Monday 30 January 2023

Feathery Frost

    We keep a constant flow in our gravity feed water system all winter long so that it doesn’t freeze up.  The flow drains into my pond and where it enters the flow keeps a small area on the pond’s surface from freezing.    I suspect the ice on the rest of the pond is at least 8 inches thick.  Around the unfrozen area, frost has formed during our -24°C (-11°F) cold snap.   

    Surprisingly, two different distinct types of frost formed; one very feathery and fluffy looking while the other, more like white blades of grass.  I guess something was subtly different in the two areas.

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Sunday 29 January 2023

Winter Returns

    We have had it easy for most of January with mild temperatures hovering around the freezing point, however now winter has returned.  This morning the skies were clear and the temperature was -24°C (-11°F).   

    I am not a fan of frigid weather, so I was happy to see that last night was supposed to be the coldest of this particular cold snap.  The temperatures are supposed to slowly warm and return to a more normal (and reasonable) range.

    If you look really carefully at the photo, you can see Kona in the distance on the left, looking back at me and wondering why I have stopped.

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Saturday 28 January 2023

Back Where I Belong

    In the winter, Lucifer our cat, stays inside the house pretty much all of the time.  However at 9:00 at night when I take Kona out for her last walk, Lucifer often comes out too and watches us.  After the walk, Kona comes inside, I call Lucifer, then she also comes inside.  

    The other night things didn’t really work out that way.  I walked Kona and we came inside the house, but I didn’t see Lucifer outside so assumed she stayed in the house, like she sometimes does.  I locked the door and we went to bed.

    The next morning when I was eating my breakfast, I heard a miserable, pleading, “meow” from outside the house.  I opened the front door and Lucifer sprinted into the house.  It seems as though she ended up spending the night outside.  Fortunately, it was not a really cold night, the temperature was just around freezing.  

    I was sorry for locking her out overnight, and she was too.  The photo shows Lucifer up in the bed, happy to be back in the familiar, warm, surroundings.

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Thursday 26 January 2023

The Fools's Tale

It was me that felt like the fool after spending fourteen and a half hours reading this story.

This novel takes place in a small kingdom in Wales, close to the Norman/ English border, the year is 1198.  It is basically the story of three individuals and jealousy. There is a king, who is called Noble, his best friend Gwirion, who is the king’s jester, and the queen, Isabel. 

       The novel opens with an attack on Noble’s father, a Welsh king, returning with his soldiers from a meeting with the King Richard of England.  Although they have been granted “Safe Passage” by Richard to travel through the lands of Mortimer, a Norman Lord, Mortimer attacks, killing the soldiers and the king (Noble’s father).  During the attack, Gwirion, The jester, draws attention to himself, allowing Noble, the then Prince, to escape and hide.  Mortimer tortures Gwirion in an attempt to make him reveal where the Prince has gone.  Gwirion refuses, is tortured some more, and then left to die.

Years, pass the Prince (Noble) is King and Gwinion becomes the Noble’s closest companion and friend.  His job is to make wise cracks and pull pranks, most of them in bad taste, but Noble always enjoys them, no matter how disruptive they are.

Although Noble hates his powerful, neighbor, Lord Mortimer, who killed his father, he arranges to marry Mortimer’s niece, Isabel, in an attempt to create an alliance for his kingdom for protection.  Isabel, who is a Norman, is more educated, but she does her duty, moves to Noble’s kingdom and marries him.  Because she is a one of the Norman enemies, she is not very welcome in the kingdom by the people.

       Noble, who is a womanizer, continues to womanize, but treats Isabel decently, but without much love.  Isabel’s duty of course, is to produce a male heir for Noble.  

        Gwirion, dislikes Isabel immensely, not only because she is a Norman and a relative of Mortimer, but also because he is jealous of the time Noble spends with her.  Every chance Gwirion gets, he publicly belittles her in his performances, but Noble always thinks it is funny.  Isabel comes to hate Gwirion. 

