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Assorted Links 3/7/10 Archives

Assorted Links 3/7/10

What Makes a Hero? – Rough Cut

  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • Word Workshop: Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing, April 15, 2010
  • Word Workshop: Writing to Persuade: Hone Your Persuasive Writing Skills, April 16, 2010
  • Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, May 4, 2010
  • Advanced Media Relations, May 5, 2010
  • Public Affairs and the Internet: Advanced Techniques and Strategies, May 6, 2010
  • Crisis Communications Training, May 7, 2010
  • The Philosophical Cow - "Should a cow behind a haystack of ignorance choose the world with the highest expectation of utility? In which case, a world of many cows each destined for slaughter could well be preferable to one with many fewer but happier cows.

    Or is it wrong to compare the zero of non-existence with existence? Should a cow philosopher focus on making cows happy or on making happy cows? If the former, would one (or two) supremely happy cows not be best?

    I think these questions are important both for thinking about cows and animal rights and for human beings. Tyler has thought a lot about these issues (e.g. here, here and elsewhere). Some people, however, think that cow philosophy is just a bunch of bull."
  • Little-used ‘Staple-and-bind’ parliamentary procedure will allow Democrats to pass health bill with just nine votes in House, three in Senate - "Democrat insiders say that an obscure parliamentary procedure known as 'Staple-and-Bind' will be used as an alternative to pass a health care overhaul should reconciliation efforts fail. 'Staple-and-bind' refers to the final act of preparing legislation, using an industrial-grade stapler and a three-ring binder, for shipment.
    . . .
    Congressional Democrats have also purchased a Staple Jihad 5000 Nail Gun, the only street-legal stapler capable of binding the massive legislation. The propane-powered stapler can penetrate up to 3,000 8.5″ x 11″ pages, which leaves room for Democrats to nationalize other aspects of medical delivery including dentistry, veterinary medicine and crystal healing stones."
  • King Rudy and the gun ban - "In its wisdom, the U.S. Supreme Court finally took up Chicago's ridiculous 27-year-old handgun ban on Tuesday.

    Why is it ridiculous? Because only three classes of people are comfortable with handguns in the anti-handgun city:

    Cops, criminals and the politically connected.

    Mayor Richard Daley sure is upset that the ban might be overturned. But he probably has more armed guards protecting him than the president of Venezuela.

    Chicago aldermen are allowed to carry handguns. I wanted to ask the chairman of the City Council's police committee about those gun-toting aldermen. But there was no chairman. The last one just resigned after pleading guilty to federal bribery charges, so he wasn't around.

    If the Supreme Court really wanted to know why some folks in Chicago have guns and others don't, they should have called an expert witness:

    Rudy Acosta, the former 'gangsta' rap impresario, or King Rudy, as he likes to be known."
  • What Journalists Like: #40 the grumpy old reporter - "He shuns technology. When he talks about lead, he’s not talking about a journalist’s first graph. He still remembers typesetting. Hell, he still uses a rolodex. While journalists born after the Carter administration click away on their Blackberries and iPhones, the entire newsroom can hear the screeching noise coming from the grumpy old reporter’s cassette tape recorder as he plays back an interview. Most journalists have never even owned a cassette tape before. The grumpy old reporter still refers blackberries as a fruit and couldn’t use an iPhone if his life depended on it."
  • I’ve Been Given a Reason to Vote Republican - "Michael Moore Says He’s Not Coming Back to Arizona Until State 'Elects a Democrat as Senator'"
  • Cyberwar Or Moral Panic? Beware Of Ex-Politicians Screaming About Cyberthreats - "For years and years we've been hearing about the supposed threats of 'cyberwar' and 'cyberterrosism.' For nearly a decade we've questioned whether this was all hype, and the story hasn't changed. Sure, there are hackers and those who look to break into systems, but the real risks and overall threats still seem fairly minimal. But that's not enough for some people. Wired's Ryan Singel has a long, but excellent look at how former director of national intelligence (now consultant) Michael McConnell appears to be trying to build up a giant moral panic about this ill-defined threat, with the goal of basically ripping out the guts of today's internet to recreate it with almost no privacy at all."
  • Good Grief! - "Unless you’re an idiot -- like me -- if you own a home, you probably should have grieved your property taxes over the last couple of years, maybe even more than once. It’s almost a sure thing that your municipality has been assessing your home at more than what it’s worth -- and that you’ve been paying your taxes on that inflated value. (Many tax bills, like mine, include the value at which the municipality is carrying your property.)"
  • The Housing Metrics of Southern California – Seasonal Home Sales, Inflation Adjusted Home Prices, Tens of Thousands Living Rent Free, and the Japanese Experience. - "People are realizing the problems in the housing market are simply a bigger reflection of the lingering issues in the overall economy. There have now been a few stories comparing California with the issues being experienced in troubled Greece. JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon echoed his concerns regarding California. The markets seem to underestimate how profound the issues are in the California economy. What is more troubling is California is merely a reflection of other states. The Legislative Analyst Office projects deficits deep into 2014 and each year we experience a deficit will require higher taxes or deeper cuts. That is why focusing on jobs is such an important barometer for the improvement of the overall economy. Without one net added job in California people are already counting the next housing boom. The numbers simply do not reflect this assumption.
    . . .
    The above tells you a lot. While the median home price in Southern California is down by 46 percent from the peak the typical monthly mortgage payment is down 52 percent from the peak. People are committing to half the monthly payment amount and this has more to do with the health of the economy. I know many would love to have a $1,170 monthly mortgage for a place in Southern California."
  • State polls show gathering storm - "Congress, it turns out, isn’t the only institution held in low esteem by voters this year.

