Dealing with Trump

I’m posting this list of suggestions for dealing with the election of Donald Trump not because I think anyone would listen, not because I think anyone should listen (I can certainly be written off as a cisgendered guy of some limited success, none of which is in the political realm, and a bit of a loner not suited to organizing), but because I need to get these things out of my system, and posting them as individual responses to individual posters will merely create friction, generating more heat than light.

First off, don’t try to tell people it’s going to be “all right”.

Even if you believe that the upcoming administration is not going to deliver on most of its promises, there are a large number of them, any one of which could be disastrous, even deadly, for people, either immediately or in the long term. Whether its the person who loses the health insurance that was keeping them alive or the future humans suffering from the long-term environmental damage of rolling protections back, this is not “all right”.

(Saying “America will survive” also misses the point, as it puts the continued existence of an abstract political entity ahead of the people such an entity is intended to serve. America survived during slavery, lynching, internment camps. That should not be seen as a victory.)

Having said that, we should also not treat every goal the President-elect stated during his candidacy and every horrible outcome we can imagine as a done deal.

Not everything will happen, and this is not just because we’re dealing with a man who had a history of not following up on promises even before he became a politician. Yes, the one party controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, with a balanced Supreme Court with an opening, looks intimidating. However,

  1. The Republican party is not monolithic. It has people within it who believe strongly in some core conservative principles, and some who are simply hungry for power, and many who balance the two in varying degrees. While the party was good at unifying the votes in recent years, that was when the goal was to gain power by cutting power from the Democrats. That goal has been achieved, and thus is now gone. More inner dissent, both from those who feel freer to hold to principles and those who see that the fight to gain personal power means a battle within the party, is likely.
  2. The Party does not fully control the Senate. Even when monolithic, they don’t have the 60 vote supermajority needed to get many things done.
  3. Even the conservatives on the Supreme Court are not unified administration thralls. Getting five conservatives on the court does not mean the Republicans win everything they bring there. In particular, Chief Justice Roberts seems independent of the political tides. That does not mean that every division of where federal control ends or what can be mandated will fall in your preferred way, but it should at least prevent some of the more egregious efforts to roll back first amendment protections for the press or government targeting of individuals on the basis of religion.

Yelling at people about who they voted for seems not only unlikely to help, but counterproductive.

People are unable to rescind their votes (or lack thereof) at this point. It may feel cathartic, but it is likely to make the target of your attack defensive, more likely to shut you out and make their support for the administration something that is part of their identity that they have to defend.

At this point, the question in play is not “Trump?”, as that has already been answered in the affirmative, and is not likely to be revisited for four years. Instead, the question is a series of policies that can and should be individually addressed. The folks who voted for Trump largely do not think he is flawless (as the many votes against him in even the Republican primaries shows.) The final vote was between him and another, not-flawless candidate. You can put forth arguments against various individual policies as the issue at hand (“stop-and-frisk is a bad thing because…” “we need trade agreements because…”) without it seeming like a blanket attack on Trump and everyone who voted for him (even if you understandably have such blanket feelings.)

Do not knee-jerk reject everything that Trump may support just because Trump supports it.

If he declares it National Be Nice To Puppies Day, don’t start kicking the puppies. Acting like that will make it hard for people to take your legitimate objections to policies seriously. Do not call for your Senator to try to auto-block everything Trump may support. This does not mean give Trump the default benefit of the doubt, the man’s tendencies should at least cause you to question everything… just take the time to answer that question.

(Yes, the simple shutting-down-anything-Obama-supported seemed to work for Republicans, but the Republicans had very different goals; there’s a significant portion of them for whom stopping the government from functioning is at least a reasonable if rough description of their goals. And I would like to hope that the ultimate goal of most of the people reading this is not to serve to grant the Democratic Party power, but to serve to do good for the American people… for which Democratic power may well serve better than Republican power, but that power should always be recognized as a means, not an end.)

The fact that Trump has walked back a stance does not mean that we no longer have to worry about it. Flips in one direction can be undone by flops in the other. If he’s no longer talking about, say, registering Muslims, he is still the person who is quite capable of thinking that’s a good idea. And trying to shame Trump out of anything seems to be a misreading of the man.

