Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I Resolve, 2014

Do you ever feel that you have so many irons in the fire that you're gonna need a bigger fire? Ever have so many things that you plan to do but the great monster of procrastination steals half the day away from you? Well, I sure do. I've got all this stuff swirling around in my head that doesn't get done and I think if I set it down here then it'll somehow precipitate its birth, if you know what I mean.

What I mean is, an idea is only an idea, but if you tell it to people, then it somehow becomes more real.

So here's a list of things that occupy my mind, some currently happening, some just ideas waiting to bear fruit, and some are halfway there. I think if I write all this down, then people will maybe stop me in the street and say, "Hey Jeff, what happened to that thing that you said you were going to do?" and then I could tell them, "I'm gonna do it, dammit! Give me a chance!". So here goes.

The Grass

The band I was part of while at school over 30 years ago has collectively decided that this is the year to have a reunion. Since we live in different parts of the country, though, we find it hard to collaborate. We need to travel to see each other and I need a proper drum kit, but it needs to be portable as I haven't got the space for a full size one. There are options, but I am financially strapped right now (story of my life, really!). So in order to make this easier, I've set up a crowdfunding page for people to contribute to our reunion. Go see it at Also check out our Facebook page at

and then... 1982


As you guys are reading this you are more than likely aware that not only do I author this here blog, but I pen three others (The Food Of Jeff, Rosie's Blog, and Transition Tenterden) and co-chair another (The Unbelievables). So why then would I want to do a podcast? Well, there are several reasons.

 One, I've always wanted to be a DJ. Back in the days before the interwebs in order to become a DJ one would likely have to go to college and study Communications and Media Studies, make a demo tape, hawk it round every radio station you can think of and keep plugging away at it until some station gives you your big break. Nowadays there is free software, websites that syndicate your show, and basically all you need is a decent computer and a microphone.

Two, a few years back a friend and colleague of mine named Alistair Pritchitt suggested we do a podcast together as we both had good tastes in music and a good comedic rapport. He had previously DJ'd on college radio stations and so we thought it was a good idea. Now is the time.

Three, recently I was involved in a podcast that was basically an interview of The Unbelievables, the crime-fighting fictional trio that are the subjects of a blog that I co-author along with Michael Noble and Clark Brooks. The result was an episode of Douglas Arthur's podcast Assault Of The Two-Headed Space Mules and if you want to have a listen, here's the link.
Around that time I began listening to other episodes of Doug's podcast and thought how cool it was, particularly the episode where he interviewed my old friend and colleague Marissa Rapier in an episode where they discussed toys of the 1970s. After that I downloaded an episode of Artsee's Diner in which the host interviewed Clark about his blog Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle Of Consciousness and the subsequent book, A Ridiculously Inconsistent Treasury.
Then I started listening to another podcast involving Clark, The Spike On The Mic Show, which... you'd have to listen to to really understand what it's all about.
Now Clark has just uploaded the first episode of his very own podcast, A Ridiculously Inconsistent Podcast. 

So I have this idea of my podcast kind of being a sort of round-table discussion of current events, weird news, opinion, music, jokes etc. along with Alistair Pritchitt, my old buddy who suggested the thinng in the first lace, along with two of my other friends, the first being Raymond Blackford who I've known since I were nobbut a lad working for Victoria Wine and who now works at Liquid Pleasure in Tenterden. Ray has a fine line in corny jokes and is always ready with a bad pun or one-liner to make you groan. The other participant will be Alastair Sadler, lead singer of The Grass and now a successful salsa dance instructor, and most recently a new face on the London comedy circuit. He's been doing standup for a couple of years now and is getting known. So it will be a pleasure to have him along with his witty observations and topical humour. The title of the podcast will be The Intelligence Men, so look for the links here.

As I said, I have always wanted to be a DJ, so I am considering (if I can find the time) doing my own music podcast at some point where I can be let loose playing some of the oddball music I have found most entertaining over the years.


T3 or Transition Town Tenterden is still going. We don't have very many members but we are still planning events and showing up at places with the Smoothy Bike. Next events are a Plant and Seed Swap on March 22nd and another town-wide litter pick on April 13th. Check out our Facebook page and our blog.


