A Few Ways I’m Not Going to Die

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comNone of us is going to get out of this world alive.

Not to be morbid, but we never know what’s going to happen to us when we get out of bed in the morning.

Freak accidents, disease, the approaching fool who is texting and driving — the list of things that can happen to us is virtually infinite.

I say all of that to say this, however: I also have a pretty long list of ways I am not going to die. 

Check out this headline from The Washington Post from a few days ago. 

“Mount Everest has gotten so crowded that climbers are perishing in the traffic jams.”

The article said, “A number of other people have died elsewhere in Nepal’s Himalayan mountains this season. Nepal has issued around 380 permits for those hoping to climb the mountain.… They cost about $11,000 each.”

The article said a photograph shot by one of the climbers showed 320 people waiting in line to ascend a particularly steep part of the mountain.

I don’t guess I need to tell you why there weren’t 321.

And can you believe it costs $11,000? Like I needed another reason not to do it.

Here’s another one.

I watched a little of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series over the weekend on television.

In case you missed it, international daredevils take turns diving in the water off of a platform nearly 100 feet in the air.

They twist and turn and corkscrew as they descend oh so rapidly.

Put down your binoculars. It’s not me up there, even though my build does resemble that of a 20-year-old cliff diver.

Another thing that isn’t going to get me is a faulty bungee cord.

This should not surprise you.

I like a good roller coaster from time to time; I don’t think I have ever shied away from an amusement park ride. But I’m not putting my life into the hands of a rubber band which was probably made by a disgruntled worker on his last day down at the bungee cord factory.

Speaking of heights, have you seen the stories about SkyBridge, the longest suspension bridge in North America? It spans 680 feet, which is nearly as long as two football fields including the end zones.

It’s located at Gatlinburg’s SkyLift Park. I could be there in a couple of hours.

But I’m not going. There’s no sense in it. Nobody needs to walk across a swinging-in-the-wind bridge for 680 feet.

Send me a postcard.

I don’t think I will ever fly a plane, either.

I used to think I wanted to, but I believe that wacky notion has left me for good.

I’m pretty sure I could take off, and I know I could keep the thing in the air with some instruction and a little practice.

But I’ll bet that runway looks a postage stamp when you’re trying to hit it just right.

Heck, every time I fly commercially, I am always convinced the pilot has overshot the airport by 10 miles or so, because I never see concrete until right before we touch down.

Obviously, there’s common thread here to all the ways you don’t have to worry about me going to the great beyond.

I plan to stay close to the ground, because I don’t want to rush being 6 feet under it.

The Joyfulness of the End of School

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comSchool is virtually finished for another year.

You’ve probably seen those shiny, happy people, grinning from ear to ear, hugging each other while crying tears of joy, or maybe even turning cartwheels through the parking lot.

I’m sure the kids are happy, too.

But the teachers are the cartwheel turners.

I’ve always had a fondness for teachers. Mama taught for 16 years. Two of my uncles and an an aunt had long teaching careers as well. 

Several of my friends I see on a regular basis also are teachers.

Every single one of them has that look in their eye right about now.

Ecstasy — as in rescued from a dark well after 16 days ecstasy.

I’m sure you know at least a couple of teachers. And we all know teachers love their students.

They just don’t like them very much sometimes.

I hear war stories all the time.

They talk about the foul language some kids use unabashed in front of teachers, sometimes directly toward them.

They talk about the hand gestures. From what I understand, we have more than just one now.

I’m not going to make this one of those “back in my day” curmudgeon rants, but back in my day a student would have regained consciousness about a week from Tuesday — if ever — if he or she had done 1 percent of the things I hear about some students doing today.

And from what I understand, parent involvement has dropped off as well in the past few years.

A teacher I know has not had a room mother in 3 years.

I know we’re all busy; we all work. But you cannot tell me that in a class of 20 or so kids, there isn’t one mom or dad, grandparent or neighbor who couldn’t bring in some dad gum cupcakes on Valentine’s Day.

Just yesterday, I heard a cashier at a store boasting about telling the principal “where he could stick his school” because of something that rubbed him the wrong way regarding one of his children.

I wish he would’ve said that to my principal.

