Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

The Colour Clock

This web clock from designer Jack Hughes displays the time like all web clocks, but it also changes the background to correspond to the hexadecimal color value represented by the numbers of the digital time. Watch for any length of time and it will change, although sometimes quite gradually. However, when I looked up #110927, I got a completely different color. The colors may be set for a specific time zone. Link -via J-Walk Blog

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Power of Decision

(YouTube link)

Power of Decision is a short film obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. This four-minute preview is only a part of the 12-minute video you can watch at the link.

Washington, D.C., February 19, 2011 - "The Power of Decision" may be the first (and perhaps the only) U.S. government film depicting the Cold War nightmare of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear conflict. The U.S. Air Force produced it during 1956-1957 at the request of the Strategic Air Command. Unseen for years and made public for the first time by the National Security Archive, the film depicts the U.S. Air Force's implementation of war plan "Quick Strike" in response to a Soviet surprise attack against the United States and European and East Asian allies. By the end of the film, after the Air Force launches a massive bomber-missile "double-punch," millions of Americans, Russians, Europeans, and Japanese are dead.

In this scenario, the "success" of a nuclear war was defined as not having the will of the enemy imposed on the US, despite millions of citizens killed. Link -via Metafilter

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Tastes Like Chicken?

by Joe Staton
Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Photos by A. Kaswell

The field of culinary evolution faces one great dilemma: why do most cooked, exotic meats taste like cooked Gallus gallus, the domestic chicken?

It is curious that so many animals have a similar taste. Did each species evolve this trait independently or did they all inherit it from a common ancestor? That is the burning question.

A meat counter featuring some of the author's favorites, including turtle, emu and boar.

Evolutionary Theory: Some Background

First, some tasty technical background.

The different traits of an organism (its hair or lack thereof, its teeth or lack thereof, its lungs or lack thereof, its taste, its color, etc.) can have distinctly different evolutionary origins. Some of an organism's traits are inherited from many, many, many, many (thousands, or millions, even) generations of ancestors. Other of its traits developed late in the evolutionary history. If you compare the traits of two different kinds of organisms, you may find that:

1. Some of the things they have in common were inherited from a common ancestor; while
2. Other things they have in common were not inherited from any common ancestor-but happened to have developed independently for each organism.

Modern evolutionary analysis helps us try to sort out and understand the true origins of all sorts of traits. Here's how you do it.

Cat tastes mammalian. In essence, it tastes like tetrapod.

First, you need to make a diagram showing which kinds of organisms evolved from which other kinds of organisms. (How to make this kind of chart is a whole question in itself. For a good introduction to it, see Phylogeny, Ecology, and Behavior: A Research Program in Comparative Biology, by Daniel R. Brooks and Deborah McLennan. University of Chicago Press, 1991.) Such a chart will usually turn out to be tree-shaped, and so it is called a "tree" of evolutionary ancestry (the jargon phrase for this kind of "tree" is "a phylogeny").

If you are interested in a particular trait, you can go through the tree and mark every kind of creature which has that trait. These markings on the evolutionary tree then show you whether:

1. The trait developed just once, and was then inherited by the creatures that subsequently evolved. (You will see that the trait is spread over connected branches of the tree. The name for this is synapomorphy.)
2. The trait developed independently more than once. (You will see that the trait only occurs in isolation, on tree tips. The jargon phrase for this is convergent evolution)
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Angry Birds Cake is Playable

Mike Cooper made a cake for his son's 6th birthday on the theme of the Angry Birds video game. However, this cake was a game itself, complete with a working catapult, and was played before eating! See a video of the cake in action, and follow instructions to make one for yourself. Link -via Laughing Squid

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Disappearing Languages

Today is Presidents Day in the US, and it is UNESCO International Mother Language Day everywhere. This is a day to celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, and to learn about the world's languages. National Geographic has an interactive world map highlighting areas where languages are in danger of dying out, as part of their Enduring Voices Project. As it is now, one of the world's 7,000 languages is gone for good an average of every two weeks.
Language defines a culture, through the people who speak it and what it allows speakers to say. Words that describe a particular cultural practice or idea may not translate precisely into another language. Many endangered languages have rich oral cultures with stories, songs, and histories passed on to younger generations, but no written forms. With the extinction of a language, an entire culture is lost.

