Return of the Revenge of Tom's Blog

Posted on 2010-08-01 at 12:46

Well holy crap! I've actually done it. The blog is being resurrected. For those of you still subscribed to this old RSS feed, you are probably surprised to see activity. Well here's the deal. The blog is now alive agin, but this time I've doing it on a real url (and not a subdomain of Digital Elite. Go to Jr. High Drop Out to hear the latest rants from yours truly. There is a new RSS feed there. This site will stay up for posterity's sake, but is otherwise deprecated in favor of the new one. You can officially remove this RSS feed and add the new one.

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Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted on 2008-01-13 at 16:17

From his sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967 entitled "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam":

I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You're too arrogant! And if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I'll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."

rise and be heard

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So, Tom, Why do you suck so bad?

Posted on 2007-12-19 at 20:50

Answer: I'm lame (and work has me buried right now).

That said, I have big plans to fix my current lag and make future lags even less likely. Over the Christmas holiday, I hope to rewrite the site software from the ground up. I have some feature ideas and some other ideas that should make the site a better one when I'm done.

So, in short, bear with me as I make some huge under the hood changes and some commensurate front end changes that readers will enjoy.

Best part? My most frequent readers will get a great deal of input as to what features I add or remove. More details about the new site will come soon enough. Until then, discuss amongst yourselves the ins and outs of the career of Ivan Koloff, The Russian Bear of Wrestling. Prepare to office hypotheses with concrete examples. And Begin....

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To continue my latest obsession, I present a new Schoolhouse Rock video called "Pirates and Emporers"

Posted on 2007-11-16 at 22:07

when I can see the light of day again (work has ramped up a bit in the last month) there will be original content on the blog again. Til then, this video says all I feel like saying right now:

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Colonel Davy Crockett, Explorer and Congressman (1786-1836)

Posted on 2007-11-12 at 20:18

"Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have."

Fuck anyone that tells me to give up anything out of fear. Terrorism scares me far less than my own government slowly peeling my freedoms away, one onion layer at a time.

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Citing Proof

Posted on 2007-11-09 at 23:16

In a response to yesterday's blog entry, someone asked my to cite my sources for those fairly serious accusations.

In "9/11: Interviews by Peter Jennings" on ABC News and airing on September 11, 2002, Peter Jennings interviewed Colonel Robert Marr of the U.S. Air Force (among others). The Colonel was in charge of NEADS (the Air National Guard component of NORAD, the North American Air National Defense Command). In that interview the Colonel said, "We had 14 aircraft on alert, seven sites, two aircraft at each site." The BBC corroborated the quote and offered more details on the ramifications of an unarmed Air Force in an article entitled "US considered 'suicide jet missions'".

More fascinating than that is that 14 was considered above average. On the morning of 9/11, they were doing significant training exercises. On most days, there would have been fewer aircraft on duty across the US.

Our DOD budget exceeds $400 billion, most of which is spent on overseas operations. Our Air Force is in a better position to protect Seoul, Tokyo, Berlin, and London than New York. I stand by my blog-claim: Policing the world and bombing people that pose no serious threat to our interests leaves our country and its borders largely undefended. 9/11 was proof of that. 14 aircraft left to defend the whole of the U.S. airspace (I mean, unless you think that unarmed F-15's taking kamakazi runs into an enemy is a valid defense?) wasn't enough then, and it's not enough now.

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National Defense and the Art of Incompetence

Posted on 2007-11-08 at 21:07

On September 11th, 2001, there were only fourteen aircraft in place to defend the entire continental Unites States. The results of that piss poor national defense plan were made clear on the skylines of Northern Virginia and New York City. What was our government's answer? They took what was left of our military and moved them to other countries. We now have even fewer national defenses on the mainland. Twenty thousand American soldiers have been seriously wounded or killed in the Iraq war.

So tell me, how does reducing the military presence inside our own borders and taking 9% of our troops out of active combat-readiness through wounding or death make me safer?

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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Don Quixote, published in 1604

Posted on 2007-11-07 at 21:07

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."

Sometimes I worry that I identify too greatly with the Ingenious Knight of La Mancha. It's not that I think the world doesn't need people willing to tilt at giants, real and imagined, but rather that things didn't end well for the Don.

