Struggling to reposition hands on steering wheel to improve safety

Struggling to reposition hands on steering wheel to improve safety

I’ve been driving wrong for a very long time.

What I learned in driver’s ed in high school many moons ago is no longer accurate. It took my mom going to a senior driving class for both of us to be re-educated.

Learning to reposition hands while driving. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

No longer are we supposed to hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2. Instead, the recommendation is for hands to be at 4 and 8.

“This is the preferred method of steering. Two and 10 o’clock is not recommended because it can be dangerous in vehicles with smaller steering wheels and equipped with air bags,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

That’s exactly what mom was taught, and then shared with me.

I tried it. Wow, did it ever feel awkward. At first it didn’t seem like I had the same control at 4 and 8 as I do at 10 and 2. I said I just couldn’t change what has been ingrained in me since I first got my license at age 16. But I’m still trying. I can’t argue with the logic behind this new hand positioning. I figure if mom can change, and she’s been driving a lot longer than me, then I can change.

With the NHTSA and the CHP (there was an officer at mom’s class) and others are saying 4 and 8 are the way to go, well, I better just get used to it.

Also part of mom’s class was an aggressive driver assessment. My score today would not have been what it was in my 20s or even probably my 30s. I got the best—“cool customer”—you are polite and don’t take the actions of other discourteous drivers personally.

The only “bad” thing I do often is brake suddenly to punish a tailgater.

No agency can save historic Tahoe residences

No agency can save historic Tahoe residences

The boathouse and pier on the right are slated to be removed by the owner to open up the view of the shoreline. (Image: Nick Exline)

Wrecking balls are eviscerating Tahoe’s history one property at a time.

One reason this can happen is because the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is the final decision-maker for land use issues in the basin. Another is no regulations mandate privately owned historical structures in the Lake Tahoe Basin be preserved. Plus, many people want new instead of old.

Two parcels in Tahoma illustrate the conflicting desires to preserve what exists vs. private property rights and the rules of today.

“For privately owned parcels like this there is nothing in the county or TRPA codes that precludes development,” land use planner Nick Exline said. He is representing Bob Buccola who owns the two historic parcels. “Part of problem with historic buildings is that none of them meets current building code.”

Already torn down were a 2,383-square-foot home built in 1932 and a detached garage. What should be completed later this year is about a 4,200-square-foot house on the same lot at 8305 Meeks Bay Ave.

This house built in 1930 in Tahoma is proposed to be demolished. (Image: Nick Exline)

One thing that concerns residents in this El Dorado County neighborhood is what they call the piecemeal approach to permitting. They believe structures on both parcels that Buccola wants to tear down and rebuild should have been heard at the same time.

However, TRPA can only make decisions on what is presented, not what might be.

Buccola withdrew the application for 8307 Meeks Bay Ave., and now is requesting a property line adjustment to increase that parcel so it could accommodate a larger structure. TRPA expects a decision on the lot line this spring.

Buccola doesn’t deny he intends to tear down the 1,634-square-foot structure built in 1930 at 8307 and replace it with a more than 13,000-square-foot house that will have nine bedrooms. He said the space is needed to accommodate his growing family.

The Meeks Bay Vista Property Owners Association wrote a 31-page letter to the TRPA hearing’s officer outlining all the reasons why its more than 100 members believed the demolition should have been denied.

Considering TRPA has never denied a demolition permit, according to principal planner Jen Self, that request fell on deaf ears.

Bill Magrath, secretary of the HOA, said the group ”is a voluntary membership group—for the betterment of our neighborhood.” He was one of the signees of the letter.

That letter quotes from a 1947 deed recorded with El Dorado County that was also submitted in full with the HOA protest.

In part the deed says, “That the premises shall be used and occupied only for private residential purposes.” “… no mercantile business of any kind or nature shall be carried on, on any of said lots or portions thereof, nor shall any hotels, rooming houses, or places of amusement be conducted thereon.”

The deed also says, “No person of African or Mongolian descent, or any person other than of the Caucasian race shall use or occupy, except when employed as domestic help by the owner or occupant, said premises or any part thereof.” (That language is worthy of another story about racism in the basin.)