My little daughter Rosie takes up a good deal of our time as you might expect. She is now very close to being 17 months old and is walking, so look out! Secure the ornaments! She's a very sociable little girl and smiles at everyone (mostly). She makes me very happy and I feel honoured to be a Dad to such a sweet little pickle. Here's her blog at

Weight loss

I've been on a bit of a health kick recently, partly spurred into action by my DryAthlon which took place in January. I did it for Cancer Research UK and raised £205 by not drinking alcohol for the entire month. Since the start of February I have been drinking a lot less than I used to and trying to lose more weight with the help of a wonderful app called MyFitnessPal which tracks your calories, exercise, water intake etc. daily. I hope to lose at least a couple of stone this year.


 One hates to talk about deeply personal stuff on the blog but I shall gloss over all the yucky bits for you and boil things down to this: I intend this to be the year where my divorce becomes final and I can at last be free to marry Laura, and I will be goddamned if I cannot make this happen. End of.


---- Comment deleted by request---- !!

Tenterden 365

A project i am involved in this year is the Tenterden 365 project in which photographers all over this town send in photos every day and an independent panel of judges picks the best one from each day. At the end of the year the daily winners will be displayed in an exhibition. I think there could be a book or a calendar in it, too?

Anyway, that's the lot. I think. It seems like a list of stuff to do coupled with a list of resolutions, so that's what I'll call it. Follow my progress if you feel like it - or not, honestly I don't mind.

The Grass Reunion

The Grass Reunion

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Little Perspective, People

There's an ad on TV right now for Flora Buttery Margarine. I won't give it any explanation, I'll just let you watch the thing.

There are a lot of folks who find this offensive. They have taken to sites like mumsnet to talk like a lot of Victorian ladies who cover up the legs of the piano stool with pantalettes lest they see uncovered fetlock and get the vapours, saying it's "shocking" and "needs to be banned". Someone even started an online petition to ban the ad.

Personally, I don't care one way or the other. Sure, there is an allusion to kids witnessing their folks shagging but you don't see anything and I think the humour will be over the heads of those young enough to actually be shocked by it.

No, I think there is an ad, or rather a set of ads that has been around for a few years and I find far more offensive. I am surprised there isn't a large vocal group of Italians calling for the removal of these ads.

Here's possibly the worst one.

Everything about it is awful. From the terrible accents to the stupid plots to the blatant stereotyping, it is dreadful in every way possible. If I was Italian I'd be calling Dolmio daily and explaining that Italians don'ta talka like-a thatta. And yet I don't know of any online petitions calling for its removal.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blogger: Rachel Zenhausern

Hi everyone, next up as Guest Blogger is Rachel Zenhausern, aka the Short (dis)Order Cook. She writes two blogs, the brilliant and funny Shipwrecked and Comatose and the wonderful The Essential Rhubarb Pie.

*hic!* Cheers!

She's from Mamaroneck, New York, and she's "a home cook, an amateur singer, dancer and actor, an equestrian, and a huge goofball", and she loves to cook, although she describes herself as "a bit of a bumbler in the kitchen". She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and putting her own twist on other people's recipes. She also loves entertaining, but admits to being a picky eater and says she's a failure as a "foodie".

Here's her choice selection for the blog:

Why Do We Make This The Gold Standard of Fitness?

Just to that tree.  Just sprint to that tree.  Just to that tree.  Keep going.  Oh gods when will I get to that tree?  Please tree, move closer to me.  

It was a warm summer night and I was taking advantage of it by doing my workout at the park.  Interval cardio was the scheduled workout that night, so I was mixing brisk walks with intensity bursts.  Some of my intensity bursts were sprints.

That tree is closer, closer.  I'm almost there.  Wait!  Why does it still seem so far?  Is that tree moving farther away just to taunt me?

I finished my sprint to that tree and made it the last sprint of the evening.  I had plenty of other options for intensity bursts like mountain climbers, burpees, and step-ups on the park benches.   Breathless and grateful to be walking again, I swore I would never run again unless someone was chasing me.

That wasn't the first time I had sworn that.

Why is it when people want to get in shape, they assume that they have to run? Our culture seems to define running as the standard of what fit, healthy people do.  Where did this standard come from?  Why is it so pervasive in our society?