In the end, Quixote is left disillusioned with humanity---his fleeting bliss fading in favor of a solemn sanity while he turns his back on the very civility that once gave his life meaning. He dies melancholy, hopeless, and broken.

I'm not down with that part.

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Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Posted on 2007-10-29 at 07:40

We have a shot: "Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul may quickly go from cellar dweller to Republican frontrunner after the New Hampshire primary."

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Blowback

Posted on 2007-10-17 at 07:39

Funny stuff. Apparently my blog support of Ron Paul has had an interesting effect on my inbox. I've had people writing to argue Ron Paul's positions, confess being a closet Paulite, convert to Paulism, and accuse me of being duped by the viral marketing scam of Paulism. It's been a while since I got this much blog feedback from a single entry. And for that, I'm calling it a success.

If my one blog entry gets people talking about these issues that Ron Paul raises, then good. Mission accomplished. This is a dialog we need in this country.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is the role of government as you understand it?
  2. Why do you see the role of government in that light?
  3. Is the role you see assigned to our government feasible militarily, economically, and strategically?
  4. When you answered the above question, did you do so from the gut or do you have real numbers to back it up?
  5. Assuming you want to see the Unites States lead the world, would that leadership be militarily, economically, morally, or something else?
  6. Which candidate most closely matches your answers to the above questions and why?
  7. Have you given that candidate support? If not, why not?

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Ron Paul Cured My Apathy

Posted on 2007-10-11 at 20:26

This is a solid video. Watch it:

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth." ~ George Washington, First President of the United States of America

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A story about despair and hope

Posted on 2007-10-04 at 13:28

An old Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A battle is raging inside me ... it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The old man fixed the children with a firm stare. "This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too."

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee replied: "The one you feed."

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History of Mathematics Education

Posted on 2007-10-04 at 13:19

Teaching Math In 1957: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1967: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1977: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math In 1987: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20 Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math In 1997: A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In 2007: Un ranchero vende una carretera de maderapara $100. El cuesto de la produccion era $80. Cuantos tortillas se puede comprar.

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I said "Come game with us"...

Posted on 2007-09-30 at 20:50

...and you heard "Get drunk and come game with us"?

lol! seriously, dude. The camera is not your ally.

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Wall of Shame

Posted on 2007-09-30 at 15:14

Witness my wall of shame:

In my defense, the whole time I watched the climbers, only 2 people were able to climb that side at all, and of those 2, one made it about a quarter of the way up and the other made it halfway. The other side (to my left in the video) was the easy wall.

The video cuts off after a minute or so, but I assure you the laughter only got louder and the shame only continued. It does not show the part where I waited til the guy running the thing wasn't looking and I cheated by using the scaffolding to try to get higher. The cheating, by the way, did little to help. I still couldn't get anywhere on that side of the rock wall. They had $50 at the top for anyone who could climb that side. I suspect that same $50 was there when they packed up for the night.

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A first for me

Posted on 2007-09-13 at 15:53

I've never donated to a political campaign before. I just donated $50.00 to Ron Paul's campaign.

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul’s Record:

Is he the perfect candidate? No. I don't agree with him on every point. But I do agree on enough to justify my support. He is sincere. He is intelligent. He is right more often than not. In my opinion, we need a few years of that.

See what he's about. Hear him speak. Decide for yourself if he deserves a dollar or two of your money. I think this country has gone about as far downhill as I'm willing to let it go without fighting back. This donation is my first volley. There will be more. When my daughter grows up, I want to be able to tell her I tried to help. Anything else is an excuse and cop out.

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Bruce Lee’s Screen Test For The Green Hornet

Posted on 2007-09-09 at 20:57

The above video needs no comment other than, "Dude was just bad ass!"

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Best. Fight. Ever.

Posted on 2007-09-03 at 15:43

This fight scene is the tits:

That's all I need to say.

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A Quote by James D. Nicoll

Posted on 2007-08-28 at 20:20

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

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My mini-review of the 4th edition of DnD as we currently know it

Posted on 2007-08-24 at 23:26

Some of the details of the upcoming 4th edition have been leaked. Those details give us a jumbled picture from which to work, but below is my attempt to comment on the mass of random comments and facts leaked so far.

