Category Archives: humour

Maturity Abounds

wallyYou’d think that once you get to a certain age, you’d grow up, act like a responsible adult and other responsible adults would curtly acknowledge your maturity with a slight nod of their head as you passed them on the street. Yeah, this never happens. You will remain that silly little five-year old FOREVER! Except, unlike when you were five, you now have the leeway to drink, drive, vote and make babies (not necessarily all together – though it could make for interesting voter news footage). You’re probably thinking that my story is going to waddle off on yet another rant about students and student life. You’re wrong. This little tale has to do with those who are in charge of moulding the minds of tomorrow’s street cleaners MacDonald’s waiter leaders.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that from time to time academics are prone to behave somewhat…err… oddly.  I’ve usually been on the receiving end of their antics. Begging for wine money in Ireland comes to mind, as does placarding expletives in foreign languages all over the lecturer’s lounge, but usually it’s all in good fun, and the short burst of immaturity morphs back into absent-minded nodding at strangers.  Unfortunately, there are some ‘grown-ups’ who never got the memo.

200155_9617200561_1372_nI am sorry to say, that today, after a number of good laughs were had while attempting to bring to life our own version of Where’s Wally, the ‘grown-up’ surveillance system decided that in an institution of higher learning and students, there is no room for practical jokes, immaturity and silliness. It’s all rather unprofessional, don’t you know. As you can see from the picture of our ‘clients’ alongside, we’re all about serving humourless, mature adults. 184_24834065561_3971_n

No room for joking here!

Instead, our morning has been filled with emails flying backwards and forwards, requesting permission from management 100kms away if we can go pee-pee. Yup, it sure is fun to be a grown-up.

PS The bathroom break was noted and granted.

Black Pudding, French Fries and the Irish Revolution

I’m starting to think that Ireland has a tendency to make everyone slightly nuts. I don’t have any proof, but I’m sure that they use whiskey to purify the water here. It’s the only explanation for why everyone is so happy all the time, and why we are all on a continuous mission to cause mischief.

irish-potato-232x300Added to this, there seems to be incessant need for the Irish to prove that they’ve recovered from the potato famine of the 19th century and feed you as much potato as they possibly can. I’ve already mentioned the baked potato stuffed with mash, but the other night we had lasagne and french fries. Who the hell serves french fries with pasta?! I’m convinced it’s a plot to take over the world. Get everyone drunk on whiskey water and weighed down by starch. Nobody’ll be able to do anything when the leprechauns move in on their bunny army.

Not to say that the food isn’t great, because it is. The doctor might disagree. She was conned insisted on trying black pudding at breakfast (excuse me while I take a moment to laugh hysterically again). I’ve never seen anything come out of someone’s mouth so fast and yet so politely.
‘That bad?’ I inquired.
‘It tastes like burnt blood,’ she said, taking huge sips of orange juice.
Now, I’m no expert here, but I have to wonder how she knows what burnt blood tastes like. I know I don’t. If it were the Middle Ages, I might consider reporting this odd incident to the local priest. It could be evidence of some odd Pagan sacrifical ceremony involving insubordinate undergrads. For now I’ll just have to watch my back.

Either way, we’re off to Belfast today. When I return I shall regale you with tales of the mysterious stranger, the wise professor’s saged advice about sex and older men, oh, and Belfast. Yay!

And Round and Round We Go…

This trip is going badly. I got us lost… AGAIN! This time though we ended up at the bus depot near the airport, waiting for a new bus to take us back to town. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, otherwise you’d be seeing photos of the super frollicking in the heather, picking wild flowers (which is illegal) and marvelling at the beautiful countryside. We eventually made it back to the conference venue and were greeted by the President of Ireland himself. Obviously, he heard we were coming, and we all know how important and influential I am in the world of supreme higher beings.

220px-Michael_d_higginsHe spoke about why media is important and referred to that guy Habermas (if you’re in the field you would think this is hilarious, I promise). But what impressed me so much was his complete lack of politicking. The whole time he spoke, we were waiting for him to use the stage as an opportunity to push one issue or another. He didn’t. It was refreshing, soothing, and overall, I wish I could go back in time to when he did work in academia so that he could have been my lecturer.