It would’ve been on the news. The national news. The lead story.

We don’t do our part as citizens, either.

Teachers spend their own money on school supplies, which is ridiculous. They have to scramble en masse to the dollar store when colored pencils go on sale or when hand sanitizer is buy one get one free somewhere.

Politicians get elected on the whole “no new taxes” thing. But our future suffers when money is the only consideration when it comes to things like education.

A recent Pew Research Center places the US in 38th place out of 71 countries for math scores and 24th place for science scores.

Less than 20 years ago, we were sixth.

Why? 

According to a US News and World Report story, we spent 3 percent less on education from 2010 to 2014, while our student population increased by a point. 

Meanwhile, Britain and Portugal increased educational spending by more than 25 percent. The Turkish government increased educational spending by more than 75 percent.

How long are we going to be the preeminent world power at this rate?

Are we even now?

I guess that depends on who you ask.

And that may be the biggest part of the problem.

Unprepared From Head to Toe

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comWe went to the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tenn., over the weekend.

It turned out to be more of a challenge than it should have been.

It’s funny — not funny ha-ha, but funny sad — how things get more complicated as we age.

Back in the day, we would’ve tossed on some shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops, put the top down and made a day out of it. It’s not so much that way anymore. 

On the way over, I realized I really needed an antacid. I don’t typically carry things like that around with me. I simply cannot bring myself to do it. But after 15 minutes of heartburn I wished I had.

Lo and behold, though, I suddenly realized we had some tablets in the car in a medicine kit left over from an overnight trip we took recently.

I’m not sure why, but simply knowing they were there made the heartburn go away. 

It’s possible this proves I’m more of a hypochondriac than I thought I was.

But that’s beside the point.

I made a footwear mistake, which would have been unheard of for me just a few years ago.

I wore a pair of loafers. 

They’re technically called driving loafers, which sounds like something Elon Musk would wear while whizzing around Bel Air in his Tesla. But don’t be misled; they were inexpensive.

I guess that’s why the soles are paper thin. They’re drivers, not walkers.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the cornbread festival, but there is plenty of gravel between the parking and the gate.

The old driving loafers didn’t fare too well in that environment, so by the time we got inside I was about halfway hobbled.

When we got inside the gate, we spent a few minutes looking at painted gourd birdhouses, carpenter bee traps and homemade hot sauces. 

We ate a corndog.

It was hot, and the sun was beating down.

It was also April, which makes me real uncomfortable thinking about how I’m going to feel in August.

I was unprepared from head to toe. I didn’t treat my feet right, and I didn’t treat my head right, either.

It didn’t take too long before I realized I desperately needed a hat to protect my head where more hair should be.

What the heck, I thought. I’ll just buy one. Someone must be selling hats, and almost anything would be better than a sunburned head.

All I could find were a ball cap with the UPS logo and a Florida Gators doo-rag.

I’m good with UPS, but not enough to wear their logo. The Gators, not so much.

I considered buying a painted gourd and trying to break it in half to make a little helmet.

The walk back across the gravel was more painful than the walk inside.

I have now come to the realization that a trip even as short as a half-day outdoor excursion is going to take more planning from here on out than it used to take.

I’m going to need to travel with more supplies and accessories apparently, which is just more stuff to keep up with and leave behind somewhere.

I’m not getting a fanny pack, though. You can write that one down.

I will either suffer or stay home.

Spring is Wonderful, Most of the Time at Least

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comSpring is a time of rebirth.

The trees bud. The days get longer. The temperatures — at least in theory — warm up.

I love spring. 

But the season also presents challenges for me.

The highway department has already dragged out that looming, booming flying Bush Hog on a stick that they use to mangle trees and bushes that dare to grow along the roadside.

I despise that thing.

First of all, anytime I pass it, I’m afraid the guy running it is going to hit the wrong button and chop up the mighty Prius with me in it.

Second, the devastation it leaves in its wake looks horrible. It chews up the limbs and leaves them ragged and skinned. It creates one-sided trees that look like the Tasmanian Devil just whizzed through town.