Races

Mentioned some race disappearing from core (bets go for the Gnome), possibly to be included in an early supplement.

I say fine. The gnome was turning into a joke. Better to drop the gnome than do it poorly as every edition has since after the 1st. If they want some ideas about how to make the Gnome cool again, though, I'm their man. He can and should fill a niche that no other race currently fills (and it ain't the comic relief!).

Tiefling included, and they look much more demonic than now (almost half-demon).

I'm not down with this, in that it is an attempt to bring evil character's to the fore. Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy, but evil isn't cool. Cool is the image of the lone Paladin fighting off the hordes of demonkind. Playing D&D is about playing a hero in some manner or form.

Changeling from Eberron may be included.

Meh, I have no opinion on this, except that it seems lame. I'll wait and see, though.

"Dwarven resilience, elven evasion, a half-elf’s inspiring presence" mentioned as racial traits.

I like the sound of these racial traits, but not sure what it all means.

Classes can be improved by racial feats, in a similar way to how current racial substitution levels work.

I like this idea. We used Racial feats in our home campaign and I think they are a good idea overall.

All classes have at will, per encounter and per day abilities.

This is a GREAT thing. An adventurer's day shouldn't end after the first encounter of the morning. Having abilities that work with each encounter is a good solution to that problem. This (and the related new rules) are what most make me want to play the 4th ed rules.

Classes

Levels go up to 30, instead of 20;
Level division:
  • 1-10 Heroic - foes are orcs and ogres, some giants, small dragons. Adventures tend to be local.
  • 11-20 Paragon - on par with the current low to mid teens right now. Bigger threats are faced that might threaten a kingdom.
  • 21-30 Epic- World or Planar threats.

I don't have an opinion about this. The level number matters less than the gameplay at a given level. If 30 is the new 20, that's fine by me either way.

The goal is to have the levels play in a similar manner - they don't want a 25th character overwhelmed with 80 abilities. The main differences should be in the story, not how they play.

I want to see what this means in practice before I comment more.

From GamerZer0's interview with James Wyatt: There are four "roles".
  • Defender: fighter & paladin classes
  • Leader: cleric & warlord classes
  • Controller: wizard class
  • Striker: rogue & ranger classes
Although two PCs may serve the same role, they may do it in different ways. (Like fighters with different styles.) The roles are geared towards combat; a PC's non-combat aspects can differentiate him further. He also said that they are still considering the possibility of there being a class or two that doesn't quite fit the four "roles".

Unless roles have abilities or something I don't see that this is anything more than trying to help newer players create balanced parties. Not in any way useful to experienced gamers. If this is some sort of model to be followed with a penalty for non-compliance, then I have a problem with it. Experienced gamers like to experiment with themed parties, and this would get in the way of that. That'd be uncool. Not sure if WotC would do something that boneheaded, though.

Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Wizard definitely stay (multiple mentions and examples). Also mentioned Barbarian, Paladin and Ranger. Mentioned that wizard and sorcerer won't merge. Sorcerer will be different from wizards in more ways than just resource management.

Good to see that the basics stay, I suppose. That leaves us wondering about monks, bards, and druids, among others. I wouldn't miss bards (as none has been cool since the 1st ed). I'd understand if they dropped monks, though I'd miss them. Druids would be an odd choice. They are a class firmly rooted in the mythos that D&D tries to express.

Mentioned that paladins can be of other alignments other than lawful good.

More attempts to push players away from the hero model. I'm sure they want to accommodate anti-paladins (Chaotic Evil paladins) and the such. That would be a serious blow to the game in my opinion.

Mentioned a warlord class

I'm interested in hearing more.

Druid mentioned in D&D's seminar's summary

So the druid stays? I hope so.

Backstab mentioned.

It better be mentioned or they might be the recipients of an unexpected one by the legion of loyal thief/rogue players!

Fighter's "powers" depend highly on the weapon they chose as primary - spears have different "powers" available than axes; swords and greatswords are very flexible in terms of said "powers"

This has the potential to be cool, but it also has to potential to suck raw ass. I don't want something that feels too computer-game. Above all, any combat my fighter engages in should feel like the sort of swordplay I read about in Conan, Tolkien, or other classic fantasy literature. Weapon powers that bring me closer to that feel will be embraced, but weapon powers that feel more like Mortal Combat or Guild Wars will make me far less likely to buy into the 4th edition.

