This is the Message Centre for TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

I've been reading

Post 61

Mol - on the new tablet

Picts is one of my favourites (even though the Walkers aren't in it) but apparently Mrs Ransome didn't like it at all, which left Arthur quite crushed.

I've just re-read LOTR. I need to get a new copy. Huge chunks of pages are falling out of mine.


I've been reading

Post 62

Sho - gainfully employed again

which reminds me that I haven't read a S&A book for ages, I'll have to get going again (unfortunately since all my books were given away just after I left home, which nearly caused my mum to leave my dad smiley - yikes) I have to buy them all again. So I'm getting 2nd hand ones
smiley - magic
My favourite of those is Winter Holiday, and it led me into reading all sorts of books about people like Franklin, Scott, Amundsun and Shackleton.

Currently reading Carpe Jugulum - that Granny Weatherwax is scary!

What are you on to next?

I've been reading

Post 63

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

Ooh Carpe Jugulum is good. I didn't quite "get" that book the first time, and enjoy it far more on rereads.

smiley - popcorn

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, by Janet Holmes

One of my mother's textbooks.

I am fascinated by language. Sociolinguistics is the study of how the language we use reflects the circumstances we're in. We speak differently to our mother than we do to the school principle. Our language reflects our geography, our socio-economic background, our ancestry and so much more. The language we use also depends on the effect we're trying to achieve. An example is given of a boy cursing at his little brother in a language the younger boy doesn't speak. That's fine. The teenager, using the language of his friends on the street rather than the home language, was making a point. It doesn't matter that the kid can't understand the precise words used; the point is still conveyed.

This stuff is fascinating. A lot of examples were drawn from Maori usage. Unfortunately, there was no reference to any sign language.

smiley - popcorn

The Ring of Solomon, by Jonathan Stroud

This is a prequel to the Bartimaeus trilogy, of which I've read just the first, The Amulet of Samarkand, which is a YA novel set in a very well realised fantasy world based on London. This prequel is set many thousands of years earlier, in and around Solomon's Jerusalem, and borrows from legends of the time. Solomon's Ring, with which he controlled many mighty djinn, has many legends told about it. Jonathan Stroud's take was fresh and enjoyable.

I probably should have finished the original trilogy first, but hey, this was was a fun read.

smiley - popcorn

Riding the Iron Rooster, by Paul Theroux

This travel book starts in London. Paul Theroux, as part of an organised group, travels by train across Europe, across the Trans-Siberan railway, and into China, where he splits away from the rest and travels alone. The Iron Rooster itself is but one train among many in this fascinating book. China (and Russia) have no doubt changed dramatically since this book was written in 1988.

Theroux is opinionated and knowledgeable, and writes with a sense of fun and an eye for detail. The book ends quite suddenly on the Tibetan plateau. I enjoyed it.

smiley - popcorn

The Secret of Annexe 3, by Colin Dexter

This was my introduction to Inspector Morse. Good fun. Well plotted. Inventive.

TRiG.smiley - book

I've been reading

Post 64

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

Bareback, by Kit Whitfield
ISBN 978-0-099-49945-9

I know Kit Whitfield online. She's an administrator at The Slacktiverse, an online community where I post occasionally, and I also read her blog at (recently, she's been posting wonderful deconstructions of first sentences of famous books). Bareback (published as Benighted in the USA) is her first novel. And it's brilliant.

It defies genres. Given a quick plot summary, you'd probably call it a fantasy novel. It reads more like a thriller. I've never cared that much about genre, anyway. Whatever you call this book, it's a page-turner. It's a vividly realised world; an excellent idea, well told.

smiley - book

Once Upon a Time in the North, by Philip Pullman
ISBN 978-0-385-61432-0

This is a brief prequel to the wonderful trilogy His Dark Materials. It's fun, and light. Nothing too serious. It recounts the meeting of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison, major characters in the first book of the trilogy, Northern Lights, who are introduced in that book as old friends.