It is very easy to keep one’s eyes solely on the federal level, particularly in this social media world, where the federal thing is the one thing that everyone is talking about. However, a lot of what might be achieved/needed will be at the state level. For one thing, many of the changes that one might worry about are in Federal requirements that states act in a certain way. For example, they are less likely to simply make same-sex marriage illegal than they are to get a realigned Supreme Court to rule that states are not required to offer or recognize such marriages… in which case, it is the laws in each state that will control the situation. Or for voting problems: gerrymandering is done on the state level, voter ID laws are on the state level.

Building alliances almost by definition means accepting people whose focus or methodology may be different from yours. As long as they’re pulling in the same general direction, they’re on your side. Allow them some room to be who they are. Do not discount the energy of the youth nor the gained knowledge of the old. (I got to watch both the shock of the young who didn’t think the bad times could come, and the sadness of the old who know to well what those times look like. There are good hearts in a bad moment on both ends of that spectrum.)

If you must err, err to the side of love… whatever that means in the moment.

I could be wrong with all of this, probably am with some of it. But it’s the best I can do.
Published in: on November 15, 2016 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Matching fonts when messing with images

I recently did a run of abusing the images of others, specifically taking movie posters and album covers and inserting the character ROM, Spaceknight into them. This got some very good response, and one commentator was particularly amazed at how well I was able to match the fonts of the existing text when inserting a credit for Rom on the poster or altering the title.

There are actually several ways to go about this, and if you’re messing with images with text, you should be prepared to use any or all of them.

1. Get the actual font

For a lot of things, this is quite possible. There are a variety of online tools to help you – Google “font identifier” and you’ll find ’em. Some have you upload an image of a bit of the existing text and then try to match fonts from their database against them. Others take you through a series of questions about the text you’re seeing to try to find a match. When it finds a font, it may be one you have, or it may be one that’s free online, or which someone has crafted a free lookalike.

I don’t think I did this for any of the ROM images.

2. Find a similar font

For example, in creating this image, it clearly wasn’t a computer set font. The squished W, the flares on some of the letters, this was obviously carefully handcrafted.


In order to extend “Mac” into “Machine”, I found a font of similar attributes – serifed, right height, right-ish weight (it’s a little too light, so it ain’t perfect), added the HIN, and made it look right by using a combination of stroking the letter with the background color and adding a drop shadow to get the added thin lines down and to the right of the letter.

3. Steal letters

For Fleetwood Machine, I wasn’t going to find a font with E’s that matched what came earlier… but because it came earlier, I didn’t have to. I just copied one of the E’s from Fleetwood. For that matter, the first O in ROMOURS is just the second O, shrunk a bit to fit the space and to look designy.

4. Build letters

For letters that aren’t anywhere else on the image, you can often build that letter from pieces of other letters, creating something that looks right.


To convert Run Lola Run to ROM Lola ROM, I relied on this… even for putting the O in ROM when I had an O I cold steal in Lola. The build was really easy – the O is just the bottom half of the U that was there, copied and flipped upside down to make the top. This made it easier to match the surrounding color than copying the O. Similarly, I took the left part of the N and flipped it horizontally to make the right half of the M.

5. Replace the whole font

Really, people don’t have memorized the exact font of a movie poster (well, Star Wars’s they do. Don’t mess with Star Wars.) If you can’t match the font of some of the existing text to your satisfaction, delete that text and rewrite it in a reasonably similar font that you do have.


The font on the Stepmom soundtrack disk looked commonish, but whatever it was, I don’t have it. The M’s on it are so wide that simply sticking a similar R into it wouldn’t work so well, no R wants to be that wide. So, I erased the whole thing, found a similar font, and dropped it in.


It’s not the same font at all, but looking at it, it clearly works. I replaced both the title and the credits at top.

And now that I’ve given you all my tips, you can now challenge me directly at my big-time career of messing up images for free.

Published in: on March 31, 2016 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

New season summary

Well, I’m well off the run of reviewing everything, but for the new season, I will say that I’ve found two keepers so far: The Grinder, which features Rob Lowe as an actor coming off of a long run as a popular TV lawyer trying to bring his inappropriate skills to the family law firm, to the consternation of his brother, Fred Savage (oddity note: the dad is played by the same guy who played Savage’s dad on the sitcom Crumbs years ago.)

