Fingers Crossed

Installing Win XP Service Pack 2 as I type... I'll reboot once I'm done here.

To be honest, as much gooey press as Apple gets, Microsoft and Windows isn't anywhwere near as bad for upgrades and patches. As a long time (15 year) Macophile I can attest to the horrors of upgrading from system 6 to 7 to 8 to 8.x to 9 to 9.0.x to 9.1 to 9.1.x and finally decided that OS X wasn't really any better than WinXP, especially when the hardware cost twice as much.

The new G5 iMacs look nice, but meh, it's at least $1500 to get a superdrive (and a big whoop-de-doo 256MB RAM and 60GB hard drive), then it's a nasty slot loader... And notice how they omit the keyboard and mouse from the promo pix. It does look like it would make a nice tablet PC though...

Oh well, here goes...



Church this morning was really comfortable, if that's not too strange a word to use. I love the liturgy and some days I just get completely immersed in the flow of things. This morning I particularly felt this way during the confession of sin. It's said every week, right after the prayers of the people and before the peace.

In the liturgical sense it's a final act of preparation before the offertory which precedes the Eucharist. Most people think the ofertory is all about money, but in the grander sense it's all about the giving of ourselves to God. Before we can do that, it really helps to acknowledge how we fall short of perfection.

Here's the confession from Rite II of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

A Confession of Sin is said here if it has not been said earlier. On occasion, the Confession may be omitted.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

The Priest stands and says

Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

On any day this strikes me as beautiful, but today it struck me even more deeply than that. I am always amazed at the words

by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.

...acknowledging that failing to act can be just as big a fault as acting wrongly.

Beautiful stuff. No wonder those postmoderns are after our liturgy :-)


Oh Canada!

If, like me, you live in the USA you know that the Olympics coverage on NBC TV is pretty much jingoistic sentimental crap. As an expatriate Brit and one time resident of Canada I thank God daily during Olympic times for the fact that I live close to the northern border of the US and the presence of Canadian TV on our cable system, in particular the CBC.

Now, it's become apparent that the CBC has been taking a leaf from NBC's big book of schlock, but fortunately they are slow learners and so the wall to wall coverage of all sports is still pretty much intact and the Canadian schlock is almost cute in its naivete. Also, the lack of Canadian medalists (with a few notable exeptions) means that they pretty much have to show other countries winning medals.

Anyway, with the Olympics wrapping up I am constantly reminded of the strange duality (or even triality if that's even a word) of my nationality. I'm a Brit. Born and bred. Still have the passport (recently renewed even). However, moved to Canada and lived in Montreal for four years. Still love Canada madly (best national anthem ever - easily), if not the Montreal winters. Almost got Canadian citizenship before moving to the US.

Living in the US is different than living in Canada. Well, duh, you might say, but the dynamic is very different. Canada, like Britain, is for the most part a self-effacing nation. We both get embarrassed easily and hesitate to trumpet our own accomplishments. The USA, on the other hand, is an in your face kind of place. All the time, and double when sports is on the line.

With this triune nationality I always wonder if there ever will be a time when I cheer for the US over Britain or Canada. Well, it hasn't happened yet. It absolutely made my day today when the British men's team pipped the US 4x100m relay team at the line to take gold. The fact that the US men screwed up an exchange to give it away just made it sweeter. Then there was Britain's Kelly Holmes winning the 1500m, her second gold. All in all a great day for Great Britain.

One final note on the Olympics - I couldn't have been happier than when Morocco's Hachim El Guerrouj won the 5,000m gold medal to add to his 1500m. Watching a 1500m runner move up to take on a bunch of 10,000m runners was fascinating from a technical perspective. Watching him burn them in the last 200m after a relatively slow race was really quite cool. However, I'm not sure he realized his two fingered salute (hey, I've got two gold medals!) was the British equivalent of the American middle finger salute. Of course, if I was a Moroccan and I'd just won my second gold medal after a couple of disastrous Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, I might just be inclined to give the world a big, "Up yours!" too. (Of course he wasn't, but those little unintentional cultural gaffes are always hilarious to see...)


In the "Well, duh" category...

