Uncategorized

Larger than Life…

On Saturday a little before noon I got an unexpected call from my Dad.  We’ve had a rocky relationship for some time.  I love him and I know he loves me, but we’ve never learned to communicate with one another.  I could immediately tell, by the crack in his voice something was wrong. He sounded as though he’d been crying and struggled to get the words out.  “Pawpaw died last night, Josh.”

The reality of my dad’s word set in.  Even though Pawpaw Jack lived in Kentucky, a nice drive from central North Carolina, three weeks prior I had seen him at the wedding of my cousin Jack.  His health hadn’t been perfect, but he had showed no signs that death was nearing.  At 85, his mind had been as sharp as ever. He frequently played cards, told dirty jokes and adamantly teased anyone that crossed his path.

I sat on my sons’ bed and processed the news.  I don’t remember the following words or questions my dad and I exchanged, only the sudden weight of grief.

Today makes a week since I got the news. 

I can’t put into words the love I felt from my grandfather.  I don’t remember ever hearing him say the words to me, my father or his wife, but I never once doubted he was devoted to us. I’ve only felt steadfast love from a handful of people. Pawpaw Jack’s one of them.  I knew in my heart, I could never disappoint him, lose his trust, his love or his admiration. I always felt he was proud of me.  He had the ability to ask the right questions, in the right moment, to let you know his interest was authentic.  It was uncanny. 

That’s me in the middle, under my grandmother.

I remember when I joined the marines, he would always ask me if I had picked up a stripe yet, meaning NCO (Non-commissioned officer).    He’d ask me about sports, travel, and church.  Whatever I was interested in, he seemed to know and have the ability to connect with.  He was the type of person, who you could sit with in silence, enjoy a meal, share a root beer and feel safe, secure.  He was going to be there for you.  He was on your side.  He had the right words when they were needed and had the ability to connect with you at your level.  He had a way of teasing you, but making you feel loved for who you were. He saw your flaws, pointed them out, and made sure you knew he was okay with exactly who you were. 

I’m really going to miss him. 

That’s pawpaw Jack with my Dad and Aunt

Subconsciously, I’ve modeled my marriage after his with my grandmother.  His love for my grandmother was powerful.  When she passed away two years earlier, he was devastated.  His life was sacrificial.  He would have done anything for my grandmother.  He didn’t show a lot of public affection, but it was in the way he looked at her.  He had the look of a 20-year-old groom about to marry his bride at 65 years old. 

My grandmother had a massive heart attack at fifty.  She shouldn’t have survived, but she did, and from my scattered memories, I can remember sitting in hospitals with my family, for what seemed like six months.  I remember my dad, my uncles, aunts, young cousins but I don’t remember any grandfather.  I remember seeing him once pray.  He never left her side during the event.  Never took a break, he was there with her. 

He was what I thought a man should look like. He wasn’t about to back down, but he never looked for trouble.  He was masculine, but not the toxic masculinity that saturates modern culture.  He never made a comment about a woman in a sexual way or gave a remote hint he was anything but devoted to his wife.   

He was sober.  He was an active AA member and had quick drinking a month before I was born.  I never saw him even look at a drink.  He loved root beer.  I did too.  I remember drinking all his root beers many times and getting that look, letting me know he knew it was me drinking them all.  We had such similar taste. 

He was a hustler. He was always working, but I can’t tell you his profession.  He was a traveling salesman in his prime. He sold vacation properties, he drove a taxi, managed a retirement property, he was a sheriff’s deputy, worked for a judge, an elected official.  He traveled to the Carolinas and New York. He’d buy furniture or watches and bring them to Kentucky to resale.    When he died, he had a collection of collectable toy cars he was reselling at the retirement home. 

He taught me so much.

My grandfather and dad as a baby.

I wish I had five more minutes with him. I’d tell him I’m the man I am today because of him.  How I model my marriage after his.  How much I love him. 

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Interview, Millennial

A Tale of Two Millennials

How much of who we are is a reflection of circumstance versus a reflection of our own freedom of thought, expression and power of will? Could two millennials from two very different walks of life be very much the same?