Let's go back to prehistoric times for a moment.  Imagine yourself as a caveman or cavewoman.  How would you spend your day?  You might wander across the savannah, moving slowly to watch for edible plants and roots.  Then you might spot some tasty prey animal.  You need your protein.  You grab your spear and chase it for a while.  Let's say it outruns you.  You're thinking you still need your protein, so you spot a nest in a nearby tree.  You climb up and help yourself to some eggs.  Maybe you jump in a stream after a fish.  You find some horny, unattractive caveman is chasing you, so you sprint away and then climb over some boulders.  You managed to escape.  You go back to your leisurely walk and look for firewood for your evening fire.

Flash forward several centuries.  We have now entered the agrarian age.  Each day is filled with a variety of tasks.  You wake up early to milk the cows.  You chop wood for the fire.  You plow your fields, sow your seeds, and once everything is planted and growing, you regularly haul water from the creek or the well to irrigate.  You muck stalls and bale hay.  If you are female you will have to build the cooking fire, gather the food for the meals, chopping and prepping every part of it.  You manually do laundry by hand, scrubbing it on a board, wringing it out with a hand-cranked wringer, and hanging it up to try.  To smooth out the wrinkles you go over your dry clothes with a literal iron.  If your rugs are dirty, you take them out and beat them.  If your floors are dirty, you are on your hands and knees scrubbing them with a scrub brush.

Throughout most of human history human lives have been a constant bustle of physical activity.  In order to survive our ancestors had to perform a variety of physical activities.  They hauled, scrambled, climbed, chopped, walked, and swam.  Sometimes they ran.  Did they run if they didn't need to?

The twentieth century brought all kinds of modern conveniences that made large amounts of physical activity unnecessary. We drove instead of walking or riding a horse.  We did our labor in front of computers.  Automation made housework quick and easy.  Food became far easier to procure since we no longer had to work very hard to procure or cook it.  It only took a few decades for our bodies began to suffer the ill effects of a sedentary diet and an instant food supply.

In the past forty years many Americans realized they needed to "get in shape".  For many years there weren't many options.  You could join a gym and lift weights, but that didn't hold much appeal for women.  The best option seemed to be to take up running.  Running is seemingly cheap and easy.  You put on a pair of sneakers and go.

Throughout modern history people did run.  They ran because they were good at it.  They were athletes.  They ran competitively.  They didn't run to lose weight.  They ran because it was their sport.  They had a talent for it.

When the fitness craze began at the end of the 20th century, people who never ran before were suddenly going for it.  It was assumed that running was good for you.  After all, it works your body over pretty nicely.  No pain, no gain, right?

Two decades into the 21st century and what do we have to show for it?  Running is hardly the only fitness activity available these days.  There are many types of dance fitness classes.  Martial arts and weight lifting are no longer the domain of men.  Outdoor sports of every stripe from rock climbing to hiking to kayaking to surfing are more popular than ever.  You can do any number of activities and be in shape.

Still we feel we need to run.

I fell for that mentality too.  I hated running ever since I was a kid.  I hated the way I was forced to run the track in gym class.  I was a failure at games of tag (plus my neverending childhood klutziness meant that changing trajectory frequently while running meant I fell down and scraped my knee or twisted my ankle often).  I hated most sports that required me to chase a ball or run around bases.  I was slow, clumsy, and uncoordinated.  I think it was clear at an early age I wasn't meant to run.  Prolonged periods of running left me with stitches in my side, aching lungs that burst into coughing fits, and sore shins the next day.

The problem was that over the years I struggled with my weight. Once my age hit double digits, I developed quite the voracious appetite and soon I had the body to match.  I tried to stay fairly active.  I rode horses and took dance lessons and even did exercise videos.  When I became an adult I joined a gym and became an avid weight lifter.  I never did enough to outdo my diet.

The time came that I decided the only exercise I could do to take the weight off was to run.  Running burns calories and I needed to burn lots of calories.  I broke myself into gently, starting off with periods of faster walking and then into slower runs, gradually increasing my speed.  I mostly did interval work on the treadmill.  I eased myself into it.  I managed to work my way up to workouts where I was going at a slow run for my slowest pace.