TRiG.smiley - badger

I've been reading

Post 65

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

I forgot to report that I also made a failed attempt to read Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (ISBN 0-7475-6162-1). As I said in an e-mail to a friend, "There's a book which has been sitting on my parents' shelves for years. I don't know whether either of them have read it, but I've wanted to for a while. So I took it down from the shelves a couple of days ago and started. It's Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. The narrator has an intersex condition. It's set in a Greek-American family, and after the opening it jumps back in time to the grandmother's early life. And then we get a very vivid description of the genocide in Smyrna. And that's where I stopped reading. The cover proudly proclaims that the novel is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I don't doubt that the prize was well earned. It's beautifully written. It's fascinating. It has interesting characters that I want to know more about. It's alive. It's vivid. It will stay with me. And I don't want that genocide to stay with me. It's more than I can take."

And at I remarked, "It's beautifully written, and I do want to read a novel which encompasses a broad sweep of history and has a trans* narrator, but vivid descriptions of a genocide are more than I can take."

So that was that. I didn't get very far into it.

TRiG.smiley - book

I've been reading

Post 66


I can understand that Trig. There's a book I didn't finish - for much the same reason. I got to a certain part where I had to set the book down and go out for a coffee and a cigarette. I meant to return to it later, but I don't think I ever will.

I've been reading

Post 67

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

I was reading in short bursts. A couple of paragraphs; put the book down and take a break; a couple more paragraphs; a break. And the breaks were getting longer. At that rate, given that I read mainly on my lunchbreak, it would have taken me a fair few years to read. (Well, less, probably, as I doubt the whole book is that bleak, but still. There are some images I don't need in my head.)

TRiG.smiley - candle

I've been reading

Post 68


The one I was talking about was one of Joe Sacco's. As you say, there are some images you don't need in your head.

I've been reading

Post 69

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

Oh. I've read some Joe Sacco. A friend lent it to me. Yes, it was pretty strong stuff in places.


I've been reading

Post 70

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

One of Us: Conjoined twins and the future of normal
by Alice Domurat Dreger
ISBN: 0-674-01294-1

This book was lent to me by a friend. It's a hardback edition, covered, stamped withdrawn from Jefferson County Public Library, Colorado, which suggests that the book has had an interesting history. Be that as it may, it's certainly an interesting book.

This book is primarily, of course, about conjoinment. It discusses separation surgeries, sacrifice surgeries, and the histories of conjoined twins. Did you know that only one set of conjoined twins has ever consented to separation surgery? Most separations are done on infants, and most adult conjoined twins have no desire to separate. However, the book is far more wide-ranging than that. In a general discussion of societal and mediacl approaches to unusual anatomy, we discuss dwarfism, giantism, cleft palate, and intersex conditions. This book is an excellent primer on the social model of disability.

Specific case histories (both medical and legal) are examined. And there is some insightful criticism of medical literature, and the way it tends to omit necessary social context from its case histories. In the medical literature, photos of conjoined people, disabled people, or people with other unusual anatomy show their subjects in a medical setting, often naked, and usually with a black bar over their eyes. In theory, this protects the patients' privacy. In practise, by removing the subject from the social context, it is the doctor who is protected from the subject's gaze. Dreger includes a photo of conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel playing at home with their mother and brother. This sort of photo allows the subject to tell their own story.

Toward the end of the book, we also look at how anatomy is becoming more and more medicalised. These days, we tend to look for medical solutions to social problems. (This is something Ben Goldacre has also written about, from a somewhat different perspective, in his excellent book Bad Science.)

Overall, this is a book which asks a lot of complex questions and provides very few definitive answers. And that's as it should be.

I'm going to get quite evangelical about this book. Everyone should read it. It's mind-expanding. Challenging, thought-provoking, well presented, delightful to read.

What is normal, anyway?

TRiG.smiley - book

I've been reading

Post 71

Sho - gainfully employed again

and it is duly entered on my wish list - which is longer than I'll ever be able to get through I fear.

