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Monday, June 30, 2008

Announcements

Searching

The other day I was using the Google search box that used to be at the top of Bunsnip to try to find an old post of mine, and that's when I learned that the Google search was completely worthless at searching within Bunsnip. Complete hit or miss. So I replaced it with the standard Blogger.com search box, so now it should be much easier to search the archives.

Of course, I find that people aren't really interested in reading archives. I myself rarely find the time to dig through the archives of the blogs I read on a daily basis. (The exceptions are the blogs that make it into my Must Read Blog series, which I try to read pretty thoroughly before writing a spotlight.)

It's a shame, really, because there are often gems hidden within archives. Sov and I were talking about this a bit ago, and he pointed out that he doesn't even have an archive widget on his blog because people only want to read new stuff. I guess, in a way, that's the nature of blogs. They aren't really written to be timeless. Current is the currency with blogs.

But anyway, the search box is functional now, if you ever need it.


Email

Also, I've finally created an email address for contacting me through Bunsnip. I have been struggling since about the beginning of the year to get sra@bunsnip.com up and running, but mail service through Godaddy.com is completely useless, and I can't get it to work through GoogleApps either, even though I've followed their MX record setup instructions to the letter multiple times. So I broke down and created a gmail account for now:

bunsnip @ gmail . com

So if you have something to say that you simply can't say in a comment, feel free to use that address. Maybe someday I'll get fancy and create an email form, and maybe one day I'll even create navigation tabs where I can put information like this, but right now I'm lacking in both saavy and time.


Palomino & Kid Theodore @ Kilby Wednesday 2nd 7:PM

You've heard me talk about Palomino before (now they call themselves The Devil Whale... I liked the name Palomino better, but the act is as good as ever). Well both Palomino and another really great local band called Kid Theodore are going to be playing Kilby Court Wednesday at 7:PM. They are opening acts for... the Tilly Wall, I believe. I've never heard of Tilly Wall, but if Palomino and Kid Theodore are the supporting acts, then Tilly Wall are probably mighty fine themselves. So I recommend going if you're going to be in the Salt Lake area on Wednesday.

I'll be there; say hello if you see me!




That is all, thank you.



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Down with Fax Machines

Aside from having to listen to redundant instructions on a regular basis from one of my attorneys (since apparently I am too stupid to comprehend a note or email, so verbal instructions are also necessary [not that I mind verbal instructions, I just want one or the other, not both]), ... right, aside from all that, faxing is the most loathed part of my job. I suppose it probably wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that we deal with other law firms all over the world, and faxing to places like Egypt, Ecuador, Colombia, and Iran can be downright impossible.

Frankly, in this internet age, I don't see the point of faxing. It's the modern day equivalent of sending a letter via telegraph. This is the internet age, my friends, and even places like Egypt, Ecuador, Colombia, and Iran have the internet these days. Furthermore, the reliability of their internet is generally far superior to the reliability of their phone lines. (At least that's the impression that I get when I'm standing in front of the fax machine listening to the most heinous screeching noises that issue forth from the speaker when my fax to India is being rejected for the fifth time.)

The worst part about the faxing in our office is that it is almost always redundant, because we generally send all international correspondence by both fax and mail. Why the duplication? Why not choose one or the other? I think that for correspondence that does not need to arrive at its destination urgently, we ought to just use the postal service. For correspondence that needs to get out right away, we ought to use the fax, because by the time the redundant postal version gets there, it will be too late to be of any good anyway.

Actually, we should just give up on postal mail and facsimiles altogether in favor of email. But the problem with email in our office is that when we do send it, we generally create the letter on paper for the attorney to sign, then we scan it in and send it as a PDF to its destination. What a mind-numbing waste of time and megabytes. Why don't we just type the letter right into the email message? We can even create custom letterhead email templates! Why does it seem that everyone else thinks things are more worthwhile when they're more complicated?



If you need me, I'll be by the fax machine.


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Friday, June 27, 2008

HealthQuest 2008 - June: Anaerobic v. Aeorbic

Last month, I talked about how diet is like an accent in language, in that diet is a way of living and not a set of formulas about eating and exercising; just like a proper accent is a way of holding your mouth and not a set of rules about pronunciation.

I still think that's a pretty good analogy, and this month I've just been trying to figure out my diet accent by living an active and fulfilling life. I've biked a lot, walked a lot, and eaten... a lot. Probably. Mostly I think I've just drunk a lot. (Hey, SOMEONE has to celebrate the fact that the LSAT is over, and that someone might as well be me!)

So on the whole, once again, no major results in my figure this month, though I do have results in my strength and stamina from all the hill climbing on my bike. (Why the hell did I choose to live in an apartment on top of a freaking mountain?)

But this month, I've started reading a book that I think will have me making adjustments in my routine next month. It's called The Abs Diet for Women, and the main gist of it is that building muscle mass is the key to burning fat.

Apparently, for each pound of muscle mass on your frame, your body burns some 150-300 calories just to maintain the muscle! (I don't have the book in front of me, so the numbers are coming from memory... hence the large and gaping range.) So the argument goes that if you build up your muscle mass, this will raise your metabolism and basically turn your body into its own fat burning factory.

Here's something else in the book that I've found interesting: aerobic exercise can actually end up lowering your metabolism. Here's how: your body starts eating up protein before it eats up fat when you burn calories aerobically. Protein helps build your muscle mass. So if you eat up your protein, you might end up losing muscle mass, and this will lower your metabolism.

That means that when your body is at rest, it won't burn calories at as high of a rate as it would if you had more muscle mass.

I want to pause to say that this is all second-hand stuff coming from me, so if you want the skinny (heh, heh), go grab the book from your local library and see for yourself.

So the book proposes a diet rich in protein, and an exercise regiment that builds muscle mass, particularly in the abdominal region, cause when your core is strong, your whole body is strong.

So the plan for next month is to implement the Abs Diet. I'll let y'all know how that fares.





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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Who you calling "lady"?

