Monday 29 April 2019

Immigration: What We Brought With Us

    Today you often hear about refugees and immigrants having to flee to another country, carrying their only possessions on their back.  Back in 1974 when we immigrated to Canada, we at least had a car pulling a utility trailer with our possessions.  Yesterday, I came across the list of what we brought with us when we crossed the boarder.  I found it quite interesting.  We didn’t bring much and today when I look at the list, I scratch my head and wonder what we brought some of the things we did.
    At the time I we didn’t have a lot of money, and most of what we brought I had bought at the Indianapolis Goodwill Store where I worked for two years as a conscientious objector.  You can see from the list my interest in music and photography.   I had taken a job as an elementary teacher in an isolated one-room school and in the list you can see we brought a lot of children’s books, records, and games.  
    I had to laugh when I saw that we brought two portable television sets.  Where I taught and lived for the next two years, there wasn’t any television reception, and radio just rarely, sometimes at night. 
    We still have some of these things, others have long disappeared.  
    It is strange to see how little we brought with us, now that we own a house, that is stuffed full of things.

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Sunday 28 April 2019

American Robin

    There is really nothing very exciting about seeing an American Robin, unless it is the first one you see in the Spring, (this one wasn’t), they are very common birds that inhabit just about the entirety of the North American continent.  The reason you are seeing this one is because it is the best photo I have ever taken of a Robin.
    Robins usually keep their distance from us.  They fly away well before you can start getting close to them.  For some reason the other day as we were walking on the path around the pond, I saw this Robin perched on a branch of an Alder tree ahead of us.  As we approached, it stayed right there and it allowed me to take this photo.  
    In the Spring male birds are at their most colorful, so they will be attractive to the females.  I assumed this was a male because it was so colorful, but I don’t know that for a fact.

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Saturday 27 April 2019

Putting It Off To Another Day

    We were planning a drive up to Prince George today, so we got up early.  We needn’t have bothered, because outside a snow storm had just begun.  Since there was nothing really urgent that we needed in Prince we postponed the trip until next week.  Making the two and a half hour drive up to PG is not much fun anyway with all the trucks and maybe animals on the road, and snow makes the “no fun”  even worse, so it’s at home we will stay today.

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Friday 26 April 2019

Devil's Club, My Latest Painting

    I finished “Devil’s Club” my latest painting last night.  Devil’s Club is kind of a nasty prickly plant that grows in the damp, dark, cedar forests of BC.  It spreads it’s leaves out flat to catch what little light streaks down through the cedar canopy.  It was these light green highlighted leaves in the dark forest that attracted me to the image. This painting is based on a photo I took at the Ancient Forest Prov. Park west of McBride.
    I began the painting in September and it took me 162 hours to complete.  It is done using acrylic’s on canvas.  The painting is 30” x 30”  (76cm x 76cm)

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Thursday 25 April 2019

A Time To Kill by John Grisham

    The McBride Library Book Club’s theme for April was “Author’s Debut Novel”, that is, their first novel.  I started out reading Dicken’s “The Pickwick Papers” and found it so un-involving that I quickly lost interest in it and quit reading it one-third the way through. 
     After I bailed on The Pickwick Papers, I was eager to delve into something more stimulating, and downloaded A Time To Kill, John Grisham’s first novel.  He had it published in 1989 with 5,000 hardbacks printed.  It was a colossal failure.  Grisham said “we couldn’t give them away.”  There were no paperbacks made. 
      It wasn’t until Grisham’s second novel, “The Firm” whose sales took off, establishing Grisham as a popular author, that people became interested in “A Time To Kill”.   It remains Grisham’s personal favorite among his many other successful works. 
      The novel begins with the horrific rape of a ten year old black girl, by two totally depraved white drunken southern rednecks, who beat her and tried to hang her in an attempt to hide their crime.  She survived, and was able to give a description of her attackers to the county’s black sheriff, who finds the two, still drinking and bragging about their rape in a nearby bar. They were arrested and jailed.
      At the first court appearance of the two prisoners, Carl Lee, the father of the sexually assaulted child, hides in a courthouse hallway and opens fire on the two rapists, killing them and wounding a deputy sheriff.  The father is immediately jailed.  Everyone knows he is guilty of the killing, and it is then up to Jake Brigance, a local lawyer and main character of the story, to try to save Carl Lee from the gas chamber despite his guilt.  
       Like most of Grisham’s novels, it is full of the law and how lawyers work.   It details lawyer’s tactics, many of which are questionable and illegal but lawyers use them anyway to to win their cases.  I found all the lawyer backroom maneuvering immensely interesting and they make this tale very compelling. 
     The story is set in a small Mississippi town so there is a lot of local color, racial problems, prejudices, lawyer maneuvering, and small southern town politics, which all come into play as Jake struggles to save his client, who is so poor he can’t really afford to pay Jake’s fee.  The case riles up the Ku Klux Klan whose involvement leads to assaults, arson, and more murders. 
     The old saying, “It ain’t over til it’s over” certainly applies to this novel because there is always some unexpected event that pops up to keep this very engaging tale exciting, causing the reader to hungrily devour  the novel all the way to the conclusion. 
    I found it remarkable that this first novel of Grisham didn’t make it when it was first published.  It is a very engrossing story that certainly kept me entertained.