I am a 35 year old male who grew up at the helm of one of the most Conservative states of all of the USA. Vee is a 30 year old female who grew up in one of the most progressive cities in the world. I enrolled in the Marines after high school. Vee enrolled in University after high school. I’m married with children. Vee has yet to have any desires to marry and start a family. I work works for the police. Vee’s unemployed. It’s true, on first appearance, we’re very different people.

We’re very different on paper, that’s for sure. But we’re also very similar in a lot of ways. We’re both very much aligned in our desires for equality, how to treat people and how we wish to be treated. We both studied the same subject in school and understand the importance of good communication in all aspects of life. We both have sincere appreciation for travel, for culture, for people being able to be their authentic and true selves. In a lot of was, we’re two peas in a pod.

What do you think? Are we a product of circumstance, or is there something more to who we grow up to become? Vee and I are sharing some discussions had. So, without further ado, these millennials come to you with its noisiest authorities insisting on it being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

The other half of the interview can be found on Vee’s Blog Millennial Life Crisis

What were your parents’ expectations of you growing up and how did their expectations differ from your own, if at all?

Josh: Growing up in the 90s, I felt a lot of pressure from my parents to play sports and be successful at sports rather than school. I played football and wrestled in high school.  I was awful at baseball and basketball, which looking back, I get the sense my Dad wanted me to be better at.  I enjoyed both sports, I just wasn’t any good.  I was a pretty good wrestler, it came naturally to me, but I never felt encouraged by my parents to do it.  

I grew up in awe of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.  The Braves and Yankees were seemingly on top of the baseball world.  I felt a lot of pressure to be good at basketball growing up.  I also grew up in Kentucky and basketball is really big there.  

My expectations… I kind of just did me.  I liked wrestling and football, as I mentioned.  I was a big reader, I wanted to move out ASAP and explore the world.  The experience was more important to me than success and still is.  

Vee: My parents are very old-school and conservative in nature. Being their only daughter, they raised me to cook and clean and ‘look after the home’ because they were preparing me to be a housewife. Their expectation of me was that I would marry young, have a buttload of kids, much like they did, and that I would spend my life raising those kids to be happy, healthy well-rounded members of society and keep my husband happy in the mean-time.

Honestly, I never really saw that as a plan for my life. My expectations for myself was that I get my education, I land a job where I would work my way to the top, then break apart from the business to start my own. The fact that I’m not married and that I don’t have children at 30, it really bothers them.

Are you happy with your life?

Josh: I feel content with it. I have lots of joyful moments and a lot to be thankful for.  I’m excited about the direction my life is heading.  I’m married and my marriage has its good and bad moments, but ultimately I’m pretty happy with my marriage. 

I’ve got two kids and they really give me a lot of joy.  It can be so hard at times with kids, but the good moments are so good. 

Vee: Right now, I cannot say that I am. There are some very good things in my life, and I am not undervaluing those in any way. In a lot of means, I am very blessed. But, I am not happy. I think an important to note that you can be appreciative for what you have and still be unhappy.

What are your goals for the next 5, 10 and 15 years? (Lululemon says that if you write them down, they’re more likely to come true)

Josh: LuLulemon gives some good advice.  In five years’ time, I hope to have finished graduate school, have a master’s degree in communications and working in the advertising industry full-time as a copy-writer.  In ten years I want to be a creative director at an advertising agency, maybe have my own firm and partners.  My kids will be in college (Yes!). I’d like to have saved a sufficient amount of money to help them out.  Having my student loans paid off maybe a ten-year goal for me,  I’ve got a lot of student debt and grad school will hurt, but it’s a goal I’ve set for myself.  

15 years from now, I’m hoping to be approaching retirement.  I’ll be 50.  I don’t expect to retire at 50, but it would be nice to have it within sight.  That might sound little nuts, but I want to buy a sailboat and sail around the world. 

Vee: Accelerate my career.

Build a life with someone.

Travel to at least 100 different countries.

Write a book.

Start my own business.

Think big.

Do you feel like there is a framework you have to find love within? Do you ever apologize for the people you date or love? 