And very, very much Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, an hour-long musical comedy on the CW. It’s a bit cringe-y, for those allergic to such things, but ah, witty!

Published in: on October 29, 2015 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Emmet Lego Movie badge costume

Emmet Lego Movie costume badge

For anyone else making their own Emmet costume (made it for my kid, I swear!), here’s an image I put together of Emmet’s badge from The Lego Movie. Click on it for the full resolution (4 inches wide at 300 dpi.)

Published in: on October 29, 2015 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Playing House? More like Playing Home Run!

It’s been a while since I swore off reviewing everything that came on TV, which has proven to be wise because there is simply one ridiculous whateverload of new fiction TV coming on. Between the cable networks getting more aggressive and the streaming companies coming into play, there is now on average more than one new scripted TV series being released per day. I’d have to check, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more new prime-time and prime-timey series released in 2014 than there were in the entire 1960s. There is a lawwwwt of TV.

And I turned away from doing reviews in general for professional reasons; my business has come closer to Hollywood in some ways, and I don’t want a talented person whom I want to work with to stumble across that review of the last thing she did which I didn’t like as much as some of her other work. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot make an occasional recommendation, particularly for something that might be otherwise overlooked.

And thus: Playing House. No, this is not the Hugh Laurie biopic we’ve all been waiting for. Rather, its a USA Network sitcom that somehow reached season 2 before I had any hint that it existed at all. It is created by and stars two women whose other work I don’t know, Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair. A high-powered executive type returns to her small hometown to help her pregnant best friend. There’s various other good comedy folk brought in, whether it’s Keegan-Michael Key (whose series Key & Peele I’m only just discovering, yes I am late to some parties!) as a regular (cop/friendly ex-boyfriend), Jane Kaczmarek as a recurring mom, or various one-shot appearances.

This stuff is smart, and because they created it, the leads have a strong hold on the tone of the show, making it flow nicely.

The whole first season and what exists to date of the second can be watched online, if you don’t have this show in your On Demand. Try it, do!

Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 12:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Smokes and Chickens

I recently did some writing for the stage for the first time in a long time (and for the first time ever where I wasn’t involved in the production.) It was for “The Box”, a project being staged at the Sacred Fools theater in L.A., where writers are all provided with a setting and characters and situations, and told to write scenes, while each being unaware of what the others were writing, and then the selected scenes are staged in random order over three nights, with some linking narration added. Seventy writers submitted, and 43 scenes by 35 writers were selected. Mine ran as part of the final night of the run, July 25, 2015. Since this particular set of scripts won’t ever be staged again, I figured I’d share them here. (The script here is as it was written; the producers trimmed it down some for time.

The characters used are Young Will, who has just returned from World War I and carries some secrets, and Molly, a suffragette.

Smokes and chickens”

by Nat Gertler

SETTING: The chicken farm, night.

AT RISE: MOLLY stands toward center, facing stage right, smoking a cigar. (All props can be mimed.) YOUNG WILL enters from stage left, walking backwards, skulking, really, a shovel in hand. He stumbles a bit, noisily, causing Molly to turn.







Don’t want to wake the chickens?


I think they’re closing in on me.



(no response)

I’ll keep an eye out. If I see a “them,” I’ll let you know.

(takes a puff)

But why run here, of all places?


I buried something here. A week ago. I need it.

(He scans the area, points to a spot.)


(notices her cigar)

Could you put that thing out?


Cigars bother you? Or just a woman smoking them?


No, it’s… in the war, they gave us all cigarettes. The cigarette makers donated them, free, said it was a patriotic thing, a gift to the boys. Couldn’t’ve been worse for us if the Kaiser had planned it. On a moonless night, you could see the tip of a cigarette glowing from a fifth of a mile away. Further, when someone was lighting up, a lot further. Made our boys easy to find, and that wasn’t good. And that was just little sticks. That stogie of yours…


(twisting the end of her cigar against the ground)

Got it. Was about to put it out anyway. Didn’t want to take it into the henhouse. Too much straw there.


Why are you going into a henhouse at night?


To name the hens.


Aren’t these Chicken Dave’s chickens?




