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There is just nothing like typing in a book title and realizing that I have recently read another book with the exact same title. Weird.

Okay. This 1994 first entry in the/an Irish trilogy by Nora Roberts is pretty much exactly what I expect from Nora Roberts. It was this month's book club selection in Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). We had light turnout; four of us. I am the only romance reader of the people who appeared. Everyone finished the book. The only other reader of genre books of the four is the librarian, who reads mysteries (she reads _everything_ -- she's so much fun to listen to about books and everything else, really). We have been reading books by / about women this year, and it's been really great. We wanted to do a genre romance, and I pushed hard to get Nora Roberts because I perceived her to have broad appeal and to be really accessible even to non-genre readers. Here was my big chance to find out if that perception was true!

It was. Everyone finished the book and gave it 3 out of 5 stars (except one person gave it 4, amazingly). The two non genre readers said they probably wouldn't read either more by the author or another romance book, but seemed glad to have read it and had the chance to talk about it. I was super excited to get a chance to listen to people encounter a genre romance without _any_ knowledge of the tropes / genre conventions / etc. One person really like some of the more poetic language (which is _not_ any part of any romance novels appeal to me, so interesting to hear that mentioned). Not unexpectedly, my friend A. enjoyed learning a little about glass blowing, as the heroine is a glass artist.

A couple readers felt like there was some plot machinery to get the characters moving through the romance (the first kiss was jarring, for example). However, while they felt that particular scenes were out of character, they felt the characters were believable and well-enough developed. Everyone felt like the novel was easy to stick with and carried them along.

Obviously, the librarian (because she's good at her job) is well aware of the consumption patterns of genre readers. Equally (ha ha ha ha) so am I. But it was complete news to the other two, and I must admit to enjoying the look of shock on their faces when I rattled off the various layers of how-many-books-a-year among genre readers, and explained what the genre reader is expected to bring to reading the book and what is expected of the author.

I was struck by a comment from M. (not the librarian). She wanted to know how genre readers remembered the books. To her, this book was very predictable (and of course it is -- that's the point. It isn't where you are going, it is the details along the way), and she wondered how we could remember characters etc. when reading so much. I have noticed that M. and A. (heck, just about everyone in the group, with a possible exception) often have forgotten plot, character, setting, etc. details only a few weeks after finishing a book. (Look, I'm not imagining things. I do tend to read the book the day of the group, because I want it absolutely crystal clear in my brain, but even if I read it ahead of time, or skip reading it because I read it some years earlier, I frequently find myself locating a passage that the other person can barely describe, or which I want to draw attention to for a particular detail -- and they all struggle with this, even with a lot of post its and so forth). I wonder if genre readers are readers who, through those weird flukes of genetics or whatever, are magpies for detail, and thus have no problems retaining character names and relationships and quirks and so forth. Thus, the plot can be much more complex, or the nuances of the relationship development (in the case of a romance) can be front-and-center because we're not expending much energy on Wait Who Is This Person? And a lot of literary fiction has "quirky" characters in part to help people keep track of who is who as they travel through the book.

I don't know if that's true, but it sure had never even occurred to me as a possibility before this. It would also explain that weird phenomenon where in junior high and high school, english teachers routinely assigned short classics that were wicked slogs, and all the people who never read got through them at roughly the same pace that I got through them. There is _something_ about those books that is resistant to genre-style reading techniques and contains enough to generate discussion in a short number of words. Slow readers are slow and not _further_ slowed down by what bogs a genre reader down to a painful drag. It's a thought, anyway.
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Really, it's as much here for notes as anything else.

What is FERPA?


So, if you have a kid in school, you probably have seen those slips of paper go by asking for your permission to include kid name, parent names, email addresses, phone numbers, home address, etc. type of thing in a school directory. This is probably a FERPA opt-out form. Yes, you _can_ tell the school NO don't share this kind of information with anyone, and the result will be if someone asks the school if anything-at-all about you and/or your kid, then the school will say (if they are doing their job), "We have no releasable information."

The opt-out of directory information can be a biiiiig hammer.