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Spring: A temporary Setback

    We woke up to a snow squall the morning.  Nothing serious, but a reminder that the transitional seasons, Spring and Fall, can be unstable.   The temperatures aren’t supposed to get to much above freezing today.  I am glad that I haven’t planted the tomatoes and chili’s in my unheated greenhouse yet.  I think they are happy to still be in the house under the grow light.

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Tuesday 23 April 2019

Mutant Rose: Blooms Coming Out of a Bloom

    My gardening friend David Milne showed me this rose that was blooming in his conservatory.  It has three or four blooms erupting from the original bloom.  He, nor I, had never seen anything like it.  Nature is always experimenting, usually the experiments don’t work, and I don’t know that this one “works” or not, but it is sure unexpected and unusual.

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Monday 22 April 2019

Earth Day, 2019

    The photo above was taken in the Valley of the Five Lakes, Jasper National Park.
    This year has given us three consecutive days of holidays and celebrations.  Saturday was 4:20 Day for those into smoking pot, yesterday was Easter for those into Christianity, and today is Earth Day for those of us who care so deeply about this place that keeps us and all the other living things alive. 
    Way back in 1970 I actively participated in that very first Earth Day, when I was attending the University of Evansville.  It was a rather small event there, my mother actually sewed up a green and white “Ecology” flag for the event.  It was an amazingly hopeful day with wide support across the US.  It had the support of both Democrats and Republicans, urbanites and farmers, rich and poor.  I was optimistic that humanity would actually start looking at the problems it was causing to life on Earth and do something to correct them.  I was young, naive, and foolish.
    Big money soon moved in to subvert those concerns.  Big Oil paid millions, hiring those PR specialists who had diluted cancer claims for the tobacco companies.  They successfully began to do their lies and spinning, giving the world climate change and science deniers, Republican and Conservative policies, and loads of people that just don’t give a shit.  
    I find it all so depressing and sad.  Anyone who takes the time to look around can see what is happening to the Earth.  Things have gotten so out of hand that I secretly doubt that they can be reversed.  Despite the hopelessness, there are still good people who do what they can to live a life with as little impact to our home planet as they can. 
    Below are some of my Earth Day buttons from the past.  On the left a button from the first Earth Day in 1970, in the middle a button about overpopulation (one of the biggest problems facing the Earth that no one talks about), and on the right a button from 1990.
    Think about our Earth today.

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Sunday 21 April 2019

Underwater Growth

    Now that the ice is off my pond, I can watch what is happening under water.  I can see the minnow-sized fish dart around as I check the progress of the waterlilies.  The waterlilies are starting to unfold their developing leaves, and the stems with the knob on the top are the slowly evolving yellow waterlily flowers that, like the leaves, are stretching toward the surface of the pond.

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Saturday 20 April 2019

Sprouting Rhubarb

    Rhubarb is such an interesting looking plant when it begins to sprout in the Spring that I can’t help but take a photos of it every year.  It’s crinkly leaves, yet to be unfolded, always remind me of the convolutions of the human brain.  The different shades of green of the leaves are nicely accented by the red of the husks that envelop the leaves.