Isabel becomes very bored with her life as Noble’s wife.  Although she is very capable and intelligent, she is not allowed to do anything but sew.  Noble continues to womanize with other women, which hurts Isabel, but she continues to try to play her role as queen and faithful companion to Noble.

Midway through the novel, Noble leaves the castle with his army to fight Mortimer, who is threatening his border.   While Nobel is away, his castle is captured by Llewelyn, another Welsh king who wants to take over Noble’s kingdom.  He imprisons Gwirion and Isabel, putting them in the same large room and despite their hatred for each other, in time, they slowly fall in love.  This sets up a kind of new dynamic among the three main characters.

When Noble defeats his attackers and returns to the castle, Gwirion and Isabel, full of love for each other, and guilt, have to try to stay away from each other and act as they always did.  When the affair is discovered, it is Noble that becomes jealous of Isabel, because Gwirion cares more for her than he cares for Noble. As you might expect it all comes to a very bad and bloody end.

There were several reasons why I disliked this novel.  I am never very good with gibberish and because most of the other characters had Welsh names that seemed like gibberish to me, often it left me unclear about who was who.  I found that I really didn’t care or feel much attachment to any of the characters in the novel, except Isabel.  Gwirion, the fool, was supposed to be humorous, but I found him a troublesome irritant, and if I was the king, I would have gotten rid of him long ago. 

    Lastly, The Fool’s Tale had a very bad and unsatisfying ending which left me mad for having invested so much time reading it.

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Wednesday 25 January 2023

Half Photo/Half Painting

    The painting I have been working on is an image of a cottonwood tree I photographed at Zion National Park in Utah.  I am about half done with the painting.  What I have painted so far is on the right hand side of the photo above.  On the left hand side is the photo that I am working off of.    

    I was going to paint that blank square this morning, but for the forth day in a row, the driveway needed clearing of snow.  Generally I clear it after I get done painting my square of the day, but this morning, after last night’s snowfall, it was beginning to drizzle, and so I decided to clear the drive before the snow got to heavy from the drizzle, so I didn’t paint that square.

    A lot of “artsy” people don’t like realistic painting, but I don’t care.  I love the beauty of nature and try to recreate it on canvas with a few tweaks.  

    You can view my painting progress daily under “Current Work” on my website:


Tuesday 24 January 2023

Winter Exercise

    It seems that about the only exercise I get during the winter is clearing my long driveway of snow.  If we get a big snowfall, is use the snowblower, but over the last couple of days we have gotten light snowfalls of about 3-4 inches, so I shoveled it both days.  Overnight we got about 7 inches of snow and I shoveled  the lower part of the driveway then used the snowblower on the rest.

    Beside clearing the length of the driveway, I also have to clear a turnaround spot at the bottom, and a wide flaring area at the top where the driveway meets the road.  


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Monday 23 January 2023

January, 1982: A Big Snowfall

Several days after we returned from our Christmas drive to Evansville, we were welcomed back to McBride by -30° F temperatures.  When the frigid temperature began to warm, the wind, and then snow, began.

     I had driven a two wheel-drive Forestry truck home after a day at work, but since it was snowing pretty hard, I decided to parked it up at the road instead of down our driveway and by the house.  Since it was just a 2-wheel drive, I was afraid it might get stuck driving up our driveway in the morning.  Even after that precaution, it still took me two hours to dig the truck out from all of the snow that buried it overnight, before I could drive it to work.  

When I did finally get to work, I wondered why I came.  Because of the deep snow, most of my co-workers failed to make it into work.  Those of us who did, all left early in the afternoon, because the snow continued to fall furiously throughout the day.

The four of us that lived on my road, piled into a Forestry 4X4 truck which Roger, who lived the furthest down the road, drove.  There was 24 inches of snow on the Valley bottom and some of the drifts were 4 foot deep.  After I got home, my wife and I snowshoed over to our elderly neighbor’s house.  She didn’t have a vehicle so the snowshoed path we made would allow her to walk up to the road.