Bush acknowledges miscalculations on Iraq

Stop the presses! Hold the front page!

To be fair, this is much better than Tricky Dicky's "mistakes were made" speech, where no specific fingers pointed at specific people, and no personal wrongdoing was admitted to. No, in this case, "President Bush said for the first time on Thursday he made a "miscalculation of what the conditions would be" after U.S. troops went to Iraq."

Now as a moderate conservative, who thought Bush (well, Cheney and Rumsfeld really) were insane to invade Iraq (and Tony Blair was equally insane for going along with it), I feel at least I've been vindicated a bit. The rabid anti-Bush faction believe he can do no right (not even giving him credit to pony up significant cash for African AIDS aid) and the rabid po-Bush faction don't believe he can do anything wrong and there are precious few of us in the middle.

Even my rabid pro-Bush carpool-mate agreed when it happened that invading Iraq was a stupid idea, but a year later somehow it was "the only course of action", or "inevitable".


Now we have to make the best of a bad situation, but the truth is that it was eminently predictable from the get go.

Oh well. Interesting to see how this plays out in election coverage, if it even makes a splash. After all, it's not like it's really news, in the technical sense of the word, is it?


Interesting intersections - hate and fundamentalists

First Adam posted this and then Dave posted this. The intersection for me is that I'm really not a fan of fundamentalists (right wing evangelicals, whatever you want to call them) and Adam's post made me ask myself if I hate them The answer, I think, is no. Unlike a "recovering evangelical" like Dave I have no personal historical axe to grind with them, but what does get me is the fact that I've seen the judgmental attitudes of fundamentalists wound so many people - some I care about deeply, others I don't know personally, but have read their stories.

If there was some solid biblical evidence that wounding people and ostracizing them was in general a good thing I guess I could buy it, but the fact is that the being for whom our religion is named (not giving you any clues) was and is the embodiment of the antithesis to modern right wing fundamentalism. The fact that they don't see it makes them even more like the Pharisees of the gospels than ever. Have they ever read the "remove the plank from your own eye before criticizing the speck in your brothers"? (Matt 7:3) Or the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). I wonder. I think one telling point with fundamentalists is that they love to quote the Old Testament (especially all the rules) and they love to quote Paul (he was big on rules too) but they really don't focus so much on the biblical Jesus (rules, what rules?). Hmm, I wonder why?

Anyway, I think what I hate is the arrogance and the hurt that it causes to others, not the people. After all, isn't it the fundamentalists who say, ever so often, "love the sinner, hate the sin"?


Guilty Pleasures

On a lazy Saturday (well, not so lazy - some cleaning up to do...) it's cool to just hang out and watch a little TV. One of my favorite shows is What Not To Wear. I really like the original British version with Trinny and Susanna, but for once the American version is possibly better.

If you've never seen it, the shows take people who have been volunteered by friends and relatives for a drastic style makeover. Their entire wardrobe is critiqued and most of it thrown in the trash. Then the victim gets either UKP2000 or $5000 to go replace it all, but with lots of pointers from the style gurus.

Now this might seem all materialistic and vain, but in reality taking an ugly duckling (and believe me, most are style train-wrecks) and turning them into a swan gives some remarkable insights into the transformation of the human spirit. And for a middle aged guy I've become quite adept at picking out fabulous clothes for my wife. Hey, I even bought a tux and we got season tickets to the ballet so we have a legitimate opportunity to dress up on a regular basis.

And with all this expertise filed away it's really fun playing your own version of "What Not To Wear" in people watching situations. Airports are particularly good.

One final thought - if you have ever, ever, ever even thought of wearing dress shoes and dark socks with shorts - shame on you.



What happens when airplanes run rampant unsupervised...

Today's Motivational Prod

I always wanted to be a motivational speaker. But I just couldn't be bothered...

For those of you having a hard time reading the caption, it's
"MEDIOCRITY - it takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late" it's from http://www.despair.com/ - it's in the Classic Collection...
Here's a newer one, appropriate given the ongoing family values debate... http://www.despair.com/demotivators/nepotism.html


Reimagining Spiritual Formation pt 2

Well, as promised (much later, but it's been a tough job finding time to assemble my thoughts the way I thought I could, and even then it's way different than I thought...)