FERPA is why teachers can no longer handed graded papers to students to return to the class. FERPA is why teachers can no longer post a list on the door with names in one column and grades in another column. If you are thinking, wait a second, FERPA is ooooold, older than me, and my teachers used to do something-that-is-against-FERPA, well, the answer to that is that we do better enforcement these days.

If you are thinking, but what about when the teachers have the kids grade each others stuff? Not an educational record yet! Once the teacher's marks are on that thing, no one else is supposed to see it, apparently. What about listing those codes on the door in one column and the grades in the other column? As long as it is a non-identifiable report code, go for it. Etc. I'm sort of wondering whether it matters if the graded item will be factored into a grade that goes into the record vs. a graded item that will not be factored into a grade in the record (pop quizzes which are

FERPA is why, when you are sitting in a parent-teacher conference, the teacher can barely formulate a sentence because they are attempting to tell you something involving your kid and some other child or children in the class, but they absolutely must not name or otherwise identify any other child than your own. The teacher actually might be a little confused here. They _can_ identify the other kid to you, if they saw whatever happen themselves personally. They cannot tell you if they got that information from an educational record. I am a little unclear on whether they can repeat what another employee of the school told them verbally, so I'm betting at least some of the teachers are hazy on this as well. And then of course there is school policy on top of all this.

FERPA is why, despite all the people who cannot have access to information without consent, student (directory) information is still available to military recruiters.

FERPA is why you can be on the hook for your kids' college tuition but not have access to their student records (altho there's some interesting edge rules here).

I'm still poking around at this, because student essays are a really interesting thing. Like personal letters, they are often out of the possession -- forever, or at least extended periods of time -- of the presumptive copyright holder (I say presumptive, because some of these suckers have really ambiguous copyrights -- especially if you bought one from someone else). If I write an extended letter, including composed for the purpose of the letter poetry to someone, and they publish it, they have violated my copyright. But fair use means they can definitely publish 10% or less of the thing, which might include an entire limerick, say. FERPA protects people from finding out what grade an identifiable student got on a paper. (Question: does FERPA in any way prevent the grade from being associated publicly with the otherwise not identifiably authored paper? And how does _that_ interact with copyright?) IP law protects the student's copyright. Fair use explores an interesting area in the middle.

And that's before we get into mandatory reporting requirements, which a particularly confessional student paper might trigger.
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Today, I took T. to an audiology appointment. His hearing is fine. We are still trying to figure out whether it makes sense to do the auditory processing test. When I get the report from the audiologist, I will consult with his speech/language therapist at the school and get an understanding from her whether she thinks there might be a useful recommendation that could come out of the more complex testing. If even a positive result produces no actionable advice, what's the point? (His current school placement does as much or more than most recommendations that might come out of the test: sound treatment, fewer people in the room, one on one instruction from an appropriate distance, etc.)

I had hoped to somehow wedge a phone call in with K., but it didn't happen. I also missed a call with A. earlier in the week. It's been one of those weeks. I think K. has a really bad cold. So does my walking partner M., which is (part of) why no walk today.

We stopped at Subway to get lunch on the way back to dropping T. off at school. I eventually called S. to describe the issues we have been having with one of the kids' therapists (<-- look, anonymization!) and what we have been doing and asked her for advice. She's going to do a little investigation. She confirmed that we will not have to deal with this therapist after this school year, which is in itself a pretty comprehensive solution.

After the call, I decided that 4 p.m. was not too early for a drink. Then A., R. and I all went to Julie's Place for dinner, and I had another drink. But I wasn't driving.
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We had a little issue a couple days before A. came down with appendicitis.


I was waiting for the transportation boss to get back to me (he said he would and he's always been reliable before). And waiting. And waiting. Today, I quit waiting and called him. He was surprised to hear from me. The van driver had told him she'd talked to me and Everything Was Fine.

Everything is NOT fine. My son is home sick, so I brought up the booster seat issue and then got off the phone so I could contemplate my options and have some breakfast. After breakfast, I drafted a formal complaint and attempted to call a couple other people involved with special ed in district and in the consortium, to find out what perspective they might have on what was going on. One of them is on vacation until next Wednesday (lucky her -- she gets to completely dodge having to listen to me on this. I think.). The other was in a meeting and may or may not call me back later.