Josh: I feel pressure to love the typical girl, date for the typical time period, purpose on one knee and have a proper engagement.  My wife and I did none of this and we’ve made a fantastic love story. It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t change any of it. I love her and she’s who I want to be buried next to.  I felt shame for not waiting for marriage before we moved in together.  She got pregnant before marriage and my proposal was a mess.  But it’s worked out and we’re happy.

Vee: There is no stipulations on love for me. My parents pretty much stay out of my life where love is concerned. I think they realized many years ago that I wasn’t going to get married and have a boatload of kids like they wanted, so they’re just trying to stay out of it and see where love leads me.

I’ve never apologized for anyone that I’ve dated. Not to myself or to anyone else. I’m a firm believer every person teaches us something about ourselves. Every boyfriend played a role in shaping me into who I am today.

What do I feel inclined to apologize and make excuses at family gatherings? 

Josh: I feel awkward a lot at family gathering–like the large ones.  Everyone either has a mental image of you, or you have one of them.  I hate social media, I have aunts and uncles tell me they see my kids and on there and know how good they are doing.  Well duh, we don’t post the videos of them fighting on there.  Everyone feels like everyone is perfect from social media until you get close.  I think it’s a generational issue.  It’s different then what I remember growing up with. 

Vee: I don’t really want to admit to this but I apologize for my family’s racism a lot. I’m really not proud to admit that, but it’s the truth. I have a lot of family members – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc… who are verbally racist. None of them are violent, they would never beat anyone up or something, but the point is, their words do hurt and their words are really uncalled for.

What does success look like according to the people around you? (Parent etc.?)

Josh: Yes and no.  I used to think I should make at least as much as my parents, but now, years later I don’t care.  My family was pretty middle class. My Dad worked on the assembly line making cars at Ford and my mom was an interior designer.  I don’t know why I felt this way, it really doesn’t bother me anymore. I want to give my kids a good life, but I feel like I can do that with less money or more, it’s just about how I spend and save it.  

Vee: My parents wish that I were married with at least five children at this point. I don’t think they’ll ever let go of that desire for me. 

When it comes to my friends, I find myself very lucky in the sense that, I really just think they want me to be happy. Whatever that turns out to be, I know they’ll support me. I also think that’s true of my brother’s as well. They may step in if I try to do something not in my best interest, but so long as I am happy, I think they’ll be happy for me.

To read the rest of the interview between Vee and myself click this link

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iPhones, self help

#BookWars

In the three months I lived at Parris Island, Marine Recruit Depot East Coast, I not once picked up a book to read.  I would have loved the chance, but every moment was scheduled and spent in physical exercise or mental strain.  My grandmother did not understand this.  So, when a large package arrived, my enthusiastic drill instructors took notice.  Marine drill instructors had the pleasure (their perspective only) of helping recruits open packages.  They didn’t want any illegal items to sneak in and this one, due to the size and weight, created some excitement on their part.  When it was opened, and to my shock, revealed to be full of novels—my four seasoned Marine Drill instructions had a simultaneous melt down.  They couldn’t believe I had written my grandmother, telling her I had enough free time to read these fifteen or so, novels.  I couldn’t even look at a book for a year and a half after that encounter.  It wasn’t pretty. 

I eventually forgave my grandmother and I got over my fear of paperbacks. I love reading and I’m a constant reader.  I’ve always got a stack of books I’m working on, even when I’m in the middle of a semester, I still find moments to sit down, relax and read through a couple chapters.  I get so much from it.  It does wonders for my mental health.  My grandmother knew me well back then, and even though that incident was twelve years ago, we both still fondly remember it. 

If only E-Book readers had been mainstream 12 years ago, a small E-Book reader may have had a chance.  Undoubtedly, my drill instructors would have responded much different to a small handheld device, then a heavy box of fifteen James Patterson Novels (I don’t care for James Patterson still to this day). There are some great reasons to embrace E-Book readers, besides my PTSD event, but I’m a little old fashioned and still enjoy the comforts and aroma of a seasoned novel. 