    According to a POLITICO review of publicly available polling data, numerous state legislatures are also bottoming out, showing off-the-charts disapproval ratings accompanied by stunning levels of voter cynicism.

    It all adds up to a toxic election-year brew for legislators inside and outside Washington."
  • One young American still wants to serve in the Marines - "Jordan Blashek, Princeton '09, turned down a chance to go to med school and he joined the Marines, beginning at OCS at Quantico, for at least four years. He explains why."
  • Renters Priced Out of Homes In Heavily Planned Montgomery County (MD) - "The Washington Post reports on a new study by a tenant advocacy group in Montgomery County, Maryland arguing that renters are being priced out of homes. The problem is likely to get worse as the economy picks up, demand for housing increases, and the supply can't keep up with demand."
  • Another Journalist-Stenographer Makes a Lame Attempt to Tell the Truth About Legal Hiring - "The law schools lie about how much their students make so they themselves can make more money. And then they feed those false, inflated salary and employment numbers to the NALP to hide the true source of the numbers--the law schools themselves.

    This is a whitewash of false stats. Why do you so called journalists never question this aspect of these stats?"
  • FORTHCOMING WORKS BY DR. BOLI. - "In 2002, a revolutionary piece of legislation completely changed the face of accounting in the United States. Yet, incredibly, until now there has been no comprehensive examination of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act aimed specifically at children under the age of twelve. Now, at last, Dr. Boli rectifies this glaring omission in the publishing world. A Child’s Picture Book of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is aimed at children who have exhausted the resources of the more general accounting picture-books and wish to have specific information about Sarbanes-Oxley in a visual form. Enchanting illustrations bring auditor independence, corporate responsibility, and enhanced financial disclosures to vivid life."
  • A History of the California Housing Gold Rush – The Financial Expansion of California Real Estate from 1850 to 2010. - "I decided to dig up some old Census data to show how dramatically housing has shifted over the years. Many in the housing industry assume that real estate has always been the way it currently is but forgetting about history can lead many into challenging situations. In 1910 and 1920 the majority of Americans rented their home. Of the 20 million dwellings in 1920 only 4 million were mortgaged. Today, the majority of American households own a home. The homeownership rate has fallen since the crisis started."
  • Get up earlier, Germans tell Greeks - "Here, people work until they are 67 and there is no 14th-month salary for civil servants. Here, nobody needs to pay a €1,000 bribe to get a hospital bed in time.

    Our petrol stations have cash registers, taxi drivers give receipts and farmers don't swindle EU subsidies with millions of non-existent olive trees.

