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Kudzu


With the advent of spring my thoughts turn toward this year's garden. It will be nice to have everything greened up again, including the kudzu especially - since it won't go away, it might as well be green! (In the winter, kudzu is a really ugly grayish brown that covers huge areas.)

I was reminded of kudzu last week when my wife Becka and I visited the Upcountry History Museum. There is one room that hosts traveling displays for about three months each. The current display had some cloth woven from kudzu fiber. At the end of this post are several links about kudzu for anyone who'd like to learn more and who would even like to try some kudzu recipes! I can hardly think of anything I might enjoy less at the moment!

The picture to the right shows how pretty the grape-scented kudzu blossoms can be. Below is something I've had in my files for quite some time about our beloved kudzu.

Kudzu (CUD-tsoo) n. an Asian vine (Pueraria lobata) of the legume family that is used for forage and erosion control and is often a serious weed in the southeastern United States.

Here are several pictures of kudzu covering almost everything in its path...

Gardening Tips from Down South
How to Grow Kudzu

All you beginning gardeners out there might want to consider growing kudzu as a fine way to launch out into the great adventure of gardening in the South. Kudzu, for those of you not already familiar with it, is a hardy perennial that can be grown quite well by the beginner who observes these few simple rules:

Choosing a Plot
Kudzu can be grown almost anywhere, so site selection is not the problem it is with some other finicky plants like strawberries. Although kudzu will grow quite well on cement, for best results you should select an area having at least some dirt. To avoid possible lawsuits, it is advisable to plant well away from your neighbor's house, unless, of course, you don't get along well with your neighbor anyway.

Preparing the Soil
Go out and stomp on the soil for a while just to get its attention and to prepare it for kudzu.

Deciding When to Plant
Kudzu should always be planted at night. If kudzu is planted during daylight hours, angry neighbors might see you and begin throwing rocks at you.

Selecting the Proper Fertilizer
The best fertilizer I have discovered for kudzu is 40-weight non-detergent motor oil. Kudzu actually doesn't need anything to help it grow, but the motor oil helps to prevent scraping the underside of the tender leaves when the kudzu starts its rapid growth. It also cuts down on the friction and lessens the danger of fire when the kudzu really starts to move. Change oil once every thousand feet or every two weeks whichever comes first.

Mulching the Plants
Contrary to what the Extension Service may say, kudzu can profit from a good mulch. I have found that a heavy mulch for the young plants produces a hardier crop. For best results, as soon as the young shoots begin to appear, cover kudzu with concrete blocks. Although this causes a temporary setback, your kudzu will accept this mulch as a challenge and will reward you with redoubled determination in the long run.

Organic or Chemical Gardening
Kudzu is ideal for either the organic gardener or for those who prefer to use chemicals to ward off garden pests. Kudzu is oblivious to both chemicals and pests. Therefore, you can grow organically and let the pests get out of the way of the kudzu as best they can, or you can spray any commercial poison directly on your crop. Your decision depends on how much you enjoy killing bugs. The kudzu will not mind either way.

Crop Rotation
Many gardeners are understandably concerned that growing the same crop year after year will deplete the soil. If you desire to change from kudzu to some other plant next year, now is the time to begin preparations. Right now, before the growing season has reached its peak, you should list your house and lot with a reputable real estate agent and begin making plans to move elsewhere. Your chances of selling will be better now than they will be later in the year, when it may be difficult for a prospective buyer to realize that underneath those lush green vines stands an adorable three-bedroom house.

History
Kudzu was introduced beginning in 1935 to the early 1950s to prevent erosion. It was also brought to the South in an attempt to provide improved fodder for cattle. It worked ALL TOO WELL. Cattle do love kudzu but not nearly as much as kudzu loves the South. The South provides nearly ideal climate and growing conditions for this rapid growing and hardy perennial (calling kudzu "hardy" is like calling nuclear weapons "explosive"). In 1953 kudzu was recognized as a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture and was removed from its list of permissible cover plants.