Much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many still undocumented by science. Studying indigenous languages therefore benefits environmental understanding and conservation efforts.

Link -Thanks, Marilyn!

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Nun Tossed Out Over Facebook

Sister Maria Jesus Galan was asked to leave the Santo Domingo el Real convent in Toledo, Spain, where she had lived for 35 years -over her Facebook activities. The Dominican convent, which normally discourages nuns from dealing with the outside world, first allowed a computer in ten years ago, and Sister Maria put it to work.
Sister Maria saw the future that this computer offered. She digitized the Dominican convent's archives. The computer also offered more mundane assistance.

"It enabled us do things such as banking online and saved us having to make trips into the city," she told the Telegraph.

The local government even gave her a prize for her digital initiatives. Oh, but with the prize came the fame. She began to collect more friends on her Facebook page. It seems, though, that this made her enemies within her own walls.

Her fellow nuns reportedly claimed that Sister Maria's Facebook activity "made life impossible." She was therefore asked to leave and now lives with her mother.

At the time, Sister Maria had 600 Facebook friends. Her profile page shows 1700 friends now, and her fan page has over 8,000 supporters. Link -via J-Walk Blog

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A Night in Casablanca

I had heard long ago about how Warner Brothers was upset about the then-upcoming 1946 Marx Brothers movie A Night in Casablanca because the studio was protective of their own 1942 film Casablanca. It turns out that the story I heard was not what really happened. Groucho Marx did write a series of hilarious letters responding to Warner Brothers' request for information, but they were all part of a publicity stunt that paid off well for the Marx Brothers' movie. Letters of Note has one of the responses that Groucho wrote:
I just don't understand your attitude. Even if they plan on re-releasing the picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without their permission. What about Warner Brothers -- do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. When Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor's eye, we were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers and even before us, there had been other brothers -- the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazoff; Dan Brouthers, an outfielder with Detroit; and "Brother, can you spare a dime?" This was originally "Brothers, can you spare a dime" but this was spreading a dime pretty thin so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other brother and whittled it down to "Brother, can you spare a dime?"

Read all three pages at the post. Link

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Name That Weird Invention!

It's time for the Name That Weird Invention! contest. Steven M. Johnson comes up with all sorts of crazy ideas in his Museum of Possibilities posts. What should we name this one? The commenters suggesting the funniest and wittiest names will win a free T-shirt from the NeatoShop. Put on your thinking cap and leave an entry in the comments.

Contest rules: one entry per comment, though you can enter as many as you like. Please make a selection of the T-shirt you want (may we suggest the Science T-shirt, Funny T-shirt, and Artist-designed T-shirt categories?) alongside your entry. If you don't select a shirt, then you forfeit the prize. Good luck!

Update: There were a lot of very clever names submitted this week. First prize goes to pismonque for Geri-Go-Round. Second prize goes to Haring Wati, who was the first to submit the name Car-ousel. Both win t-shirts from the NeatoShop! Other names that deserve a second look include:
Geriatric lazy susan
Senior roulette seat
Mobile oldies dispenser
Spinster (two entries)
Geriatric Gyro

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Playing Chicken with a Wind Turbine

Vimeo user aaron_gx flew through the spinning blades of a wind farm. With a remote-control plane, of course.
This kind of stunt is typically frowned upon in the industry, to the point that the person(s) responsible for aiding him were probably fired, if they were caught. I would never allow such a thing to happen on my watch, but… it’s fun to watch.

Link (embedded vimeo clip)

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Life on a Farm

This Twaggie, illustrating a Tweet from Seth MacFarlane, tells the truth about farm life and the way it appears to non-farmers. Link

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A Rap About Hotmail

(YouTube link)

I'm surprised anytime I find that people still use Hotmail. I opened an account several years ago, mainly to reserve the address, but within a month I gave up on it. British rapper Dan Bull goes into more detail with his email problems. -via Rue the Day

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Extreme Bathroom Graffiti

This picture shows a school restroom stall on which someone has written the entire first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Schools have much nicer restrooms now than when I was a student. Link -via The Daily What

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Rosario Gamboa makes gelatinas that are arguably too pretty to eat. Her creations look like glass paperweights or snow globes, each with a flower inside. They're made of gelatin, and they are bought as soon as they are displayed.
"They can't believe the way we make them," Gamboa says.