    Germany also has high debts but we can settle them. That's because we get up early and work all day."
  • Thank You For Not Expressing Yourself - "Not every devotee of reason is himself reasonable: that is a lesson that the convinced, indeed militant, atheist, Richard Dawkins, has recently learned. It would, perhaps, be an exaggeration to say that he has learned it the hard way, for what he has suffered hardly compares with, say, what foreign communists suffered when, exiling themselves to Moscow in the 1920s and 30s, they learnt the hard way that barbarism did not spring mainly, let alone only, from the profit motive; but he has nevertheless learned it by unpleasant experience.

    He ran a website for people of like mind, but noticed that many of the comments that appeared on it were beside the point, either mere gossip or insult. So he announced that he was going to exercise a little control over what appeared on it - as was his right since it was, after all, his site. Censorship is not failing to publish something, it is forbidding something to be published, which is not at all the same thing, though the difference is sometimes ill-appreciated.

    The torrent of vile abuse that he received after his announcement took him aback. Its vehemence was shocking; someone called him ‘a suppurating rat’s rectum.’
    . . .
    The insults and abuse did not come from uneducated people. This is not surprising, really, because uneducated people are unlikely to care very much what George Bernard Shaw thought of the germ theory of disease; most of them have other, more practical things to think about. You have to have read Bernard Shaw to care, and these days at least, I think only university types are likely to do that.

    Indeed, much of the abuse, even the vilest, came from university professors. Almost to a man (or woman), they said that what I had written was so outrageous, so ill-considered and ill-motivated, that it was not worth the trouble of refutation. On the other hand, they thought its author was worth insulting, if their practice was anything to go by. I didn’t know whether I -- a mere scribbler -- should feel flattered that I was deemed worthy of the scatological venom of professors (not all of them from minor institutions, and some of them quite eminent).

    What struck me most about these missives is the sheer amount of hatred that they contained. It was not disdain or even contempt, but hatred.
    . . .
    With the coming of the internet, the tone of the criticism changed. It became shriller, more personal, more hate-filled. It wasn’t just that I had made a mistake, I must be an evil person, probably in the pay of some disreputable organisation or other. (There are very few of us who are not in the pay of someone, and no one is entirely reputable.)
    . . .
    The question now arises as to whether it is a good thing that people should be able now so easily to express their rage, irritation, frustration and hatred. Here, I think, we come to a disagreement between those of classical, and those of romantic, disposition.

    According to the latter, self-expression is a good in itself, irrespective of what is expressed. Indeed, such people are likely to believe that any sentiment that does not find its outward expression will turn inward and poison the person who has not been able to express it. Better to strangle a new-born babe and all that.

    The person of more classical disposition does not believe this. On the contrary, he believes that there are some things that are much better not expressed at all. He counterbalances his belief in the value of freedom of opinion with that in the value of freedom from opinion. He believes that rage will not decrease with its habitual expression, but rather increase with it."
  • Missouri Budget Overstates Revenues By Up To $1 billion; Indiana Revenue Falls Short; Budget Battles In Washington; Budget Gaps In Kansas - "Budget news from state after state is grim. When will this matter? No one knows but service cutbacks are coming, as are huge layoffs.
    . . .
    In case you missed it, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie laid it on the line in a speech to about 200 mayors at the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

    Chris Christie Actions

    * He froze aid to schools
    * Challenged school boards.
    * Wants to change arbitration rules for public workers
    * Requests public-private salary and benefits parity
    * Demands pension reform
    * Property tax hikes not an option
    * Wants to get rid of programs like COAH
    * Is not thinking about the next election
    . . .
    Reckless government spending, not a recession is what caused this mess. The recession just made the problem noticeable sooner. Since spending is the problem, higher taxes cannot be the solution. Higher taxes just encourage more reckless spending."

