Saturday, July 2, 2016

Book: Australia's Strangest Mysteries by John Pinkney



Amazon - $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited
Non-fiction - Paranormal/Disappearances/Unexplained Phenomena

"DRIVER FRANK CLEWER sparked panic in his rural hometown - when he began to leave trails of scorchmarks and flames wherever he walked. 

The Baffling Burning Man's brush with the impossible occurred in September 2005, and was chronicled by TV news crews and hundreds of witnesses. Astonished scientists at the University of New South Wales found that Frank was generating 30,000 volts of static electricity: a charge powerful enough to melt synthetic carpets. 


But somehow he survived the mysterious ''√≠nner fire'' without the slightest lesion on his skin - the only visible evidence of the colossal voltage he'd carried being a charred hole in the knee of his jeans. 
Many media outlets treated the Clewer case as a one-off event. But SHC [Spontaneous Human Combustion] has been inexplicably occurring for more than 2000 years,with one of the earliest recorded events dated 52 BC. 


In this unique book, bestselling author and journalist John Pinkney describes the mysterious history of the' flames from heaven'' -a phenomenon which obsessed even Charles Dickens, who described it in his novel Bleak House. 


Pinkney also presents a new selection of some of the most tantalizing cases he has investigated during a lifetime's research: 


UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCES, from the enigma of the vanishing heiress to the saga of the 'jinxed' ship, which disappeared with 130 people aboard. OUTBACK RIDDLES The desert aboriginals whose astonishing song saved trhe life of a dying woman 4000 kilometres away... the uncanny invasion of Lake Eyre...the monster that guarded an abandoned potato farm...the startling UFO √≠ncursion in Queensland's Isla Gorge. 


MYSTERIOUS DEATHS, including the fate of John Friedrich, 'the man who never was''...;the horror in Sydney's dunes...and the American divers'' diaries of death. 


EERIE PHENOMENA Strange Case of the Shining Crosses...Magazine Foretells Death of JFK...Riddle of the Tiger that Rose from its Tomb...Lost, on a Road Without Shadows. And more.

These pages offer you intriguing insights into some of our planet's most perplexing mysteries."


I fairly recently subscribed to the whole Kindle Unlimited thing. A friend accidentally signed up for their month trial and I am a lemming so I jumped on board too.

It's basically fabulous for someone like me who reads a whole lot and occasionally has trashy tastes that she's not willing to spend real money on. So, for example, there's a whole bunch of books that kind of look interesting but are only 70 some odd pages for $2.99 or some ridiculous amount of money. That's not a good deal. But you pay $9.99 a month and you can read as many books as you can read if they're on the Kindle Unlimited library and there are a bunch of them.

And thus my trashy, trashy heart rejoices.

So many ridiculous books, so little time!

Okay, there's some legitimate books on there too, don't get me wrong. I, personally, am abusing the existence of this library in order to indulge myself.

I found Australia's Strangest Mysteries in the manner of all true book nerds who are on an insomniac bender: recommendations. The 'so you read this book, well you might like THESE FIFTY OTHER SIMILAR BOOKS THAT ARE ALSO INSANE' feature is dangerous. Pretty sure this one started at trucker ghost stories and ended in Australia. So.

This book actually turned out to be less ridiculous than you might suppose given the subject matter and the fact that it is most likely one of the self-published variety. Don't get me wrong, I have a deep and abiding love for the fact that people can basically get published now if they want it bad enough without ever having to go through a major publishing house. After all, this is how we got The Martian and that is a glorious piece of science-fiction. However, proof reading is somehow the first thing to go when people self publish and that...that can drag the whole thing down. '

ASM (it's too long to type the whole title out, I'm lazy, sue me) doesn't suffer from the worst of the sorts of errors that come through self publishing. It's not full of typos and misspellings and weird formatting. There are a couple of things here and there, but mistakes get through big name publishers sometimes, so I'm inclined to let a reasonable number of these sorts of things slide.

The stories are interesting, if you're into the weird fringes of reality, though some are less 'weird' than others. One of the later sections is about the possibility of the Tasmanian Tiger still being alive somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Australia, and given how many new species we discover every year, I find that less weird and more a really nice possibility since it would be one less species that humans have driven to extinction.