Eventually I started having pain in my feet.  I wasn't sure if it was plantar fascitis or tendonitis, but in any case, it was hurting just to walk.  I decided I wasn't meant to run and went back to other forms of cardio.  I continued dancing.  I discovered Zumba.  I received a Kinect as a gift.  I relied on the elliptical and stationary bike at the gym.  I took long walks.

A vicious cycle ensued.  When my weight wouldn't come off, I would decide to run again.  At one point I was really dedicated.  I managed to do three miles in a workout, which is pretty amazing for me.  I got to the point on the treadmill where I never walked, but simply jogged during the lesser intervals.  I felt so in shape.  I felt so powerful.  I was becoming a runner!

I still never lost the weight.

Then one day while innocently working out at the gym doing other activities stuff, my knee twinged.  It twinged hard.  I tried to work through it.  It kept hurting.  The pain continued as the days went on.  I had trouble dancing.  I found it painful to move my lower leg forward, so even walking was limited.  I finally had to head to the orthopedist, who diagnosed me with tendonitis and warned me that my meniscus was wearing away.  The next thing I know I was in physical therapy for months.

Seeing as I was not interested in losing any more cartilage in my knee, I swore that this time I would give up running for good.

How good is running for you?

Running is a very high impact activity.  Every time you take a stride forward and land it, you are giving your body a serious jolt.  Your feet, knees, shins, ankles, hips, and spine are taking a serious pounding.  The heavier you are, the harder the pounding.  Running can cause tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, illiotibial band syndrome, meniscus injuries, and even heart issues.  Yes, running exercises the heart muscle by making it pump, but like any other muscle, the heart can suffer overuse injuries.

The worst part is that the heavier you are, the more running is going to give your body a beating.  Whenever I see shows like The Biggest Loser making morbidly obese contestants run long distances, I want to throw something at the screen.  The impact that running places on the already-overstressed joints of very heavy people is tremendous.  What they are doing is breaking down the bodies in the name of weight loss.  If you are obese, you do not start up a fitness program with high impact activity.  You are just asking for injury.

Will running really help you lose weight?  If you are sedentary and take up an exercise program, you are bound to see results in the beginning.  A sedentary body will respond quite well initially to changes in activity levels.

As it will with any cardio activity, when you keep running your body will begin to adapt.  Our bodies are clever like that.  Once we start pushing them to do an activity, they will start to become more efficient at doing them and require less energy to complete those tasks.  Soon that jaunty little jog will be easier and you won't burn as many calories.  You need to run faster or run farther to keep enjoying the same effects that running had on your body.  You start planning for a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon.  Every time you run a little faster or a little farther, your body adapts just a little more.

Running and other cardio activities also have the disadvantage of being catabolic.  They break down muscle.  Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue, so as you break down muscle with all of that running, you are also slowing down your metabolism and won't burn calories quite so efficiently.  This can be solved with plenty of cross training, and some of the runners I know do cross train.  I know other runners who don't and have resigned themselves to being overweight (and of course being overweight is going to help their joints deteriorate that much faster).

No matter how much we can talk about every way running can be destructive to the body and even impede our weight loss goals, running is still held as the gold standard of fitness.  How fast and how far you can run is always a talking point in discussing your fitness levels.  You exercise?  You lost weight?  How much can you run?

Just try telling people you hate running.   I guarantee a gaggle of runners will be more than willing to tell you that you're wrong.  Running is the best thing that ever happened to them and they love it so much and if you just spend some time training with them you'll love it too.  Just Google the phrase "I Hate Running" and you will not find a community of like-minded souls, but instead will see the testimonies of people who used to hate running and pushed themselves to do it.  It is seen as a sign of weakness to hate running.  If you don't run, you are not working at the peak level of fitness.  You are also missing out on some kind of magical experience, some exercise-induced state of Nirvana, that can't be reached any other way.

I'm here to start the movement.  I don't want to run anymore.  I want to tell the rest of the world that if you don't want to run, you don't have to.  The world is filled with all kinds of exercise.  You can be very fit and never let your stride leave the ground.  I stopped running regularly as part of my routine four years ago.  Currently I'm in the best physical shape I have been in since my twenties.  I lost weight through eating a more moderate diet and some very focused strength training.  My days are filled with all kinds of physical activity.  My body isn't missing out on anything by not running.