Luckily, the next day was a Saturday and I spent it shoveling snow off of the roof, greenhouse, and sun deck.  We then noticed that Sundance, our little white Pomeranian dog, had gone missing.  We called and called, but got no response.  Eventually we discovered Sundance under the deck.  He had accidentally slipped down one of the steep snow piles I created when shoveling the deck, and then couldn’t climb out.  That night, one of the Mennonite farm boys from up the road came by with a tractor and made a short job of plowing out our driveway.

Snow storms continued to pass through the Robson Valley and build up on the ground.  At the time, I had never heard of “el Nino,” but now know that in 1982 there was a strong el Nino and by the end of January, there was more than 36 inches of snow on the ground.  This made snowshoes mandatory for going anywhere outside the house.

    One day I could no longer find my snow shovel.  I assumed it was buried somewhere under the snow.

    These days, with the crazy weather we get, we often see stories on the news showing places that have gotten very deep snowfalls.  Usually that snow melts away after a few days, often causing flooding or other problem.  Up here in Interior British Columbia, once the snow falls, it sticks around, sometimes into March.   Usually by Mid-February after we have accumulated snow all winter, we normally have about 24 inches (60 cm) on the ground.  What was unusual about 1982 was that we got all of that snow in the middle of January.

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Sunday 22 January 2023

Chimney Fires

    Decades ago when we bought our house, one of the things I had to learn was how to use wood heat. One of the important things that I knew nothing about, but had to learn was all about creosote and chimney fires.  

One winter’s night in 1982, I woke up and smelled what I thought was my wife’s boots burning.  I got up, walked to the wood stove to check if her boots were too close to the wood stove.  When I got to the wood stove, I could see no boots, but I could hear a powerful sucking sound coming from the stove and then I realized it was a chimney fire.

A chimney fires occur when, over time, the gases from the burning wood condense on the inside of the cooler chimney, and form creosote. Creosote is a black, crusty, flaky, tar-like substance.  When the creosote builds up enough and you have a really hot fire in the stove, the intense heat can ignite the creosote that has formed inside the chimney, and it will burn furiously.  It can sound like a jet engine and produce flames like a blow torch.

My chimney has a ceramic tile liner, inside concrete blocks, and there was still lots of snow on top of our metal roof, and though I really didn’t think the chimney fire would cause any problems,  I put on all my winter gear, got a ladder, and climbed up onto the roof just to check what was going on.  

    When I got to the chimney, I took a quick look down into its depths and could see what appeared like burning red hot coals at the bottom of the chimney.  I grabbed some snow from the roof and dumped it into the chimney to extinguish the chimney fire.  I later realized I should have just let it burn itself out to get rid of the creosote that remained.

    Now to prevent chimney fires I always get my firewood early in the spring and split and stacked it so that it has a long time to dry it out over the summer.  (Burning wet and green wood causes more creosote).  I always try to make a hot fire first thing in the morning to heat up the chimney, so there won’t be so much condensation and creosote throughout the day.  I have a chimney cleaning brush and periodically clean the creosote from the chimney lining.

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Saturday 21 January 2023

Highway 16, Winter Driving Continued

    Yesterday, I spent the blog complaining about how dangerous it was to drive from McBride to Prince George on Hwy. 16 during the winter.  This morning I discovered a souvenir from my drive on Thursday:  a cracked starting to spread across the windshield.

     There are a lot of transport trucks traveling the route and whenever one goes by, they throw up “sand” put down by the Highways Dept. to add traction to the ice.  Unfortunately, some of that “sand” that is spread by Highways could be more accurately described as “pebbles”.   They are like bullets flying up and hitting the windshield.  This will be the 3rd time in seven years that I will have to replace the windshield on our car.

    Every time I drive the highway I usually see something I want to photograph.  Generally we don’t have time to stop to take a picture, but on my last trip my appointment wasn’t until noon, so I had time to pull over and snap the photo above.