But I have ordered (at €0.01 + €3.00 postage) the Philip Pullman you indicated up there ^^

I've been reading

Post 72

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

God: A user's guide
Sean Moncrieff
(Library book)

Sean Moncrieff is an Irish jourinalist, whom I'd not previously heard of. This book is light and easy to read, with a simple overview of the history and basic theology of the top twenty world religions, ranked by the number of adherents. I learned a fair bit from it.

1. He's not taking his subject seriously, and obviously views the whole thing as a bit ridiculous. And fair enough, I agree. But it's not marketed as an attack book. I'm not entirely sure what sort of book this is supposed to be. I suspect Moncrieff wasn't sure either. (Maybe you shouldn't write books about things you find ridiculous. Informative guides to silly things other people do are rarely well written.)
2. There are no references or bibliographies provided. There's no indication of how Moncrieff gathered his information.
3. The final chapter, on Christianity, was fairly useless, as all the way through the book Moncrieff assumed the reader was familiar with Christianity and used it as a reference, comparing and contrasting the other religions to it.

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Suckers: How alternative medicine makes fools of us all
Rose Shapiro
(Library book)

An excellent compliment to Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, but with a different focus and feel. This book is shocking and convincing, and focuses firmly on the alt med industry. There's plenty of interesting anecdotes about the founders of various crank therapies, and a handy guide to spotting a quack. The various dangers of alt med are clearly outlined, especially in chapter 7, on cancer.

This is a book about science, medicine, and social policy, with branches into the history of various medicinal practices (the section on the history of Chinese Traditional Medicine was particularly interesting). It's also strange to see how some alt meds are carefully dressed up to look scientific, while others border more closely on spellcasting. (Homoeopathy is an interesting anomaly here: the basic principle behind it is a form of sympathetic magic, but the form it takes (little white pills in glass bottles) is quite "sciency".)

An excellent read, with a UK and USA focus.

smiley - book

The Grace Girls
Geraldine O'Neill

Most of my books are still back at my parents', so one evening I picked up this, which was sitting in the kitchen of our shared house. It's a novel, focusing on two sisters (Heather and Kirsty Grace, the girls of the title) from an Irish Catholic family in 1950s Scotland. The author has a good eye for character, and the social landscape is well drawn. Unfortunately, the plot becomes more and more clichéd as the novel progresses.

I note that one of the reviews quoted on the back of the book was, "Fans of Maeve Binchy won't be disappointed." From what I remember of the last time I read Maeve Binchy, that's probably about right.

TRiG.smiley - bus

I've been reading

Post 73

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

I've given One of Us back to the person who lent it to me, but then later spotted a copy in a second-hand bookshop and picked it up.

Also, I've bought a stack more books, including Joe Sacco's Palestine, which I'm sure will be excellent but difficult.

TRiG.smiley - booksmiley - ok

I've been reading

Post 74

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

"The good end happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means."

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen is not quite so unsubtle as Miss Prism. I'd not read this book before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jane Austen refuses to tie the ending up quite as neatly as you might expect. Those who do wrong, and bring their own punishment upon themselves by throwing away their happiness, are nonetheless allowed to be not entirely miserable for the rest of their days.

And, in case you were wondering, the balance is definitely tipped toward sense over sensibility.

smiley - popcorn

"I remember Dublin city | In the rare ould times."

Bill Cullen: It's a Long Way from Penny Apples

This memoir from one of Ireland's successful businessmen is an interesting read. It's not stunningly well written: it's very anecdotal, and focuses quite heavily on young Liam's development as a salesman on the streets of Dublin. Its strength is in the portrait it draws of the tenement flats, and the street markets, and the role of the church in 1950s Dublin. (The horrendous abuses of the Catholic Church was no secret even then, but no one did anything about it.) The book is, as Gay Byrne's review says, a "rattling good yarn". I found the ending couple of chapters a bit less interesting than the rest. Still, a good read. I would recommend it.