Lake monster stories definitely fall better into the weird and wonderful category, like UFOs and highways (or other stretches or road) that appear to take people on a really extreme detour into...another dimension, maybe? Most definitely more weird.

The man who was, briefly, slight on fire and leaving flames behind him where he walked? Weird. Very weird. I'm fascinated and horrified at the thought of spontaneous human combustion, because there's no way to prevent or predict it, assuming it's a real thing and not a series of conflated events that bear nothing in common with one another except for fiery death.

My favorite stories out of this book are the mysterious disappearances, though. There's the story of a heiress who lived in squalor in the last years of her life (due to being a spendthrift in her younger years) and apparently just wandered away one day to die. Or the young adventurer back in the late 1800s who went back to get water with which to save himself and the head of the expedition and was never seen again?

I think my absolute favorite story, though, is that of the SS Waratah, a luxury cruise ship that vanished in 1909 with something like 220 people aboard. There's the plain fact that clearly, the ship sank. That is, generally, what happens when a ship vanishes at sea. The fact that they've never found the wreck or any part of it is not even that odd, given the vastness of the ocean, the fact that no one is really sure where it was when it went down, and currents, etc. Recent tragedies have driven home how difficult it can be to find anything lost in the ocean, even when you have a pretty good idea of where it crashed/sank.

The eerie part comes in with the stories of how the ship was considered jinxed from the start (stories that were told even before the ship vanished, cutting off the possibility of this just being people wanting to say that they knew something was wrong). The captain, by all accounts an experienced sailor, urging the ship line to take the ship back to dry dock, that there was something wrong with it that made it unsafe to sail for long; or the prophetic dreams of an engineer that was berthed on the ship but chose to get off and make other arrangements as soon as he could, in spite of the extra cost of the lost fare. His concerns were recorded - he urged other passengers to get off as well, but in the end he was one of the few who survived having sailed on the SS Waratah because he listened to his fears.

What could have happened that the ship was unable to send out any sort of distress signal? Why did the captain choose to keep sailing even with his fears that there was something catastrophically wrong with the ship? In the larger sense of things, why do only some people get these warning premonitions of doom and death? Or do more people get them and we just don't know about it because they never tell anyone else and fail to listen to the warning and take the knowledge of it to their deaths?

Over all, I liked the book. It never goes too in depth to any one story, but gives a detailed over view and more information for some of them. There's never really any answer to any of it, which is why I guess the book isn't called 'Australia's Most Solved Mysteries'.

There's a sequel to this one, Australia's Strangest Mysteries 2, which I'll likely pick up some time in the future. It's also on Kindle Unlimited.

I'm giving this one a 3/5 because I enjoyed it quite a bit and it gave me new fodder for my Marie Celeste-esque obsession.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book: Under His Kilt by Melissa Blue



Category: Contemporary Romance/Erotica
Amazon

"Jocelyn Pearson is determined to spend her last month as a twenty-something doing everything she's too busy or scared to try. Her imagination runs wild and then fixates on Ian Baird. He'll be working at the Langston Museum for a short stint as a consulting curator. He's Scottish. He believes sex is fun to be had. He's the perfect choice for a fling. She only has to get him break his rule about sleeping with co-workers. Seducing a man was on her bucket list...

Ian is no one's fool and knows exactly what Jocelyn wants—him. If she didn't work for the Langston Museum, he'd be more than happy to oblige any and every fantasy she desired, but she's the curator. She's sweet, inexperienced and well liked by everyone including the museum owner and director. Ian can't risk losing such an important contact for his consulting business. Not even when everything within in him craves a taste of her.


When Jocelyn sets her sights on him, there's no way Ian can deny her. They agree their affair will end in thirty days. No emotions, no entanglements, just sex. The closer the end date looms, they start to question if it's possible to walk away. They'll either have to come to terms of what they've become or stick to their original agreement."


*cracks knuckles*

Okay, let's try this.

I'm pretty sure that I heard about this book on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which is a fabulous website and even more fabulous podcast. Even if you don't like romance so much, they're worth a listen. They cover a huge range of topics and they're hysterical and fun.

On the surface, this seemed like it would be a book I'd enjoy a lot. Both the main characters are mature, intelligent adults who have careers and are fairly well able to drive themselves as far as where they want to be and what they want to do.