I took my sick son with me to pick up my daughter (this is why I prefer having transportation). We ran into a child who was at Saturday's b-day party with A. so that was fun. Nice to sustain relationships a little longer -- they are moving to a neighboring town so it'll be iffy when we see them again but life is long and unpredictable and I like the whole family so hopefully we'll run across them occasionally at birthday parties and similar.

After we returned home, I talked to the sitter. The driver, it turns out, had chatted with the sitter, making her very uncomfortable and the sitter got out of the conversation as quickly as she could. Sitter is a bit of a conflict avoider / don't rock the boat type, so I can imagine that the driver chose to interpret whatever she said _very_ liberally, and then shade it further as a conversation with me rather than about me and that's why the director of transportation thought the matter was solved. Ha! Nope. But now he's off the hook for being part of the problem and back in play as a possible person to help resolve the issue. Which is all I ever wanted anyway.

So I called him back up, and made it very, very clear that I am very, very not okay with the current state of affairs. We discussed our respective interactions and what I had gleaned from the sitter and I _think_ we are all in agreement that at a very minimum, there is an Opportunity for Retraining on both booster seat rules and on managing backpacks on the van. I'll be driving A. for the rest of the ESY (a week and a half), but it looks like we'll be back with transportation in the fall, with a booster seat until A.'s birthday (or other mechanism of compliance with Massachusetts state law).

And hopefully, with a different driver. I was pretty clear about how I just do not trust this current driver. If she shows up at my door again, I'm not putting A. on her van.
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Over at the NYT last week, there was this:


Don't waste your time. It's a kids these days/parents these days article of the form, if you are anxious and your kids are anxious you should Just Get Over It article. You would think we'd all be intelligent enough by this time to recognize how unhelpful this kind of advice is, but no, when you are doing undergraduate advising as your second act (after corporate law), you're bound to have some clashes with parents who Think They Know Better. So when third act is supposed to be an MFA in poetry, I suppose we should have expected an anti helicopter parenting screed. Get off My Lawn! But just note for the purposes of this juxtaposition, that it is about being LESS involved in the lives of young people, where young people are defined as undergraduate years.

This week, there is this:


In this, young people are defined as 16 to 24, and the group in question is conspicuous in their absence from our two primary institutions, school and work. Things don't go well for them, a study or three say.

Good news: the piece starts with a paragraph about My Brother's Keeper, so I suppose a reader might go, oh, hey, I should worry less about my kid at Stanford (altho how you do _that_ given the tuition cost and other high stakes I am unclear) and instead pour myself into helping the less privileged around me?

But really, I think the real take away is that parents whose kids are largely happy and do well in school and have good executive function should maybe be less quick to poke at parents who are trying to get their kids through college, even tho the kids have deficits in executive function and maybe elsewhere as well. You may think your kids have great executive function because of your parenting, but I'm betting that anxious parents have anxious kids and this whole executive functioning thing probably has a significant genetic component to it.

The balance of the piece argues for more investment in public education (yay!), mentoring, etc., as well as finishing the project of desegregation. All things we should be working towards. Perhaps it would better for all of us if we adopted Een Zes is Goed Genoeg, like the Dutch; it might make us more willing to divert resources currently devoted to making the already excellent even more excellent and send them off to bring as many people as possible up to contributing competency.
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T. goes swimming with his class at school on Fridays. In the last month, two different swim suits and towels have failed to arrive home. Incredibly annoying.

I've ordered two more swim suits, but I'm sort of feeling like this is definitely the expensive way to go swimming. It's not like these things are disposable, and with each kid having a 1-on-1 aide, you'd think they could keep track of the gear.
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I was looking at the 2015-2016 school calendars for my kids (so, two different towns involved), and I'm looking at _way_ fewer half days. It had gone down to every-other here in town (from 1 a week to 1 every other week). T.'s was still at 1 every week, but both towns now just have a very small number, and some months have none. Wacky! Kinda cool -- in theory, it would have been great if I could have scheduled something during the half day I had one kid, but more often than not, that was not possible (gymnastics was the most do-able, and it had a couple really long hiatuses).