TRiG.smiley - book

I've been reading

Post 75

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

John Grisham: The Summons: 0-09-940613-6

A pretty good story (and family portrait) with a twist in the telling which actually worked quite well.

smiley - book

Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet: 1-85326-485-7

I bought this book because of Wilma's Guide Entry on its author, which I read when it first went through PR and was published. I've had a little voice in the back of my head ever since telling me to read that book one day, so when I spotted it in a bookshop I picked it up. I was not disappointed.

I wasn't sure what to expect. The Prophet is wisdom literature: full of aphorisms and extremely quotable. There were passages of great beauty (I especially liked the section on love) and there were passages I didn't get much from. But it is a book which, having read once, I may well dip in and out of for some time. It's also a very small book, actually.

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Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: The Long Earth: 978-0-857-52010-4

This didn't have the feel of a Terry Pratchett novel (and, of course, it isn't a Terry Pratchett novel: it's a collaboration), but when there was mass panic and the world was going mad and no one knew what to do the police officer asked her superior what she should be doing and he told her to do the job that was in front of her. "Ah," I said, "that was Pratchett."

The idea the book's based on is excellent, and the writing is solid. Toward the end of the book, though, I found the little snippits of side-story more interesting than the main plot. Still, an enjoyable read, and one that I imagine the fanfic community will take hold of with great glee.

smiley - book

Dick Francis: The Danger: 978-0-330-45042-3

One of Dick Francis' better books. It is, of course, a first-person adventure story set in the world of horse racing, with the narrator a white Englishman who gets into trouble. Unusually, though the trouble he gets into is quite serious, he at no point is seriously beaten up. Dick Francis off formula!

Liberty Market is a small company which advices the families of kidnap victims. Andrew Douglas spends time advising and adventuring in Italy, England, and the USA in this book. It's a quick and easy read with likeable characters. Enjoyable.

TRiG.smiley - surfer

I've been reading

Post 76

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

Ken Follet: Paper Money

I read this book over the course of a few lunches. It belongs to a café in town which has a load of books in it. The plot(s) of Paper Money all take place over one day, and are carefully interwoven. It really is rather excellently done, and it works well as a thriller. However, I was not impressed with the book's take on mental illness (see the first comment at < - winkeye.

William Goldman: The Princess Bride (S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure: the 'good parts' version, abridged)

A classic of its kind. I hadn't expected Buttercup to be quite so snarky. I don't recall her being *that* snarky in the film. It turned out to be an excellent read, and wouldn't have been the same without that first chapter and the notes, which were mainly omitted from the film, which used a different, albeit related, framing device.

I must watch the film again too.

Terry Pratchett presents Miss Felicity Beedle's The World of Poo

In Snuff, Young Sam meets Miss Felicity Beedle, the author of the six-year-old's favourite book, The World of Poo. Here, we have that book, and a wonderfully informative book it is too. Work on the book was done by Terry Pratchett along with Bernard and Isobel Pearson. I've met Bernard Pearson at a couple of the Discworld Conventions (and will probably be seeing him again in a week's time at the next one). At the Irish Discworld Con last year, he won an award for being the most impressive kid at the convention.

John Gray: The Great Cave Hill Right of Way Case
A87756367 | F1749279?thread=8090221

I picked this little pamphlet up when I was up at Cave Hill for the Belfast Hillwalking mini-meet, but I never got around to reading it. When KB published his guide entry on the subject, that prodded my memory, so I dug it out and read it again. It's a good overview of the related court case.

Michael Morpurgo: Dear Olly

A children's novel. A symphony in three movements. Beautiful. And moving.

Cynthia Voigt: Dicey's Song

I'd read this before, a few years ago. It's part of a series, and I really must track down the rest one day. There's something about the writing that really tugs at something in me, and that's as useless and unclear a book-review as you're likely to read anywhere. (I'm not very good at this, am I?) Listen, I really liked this book. That's all.

TRiG.smiley - book

I've been reading

Post 77

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

For Hire, by Luke Bradbury

According to the front cover, the subtitle of this book is "the intimate adventures of a real-life gigolo". Inside the book, the subtitle is "The Intimate Adventures of a Gigolo". I don't know why the promise of reality is on the front cover only. This is, after all, a true story. Or so it claims.