This is from the relationships as spiritual formation chapter...

At Solomon's Porch our desire is to form friendships where we are invited into each other's lives with a level of trust that allows for spiritual formation. We can learn from one another because we have proven ourselves trustworthy.

Some people will be concerned that this view of knowledge is too relativistic, as though all ideas are open for reconsideration at the whims of those who are offered those ideas. But the truth is, that's really how belief works. We all have held beliefs that worked quite well in one setting but failed miserably when we tried to transplant them. This is often the case with students who enter college or adults who move to other countries. Sometimes it happens in the face of tragedy, where all that we thought we knew is thrown down. All that we learn after that point of reorientation will partner with the new situation - and, disconcerting as the experience is, our beliefs will change.

This malleability of our beliefs isn't bad. In fact, there is considerable good to the challenge of living a faith that's based on more than information and that is connected to the frailty of our humanity. In our community we've found that this understanding of belief actually helps us take risks by keeping us open to ideas we haven't had yet. It's a beautiful thing when, during our Bible discussion group, someone responds to an idea with, "I never thought of it that way!" The sense that spiritual formation is happening in that moment is palpable. What's more, it's often traumatic to be forced to question something we're not ready to question - but when we accept that everything is questionable at one point or another, we are more ready to at least talk through those questions.

"Malleability of beliefs", "keeping us open to ideas we haven't had yet." Both ideas that cut right across the grain of fundamentalist belief. There, everything is concrete and questioning is forbidden, or at the very least strongly discouraged. It may be tolerated in the "weak" but never in pastors or elders.

So here's one very positive facet of the emerging church - the ability to question anything and everything.

Here's another snippet...

There is, for some, an even greater risk involved in becoming co-(re)creators in the world. In the three years since Solomon's Porch became a reality, I've had more conversations than I can count about the emerging church and why it's seen as a threat to the evangelical way of life. Most often, the concern I hear is that the "postmodern" church has no sense of Christian tradition, that it wants to scrap everything that's come before and make something new. Maybe that's true in some churches that call themselves "postmodern". But what I've seen in the emerging , post-industrial church is a desire not to ignore what's come before us, but to be informed and inspired by it as we create ways of living in harmony with God in our time The great risk of the church is not in losing our traditions; it is losing our ability to reimagine.

I really don't know what to do with the approach to faith that tells us all the answers have been discovered and we are simply to apply these to our lives. I don't know how we are supposed to worship with songs, prayers and confessions created for other times and places. And I really don't know how to live out an understanding of the gospel that says I don't have a part to play in what God is doing in the world. Creativity is at the center of God's image. It is how we see God and talk to God and fins our hope in God. I can't figure out any other way to respond to God's (re)creation of the world, to God's invitation that we join as co-(re)creators, than to live as creative people.

Really great stuff, especially the sentence I made bold.

The Gospel is all about participation, and if we choose to participate only by being sheep, what's the point? There's nothing wrong with tradition unless you really don't understand the tradition and how and why it became a tradition. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are unwilling to do the work and so tradition becomes slavishly following the rules - the rules someone else came up with - usually a long time ago. This is true for every branch of the church - evangelical, mainline or cult.

The truth is most people want to be told what to do. It makes life simple. The two fastest growing religious groups are fundamentalists and mormons and the biggest thing they have in common is a burning desire to control other people and tell them what to do. They probably see it as a benign control (it's for your own good...), but it isn't.

It seems to me the emerging church is in some part (at least in the US) a reaction to this. But the true vanguard of the emerging church will have a hard time keeping the ball rolling because the more people that jump on board, the more they're going to want to be told what to do. There are already hints that this is happening at the Emergent conventions as emergent goes mainstream.

Solomon's Porch are doing the right thing. They are being "the church" where they are at and they are designing it to use the skills and talents they have at their disposal.

If only we all did...

Life gets in the way sometimes

Well, after trying vainly to get a post in last Friday before heading off for the weekend, this week has also been full of stuff, so I figured I'd just post something brief to break the vacuum.