Too often in romance you get a heroine who's been sheltered, blah, blah, blah so she can be magically virginal or at least so unaware of what she likes that the hero gets to show her the true glory of All the Things with his Magic Wand.

Sometimes you might get a virginal hero, but it's less common. Unless it's m/m romance, but that's a different topic and it's still not all that common in that, according to my experience.

I went into this thinking it would be a carefree kind of hook-up story, and of course at the end they'd wind up staying together because *romance*, but it honestly turned out to be a little too carefree for me.

Jocelyn and Ian get together almost from page one. The whole 'conflict' over Ian's rule about not sleeping with co-workers is more of a tiny speed bump than anything else. After all, he's a grown man who is almost literally helpless when faced with a woman who wants to do the do with him. Because he's so hot that never happens, or something. IDK. I wanted more plot.

The book is basically sex interrupted with random bits of life that don't really do anything.

They work at the museum together, but it's brief scenes and then back to one or the other of their apartments to work through Jocelyn's 'bucket list' which is just a list of pretty tame things she wants to do to/with Ian.

It's decently written, and I don't regret taking the time to read the book. I can't say 'buy' because it's free on Amazon. But it also wasn't very satisfying. I skimmed over the sex scenes after the first couple because they weren't all that interesting and not really what I was there for anyway. And since there wasn't much actual growth or discussion between the characters there wasn't actually a whole lot to the book. For me, anyway. It seemed very much like they both went from 'this is totally casual' to 'I want this person for forever' in the span of two or three pages. Character change without showing the development is not really the way to go.

I should say that it's also entirely possible that I became dis-enchanted with the characters really quickly and didn't give them much of a chance. Fairly early on in the book Ian talks about having taken his dog Sadie (whom he describes as the love of his life) to the shelter when he started this job that has him traveling a lot. And, I know that this is a fictional dog, and I know that these are fictional people, but that pissed me off.

I have a thing about animals, okay? Are you honestly telling me that he couldn't have found *someone* to take the dog? This is a fictional world, people, it would have cost the author nothing to say that he gave the dog to a friend. Nothing.

And then Jocelyn decided to randomly get a puppy, because Ian had had Sadie and abandoned her and Jocelyn had never had a pet before and this is not the right reason to get a dog, okay? This is selfish and childish and stupid and I have a problem with this, clearly.

Soooooo....I might not be the most neutral party when judging these two. Admittedly, this is probably a silly thing to get stuck on, but here we are.

Not a bad book, but not a good one either. There's at least four more books in this series, apparently, Under the Kilt. I won't be buying them, but they seem to have a fairly consistent 4 - 4.5 star review on Amazon and Goodreads, so other people enjoy them. Possibly the sex scenes are what the people are after, I don't know. I wasn't impressed, but to be perfectly honest I've read a lot of sex scenes in my long, long reader lifespan.

Rating: 2/5

Sunday, June 26, 2016

If You Feel Judged, That Would Be Me

I want to start doing book reviews on here again, only, you know, better this time. But I'm always torn between not saying enough about the book and possibly saying too much.

Maybe this time I'll be able to strike a balance. We'll see.

In the mean time, I'm working late tonight - the guy who usually works weekends is in Cuba visiting his family with his son - and listening to my podcasts. The one I'm listening to right now is Real Ghost Stories Online.

Basically, people call or write in to this podcast which is run by a husband and wife and tell their 'haunting' story. I use the quotes because sometimes I'm certain that these people are definitely making a mountain out of a molehill or are misinterpreting what is happening around them. They believe, so they believe that everything is a ghost or a demon or what have you. Which is just ridiculous, and I say that as someone who really does believe in ghosts.

Also, the people calling in clearly do not practice what they're going to say before they say it. Which they really should because my God, so many of them ramble and go on tangents and I would really like them to stop that. This is not, most of the time, a live call-in show. The calls are recorded and then played later, or the emails are read out loud by the husband half of the hosting team.

Anyway. For an example of people who are interpreting something wrongly (in my opinion), there was a woman who called into the show a couple of episodes back from what I'm listening to now. Her grandparents were apparently murdered and it was gruesome and horrible. After the murders, she started having nightmares about a 'woman' showing up in her room at night with her grandfather's head, demanding that she look at it. She wouldn't, and the woman would eventually go away in the nightmare.