Out of curiosity, I did a Google search for "Bunsnip" to see what came up. I was happy to see that Bunsnip.com was on top (I love being on top... ok, actually that's a lie... cause I'm lazy... you know). After that was my page at MyBlogLog.com, followed by Technorati searches, and a few places where I've left my mark around the web.

But then down at the bottom of the first page there was a link accompanied by the following preview content:

On a side note, one of the blogs I was hoping to check out last Friday was Bunsnip. That stupid crazy lady stopped me from finding out how the 2008 fitness ...

But the link was to my MySpace account, so there's no way for me to know the end of that sentence, or who wrote it. And I'm dying to know who called me a stupid crazy lady. The funny thing about that is that I object mostly to the word "lady". Call me stupid, or call me crazy, go ahead, I don't mind, but "lady" makes me sound so old and frumpy. And I'm 25, and not frumpy at all (at least in my mind)!

If this sentence belongs to you, then I have this to say to you:

Who you calling "lady"? Chump!

(After which I say thank you for caring enough about my blog to write a sentence about it in the ether.)



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Monday, June 23, 2008

Rational Self-Interest

I'm not a people person, never have been. I think other people don't particularly understand me, and I don't particularly care about other people. I care, of course, about my family and my friends, but at the end of the day, I've always sort of considered myself to be the most important person in my life. Sounds really selfish, doesn't it? But I don't think it is, really. I am the only person in my life that I HAVE to live with for my entire life, so it only makes sense that I look out for myself, my health, my needs above anyone else's. And I think everyone else should do the same, too.

There are exceptions, of course. The moment you become a parent is the moment your life stops being all about you and starts being about your child. After 18-20 years or so, once your kid grows up and assumes control of her own life, then you can reclaim yourself as the center of your life, but until then your needs are no longer of top importance.

The philosophy of Objectivism, based largely on the writings on Ayn Rand, runs along these same lines, only instead of using terms like self-centered and selfish, Objectivists call it rational self-interest. I can't explain this very well, because the extent of my exposure to Objectivism was a short few weeks in which I joined the Objectivist Club at the U of U in order to stalk a boy in the club whom I had a crush on. I just remember being able to relate to our discussions on rational self-interest during my brief attendance at club meetings.

Anyway, the bottom line is I want to shoulder my own burdens, and I don't want a part in carrying the burdens of others. You know the old adage that goes something like: "Catch a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for life"? I really like that saying. If there were something I could do for someone along the lines of teaching them to fish, I would be willing to do that, but I feel too often people just want me to give them a fish, and I see how futile that is.

Say you have a relative who doesn't have good money management skills. They never seem to have enough money to pay the bills, but they still manage to eat out frequently and buy new clothes and electronics. They still take vacations and drive expensive vehicles. They get raises at work, and adjust spending accordingly, digging themselves deeper into debt. And sometimes they ask you for a "loan" to help them keep their head above water. You oblige, and maybe you are even realistic enough to know that they are never going to pay back what you lent them. You are happy to help, even if deep down you feel a little resentful that they are taking advantage of your generosity with no intention of getting their finances in order. You throw them a fish every now and then, but they will always have a need for more. If you really want your money to do them any good, you'll teach them to fish by buying them a session or two with a financial counselor who will help them understand how finances work, and help them formulate a plan to decrease spending, increase savings, and pay off debt.

Ok, so here's my dilemma: I have this neighbor in my complex who is in a bad situation. She's a middle aged woman from Venezuela, moved to the U.S. quite young, stays here on a Visa. Has no phone, no car, can barely afford food, doesn't seem to have an adequate winter coat. Has a teenage daughter who either ran away from home, or was taken away by social services, or was kidnapped, depending on the version she tells on a given day. She has asked to use my phone on multiple occasions, which I have obliged. In the winter, she asked me a couple times to drive her to a location a few blocks away. Ok, not really happy about becoming a personal driver, but it's not that big of a deal to go a few blocks. Now she has asked me to drive her to Sandy to get papers to renew her Visa, and I told her I didn't know if I could do it. I don't want to do it. Maybe it's not that big of a deal, but I don't want to spend my Saturday morning driving this woman 100 blocks away, and I don't want to open the door for her to keep asking more of me. Besides, the Trax goes very near to where she's trying to go.

I feel bad for her situation, I really do. But I didn't ask to get involved, and I really don't want to be involved. I'm just not the right person to come to about things like this; I'm not the right stuff for it. There's a reason that I've lived in my apartment for seven years and still I don't know any of my neighbors. I don't want to get involved in someone's life simply because I live by them. I just want to be left alone, and I want to leave others alone.

And I can't see any of the things I can do for this woman as being anything other than throwing her a fish. There are systems set up to help people like this, there is low income housing, welfare, employment services, food stamps, paratransit. The Mormon Church helps people in her situation, and she was telling me she's with the Church, so I don't see why she can't go to them. I don't want to stand in for any of these things. And I don't see how I can teach her to fish.

Does that make me a bad person? Am I bad because I don't want to help?



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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Utah: Life Closed Sundays

Screw the Life Elevated slogan (which is just a little bit stuck-up anyway), Utah's new slogan should be Life Closed Sundays. Because it's true. Even in Salt Lake and Ogden, the cities where there is the lowest Mormon to Non-Mormon ratio, which translates to about 50%, there is still a large enough ratio of the church-going population who think it's a sin to spend money on Sundays that it isn't very economically feasible for most places to remain open for business on Sundays.

It's hard to do much of anything on a Sunday here, except go to church, or go to visit nature. But sometimes I still manage to forget that Utah is closed on Sundays, and so I try to schedule something productive to do. Like today, I wanted to get my emissions and safety inspections done, and I was able to do so, but not before visiting no less than 8 lube job places until I could find one that (1) was open for business, (2) actually performed E&S tests, and (3) had working computers.