The youth group trip to Westport (ocean coast of Washington state) was really fun. Just 12 of us this year, but a real solid 12. I had a bunch of tealites with me, and for campfire on Saturday night I was going to light them around the perimeter of the campfire area. Well, nice idea, and it looked cool for 5 minutes until a gust of wind blew them all out. And again, and again. Such is life. The church we were staying at moved their campfire from being buried in the woods to a wide open area, hence the problem, especially by the ocean. Also, did I mention the sand flies and mosquitoes? No? Well I should have.

After staying up until 3 am and 1 am consecutively I was pretty beat Sunday, then Monday was back to work.

I also finally got to revisit Doug Pagitt's book and there are a couple of beautiful sections I want to comment on in some depth - later today probably.


CotA Seattle Visit

Spent a couple of hours Wednesday night at Church of the Apostles in Seattle (well, Fremont if you want to be picky). Talked quite a bit to Karen Ward about the state of the church (Episcopal and Lutheran in particular). The Episocopal Church has been hit quite hard by the fallout from the election last year of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. Right now many congregations in the Diocese of Olympia (Western Washington) are down 15 to 20% in giving due to people leaving. Might not sound like much, but see how you get by on a sudden 20% pay cut. It's not pretty. Of course, this works its way up to the Diocesan budget, and things are afoot there.

The implication of all this is, of course, that any external focus on mission is lost. The Episcopal Church isn't that "evangelical" (small "e") anyway, but this just spurs even more navel gazing. In a normal environment CotA would be getting a decent amount of support to get established, but that's dried to a trickle for now.

Here at least is one area where we could learn from the big "E" evangelical churches. Oh well, more research...

Off to the beach with the youth group this weekend, beyond the reach of the internet (I hear they have the internet on computers now.)

Maybe get a chance to finish up those thoughts on Solomon's Porch before I go, though.


Reimagining Spiritual Formation

Almost finished Doug Pagitt's book Reimagining Spiritual Formation

All in all a very good book. It embodies a lot of the good parts of the postmodern, emerging church ethic but also exhibits some of its minor annoying qualities, which shows we're all only human.

The book is a week in the life of Solomon's Porch, an emerging church somewhere in the Minneapolis area. The book is structured with each day of the week focusing on a particular thematic way of reimagining spiritual formation. The main story is written by Doug, the pastor, with sidebar entries and occasional main story diversions from the journals of church members.

First, the strong points. It's very honest. Everyone, Doug included, express fear and doubt and frustration - all the things that a lot of churchy books (especially those of an evangelical bent) usually avoid like a dying man at the side of the road. There are moments of transcendent truth. There are a few places where I thought Doug captured the essence of what the emerging church is all about in a deeply meaningful way. But to quote them I'd have to get out of my comfy chair, get the book from my backpack, which is in my car, which is my garage, and look them up, so I'll do that another time. Suffice to say there were several spine-chilling moments when I felt like God just said, "There it is!!! Remember it well." I hope I do.

Okay, enough praise. The book can be a bit heavy going at times. One of my main criticisms of the emerging church movement, as I have seen it thus far, is it is so darned serious. And this book suffers from that quite a bit. It, like a lot of emerging church folks, takes itself way too seriously. I mean we have serious artsy folks here, and serious artsy folks there, but where are the pomo stand-up comedians? Another criticism I have of the emergent church movement at large is that it's often indecisive and introverted, resulting in way too much indulgent self-analysis. It's like the movement spends half of its time on the therapists couch. To a degree, not a bad thing, but it can get wearisome. Doug's writing at times suffers from this. However, I guess if it's that or "Fix Your Church in 30 Days or Your Money Back" by Pastor Billy Bigsmile, I'll take the self-analysis.

The chapter on potlucks as spiritual formation was a bit over the top for me. I didn't really see anything in there that was so different from the average church potluck to be worthy of note. Hey, these people each bring something different to the potluck, thereby showing their diversity. Woohoo! Trusting the Holy Spirit to ensure that 35 people don't all bring broccoli salad doesn't exactly make it spiritual formation in my book.

But back to the good points. The emerging church is:
All about shared leadership - check.
Freedom to create - check.
Willingness to acceptance people where they are - check.