If you are going, what's a weekly half day? Basically, 1 day a week (Wednesday in Littleton, Thursday in Acton), the elementary school lets out around lunch time. If you're going why, I have absolutely nothing to say to you. Nothing I was ever told made any sense. My favorite was, so teacher's could meet with parents. But of course, most parents I knew had a child care problem making _that_ impossible . . .

ETA: Oh, those little A's mean something. *sigh* Littleton seems to have gone to every other week half days, with exceptions.

ETAYA: Ha! Fairfax County is getting rid of half day Mondays. Teachers are Not Happy, but Parents are.

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Online course assignments, social media, adapting curriculum, concern about those students whose motivational/attentional issues make it much harder for them to participate. It's all there.


An elementary school contemplated it, 500 families supporting, 100 threatening to leave. Major complaint: different calendar for elementary vs. junior high/high school.


Clark County is contemplating year round, despite high cost of AC during Nevada summers, with a complex tracking system (6 weeks on, 2 off, if I understood it correctly), with a goal of reducing overcrowding/improving capacity utilization. Schools, they really are factories for learning. ;-)


Wake County already has a similar set up in place, for similar reasons.


Rosendale-Brandon was considering year round to deal with summer learning loss, but tabled it after they saw the state's proposed budget and decided they couldn't afford to experiment.

Interested in opinion and experience, if anyone has any. This has all the indications of one of those topics that people have generally not thought about, and then as soon as they do, the lack of concrete answers to important questions results in a lot of FUD.
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The principal at one of my children's schools sends out a little newsletter once a week via email, talking about what the various grades have been doing. It's a nice thing. I hope he continues. However, I do have one observation to make about what he had to say about my son's grade's activities:

"Also, the crayfish have arrived. While we haven’t actually
begun learning about the crayfish, we have been enjoying watching them in
their new habitat in each classroom."

In case you're having difficulty spotting my Issue, I'll point it out. The crayfish are in the classroom. The children are watching the crayfish in their habitat in the classroom. Yet the presumption is (probably because the unit or units on the crayfish have not officially begun) "we haven't actually begun learning about the crayfish".

Oh, but they have. And in the best possible way. As principal of an elementary school, it's a little sad that he either can't communicate that clearly ("what I meant was") -- or worse, hasn't grasped that ("But they really haven't learned until it has been explained to them!"). I don't know which is the problem. I sure hope it is the former, but I fear it is the latter.
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Conservatives don't like Common Core. That's not news. Red State is a blog. Also not news. Red State's editor in chief Erickson says his wife and his 3rd grader can't understand subtraction. Specifically, the counting up method of subtraction, an alternative method of subtracting that anyone who does mental arithmetic does automatically, and which is included in Common Core textbooks and has some nice side effects like helping people internalize quantity and quantitative relationships, rather than just relying blindly on a sequence of nonsensical steps the way traditional algorithmic arithmetic tends to encourage people to do.

"Erick Erickson wrote that this method "makes no freaking sense to either my third grader or my wife.""

If conservatives in general are innumerate, it might or might not be news, but it would be a very powerful explanation for some of their positions (not their terrible morals, but why they keep getting suckered by foolishness about the effects of tax cuts).

I had never seen (to the best of my recollection) this sequence of steps before, but it captures a lot of the rounding up/rounding down and then adding back in that I do mentally doing arithmetic -- I can't make the standard method work consistently without something to write on, but this one I can hold in my head. It took me a minute to understand the sequence they laid out, because it is a little different from what I do, but the spirit is recognizable. Anyone who has a lot of trouble figuring out this way of subtracting probably hasn't really understood subtraction, other than as a rote sequence of steps.

FWIW, I expect that anyone who _does_ have trouble with this might find that after a half dozen to fifty worksheets with a hundred of these problems on them will help them with their difficulties. It might even help them better understand quantity relationships as well, contributing to their overall numeracy.

ETA: the sequence in my head goes like this. 325 - 38 = ?