E-Book have several timeless benefits:

  • For aspiring authors it’s easier to publish an E-books. Which leads to another benefit—E-Books are cheaper, and the selection is larger.  Some E-Book titles are only available by digital copy.
  • E-Books do not use paper, the readers consume a minimal amount of power and copies are stored on the cloud.  All these aspects equal less consumption of vital resources such as trees and energy. 
  • E-Books are easy to share.  It’s rather simplistic to copy a quote, adding it to a paper, a twitter feed or a quick social media post. 
  • Many E-Book applications are intertwined and carry over to mobile devices.  In the past I’ve read chapters from a textbook on my phone. It’s much simpler to load a textbook on an E-Reader application then carry a backpack full of textbooks. 

Yet, classic paper copy novels aren’t going away.  They are doing pretty well by all accounts.  Here are more features of traditional books:

  • Books are romantic.  Curling up in a corner, on a rainy day, and sitting for hours with a paperback is intoxicating.  The aroma from the pages contain so many pleasant memories of moments spent in other lands.  I’ll never forget my moments in Mordor or at time I spent at Hogwarts
  • Books are recyclable.  You can purchase a book, read it and pass it on to a friend or regift it (if your like that).  Books have nine lives.  If you treat them well, they can pass through several hands before they arrive at the recycling factory.
  • Books are easy on the eye. They don’t have screen glare.  I work a job where I stare at a couple screen for hours on end.  In order to sleep well, I wear blue light glasses and take other measures to protect my eyes.  Screens are great, but they do long term eye damage. 

So whether it’s a paper back novel or the comfort of a warm E-Reader device, you can’t go wrong relaxing with a good read.  Both have benefits and are a sure way to detox and relax on a rainy Sunday morning, while vacationing on the beach, or on a subway bench.  Keep doing what makes you happy. 

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Star Wars

Star Wars Nerd-Gasm, it’s a thing, so run if that’s not your thing!

I’m about to have a nerd-gasm.   If things related to Star Wars bore you stop reading here.  You’ve been warned cause I’m about to nerd out. 

I was watching the Patriots clobber the Jets tonight and it happened, completely caught me off guard and took my attention from across the room.  Star Wars Rise of Skywalker final trailer.

I’ve been watching Star Wars since as long as I can remember, loved the prequels (yeah… you read that right), watched all the clone wars and I even remember the Ekwok spin off movie from the 80s. 

Thank you, YouTube

So, like many Star Wars nerds, my soul has been repeatedly crushed by the combination of JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson.  The Force Awakens wasn’t bad.  If there was some—even a little—character development the movie could have been so much better.  JJ Abrams is a monster at cinematography and creating rising action, but he always leaves his audience disappointed.  (See Lost… Alias and Felicity.) I’m still upset about Lost—WTF. I felt that Abrams did a fantastic job with rebooting Star Trek, but in the process, he did destroy the existing Star Trek universe.  Okay.. Okay..  

But…. If he can pull this off. All will be given. 

If this trailer is a sign of what’s to come, I’m on board.  I can get behind Rey, Finn and that pilot guy if you bring back Darth Sidious himself Emperor Palpatine.  From the clip and commentary, it appears to be happening.  Just don’t pull the last scene crap like you did with Luke in the Force Awakens! 

I love the idea of Rey and Kylo Ren somehow teaming up to fight Palpatine, Kylo Ren coming back into the light and dying in the arms of Rey, who somehow turns out to be his “sister..”.  I know long shot right, but I think it’s coming.  I don’t see her being related to Palpatine or any other Star Wars universe people.  She’s definitely not a nobody.  There’s a story here.  Maybe even a half-sister?

And I like the idea of Matt Smith playing Palpatine or a person controlled somehow by the Sith Lord, but it would be the ultimate head turner if he turned out to somehow be Grand Admiral Thrawn.  I’m really hoping for redemption here, but hear me out.  After the fall of the empire, we know Grand Admiral Thrawn is somewhere…possibly dead in the outer rim.  (See Star Wars Rebels.) So… we know he’s possibly out there…. And somehow he is able to revive or save or bring back Palpatine.  It’s a stretch but… man it would be awesome. 

And what is this… It happens Kylo and Rey are both striking a figure that looks like Darth Vader?  No clue.  But it looks awesome.   