I know there's more, but I'm getting tired, so maybe I'll pick this up later (with quotes!)


Youth With a Mission, or Juventud Con Una Mision as you can see it says in Spanish. These guys rock and do awesome things in a somewhat remote part of rural Mexico. Check them out at http://www.ywamculiacan.com/. This is one of the 15 passenger vans that they use to transport visiting youth group mission teams. I feel very privileged to have spent some time in this particular vehicle... Posted by Hello

Emerging Church yada yada...

Dave at The Grace Pages (site seems down right now, though) posted these questions to Maggi Dawn (really cool name for a priest, btw...) :

My questions are these:
1. How do you think the Emerging movement in Britain, insofar as it can be called a movement, differs from that in the US, if at all?
2. To what extent is the Emerging Church simply a rehash of the same old conservative evangelicalism?

Maggi posted a reply that you can see there, and I had the following thoughts, but at 1000 characters at a time, it took 4 posts to reply via comment. Hence, I'll post the entire text here...

maggi (& other dave)

I'm a longtime Anglican/Episcopalian who grew up in the UK, lived in Montreal for a while, now the US for almost 20 years.

I just got seriously interested in the "emerging church" movement a few months ago, mostly because my parish (Episcopal) wants to start a new service aimed (but not exclusively) at the 20something crowd. It was intended to be just a pure "contemporary" service. However, being fairly immersed in youth work, it seemed to me that it needed to be more or different than that.

We have two local examples - Karen Ward's Church of the Apostles and Mars Hill. Opposite ends of the spectrum. CotA, as it's known is trying to do something really new and different. Karen gave a short intro to CotA at our Diocesan resource day and that got a few of us really interested.

I had also heard of Mars Hill and went searching on the web. I found Adam Cleaveland's blog and a discussion of whether Mars Hill is truly "emerging". In brief, I believe Mars Hill is mostly just another megachurch with a slant towards the 20-somethings.

Well, from Adam's blog I discovered the world of blogging, and especially the pomo emerging church side. Just discovered it too late to go to the San Diego or Nashville conventions, though.

Anyway, that's just the preamble :-)

From what i can tell, the emerging church movement in the UK is more like anew creation digging out from the "ruins" of the traditional church, especially the C of E. In some ways the emerging church is also an answer to the stadium rock orientation of Soul Survivor and the like.

In the US, one of the things that ticks me off is the conservative evangelical fundamentalist church (c/e/f for short) is seen as the primary expression of church. The rise of Falwell, Robertson et al and the political clout the religious right gained in the 80s and 90s certainly makes it seem that way. But in many ways they are more organized and coherent. The evangelicals have turned church into more of an industry. The Christian music industry is overwhelmingly dominated by c/e/f out of Nashville. Youth group materials are overwhelmingly produced by the c/e/f mill. Youth Specialties is part of that, and so when it comes time to publish Emergent books and put on emergent conventions, there they are.

This is not to say that this is all bad. It's good to have somebody willing to step up to the plate, and to be honest, the organizers of these things really do understand that they are trying something new. The c/e/f rank and file, though, ARE looking for the next new thing (to replaced by next years next new thing, of course.)

The ranks and file are also VERY nervous about the acceptance they see in the emerging church. The most high profile issues there are women's roles in the church and the acceptance of the GLBT community. The mainline churches (and particularly the Episcopal Church) have been and are still on the front lines of these issues but the c/e/f community is probably 50 years behind.

For instance, Dan Kimball's books are really great. An excellent introduction to the world of what's emerging. However, as an Anglican, I can spot that more than half of the "radical, cool, emerging" material are practically right out of the 1982 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

So I think the US situation is more complex than "emerging church" being devised by the c/e/f branch, but they are the most obvious and vocal.

If we can ever connect the liturgical church with the c/e/f then watch out :-)

Hmm, sorry about the 600 word reply...

a different dave

After that I thought of another cool blog title - YADA - for Yet Another Dave Analysis.