People have been known to leave home on vacation down here only to return a week later to find cars and other LARGE objects buried under lush greenery. Kudzu climbs telephone poles and crosses wires. Its eradication is a major expense to utility companies. The city of Atlanta has used bulldozers to dig up the tubers in vacant lots. It's resistant to most "safe" chemicals although the herbicide 2, 4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) has some effect if used frequently enough. It's sometimes call "yard-a-night" down here because that's how fast it seems to grow. The only question seems to be whether the "yard" referred to is that of "3 feet" or that of "front and back." Rumor has it that some of the roads in the more rural areas don't get enough traffic and will be covered by kudzu after a long holiday weekend.

Kudzu is a very pretty vine in early spring and summer. Its broad leaves and flowers are quite attractive until you start to realize that the dead stick, that it's sunning itself on, used to be a huge pine tree. In the winter, the first hard frost turns kudzu into tons of ugly brown leaves and thick vines. It becomes a real eyesore and possibly a potential fire hazard, although who's ever heard of an actual kudzu fire? (see the comments to this post - they have happened!) The plant re-grows new vines from the ground up every year, so you can see its growth rate must be phenomenal.

I understand that the Japanese make a highly regarded form of tofu from kudzu tubers. It is supposed to be prized for its nutty flavor (soy tofu is rather bland). The Japanese cannot produce enough to meet their own demand and think we're nutty for trying to eliminate it. I haven't been able to confirm this use for kudzu, but, if true, they may well be right. We've got plenty of hungry people and LOTS of kudzu!

The existence of kudzu in a neighborhood has been known to adversely affect property values. The threat of planting kudzu in someone's yard is generally considered an extreme case of "fightin' words," potentially followed by "justifiable homicide." Regardless, you can still obtain kudzu seeds from several major seed companies who list it as a "hardy ornamental perennial." If understatement were a crime, they'd be on death row!

Learn more about kudzu on these sites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu

This page may not be accessible through some internet filters since it's on someone's personal page....
http://home.att.net/~ejlinton/kudzu.html

Here in South Carolina we're seeing signs of spring - crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils are beginning to bloom. We're only a few weeks away from the annual Bible Conference on campus, followed by the annual Living Gallery. Some of you had wished you could attend in the past. I hope that many will be able to attend this year.

quotation...

"Missions should not be a spectator sport."- Dr. Tim Keesee

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

What do you do when you see an endangered animal that eats only endangered plants?


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The Georgia Aquarium


My wife and I have been wanting to go to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta ever since it opened two years ago. We decided that that was something we wanted to do during our Christmas break this year. As we talked about it, we decided that yesterday would be the perfect day for us to go there since it was a weekday and would be before most schools would be out for Christmas break. We went to their website and bought our tickets in advance.

On our way to the Atlanta area we stopped at one of our favorite places along I-85 in Georgia - the Mayfield dairy visitor center in Braselton, GA - get off at exit 129 and follow the signs. We both enjoyed a favorite - a scoop of turtle tracks ice cream. The folks at Mayfield had decorated their cow outside for the season...

Our plan for visiting the aquarium could not have been better. We sat in the car in the parking structure and ate the lunch we'd brought along since Becka had seen online that the food prices in the aquarium's food court were too high for our tastes. After eating we walked to the building and arrived 20 minutes before the entry time we had signed up for, but no problem. There was no line outside at all and we were able to go in early. There were plenty of people there, but it was by no means crowded at all. Bliss! As I share some photos we took, I apologize for the quality of some - I was trying to do them without flash (sometimes mandatorially and sometimes optionally). But since it took longer for the pictures to take, either my subjects moved or I moved the camera slightly, both of which motions altered the clarity.

Throughout the day I just kept praising God again and again for His creation! It was wonderful to see such a huge display of the infinite creativity of the Lord in the creatures He made to inhabit this planet with us!