Oh and where are they? Only scene shot here… showed thus far…

So I’m calling it

  • Rey turned out to be Kylo’s Half Sister (Which he of course knows)
  • Kylo Dies (Of Course)
  • Kylo comes back into the light
  • Thrawn makes an appearance via actor Matt Smith, look we know Ian McDiarmid recorded some scenes for the movie.  So… Matt Smith if he is in it, he needs a role. 

I’m nerding out… Can’t wait for December.  

Oh and Bonus… Who does this look like: 

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Internship, self help

Yes, the title is right. I’m 35, attend school full time, married, and I have two kids.  I work a job I love, and yes, I’m also a part time intern, as part of the requirements of my degree. I graduate in December with a four-year degree.  Ultimately, I went back to school because I wanted to better myself and my family.  Statistics are persuasive that students whose parents have a four-year college degree are overwhelmingly likely to attain the same level of education.  My wife has a degree, I don’t.  Neither of my parents have a degree, all 3 of my siblings are degreeless.  I wanted to set my kids up for success.

But, I also wanted it for myself.  Growing up I was a horrible student, but I’ve always been a hard worker.  I knew that if I devoted myself to doing this thing—I could pull it off.  When I left the military, I created a list of goals I wanted to accomplish.  Attaining a four-year college degree was one of them. It’ important to set goals, write them down and do them.

Scheduling

If you are serious about returning to school as a non-traditional student there is good news. Statistics show non-traditional students tend to do better than first time 18-year-old attendees.  But, you’ll need a plan.  You really want to think this thing through. You may not have the time.  The very first step is to be honest with yourself about scheduling.  I created a schedule of how I was going to pull this thing off.  I asked myself questions like; when was I going to do my work, go to class, and be there for my family.  The first task was making sure I had time. 

I stay ahead of school by each week sitting down and writing out my assignments.  I write out the due dates for big assignments approaching so I can stay ahead, quizzes, discussion boards and reading—yes, I do all my reading.  That’s part of how learning occurs, and school isn’t cheap so I want as much as I can from it.  I write everything out because I don’t like surprises.  This has been a life saver.  In my mind, I know I’m working Tuesday and Wednesday, this paper is due Thursday, so I better have it done Monday night.  As a working student, I don’t have the luxury of procrastination.  If I wait this isn’t going to get turned in on time or it’s going to be a mess when I finish.

Study Options

My kids are 8 and 9.  Studying at home isn’t always an option.  It’s miserable.  I can’t go a paragraph in a textbook without an interruption.  I don’t have a big house or a room for studying—even if I did, I doubt it would matter.  Most of my home studying is done at the kitchen table or on the couch.  I try to plan out my serious studying and head to the local library.  The library here has a fantastic reading and studying enclosed rooms.  The WiFi at the library is really quick and it’s free, and it’s mentally refreshing to study around other people. 

Small, simple stuff I do at home, while the kids are with me.  My library dates I do when my kids are at school. I don’t like missing my time with them.  And, I work nights so I have a little window between sleep and the kids getting home from school.  I can get a lot of work done during this short time frame.  Two hours at the library is the equivalent of 8 hours with kids at home, maybe it’s more. 

“Two hours at the library is the equivalent of 8 hours with kids at home, maybe it’s more.”

I purchased a book bag this semester and it’s turned out to be a wonderful investment.  I take as many of my books and laptop with me wherever I go.  You never know when you’ll have a couple minutes to brush up on some reading or do a short assignment.  School assignments are kind of like paying off debt.  Start with the small ones and let the momentum build.  I’m pretty sure that’s a Dave Ramsey thing, right? But it works.  You’ll feel good about yourself getting stuff done. 

Family

You must put family first.  If you’re like me, and this is something you’re doing for family first and then yourself, there is no sense ignoring them to focus on school.  If you end up alone and divorced because your pursuing a degree for them, have you really accomplished anything?  That’s why if family stuff comes up, go and apologize later.  You can reach out to professors for extensions.  Most of them understand. You’ll find out a lot of University professors have been non-traditional students at some point.  They get it and are willing to work with your unique situation if you reach out and explain.  Do it day one.  Let them know you are going to give it your best shot.  Always turn stuff in.  If you have an assignment and you miss a deadline just get it done and explain why. 