I like to think that the mentality is changing.  This article made me smile.  Some people get it.  Your fitness level, your health, your bodyfat, and even your appearance are not dependent on whether or not you run.

I know there are people reading this who run and are good at it and really love it.  This essay is not for you. I am not here to disparage anyone who truly wants to run.  I am looking to address those who are afraid to start a fitness program because they think it should include running.  I'm talking to the people who are currently running and dreading every workout.  I'm talking to the folks who are experiencing pains in their knees and feet and shins and wondering how to make it stop and still run.  I want to say you don't have to do it.  Leave running to the runners.

If you are running, or considering running, ask yourself the questions below:

1.  Are you willing to put the time and effort into making sure you have the equipment and training to run properly and thus get the most benefit out of your workout and decrease your risk of injury?

2.  Are you only doing it because you think it will help you lose weight?

3.  Do you really, truly enjoy it?

If you don't like it, then forgive yourself and give yourself permission to try anything and everything else.  There is a whole world of fun fitness out there waiting to be discovered.

Thanks, Rachel!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Guest Blogger: Basilio Amaro

I first met Basilio Amaro and his lovely wife Janet back in 1993 when my then wife and I along with my son Charlie went down to California to visit with friends Susan and Jeff. Susan worked with Janet, we went to a party at Baiz and Janet's house, Baiz put on XTC's English Settlement CD, I recognised him as a kindred spirit and we *sniff* bonded.

Besides being a swell guy, Basilio is a talented comic book artist/writer/creator (I'm actually not sure about the terminology involved in comic books and I do know that the guys that create comics get pretty tetchy if you don't refer to what it is that they do correctly, whether it be pencils, inks, colors, etc., but I DO know that Basilio does the lot, so...) and you can find examples of his work by just searching for 'Basilio Amaro comics' on Google. He's a guy with a wicked sense of humour, but this entry sees Basilio just a little bit ticked off with a certain commercial...

The worst ads on the air in California? The horrible efforts from Tobacco Free California. You may have seen them. The toddler trying on Daddy's shoes, the "home from deployment" surprise, happy kids… Then the somber type telling you that moments like this aren't going to happen because 1 out of 5 Americans are being still killed by tobacco. 

I can't stand ads that play with statistics and language while simultaneously tugging at heart strings to sentimentalize the loss of joy. It's just not a good campaign when folks look at an anti-smoking ad and think "That ad sucks because it makes me sadder than lung cancer would, and now I need a smoke to lift my spirits and get over the experience."

Beyond the soul-sucking effort at depressing the viewer, here's the problem with the content. They don't actually reference the nationwide number of smoking deaths and it's also a state specific ad, in a state where the tobacco death rate in 2012 was 36,600. 

When they say tobacco is "still killing" 1 out of 5 Americans you have to pay particular attention to the way the language is used. Because they don't say died, they don't say will die.

In CA we have a population of 38 million and if 1 out of 5 of us died each year - we'd certainly take notice of 7.6 million nicotine-stained, tax paying faces dropping dead and going to that big Lucky Strike carton in the sky. 

In reality - instead of the terrifying 20% that math-impaired folks sort of arrive at when the numbers come up across the screen - the yearly death rate for California from tobacco stands about .096 %.

Still, a horrifying number when you realize that one year worth of tobacco deaths in CA would wipe out the entire city of Monrovia... But the ads imply that the entire populations of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose, plus thousands more are going to die from tobacco and soon. If I do the math where tobacco companies kill off a fifth of California's population, at the rate of 36,600 a year it should take about 207.5 years to get the job done. I'm going to guess that natural causes will take 99.5% of the entire population in about half that time.

I was trying to think what would make the ads worse, and the only thing I could come up with is if they used the same whimpery voice over artist that did the introduction for the old series Quantum Leap.


Never mind the health benefits, I hope folks quit smoking just so California stops using tax payer money to create ads that are so bad that they encourage marketing people to drink.