According to this book, a young Australian guy selling sex to women in London can make not only a living, but a good living. This is contrary to everything else I've ever heard about male sex workers, so I take it with a certain amount of salt. It's a fun, lighthearted read. Very episodic. Sentences somewhat choppy in places. It's not "literature". If it's true, it's quite interesting, if a little narratively unsatisfying. (The story, such as it is, doesn't have much of a shape. There is a certain progression: it's not just a series of episodes, but it mainly is.) The glamour touches are fun too.

ISBN: 978-1-84756-109-1.

TRiG.smiley - book

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Post 78

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

I now I feel silly for writing much more about For Hire than I did about the incomparably better Dicey's Song. I suppose it's easier to write about non-fiction, even if you suspect it is actually largely fiction.

TRiG.smiley - shrug

I've been reading

Post 79

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

James Hitlon
Lost Horizon

Huh? Weird book. Weird plot. Weird typography.

My parents picked this one up when they were in China, and gave it to me when they got back. And I'm honestly not at all sure what I thought of it. I suppose it's a tragedy more than anything else, but it's a well-told one. I liked it, I think. Strange.

smiley - stnirptoofsmiley - island

Reginald Hill

"A Dalziel and Pascoe Novel"

So it's part of a series, and I've not read the rest. I am, usually, punctilious about reading series in order, but it doesn't matter as much with detective fiction: each book is usually fairly well self-contained, and that was indeed the case here. Dalziel and Pascoe are policemen in Yorkshire. There is a full cast of characters, police, villains, and others, and all are well drawn. I enjoyed Police Cadet Shaheed Singh in particular. And the device of naming each chapter after a variety of rose was well done.

smiley - rose

CS Lewis
Out of the Silent Planet

The first of the Cosmic Trillogy, Lewis' science-fiction works.

The first thing to say about this book is that it's not science fiction. Lewis has no interest in the science of travel to Mars, nor in painting a planet which might realistically be Mars. His Malacandria is scored with deep rifts, the famous Martian canals. He's said elsewhere, in an essay published in the collection Of this and Other Worlds, that he already knew when he wrote this book that the Martian canals were an error, but no matter: they were part of the mythos of our understanding of Mars, and so he included them.

I think, interestingly, that they no longer are. The Martian canals have faded out of memory, so in some ways the passage of time has not been kind to this book.

Science fiction is, of course, a wonderfully varied field, and authors (and readers) gravitate to it for different reasons. As a reader, I've never worried too much about the genre of a book, but I must say that a writer who talks about space travel without having the least interest on how it works grates on me a little. Really, what Lewis is writing is in the tradition of travellers tales. Swift could send Gulliver across the globe by sailing boat to discover Lilliput. In Lewis' day, the mapmakers had been to to many places, so he was forced to send Ransom a bit further afield. But the method of travel was unimportant. What mattered was what he found there and, moreso, how it related to us.

Out of the Silent Planet is a book written by a deeply religious man, and it never pretends to be otherwise. It's fiction, not a theological treatise. It would be an interesting exercise to give this book to a person unfamiliar with Christian beliefs and symbolism. It really is a very Christian book in attitude, even though the actual cosmology of the book doesn't match up well with mainstream Christianity as I understand it. (In fact, I think it's closer to Mormonism, but I'm not very familiar with the Mormon faith (and I doubt Lewis was either), so take that with a large amount of salt.)

The book is well constructed. It begin in the right place and ends in the right place. Lewis was a competent craftsman. It conveys well, I think, the messages he wanted to convey, without overburdening the story. The allegory is not subtle, but the story is not wholey in the service of the allegory. At least one of Lewis' hobbies also found its way into the book: he spends more time than most authors would on the linguistics of Malacandria. I, of course, enjoyed that little digression. And it didn't last long.