I finally found a place that met these criteria, and my old 91 Buick Park Ave managed to pass another year of inspections. Technically they weren't supposed to pass me, because my car horn has been disabled so that when my defective car alarm goes off randomly in the middle of the night it doesn't keep my neighbors awake. Believe me, I'd like to have that car horn back very badly. Do you know how many times per week I find myself frustratedly slapping my horn in vain as some asshole cuts me off? I don't either, it's too hard to keep track. But we can't figure out how to remove or otherwise disable the car alarm, so the disconnected horn is the best solution we could muster, and I have to learn to let go of my road rage as a result. But anyway, the nice mechanics at Jiffy Lube passed me because I'm just so damn hot!

Seriously though, driving around town looking for an open lube shop, I couldn't help but notice just how ghost-townish this place looks on Sundays. It's kind of depressing.

So after the lube job Ian and I needed a suitable Sunday activity, and since we don't go to church we chose instead to visit nature by way of a bike ride up to the U of U campus. I think this is one of my new favorite rides, especially at this time of year when pretty much the only people on campus are other cyclists and a few clumsy skateboarders. It's a pretty steady climb up to the top, and both times that I've taken the ride I've had to stop and rest twice on my way up, but once I get to the top of HPER Highway, it's all downhill from there. I let gravity do it's thing as I round the bend at the top of the Highway, and am rewarded with the thrill of the wind sweeping across my face as I pick up speed on my descent. I enjoy the adrenaline rush as I accelerate past the education building and the labyrinthine Languages & Communications building, speeding ever faster towards the business area. And just when I think I might need to apply my brakes, the HPER Highway bends to the right, where it levels off onto the Library Plaza, and inertia carries me past the pyramid-shaped skylights on the Plaza, which forms the roof of the Library's basement. Then I take the gentler slopes down toward the Union Building, veering left past the Bookstore, past Biology and Student Services and onto Presidents' Circle, where the climb had begun. It's such a beautiful ride, and the downhill is a great reward for all the hard work in getting to the top.

I guess it's ok if Utah decides to close up shop Sundays. At least then I can ride.



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Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama for the people; by the people

Hey all you liberals, and all you conservatives and moderates who are sick of the status quo, Barack Obama has announced that his campaign is opting out of public funding which is legally available for campaigns. This basically means he is not accepting over $80 million from lobbyists and special interest groups to fund his campaign (and also to thereby influence his policy). Instead, he's asking for a grassroots type of campaign, wherein his funding will come from contributions from people like you and me.

Personally, I think this is a really brave and commendable decision, considering that Obama has been critical of the campaign contribution system from the beginning. It takes integrity to uphold that position now that it's down to him and McCain, and the election looms 5 months away. It's a very refreshing thing to see from a politician.

Follow this link to watch Barack's video announcement about this decision, and also to make a campaign contribution if you wish. I'm not a big fan of politics in general, but I find myself believing in Obama, so I sent him $25. It'll buy his campaign some balloons and maybe a McDonald's hamburger, but hey, campaigns need those too, right?

Seriously, though, even if you're supporting McCain, this is a very important election. And if you are supporting Obama, but you live in Utah, making a campaign contribution might be the only way to make your voice matter, since this state always bleeds red on the political map. The important thing is to voice your vote in this election.

And now back to your regular non-political Bunsnip programming...


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dear Paradise Bakery,

Congratulations! You found a way to make the meat of the most flavorful animal -- the pig -- taste completely and utterly bland. Now I see why you like to smear your ham and Swiss sandwiches with lots of brown mustard; the better to mask the flavor of your bland ham.

I mean seriously, for the price I paid for your blandwich, I could have gone to the deli, bought half a pound of Blackforest Ham and well-aged Swiss, and made my own ham and Swiss sandwich, except mine would have tasted like orgasm on bread.

And let me assure you that that's what I intend to do from now on. But since you are in the sandwich business, I will leave you with a little advice: get your act together, and stop cutting costs by cutting quality. Instead, maybe cut a couple of your deadbeat teenage employees.

A sandwich is a holy thing that is best not abused with your cheap, nasty ham and overzealous spreading of brown mustard (hint: it only takes a little dab of the mustard blended out with mayo in order to spice the sandwich. Any more than a half teaspoon, and you might as well forgo the bread and sandwich toppings and just treat yourself to a spoonful of mustard, because that's all you'd be tasting anyway.)

Sincerely,


Sandwich-Enthusiast Sra



P.S. I still like your carrot cake.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Good Neighbor Defends the Farm

I received a rather lengthy comment in response to my post called Like a Good Neighbor, my ass, about my difficulties with being locked out of my State Farm insurance online account. (BTW, I think I've found a solution which neither requires me to call State Farm's technical service 800 number, nor ever log-in to State Farm's website again. And I don't even have to switch insurance companies. More on that in a minute.)

Anyway, because the comment was so lengthy, and because my response is liable to be equally lengthy, I thought I'd address it in another post instead of doing a reply comment, like I usually do. First, here's the anonymous comment:

Hi Sra, I work for State Farm in the area that handles the security processes you mention. I know the questions can be a hassle, but Federal regulations require all institutions doing online banking activity to add additional security along with using the ID and password for authenticating customers.

We chose security questions as the additional security measures -- and customer feedback has made it clear we need to make the process more user-friendly.

We have started to do this. There are now only 2 security questions instead of 3, and the text field has been unmasked so you can see what you are typing for the answer. It is challenging to provide answers to these questions and then have to recall them months later. Keeping them short, simple, and easy can help. They don't even have to be true - just something you can remember.

But don't make them TOO easy, the reason they are there is not to make it hard for you to get into your account, they are there to help keep the hackers out.

Thank you, Anonymous, I appreciate your comment. I understand that there are Federal security regulations required of financial institutions. For instance, my credit union shows me a special image coupled with a keyword, both of which I chose, and they both appear on a screen after I have entered my password and ID. Once I see this image and keyword, I enter my bank PIN. Very easy to handle.

Security questions, however, are pieces of headache-inducing bullshit. Also, I used State Farm's online account for months before I was EVER asked my security questions, so naturally I couldn't remember the exact form of the answers by the time I was asked. If I were required to answer them every time, then this wouldn't have been an issue. I appreciate the advice to just make up an answer to the questions, and perhaps that's something I'll have to do in the future. I'll just use the same three words each time I have to answer security questions anywhere. Maybe it'll go like this:


What is your mother's maiden name?
Security

What is your favorite color?
Questions

What is the air-speed velocity of a South-African homing pigeon?
Blow Dick

Ok, so that last one is two words, but I think I could remember them well enough.