Well, I'll keep that one in reserve for the future sometime.

this dave


Computing Disasters and so on

Well, life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. I had lots of things to do today, but somehow a critical system file got corrupted on my trusty computer and in the end the only sane way out was to restore my C: drive to it's pristine factory glory. Not the end of the world, because all the really critical stuff is backed up here and there, but it is a pain the asp, as Cleopatra once said.

Still, as I hied my way down to the local Fry's to get some kind of system recovery utility that might work (didn't) I did at elast pick up a 200GB drive for $70 and installed that while I was dinking around. Now I was a Mac bigot for a long time - about 15 years - before I switched to my Sony Vaio a couple of years ago (after buying my Windows-only wife a similar machine a year before).

This Vaio has been so much more stable than any of my Macs ever were. So rag on MS all you like, Win XP has been more than just OK for me (echoes of Switchfoot there...) And adding a new hard drive today was a breeze - side panel snaps off easily. Hard drive enclosure pops right out, cables all ready to add an extra - it was a geek dream.

The other bright side (and there is one) is that I get to just reload just the stuff I need, not all the crap that I had loaded over the last 2 years. MS Office, Halo, (I even bought a game controller today...) and other cool stuff.

Anyway, all is well that ends well, and here's the proof - I'm posting the same evening with a much better computer.


Finding a Voice

So blogging's an interesting deal. Journaling with the world looking on (or not, depending.)

I think half the battle is finding a voice - something you want to talk about. For me it's difficult. I love so many things - baseball, my church, my wife (probably should have put her first ;-), teenagers, my new car (after 11 years), my parents and brothers back in England, an often interesting and frustrating job that pays well.

Then there are things that piss me off - crappy traffic around Puget Sound, not because there are so many people (which there are) but because so many drivers here are clueless (mostly natives). Really, I mean way too many people think it's cool to merge into highway traffic doing 30 mph. Morons. See, there's something I know I "inherited" from my dad - I don't suffer fools gladly.

Then I know some of you out there will be saying, "But wait, he's a church person, he should love everybody, not be this sarcastic misanthrope". And I'll tell you I learned a great lesson from Linus Van Pelt (of Peanuts fame) when he said "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand." So long ago I learned to embrace my snarky side. In real life I can be really nice, though. No, really.

So lots of things piss me off and I'll write about some of them. Fundamentalists for example. Watch for that coming up. I know blogs are more sort of stream of consciousness, but there are some ideas I need to mull over first.

Anyway, for those of you that think Dilbert's a little bit tame, check this out. If that doesn't get you screaming with laughter or crying for too much realism, nothing will.


Creativity and such


Can't live with it, can't live without it. Pretty interesting guidelines, but it's funny how creative people have to tell you how creative they are all the time. Even have to have it in their job title - "Creative Director". Interestingly enough, how do you really "direct" creativity?

"Hey you!, be creative now!"

Of course only the advertising world calls themselves "creative". In the art world it's "artist" please. However, over in the engineering world we're just "product development". That's partly because in the adverising world it just takes some half-assed idea to sell pantyhose or tampons or bath soap. If it doesn't work, then no harm done, move along, nothing to see here, let's just try the next half-assed idea.

In the engineering world if we field a half-assed idea people die.

Bad airplane design? Oops, sorry, was that a relative of yours?

So we don't do that. We're not only pretty damn creative, we also have to think about what happens if ten different things go wrong simultaneously. And given the vagaries of human behavior that's a creative exercise in and of itself.

In fact, it may be the height of creativity to come up with the stupidest possible things people can do with your product. In many ways it's a sort of "stupid human tricks" guessing game.

So the next time you're relying on some critical piece of equipment, whether it be your car (or indeed the cars around you on the freeway), the toaster or the weedwhacker, remember the creativity of the engineers that went into the design and production of that item, and don't get too creative in using it (and no, that lighted mirror on the flip down shade is NOT for shaving with at 55 mph.)


Way to let off some steam...

One of the blogs I read once in a while is Raw Faith. Looks like Karen had a button pushed one time too many and went off on this cool rant. Pretty lucid for a rant and given that, as always, there are some exaggerations and whatnot, it still raises a lot of great points about the authenticity of much that is the postmodern/emerging church. And yay she's an Episcopalian.

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