My favourite part came afterwards, free wine and food (although I didn’t see any – convinced I’ve aligned myself with the wine connoisseurs of academia, so food is always avoided in case it mars the robust flavours). Unfortunately, the wine didn’t flow as freely as we required, so we decided to find a good old fashioned pub. Our less worldly counterparts from the coast are rather scared of the working class vicinity of their hotel, so we (now experts in public transport) ventured off to take them from the dodgy end of town to the Brazen Head pub (we wanted old fashioned and this was the first pub in Dublin. Founded in the 10th century).

We only realised once we arrived that it was closer to 10pm than dinner, but using the power of the super and her fair maiden sidekick from the coast, they somehow flirted offered services convinced the very handsome barkeeper to serve us dinner. It was huge, it was amazing, it was starchy. Only in Ireland are you given two baked potatoes with mash and gravy on the side.

You know, this trip isn’t so bad. The diet when I get back will be though 😦

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To Avoid Blackmail

guinness_181345tI’m always being told that I know far too much. It’s true, the more secrets people have and  the more you know about them, the harder it is for them to dispose of you, or hold too much over your head. So for sake of full disclosure, and to ensure that nothing can be lauded over me when we come back, I shall come clean on two things that have happened since arriving in Dublin (so wah-wah Doc, no blackmailing power for you).

After the bad flights and lack of sleep over the previous 26 hours, we really didn’t think we’d be doing much of anything on our first night in Dublin. Well, I didn’t at least. And then somehow, at dinner, an entire bottle of Chardonnay disappeared, and we felt the need to find some traditional Irish music to help everything digest. Lucky for us, there’s a pub right next door to our hotel; and they have traditional Irish music (actually, it was just an Irish guy singing songs from contemporary Irish bands, but I disgress).

Anyway, we decided that since we are in Ireland, and that neither of us have ever tasted Guinness we were going to order a couple of drinks and a pint of Guinness. Luckily, Guinness is really cheap because it is the most vile concoction I’ve ever put in my mouth (and I emphasise the coc here). The problem was, we couldn’t work out how to dispose of the ghastly black stuff without arousing suspicion, and possibly causing an international incident.

Being the sound-minded, brilliant and inventive person that she is, the doctor thought that if we headed outside with our drinks, have a quick chat, and leave forget the goo outside, that nobody would notice and we could avoid offending the locals. There was just one problem. His name was George. He was the bouncer. And he saw the offending message which we were sending back to South Africa, moaning about how awful Guinness is. He took the glass from us and said that if we’re going to be so rude about Ireland, he’ll bring us something better. He did. It was red. It was little. And it was good!

It’s how I ended up with the pin below. George said it was for the Children’s Hospital. The doctor said it was a con. I said okay George, you’re right (because postgrads never listen to their supers) and handed over five euros and a kiss on the cheek and he gave me his pin. The doctor now says I’ve been initiated into some underground IRA unit. I think she’s just jealous because no-one offered her a pin into a secret Irish society.

DSCN0657

Unfortunately, she got her own back the next morning. We decided to do a tour of the city and then head to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (if you don’t know what that is, click the link!). As per normal, I took the lead and started navigating through the streets of Dublin. All the while being told that I was going in the wrong direction. I pointed out that I had never gotten us lost before, I remembered were things were in an airport I’d only been to once, and that certain touring academics have tendencies to wander off and end up in dodgy bars. I knew where I was going.

And so we arrived, at Christchurch Catherdral. It wasn’t Trinity College, but I got us to the church; on time to hear the bells toll four 140px-The_Spire-doyler79o’clock. Actually, I had no idea where I was going and like a true academic, I just wandered aimlessly with a more slightly less aimless supervisor in tow. So yes, I got us lost. My supervisor knew the way and got us home.

But, we did amble for three hours through Dublin to get home and found that while we’d been out, somebody had erected a giant spike in the middle of the street in front of our hotel. Apparently, it’d actually been erected a few years ago, but we didn’t see it the day before. So either there really are leprechauns with mischief and magic, or the Irish have invented invisibility cloaking, because trust me, there is NO WAY that both of us would have missed a 120 metre high phallic light pole.