And third, it’s loud. If the devil were a musician, it would be on his greatest hits album. It sounds like — well, it sounds like what it is: a big rotary blade flying through the air chewing up 6-inch tree limbs.

Sometimes they use it along the roadside behind my house which is annoying. 

However it does make for a good husband and wife activity. Kim and I go out on the deck and flail our arms to try and make him stop cutting our cover while we bob and weave dodging flying projectiles.

I’m not sure Napalm would be much worse.

Yes, of course, I realize we have to keep the tree limbs from growing in the road. And no, I don’t have a better alternative, but we somehow managed to keep vegetation from growing out in the road before.

On the other hand, like the city’s remote-controlled lawnmower they use to mow the grassy slopes around overpasses in town. I nearly drive in the ditch watching it.

If I were mayor for a day, I would find out where that thing is and make them let me run it for a while.

Another drawback to warmer weather is the way people dress.

Our collective modesty as a society — both men and women — disappears just a little more each year. 

I saw a guy yesterday at the store who had on one of those tank tops with huge gaping arm holes that leave nothing to the imagination.

I guess that’s why I got a full-on view of the two piercings he had on his chest. I won’t tell their exact location because I don’t know if the newspapers will let me use the word, but you probably get my drift.

Of course, spring means 496 trillion mosquitoes are breeding somewhere in a pond near you, waiting to get their marching orders to bite somebody else right before they do the deed on your forehead.

And then we have snakes that slither up out of the ground when the weather warms up.

What was mother nature thinking, for crying out loud?

Did we not learn anything from that Garden of Eden incident?

Yes, I know they help control the rodent population. And I also know the non-venomous ones prey on the ones that can bite and subsequently kill us.

But you won’t see me searching around in the weeds looking for one to congratulate it.

That would just stir up more pollen.

Sometimes, Change is Good; Sometimes it isn’t

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comSometimes, change is good.

When we change the way we do things for reasons that make sense, that’s one thing.

For instance, I fought the seatbelt thing until I got my second no-seatbelt-award from the police. Now I buckle up every time I get in the seat.

Similarly, I was that guy who swore he would never carry a telephone around with him everywhere he went. If I recall correctly, I enjoyed my crow fricasseed when I had to admit I was wrong about that one.

Then there are the times when we change the way we do things over long periods of time and no one really notices.

How we behave on Sundays is a great example.

Kim tells a story about her grandmother recalled that her mother said, “Mama said it’s okay to play ball on Sunday if you go to church.”

When I was a kid, we played lots and lots of ball on Sunday afternoons. We never thought a thing about it.

But the generations before me didn’t feel that way.

Until she died, Mama thought it was a sin to date a check on a Sunday. She would always write her check for the church collection plate on Saturday night.

If she forgot, she backdated it a day — I guess not to leave a paper trail for St. Peter to find.

Most of us take more liberties with things like that than our elders did.

One thing that has stuck with me, however, is not mowing the yard on Sunday.

Since I was 12, I have mowed my own yard hundreds of times. I’ve also had help over the years, but for the most part, I’ve done it.

And during all those years, I have mowed the yard on Sunday exactly two times in my life — once when I was 16 and the other time last year.

Both times I was leaving in a couple of days for a trip, and there was no other way around it.

I’m not judging people who do mow on Sunday. I’ve done plenty of yard work on Sunday afternoon — the vast majority, however, shrouded in secrecy in the backyard. But the tradition that we don’t mow our yards on Sunday will probably be a part of me forever.

Something else I’ve noticed lately is how not everyone stops for funeral processions.

For me, stopping is simply a polite, respectful thing to do.

The rules change, of course, in an 8-lane interstate with a million cars speeding at 80 m.p.h. There’s no reason to lose a couple more of us.

But generally, I think it’s nice to stop.

The people in the front of that procession are having a really bad day, and I feel like whatever crisis I’m embroiled in isn’t nearly as life-changing as what they’re going through.

Along that line, let’s make sure we keep up the tradition of showering families with food when they lose someone. 

Over the course of my life I have been blessed beyond what I can express in times of loss by neighbors, church family and friends.

When we eat while we’re grieving, the calories don’t count. You may not have known that, but it’s true.

And that will never change.