The process makes the outcome seem all the more remarkable. Trained hands can create a blossom in less than 10 minutes. (Check out the "gelatina artistica" video on YouTube.) Working in a palm-size hemisphere of freshly set gelatin, Gamboa uses hypodermic needles - some straight, some bent into a U - to inject colored mixtures of gelatin and sweetened condensed milk. It is done while the gelatin is inverted, so it's a little like sculpting a figure from the feet up. Each stab or swath is instantly encapsulated, forming a leaf or petal or stamen. Slight corrections can be made if you're skillful enough; otherwise, it's art without a do-over option.

Link to story. Link to website. -via Nag on the Lake

(Image credit: Deb Lindsey/The Washington Post)

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Otters in the House

(YouTube link)

If you ever thought you might like to have an otter as a house pet, this video will change your mind. These are female African clawless otters, acting the way their species do. -via Arbroath

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Secrets of a Mind-Gamer

The U.S.A. Memory Championship pits mental athletes against each other to see who can recall long strings of information. Ed Cooke, a competitor from England, insists they aren't savants, just trained memory experts. Joshua Foer (of Atlas Obscura) became involved in the Memory Championship when he wrote an article about the event.
Cooke and all the other mental athletes I met kept insisting that anyone could do what they do. It was simply a matter of learning to “think in more memorable ways,” using a set of mnemonic techniques almost all of which were invented in ancient Greece. These techniques existed not to memorize useless information like decks of playing cards but to etch into the brain foundational texts and ideas.

It was an attractive fantasy. If only I could learn to remember like Cooke, I figured, I would be able to commit reams of poetry to heart and really absorb it. I imagined being one of those admirable (if sometimes insufferable) individuals who always has an apposite quotation to drop into conversation. How many worthwhile ideas have gone unthought and connections unmade because of my memory’s shortcomings?

At the time, I didn’t quite believe Cooke’s bold claims about the latent mnemonic potential in all of us. But they seemed worth investigating. Cooke offered to serve as my coach and trainer. Memorizing would become a part of my daily routine. Like flossing. Except that I would actually remember to do it.

Foer did his research on memory (which he shares) and then began to train his own. As his memorization skills improved, he decided to enter the U.S.A. Memory Championship himself. And then he won it. Link

(Image credit: Marco Grob for The New York Times)

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A Medieval Castle in Cowboy Country

Bishop's Castle is Jim Bishop's 160-foot high labor of love. His family lives in the castle he built in the San Isabel National Forest, near Pueblo, Colorado, but it is open to visitors in case you are in the area. The castle has wrought iron bridges and stairs, stained glass, turrets, and even a dragon's head watching over everything. And it's still under construction! See more pictures at Kuriositas. Link

(Image credit: Flickr user LePhotography)

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The Order of Nefarious Villains

Chet Phillips, who created the Literary Pets trading card set, has completed another set of art cards. This one, called the Order of Nefarious Villains, portrays twenty different evil Victorian and steampunk masterminds ready to do battle with the forces of good. Some of their  characteristics are reminiscent of evil villains you already know. Link -Thanks, Chet!

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Men with Pregnancy Symptoms

Was the sailor who gained so much belly weight that he couldn't fasten his pants crazy, or just a victim of a psychosomatic disorder? When men complain of the symptoms of pregnancy, it is often called "phantom pregnancy" and considered to be a mental illness. But it's more common than you think.
As many as 65 percent of expectant fathers report experiencing at least one “symptom” of pregnancy, studies show; more than 20 percent of expectant dads actually sought medical care because of it.

Scientists have now shown that normal, healthy men often undergo real bodily changes when they’re expecting children. What for years we’ve considered to be a disorder of the mind is actually a natural physiological reaction to impending fatherhood.

Research says that men's hormones begin to swing when they are expecting a baby -often in sync with their wives' hormonal changes. Read more about it at Wonderland. Link -via Not Exactly Rocket Science

(Image credit: Flickr user The Adventures of Kristin & Adam)

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Homemade Altoids

As you collected all those Altoid tins for various projects, you may have developed a taste for the "curiously strong peppermints." Instructables has the recipe so that you can make them at home, with only four ingredients and one extra tool. The flavor is your choice. Link -via Lifehacker

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A Sitting President's Memorial

This President's Day article is from the book Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Presidency.

FDR spent his entire presidency hiding the fact that he needed a wheelchair, and he wanted a memorial that would do the same. Future generations disagreed.