Toilet Paper Wars and the Missing PJs

6520499-leprechaun-with-beers-and-rainbow--color-illustrationIreland! Yay! We made it. And after more than 26 hours of travelling I probably have enough material for about four posts. But I’m sure I’ll get it all down; maybe not by the time we leave, but definitely while the experience is fresh in my mind. Everything started off normally. I made fun of the good doctor because like all academics, she often has greater issues on her mind than the frivolities of packing a suitcase so I made sure to text her son to check her bags so nothing was forgotten (I won’t mention what was forgotten the last time, but let’s just say that the unmentionable item was relatively important).

Anyway, this time, our colleague, who was manipulated kindly offered to drive the good doctor and myself to the airport, got to experience first-hand that OMG moment when the doctor realised that she’d forgotten to pack any pajamas. I just laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I stopped. Took a deep breath and laughed some more. Our colleague was a little more sympathetic and suggested popping into the Woolies at the airport. I chose a bright orange top with ‘party’ printed on the front. I said it was so her husband knew what to expect the next time he got into bed. She rolled her eyes, took something suitable and boring off the rack and bought that. By that stage I was bored of humiliating giving fashion advice, and started listening to the consistent warning over the PA system: “Any passengers caught making inappropriate remarks about terrorism, hijacking, explosives or violence will be prosecuted in terms of the Civil Aviation Act”.

I yelled, “BOMBS! SILENCE, I KILL YOU!” Well, not really, but that’s how I like to hear the story when I think back. It’s like putting a button in front of me and telling me not to push it. It’s just mean! Anyway, after that we boarded the plane for Dubai (without the terrorist in my head popping out) and left.

It was a bad flight. Freezing plane, tiny seats, no leg room, and the air hostesses had a massive public argument in the middle of dinner service about whose responsibility it was to re-fill the toilet paper dispenser in the bathrooms.

“Chicken or beef?  No! I can’t put toilet paper in there I’m trying to give this lady her dinner. I’m only halfway through.”

“Well do it! It’s your responsibility. Not mine.”

“But I’m only halfway through this. I’ll try to remember when I’m done with the food”.

“Do it now and then come back to food”.

Anyway, this went on for a while, interspersed with the occassional chicken or beef question to passengers as the two women worked down the aisle.

I thought the missing pajamas was pretty funny, then we got a fight about toilet paper during dinner service, which I’m sure ended in toilet paper being flung ninja style at the back of the plane. Nothing was going to top this, right? Wrong!

By now we’d landed in Dubai, and were waiting to board for Dublin. Both of us are grumpy, tired and sore (did I mention how small the seats were on our first flight?). I tried to lighten the mood with some bad Irish jokes and puns. The Irish are supposed to be a bit daft apparently, so I thought it would make a fun introductory phase to our journey . The doctor just sighed, closed her eyes and shook her head. I swear I heard some whisper about idiotic grad student, but I may have been the voice in my head again (he doesn’t like being told no).

They finally start boarding the plane. They called all the first class and business class passengers first, because airlines like to remind you that to them, you are a pleb who needs to know their place: last. Then anybody travelling with small children and they lined up. Then they called the ordinary cattle to waddle through the gates.

So there we all were, in line, importants at the front, mortals at the back. But the line didn’t move. Everyone is shuffling, shifting and groaning. Why won’t they open the damn gates? We can see the plane, they’ve called us all through. What the hell? Then we realised. Everyone had lined up at the wrong door. The right one was behind us. The entire contingent of passengers (made up mostly of Irish nationals) had lined up backwards. And as if transported into some bad Irish joke, Paddy says loudly, “only the Irish can be so backward”.

And then we left.

5 Ways to Get Your PhD

student_dreaming_graduation_lg_whtAnybody who told you that getting a PhD was about hard grafting, reading vast volumes of work and writing up your findings in a couple hundred pages was lying. Getting a PhD goes far beyond that. I’ve promised that one day I’ll write an entire book detailing the things that I’ve had to endure while being a grad student. Today, however, is not that day; instead, it’s the best advice I can give anybody who thinks that becoming a grad student is a good idea, and how to get out as quickly as you can.