Finally, I want to reiterate (or is it iterate?), that my main complaint was not even about the stupid dick-blowing security questions. Rather, it was about the fact that State Farm REFUSED to help me via email. And no one has provided me with an adequate explanation for that. My email queries asking why we couldn't resolve this by email were either ignored completely, or I received the same stock answer along the lines of "We'd like to discuss this matter with you further, please call 1-888..." And when I said, "No, I won't call, let's resolve this by email, there's no good reason not to. The telephone is no more secure than email, and you can't know my identity any better by the phone versus email," the reply was, "We need to confirm your identity."

NO FUCKING KIDDING. Let's do it BY EMAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My imploring was eventually directed to someone who works at my agent's office, and she had this to say: "Because of the privacy act you are the only one who can get the password reset. The only way to do this is by calling 1-888..." But no explanation as to WHY THAT IS THE ONLY WAY.

None. Nothing to appease my need for a little rationality and respect from the people who are taking my money every month, and yet don't seem to care very much about my customer satisfaction.

So I think I've solved my own problem anyway, since State Farm was not able to help me. I use an Electronic Bill Pay through my Credit Union, and so I figured I'd set up State Farm on there, and just guesstimate the amount of my bill every month. It's usually pretty steady anyway. But when I set up the account, it turns out that you can opt for State Farm to send a copy of your bill via email, which I assume means it will include the bill amount. I'll know for sure next month, but until then, I feel victorious.





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Monday, June 16, 2008

Relief

It's over. I took the LSAT today after 8 months of preparation and lots of nervous anticipation. And I'm pleased to report that I feel really good about it. In fact, I think I may have made that thing my bitch. Maybe. I guess we'll know in 3 weeks.

Fingers crossed.



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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Must-Read Blog #4: Reflections in the Void

This is the fourth post in a series featuring blogs that are on my daily Must-Read list. Some of them are from people I know personally, and others are from random people I found on the internet in one way or another, but all of them are worthwhile reading.




Reflections in the Void is written by my brother Zac, who has always been a much more eloquent writer than I am. He is both terribly intelligent and terribly clear at the same time. Unlike, say, legal language, which is terribly unclear and only looks terribly intelligent because of all the big obscure words and Russian-doll-like syntactic structure. (But I have a sneaking suspicion that if you grilled an attorney on what his writing really means, he would be almost as confused as you are much of the time. A lawyer's job is to obfuscate, and it seems they do that very well.) Anyway, unlike an attorney, Zac makes eloquent sophistication look easy. Observe:



Zac on Time:

20080217

Time

[...]

I'm not nearly so much the night owl many of my friends and acquaintances are (and my cat pretty much insists I get up to feed her every morning about six) but I find I enjoy the dark hours, at least in part because they are so timeless. One hour merges in with the next. With no externally imposed schedule, I find myself wondering how much a sense of time any of us have. If you're not meeting someone else's deadline, does it really matter to you if it's six or seven, one or two? In the dark hours, only my own fatigue and current activity/interest are my guides. Time is a quality that is useful at times, but not essential to the human experience. One may attempt to objectively measure a duration of time if one finds a need, but the human mind can make time's passing an ephemeral thing.

In relativity, no two events can properly be said to occur simultaneously. In some of the proposed solutions to uniting quantum mechanics and general relativity, time divides out of the equation. I can't really pretend I understand what that means, but the articles in the science rags say that time isn't necessarily a variable against which other variables change, the other physical variables simply change as a function of one another. "Clocks don't measure time, 'time' is whatever it is clocks measure." Maybe the universe doesn't care what time it is in those dark hours either.


Zac's Positive Review of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (which, incidentally, made my Most Overrated Movies of 2007 list)

[Zac defends himself thusly: "I wasn't so much giving Pirates 3 a good review as I was accentuating the positive."] Duly noted.

20080229

americanpirate

[...] I differ from some people's opinions (hi, Sra) in that I find DMC the best of the three. Beneath the PG-13 fantasy adventure movie Disney let them actually make, there's the structure of a really vivid and dark fantasy horror movie that I find very compelling. The movie is full of devil's bargains, occasionally literal but more interesting when figurative. All the characters find themselves putting their souls (if you will) at stake, having to risk something precious, having to compromise their sense of what good people they think they are, in order to stay alive and out of prison with even the slightest hope of life, love, and happiness still being at the end of the tunnel. It can be quite interesting and chilling, and it's much more than I expected from a followup to the fun magic action yarn of the first movie.

The third movie does an interesting thing in making a tale of pirates versus the British seafaring interests into a war of freedom versus authority. Real world pirates might have been relatively cosmopolitan and socially loose compared with the societies of the time, but theirs is hardly a story of freedom. Pirates were still all about domination and their social structure had its own kind of authoritarian hierarchy, though the rule-by-the-strong was a little more obvious.

Still, an American movie will infuse itself with American (or more properly, Western Liberal) values, myths, and metaphors. And so we see the story of a diverse bunch of rag-tag freedom-loving good guys overcoming their differences to make a great stand for liberty and justice against the amassed forces of control, privilege, and power. It's a story we love, and we'll tell it again and again with pirates or cowboys or spaceships or gangsters or even stockbrokers.

Zac on the Dating Violence Bill:

20080303

nongunlawwoes

[...]

I consider it a proper function of universal education to show all girls growing up that there are more options available to them than serving someone else's will, and to instill self-respect in them so that they will absolutely never want to "graciously submit." Then all the guys sick enough to want their girlfriends and wives to be subservient to them will be eternally frustrated, never achieve their captain-of-the-household dreams, live in misery, and die alone as they deserve. Or we can use universal education to instill enough respect and morality in boys growing up so that they realize authoritarianism is absolutely and universally evil, and that all relationships are among equals. Best of all, we can instill all these things in all children wherever they fall on the sex and gender spectra.