Four years before his death, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter that if he had to have a memorial, he wanted it to be about the size of his desk and placed on a patch of grass in front of the National Archives -anything more would be too showy and too costly a remembrance (a granite table fitting the description was placed there in his honor in 1965). Frankfurter may have heard what FDR wanted, but Congress didn't seem to have been listening. One year after Roosevelt's death in 1945, Congress felt the need to commemorate him on a larger scale and passed a resolution authorizing the creation of a grander memorial, one comparable to the other presidential memorials located around the Tidal Basin. There was just one problem: FDR's wheelchair.


Despite being completely unable to walk, President Roosevelt led the country out of the Great Depression and through World War II during his unprecedented four terms in office. He was the first disabled leader to be elected in American history, but most Americans of the 1930s and 1940s didn't even know their president required a wheelchair. They were aware that Roosevelt had contracted polio in 1921 and were under the impression that he wore braces or used a wheelchair occasionally for convenience. And that's just what FDR wanted them to believe because he was afraid that otherwise the world would perceive him as weak.

(Image source: The U.S. National Archives)

Roosevelt went to great lengths to deceive the public regarding his paralysis -he even created a method to make it appear he was walking. With his legs in locked braces, he would lean heavily on a cane with one hand and on someone else's hand with the other. Then he'd swing each leg forward while leaning on the opposite hand, throwing his upper body forward. When he sat down the braces had to be unlocked. The braces caused Roosevelt to fall in public three different times, but the cooperative press never reported these incidents. In fact they never photographed him in his wheelchair at all. Of the 125,000 photos housed in the FDR library in Hyde Park, New York, only two private photos show the president seated in a wheelchair.
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This Week at Neatorama

Just in case you were busy with work or something this week, check out these links to catch up on what's been happening here at Neatorama! Tiffany (Mrs. Neatorama) was gone for several days, but came back with a report on the New York Toy Fair, where she scouted out new products that you'll eventually see at the NeatoShop.

Jill Harness continued her in-depth research into Disney theme parks with Neatorama Facts: The Enchanted Tiki Room.

Phil Haney rounded up some stories of people whose shoes you don't want to be in, with Things Could Always Be Worse.

On Valentines Day, we stoked your appetite for that heart-shaped box with The Rich History of Chocolate from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

The Annals of Improbably Research brought us The Pliocene Pussy Cat Theory.

We learned about Tycho Brahe: The Drinking Man's Thinking Man courtesy of mental_floss magazine.

In the Name That Weird Invention! contest, the first-place name selected was Yawn-mower, from kfd90. Second place went to chaise-lawn from Norris. Neither winner selected a t-shirt, which hints that maybe you guys enjoy playing these games with or without a prize!

The What Is It? game came around on Thursday. dj2kenne was the first with the correct answer: the object is a TV antenna rotator. A lot of people knew the answer, and a lot of people made up great meanings for the letters N-E-S-W-N -you really should go read them all! The prize for the funniest answer goes to amanderpanderer, who said:
Back when the internet was a more clearly defined series of non-searchable tubes for conveying information, people were bombarded with information shooting out of the pneumatic delivery devices and into their offices, living rooms and school dorms. Being less savvy at identifying the sorts of information being sent to them, internet users often relied on external devices like this one to help them distinguish between the relevant and irrelevant materials being delivered. This is the 1953 InternetIdentificationIdentifyer, or III, in stunning bakelite brown. This device sat near the pnuematic exit and served to classify and catagorize the material presented.

The catagories are:
News, Entertainment, Sex, Wikipedia, and (of course) Neatorama.

Now we have RSS feeds, so I never miss a Neatorama posting. Ah, progress!

T-shirts will go out to both winners.

You saw Mal and Chad's Fill in the Bubble Frenzy on Wednesday. A t-shirt goes to Darrel, who gave us this line: "Get higher, Chad! That's the porcupine balloon!"

We also had an extra giveaway this week: Win A Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set! Congratulations to winner Holly Davis!

Looking for more once you've caught up on this week's Neatorama posts? Check out the links at the NeatoHub or the articles at The Best of Neatorama!

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Muppet Letters

Shaun Usher at Letters of Note posted a collection of letters from Muppets. Actually, the letters are from Caroll Spinney (who does Big Bird), Jim Henson, and the Swedish Chef (penned by Henson).
Ho Komissionooster Sjolund!