And here, in case you aren't from California, is what Baiz is talking about...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Guest Blogger: Angie Bailey

Hi y'all. Well, Guest Blogger Month has been quite sporadic and has therefore morphed into Guest Blogger Random Posts Whenever, but no matter. I love my guest bloggers, and I hope you do too. Next up is the ever wonderful Angie Bailey who is the idiosyncratic genius behind the blog Catladyland, the brilliantly funny book whiskerslist and one half of the hilarious comedic combo 82 South St. I've known Angie for about 4 years now and she is one of the wittiest ladies on the planet. Here's her entry...

Cosmic Love

This is Cosmo. Due to his facial markings and intense expressions, people tend to think he's cranky some of the time. They are dead wrong; he is cranky most of the time, but his snark is directed toward otherpeople. With me, he's a total mama's boy. When he and I are together, the cranky pants come off and the love fest begins.

When he came to us as a teeny kitten in 2002, he followed me everywhere. He was my one-member fan club. I'd drape him over my shoulder like a baby and there he'd happily perch as I washed dishes, folded laundry, and kitchen-danced. Yes, we were quite the dance partners, sliding and bouncing around the linoleum to everything from Ella Fitzgerald to The Clash. He loved it. Even now he'll twirl with me once in a while, but his patience tends to wane after a few verses. He's not the dancer he used to be...and really, neither am I. 

When I was diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease in 2003, he barely left my side. He didn't care that I couldn't dress myself or was the Stay-Puft Prednisone Girl. He lay beside me in bed, where we watched bad TV and shared endless naps. I'd rest my palm on the warmth of his sleek black belly and he'd blissfully purr, soaking the sheet with his happy drool. Yes, he's a drooler. My family thinks it's kind of repulsive, but I don't mind at all; I just position a napkin or tissue underneath his chin to catch the runoff. Someday when I'm advanced in age, I hope someone does the same for me. Thankfully, now my bedridden days are few and far between, but Nurse McDrool is always on duty when I need him most. 

And he's obsessed with the bathroom. Well, I suppose he's ultimately obsessed with the closed bathroom door that stands between him and me. Seriously, I have no recent recollection of what it's like to visit the loo without a furry escort. While I'm showering, he paces between the curtain and liner and bats at my lathery legs. The unexpected paw-pokes were startling at first, but now they've become part of our game. He whomps me and I pet him through the liner. I enjoy this, but rubbing his head through the clear plastic liner feels just a touch strange and bubble-boyish. Oh, and when I'm doing my, um, "business," he insists on sitting in my lap, purring and drooling all the while. Thank goodness for triple-ply toilet paper.

At night, Cosmo likes to burrow under the covers and press his fuzzy form flat against me. This is a bonus during Minnesota winters, but in the summer, my little heater can be a little too toasty. Seconds after I scoot him a few inches away from me, I feel the soft touch of a paw pad against my arm. He must make physical contact with me, if only with a toe. Honestly, the comfort of his touch helps me sleep; however, his habit of hijacking my pillow has the opposite effect. No, really...resting my head on a tiny triangle of my pillow is surprisingly comfortable! See how I use a positive affirmation to make up for the fact that I just don't have the heart to move him? I'm a total sucker, but don't pretend you're not. You too balance one butt cheek on the edge of a chair so you don't have to disturb your cat. Right? Don't lie.

Ten years later and Cosmo's unconditional love continues to bathe me in light, laughter, and a little bit of drool. He's still my fuzz-butt nurse when my health is off-kilter and when I feel like dancing, he humors me with a few minutes of tripping the fluorescent light fantastic at the kitchen disco. Sure, my neck is sore from sleeping on 1/10th of my pillow, but necks are overrated. I've even gotten used to the tandem toileting and surprise paw swats while I'm shampooing my hair. Actually, "gotten used to" isn't a proper term to describe my feelings about our relationship quirks. Truly, I wouldn't know how to go about my day without our little idiosyncrasies. Through his gifts of unconditional love and compassion, he's taught me more about true friendship than any human friend. In fact, I consider him my very best friend and companion, which is high praise because I am blessed with some pretty wonderful people in my life. None of which, however, I would allow on my lap during potty time.

Thanks for that, Angie!

If you'd like to be a guest on my prestigious not-won-an-award-yet-but-it's-gotta-be-coming-soon-right? blog, just email me at or message me on my Facebook page and just ask. Cheers, people!
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