320 - 40 = 280
280 + 5 = 285
285 + 2 = 287

So I drop the trailing digits initially, rounding down on the larger number and up on the lower number, so I only have to add when I put them back in. Then I subtract the now manageable single digit from double digit (32 - 4 = 28) and put the zero back on. Then I add back the dropped digits.
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Recently, my husband took a Really Long Bike Ride. I think it was 67 miles and change; perhaps he will correct me in the comments. On this ride, he noticed five new houses on a horseshoe drive on Lowell Rd near what he called the "Fenn School" but which turns out to be "The Middlesex School", a boarding school and day high school. The Fenn School is a boys' school a couple miles away, for a younger crowd -- many of them go on to attend Middlesex -- but about as many go on to Concord Academy or Lawrence Academy and, in smaller groups, many other schools.

Anyway. We attempted to find the new five houses on a variety of web sites and completely failed. I quizzed him extensively about what kind of for sale signs he saw (none). I was somewhat annoyed through the process, because he wanted to call this a 40B development, and that just seemed comprehensively impossible. For one thing, 40B developments virtually never make it all the way through the process as 40B developments. For another, they aren't ever five isolated houses on a very lightly developed road. Ever. You can do 40B for sale, but I have yet to see it ever really happen, and every development my husband or anyone else identified as 40B turned out not to be. I've taken to treating all assertions that something is a 40B development as a sign that the person saying those words needs a Big Ole Lecture about classism and bias.

[ETA: 1273 Elm Street 7 or 8 unit townhouse condo. Yes. I know. I think 2 units were designated affordable. Good luck showing how this disproves my hyperbolic statements above. Also, 3 units at Concord Commons were designated affordable, out of almost 60. So I suppose technically I _have_ seen 40B housing for sale. But not free standing houses . . .]

The five houses (which are attractive, and why R. thinks have rain gardens and so forth) turn out to be new faculty housing for The Middlesex School. Very exciting!


"The houses you’ll see on campus belong to our faculty, who open their doors day and night to talk with students about Hemingway, Newton, Caesar, the big game, that great concert, or nothing in particular."

These particular houses are (part of?) Mary Mae Village.


"Enhancing the residential atmosphere of Middlesex, the “Mary Mae Village” groundbreaking occurs with ideal timing, as nine faculty babies were born in the last academic year alone!"

So Middlesex put this together to make jobs at the school more appealing, and to make it possible to do part of the job, which is to create nurturing, holistic relationships between staff and students, which is only possible in a boarding school if the staff lives there, too.

We then did a little wrangling about whether this constituted workforce housing. I assert that it does not. R. got stuck in one of those literal/logic holes that compound words and phrases can trigger: "It is housing for employees. How is it not workforce housing?" Yes, and the Obama family lives in public housing, along with most of the governors of the fifty states. Technically true, but people who say that who are not using this to add prestige to the public policy goals of public policy are often being assholes instead. Let's not be assholes if we can help ourselves.

Here is what workforce housing is:




Occasionally, people will apply the term to faculty housing, but not in a sustained way (sort of like governor's mansions are public housing).

And honestly, if referring to this kind of development as "workforce housing" is done with the intent to enhance the prestige and societal acceptance of "workforce housing", then I'm fine with it. But make that clear.

I would further argue that Middlesex clearly intends something over and above "affordability" for its faculty. It would like to have its faculty available to its students, to serve one of the core missions of the institution, and that sort of requires them to be Right There On Campus.

Finally, what caught R.'s attention on the drive was that the houses are comparatively small (many other properties on that road are several million dollar horse properties and come with pools, tennis courts and similar) and clustered close together. I suspect they are clustered in part because they share Middlesex's sewage plant. R. had trouble making sense of this, other than as "affordable housing", and he recognized how wildly implausible affordable housing on Lowell Rd is (Concord is _very_ effective at fighting off 25% above median income families, never mind median or below median). I would like us to get to a point that when we see small and close together houses, we don't think "poor", we think "convenient" (hard to imagine anything on Lowell Rd. being convenient, but faculty housing here actually _is_) or some other flavor of "desirable". Altho even at my most idealistic, I'm starting to lose faith in that as a possibility.