Sveern hund der meenskroo skort herg dah smorgasbord bord bord.

Gloo das click click ein mein filmikin den Washington fom des Fancy Food, goôde des griting zoo des Kükenmenenstoof.

Yay boo thanken svenson eet des goo goo Per Nilsson und des Eilest Nassell fer yoom yoom.

Bork Bork!

Also included is a series of complaint letters about Sesame Street's character The Count. Link

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Busted by His Own Dog

Sgt. John Terrel, a sheriff's deputy in Moro, Oregon pulled over a pickup truck with California plates. As he approached the vehicle, a sock flew out the window. The sock was stuffed with marijuana. The driver, 32-year-old Joel Dobrin of San Diego, was busted by his own dog!
After the stop, the driver explained to Sgt. Terrel that as he was being pulled over, he tried to stash the sock. His pit bull mix dog grabbed the sock and wouldn't let go, enjoying the tug-of-war game. The dog won, tossing the sock out the window.

Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey had high praise for the canine.

“I wish everyone traveled with their own personal drug dog. It sure would make our job easier."

Dobrin was charged with possession of marihuana and hashish. Link

(Image credit: Flickr user flutterfly2002)

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The Mystery Boat of Bouvet Island

Bouvet Island is 1,700 miles from Antarctica, and further away from anywhere else. The island is a volcano covered with a glacier. The few expeditions to explore it were many years apart, and some of those explorers never set foot on Bouvet Island, since there is no safe place to land. But in 1964, a South African expedition spent less than an hour on the island and found ...an abandoned boat.
It was a mystery worthy of a Sherlock Holmes adventure. The boat, which Crawford described as “a whaler or ship’s lifeboat,” must have come from some larger ship. But no trade route ran within a thousand miles of Bouvet. If it really was a lifeboat, then, what ship had it come from? What spectacular feat of navigation had brought it across many miles of sea? How could it have survived a crossing of the Southern Ocean? There was no sign it had ever borne a mast and sail, or engine, but the solitary pair of oars that Crawford found would barely have been adequate to steer a heavy, 20-foot boat. Most unnervingly of all, what had become of the crew?

It was another two years before anyone else went to the island, and the boat was never recorded to have been seen again. Mike Dash set out to research what the boat was doing on such an isolated island, and came up with some interesting theories. However, a definitive answer has yet to be found. Read the whole story at A Blast from the Past. Link -via Dark Roasted Blend

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Cooper the Feline Filmmaker

(YouTube link)

Cooper the Cat is a videographer in Seattle. He started out as a still photographer, carrying around a cat cam, but after being famous, he switched to a video camera. Link -via Laughing Squid

Previously: Cat Has Photography Exhibit

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Shadow Sword Fight

(YouTube link)

In this Japanese theater production, a sword fight breaks out between our hero, portrayed by Taichi Saotome {wiki}, and the shadows that lurk around us. Creativity, special effects, and precision choreography come together to make something special. -via The Daily What

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Dumpster-diving Squirrel

A photo gallery in the Lexington Herald-Leader documents how a lucky squirrel retrieved an entire fast-food meal in a trash can at a city park.
The squirrel climbed inside the can and came out with a french fry. After eating the fry, it went back in the can and came out with the remains of a fish sandwich. Local parks were crowded this afternoon as temperatures neared 70.

The story was featured on the front page of the paper, prompting debate on its newsworthiness. It may be filler for a newspaper, but it's just right for Neatorama. Link -via Fark

(Image credit: Charles Bertram/Lexington Herald-Leader)

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Fantasy World Map

Dan Meth came up with the definitive map of fantasy places you know and love -all in one big continent! It's "the very first accurate map of the entire fantasy world." Let the arguments begin. Link -via Buzzfeed

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The King Spits

(YouTube link)

Dan Bull remixed video of the movie The King's Speech with his own song about how rap is good therapy for stammering -and a few samples you'll recognize. -via mental_floss

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The Eye of the Sahara

You'll be forgiven if you first read that as "The Eye of Sauron." Astronauts were the first to notice this 50-kilometer wide geological formation in Mauritania, in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Read about it and other wonders of nature in the post 13 Most Incredible Geological Wonders on Earth at Environmental Graffiti. Link

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Profile for Miss Cellania

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