And you’re going to name them because…?


Because Chicken Dave is the worst kind of male animal.


Oh? Seemed like a nice guy when I met him. Bit of a joker, but nice.


That’s the worst kind. A total misanthrope, when he’s bad to you, that’s just part of who he is. But Chicken Dave’s the guy who if he knows that you’re hungry, he’ll bring you a sandwich. You know if you need help putting the fence up, he’s there. He’ll spend an hour on some silly prank to make you laugh. But if you want something that costs him nothing, like respect as a person or the right to vote, he’ll stand in your way. It’s bad enough that the mean folks are bad. When the nice folks are bad, it strips you of all hope.


And naming the chickens will change that?


Just the hens. You see, Chicken Dave is a nice guy to his chickens… he thinks. He feeds them, he sings to them, he acts as if he loves them. Then when they stop producing eggs, he kills them. He eats them or sells them to someone else to eat. And that’s probably easy, because he just sees them as chickens, as just this group. It’s no problem turning chickens into chicken, fried, boiled, maybe chicken salad. But if they have names – if tomorrow I tell him “this one’s Brenda, this one’s Marguerite,” then maybe, next time he’s got the axe out, he’ll suddenly realize that he’s not “making chicken,” but he’s “killing Brenda.”

(YOUNG WILL starts to dig.)


Maybe. Prob’ly not.


Probably not. One-in-five, one-in-six chance, I reckon. And it’s still not going to stop him from killing chickens, because that’s his business. But if I can get him to see hens as individuals, then I’ve set him down a path. Then I can make him see women as people, worthy of full personhood. Maybe.


Prob’ly not.


Probably not. It’s a longshot. But I didn’t have anything better to do tonight. Wasn’t getting any more sleep.


Why not?


Oh, bad dream. Bad, bad dream. And I’ve got a friend I’m worried about, she’s in a bad way. And my brain kept coming up with names for chickens.

(YOUNG WILL is on his knees, scraping something out of the hole he’s dug.)


You’ve found it!


(lifting a locket out of the hole)



No? It wasn’t that…?


Locket? No.


So that means…


Either someone took it, dug it up, and someone else later reused the same spot to bury this, or someone dug it up and swapped it for this.


B sounds more likely.

(YOUNG WILL opens up the locket. He recognizes something in it.)




Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chili shepherd’s pie

Mix a batch of Betty Crocker Garlic&Herb Mashed Potatoes. In a pie plate, mix together one tube of mechanically-separated turkey meat and one can of turkey chili with beans. Layer the potatoes on top, put in a 370 degree oven until the upper tips of the potatoes are dark brown.

Result? Daughter Allison’s response was “I’ll want seconds. LARGE seconds.” So I’ll take that as a success.

Published in: on April 5, 2015 at 10:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Amazon Echo – I review my new toy