The climax of the book is the audience with Oyarsa, and I suspect Lewis was attempting something more profound than he actually achieved.

smiley - tekcor

Ralph Gower
with Muriel Brooks, Joan Chambes, Anne Hotherall, Myra Millins, Brabara Smith, Audrey Sharrock
Religious Education in the Infant Years

An odd little book. It's a guidebook for teachers, weitten by an inspector with advice and assistance from teachers. The general point of the book, to summarise, is that infants should be taught some form of "pre-religion", based on wonder and caring. The book mentions the difficulties that come with teaching religion in state schools in pluralistic environments. The choice of verb in my previous sentence was deliberate: it mentions the difficulties. It doesn't suggest any solutions to them, and goes right on giving specifically Christian advice. It's an oddly disjointed book, probably as a result of having so many authors.

One list of "normal experiences with religious implications" includes "seeing handicapped children". Seeing. Not, for example, talking to or playing with. What the disabled kids think of being reduced to an object lesson isn't covered.

smiley - candle

JD Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye

There are, of course, very many classic novels I've not read. This, I think, was the only one I felt guilty about. So now I've read it. And yes, it was worth it.

Holden Caufield's head is not a comfortable place to be, but it is very very real. Frighteningly so, at times. This book deserves its reputation.

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PD James
A Taste for Death

Is there anyone who writes like PD James? The level of detail, and of characterisation, that she brings to detective fiction is outstanding. Her novels always have extraordinary breadth and depth. A one-shot character we never see again is given a vivid backstory and personality. And yet this doesn't interrupt the flow of the narriative. That's skill. It makes for big books, but ones which are easy to read.

A Taste for Death is, of course, an Adam Dalgleish novel (another series I read out of order). It builds slowly to an exciting climax, and yes this writer of detail and of beautifully painted character can also write a nail-biting breathless action scene.

smiley - skull

JRR Tolkein
edited by Christopher Tolkein
with assistance from Guy Kay
The Silmarillion

This is the only book in this bunch which I've read before, far too long ago. The Silmarillion consists of five distinct works, taking its name from the longest: Quenta Silmarillion. These are tales of beauty and of loss, far back in the early days of Middle-earth. These are the legends that the actors in The Lord of the Rings look back on: the heroic age to which they might measure up. The elves have long lives, of course. Galadriel plays a significant role in the story, and Elrond also appears.

And it's late and I'm tired, so I'll try to finish writing about The Silmarillion later.

smiley - elf

TRiG.smiley - book

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Post 80

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

Girl Genius Omnibus Volume One: Agatha Awakens, by Phil & Kaja Foglio.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3132-8.

Girl Genius is also published online as a webcomic. I read it there first, then bought this book as a present for someone who's a fan of steampunk. Girl Genius is aesthetically steampunk, but it's more fantasy than scifi. The authors call it "gaslamp fantasy". Whatever it is, it's wonderful. It's funny, clever, and beautifully drawn, and it's easy to follow. (I often find graphic novels and webcomics difficult to follow, whereupon I give up.)

I've been vaguely aware of Girl Genius for a while. The line "Any sufficiently analysed magic is indistinguishable from science" (which comes from a little side-story fantasy within Girl Genius) was mentioned somewhere. Then, a good while later, someone on Ana Mardoll's blog mentioned that Girl Genius contains that rarest of literary devices: a love triangle that actually makes sense, is well thought out, and consists of three likeable realistic characters. (Well, for a given value of "realistic", given that all three are mad scientists.)

So I finally started reading it, and loved it. Girl Genius is ongoing, and I recommend it. Neither of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph actually appear in Volume One. Agatha Awakens contains the first three chapters: The Beetleburg Clank, The Airship City, The Monster Engine. The story develops slowly, and the plot is largely character-driven.

As a physical object, the book is beautiful. Hardback, well bound. A nice quality of paper. Well printed. And the sudden colour change from the dreary first chapter to the vivid second as you turn the page works well. This is partly because there was a different colorist on this chapter, but it also suits the story and the change in Agatha's circumstances.

TRiG.smiley - book

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