Using the properties as a vacation rental, according the HOA, violates the deed. Buccola has a VHR permit through the county for both parcels. According to the county, to remain valid the permit will need to be updated with the current house configurations.

The HOA letter offered an olive branch of sorts, “If the applicant were to agree as a condition of a TRPA permit to record a deed restriction that the proposed expanded buildings on 8305 and 8307 will never be rented as a short-term rental and will only be used by the owner without paying guests, much of the neighborhood concern would dissipate—although concerns about traffic and parking on the right-of-way would remain.”

Buccola said he would be “surprised” if the houses were rented for than 30 days in a given year. But nothing legally prevents him from changing his mind.

A new house is under construction after this 1932 era building was demolished. (Image: Nick Exline)

When it comes to defining what is historical, all structures 50 years and older in the basin go through a basic review.

While TRPA has deemed both Meeks Bay Avenue residences historical, preservation by its definition is to have pictures taken, and a historic resources inventory and evaluation report created. TRPA’s Code of Ordinances says it must present its historical findings to the state, be it California or Nevada.

But in many ways this is a waste of time, at least in California.

“The Office of Historic Preservation has no jurisdiction over any private property,” Julianne Polanco, state historic preservation officer, said. “decisions about changing or demolishing private property rest with the agencies that have jurisdiction over the property.”

Even though El Dorado defers land use issues in the basin to TRPA, Melanie Shasha, senior planner with the county, said, “TRPA sends reports, sometimes just the assessors records, sometimes an archaeologist report, to SHPO to see if they are ‘eligible for designation’. TRPA does not request comments from any other agencies such as the Lake Tahoe Historic Society. SHPO comments are the only document used to determine if a site is ‘eligible for designation’. ‘Eligible for designation’ means they can be noted as a historic resource.”

So, the county, like TRPA, is also under the misconception the state is an overseer of historic private property.

The historic report done by a third party noted “the cultural landscape appears eligible for listing on the National Register.”

Polanco at the state was asked if that designation would have mattered. “No” was the simple answer. “Whether a property is listed or not doesn’t change our authority.”

Not everything is straightforward when it comes to what happens with the demolished building.

“When we initially developed the historic resource recovery plan we suggested a ‘Craigslist’ approach where community members could stop by and pick up any of the deconstructed items for use in their projects. Ms. Self informed (my colleague) Molly (Armanino) and I that this was not possible because TRPA could not track how the historical items were re-used and that the re-use would not be from a recognized entity,” Exline said.

When asked about such requirements, TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen said, “No one on our staff is aware of any such restrictions.”

Buccola, the property owner, believes he is doing more than required. He said he spent $30,000 to have the architect redesign the 8305 house to preserve iconic boulders, worked with his contractor to have nearly 100-year-old windows and other items repurposed in other projects, and is getting rid of a pier and boathouse that he could have left standing. He also said he paid extra money to ensure the quality of the photos of the historic buildings are such that they should last for a couple centuries.

Note: This story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

Becoming a regular at the automatic car wash

Becoming a regular at the automatic car wash

High-powered blowers at the end of the car wash eliminate the need for much towel action. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

My car has already been washed twice and it’s not even 2 months old. For those who saw the Jeep in its later years, you would probably think I didn’t know what a car wash was. It got to where I could probably count on one hand the number of times it was washed in a year.

Truth is, the Jeep got washed fairly regularly at the get-go. I cared about the undercarriage being clean with all the gunk from the roads in Tahoe. I waxed her every year. She got vacuumed regularly. The soft vinyl top got special treatment. So did the interior.

And, then, well, she became a Tahoe mobile—dings, exterior black that faded to gray, paint on the hood that started to looked cracked. She became my vehicle to haul wood. The back seat soon was always out.

I cared about the Jeep. But, well, it didn’t always show.

Being a soft top it was not allowed to go through a car wash, so it was usually the do it yourself places I would go.

Getting car washes in Todos Santos, Mexico, were the best (and no, Jill, not just because of Ernesto!). It’s that the people doing the handwashing were so meticulous. The Jeep looked its best—in and out—after a washing in Baja. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long because I lived on a dirt road—and so many of the roads in town are dirt.