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Friday 19 April 2019

How OI Ended Up On A Cross

    Since today is Good Friday I thought it might be a relevant time to relate one of the strange moments that I have experienced in during my life.  It was the time I was hung on a cross, 10 ft. (3m.) up in the air.  Yep, that’s me on the cross.
    The University of Evansville, where I went to school, was recognized for its fine drama department.  As I was swerving back and forth, unable to find a direction for my education, I was checking out all the different opportunities available to me in university, I landed a few times in drama.
    I was in a couple of plays, never in a leading role, (those always seemed a bit too scary for me) so I always gravitated to the “other actors” roles.  I enjoyed being on stage without the responsibility of remembering and speaking a lot of dialog.   
    In the winter of 1969, the U. of E. drama department put on the avant garde play:  “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis De Sade”.  The title of this musical play is usually shortened to “Marat/Sade”
    It was a strange play, and like the title suggests, it is a play about a play, that was put on by the inmates of an asylum.  I played the part of one of the inmates.
    As an inmate, we were supposed to act like we were not ‘hitting all the right keys’, and I did seem to excel in that department.  I was several times complimented on my characterizations by the director.  We had to look like discarded people, and so I didn’t shave, and I let my already long hair, grow longer.
    All the inmates wore beige cotton gowns, and we were supposed to make them look disgusting, so I applied tea and water to stain the neck and armpits.  As the main characters followed the plot, we inmates, wandered around the thrust stage, and stared at the audience.  It was great fun.
    The play touched on many themes, but mostly it was about the desire for a revolution in pre-revolution France.  In one scene of the play, one of the main characters, was strung up on a cross to be crucified.  It was meant to display, what happens to individuals who speak out in an attempt to improve the lot of humanity.  As it happened, the guy whose part it was to be strung up on the cross, in real life had leukemia.  I had noticed huge bruises on his body several times in the dressing room.  Unfortunately, in the middle of the play’s run, he became extremely ill, soon after died.  
    The director, was always very complimentary to me, and started to comment openly several times about how much I was starting to look like Jesus, with my lengthening hair and developing beard.  When the actor with leukemia was forced to withdrawal from the play in the middle of the plays run, it was too late to re-train someone new to do the part, so the part was just scratched from the play.  The director however wanted to keep the crucifixion bit in the play, and told the cast, that when they got to the crucifixion scene, they should just grab me and string me up on the cross.  The play was fairly confusing anyway, so it didn’t seem to make much difference to the plot.
    So, I found myself, strung to a cross, which was dangling from ropes, high above the audience.  It was one of those memorable and unique moments in my life.  When we had the cast photos made of the play, the director insisted that one was made of me on the cross.  He later showed me that he had made a couple of posters of the shot, and gave me a copy, but I think it got destroyed by mice in my garage.  Fortunately, I still have this photo.

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Thursday 18 April 2019

Tree Remnants in the Road

    Every Spring I am reminded that where I lived used to be a forest.  The frost always pushes up the root remnants of one of the trees that used to grow where my driveway is.  In the photo above you can see my driveway and three of the roots of that tree.  Actually there are five roots segments in a circular shape, but I only got the three on the photo.  They rise to the surface every year with the frost, then disappear.  In past years, I have gotten fed up with them and dug and hacked at them, but obviously, I didn’t get them all.
    The photo below show a similar thing on Hinkelman Road.  Hinkelman Road used to be the “highway” to McBride, so the road has been there for probably 80 years, but still there are parts of a tree from the original forest sticking out of the pavement.

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Wednesday 17 April 2019

Mice Tunnels

    Now that the snow has melted, you can see traces of what the mice were up to during the winter.  I noticed these mice tunnels yesterday built on the bank of a road.  Not only was I struck by all their winter construction that was done under the protective cover of the snow, but I also really liked the textures and the monochrome nature of the photo. 

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Tuesday 16 April 2019

Meeting John Denver

    Back in 1963 and 64 when I was in high school, my favorite TV show was something called “Hootenanny”.  It featured concerts that folk singers gave at universities.  I loved folk songs, both the old traditional ones and the contemporary ones that touched not only on love, but also war, race, and other progressive themes.  I loved the performers, the harmonies, the instruments, and I also had great admiration for those song writers who composed the songs.
    The show featured people like Judy Collins, Flatt and Scruggs, The Smothers Brothers, Ian and Sylvia, The Brothers Four, The Limeliters, and The Chad Mitchell Trio.
    Because I paid so much attention to the song writers, I knew about Bob Dylan and John Denver before they hit it big and became popular.  I didn’t know what they looked like or what they sounded like, but I knew their names and appreciated their writing abilities.
     The Chad Mitchell Trio was one of my favorite groups.  They had wonderful harmonies, and sang a lot of humorous songs about such things as the ultra-rightwing John Birch Society, and the Draft Dodger Rag.  Chad Mitchell, the short energetic leader of the group, had hair that swept down on his forehead and that inspired me to start growing my hair longer, which got me in a great deal of trouble at my high school the day after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, but that is another story.
    Anyway, Chad Mitchell eventually left the group, and leaving his fellow group-mates scrambling around to find a replacement, and the group had to change its name to just the “Mitchell Trio.”  They continued to travel around the US giving concerts.
    As I continued my love of folk music, listening to a Peter, Paul, and Mary album, I came upon the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.  The song knocked me out, and I noticed that it was written my someone named John Denver.  That’s about all I knew about him.
    Sometime after 1969, I discovered that the Mitchell Trio was going to be giving a concert in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana.  I bought a ticket and went to see the performance.  To my surprise I discovered that Chad Mitchell had been replaced by that song writer John Denver, who was not only a great songwriter, but also a very good singer.  The group did a lot of the songs I had heard on the Hootenanny TV show, and they also did Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.
    After the concert, the audience left, and I walked back stage to see if I could meet the group.  Amazingly, I was able to.  I got everyone’s autography on the back of my University Student Union Card.  (I didn’t have any other piece of paper they could sign).  When I talked to John Denver I told him how much I liked “Jet Plane”, saying I thought I could die a contented man if I had written something as good as that.
    Years later, John Denver became a super star.  In a recent PBS special about Denver, it was stated that what Elvis was in the 1950’s, and The Beatles were in the 1960’s, John Denver was in the 1970’s.  He became a massively popular singer, and I actually got to meet the guy years earlier.