1. Assing Around 

It may sound absurd, but hear me out.  Being a grad student generally involves taking some time to work as a grad assistant, or grad ass, as I like to say (with the emphasis on ass). You’re at the bottom of the food chain in the academic environment, which means that you are responsible for the ass-end of things, and the general mopping up of any shit that goes down. And I mean that quite literally. I’ve actually been made to dispose of scat left by the building’s feline colony (I have my suspicions that it’s actually students leaving a warning to various lecturers about their teaching styles, but I try not to rock the boat and keep my mouth shut).  Anyway, you should prepare to be treated like an ass.  You’re a necessary evil to make people’s lives easier, but something that most don’t like to deal with. The quicker you learn that, the faster you can impress your supervisor who will speed up the process of reading your work to irrigate the department, so to speak.

2. Learn how to reference

This might seem like an obvious tip, but I don’t mean learn how to reference for your thesis. I mean, learn how to reference using every style that you can lay your hands on. Why? Because referencing is a time-consuming banality of academics.  The chances are when your wise and supremely talented superior submits an article for publication they are far too busy contemplating existentialism and the meaning of life to worry about such menial chores, so you, as the ass, will be entrusted to put their reference lists together.  And God help you if the article is rejected because of bad referencing. You will spend an extra six months waiting for your draft to come back because you cocked up, and your supreme leader has to take time away from your thesis to fix your incompetence.

3. Learn how to use Google

Again, this many seem obvious, but when you are putting together that reference list the chances are, that in their ultimate wisdom, your supreme ruler will have forgotten to include one or two references, page numbers, journal details or the like to test your abilities. It’s up to you, like a super smooth 1920s detective, to work out where the information came from and fill in the blanks. Being able to find missing references is an art, especially when you are looking for a page number of a quote from a book that’s been out of print for the last 50 years. Being able to do this fast, and correctly, will prove to your supervisor that you are worthy of a few extra minutes of their time. Remember, every minute you save your supervisor, is an extra minute they can dedicate to your thesis.

4. Be able to define a ‘thingie’

If you’ve ever watch The Devil Wears Prada, you might remember the scene where Miranda tells Andy to book that restaurant that she likes with the guy whose name was on the piece of paper that she had in her hand last week (or something to that effect at least).  Now combine this vagueness with the more stereotypical vagueness of an academic and you come out with the following conversation:

Supervisor: What did I do with that thingie from two days ago.

Me: It’s on your desk under the book on phenomenology.

Supervisor: No that’s the other thingie. I’m talking about the one with the thing that has the thing on the thing with a thing.

Me: Oh that! Here you go.

I’m that good. And sometimes, if I’ve been really good, I even get a thank you and a whole two minutes to discuss my latest theoretical idea.

5. Be observant

Always pay attention. You will be asked to find lost books, envelopes, passports and of course, thingies. Like a wild game hunter, you need to know your surroundings and be able to notice when something’s amiss. That’s the difference between an average grad ass and a super grade A ass. Your ability to notice and remember where you see things can make it seem like you’re super-human, with awesome psychic powers or x-ray vision, and nobody wants to mess with a superhero. If you are able to locate random missplaced essentials with seemingly no effort, your supervisor will speed up the process. Either because they fear what you may do with your super powers if you turn to the dark side, or because there are only so many times that their egos can be upstaged by a know-it-all grad student. Either way, you’ll get out fast.

And if all else fails, threaten to write a book 🙂

Weighing In

Sumo-wrestler-planeToday, while I was perusing my Facebook feed I saw that one of my friends had posted a link to an article that outlines how a Samoan airline has decided to charge their passengers by weight rather than by a pre-determined fee. Now I’m not sure if this is a late April Fool’s joke or if it’s legit, but either way I think it’s a marvellous idea, in part. I say in part because I don’t know how people will feel about being weighed at the airport along with their luggage for all the world to see; I know I wouldn’t. And, it’s not really fair to punish someone for being overweight and force them to pay a higher price.  But, I also don’t think it’s fair that when I fly anywhere, I’m restricted by the same luggage limitations as everyone else when the rotund hippo sitting next to me weighs more than me and my luggage combined.

Now, I assume that the luggage limitations were devised back in the day before MacDonald’s became a religion and the world wasn’t suffering from an obesity pandemic. So, I would deduce that the airlines worked out a formula that said well, the average weight of a person is such and such, our plane can only carry this much and stay in the air, so each person is only allowed to travel with this much clothing stuffed into their bags. Yay! Clever aeronautical engineers! Except for one thing. They didn’t forsee the fast food revolution and the world’s dependence on never getting off its butt to do anything. But never fear! I have a solution! And one that might not offend people quite as much as doing an airport weigh-in like a primed sumo wrestler.