The first exhibit we visited was the Ocean Voyager exhibit. What a great way to get started! The observation window in that exhibit is the second largest viewing window in the world at 23 feet tall by 61 feet wide and the acrylic window is 2 feet thick! The scene behind the window is amazing with schools of beautiful fish, several kinds of stingrays, enormous goliath grouper and several kinds of sharks, including hammerhead sharks and zebra sharks. The tank itself - the size of an American football field and containing 6.3 million gallons of water - was built to be large enough to house whale sharks, the largest known fish in the world. Below is a picture of one of their whale sharks...

On one of our visits back to that exhibit, we were fortunate to be there at the whale shark's feeding time. The whale shark would be no threat to people since the opening of its throat is the size of a quarter. That kind of shark is a filter feeder, sucking in large amounts of water to filter out the krill and other creatures small enough for it to swallow. There's also a 100-foot-long underwater tunnel through which you can walk and see the inhabitants of that tanks swim all around you and above you.

Each of the other four exhibits was interesting and unique, bringing to our inspection creatures from all over the world. The creatures we saw were extremely varied and fascinating. We saw horseshoe crabs, shrimp, Amazonian tropical fish, sea stars, African black-footed penguins, sea anemones, Australian leafy sea dragons, a giant Pacific octopus, seahorses, Japanese spider crabs, California sea lions, sea otters, and on and on I could go.

I'd like to share with you some of the things we found the most amazing or amusing. We saw some odd little creatures called garden eels. They live in little holes they've dug for themselves in the sand. They are about 16 inches long, but the most we ever saw was about the 6 inches that peeked out when no fish were nearby. Here's the best shot I could get of the garden eels...

Other strange creatures we saw were the jelly fish. The colors and their movements were really cool....

The loggerhead turtles were really fun to watch and kind of made me think of the turtle tracks ice cream at Mayfield's dairy...

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the antics of their five Asian small-clawed river otters. They moved about so quickly that I really had a struggle to get a clear shot of any of them. Here's my best shot...

Another really cool observation window was the one for the beluga whales. (BELUGA! for those of you who remember the "Bulbous Bouffant" thing that was popular a could of years ago.) The aquarium has three belugas - one male and two females (a mother and her daughter.) Here's a picture of the three beluga whales...

We enjoyed watching them for a long time - it was just so soothing! They can swim upside down. Here's a shot of Nico, the male, swimming upside down.

Nico seemed to enjoy swimming near the front of the tank where people were watching. The guides told us that the creatures inside could see us, just as we could see them. Here's a shot I took of my wife Becka watching Nico...

Our advice to anyone who's thinking about going there and has never been before:

1. Forget the 4-D show, unless you've never seen a 3-D show before. It was cute, but it was a cartoon, rather than real sea creatures. There was another "dimension" to the show that made it 4-D, but since the place is already expensive enough, it's not a necessary part of a positive visit to the Atlanta Aquarium.

2. Don't take any child younger than about 7 or 8. We saw a number of children younger than that thoroughly not enjoying themselves. Children under 3 are free, but really don't take much of it in at all and can be downright annoying to those who are trying to enjoy their experiences. (Read: we saw and heard plenty of crabby babies and toddlers, and the only crabs should be those inside the acrylic. 🙂 And children 3 to 8 really don't know enough to fully appreciate what they're seeing, unless your (grand)child is a prodigy, of course....

3. A good starting time for your visit would be at noon or maybe 12:30. That way, you could eat your lunch before going in, yet still have plenty of time to visit all afternoon.

We ended our Atlanta experience by eating dinner at the cafeteria at the Dekalb Farmers Market and shopping for some great produce and specialty items before heading back to Greenville.

picture of Dekalb

What a pleasant day! We'd do it again in a heartbeat! We'd love to hear that this has inspired some of you to go visit it too.


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Elevators


This past week has been quite full - lots of grading to do here at midterm time. Plus today's blog post has taken me quite a while to put together, so that has delayed my posting it.

I recently saw a pretty neat website about elevators. I had thought about sharing the URL with y'all, but there were several problems with it. First of all, I did not at all care for the language used on the site and wouldn't want to send people there for that reason. The second problem was that all of the images load from other sites.

