shift Andy showed up to work at the CMS, he got a nice $4.8 million from a bunch of the medical care corporations he would allegedly stick it to. Tax-free. Then he dumped a bunch of stock in the same companies for a cool $7.2 million. All of this was “legal”, of course, since government officials can get “certificates of divestiture” so they can defer their capital gains while in office.

Then there’s the “ethic waiver” he got so this bought-and-paid-for turdsack could continue to “legally” work for the agency managing those companies he’s worked for and invested in. Nice to see our would-be aristocracy can go about their business without having to hold to the same rules you smelly, half-educated troglodytes have to. Whew!

At least we know that the Obama administration is doing everything it can to be transparently awful about double standards and corruption.

It’s also an important lesson for idiots who want to tout government regulation as the panacea to all our ills: When you empower one side of a criminal conspiracy…you’ve empowered the entire conspiracy.

China’s Challenge to World Bank Seeing a Lot of Countries Joining Up

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The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is seeing a nice take off with over 40 countries joining up as “founding members.” The Chinese have been locked out of leadership positions in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Asian Development Bank, and plans to pump $800 billion into the Asian marketplaces with the AIIB. The United States and Jaan have not jumped in, according to Quartz because…

The US and other critics question whether the Beijing-led institution will uphold international standards of transparency, debt sustainability, and environmental and social protections, or just turn into an arm of Chinese foreign policy.

These are some pretty serious concerns. I would also question the actions of a bank that has little to no oversight (the Federal Reserve), operated in near total secrecy (the Federal Reserve) for possible foreign interests (the Federal Reserve.) Worrying about debt sustainability — and by that we don’t mean the ability to keep being in debt (well, I’m assuming…) — is also a valid criticism. We wouldn’t want to see a replay of the idiotic policies that have been financial collapses since about, say, 1872… Nor would we want to see the Chinese policy interests affect our nation’s decision making process….as it does now.

The hope seems to be that the AIIB will follow the same standards that MF Global, Bank of America, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Northern Rock, Morgan-Chase, and other financial powerhouses did in 2006. International commerce: Saved!

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Professor Arrested on Flight Shows Why Higher Education Is Now So Awful

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From The Washington Post comes the story of a not-so-lovely “lady” — Penn State sociology professor and self-profressed “revolutionary”, Karen Halnon. Hlanon was arrested at Miami International Airport after she decided rules didn’t apply to her (she is, after all, a revolutionary) and after being called out on her assholishness, decided to go on a long, loud diatribe on Latin America revolutionary politics and conspiracy theory.

Best yet, the whole thing — of course — was caught on phone video. Enjoy the stupid…

And here, parents, is what you are paying $50,000 for: Your young kids, who are most likely already behind the curve on the critical thinking skills thanks to similar gits teaching at your schools, get exposed to over-read, but under-experienced halfwits like this — wannabe revolutionaries who were weaned on [pick your favorite] victim studies, and maybe well-traveled enough to have done a week’s “research” vacation in a slightly dodgy part of the world.

Even better than the plane incident, Halnon claims she was “tortured” by the FBi and TSA when she was made to sit alone in a security room for her “civil disobedience” whereupon she let The Man have it by shitting in the corner. About what you’d expect from a woman arrested in 2013 for drunk and disorderly.

While she might be an extreme example of the academic idiocracy currently ruling the faculty lounges of the United States, she is not unusual in her beliefs — the same lightweight Progressive or Fabian socialism of the 19th Century, the same reverence for murderous buggers like Chavez or Castro (but our murderous bastards…they’re the real bastards!), who’ve never done an actual day of work in their lives but claim solidarity with working folks who wouldn’t have a moment’s time for them (since they’re actually working), and who think reading a few hundred books in a very specialized area of [pick your liberal art] that all reference the same dozen or so polemics from the 1960s.

Outside of Penn State, which still can’t decide to fire this nutjob because she’s probably the doll of her department at PSU-Abington, someone like this is simply a punchline. But she’ll be teaching your kids (because childhood apparently lasts into your mid-30s) all about how Venezuela is a wonderful place that would be a paradise if we would just Maduro control the supply of toilet paper. I’m sure if she had been arrested in Caracas, she wouldn’t have had to take a dump while waiting for her arraignment…

Just in case you want to read a bit more of the sort of thought-crushing nonsense this woman spews — you may be short on entertainment this morning — here’s her interview with Philadelphia regarding her arrest…with my interjections, of course.

Can you comment on your arrest and on the videos of you on the plane that are circulating?
I do have a comment. I know that I expressed an act of civil disobedience. But that act was necessary.

Why so?
I’m very knowledgable about that part of the world. I teach about U.S. imperialism in Latin America. And the U.S. has declared war against Venezuela. That means military aggression. They tried to take out Hugo with a coup, and then they took him out with cancer. (me: That was because our earthquake and weather control machines were being repaired…)

Oh?
It is my opinion — and Fidel agrees with me …

As in Castro?
Yes, Fidel (me: She knows him personally. Really!) agrees with me that the CIA had some involvement in giving him cancer, and so he died very sadly. And now Nicolas Maduro is the president and the U.S. somehow thinks this is a better position for the U.S. now.