ETA: Oh, yeah, worth pointing out that 40B in an ownership context the affordable units are supposed to be mixed in and indistinguishable on the exterior from the market rate units. So if you're looking at just five and they are all the same ... probably not a 40B homeownership qualifier.
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First a big thank you to byrdie, for the lovely birthday presents. I'm about to complain about the book, but that doesn't mean in any way I'm not extremely pleased with receiving it as a gift. And I'm tremendously excited about listening to the Costello album.

Here's the quote on p 31 of _The Adaptive Unconscious_ that pushed me to post: "In many hackneyed works of science fiction"

I'll take a breather here to note that, much like commentary about romance novels with hunky guys on the cover, a sentence that starts like this isn't going to go anywhere good, and will be shockingly inaccurate about both the science fiction and whatever the analogy is to.

"human emotions are treated as excess baggage that get [sic: http://nativeenglishteacher.blogspot.com/2007/07/singular-vs-plural.html, unless "get" refers to emotions, which is a problem of antecedence] in the way of efficient decisionmaking [sic]. Invariably [that's a fancy word for always, isn't it? And aren't sentences that start with "Always" usually suspicious?] there is an android that is a much better thinker and decisionmaker [sic] than its human counterparts, because it has no emotions to muck up things. By the end of the story, we come to realize [what you didn't start there? Oh, wait, you did.] that we would never trade our lives for the android's. Even though emotions cause us to act irrationally and to make bad decisions [are we _reading_ the same sf? Or even watching the same sf?], we are willing to sacrifice precision and accuracy for the richness of love, passion, and art. Who would want to live the stark, emotionless life of an android?"

To be fair to Wilson, he goes on to note that unconscious/emotional/non-rational/wtf decision making (that compound noun is just giving me the heebies. This is English. Not German. Come on.) does a high-quality job. That's not my issue. My issue has several parts to it. First, there's the invariably. The vast majority of science fiction, hackneyed or otherwise, _does not_ include some robot/android/alien lacking in emotions and teaching us to appreciate our emotions. If he's thinking along the lines of Data and Spock, and thinks that is the lesson of Data and Spock, he's been seriously suckered by an ironic surface interpretation concealing a whole wealth of complexity and ambiguity: Spock and Data are _not_ lacking in emotions, and display a host of ways of managing non-standard emotional reactions in a social context (and given the number of women who respond by wanting to have sex with them, I seriously doubt there's a lesson being taught here about not trading our lives for theirs).

Second, there's the grammar thing that I pointed out. He's committed similar grammar weirdness earlier and it is starting to get on my nerves.

Third, and overwhelmingly most importantly, he's produced an analogy inaccurate in all important components that distracts from his point. He's not arguing that emotions help us love and wtf; he's arguing that without the adaptive unconscious, we wouldn't be able to stand up, make sense of speech or otherwise get through the day. And if he'd contemplated what his point was versus the content of his analogy, he'd have recognized the severity of the problem he'd introduced into his exposition.

But then, if he'd recognized it here, he would have recognized it sooner. Like when he said:

p 16 ""Making the unconscious conscious" may be no easier than viewing and understanding the assembly language controlling our word-processing computer program."

Or when he said on p 19 regarding proprioception, "We are completely unaware of this critical sensory system..."It is only the loss of the hidden proprioceptive system...that demonstrates how important it is." Having spent a number of years explicitly learning about mine, how to train it, and what its limitations are in the context of martial arts, I don't feel particularly unaware of mine, nor did I have to lose it to understand its importance.

Finally, on p 26: "Children do not spend hours studying vocabulary lists"

Not sure what universe Wilson lives in, but it sure isn't mine.

ETA: p 32

"It is now clear that feelings are functional, not excess baggage that impedes decisionmaking."

He's not even consistent. I blame the publisher. In fact, I'm going to haul out a couple HUP books that I've had for a while (_Red Hot and Righteous_ and _Righteous Discontent_) and not yet read and see if they have as many problems as Wilson and Gabaccio (sp?) do.

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