So there's a little taste of what you can expect over at Reflections in the Void. You're guaranteed to get something thought-provoking out of Zac's blog. Almost every post makes me think of some part of the world (or religion, or politics, or humanity) in a way I've never thought of it before. Being treated to a view of the world through a slightly different colored lens than my own is just one of the many benefits of having Zac as my brother. And you, dear reader, can also take a gander through the periscope by subscribing to Reflections in the Void. Make sure to comment and let him know Sra sent you :)



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Friday, June 13, 2008

Tried and True Folk Remedies

Getting ink stains out of clothing

The number one best remedy for this is hairspray. Douse the ink spot in hairspray and rub it with a cotton ball or disposable rag. Rubbing alcohol also has an effect on ink stains, but hairspray works much better. You need to attack ink stains ASAP, though. The more time the ink has to dry in your clothing, the less ink you will be able to get out. If you put your ink-stained clothing through the laundry, the stain will set permanently. I should know, once I ruined an entire batch of whites by washing them with a pen.


Getting onion juice off your hands

Credit for this one goes to Ian, who is a genius. Wash your hands under cold water with light soap whilst holding a metal spoon. Apparently there is a chemical attraction between the spoon and the onion juice. Or maybe it's not chemical, I don't really know, cause I never took chemistry. But in any case, it works.


Curing the hiccups (or hiccoughs, if you prefer)

There are many cures for the hiccups, and many of them work some of the time. But this method is the only one I know that works all of the time, and I have my mom to thank for it: put a spoonful of sugar or a sugar cube on your tongue and lie down. Try to hold still while you let the sugar melt down your throat. Of course you can swallow, but try to stay as still as possible. Works every time. I know, I was skeptical too, but I was converted to this method long ago, and have since converted many others.


Removing deodorant from clothing

Rub nylon over the white deodorant stain, and it will vanish like magic. Unfortunately, this only works for surface deodorant that has not really set into the clothing. Like when you pull a tight-ish shirt over your head and end up getting deodorant down the side of it, this method will get it out. But deodorant tends to accumulate in the armpit of the shirt after repeat wearing no matter what you do. And don't even ask me how you keep white shirts from staining yellow in the pit. That's why I don't buy white shirts. I would love a remedy for either of these two problems.




Now it's your turn, what are some of your favorite folk remedies?



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Thursday, June 12, 2008

King of Kings = Dino-Rider!

Ok, I don't usually post twice in one day, but this is something I found on one of the blogs I read that simply must be shared. It's from And I am Not Lying, and it involves Jesus riding a dinosaur. Here's a little preview, but click on over to see the rest of the picture; you won't regret it.


Really? Noah put dinosaurs on the ark along with the little lambs and everything else? That must have been some BIG mother effing ark if it fit not only two of EVERY animal, but two of EVERY DINOSAUR too!

I must say, I didn't even know that dinosaurs and man walked the Earth at the same time, but I guess when you consider that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old, it only makes sense.

I can totally see Jesus riding a T-Rex. The King of Kings on the King of Dinosaurs -- it's fitting.


Update: BlackGaff posted a comment with an excellent link about Creationist Museums. I recommend it highly.



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Random Musings

Life Insurance

What is the point of life insurance except for giving your beneficiary a reason to have you whacked sometime in the future? Seriously. Ok, I get that if someone's spouse dies then there is a loss of income associated with the loss of their life, and that can make the surviving spouse's life difficult. But you know what? The same thing goes for divorce, but there's no divorce insurance (probably because that is a bet the insurance company most likely won't win). Personally, I don't think it should cost anything to die, which is why I plan to donate my body to science.


Gasoline and Postage Stamps

Sov and I were talking recently about the ridiculous gas prices these days, and he said that when he goes to the gas station, he only puts in about $20 at a time (which for me would only procure 1/3 tank of gas). Then I thought about it and realized that gas prices aren't going to get any lower, ever again. It's only going to get more expensive. Car dealerships are trying to push cars these days by promising $2.99 gasoline for a year after purchase. $2.99 seems so cheap now, but not long ago that price was appalling. Before you know it, we'll be begging to pay $4.50 per gallon, because that price is quickly going to go the way of the 22 cent stamp. So it doesn't make sense to only fill the tank part way. Instead you should fill it completely, because by the time you go back in a week, the price is only going to be higher, so you get a better deal if you do it now. And while you're at it, stock up on those First Class Forever postage stamps.


More on Gasoline

My friend K-T thinks that the rise in gas prices is a good thing. In fact, she thinks gas prices ought to be raised substantially in order to encourage people to stop driving their cars. I understand her sentiment that we ought to be concerned about what our oil dependency is doing to the environment. Whether you subscribe to global warming (or "climate change" as she calls it) or not (and with this cold Utah June, I'm thinking not), it's undeniable that we are damaging the environment with our oily behavior. Ok fine, but the solution is not to get people to stop driving their cars. While this might work on the East coast or in places where public transit or bicycle transit or walking are feasible options, out West we simply need cars to survive. Ian says that I am the only person he knows who has the luxury of being able to walk to work. Frankly, I can't think of anyone else who can do that either. The Western U.S. was largely developed after the advent of automobiles, whereas back East, cities were well-developed before cars existed. Thus, everything is close together out East, and everything out West is a victim of suburban sprawl. We can't change that now. If everyone in Utah gave up their cars, people couldn't survive. The solution, therefore, is not to give up our cars, but to replace our dirty burning cars with clean burning cars. The technology is already here, but unfortunately, as long as greedy rich people have their fingers in the pot of black gold, oil isn't going anywhere. Avarice may indeed turn out to be THE deadly sin for humanity.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Like a Good Neighbor, my ass

I'm looking for a new car insurance provider. Currently I'm with State Farm, who has not exactly behaved like a good neighbor, in my book. It's going to sound like a stupid reason that I should just get over, but this is why I want to change companies:

I locked myself out of my own online account by incorrectly answering my "security" questions three times, and State Farm refuses to help me via email. Instead, they insist that I call their technical assistance 800 number, but when I do, I am on hold for 15 minutes before I finally hang up, because even though I never use anywhere near the 300 or so minutes I purchase every month through my cell provider, I still don't want to waste my time listening to State Farm's shitty hold music and hanging out by my computer when there are better things I could be doing. If they were to help me via email, we could handle the matter much more conveniently.