The post I did a while back about bridges is one of the most viewed posts on my blog, and it received a large number of comments. People seem to have love/hate relationships with bridges and with elevators. Today's instant vacation took me a l-o-n-g time to prepare, which is not my usual M.O. But I enjoyed doing the searching and researching. I did not include anywhere near all the unique elevators (lifts) in the world. As with the post on bridges, if you have a favorite elevator you'd like to share, just click on the comments link at the end of this post on the blog itself and comment away!

I hope you will find today's post uplifting. 😉

Paternoster lift

The Paternoster lift was first developed in 1884 by Londoner J. E. Hall. A Paternoster or cyclical elevator consists of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two persons) that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping. When you reach your floor you 'simply' step off the lift while the elevator is still moving. Even if you miss your floor and get to the top of the chain, the cabin will stay vertical and lift you over the top where you will start to descend on the other side. You can then step off on the desired floor. Sales were slow at first, probably because the Paternoster did not stop for the passengers to enter or alight - alarming! There are actually a few still in operation today in Europe.

Below is a picture of one still in use in Berlin...

Below is a drawing of the concept...

You can also watch a YouTube video showing a Paternoster elevator in action by clicking here.

Gateway Arch elevator

One of the "must sees" of St. Louis, Missouri, is the Gateway Arch. The Gateway Arch reflects St. Louis’ role in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (part of the U.S. National Park Service system) is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West to the pioneers who helped shape its history. Visitors are first amazed at the height of the Arch. Below is a picture from the ground looking up at the Arch.

To go to the top of the Arch, passengers in groups of five enter an egg-shaped compartment containing five seats and a flat floor. Eight compartments are linked to form a train. These compartments individually retain an appropriate level by periodically rotating every 5 degrees, which allows them to maintain the correct orientation while the entire train follows curved tracks up one leg of the arch. The trip to the top of the Arch takes four minutes, and the trip back down takes three minutes. The car doors have narrow glass panes, allowing passengers to see the interior stairways and structure of the Arch during the trip. Below is a picture of one of the cabins.

My wife and I have been on the elevator in the Gateway Arch - it's not our fave!

AquaDom elevator

The AquaDom in Berlin, Germany, is a 82 foot (25 meter) tall cylindrical acrylic glass aquarium with built-in transparent elevator. It is located at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Berlin-Mitte. The DomAquaree complex also contains a hotel, offices, a restaurant, and the aquarium Sea Life Center.

The AquaDom opened in December 2003. It cost about 12.8 million euros. The acrylic glass cylinder was constructed by the U.S. company Reynolds Polymer Technology. The outside cylinder was manufactured on-site from four pieces; the inside cylinder for the elevator was delivered in one piece. The Aquadom has a diameter of over 36 feet (11 meters) and is filled with about 237,750 gallons (900,000 liters) of seawater, containing about 2600 fish of over 50 species. The feeding of the fish and the cleaning of the fish tank is performed daily by divers.

Below is a picture from underneath.

You can watch a YouTube video from inside the elevator by clicking here.

Bailong elevator

If you're afraid of heights, you might want to stay away from the Bailong Elevator, a glass elevator built onto the side of a huge cliff in the Zhangjiajie National Park in China. The stomach-dropping ride takes you 1,070 feet high! The future of this elevator isn't certain - apparently it's bad for the cliffs to have a gigantic elevator stuck on the side of them. If you feel like experiencing this one, you'd better do it now while you still have the chance, since it might be dismantled in the near future.

Below are several pictures of the elevator...

You can watch a YouTube video from inside the elevator by clicking here.

Hammetschwand Elevator

The Hammetschwand Lift, the highest exterior elevator in Europe, is located in Switzerland. It connects a spectacular rock path with the lookout point Hammetschwand on the Buergenstock plateau overlooking Lake Lucerne.