Cows With Guns


  • Saint Cesar of Delano - "When Cesar Chavez died in his sleep in 1993, not yet a very old man at 66, he died--as he had so often portrayed himself in life--as a loser. The United Farm Workers (UFW) union he had co­founded was in decline; the union had 5,000 members, equivalent to the population of one very small Central Valley town. The labor in California’s agricultural fields was largely taken up by Mexican migrant workers--the very workers Chavez had been unable to reconcile to his American union, whom he had branded “scabs” and wanted reported to immigration authorities.
    . . .
    I remember sitting in bad traffic on the San Diego Freeway and looking up to see a photograph of Cesar Chavez on a billboard. His eyes were downcast. He balanced a rake and a shovel over his right shoulder. In the upper-­left-­hand corner was the corporate logo of a bitten ­apple."
  • The Philosophical Cow - "Suppose that you are a cow philosopher contemplating the welfare of cows. In the world today there are about 1.3 billion of your compatriots. It would be a fine thing for cows if all cows were well treated and if none were slaughtered for food. Nevertheless, being a clever cow, you understand that it's the demand for beef that brings cows to life. How do you regard such a trade off?

    If each cow brought to life adds even some small bit of cow utility to the grand total of cow welfare must not beef eaters be lauded, at least if they are hungry enough? Or is the pro beef-eater argument simply repugnant?"
  • What if High School Ended After 11th (or Even 10th) Grade? - "Efforts to eliminate at least one year of high school for some students have been gaining momentum in recent weeks.

    As The Times’s Sam Dillon reported last month, public schools in eight states recently adopted a pilot program, effective next year, that will allow 10th graders in certain schools to test out of high school classes, earn diplomas and advance to community college. (Those states are Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.)"
  • Wheat Ridge High School Class of 1970 - "The reonion committee is working away planning the 40th reunion the weekend of August 13-15, 2010. Wheat Ridge, Colorado"
  • Common Market Food Co-op - "Common Market Food Co-op was a 'new wave food co-op' located at 1329 California Street in Denver, Colorado, from 1975 - 1980. It started as a buying club at the University of Denver in the early 1970s, and for a few years prior to moving to the old Safeway at 13th and California Streets, Common Market operated out of a small storefront on Champa Street."
  • Your high IQ will kill your startup - "Intelligence is like a knife. If you are intelligent, you are at a clear advantage against people who are not intelligent. But if you are intelligent, and another person is not as intelligent, but the other person is willing to train harder than you, the other person will very quickly overtake you in ability.

    People who are born intelligent start off life with everything easy for them. They don't have to work hard to get good grades, they never really have to do much to get ahead. The major challenge of early life is school - and school is designed for average people. So intelligent people just breeze through.

    But there is a point where every intelligent person faces something that requires more than intelligence. It requires hard work, it requires the ability to fail, it requires being able to do tough tasks, boring tasks. For the first time in their life, in spite of their intelligence, these intelligent people are challenged, and they start failing. Like when they first attempt to create a startup.

    And that's where most of them retreat. They focus on things they can't fail on, and ignore the other important things. They start to blame other things (like the school system). They procrastinate. They refuse to face new problems because they know they will not be able to handle them, and this does not fit into their worldview that they are invincible."
  • How to Get People to Respond to Your Ad NOW - "Want customers to take immediate action? Offer something free."
  • My Favorite Negative Book Review - "For those who haven't heard, Professor Joseph Weiler is facing criminal charges for publishing a negative book review, and has asked others dig up far more negative reviews so that he may prove this one is nothing out of the ordinary. Steven Landsburg published his nominee here. Here is mine, written by Edward Snyder (University of Chicago) and published in the prestigious Journal of Economic Literature on 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.' Here is the opening paragraph:"
  • The Pentagon Shooter - "Naturally, this means the gunman is a Tea Bagger. Why? Well, an utter absence of evidence can't be a bar to leaping to the target conclusion, now can it?

    The syllogism on offer is that the gunman was heavily into his illegal weed. Marijuana is a gateway drug to libertarianism, lots of Tea Partiers are libertarian, QED.

    Oh, well - in the MSM this guy will either be crazy or a righty. *If* the intrepid researcher has found the same guy than the gunman had a number of Bush-bashing books on his Amazon wish list. That's just more proof he is a disgruntled righty, since so many true believers think Bush was too moderate."
  • New Yorkers 'Share a Cab' - "It may be commonplace in Washington, D.C., but in New York City, sharing a cab ride is still a rarity. That's changing with a new one-year pilot program that will allow up to four passengers to share a taxi along three routes in Manhattan for a discounted per-person flat fare of $3 to $4. The shared rides, which will pick up passengers at designated taxi stands and allow them to hop-off anywhere along the route, will only be active during morning rush hours."
  • The Great Grocery Smackdown - "Buy my food at Walmart? No thanks. Until recently, I had been to exactly one Walmart in my life, at the insistence of a friend I was visiting in Natchez, Mississippi, about 10 years ago. It was one of the sights, she said. Up and down the aisles we went, properly impressed by the endless rows and endless abundance. Not the produce section. I saw rows of prepackaged, plastic-trapped fruits and vegetables. I would never think of shopping there.