Here’s My Card, Oh Wait a Minute

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comIt was a long two days from last Sunday until Tuesday.

But the story begins before that.

For the past couple of years, I’ve carried my business cards around in my pocket inside a little leather card holder.

It was an upgrade from when I merely stuck a couple in my billfold where they would quickly become dog-eared and worn.

I guess if more people asked for my card, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but it didn’t take long for them to wear down regardless.

This little holder was brown, allegedly leather, and inexpensive, but it did the trick. And it quickly became one of the items in my pants pockets I check mindlessly and continually to make sure nothing tries to jump out.

I’m not sure if it jumped or not, but something happened to my little business card holder a couple of weeks ago. The last time I remember seeing it was when I gave someone a card right here in my office.

I took out my handy dandy holder and took one out.

And I would bet my last dime that I put it back in my pocket.

I’m not sure when I first missed it. It may have been the next day.

I looked around the house a bit, but not too much because I figured I had left it at the office.

It wasn’t at the office.

Then I turned the house upside down. I looked under the bed. I looked under the nightstand. I looked under the cat.

I kept thinking it would turn up, but it didn’t. That was a couple of weeks ago.

Last Sunday afternoon I ordered a replacement.

It would be in my hot little hand on Tuesday.

I don’t like to wait for things. I never have.

It’s not my fault. I was traumatized as a child.

I’ve told this before, but I’ll briefly tell it again.

When I was probably 12, I ordered a skateboard from the Western Auto store on main street in my hometown. I guess I ordered it on a Thursday, because I had to wait a full week before their truck would run the following Wednesday.

When Wednesday finally came, I pedaled my bike downtown and went in to pick it up.

It didn’t come.

I had to wait another week.

Traumatized, I say.

My business card holder was coming via free two-day shipping. But somehow or another I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I thought Tuesday would never come, and I have no rational reason for feeling this way.

I almost went home during the day to see if it had been delivered, but I managed to muster up enough maturity to get my mind on something else.

Unlike the skateboard incident, it came as scheduled.

Now I can get on with my life.

I am now also fully prepared to find my old one. That’s just the way the universe seems to work.

The other day we were talking about misplacing things, and Kim made some kind of a  joke about misplacing something then finding it in the refrigerator.

It’s not there. I looked.

I am anxiously awaiting the cat’s next hairball.

You never know.

Quicksand Makes a Comeback

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI have terrible news.

Quicksand is real.

I kid you not.

An Arizona man got stuck in some while hiking in Utah a few days ago. According to reports, he was only submerged in it up to his knee, but he couldn’t free himself.

The area he was in had no cell phone service. Consequently, the woman who was with him had to hike three hours to go for help. Rescuers didn’t get him out until the next day. 

During the rescue process, 4 inches of snow fell, obviously further complicating the process.

Rescuers ended up having to lift him out on a rope attached to a helicopter.

Both the victim and his companion are expected to be fine, which is good news.

The bad news is, I now have to start worrying about quicksand again.

I stopped worrying about quicksand sometime around 1974, so you can understand why this development is especially troubling.

When we were kids, all the TV studios brainwashed us daily with fears of quicksand.

The Riddler lured Batman and Robin into a big pool of it. Gilligan and Mary Anne fell in once.

Quicksand appeared in at least three Fantasy Island episodes.

The Six Million Dollar Man had to rescue someone from it. The Bionic Woman even got stuck in some once.

Charlie’s Angels and Daisy Duke were all victims as well — not together of course. That would’ve just been silly.

I don’t recall any specifics, but I would bet my bottom dollar Scooby Doo and the gang sunk up to their Adam’s apples more than a time or two.

Soap operas weren’t immune to the quicksand epidimic. Characters from Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and One Life to Live all stepped in it more than once.

I don’t know about you, but my friends and I were always on the lookout for quicksand anytime we would be out in the wild — which was most of our waking hours.

Then, over time, I guess we realized it wasn’t really going to be a problem we had to be too concerned about.

Now, this happens after all these years.

Of course this begs the question: what else may be real?

I’m suddenly concerned about how many watermelon seeds I may have swallowed. And I’m pretty sure at least one piece of Bubblicious went down the wrong way.