EchoAmazon’s new Echo device, heading out to early adopters at this point, is basically a landline version of Siri, letting you talk into the cloud to get answers, information, and other services. This black tube about as tall as a Pringles can and slightly wider only plugs in for power. Internet access must be gotten through wifi, which you must configure using an app on your smart phone or tablet. The app ends up being a necessary partner in making full use of your Echo. If your Echo can’t answer your question directly, it tosses a search engine link over to the app (a Bing link, of course, because Google is not chummy friends with Amazon.) You can add things to a maintained shopping list by talking to your Echo, but can only remove things using the app. And if you want to configure your Echo, such as giving it a name that it will respond to, you do that through the app.
(Oh, giving it a name. Now there’s a disappointment. The Echo sits there quietly, until you say its name, then it lights up, perks up, ready to answer a question or obey your command. And some of the promotional material made it sound like you could pick a name. Which is actually true in the most trivial sense possible – you get your choice of two names. You can call your Echo “Alexa”, or you can call it “Amazon”. This is not only inconvenient if you happen to have named your two kids “Amazon” and “Alexa”, but it’s a disappointment because I wanted to name mine “Mata Hari”. I really, really, really wanted to name it Mata Hari. Why? Because it’s an honest-to-goodness always-on live microphone sending out things I say over the Internet, to one of the biggest data-gathering operations there is. What kind of sufficiently paranoid person volunteers for that? Me apparently.)
(Note to youngsters and the under-read: Mata Hari was a spy.)
So basically, the devices does things that you could do with a tablet or a smartphone and you need a tablet or smartphone to fully use it. So what’s the advantage to having it? Well, the biggest reason is that it makes your life feel real science fictiony – you’re walking through your living room, you just shout out a question, and a ring of cool lights spring up at the top of this tube, with one light pointing toward you, and level, female voice answers your question. It seems so Minority Report.
(Youngsters: Minority Report is a film from 2002. Science fiction.)
Second thing is that it really can be convenient for the basic things it does. Telling it to set a timer is simply a shout, no matter what you’re in the middle of, what your hands are full of.
The third is that it’s a music-playing device, streaming your tunes to the room… at least, those tunes you have stored by Amazon. As with most Amazon devices, the primary goal is not to serve you but to encourage you to use Amazon services. Buy your tunes through Amazon, and you can request them through this. Subscribe to Amazon Prime, and you have voice command access to the Amazon Prime Music library. It will support whatever things that Amazon chooses to let you access through it, like IHeartRadio. But you aren’t getting your iTunes on this.
I’m no stereophile, I won’t claim to judge sound quality. It sounds good enough to be my ambient music. It plays streaming music without me having to turn on my TV. For me, it’s an improvement. Volume can be controlled by voice command, by remote control, or by turning a ring around the top of the tube.

Once I’d gotten it set up, I put the Echo through some very basic steps.

  • “Alexa, what time is it?”
  • “It’s 1:10.”
  • “Alexa:Set an alarm for 1:50.”
  • “Alarm set for 1:50 this afternoon.” (I would later find that one of its weaknesses is that it wasn’t an alarm, it was the alarm. Try to set a second alarm, and it will indeed be set, but the first alarm setting disappears. Learned that one the hard way.)
  • I decided to try its look-up-in-Wikipedia function. “Alexa: Wikipedia Nat Gertler.” (yes, I have a Wikipedia page.)
  • It starts to read me the Wikipedia for a town whose name is similar to my last name.
  • I try again. “Alexa: Wikipedia Nat Gertler.”
  • It reads me the introduction to the Wikipedia page for Republic Steel.
  • “Alexa: Wikipedia Nat Gertler.”
  • While it is admitting that it didn’t understand what I am looking for, my phone rings. I grab it, and say “Good afternoon.” The Echo starts reading me the Wikipedia page for “Greeting”.
I tried to destroy the Echo by asking it “What is love?”, but it just quoted the Dalai Lama at me.
Another thing it’s good for is keeping the kids distracted for a little while, as they work out what it will do. Yes, they can ask it math questions. No, it can’t tell them how far it is between two cities, but yes, it can tell them how far each city is from here. No, it won’t sing you songs, but yes, it will tell you a joke if asked. The kids added a lot of silly things to the shopping list, and were surprised when it read them back a list with even more silly things (I was in another room, augmenting their shopping list via the app.)
The thing that delighted them most was when my daughter sang  “Alexa: Do you wanna build a snowman?” and gotten the spoken response “Come on, let’s go and play!” (And it even has multiple responses to that question.)
Overall, at this point, it feels more like a novelty than a necessity. Some of what it does, it does impressively well, like hearing a command over other noise in the room. Some it does so-so; it’s generally good at understanding my requests, less so my five year old, but luckily it tends to repeat back what it’s asked, so at least we know it’s answering the wrong question. There are odd quirks in the data set it’s using for some things; ask it to define “sister”, and the one about a female sibling isn’t the first definition, it’s the fourth. Similarly, the definition of “knocker” went through the more lurid slangy sense and a yiddish term before getting to the item that hands on a door.
But those concerns are software, not hardware, and software upgrades, so there is hope for something more full. As the Echo will tell you when you ask it (her? The voice is most definitely a her.) “Where are you?”, she is here, but her head is in the cloud. Additional services could be added without even a download. So this could be more and better; whether it will probably depends on whether enough people adopt it to give Amazon a belief that there should be a future for this. If they don’t, this will be another Apple Newton.
(Youngsters: if you haven’t heard of the Newton… that’s kind of the point.)
The Echo is orderable here. It currently has a steep discount for Amazon Prime users.
Published in: on February 20, 2015 at 3:20 am  Leave a Comment  

What’s up on TV

One of the reasons that I stopped doing the regular reviewing thing is that there is just too much TV today to really stay on top of it. Saw a figure quoted earlier that more than 350 original scripted series had new episodes in 2014, when you count all the cable channels, the major streaming sources, and so forth.