Now, I don’t know how much weight a jumbo jet can manage, or how many people it carries, so I’m going to work with easy round numbers so my brain doesn’t get too confused with the math to make my point (actually, I assume most people are idiots and can’t do math so this makes this post easier for them to understand).  Anyway, let’s just say that a jumbo weighs 400 000 kilograms and carries another 20 000 kilograms of fuel and has room for 500 passengers.  Now, let’s pretend that to get off the ground and maintain altitude, the plane can only carry 480 000 kilograms in total. That means that the passengers are only allowed, in total, to bring 120kgs aboard with them. Now most of you are saying, but that’s a huge amount of luggage. Not really. It means that somebody who weighs 90kgs can only have 30kgs of luggage, which is the average for an international flight. And that’s assuming that nobody has paid for excess or is in first class (they get more, don’t you know?)

Now, going back to the hippo. Why should I, who weighs a lot less than 90kgs, still only be allowed to bring 30kgs of luggage while the beast next to me weighs more than 120kg in the first place? By that logic, I’m actually paying for his excess. Excuse me?! I’m all for doing charity work, but not when it deprives me of a proper wardrobe to travel with (shoes weigh a lot!).  This is my solution. Everybody is allowed to bring 100kg (that allows for unseen extras) on board with them, whether it’s luggage or their sweaty selves. Once you’re over, you have to start paying excess like you would if you over-stuffed your suitcase.  If you’re under, you get more space for shoes. The only problem is, how do you determine this. Ugh! We’re back to the wrestler’s weigh-in at customs.

Actually, never mind. Charity’s good for your karma.

*Disclaimer: All figures used are for illustration. They do not represent real statistics. 

The Problem With PSAs

Every so often when flicking from E! the History Channel, I fall victim to some stupid public service announcement. I hate them. Actually, hate is too mild, I loathe them with a burning vengeance that makes me want to never watch TV again. Usually, the remote is too far away to do anything, so I have to suck it up and deal with it. The one that’s driving (haha, pun) me nuts at the moment is that stupid ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ ad. You know the one, where everyone looks like a murderer, even the policeman, and threatens if you drink and drive you could end up being driven home in the back of a police van with a bunch of psychopaths,who incidentally, seem to be allowed to carry knives on their way to prison (I realised later, after watching the full version, that it’s actually a tow truck driver with the knife, but he still looks like a killer).

 The thing that gets me about this ad is that I think it’s missed its mark. It’s all about shock tactics, which most people believe have lost their shock value because we’re confronted with so much of it everyday. In South Africa, there are numerous issues that we’ve been bombarded with so often that most of us tune out, skip the article or change the channel. Unprotected sex, drugs, smoking, drinking and driving. We’re told that all these things can kill us and we’re lectured from primary school to be good people and not to do any of it. We’re shown extreme videos of dead bodies strewn across heroin dens, emaciated babies who’ve contracted HIV from their now dead mothers, and blackened lungs of a cancer victim. And yet, it hasn’t solved any of these problems. HIV infections are going up, smoking is as common as ever, and drinking and driving isn’t going to deteriorate until a safe public transportation system is put in place (and even that may not help).

So how do we get people to take notice? The Topsy Foundation tried an HIV campaign in which they highlighted hope rather than condemnation, but it’s forgettable to say the least. Partly, it’s because the ad is too long and has a documentary feel about it. Humans are, for the most part, pathetic creatures who like to entertained constantly. I like to call it the ‘dancing monkey’ syndrome; unless we behave like a dancing monkey, nobody pays attention for very long.

More importantly, if we want anyone to pay attention we’ve got to get them to share these messages on various social media. Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s no way that I’d share either of these videos on my Facebook page or Twitter feed. Mostly, because they’re boring, preachy and lack a dancing monkey, but also because I know that none of my friends or followers would be interested, and would probably block me if I carried on posting similar things. I can’t stand it when people put public service announcements and ‘like this 1 million times to save the cockroach’ posts on my wall. I want to be entertained, not depressed into being a more moral human being. I’m shallow like the rest of the world. People only put those things on their walls because they’re performing; they want the rest of us openly shallow human beings to know that they’re better than us because they care enough about something to put it on their wall. But I digress.