Wisdom helps with power selection.

So a fighter might benefit from a higher wisdom? That could be interesting. It would throw off the power gamers, which isn't entirely a bad thing.

Mentioned a "rain of blows" power or maneuver for swords; mentioned making a choice between taking the abilities "Supreme Cleave" or "Massive Strike".

Those powers sound very Guild Wars. I'm hoping I'm wrong.

More on martial abilities: "A skilled halberdier can hack a foe with his weapon’s blade and spin around to smash a second foe with the haft. A fighter with a longsword disarms her foe with a flick of her wrist, while a battle hungry axeman cleaves through shields, armor, and bone." "Rogues have a similar relationship with skills. A nimble rogue dives through the air to tumble past an ogre, while a charismatic one tricks an enemy into looking away just before she delivers a killing blow with her dagger. Just as fighters do more with weapons than any other character, rogues push skills beyond the limits that constrain other PCs."

I like what I'm hearing here. My concern is that it could be hard to nail down the limits and effects of those sorts of things. Just what can a rogue do with the Bluff skill that another player can't? Ambiguity is fine enough, but it does open the door for power gamers again.

Cleric mentioned creating a "surge of healing power" alongside a critical hit. This hints (yet unconfirmed) to mechanics similar to some Crusader maneuvers, from Tome of Battle.

No real comment on this power, but I want to reiterate that the "per encounter" and such rules for powers are most welcome.

Some current base classes disappear; classes yet to be mentioned and therefore good candidates are Monk and Bard. Classes that don't appear in the PHB will appear in future products. Psionics not to be included in core, though they'll have support.

Glad to see Psionics dropped from the core PHB. I've never really been a fan of them. Psionics are a bit too sci-fi for my fantasy tastes.

Prestige classes stay.

I could have sworn they said they were dropping them. Frankly, I was happy to see them go. Now I'm not certain of their fate, though I'd vote em off the island if it were up to me.

Feats and skills

Move silently and hide rolled into one ("Stealth?")

Good. Nothing was more annoying than rolling 15 times to sneak down a 25 foot hallway while searching for traps.

Some of the more obscure or less used skills disappear (mentioned tailor and rope use)

Not sure I'd drop rope use, but I can understand some of the less used skills going away. I thought Tailor was a profession skill though? Are they dropping Profession? If not, what's to stop me from taking tailor anyway? I make up Knowledge skills for characters as needed. I dunno. I need to see what this all means.

Mentioned that Sage should be "considered a preview [of the skill system]"

Haven't checked that out. I guess I'll have to.

Feats won't form long chains.

That's probably for the best. Planning for the higher end feats was often cumbersome and irritating. Much better to put other limits of powerful feats, like level minimums and the such.

There will be rules akin to the retraining rules in PHBII - they don't like the idea of people planning their careers from level 1 to 30.

This is probably a good thing, but I want to see how they implement it before I commit to a thumbs up.

Combat and encounters

Rules for non-combat encounters. The example given was social interaction. Unlike 3E, where negotiation amounts to a single Diplomacy check, it's treated almost like a combat in 4E. I make a skill check, but I also tell the DM what/how I'm doing. The opponent responds with behavior (and a check) of his own. I counter with a new check, and new words. And so forth.

That.
*rolls d20*
Sounds.
*rolls d20*
Lame.

Saves mentioned. AC mentioned, apparently with the same function as it has today.

Good. These are sacred cows and should be maintained unless we are given a damn good alternative.

Free, immediate, move and standard actions mentioned. (it stands to reason Swift actions will be present too).

I don't see how this simplifies the current move system, but I accept that I might need to play with it to see the benefot in action (pardon the pun).

Critical hits mentioned. Confirmation rolls for critical hits possibly go away.

It's just plain fun to think that there's a chance that any given attack might be the lucky one that gets the players all standing up and shouting at the dice. Critical hits are a table rouster.

Attacks of opportunity gone or greatly changed/simplified: a fighter charges a dragon and no AoO is mentioned.