At the time of its construction between 1903 and 1905, it had a speed of three feet (about one meter) per second, and the ride up took nearly three minutes. Its cab consisted of wood fitted with a zinc sheet and could carry 8 passengers. The elevator has been upgraded several times with lighter materials and better engines, resulting in faster travel. The elevator entrance, the engine room and the first 46 feet (14 meters) of this ascent are completely the inside the mountain, while the remaining voyage allows a view of surrounding area. At the top station of Hammetschwand about 3,700 feet (1132 meters) above sea level, one has a breath-taking outlook on the Lake Lucerne and the Alps.

The most recent lift was built and opened by the Schindler Group. It whisks passengers up to the summit of the Hammetschwand in less than one minute which was regarded as a pioneering feat in those days and is probably nothing to sneeze at now!

Below is a picture of the Hammetschwand elevator...

Here's a collage of several pictures of the area...

Taipei 101 elevator

Taipei 101 has been the world's tallest building since 2004.

Toshiba Elevator and Building Systems Corp announced the installation of the world's fastest passenger elevator just exactly where it is needed - in Taipei 101, the world's tallest building. The elevator runs at a top speed of 1,010 meters (3,333 feet) per minute when ascending and 600 meters (1968 feet) per minute on the way down. It can go from the fifth floor to the 89th floor in 39 seconds! And it's official - Guiness has certified it for the 2006 edition.

The world's fastest elevator offers the following new technologies:

- The world's first pressure control system, which adjusts the atmospheric pressure inside a car by using suction and discharge blowers, preventing those riding inside the car experiencing 'ear popping'

- An active control system which cancels vibrations by moving the counter mass in the opposite direction based on the vibration data from a sensor installed in the car

- Optimization in the configuration of the streamlined car to reduce the whistling noise produced by a car running at a high speed inside a narrow hoist-way. This is based on pressure analysis of the atmosphere in the hoistway and on the car surface during operation

Below is a picture of the statistics panel inside the elevator...

You can watch a YouTube video of the stats panel during the ascent of this elevator by clicking here.

I don't know if I'd like this elevator - maybe I'm just not a Taipei personality...?

CN Tower elevator

The CN Tower, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a communications and tourist tower standing 1,815 feet (553.33 meters) tall. It remains the signature icon of Toronto, attracting more than two million international visitors annually. CN originally referred to Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower, following the railway's decision to divest non-core freight railway assets, prior to the company's privatization in 1995. Since local residents wished to retain the name CN Tower, the abbreviation is now said to expand to Canada's National Tower rather than the original Canadian National Tower; however, neither of these are commonly used.

Below are two pictures of the tower, one by day and one by night...

Below is a picture of someone standing on and looking down through the glass floor...

Sky Tower elevator

The Sky Tower is an observation and telecommunications tower located on the corner of Victoria and Federal Streets in the central business district of Auckland, New Zealand. It is 1,076 feet (328 meters) tall, as measured from ground level to the top of the mast, making it the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The upper portion of the tower contains two restaurant levels (one with revolving seating) and one cafe level, as well as two observation decks (including some with sections of glass floor). Climbs into the antennae portion are also possible for tour groups.

Below is a picture of someone standing on and looking down through a section of the glass floor.

The elevator itself has a glass floor...

You can watch a YouTube video of the descent of the elevator as seen through its glass floor panels by clicking here.

The tower also features the SkyJump, a 630-feet (192-meter) 'fan descender' jump (an experience between a bungy jump and a base jump) from the observation deck, during which a jumper can reach up to 53 mph (85 km/h). The jump is guide-cable-controlled to prevent jumpers from colliding with the tower in case of gusts.

You can watch a YouTube video of someone doing the jump by clicking here.

Is this really an elevator?

Normally we take an elevator to get to where we want to go. But this elevator seems to take that concept to its extreme!

quotation...

"We can shorten our lives, but we cannot lengthen them." - Rob Loach

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

Why are they called buildings, when they're already finished? Shouldn't they be called builts?