The hosts validated her belief that it was some sort of spirit visiting her but reassured her that it was probably just a 'predator' ghost and not a demon.

Or maybe she's just dealing with a really traumatic experience via her subconscious. But that's not even brought up. Maybe I shouldn't blame them, I mean the show is supposed to be about ghosts, right? But if you believe everything that's thrown at you, there's no...standard, I guess. I think, if something has an alternate, realistic explanation then that's the explanation. It's only once you hit the wall of normal explanations that you can go to the supernatural.

I believe I've seen ghosts. But I also admit to myself and everyone else that there is a good chance that there are other explanations for what I saw or what happened. I don't go around declaring every bump in the night or speck of dust a ghost.

Because I'm a reasonable human being, okay?

ALSO, it seems like every other caller/writer on this story is an 'empath'.



That's not a real thing.

That's not a real thing the way Hannibal uses it, though I'll allow it since it's a *fictional* show about the love between two *very* strange, lonely men.

That's not a real thing the way they mean it.



Ah, Inigo Montoya. You feel my pain.

People can be empathetic. They can feel *empathy* for other people. But you do not literally experience other peoples' emotions as if they are your own. It's...it doesn't work that way.

It's not a real thing.

Then again, psychics. *throws confetti in the air* I don't believe in them either. So maybe my chakras are blocked or something.

Okay, that was a little sarcastic.

Still true.

Unrelated, I love how I already had tags for every random thing in this post.

I'm consistent.

Additionally unrelated. I never get rid of anything that might still be useful. So I still have my scarves and snoods and such. I've discovered that snoods are fabulous for doing yard work since I've grown my hair out. It's long enough that even putting it up in a pony tail doesn't get it off of my neck and it's too thick to do that doubled up thing that some girls do. All that ever manages is to make me cut the hair tie out later so I don't rip off my scalp.

Score one for the snood.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Caution: Be-Aware of Gators

I had to get up early this morning, after working late last night due to work based shenanigans.

Mid running around, getting all the animals taken care of, dogs walked, chickens fed and iced (we put ice in their waters to help keep them cool) and listening to Kellogg our newest rooster try to crow (he sounds like the worlds tiniest, saddest fog horn at the moment) I hear the news that there was a gator attack last night.

*sigh*

Here's a link to the story: Alligator Attacks Toddler at Disney Hotel.

This is just *sad*. This poor family is on vacation and this happens. And I don't know, I started by thinking that this is a tragedy that is no one's fault, just a...matter of nature being nature, but I'm starting to think that maybe Disney could have taken some more precautions, warned people about the danger better. But this is just based on what I'm reading in the news, not first hand knowledge, and there may be warnings and precautions I'm not aware of.

Disney has signs everywhere that the water is not for swimming because no matter how hard you patrol and attempt to make a 'gator-free' zone, the truth is that gators can wander in. They get up and walk from water source to water source in certain climates and times of the year. And they can just swim into this area, from what I understand these aren't self contained lakes.

Gators are stealthy. It's kind of their thing.

Gators are *everywhere* in Florida. It's a fact of life.

Body of water? Probably a couple of gators in there. People who grow up here just get used to it? Even people who've lived here for years get used to the idea that it is not necessarily safe to just hop in that nice looking canal or pond. Doesn't stop us from doing it, mind you, but we're at least aware of the dangers of our own actions.

This family is from Nebraska. I don't know if they've ever been to Florida before, or if this was their first trip, but there is no way that they were properly aware of the danger or they wouldn't have had their toddler in the water. No one puts their child in danger intentionally.

The one and only time my grandfather ever hit me was when I ran toward a canal when I was probably about this little boys age. He caught me and spanked me and I'm not sure which one of us was more upset, but you can bet your ass I didn't go near a canal again for years - I wasn't one of the kids jumping in to swim because, well, it left an impression.

I'm sure they saw the signs and stayed in the shallow water because they thought that was safe, because the signs say 'No Swimming'. If the signs I've seen in the news articles are accurate, they don't mention gators, just ask the visitors not to swim please. I've never stayed at the Grand Floridian so I can't say from experience if there are other warning somewhere along the beach.