Is a UFO going to come zap me up to the mother ship?

And the bogeyman, for heaven’s sake. I’m never looking under the bed again.

And someone please tell me if we’re still tracking that enormous swarm of killer bees that is migrating north from South America.

I laughed about armadillos migrating to Tennessee, and we see what happened with that.

On the other hand, what if the tooth fairy is real? Or the Easter bunny?

I was just getting used to being able to sleep on Christmas Eve.

I’m not sure this is a universal myth, but where I grew up the rumor circulated from time to time that the sheriff’s office found a Trans Am with a decomposed body in it and they were selling it for $500.

All the lucky buyer had to do was deal with the smell.

I’m going to the bank just in case.

Tidying Up and Proud of It

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI’m always wanting to simplify my life. A big part of that is to reduce the stuff that surrounds me, both at home and at work.

I don’t seek to be a minimalist by any means, but I could get by with lots less stuff than I have.

Kim feels the same way, but not as much as I do.

I’m compelled to believe it’s a gender thing.

Beyond that, it seems when she’s in the mood to get rid of some things, the fourth quarter is about to start in a tie game, and vice-versa.

Kim has a vast collection of cookbooks.

The other day, I walked in the kitchen, and she was scouring the shelves. She had a couple in her hands. A couple more were on the kitchen island.

“Have you heard of Marie Kondo?” she said.

After realizing she was not talking about the person who does the frozen meals, I told her I had not, to which she replied, “I think I want her book. It’s all about getting rid of things you don’t need and getting organized.”

Marie has a television series called “Tidying Up.” It’s the latest flavor of the month on Netflix.

Since Kim had already freed up 6 inches of shelf space before even reading the book or watching the show, I was intrigued.

She suggested we watch the first episode.

Normally, I’m not much of a person to watch TV during the day. But I didn’t have anything real pressing, and we were currently getting our 30th inch of rain for the day, so I agreed.

We ended up binge-watching the whole series over one weekend.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s the premise of the show.

Marie is Japanese. Her smile is huge and constant. She’s quite charming. Since she speaks little English, she takes an interpreter with her to the peoples’ house, where she shows them how to tidy up the space from the sock drawer to the garage.

The show has many of the trite reality show set-ups. There’s almost always some kind of conflict or uneasiness among the guests. 

The couples call each other “babe” a lot, which suggests to me they are ready to rip out each other’s hair.

Marie goes to work after she gets on her knees in the floor and — in very Asian fashion — introduces herself to the house.

This is where you think I am going to start making fun of the whole thing.

That’s where you’d be wrong.

As I was watching the first episode, I began to think about the way I arrange my clothes. I got this itch to make my clothes storage look more like the way she was showing the people how to do it.

I was sure I could free up some space.

As soon as the first episode was over, I dumped my socks on the bed.

On top of all my dress socks, I probably had 30 pair of athletic socks. I have no idea why. An athlete doesn’t even need 30 pair of athletic socks.

I folded them just like she did, and voila, I cleaned out a whole drawer.

Marie says we should thank the clothes we are tossing aside for allowing us to wear them.

I couldn’t go that far.

I rarely talk to my clothes, except when I ask my pants why they keep shrinking.

Some People Still Try to do the Right Thing

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI haven’t had a very good run recently.

Don’t read too much into that. Most of what I’m talking about consists of things you would consider petty. That’s because they are.

I am not the world’s foremost authority on what Mama used to call “rolling with the punches” by a long shot. I still let stuff get to me more than I should.

With that said, back in December, Kim and Grant gave me a drone for my birthday.

Kim had the idea after our intern told me he had gotten one, and I went on and on about it.

It’s cool. I can fly it around and shoot arial video and photos.

These drones come in all shapes and sizes. Mine is about 2 feet in diameter and 8 inches tall. It looks like a flying spider with four propellers. 

There’s somewhat of a learning curve when it comes to learning how to fly one of these things, but I caught on pretty quickly.

After I’d had it a couple of weeks, I took it to our building downtown, which houses several businesses in what used to be an old woolen mill.

I thought it would be neat to get some footage for the website.

After a successful flight, I was bringing it in to land. It was about 4 feet off the ground when something weird happened.