When I bought the new ride (I’ve never named a vehicle, but on Bluetooth it’s known as the Kae Mobile) the salesperson suggested I get a monthly car wash plan. This was after I asked how I was ever going to keep a black vehicle clean. And I have leather seats. And my mom sets a high bar for a clean car and she is my main passenger.

All of this responsibility and pressure!

So, I went through Surf Thru Express Car Wash after the red dirt of Paradise had covered her when I was up there giving a massage. I was disappointed I still had to dry a few places. Car wash personnel don’t do anything to the interior. There are vacuums and they give you a special wipe for the interior.

I mentioned to my mom where I went. Come to find out she goes to the same place, averaging about once a month. We contemplated sharing a monthly plan, but figured we were better off doing our own thing.

I went to the car wash for a second time on a Sunday. Oh, it was so sparkly clean. I drove it in the rain two days later. The following day I was headed out of town. I didn’t want to show up with a brand new car and have it be dirty, but I had to because it was raining when I left. Because it got dirty driving to Santa Rosa and back it’s going to have a third wash this week. I guess the monthly plan is going to pay for itself—and I don’t even live on a dirt road.

Yes, I care about all this water being used. Fortunately, the car wash place reclaims the water and many locations are powered by solar. My plan allows me use these car washes wherever one is located. So maybe with my new found desire to have a clean car my prerequisite for a road trip will be whether there is Surf Thru Express Car Wash.

Time magazine proves print is not dead as it turns 100

Time magazine proves print is not dead as it turns 100


Time magazine celebrates 100 years in business this month. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The belief that print publications are dying has been trumpeted for decades.

But publications are not going away. And that’s a good thing.

This month Time magazine celebrates 100 years. That’s quite an accomplishment.

I haven’t always been a reader of this news magazine. I used to be a Newsweek subscriber. I’m sure this choice was because my parents read Newsweek. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bought me my first subscription.

There were times when I didn’t get Newsweek. It probably mostly had to do with money, and little bit with not making the time to read it. Finally, it ceased publication in 2012, going to an online only format. Though it did rebrand itself and is back in print, I haven’t looked at the new iteration.

I switched to Time several years ago, then stopped my subscription for a few years when I wasn’t living in one place; having resumed my subscription since putting down roots again.

Since 2020 it comes out every other week, whereas before it was a monthly periodical.

What I like about news magazines is that they go deeper into topics than most newspapers. That’s the luxury of a longer deadline compared to the daily grind. It’s not just hard news that is covered in those pages. It’s profiles on people, pop culture segments and shorts about topics I didn’t read elsewhere. I like the variety and comprehensiveness of Time.

I also like holding the magazine.

My favorite place to read any magazine is in the hot tub. Yes, a few have become unreadable when I’ve dropped them in the water, which is why books are seldom taken to the tub. Somehow the relaxed setting takes the edge off even the most serious topic.

Being informed is critical. Where you get your news matters. Publications—print and online and those that do both—need subscribers and donors because businesses are spending their advertising dollars other places. It takes money to gather, write and publish the news.

Subscribe to real news publications, big and small—it’s how our democracy will survive.

Banff Film Festival awash in fabulous stories, artistry

Banff Film Festival awash in fabulous stories, artistry

Often it’s the people (or animals) of a film that are the star attraction. Not the filmmaker.

But without filmmakers there would be no film.

After watching one of the two night of the Banff Film Festival at Chico State University last weekend, I was left wanting to know more about the filmmakers. I would love to have had the opportunity to listen to them speak about their craft, about how technology has evolved, about the editing process, about the storytelling.

Unfortunately, that’s not what you get with the traveling film fest. Those, the Banff one included, are all about watching the films. And they were great, don’t get me wrong.

To get the full experience I am going to have to travel to an actual festival, be it Banff, Sundance, or Cannes to name a few of the better known locations. At the actual festival filmmakers and sometimes actors give talks, there could be Q&A sessions and so much more besides movies.

What I liked about the Banff movies was the variety.

Joanna Croston, director of the festival and world tour, wrote on the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity website: “The film competition, this year, saw record numbers of submissions, and the quality of storytelling and production reached an all-time high. Filmmakers have shown us that they have transformed too. They are spending more time with their craft, dealing with challenging subject matter differently, and they have decided that the voices of underrepresented communities need to be heard. This year’s program amplifies a new world, rich with alternate narratives and viewpoints.”