    Tonight is our jam night.  We do have a few of Denver’s songs that we sometimes play.  We do his “Country Roads”, “Annie’s Song” , and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”  I think about my “brush with fame” every time we play one of his.

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Monday 15 April 2019

Not Spring up in the Mountains

    Yesterday was cool and damp and didn’t feel very welcoming down here in the Valley, but it seemed  a whole lot better than what was going on up in the mountains.  There it looked pretty cold and gloomy.

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Sunday 14 April 2019

Upside-Down For Peanut Butter

    I put this peanut butter out for the birds, but obviously this squirrel doesn’t care.  It is happy to hang upside-down to eat the stuff.  He had better eat while he can, because I will soon take the peanut butter log down because the bears will soon be sniffing around.  In its place I will put the hummingbird feeder, since they will be arriving in the Valley shortly.

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Saturday 13 April 2019

Ducks on the Pond

    I built my pond to create wildlife habitat, so it is always gratifying to see wildlife out there using it.  Yesterday as we walked the path around the pond, there were two pair of ducks out swimming around.  The photo above shows a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye and in the photo below you can see them again along with a pair of Mallards.  The fancy looking ones are the males.
    I am sure both of these pairs come every year because they are used to us walking around the pond and don’t fly off when they see us.  The first year I had the pond the ducks would all fly away whenever I walked from behind our house, which is some distance away.

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Friday 12 April 2019

Billowy Clouds

    Yesterday it was the white billowy clouds against the deep blue sky that caught my eye.  As I have mentioned before, Spring is a time when a lot of weather systems move through the valley, and the sky is very changeable.  This constant rearranging often results in some beautiful, but fleeting effects. 

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Thursday 11 April 2019

Camouflaged Grouse

    The other day when we walked around the pond, there was a Ruffed Grouse standing on the trail.  When it saw us approach it scuttled off the path into the brush on the side of the dam and stood very still.  Because I had seen it move off of the path I knew it was there, but had I not seen it, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it in the brush because of its remarkable camouflage that blended so well with its surroundings.
    Even though it stood still, the grouse didn’t fool Lucifer our cat, who had joined us on our walk.  Lucy suddenly sprinted toward the bird, causing it to take flight across the pond.  I’m not sure what caused Lucifer to sense it’s presence.
    Usually just standing still is a pretty good defense for grouse, because they usually blend in so well with their surroundings.   That strategy doesn’t work very well when the grouse is standing still in the middle of a road, thinking it can’t be seen.  
    Last week when I drove into town, I came upon a grouse standing in the road.  It stood still, thinking it it couldn’t be seen.  I edged my truck over toward the middle of the road to avoid hitting it, but half an hour later as I was returning home, I sadly saw the feathered remains of the bird laying in a lump in the middle of the road.
    t’s amazing camouflage hadn’t kept it safe on the wide dark open pavement of the road.

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Wednesday 10 April 2019

Last Patch of Snow

    You might remember how I bellyached about the lack of snow last December after our “Green” Christmas.  I was very anxious to see some of the white stuff.  Now here we are in April and I am just as anxious to see the stuff gone.  
    It is almost there.  The photo shows the last bit of snow that is left in our yard.  It is a remnant of a big pile of snow that slid off of the roof of my shop.  The area where it sits is pretty much shaded all day long, so that is why it has melted so slowly.