I try to spend time with my kids one on one during the week and on weekends.  I’ll try to take them to a movie, go to the park or the library.  My son and I spent about an hour earlier playing basketball and the three of us read Harry Potter every night.  They need dad time.  I try to plan outings with my wife as well.  You have to take advantage of every opportunity for dates when your married.  Even if you are exhausted you need that time with her or him.   

Mental Health

That brings me to another important subject—your mental health.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  It’s a trying time trying to manage school and a family, you have to be sharp to keep up with both.  That’s why it’s important to have someone to talk to.  See a doctor or a counselor.  Get outside advice. Smart people have counselors they meet with often and it’s a great benefit. 

Find exercises that provide an outlet for detoxing.  I’ve wrote a couple articles about this, here are some links:

When Life Gives you Lemons Write a Blog About It

You’ve Got to Do You! Yoga and Healthy Mechanisms to Deal with Stress

Find Something You Love

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self help

How I deal. When life gives you lemons, write a blog about it.

The last week of my life has been a blur. Between school, work and my internship I’m barely keeping my head above water.  Throw in a wedding two states away, a wife who is in the middle of grad school, a big project due and a RPF (request for proposal) deadline, and it doesn’t seem that life could get more messy, but my normal 9-5 has also thrown out an unsurprising amount of challenges. 

This isn’t a rant.  Sometimes you just have to push through, try to enjoy what your doing and make the best of things.  You’re going to snap—you might even have a meltdown but don’t give up.  Let logic dictate your decisions and seek outlets for stress.  I’m not talking about downing a bottle of wine each night.  That’s not a healthy outlet.  If your drinking a bottle of wine nightly, your problems are going to compound.  You need healthy outlets.  I mentioned in another post I do Yoga sometimes and it’s a life saver. 

Sometimes I honestly don’t have the time for Yoga.  I go to Yoga at the YMCA.  I have to fight traffic to get there, it’s 10-15 minutes depending… And the class is about an hour.  Some days I don’t have an hour and a half to spare.  I get it.  Maybe you’re like me most days, it’s hard to find the time.  

So… find something less time consuming if that’s your excuse. Take ten minutes, pause and write a day’s reflection.  Find a healthy hobby!  That’s the key—healthy. How do you know it’s healthy? It makes you feel good about yourself, is uplifting and has a positive effect on your life. Play basketball at the gym or go for a 30-minute run.  For me it’s the weeks like this where I need healthy outlets the most.  When stress builds and you feel like your going to blow up, let it out in a healthy way. 

Extra healthy tip—find your smile. Avoid people who bring you down and flock to the people who are happy and uplifting.  Everyone knows that girl who is always smiling—stalk her.  Okay don’t stalk her but find people like that and pursue friendships. 

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Uncategorized

Millennial Consumers vs. Generation Z Consumers

Should brands focus on Millennial consumers or Gen-Zers consumers? Experience or what’s shiny and new. 

Mark Bunney, of the Ingenico Group, recently published an article online titled, Millennials, Not Gen Z, Are Still Defining the Future of Consumer Loyalty. Bunney makes several common sense claims, but ultimately is imploring merchants to shift their advertising focus to Millennials, as they develop wealth and come into the prime of their careers.  In short, Bunney claims, millennials shop with experience in mind rather than chase the shiny new object of their affection as Gen-Zers do. Merchants should focus on creating meaningful brand experiences to lore millennial consumers to their brands. 

Ultimately Bunney’s right, but you can’t can’t out Generation Z altogether.  Their market impact is substantial and they’ve shown they single-handedly have the ability to influence Millennial consumers—think social media influencers. 

A smart advertising campaign is going to market to both demographics.  In this moment, the ROI (return on investment) marketing toward Millennials will pay greater dividends, but Generation Z isn’t going anywhere.  Marketing toward Generation Z as a long term investment is seemingly more of a long term investment.

In critic of Mark Bunney’s article, it’s not data driven. In a marketing industry flooded with analytics—he isn’t supporting his claims with any.  Show the evidence Mark and we’ll begin a discussion from there. 

LINK:  https://multichannelmerchant.com/blog/millennials-not-genz-are-still-defining-the-future-of-consumer-loyalty/

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