For a public service announcement to be successful and memorable, people need to watch it (duh!) and the best way to do that is to make it entertaining. The problem is, how do you make something so serious entertaining? I don’t have an answer, but whoever came up with Metro’s train safety video seems to have a good idea.

It’s racked up over 45 million views on YouTube because it’s catchy (the song will be stuck in your head for years) and you want to share it with all your friends. But more importantly, you get the message, you know to be safe around trains because otherwise you’re as dumb as somebody who thinks it’s a good idea to use their private parts to catch piranha.  In fact, this video is so successful that it’s spawned a number of parodies which means that people want to engage with it, add to the conversation and be a part of the message. And isn’t that what public service announcements are all about?

Stop Moaning, Start Laughing

Over the past few weeks I’ve been watching a number of different free speech issues play out in the media. First there was Brett Murray’s “The Spear”, then came Nandos’ Diversity advert, and now the YouTube video, Jesus the Shangaan, by Mdu Comics. Each one has been lambasted in the press for being offensive, with politicians and critics citing that each piece is insulting and detrimental to South African society. One writer went so far as to imply that if you were not offended by the Jesus video, you were void of conscious. My only reasonable reply is, what an absolute load of BOLLOCKS! If that’s the case, and one wishes to make a simplistic argument (that article cannot be deemed anything but simplistic), then let’s make it really simple.

Firstly, by equating humour (which is entirely subjective) to morality, the writer has deduced, quite brilliantly, that if you weren’t offended you are on the same level, morally, as murderers, rapists, and sociopathic megalomaniacs . Secondly, he says that suicide is a global health problem. Um… No, it’s not. It’s the result of depression and psychiatric problems, which are global health problems. But I digress. This is not meant to lambast a self-important writer using pseudo-academic qualifications to justify his bigoted and condescending viewpoints.

What I actually wanted to point out is that South Africans seem to have an increasing inability to laugh at themselves. I’m not sure if it’s over-sensitivity, an unbearable self-righteousness, or a ridiculous fear of appearing politically incorrect. Overall, I think it’s an amalgamation of all three, resulting in a chronic case of white liberalism. You know, those white people who boasted at their lavish parties that they were helping their black domestic workers during apartheid because they gave them their children’s old clothes, chipped china sets, or cracked asbestos heaters. “Obviously, they would be grateful for such luxuries”, they would say,”they have such difficult lives and this will help make it a little easier”. No it won’t, you stupid fool! It’s condescending and patronising. Go out and make a difference. Do something useful, take a stand and risk your own freedom for theirs. That’ll make life better. But they didn’t do that, did they? They stayed in their ivory towers, put their children away in private schools after apartheid ended, and now talk about how the country has gone to pot. Wait, I’ve digressed again. The point is that the majority of people believe that by creating a facade of political correctness that it’s makes them a better person.  Um…. no….. It’s makes you a git.

The better person is the one who can appreciate the joke because they are able to recognise the social problems that have helped create the punchline, and then are able to engage with and criticise the social problem, not the joke. For the majority of South Africans it seems as if they believe that the buck stops with the artist, and very often fail to go any further. Yes, Brett Murray painted Zuma with his penis hanging out, but why? You don’t just create an image without some sort of reason (and I really don’t think it was because he thought we all wanted to see it). He could have been trying to insult his dignity, but again why? What has Zuma done that has warranted it? What has he done that has offended Murray so much? That’s what the country should be engaging with and questioning, not whether Murray was right or wrong in his approach.

John Jensen said a little while ago that the way an artist draws an individual is dependent on their like or dislike of the subject. If a politician has ugly politics then he’ll draw them ugly. The idea is to make the rest of society see it. The problem is that very few seem to want to see the ugliness and attempt to use political correctness as a way to hide what they don’t want to deal with. Maybe I’m wrong, but you all know what happens when you laugh off a bully, they eventually get over it and find somebody else who will react to their taunts. So maybe, if people learnt to roll with the punchlines, artists would get over it and move onto someone/something else that is really funny, like Nyan Cat.

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