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Friday 20 January 2023

Highway 16, Scary Winter Driving

    I had to do a scary thing yesterday; I had to drive up to Prince George for a periodontist appointment.  I hate winter driving, especially driving to Prince George.  The short days of winter means that I have to start out in the dark.  There are always trucks barreling down the highway throwing blinding snow and rocks from the highway sanding at you, and you never know if some moose or deer will jump out in front of your car, and of course there is snow and ice on the road to contend with.

    I thought I was going to be lucky on this trip because we had had a very long warm spell, so I figured the highway would be free of ice, but of course it snowed the night before and the trucks packed the snow on the highway into ice, so the driving was dicy.

    On my drive I saw one transport truck turned over in the ditch near Crescent Spur, but it had looked like that must have happened overnight.  As I got close to the Purden Ski Hill, approaching traffic kept flashing their headlights, so I knew something was a problem.  Was it an animal near the road?  Was it a cop up ahead?  I wasn’t sure, but I soon rounded a curve and saw this trailer from a transport truck askew blocking the highway.  The cab of the truck was at a right angle to its trailer, in the ditch.  

    The accident must have just happened, there were no police, just some Highway’s Employees, directing traffic around the trailer.  About 15 minutes after I passed the accident, an ambulance from Prince George came down the highway toward the accident.

    The drive back to McBride later in the day, after my appointment was much better.  The road surface was much safer.

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Wednesday 18 January 2023


    In 1981 we vacationed in Mexico.  It wasn’t a package tour, we just traveled around on our own.  We decided to divide our three month vacation into three sections.  We would spend a week in Mexico City, followed by a week exploring the many Aztec and Mayan archeological sites, then a week on the beach in the Caribbean Coast.  

    I had always been fascinated by the culture of the Central American Indians and their strange religion that included a lot of sacrifices of humans, mostly captured prisoners.  

    When we started visiting the museums and archeological sites we began seeing these strange statues called “Chacmool”.  They were in the shape of a man on his back, looking to the side, holding something on his abdomen.

    Chacmool was not a god, but a messenger that would transfer the sacrifices put on its stomach to the gods.  It was believed that often those sacrifices were humans, victims stretched out over the statue, who then had their hearts cut out, and held up still beating.  It was a terrifying and horrific thought.  Most of these communities existed by agriculture and were in arid places, where rainfall was often scarce and the priests convinced the populations that human sacrifice would please god and bring the rain..

    I did a little research on Chacmool before I wrote this and now it seems that the human sacrifices were down played and replaced with sacrifices of tamales, tortillas, and colorful feathers.  I wonder if this is just an attempt at public relations, because many of the Chacmools were located in places where a lot of people could watch.  I doubt that they would all gather to watch some tortillas being “sacrificed”.

    I was surprised to see the wide geographical range of Chacmool statues.  They have been found in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

    They are strange and very creepy.

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Tuesday 17 January 2023

Woodpile Takes a Breather

    During the Arctic temperatures of December, the firewood on our woodpile was disappearing quickly, as I stoked up the wood stove to keep the house warm.  I was using up the firewood so fast I worried that I might run short in the long winter ahead.  Fortunately, January took pity on us and gave us a long spell of very mild temperatures with days above freezing.  Yesterday it got up to +6°C (43°F) which is very unusual for January.  

    As a result, the consumption of firewood has slowed significantly, even to the point where some days we just rely on our electric heaters and use no firewood at all.  Of course there is no guarantee that we won’t get another snap of frigid weather, but I am starting to feel confident that I will have enough firewood to get us through until spring.

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Monday 16 January 2023

Blue Monday

    Today is “Blue Monday”, supposedly the “Most Depressing Day of the Year” because of the weather, debt level (just after Christmas), broken New Year’s Resolutions, and low motivational levels.  The whole concept of being the “Saddest Day of the Year” is not at all scientific, it was something thought up by a travel agent in Britain, but it took hold in the media and now it is a thing.