Would the family have acted differently if the signs mentioned there being gators in the water, even as a possibility? I think they would have.

The articles all quote the authorities as saying that they're still holding out hope, looking for the boy. But, honestly, they're not going to find him alive. They might not even catch the right gator, if it was just passing through. A gator might not be a crocodile, though we have those in Florida too now, and no ones quite sure how they got here, so isn't that exciting, but they're still deadly. They're predators.

Earlier in the month they found the body of a man in the mouth of a gator a bit further north of where I live. They're still not sure if the gator killed him or if the man died of other causes and the gator was just feeding opportunistically.

There's a better than good chance that somewhere along the line, this gator was fed by people. Maybe not even in the area where the attack happened, mind you. Gators who are fed loose their natural caution around people. They associate people with food. And that's where attacks happen. Not all the time, but enough that it's a known factor. There's a reason we're told not to feed the wildlife. 

They haven't caught the gator yet, but they've caught at least four others (adding to the tragedy is that they have to kill the gators they catch - not at all on the scale of losing your child, but just one more thing) in the area. The one that made the attack is supposed to be between 4 and 7 feet.

Let's say the average weight of a 4-foot gator is 240 lbs. A 7-foot gator might be 420 lbs. (All very rough estimates, mind). That's not 240 pounds of human. That's muscle. Prehistoric muscle. The parents tried to save their son, and miracles can happen, but the chances were never good. It's always weighted on the side of the gator.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fearmongering - Coming to a Person Near You

I don't think anyone can deny that what happened in Orlando is horrific and a tragedy. We're all thankful that the other attack in LA was stopped before anyone else could be killed.

And if you can deny it, go away. I have no desire to talk to you. There's something wrong with you, on a basic human level.

I don't normally talk about these things when they happen because, honestly, we're surrounded by it in the news all the time. People who are far better informed and closer to the issue talk about it and what I have to say is nothing more than, "Hell, people are f*cked up."

I know one young man who lives in Orlando, and who is gay. He's safe, thankfully, but the irony is that he just got back from a trip to Europe with his aunt (who I work with) to celebrate him getting his Master's degree. And their entire family was worried about them going to France and having a terror attack happen while they were in Paris. And they come home to this.

*sigh*

People at work are all talking about how they're fairly certain this latest attack has put Trump into the White House. And I'd like to think that people aren't that reactionary and fearful, but I think we all know that's wishful thinking. I know people in my own family who have been getting more and more terrified with every incident and I don't think it would take much to tip them over to the side of whoever they think will keep the 'bad guys' out.

Leaving aside the impossibility of, oh, let's say, building a wall to keep out anyone who scares us (read is different than us), the man who attacked the club in Orlando was an American citizen. What are we going to do? Round up anyone of Middle Eastern descent and put them into camps? We did that in WWII with people of Japanese descent. It worked out really well. /sarcasm

My own mother was telling me last night that this latest attack has her and my dad thinking about getting a gun. I'm not opposed to guns in responsible hands, and everyone in my family has been taught how to shoot, though of course we'll need to take classes to get our certifications up to date. But, and I did ask my mother, what good will that do unless she thinks ISIS is coming to our house.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Podcasts Have Eaten My Life But That's Okay

I think I've mentioned before that I've become obsessed with podcasts. I listen to mostly non-fiction, but there's a couple of fictionals in there too.

One of the ones that I listen to is a Bible study done by an Orthodox presvytera and Biblical studies professor, Jeannie Constantineau (also, I just googled her to spell the name right and I'd never seen a picture of her before  - she's adorable, what is my life). Admittedly I only started listening to her podcast because I couldn't find a Catholic Bible study. Orthodoxy is close, in some ways, as we all know, but very different in others. Still, I think I made an excellent choice. She's very easy to listen to and she occasionally goes off on the passionate tangents that I enjoy. And her love of St. John Chrysostom is kind of a beautiful thing.

A while back, the Bible study was still in Genesis and this was actually different podcast episodes, but the same point was brought up. Maybe it's because that's where my brain was already at the moment, but it struck me as something I'd never gotten out of the particular stories before.