    Not even if I could get environmentally correct food. Walmart’s move into organics was then getting under way, but it just seemed cynical—a way to grab market share while driving small stores and farmers out of business. Then, last year, the market for organic milk started to go down along with the economy, and dairy farmers in Vermont and other states, who had made big investments in organic certification, began losing contracts and selling their farms. A guaranteed large buyer of organic milk began to look more attractive. And friends started telling me I needed to look seriously at Walmart’s efforts to sell sustainably raised food."

How Will The End Of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?

  • The implications of a money-making Android app - "There's been plenty written about the App Store gold rush, but this is the first rags-to-semi-riches piece I've seen about the Android Market. Edward Kim, creator of the Car Locator app, saw his daily revenue jump from around $100 per day to more than $400 per day when the $3.99 app claimed a featured spot in the Market."
  • How cybercriminals invade social networks, companies - "The attacks run the gamut. In just four weeks earlier this year, one band of low-level cyberthieves, known in security circles as the Kneber gang, pilfered 68,000 account logons from 2,411 companies, including user names and passwords for 3,644 Facebook accounts. Active since late 2008, the Kneber gang has probably cracked into "a much higher number" of companies, says Tim Belcher, CTO of security firm NetWitness, which rooted out one of the gang's storage computers.
    . . .
    On the high end, the Koobface worm, initially set loose 19 months ago, continues to increase in sophistication as it spreads through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks. At its peak last August, more than 1 million Koobface-infected PCs inside North American companies were taking instructions from criminal controllers to carry out typical botnet criminal activities, says Gunter Ollmann, vice president of research at security firm Damballa.
    . . .
    Each infected PC in a corporate network represents a potential path to valuable intellectual property, such as customer lists, patents or strategic documents. That's what the attackers who breached Google and 30 other tech, media, defense and financial companies in January were after. Those attacks -- referred to in security circles as Operation Aurora -- very likely were initiated by faked friendly messages sent to specific senior employees at the targeted companies, says George Kurtz, McAfee's chief technology officer.

    The attack on the picnicking co-workers at the financial firm illustrates how targeted attacks work. Last fall, attackers somehow got access to Bob's Facebook account, logged into it, grabbed his contact list of 50 to 60 friends and began manually reviewing messages and postings on his profile page. Noting discussions about a recent picnic, the attackers next sent individual messages, purporting to carry a link to picnic photos, to about a dozen of Bob's closest Facebook friends, including Alice. The link in each message led to a malicious executable file, a small computer program.

    Upon clicking on the bad file, Alice unknowingly downloaded a rudimentary keystroke logger, a program designed to save everything she typed at her keyboard and, once an hour, send a text file of her keystrokes to a free Gmail account controlled by the attacker. The keystroke logger was of a type that is widely available for free on the Internet.

    The attackers reviewed the hourly keystroke reports from Alice's laptop and took note when she logged into a virtual private network account to access her company's network. With her username and password, the attackers logged on to the financial firm's network and roamed around it for two weeks."
  • Anatomy of Toyota's Problem Pedal: Mechanic's Diary - "Toyota has recalled millions of cars and trucks--4.2 million to replace floor mats that might impede throttle-pedal travel, and 2.4 million to install a shim behind the electronic pedal assembly. All of the affected pedal assemblies were made by Canadian supplier CTS. Toyota's boffins have documented a problem that can make a few of these pedals slow to return, and maybe even stick down. Problem solved.