    Above you see a partial list of some of the songs we play at our jam.  I am always quite surprised at how often the word “Blue”  or “Blues” pops up in the titles or lyrics.  Just because the song is about “The Blues” doesn’t mean it is depressing.  Playing music is always an “upper” for me, not a “downer”.  

    In case you are wondering the Happiest Day of the Year is generally in June ( 18th, 20th, 23rd, or 24th).  Like Blue Monday, this only applies to North America.

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Sunday 15 January 2023


    I have always been lazy, but I am getting more so in my dotage.  That being the case, and the fact that I couldn’t find anything to blog about, I decided to go through my archive to see if there was anything I could use.  I found a 1995 article about me from a BC Forest Service Newspaper and because people always seem to think that cartooning is interesting, I just took a photo of the article and used that.  I hope it shows up big enough on your computer to read.

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Saturday 14 January 2023


    Lungwort is a lichen that grows on trees.  Being a lichen, it is a combination of fungus and algae.  It is the algae that gives lungwort its green color.  Normally at this time of year, if you spot one, it is dull in color and not very noticeable, but we’ve had a spell of above freezing temperatures and even some rain, so that has stimulated the lungwort to “come alive” and show some color.

    As you might expect, lungwort got its name because its pitted appearance resembles lungs.  Like other ancient “remedies” for ailments, it was reasoned that if something looked like a part of the body, taking it must be able to help cure that part of the body, and was given to people that had lung problems.  It didn’t really help them, unless it had some placebo effect.

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Friday 13 January 2023

Fifty Years Ago Today

    Whoever these two people are, they have been married now for fifty years.

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Thursday 12 January 2023

Snow Covered Trees

    Traveling between McBride and Prince George on Hwy 16, you drive through a snow belt, an area that gets a lot of snow.  The snow belt lies between Slim Creek and somewhere beyond the Ancient Forest.  I am always surprised when we stop at the Slim Creek Rest Area, to see just how much more snow is there than in McBride.  Not only is it in the snow belt, but also the Rest Area is in a narrow valley so it doesn’t get as much wind as we do in McBride.

    After a big snowfall in McBride, our trees also look like a Christmas card, all heavily draped with snow, but that only lasts until we get some wind that signals a weather change, the wind blows all of the snow off of the trees.

    Compare the photo above taken a few days ago at Slim Creek, with the photo below showing what the spruce tree in our yard presently looks like.

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Wednesday 11 January 2023

A Multitude of Spruce Cones


    I guess I always need to have something to worry about.  The other day I noticed one of our spruce trees was just covered with an enormous mass of cones.  I know that often when plants are severely stressed they put out a lot of seed because they realize they are not long for this earth.  I really don’t know if that is the case with this spruce, but I do find it worrying.  

    The spruce is located in the same area which a couple of years ago was saturated with water.  I think it was all that water that killed a big old cedar, so I am wondering if this spruce was also effected.  Other nearby spruce don’t have such an over abundance of cones.

    I guess time will tell.

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Tuesday 10 January 2023

The Mexico I Remember

    There has been a lot of stories in the news lately about extreme violence in Mexico because a drug lord was captured by police.  You hear a lot about violence in Mexico, and it saddens me.  I know that the violence is in isolated areas of the country and most places remain peaceful, but certainly the drug cartels have established a strong hold over the country since we vacationed there tIn 1981. 

    When we were there drug gang violence was  not a thing, and Mexico reminded me of the America I grew up in during the early 1960’s.  I came back from Mexico really appreciating the peaceful country and its people.

    In Mexico City there is a huge park called Chapultepec Park.  We ventured there one day and it was full of families and street venders, catering to them.  Here are some photos from that visit and the Mexico I remember.