Somehow, it was intercepted by another radio signal, and I lost all control of it, and it began rising rapidly. 

It didn’t care what I did with the controller. 

It didn’t care that I hit the emergency kill switch. 

It didn’t care that I was screaming, “come back, come back.”

There are several 150-year-old trees on the property, and yes of course, my drone found the tallest one and got stuck in the very tip top.

I cannot express how high up it was. The best description I can give is Kim saying, “You don’t do anything half way, do you?” when she saw it.

Tree services don’t rescue drones. Neither does the fire department. 

A friend of mine knows a guy with a bucket truck, but he was going to charge $300.

Yeah, I know.

I gave it up for dead.

But a funny thing happened today.

When I got to the office, it was no longer in the tree.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is, it wasn’t on the ground, either. It wasn’t in the dumpster. I searched everywhere but couldn’t find it.

I figured someone found it and took it. That was okay. At least I wasn’t going to have to look at it stuck up there for the rest of my life.

Then, on a lark, I decided to step into the coffee shop next door and just mention it.

The barista pulled it out from under the counter where someone had turned it in.

It was the best thing that had happened to me in a while.

It wasn’t so much that I got the drone back. What really filled my heart was the fact that someone turned it in because they were trying to do the right thing.

I spent a lot of mental energy searching for a way to get the drone out of the tree.

I plan to spend twice as much searching for the person who gave it back to me.

 

Be on the Lookout for Blindfolded Birdbrains

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI’m disturbed.

As it turns out, we’re dumber than I thought. And like everything else these days, we play it out larger than life on social media.

A couple of years ago, the craze was to video yourself pouring a bucket of ice water on your head, then challenging one of your friends to do it.

More recently, we had the one where people filmed themselves eating laundry detergent.

But now, in case you haven’t heard, we have the “Bird Box” challenge.

“Bird Box” is a new Netflix movie.

In the movie, the actors have to wear blindfolds when they go outside because a mysterious force has entered the universe, and if they see it they will die.

I imagine this is how Keith Richards’ neighbors feel when he forgets to close his blinds.

The “Bird Box” challenge, consequently, involves people doing everyday things while blindfolded.

In doing research for this column, I saw videos of people tripping over curbs, shrubbery and chairs.

One showed a guy on some kind of an indoor go-cart obliterating an end table and lamp.

In yet another one, a 2-year-old “hilariously” ran into a wall. (I say hilarious tongue-in-cheek. His parents should be put out to sea on a pool float. That would be hilarious.)

But the one dumb stunt that won the Charles Darwin Award was the girl in Utah who thought it would be neat to attempt to drive a car while blindfolded.

The unlucky driver she careened into was Curt Calder. The crash pretty much caved in the driver’s side of his vehicle.

It’s a wonder he wasn’t killed.

In an interview with CNN, a surprisingly composed Calder said, “I can’t imagine somebody purposely doing something that makes them not see while driving.”

One would think so, wouldn’t they Curt.

Hey, at least she wasn’t texting.

It’s not like we didn’t have enough to worry about already — with things like diseases, climate change, the government shutdown and Alabama’s failure to win a 73rd consecutive football national championship.

Now we’ve got to worry about a bunch of blindfolded bird brains heading toward us on foot, in cars and heaven knows what else.

I used to be afraid of self-driving cars. Now, I’m not so sure.

Imagine if this blindfold craze really caught on.

Sports would be more interesting. I can hear the game wrap-up now.

“The Cavaliers beat the Lakers last night, two to one. LeBron James was the leading scorer for both teams.”

NASCAR would be more popular than ever. 

Suddenly, taking off your belt at the airport would no longer the scariest thing about flying.

“From the flight deck, this is Captain Higgenbotham. Please notify a flight attendant if you look out the window and notice the houses getting larger.”

By the time you read this, the “Bird Box” nonsense will hopefully be a thing of the past.

Maybe it will be replaced by something useful.

How about the “don’t throw out your fast food bag on the side of the road challenge?”

I like the sound of the “random act of kindness challenge.”

But my favorite is the “let’s all give Barry some money challenge.”

I would love to see that one happen.

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