    But the media, Congress--and personal-injury lawyers--smell the blood in the water. Not to diminish the injuries and a few deaths attributable to these very real mechanical problems, but they're statistically only a very small blip, which may explain why Toyota took so long to identify the issue, especially when it has symptoms similar to the similarly documented floor mat recall.
    . . .
    Bottom line: The system is not only redundant, it's double-redundant. The signal lines from the pedal to the ECM are isolated. The voltages used in the system are DC voltages--any RF voltages introduced into the system, by, say, that microwave oven you have in the passenger seat, would be AC voltages, which the ECM's conditioned inputs would simply ignore. Neither your cellphone nor Johnny's PlayStation have the power to induce much confusion into the system.

    These throttle-by-wire systems are very difficult to confuse--they're designed to be robust, and any conceivable failure is engineered to command not an open throttle but an error message.

    So what to make of the unintended acceleration cases popping up by the dozens? Not the ones explainable by problem sticky pedals, but the ones documented by people who claim their vehicle ran away on its own, with no input, and resisted all attempts to stop it? Some can probably be explained as an attempt to get rid of a car consumers no longer desire. Some are probably the result of Audi 5000 Syndrome, where drivers simply lost track of their feet and depressed the gas instead of the brake. It's happened to me: Luckily I recognized the phenomenon and corrected before it went bang. Others may not have the presence of mind.

    But the possibility that a vehicle could go from idling at a traffic light to terrific, uncalled-for and uncontrollable acceleration because the guy next to you at a traffic light answered his cellphone? Or some ghost in the machine or a hacker caused a software glitch that made your car run away and the brakes suddenly simultaneously fail? Not in the least bit likely. Toyota deserves a better deal than the media and Congress are giving it."
  • Taking Memes Seriously - "The hilarious scorn poured on Dawkins and his memes by the Australian philosopher David Stove is entirely deserved:
      I try to think of what I, or anyone, could say to him, to help restrain him from going over the edge into absolute madness. But if a man believes that, when he was first taught Pythagoras' Theorem at school, his brain was parasitized by a certain micro-maggot which, 2600 years earlier had parasitized the brain of Pythagoras...what can one say to him, with any hope of effect...One might try saying to Dr. Dawkins: "Look, you are in the phone book, and they print millions of copies of the phone book - right? But now you don't believe, do you, that you are there millions of times over 'in the form of' printed letters, or 'realized in' the chemistry of ink and newsprint?" But I would be so afraid of being told by Dr. Dawkins that he does believe this that I do not think I would have the courage to put the question to him.

    No person of even mediocre intellect and disinterested mind can read Dawkins' chapter on memes without feeling these same sensations of contempt. Yet so far was this inauspicious inception of the meme meme from discouraging Dawkins' dutiful Yankee minion, Daniel Dennett (a man of very mediocre intellect, though a mind anything but disinterested), that he mildly reproaches his master for failing to defend the notion of memes in subsequent publications with the full strenuousness that Dennet himself is willing to exert for its vindication.

    Several chapters in Darwin's Dangerous Idea are devoted to the defense of memes, marked from beginning to end by that hectoring and digressive style which has become Dennett's calling card, and by which he has earned his status as the clown prince of contemporary academic philosophy. So, in a purported disquisition into a 'science of memetics,' Dennett takes a tangential journey which passes through tales about his grandson, West Side Story, the camouflaged wings of moths, the propensity of scientists to employ acronyms, fictional scenarios of spy-hunting, and a long quote from the physicist Richard Feynman, singing a hymn to the virtues of philosophical materialism. None of this, of course, has the least bearing on Dennett's central issue- or at least what ought to be Dennett's central issue - of whether or not memes actually exist, though, in fairness, these passages do prompt in the reader an admiration for the perseverance of a man who, so evidently stricken with an acute form of Attention Deficit Disorder, still managed to carve out for himself a lucrative career in academe.
    . . .
    Actually, by this point in the book, the image of Dennett's brain as a pile of worm-infested shit will strike the reader as remarkably apropos; it would certainly provide an explanation of sorts for the quality of his writing. Nonetheless, one would like to point out - again, quite wearily - that larvae and parasites are things which can be observed and measured, and that if the author wants us to believe that memes are such kinds of entities, possessing the same kinds of properties, then, for God's sake, show them to us!"

. . . . . . . . .

March 7, 2010 09:57 AM    Caught Our Eye

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