I don't receive paper mailings, because I opted out of them -- an option you can only change via the online account. So the only way for me to pay my bill is online. And when I'm locked out of my account, I can't pay my bill. Also, you should know that I created the answers to the security questions MONTHS before I ever had to reproduce those answers. They just randomly decided one day that I needed to be asked my security questions. And I knew the answers to them of course, but I couldn't remember the exact FORM of the answers, and you had to use the exact same form you created in the first place. Here was the question that gave me a problem:

What was the first company you worked for?

Answer: G. Eric Nielsen & Associates.

Except sometimes I just say Eric Nielsen & Associates, sans G.
And sometimes it's GEN & Associates.
And sometimes G. Eric Nielsen and Associates
And sometimes I can't remember if it's Nielsen or Nielson, because frankly it's been a few years.

So as you can see, there are more possible correct answers than the three chances they give you. So I picked three answers that didn't match the answer I initially created, and then I was locked out.

And I can see no good reason why State Farm shouldn't help me with this via email. As if the telephone is SO MUCH MORE SECURE THAN EMAIL. It's not. Especially not cellphones. And you know what else is bogus security? THOSE GODDAMNED SECURITY QUESTIONS. Complete and utter bullocks.

So to make matters simpler for me, I want to change car insurance providers, and that's where you come in dear reader. I want to know about any insurance company that you would recommend, as well as any insurance company that you would stay the hell away from. This will help me narrow my search.



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Monday, June 9, 2008

Cursesives









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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Me-Me-Me Meme!

The Over-Thinker has tagged me to do a meme. Until very recently, I didn't believe that meme was a real word. In fact, my Firefox spell-checker is currently underlining it in red, so I don't think Firefox believes it is a word either. But Dictionary.com defines meme as follows:

meme
–noun
a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.
[Origin: 1976; (mīmeǐsthai) to imitate, copy; coined by R. Dawkins, Brit. biologist]

I'm really glad to know that, because I kept seeing the word being thrown around on blogs I read, and I was like, WTF are these people talking about? To me, meme sounds like something the Muppet Beaker would say. But apparently everyone has heard of this word outside of the context of a Muppet's mouth, except for me and Firefox.

Anyway, O-T wants me to post five quirky things about myself, and further requests that I post a current photo. She's right that I ought to use more photos on my blog, but I haven't before now for a couple of reasons:

  • I'm kind of lazy and it takes more effort to upload and position a photo than it does to just post a block of text. I'm also a little too lazy to stick my memory card in my card reader and upload my photos to my computer.
  • Ever since the Great Hair Debacle of 2007, I've felt like I haven't looked my best and so I didn't want to put up anything current, and I thought that putting up old photos would be misleading.

But I'm feeling more comfortable with my hair now, and so I'll get off my lazy butt, just this once, and post one photo for each of the five quirky things. Then I will go back to being lazy. How's that sound? Alright here goes:

The Full Color Photo Edition of 5 Quirky Things About Sra

There's me with blonde hair and my nylon string classical guitar at around the beginning of my senior year of college.

Quirky thing 1: I feel safer making silly faces in photos rather than smiling in earnest, because then we can all laugh at it together. If I make a serious effort to look good in the photo and I don't, then I feel ugly in real life.



This is right after the time when I randomly said to myself, "Self, let's cut off most of our hair and dye it dark brown!" I loved this haircut.

Quirky thing 2: When I was in 11th grade, I purposely wore different colored socks on my feet most of the time. That's what got my 11th grade boyfriend to talk to me. After I broke up with him (because he was the King of Back-Handed Compliments), I started wearing pajama pants to school almost daily. On Fridays I would dress it up by wearing jeans. I'm not sure why I did either of those things. But that was the year I got really depressed, lost my faith in god, and then found myself by the end of the year. By 12th grade I was happier than I had ever been in my life.


There's Ian and I at the Red Butte Gardens not long after we got together. This picture is from the same day as the other picture of me on this site in which I'm posing with a giant stone salamander. I was very proud of my bangs, which I had textured myself using the twist-lock-of-hair- and-razor-it-from-middle-to-tip-whilst-untwisting method. Very time consuming, but makes for hot bangs. Doesn't Ian look like a sleek little seal? He's so tempting.

Quirky thing 3: I used to have my own garden at my childhood home that I would pick flowers for and tend myself, but I grew to hate gardening because of worms and spiders. To this day, I will not tend a garden, and I've told Ian that if we ever have our own yard, I will not take care of it, which is fine for him, because he loves tending to yards. And also, I can smell worms and ants, and I hate both smells. Ian doesn't believe they have a smell, but they do.



This is the day of the Great Hair Debacle of 2007. I had just dried my eyes from the sobbing I had done following the butchery of my hair, and then took a picture for posterity. That's a door stopper above my head. I don't know if you can tell, but I'm trying so hard to be brave in this photo. Also, if you look closely you will notice that this is an asymmetrical cut, and my comfort hair -- the hair in front of my ears -- has been butched up above my earlobes, which was a definite no-no. I was this close to calling in sick the next day and getting hair extensions. Also, I think this haircut made me look fat.

Quirky thing 4: When I look at a photo of a group of people, I'm only really interested if I'm in it, and if I am, I only look at myself when I view the photo. I couldn't care less whether the photo was good for someone else, as long as it was good for me.




This is the most current photo of me, taken yesterday at the Spiral Jetty of the Great Salt Lake. Notice the rather reddish hue to my dark brown hair, which has gratefully grown out since the Great Hair Debacle of 2007. I'm pointing at salt crystals formed on stones of the Jetty. Thanks to Pinktoe for the picture.