It’s not?
No, what they don’t realize is that Maduro is carrying on the revolution. It’s not like Raul in Cuba. There is every intention of carrying on the revolution. Fifty more years.

What is the revolution revolting against?
The problem is U.S. military global domination. And they want the oil. And they want the water. And so I found that this act was a necessary Thoreau-like act of civil disobedience. I had to speak out now. The situation is dire and urgent, and any sacrifice I make for my own self, if it saves lives — there have been far too many lives lost due to U.S. global military domination. (me: Last sentence — she’s not wrong there.)

What happened once you landed in Miami?
The FBI and TSA tortured me. My voice generally doesn’t sound like this. (me: that would be “like a crazy person.”) I was put in a room with two fans in the ceiling, it was freezing cold for hours and hours and hours. I asked repeatedly to go to the bathroom. They made me wet my pants. They humiliated me. And then to make matters worse, I have a stomach condition. Everything that comes in goes out. I’ve been like that for months since I left Cuba. I’ve lost over 30 pounds. And I was yelling that I had to go to the bathroom. But they ignored me, and I defecated on the floor. And they made me pick it up and laughed at me. (me: I thought the superior Cuban medicine would have cured her…)

That’s awful. But what of the cigarette? One reporter who covered your actions said that lighting a cigarette on a plane is just a little better than yelling “BOMB!”
Why did I have a lighter if there is such great national security? It was right in the top of my book bag. (me: Good point. Airport security is pretty much just theater.)

Listen, the point is, I am a sociologist, and I live in an intellectual world. (me: Ah! the “We live in a world of ideas” theme other educated but wholly disconnected from reality professors have thrown around.) A sociologist always thinks in terms of symbols. And every revolutionary I know smokes. It was identifying with the revolutionary cause. And then, beyond that, it is a symbol that the United States is a smoking gun. The action was necessary. They are going to kill many more people.

Some people would look at that video and wonder if you were under the influence of a substance. And I know you pleaded guilty in 2013 in Horsham Township to public drunkenness. Do you have a substance abuse issue?
No. I do not have a substance abuse issue. I have had many sufferings in my life, but no. I had a little bottle of wine on the plane that I mixed with apple and cranberry juice over three drinks. A spritzer, if you will. But I wasn’t drunk. I don’t need alcohol to protest. (me: But it does make her protestations much more enjoyable for the people being inconvenienced.) This is my life.

I am passionate about being an anti-imperialist. To follow Jesus is to be with the poor, to be with the suffering, to be with the oppressed, and to be anti-imperialist.

I made some mistakes here, but it wasn’t a mistake to speak out. I would do it again today. Ask anyone who knows me.

And this is one of the reasons why enrollments at colleges are off roughly 20% per annum over the last three to four years.

Quick Review: PNY SDXC 256GB Card

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I had been looking to upgrade the Lilliputian drive space on my Late 2010 MacBook Air — it has the 128GB SSD and is very fast and effective, but has always made storage an issue. From the jump, I got a 64GB SD card for the machine as overflow for pictures and the others things that quickly gum up a computer’s memory. I tied it to a wireless 2TB drive…but that doesn’t come with me outside of the house, and the 64GB…well half that gets eaten up in pictures, the other in music.

I was on the cusp of a $170 SSD upgrade to a 256GB stick, then realized, I could just as easily drop a similar-sized SDXC card in the side of the machine for half the price. I settled on the PNY SDXC card with 256GB — effectively trebling my “hard drive” space.

Installation was simple: put it in the side of the Air, bring up Disk Utility and “erase” the card, setting it up for OS X Extended (Journaled). This took about two minutes. The PNY runs at at advertised 90MB/s, and that seems about right.

It took about a third the time to load the 50GB or so of material from the old SD card, plus my 35GB of music from the iTunes drive. So far, reading and writing is about as fast as hitting the laptop’s SSD. The only time there’s a lag is when you first hit the SD card after a bit of a wait or sleeping the computer. Once you start using it, no noticeable issues.

Total cost $80 to treble the “hard drive” space, and it allows you to pull the card and any important or sensitive information if you are traveling with the laptop. Bonus when going through airport security. There’s also the plus that you can use it on any other laptop (if you leave it in FAT format.) As for longevity: the first SD card is still going strong after 6 years — fist in an old Dell machine, then 4 years in the MacBook…so at least as long as the average laptop’s service time. The only real issue is that the card sticks out of the side of the laptop, and could be at risk for preakage, but it hasn’t happened in the time I’ve had it, and I’m not the kindest person to his laptop when traveling.

If you’ve got a MacBook Air 13″ with the 128GB SSD, this is a no-brainer for upgrading the machine on the cheap.

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