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Tuesday 9 April 2019

Pond Half Melted

    One of the sure signs that Spring has finally arrived in the Robson Valley is that the winter ice starts to melt on all of the lakes, ponds, and rivers.  I am now able to walk around my pond without stepping on any snow, and half of the surface ice has now melted. 
    It is so nice to see the reflection again on the open water and watch the small fish and water bugs dart around in their under water world.  This morning there was a pair of Canada Geese swimming around on the pond. 
    There is always so much to see as Spring arrives.

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Monday 8 April 2019

Showers and Squalls on the Mountains

    We get a lot of rain showers and snow squalls during the early spring.  That was what was going on yesterday when we took a walk down the tarmac at the McBride Airfield.  We watched as the showers moved across the valley and onto the mountain slopes of the Canadian Rockies.

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Sunday 7 April 2019

Mountain Bluebird

    We got one of those springtime treats yesterday as we went on our walk.  We saw a male Mountain Bluebird.  It is something we look forward to every spring.  The female bluebird is more gray and doesn’t have the intense blue color of the male.  They like to hang out on broad open fields where they catch insects.  Our pasture is too small so we never see them around our property, we have to be out by a big pasture or field to see them.
    Fortunately a lot of the local fence lines which border the fields and pastures have nesting boxes for them (photo below).   I assume this bird house is color-coded to give a hint to the Mountain Bluebird, but In past years it has usually been swallows that I have seen nesting in the bird house pictured.  I am sure some of the houses must be used by the bluebird.  
    Yesterday’s Bluebird spotting was especially rewarding because I was able to actually take a decent photo of the bird.  Most of the time they fly away and I can’t get close enough for a good shot.

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Saturday 6 April 2019

Prime Time for Mosses

    The early spring seems to be the favorite time of year for the many mosses that can be found in the Robson Valley.  Mosses prefer moist settings and low light, both of which a now in abundance.  They are flowerless plants and after fertilization send up sporophytes, long thin stems topped with a small bundle of spores.
    The photo on top shows moss growing on a very small piece of wood sticking out above the outflow water from my pond.  Below is another variety of moss I found growing near the shore of the pond.

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Thursday 4 April 2019

Stopping Tree Roots Growing in the Greenhouse

    For years I have been plagued with tree roots growing in my greenhouse.  Last year I had my worst tomato crop ever, and I am pretty sure it was from all of those roots sucking up all the water and nutrients.  Every year when I turn over the soil in the greenhouse it becomes a more frustrating job, the roots get in the way and make the job far more difficult than it should be.
    There are a lot of feathery tree roots that form after I cut through the root while spading, and there are huge roots, some as thick at my forearm.  Anyway it has been a big problem, and this year I decided to do something about it.
    Last summer I replaced some of the metal roofing I had on the roof of the house, and I decided that I would bury that leftover roofing in the greenhouse to create a root-proof lining for my tomato bed.  It has turned out to be a big job, especially digging out the soil (and tree roots) so that I can bury the roofing.  I have completed about a third of the job so far.  
    The photos are not the most beautiful I have posted, but they give you an idea of what I am doing.  The old roofing already has holes punched in it from where the screws used to hold it to the house, so hopefully it will allow excess water to drain out.  I hope it works.

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Wednesday 3 April 2019

Fraser River: Almost Open

    One of the things I always look forward too in the Spring is to start seeing water again.  After months of seeing ice and snow, it is a treat to see the sparkling and reflecting surface of water on the rivers and lakes.  While my pond is still ice covered, the mighty Fraser River is starting to break up and showing running water again.

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Tuesday 2 April 2019

Schizophrenic Sky

    Spring weather can quickly change.  The other day I was amazed at how different the weather looked depending on the direction in which I was looking.  In one direction rain or snow was threatening, and in the other, things looked calm and stable.  Here are photos of the two views.

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Monday 1 April 2019

The Critters Are Arriving

    Even though there is still snow on the ground and ice on the pond, it hasn’t stopped the wildlife from showing themselves.  Yesterday, I saw this butterfly (I saw my first last week), I saw this mosquito (my wife killed one in the bedroom last week), I saw a small fish darting around in the open water at the edge of the pond, and as I walked by, a toad jumped into the narrow string of open water.  I have already seen or heard a Varied Thrush and a Junco.
    I find it really surprising how quickly those animals show up in the Spring, even with our nightly below freezing temperatures and with a good bit of our landscape still covered with ice and snow.  It seems those creatures are as eager for Spring as I am.
    Below a shot of our yard taken yesterday and the mosquito I saw.

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