Quirky thing 5: I don't like being wet. Consequently, I don't enjoy swimming, playing in the rain or snow, or bathing. If I never had to bathe again, I would be pleased, but unfortunately the western world just doesn't work that way. So I do bathe, but I try to only do so every other day or every three days if I can get away with it. Ian hasn't complained yet.



So there you go, O-T, some more pictures of me, and 5 quirky things. I hope you are satisfied. As a bonus, here's picture number one again, but modified by the Photoshop King Sovknight:


He's a freaking genius, isn't he? I have no idea how he does the things he does, but he's brilliant.






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Friday, June 6, 2008

I'm thinking of going platinum

And no, I don't mean with a record. First of all, I'd have to make a record, and second, it'd have to be good enough that a lot of people would think it was worth paying money for and not just downloading for free. There are a few problems with that:

(a) Let's face it, I'm just not that good
(b) I've really only written about 2.5 original songs
(c) I'm actually a fan of free records, and if I did make one, I'd offer a free download

So anyway, no, I'm actually talking about my hair when I say I'm thinking of going platinum.

As you might know if you've known me in the flesh for longer than three years, I'm naturally a blonde. Not bimbo blonde, but more of a sandy blonde with a slightly reddish hue. It's a pretty nice shade that I was always happy with, but one day I randomly said to myself, "Self, let's cut off most of our hair and dye it dark brown!" And then I answered, "That's a fine idea, self."

And it was indeed a fine idea. I have very pale skin tone, and I think the dark brown sets off a nice contrast with my skin. It makes my eyes stand out. I'm not gonna lie, it makes me feel like a rockstar. So I've been dying my hair various shades of dark brown ever since. Sometimes it's nearly black, other times there's a reddish hue, and once it was slightly purple. All in all, I've had fun. But now I'm feeling the urge for another dramatic change. And platinum is about as dramatic as you can get after having dark brown hair for 3 years.

There's one problem, though. Apparently lifting your hair color (making it lighter) is a different process from tinting your hair color (making it darker), and while tinting it can actually make your hair feel and look shinier and healthier, lifting it can be very damaging, and the farther you have to go color-wise, the harsher the process is on your hair. This is true even if the darkness of your hair is artificial.

My dear friend Whit-face also tells me that reddish tones are the most difficult to lift out, and it just so happens that my current shade of dark brown is rather reddish.

So before making any rash decisions, I intend to consult a very experienced color technician (if you can recommend one, please feel free to do so). It may be that I have to go medium blonde before going platinum, with a period of rest in between. Or maybe they'll tell me that unless I want all my hair to fall out or turn orange (tempting, but no), then I'd best leave it alone until my natural roots grow out. Hopefully I won't have to wait that long.

In any case, I think it will be a fun change. The only problem is that in order to avoid the platinum blonde completely washing out my face due to my starkly white skin tone, I will have to learn some more skilled make-up techniques than I currently possess. I was a pretty decent artist once, and so you'd think that applying make-up would be as easy for me as painting a picture. But in reality, it's a very foreign thing that I just sort of stumble my way through. I think that in addition to lacking the mother gene, I also lack the girly gene that makes you understand how to do make-up.

I found a great video on youtube in which a very skilled make-up artist shows you how to do perfect smokey eyes, so I'm trying to learn, but it's still all very foreign.

Any make-up tips from my readers will be greatly appreciated.



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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Terroism by photography? So 20th Century. GoogleEarth is the 21st Century Tool of Terror.

Have y'all played with GoogleEarth? If not, you really should. It's an amazing application that uses satellite photos to reconstruct the entire Earth. From your computer, you can visit the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, the Egyptian Pyramids, or even your own house. I used GoogleEarth to find the apartment building I lived in in Kiel, Germany during my study abroad, and from there, I traced the steps I used to walk to the bus stop where I'd catch a ride to the University. It's great to be able to retrace those steps, especially since my days in Kiel are some of the most treasured days of my life.

So anyway, I posted earlier about the idiotic attempts at thwarting "terrorism" by harassing and threatening photographers in the U.S. and UK. If you ask me, photography is the 20th Century terrorism tool. These days, all you need to do is open GoogleEarth on your computer and you can get a street-level view of all the buildings of Seattle or Las Vegas or any other major metropolis in the world. BoingBoing.net posted a story today showing that there is now a 3-D walkthrough for Disneyland. That's good, because there have also been reports of restricted photography at Disneyland, but as long as we have GoogleEarth, terrorism will continue to reign in the happiest place on Earth.




Disclaimer: If after reading this you think that I am actually advocating real terrorism, then first of all, I'm sorry that you are a little bit stupid, and second of all, it's time to realize that you are under the influence of irrational thinking. You also need to realize that there is a difference between terrorism and scare-tactics. Any purported threat associated with photography and GoogleEarth is a scare-tactic. A fundamentalist who thinks he will receive glory by strapping a bomb to himself and running into a building full of people is an example of terrorism. It's important to recognize the difference.



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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

HealthQuest 2008 - May: How Diet is Like Language

I was thinking today about diet and exercise, and the things that have worked for me in the past, versus the things that I'm doing now, which are not really working. And suddenly, an analogy came to me: Fitness and diet are like accents in language. It's not really a matter of "this word is pronounced like this," "this vowel makes this sound in this context," "R's are trilled using the uvula," and so on. Well, in a way, you can describe an accent in terms such as those, but that's not what an accent is. You can't define it by its parts. Instead, you define it by the whole -- like the way you hold your mouth -- and if you hold it just so, the language sounds filter out according to this accent or another.

This isn't really a science (yet [I think]), but speaking from experience, as someone who can produce a near native German accent, producing German sounds became much easier for me once I stopped reducing it to a set of formulas and instead looked at the whole of those formulas: Germans hold their mouths like this when they speak.

Obviously this isn't easy to describe. Anyone out there who speaks a second language, please chime in with your feelings on this theory.