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Monday 9 January 2023

Strange Coloration

    We had to drive up to Prince George last week and as usual we stopped at the Slim Creek Rest Area.  The rest area is in a narrow valley that was shaded and the bluish color of the shaded trees  made a strange contrast with the trees on the hillside that were getting an orangish color from the rising sun.

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Sunday 8 January 2023

Hair-Raising Photo of Kona

    This was how Kona looked the other day after she shook her head.  She has since gotten a haircut, so she no longer looks so disheveled.

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Saturday 7 January 2023

Icy Zucchini

    Last fall when I was clearing out my garden, I ended up with about five very large zucchini (about the size of a piece of firewood).  I was pretty sure we wouldn’t get around to eating them, so I stacked them beside the compost pile and forgot about them.  The other day when I walked by the compost pile, I noticed that something (probably a deer) had dug through the snow and started eating away at one of the frozen zucchini.

    Those zucchini sat there for months before the snow covered them, but in the depth of winter when food is scarce, animals return and eat those things they had previously passed over and ignored, many times before.  

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Friday 6 January 2023

West Twin Creek Bridge Vigilante Story

     One of the most memorable stories about the West Twin Creek Bridge concerned a man suspected in several thefts in McBride.  I have no verification of this incident, but when I first heard it in the 1980’s, all of the old timers in the Forestry Office seemed to go along with the tale as it was being told.

    Sometime between 1969 and 1980, things started disappearing from houses and garages in town.  The thefts seemed to be occurring more frequently, and it was pretty much agreed on, who was doing them, but whatever law enforcement was available locally, didn’t do anything. 

    Some of the men in town, frustrated by the lack of action, decided to take things into their own hands, so one night they ganged up on the guy, kidnapped him and took him out to the West Twin Bridge.

    When they arrived they dangled the suspect over the side of the bridge and told him if he didn’t leave town, next time they would drop him into the very deep gorge.  

    The man took the threat seriously, did leave town, and the robberies stopped.

    Being dangled over the side of the bridge would certainly be a life changing event, but like I said earlier, I have never seen any proof that it actually occurred.

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Thursday 5 January 2023

Stories About the West Twin Creek Bridge

    One of the things that I enjoyed the most during my 25 years of working for the BC Forest Service was listening to the stories told by the “Old Timers” on the staff, during the coffee breaks.  I wish I could have recorded them, because not only were they full of humor, but also filled with a lot of local Robson Valley history.

    Several of the stories they told centered around the West Twin Bridge, which is located 17 miles (28 km) on Hwy. 16, west of McBride.  There was an old highway that connected McBride to Jasper, Alberta, but nothing but a railway that connected it to the big center of Prince George, BC.  Highway 16 was finally built to make that connection and was completed in 1969.

      The photo above is a “3D” image of the West Twin Bridge taken from Google Earth.  The 3D image distorts the bridge and makes it look pretty rickety, but you can see that it goes over the deep gorge of West Twin Creek. 

    One story that Alex the old Forestry warehouseman, told me was that when the Provincial Highways engineers where planning the highway from McBride to Prince George, they couldn’t decide on which side of the Fraser River they should make it.  Alex said that in the end, they decided on the south side because “it allowed them could build more bridges”.   I have no idea if this was true or not, but certainly the bridge they had to build over West Twin Creek presented a unique challenge.  Not only did it have to span the deep canyon, but it was also curved.  

    Building the supports underneath the bridge on the steep slopes of the gorge was dangerous work.  Two local men working on it were killed when part of the slope above them gave way and buried them.  Their bodies were never recovered.

    The Highway’s engineers planned to incorporate a heating system in the highway’s surface on the bridge to melt the snow.   The heating system wasn’t dependable, sometimes it melted the snow, sometimes it didn’t, and it became unsafe for drivers, coming down the slope to the curved bridge, which could be covered with glare ice if the snow on it melted, then froze.   When we moved to McBride in 1977, we could still see the small metal building that housed the heating mechanism on the east side of the bridge, but it has now long disappeared.

     I will post another West Twin Bridge story tomorrow.

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