Three films in particular touched me the most, in large part because they focused on women. The first was The Fastest Girl in the Village. Khothalang Leuta of Lesotho (a small country surrounded by South Africa) taught herself how to ride a bike on the pump track that was built in her village in 2017 as part of the Pump for Peace Project. She didn’t even own a bike.

She competed in the 2021 Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships after winning the Lesotho National Pump Track race in 2019.

Another inspirational film was Wild Waters; about Nouria Newman, who is touted as “the most gifted kayaker of her generation.” Note that it doesn’t say woman kayaker. She’s the most gifted kayaker. Period.

What she does on the water is breathtaking. She challenges the whitewater, descends waterfalls, and is redefining the boundaries of her sport.

In Free to Run the story is as much about Stephanie Case and her endurance running as it is about the organization she created (Free to Run) to get the women of Afghanistan to lace up their shoes and start running. It’s truly captivating.

Watch these films; many are on YouTube. Or go to the traveling film festival when it’s in your town.

Pandemic: Wondering what lessons have been learned in the last 3 years

Pandemic: Wondering what lessons have been learned in the last 3 years

Three years ago today the governor of California shutdown the state by issuing a stay at home order because of COVID-19.

Nearly every state issued such a mandate. The exceptions were Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Kentucky issued an advisory as did Massachusetts. Oklahoma issued a partial advisory. Regions of South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming issued advisories. Wisconsin’s order was declared unconstitutional six weeks after it was announced.

In one way or another we all have been changed because of the pandemic. Most affected are the families of the millions of people who died from the deadly virus. According to Worldometer, 6,819,416 people had died from COVID-19 as of March 19, 2023. Of those, 1,151,279 were residents of the United States.

That’s a whole lot of people.

Sure, some had underlying issues that were ultimately going to kill them. That’s why there are people who take issue with the number of deaths. But look at it this way, if a person had a terminal illness and died in a car accident, what is going to be listed as the cause of death? Injuries related to accident; not the terminal illness. Same goes with COVID. Cause of death is the last thing that struck you, so to speak.

We all know the federal response was a cluster. I want to believe the information coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the contradictory, ever-changing statements without explanation made it all feel so political. Politics should not be part of public heath decisions.

I believe in science. I know science changes as more information comes in. Research brings knowledge. It’s a basic fundamental of how science evolves.

I have said for a while now we are all involved a great scientific experiment—everyone—those who are vaccinated at some level, those like me who have received every available inoculation, and those who are adamant to never get that needle near them.

It still amazes me people are skeptical of the vaccine. The Messenger RNA, or mRNA, was discovered in the early 1960s. Want more info, John Hopkins is a good resource.

I realize we are still learning so much about this virus—the mutations, who is affected most, why some people like me have never had COVID, and why others get long COVID.

What I’m still wondering about is was shutting things down the best way to stop the spread. Maybe if it had been done universally and if everyone who could get vaccinated had (and still would), then the virus might have disappeared by now.

Let’s just say closing businesses and telling people to stay home were the best options. I maintain the government then is obligated to make people whole. Not by having business owners apply for loans (even if they are eventually forgiven), nor by sending stimulus checks, but by actually paying people their wages. This works for those (unlike me) who get a W2 form. It’s going to trickier for those of us who are self-employed, who are contract 1099 workers. But it could be done. That would have kept the economy going.

I am sure there are plenty of people who will say this is an oversimplistic solution and shoot holes in it. Well, what we did wasn’t so brilliant, so I hope the powers that be are looking for better outcomes for when the next global crisis hits.

This pandemic also exposed the fragility and inequities of so many systems—from schooling (how about all those kids that didn’t have internet access at home) to health care workers (why did medical personnel not have enough protective equipment?) to government ineptness (where was the plan for such a catastrophe?).

I was in Todos Santos, Mexico, when California shut down. I could tell it was only a matter of time before the same became true for Baja California Sur. I was on the road north by the end of March 2020.