I'm not moved by this change. AoO were an interesting add-on to the game, but I never thought of them as something that added greatly to the experience one way or the other. If there, I'll use them and if not, I won't.

Grapple greatly simplified.

Please, oh please, do not make grappling stupid. I agree that the rules made me run to the PHB every time due to being hard to memorize, but if you simplify them too greatly, grappling will suck open ass and never get used. I want grapples in the game. I want players to want to use them when appropriate. I don't want them to go away.

Combat still uses a square grid

Good, because my battle mat costs more than your core books. I'd probably changed games before I changed mats. ;-)

Spells and magic

Vancian system survives, but it's ony a "fraction" of the magic (or magic options) available to characters: "a wizard who casts all his memorized per day spells should be at about 80% of power."

I like this for the same reason that I like "per encounter" powers. Anything that keeps the heros heroic is fine by me. Don't make mage's dominate, but make them useful all day. Nothing is more lame than the party deciding to rest for the night at 10:30 in the morning because the mage has already had to use all his spells. That is the suck.

"Wizards will be able to cast 25th-level spells."

As with character levels, a number doesn't mean anything to me. If 25 or the new 9, I don't care as long as a mage isn't casting the 25th level "Sunder Universe" spell.

Fireballs don't deal 1d6/level damage any more. Also, game breaking spells (spells that fundamentally change the gaming scenario, like etherealness, scrying, and save or die effects) "have been addressed as well".

Addressed is a good start. Healing magic needs to neutered in my opinion. Nothing says "computer game" like a Heal Up after every combat. It's just lame.

Mentioned a "ray of freezing cold".

With 25 levels, and a serious revamping of the magic system, I am really interested in seeing the new spell lists. It'll be interesting if they move more toward magic effects than spells---which it sounds like they might do.

Magic items

Magic item creation doesn't use XP or require a feat.

Willbecca will be happy. He's bitched from the beginning about the XP cost of item creation.

Monsters

The monsters will have their own roles and their own abilities- the orc will have orc abilities, not fighter or barbarian abilities. "The ettin, for instance, has the whole two-heads thing, so it can go twice in one round, and take unrelated actions."

I think this could be a good thing, if they move toward all monsters being classed to gain the fighter abilities, for instance. We'll see how they handle it.

Monsters no longer drain XP (implied no draining of levels?)

Awesome. Worst call I ever had to make as a DM was telling a guy at a tournament that his super-cool favorite dwarf just lost two levels permanently and without a saving throw. I was embarrassed to be the guy enforcing that crap-ass rule.

Vulnerability to energy likely to work differently in 4e, with additional effects (like slowing in the case of cold) instead of (or in addition to?) extra damage.

Cool. Makes more sense than losing levels in any case!

Ancient (red?) dragons apparently now can do a lot of things:
  • An inferno aura, usable as a free action.
  • A tail slap attack with an added pushback effect, usable as a free action.
  • Two claw attacks, usable as a standard action.
  • A fireball spit that sticks to the target dealing extra damage, usable as a standard action.
  • A breath weapon, but we don't get to see what kind of action it normally takes - a free one like the inferno aura, as different uses of the same ability?
  • A special action granting an extra standard action.
  • They may take an immediate action to use their breath weapon when reduced blow half damage.
  • They may take an immediate action to use their tail slap when about to be flanked.

Sounds powerful as a bitch. Good. A big ol' dragon should be powerful.

Said dragon would have around 1000 hit points.

OK, it is powerful as bitch. Cool!

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Walt Disney World: The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Posted on 2007-08-20 at 15:23

What Disney Says:

Take a flight of fancy aboard your very own magic carpet. Inspired by the Disney animated classic, "Aladdin," this whimsical spin above Adventureland is filled with ups and downs as you control both the pitch and height of the flight. It's better than getting three wishes!

So, here's where it turns out I'm a pansy. My daughter loved it! She was pushing the carpet up and down and wobbling it. I was grabbing on for dear life and freaking out. I handled it OK. It wasn't a totaly fear factor, but it was just on the line of the rides I can enjoy. If I had to, I'd be able to do it again, but it was not my sort of thing at all.

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