But I have been watching things. And just having come off a batch of watching new things, I thought I’d do some running down, for the two people who still have this one their watch list.

  • The Nightly Show fills the old Colbert Report slot with news commentary humor and discussion, focusing on minority issues. On the first episode, the news humor is quite good. Host Larry Wilmore is a smart and talented man… but his voice grates on me a bit. We’ll see if I get used to it. The discussion panel was a mixed bag at best; you could tell when each of the night’s panel members were Saying The Thing They Had Prepared To Say, hanging it however loosely on the question or conversation of the moment. Overall total, on the good side. And here’s a weird confession: I was kind of hoping to not like this show, as liking it means two hours a week of watching it.
  • I’ve watched several of the non-kiddy Amazon Original pilots of this batch, and as everyone’s telling you, The Man in the High Castle is the one worth watching. It’s an alternate history take set about a decade after the Allies lost World War II. It’s well put together… but my main thought is that whoever the production designer is has just found a dream job. “Here, combine Nazi design and Japanese design with 1960s US.” What more could you ask for as a design assignment?
  • The other originals I watched: despite having some good people in the cast, Salem Rogers doesn’t work. If you saw Bad Teacher and Bad Judge, well, they would’ve called this one Bad Model, but they forgot to cast Ryan Hansen. A supermodel returns from extended rehab and proceeds to terrorize her former assistant and act entitled. It feels compressed and just not funny. Down Dog, about a vapid yoga instructor, deals actually in some of the same realms of that wacky Hollywood, but is mellower, less abrasive, more smoothly done, and still not funny. Cocked uses a standard formula of the offspring who left the family business but must come back to save it and deal with wacky relatives (example: Arrested Development.) It’s got Brian Dennehy in it, which is a good thing, and Jason Lee, which is inconsistently a good thing. It tries for a mix of humor and drama, but alas the humor is not that funny and the drama is contrived. Some nudity for those that like it (although it’s of Symbolically Sexy women for a scene’s needs, rather than being actually sexy), some small LGBT content for a key but unconvincing plot point.  It’s not a show that I would be surprised at getting a few seasons for a while, but I doubt I’ll be watching.
Published in: on January 22, 2015 at 3:44 am  Leave a Comment  

On those of us who try to be funny

In the wake of a recent suicide, there are discussions and articles going around that anyone who tries to be funny is so desperate, sad, and lonely that they are at all times one small step away from taking the Big End To It All option.
People also frequently note that I am often trying to be funny.
So let me start by assuring everyone out there that I am not on the edge, I am nowhere near that edge, I don’t foresee myself ever being at that edge absent real physical suffering or impending complete collapse of intellect.
This is not to say that I am without depressions – really, more frustrations, I’m a very frustrated man in some ways, having squandered both abilities and opportunities (all of which is on me). I feel I have achieved most of what I’m likely to, and there are some genuine achievements in there, but the pile could have been bigger. As a writer, I am both more successful than most people who see themselves as writers and less successful than most of the people folks are apt to think of when they think about writers. And I’ve managed to get myself in a position in life where I’m spending a lot of time doing things that I’m not that good at.
And I don’t always put these things forward because I’d rather be judged on my strengths and successes than on failures and weaknesses. And I make my jokes because they are a success; I am good at finding some combination of things about a given situation that meet in a surprising way. And it feels good not just to amuse other folks (although that is certainly a measure of success) but to simply put it together; it has some of the same satisfaction as solving a math puzzle does for me.
And I am proud of things that I have done, including things that you don’t know about. And while I might not have that many successes to look forward to, there are other forms of pleasure that still await. I have my up side as well.
So if you had any concern regarding me, I appreciate your caring, and can always use support… but I’m not suicidal, merely human, and we all to some degree clothe our wrinkled natural selves.

Published in: on August 12, 2014 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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