But I never felt like my world truly shut down in South Lake Tahoe. I still snowshoed and hiked. We took more vehicles to the trailhead and we walked farther apart. But we were still in nature.

At first we played tennis with each player opening a can of balls. That was inefficient. We actually socialized more by staying after to have an adult beverage (we brought our own). Chairs were spaced out.

I have never been one who goes out a lot, so I wasn’t missing much. I found ways to see my friends. I was out on dog walks.

And then I headed back to Mexico in fall of 2020 until the following March. Life in Baja is lived outdoors even without a pandemic, so again, not much changed compared the previous two winters I had spent there.

Life is always about making adjustments, compromising and adapting.

I’m still cautious because of COVID, but I’m still living my life to the fullest.

But I wonder what could have been done so the 6.8 million people who have died from COVID and the ones who will die in the future didn’t have to. That’s the lesson I’m not sure we’ve learned. I don’t think we’ve learned what to do in the next pandemic or other crisis. That’s what scares me the most.

Saying goodbye before you want to

Saying goodbye before you want to

It had been a long time since I hugged so many people.

Reunions do that; they make you want to physically connect with people. Only this reunion was actually a celebration of life.

Kirsten Johnson Loy was 59 when she died last year. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of when she was first diagnosed with cancer.

That same month she started her blog, which she called Consider It Joy. Who titles it that when they are diagnosed with stage four cancer? Kirsten. That’s who.

She didn’t sugar coat her life, but she also kept much of the nitty gritty out of print. We knew of hard days, but only those who were there knew how hard they really were and how many there were.

Her love of family, friends and god sustained her all those years.

Kirsten Johnson Loy touched more lives than probably even she knew.

On her Instagram page her bio says, “Mom, writer, teacher, mentor, friend, wife, but to sum me up is to know I am a flawed woman who loves a flawless God.”

On Facebook she has 1,289 friends. My guess is they are all really friends.

After all, about 500 people were at her celebration of life on March 11. And it definitely was a celebration. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much at an occasion like this.

Kirsten would have loved it. Of course, she did orchestrate it all. Honestly. She readily admitted she was a control freak. She could laugh about it. But it didn’t temper the controlling.

The service was full of stories, some scripture, music, and more stories. It’s always hard to encapsulate a life in a short essay or a couple hours.

I knew Kirsten for nearly 50 years. Her younger sister is one of my dearest friends. I was instrumental in writing their dad’s obit; a bit daunting considering they are both terrific writers. Her mom is one of my mom’s best friends. We knew many of the same people from having grown up in Concord. Many of them were there on Saturday. It was a mini-reunion of sorts. Unfortunately, it’s deaths that now bring us together instead of weddings.

We really ought to plan a party so we can all be there.

Kirsten reached out to me and others a few years ago wanting help with writing a book about her journey with cancer. I don’t know where it stands now, but I hope one of her friends puts all the pieces together and gets it published. Kirsten was an inspiration. Her words should live on so more people can know her.

Drones changing how firms, agencies do business

Drones changing how firms, agencies do business

While pictures may be worth a thousand words, drone footage is practically making ordinary camera images seem antiquated.

Drones are redefining real estate videos by flying through houses. They are saving lives by reducing the time for search and rescues. They document capital improvement projects in ways standing on the ground with a traditional camera can’t. For some businesses they are saving time and money.

While the use of drones goes back to World War I, these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have come into their own in the last few years as the applications for them continue to grow.

“I think the future for drone photography is limitless. I think we are in the embryotic stages for what we can use it for,” Valerie Walston with the Napa Valley Transportation Authority Walston said. “When I first started looking for a drone photographer it was not easy to find one because most were focused on real estate and agriculture. I needed to find someone focused on construction.”

As the marketing and information specialist for the county transit agency, Walston is tasked with figuring out the best way to showcase infrastructure improvements from beginning to mid-construction to completion.

“These are projects that have three dimensional stories to tell. Without drone video, we would lack that important element,” Walston said. “Everyone appreciates the story being told in ways I cannot with a camera on the ground.”

Jake Bowman, founder and pilot of Napa-based Flutter Shot Media, uses drones in his work in a variety of ways. (Image: Jake Bowman)

Expanding drone uses

Jake Bowman, founder and pilot of Napa-based Flutter Shot Media, has traveled all over the state to help Bob Peralta document fire damage.