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Bridges


At the time of the tragic collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in early August this summer, I had been considering doing a blog post about bridges since I had received pictures of several really unusual bridges in the days that preceded that disaster. After the disaster, I thought it best to wait a while. I hope enough time has gone by that my post on bridges will not cause undue discomfort. I've learned, though, that there are some people for whom the thought of bridges will *always* be uncomfortable, and some ever suffer from gephydrophobia, the fear of crossing bridges.

Today I'm going to share pictures and information about five interesting, real bridges. These are not hoaxes - I've checked them out on snopes.com

I'll start out with the oldest of the bridges featured in this post - the famous Y Bridge in Zanesville, Ohio. It's a Y-shaped bridge that spans the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers. It has been rebuilt numerous times since the 1850s and is currently the only Y bridge in the world. It is also the only bridge in the United States that you can cross and still be on the same side of the river that you started on! When being given directions, visitors are often struck by the oddity of the statement "Drive to the middle of the bridge and turn right." Amelia Earhart called Zanesville "the most recognizable city in the country," referring to the Y Bridge’s usefulness as a navigational aid to pilots.

Below is a picture of the Y Bridge...

Here's an aerial view from an old post card...

The next bridge, also in the USA, is the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. It is a 4.6 miles long, four-lane bridge-tunnel composed of bridges, trestles, man-made islands, and tunnels where the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers come together in the southeastern Virginia. It connects the cities of Newport News and Suffolk.

The next bridge is in Magdeburg, Germany. The Magdeburg Water Bridge or Wasserstrassenkreuz in German, completed in October 2003, connects two important German shipping canals, the Elbe-Havel Canal and the Mittellandkanal, which lead to the country’s industrial Ruhr Valley heartland. It actually crosses the Elbe River! The overall length is 3,012 feet (918 meters), of which 2,264 feet (690 meters) are over land and 748 feet (228 meters) are over water. This amazing piece of German engineering was first conceived in 1919 and construction began in the 1930s, but the completion was impossible until after the German Reunification in the early 1990s.

Here's a view from underneath....

The next bridge, another marvel in engineering, is located in southern France. The Millau Viaduct or Viaduc de Millau in French is a large cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn. Designed by English architect Norman Foster and French bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one mast's summit at 1,125 feet (343 meters) - slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower and only 125 feet (38 meters) shorter than the Empire State Building. The viaduct is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Béziers. It was formally dedicated on 14 December 2004.

Below is a picture when the bridge was under construction....

Below is an aerial view after completion....

The next bridge is a "pedestrian bridge" displayed at the London Design Festival. It is actually more a novelty than an actual bridge in use. Bridge by Michael Cross is a series of steps that rise out of the water as you walk across them, as if walking on water. On entering the exhibition the visitor is met by an empty expanse of water with one step at its edge. Stepping on the first step causes the next step to rise, and so on. Below are pictures from two different angles with two different "pedestrians." This puts new meaning into the expression "taking life one step at a time."

If you know of another interesting/ususual/bizarre bridge, feel free to post a link in the comments at the end of this blog post.

Thinking about bridges reminded me of a poem that Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to love to quote to tell in part why he founded BJU. Each of us needs to be a bridge builder in life - this poem is a good reminder.

The Bridge Builder
by Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man travelling a lonely highway
Came at the evening cold and gray
To a chasm deep and wide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim
For the sullen stream had no fears for him
But he turned when he reached the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

Old man, cried a fellow pilgrim near
You are wasting your strength in building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day
And you will never again pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm deep and wide.
Why build you a bridge at eventide?

And the builder raised his old gray head
Good friend on the path I have come, he said
There follows after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This stream which has been as naught to me
To that fair haired boy may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.

A final twist to this already unusual blog post is the fact that the author of The Bridge Builder, Will Allen Dromgoole, was a woman. She was named Poet Laureate by the Poetry Society of the South in 1930.

quotation...

"The best bridge between hope and despair is often a good night’s sleep." - anonymous

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

I don't suffer from gephydrophobia, but I do suffer from xylophataquieopiaphobia, the fear of not pronouncing words correctly.


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