So how this relates to fitness and diet: I've been reducing everything to a set of rules. I must go to the gym so many days, or ride my bike to work so many days, or I must eat this many calories for lunch, and stop drinking Coke, and only have one cup of coffee, and always order skinny lattes, and try to cut back on the chocolate, for god's sake, and eat more vegetables. But I think I'm going about it all the wrong way.

In the past when I've lost a substantial amount of fat, it hasn't been because I've restricted myself to a certain diet and exercise regimen. Instead, it just happened seemingly without effort. During all the times I noticeably lost weight, I simply lived my life per usual, and ate what I wanted. So what changed?

Well, the first time, I moved from my parents' house to the student dorms to go to college, and I ended up walking almost everywhere I went, and since I was going to school about 4 days per week, I walked A LOT. I also ate according to my tight budget and the meal plan I purchased through the University cafeteria. But I didn't focus on losing weight. My lifestyle just changed such that I did.

Another time, I decided it would be fun to take a cycling class at the U. The first two weeks I hated it with a furry, but since I was paying for it, I kept going and ended up loving the endorphins that resulted. It was a very intense class of straight 50 minute cycling, and three months later, the pants I wore to cycle in no longer stayed up by themselves. But I wasn't trying to lose weight. I just wanted to try something new.

Finally, after graduating college and spending the Summer with Like Me, I ended up shrinking to a size 8 - the smallest I remember being - without any effort whatsoever. All I was doing was actively living my life and trying to go out to concerts and to see friends as often as I could. If that meant that sometimes I forgot to eat, so be it, I was happy.

The point is I think I'm focusing too much on trying to lose weight and too little on trying to lead an active and fulfilling life. I need to learn how to hold my mouth, so to speak, in order to really get the accent of true fitness down.

That's going to be my goal for June.



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Monday, June 2, 2008

Back to the Future of 1984

Welcome to The United States of America, the land of the free... that is, if free means being enslaved by terror inflicted upon us by our own government in the guise of anti-terror.

Have any of you been reading the headlines and stories about people who are being arrested and otherwise harassed for taking photos in public places? At first, it looked like this was only happening in the UK, but this insane anti-terrorist tactic has bled over to the U.S. If you scan the headlines from popular blog BoingBoing.net, you'll probably come across at least one story of anti-photography in the U.S. and abroad every day. It's frightening.

Another type of story is alarmingly prevalent on BoingBoing: that of people being kept off of planes because they have a gun printed on their shirt, or a gun charm hanging around their neck. WTF, people? Whatever happened to rational thinking? What happened to plain common sense?

There are too many people in positions of power who seem to lack these basic fundamental skills of human thought. They cannot discern an actual probable threat from a completely non-existent threat.

Books like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451; movies like V for Vendetta and Children of Men are starting to not look so unlikely after all. The futures represented in those fictions are becoming more real every day, and you and I are the victims. Before you know it, they'll start coming after people like you and me who try to exercise our free speech here on the internet and in our daily lives. The only thing we can do is to continue to not stand for the type of idiotic thinking that causes things like the anti-photography and the anti-gun-emblems. We must not silence our voices in this.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Another Successful Weekend

We had a great weekend full of many fun and exciting activities.

On Friday, Ian and I had my favorite pizza in Utah at The Italian Village (900 E. & about 5200 S.). I like to think of The Italian Village as an Italian Dee's, and when you dine in, you definitely get that feeling from the atmosphere, but unlike Dee's the food is really good. (For the record, my favorite pizza in America is Mr. T's in San Diego, and my favorite pizza in the world is a little pizza parlor in Kiel, Germany whose name I have forgotten.)

Then we went to see Iron Man, and I was surprised to find it completely enjoyable. I think of all superhero movies, this is my second favorite behind Christian Bale's Batman. I think Robert Downey Jr. plays the role perfectly, and the things the movie does right far outweigh the inconsistencies and unlikelihoods in the plot. For one thing, I appreciate that this movie concentrated foremost on creating a good story instead of focusing solely on creating great special effects (although they accomplished that too). I also appreciate that they maintained sexual tension between Stark and Potts instead of resolving it. That's even more delicious.

On Saturday, Ian and I got up early (for a Saturday) and picked up my friend K-T in Sandy and together we all hiked the Mt. Timpanogos Cave trail. I haven't hiked that one since the summer after my senior year of high school, and I remember having to rest A LOT back then. But this time, I feel like we handled the hike well. The cave was longer than I remembered it, or maybe our tour guide was just excessively long-winded. She kept saying things like "Many changes have happened to this cave, some natural, and some man-made, and they are either good or bad depending on your perspective." She said that about 5-8 times. I'm not even sure it was worth saying once. Anyway, it's a lovely hike that I'm glad I had a chance to do again.

Then Saturday evening, my brother Zac came up to our place for a barbecue of skewered bbq pork kabobs, which were quite tasty (pig is the tastiest of all animals in my estimation), and then we all walked up to the stadium to catch Real Salt Lake's game against the San Jose Earthquakes. And get this -- WE WON, 3-1!! RSL doesn't win very often, so it's always a nice surprise when they do. It was a great game with lots of exciting action on the field.

We finished off the night back at our apartment where we tried to remember how to play a very complicated but fun game called St. Petersburg. It's by the same makers of the popular Settlers of Catan. The problem is that the instructions are very poorly translated from German. If only they had given us the German instructions, I would have been able to handle it, but reading bad English translation is like trying to read Middle English -- you recognize the words but have a difficult time connecting the meaning. After going through two botched games, we finally figured out which rules we had forgotten, and I vowed to write them down in actual English, but haven't done so yet, and I fear I will forget and we will have to go through this charade next time.

Then today, I walked down to Starbucks and took another practice LSAT. The test is two weeks from tomorrow, and I am feeling very adequately prepared, as evidenced by my score of 172 today! It would be great if I could score that on the actual test, but I decided from the beginning that I would be happy with a 165, because that is the minimum that I feel will make me an acceptable candidate for Berkeley. If I scored in the 170's though, I think I would be a GOOD candidate for Berkeley. So I'm just going to give it my all and hope for the best. In any case, I feel proud of my progress over the past 8 months of preparation.

I'll keep everyone posted.




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