For years, Peralta of Bob Peralta Arbor Consulting in Napa walked endless miles to appraise the condition of trees following wildfires. The firm’s clients are often attorneys and insurance companies.

“I take his images and am able to do my work instead of walking 80 to 100 acres. This has only come about in the last couple years,” Peralta said. “It definitely changes my work. (Jake) has taken me out of the field. It saves me time. It’s probably changed 40%of the way we collect data. It’s pretty remarkable.”

What Peralta likes is that Bowman does not merely do a flyover. The flying cameras can zero in on fences, sewer lines, and septic systems.

Bowman creates an orthomosaic image, which is done by stitching together photos to create a seamless, larger detailed image.

“So, now when I’m in a meeting we incorporate ‘Do we need drone on it?’” Peralta explained. “I worked on the (2017) Tubbs Fire (in Sonoma County) and spent a ton of time in Paradise (after the 2018 Camp Fire), but didn’t have these tools back then and they would have been helpful.”

Drone use isn’t limited to things on land. Fishermen are also finding uses for them.

The Fisherman’s Marketing Association of Bodega Bay enlisted Jim Nevill Productions of Bodega to create a 10-minute video to educate people about Assembly Bill 534, the 2021 legislation that would have mandated ropeless fishing gear among other things.

In one day, drones swooped over 10 locations, mostly in the Bodega Bay area. Shots were preplanned to get sunrise and sunset images, the abundance of boats in the harbor, fisherman out at sea; all shown as the narrator tells the fishermen’s side of the story.

For law enforcement, drones are able to replace helicopters. They are quicker to deploy, go places helicopters can’t, and the expense of charging a battery is negligible compared to jet fuel.

Marin County sheriff’s deputies deployed one of their 11 drones in January to assess the flood damage along Highway 37. This was at the request of Caltrans and fire officials. Such mutual aid agreements are common.

Marin County Sheriff’s Office has been using drones since 2018, with the department having created a specific drone team. It was the first law enforcement agency in the county to create a UAV program.

Since the inception of the drone program, the sheriff’s office has acquired drones that are small enough to fly indoors. They would be used to fly inside buildings in which someone has taken hostages or has barricaded themselves.

“If a person can’t go in somewhere, we would not send a drone in there,” Sgt. Brenton Schneider, who runs the drone team, said.

Some drones have loudspeakers and spotlights attached to them. Other drones have infrared tools.

“Because our drones have thermal capabilities we are able to detect hot spots for the fire department,” Schneider said. “In the (2020) Woodward Fire we utilized a drone to get a look at how big the fire was. We could see where they could send resources. Anything we could do from a helicopter we could do from a drone.”

The thermal device is perfect when looking for lost hikers or even missing persons. Drones can cover a larger swath of land faster than people, so they are a vital tool in search and rescue missions.

Another marketing tool

Indoor footage is becoming more popular and almost the norm when it comes to real estate listings.

If you want to be a good agent for sellers, you need to add value and bring people in and I think drone video is a huge asset,” Dylon Baker, owner and Realtor at Baker Estates in Vacaville, said. “When it comes time to market a property its three-pronged: still photos showcase the house itself, your drone video that is a teaser trailer, and using drone video through the house on social media and other websites.”

Bowman, the drone pilot who shoots charred trees, spends 90% of his time on real estate work, with Baker being one of his clients.

He has specifically rigged the drones that he uses to fly indoors. The key he said is to have flawless video, so it’s like a person is walking through the home, not getting stuck somewhere—which can happen if a pilot isn’t well versed at his craft.

Randy Knight, who owns in Sebastopol, also needs to market real estate in an appealing matter. For him, it’s luring people to his vacation rentals.

Sometimes Knight does his own shoots, other times he hires people. He said the first drone he bought about seven years ago cost $1,700. The wind took it and it was never seen again. The last one he bought at Costco for about $400.

“The picture quality is incredible, it’s easy to use, small and compact,” Knight said. “It’s a wonderful thing to have. It displays properties in the best possible light. Photos say so much more than words in the world of vacation rentals.”

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the North Bay Business Journal.

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