They were lessons about the expulsion from the Garden and Cain and Abel. So for the first, we're talking about Genesis 3: 1-24. The relevant part is where God asks Adam and Eve where they are, why they're hiding, etc. Dr. Constantineau points out that God was giving them a chance to confess to what they'd done. It's not as though He didn't know exactly what had happened, all knowing, etc. etc. but that He was giving them the opportunity to confess and ask for forgiveness.

Then, after Cain murders Abel, God comes along and asks him where his brother is. Genesis 4: 1-16. Again, God knows what's happened, but He's giving Cain the chance to come clean, as it were. He'd still have been a murderer, but he'd have been a repentant one, as opposed to one who was sorry and scared because he got caught. Also, did you ever notice that it was a premeditated murder?

I guess I always thought that it was a moment of passion kind of thing, but then I was reading the passage again and no, Cain lured Abel out to the field where they would be alone. Where he might have a chance of not getting caught.

And this has been your random observations from out of nowhere for the evening.

And now, a list of the podcasts that I listen to, because I can!

Fiction:

Alice Isn't Dead
The Black Tapes
The No Sleep Podcast
Tanis
Welcome to Nightvale (this was my gateway drug)

Non-Fiction:

Catholic Answers Focus
Catholic Answers Live (technically not a podcast as it's the recorded radio show, but I listen to it on my podcast app and therefore I count it. Because I can.)
Crime Writers On... (very fun. This started out as a Serial following podcast, but has branched out)
Criminal
EWTN
Finding the Freedom to Live
The Generation Why Podcast
Lore
Missing Maura Murray
Orthodoxy and Bioethics
Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
Paranormal Podcast
Real Ghost Stories Online
SCARED? Real Ghost Stories
Search the Scriptures (above mentioned Bible study)
Serial
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books (the podcast of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website.
Sword and Scale
Task & Purpose Radio
Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff
Undisclosed

Wow, I didn't realize the scales were weighted quite so heavily to the non-fiction side of things. Kind of the opposite of my reading habits, actually.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Confession and the Modern Amber

One of the things I've struggled with in being Catholic is Confession. I never really *got it*. Possibly because I've never done anything that I really felt bad for? I mean I've done bad things, just like anyone else but I've never done anything REALLY bad that I felt bad about? If that makes sense.

Add to that the fact that I'm a fairly private person, about things that actually matter. My family, I think I've mentioned, is not the most open and sharing of peoples? We're loving, but there are things that we don't share. And I'm probably the worst of my family.

Which would be why they all think I was an angel growing up while my sister rightly earned the nickname Demon Spawn. I did a lot worse things than she did when we were growing up, I just never got caught and I know how to keep my mouth shut!

But I think I've finally got it. The Confession thing, I mean. Still not my favorite thing in the world, but it makes sense to me now.

I did a thing.

A BAD thing that I knew was bad and I did it anyway and it doesn't matter what it was, except that in the list of Ten Commandments kind of sins it's literally right on there in the Thou Shalt Not's. But I did it anyway and I felt sick about it immediately afterwards but it was already done and you can't go back in time and slap yourself before you do the stupid thing.

And sure, people have done far worse things in the history of the world, but this was...pretty bad. And high up on the list of things I swore I would never do because I'm not that kind of a person. But it happened and I just...there's no such thing as harmless flirting, okay? Flirting leads in a very specific direction and you should not be going that way with inappropriate people. But I can see now how people who probably don't even mean to do it wind up having affairs because it's a million tiny steps that don't seem bad on their own until you look back and you have wandered way, WAY, off the path you thought you were on.

I was sick about this the whole week, and I couldn't talk myself down from the knowledge that I had done something very wrong. So I got my butt in gear and did an examination of my conscience and hey, what do you know I had some other things that I felt I should bring up.

My parish holds confession on Saturday and it sounds ridiculous but I had to talk myself into going every step of the way. But I made it and I confessed and it was awkward and wonderful all at the same time.

I feel *better*.

I've done my penance and I have the Father's advice on what to do to help myself not fall down that path again. Maybe it seems silly to people, it probably does, it used to seem silly to me too but I don't feel sick about it any more. I don't think that what I did was right, or that I'm not culpable for my own actions but...I don't know how to explain it.

I got it off my chest, in an epic sort of way.
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