Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Thanksgiving Rant, Don't Be Such A Turkey


I've been reading articles all week about how to "cope" with Thanksgiving. I don't get it. This is by far the coolest -and warmest- holiday of the year.

Thanksgiving is a paid day or two off from work and school. It's secular, non-dressy, no gifts are even involved.

The whole purpose is comfort: hanging out with friends and loved ones, eating delicious food, watching television for hours, taking long naps. Coming home. Or going someplace fun.

And, if you're lucky, spending quality time counting your blessings.

Plus, a bonus for those who care about such things: a whole weekend to shop til you drop.

What other country would think up such a great holiday? And what other country would try harder to screw up such a good thing?

Psychic Shock
But there they are, the ubiquitous articles on how to protect your delicate ego from interfering family members. 

"How to get through a visit with your parents ... or your children." (Man up! Woman up! It's one day for cryin out loud).
"How to manage a meal next to creepy Uncle Bud." (Stab his wandering hands with a fork and apologize profusely). "How to refrain from flipping off annoying Aunt Sylvia." (Say something you know will please her or -if she's annoying beyond redemption- go ahead and piss her off).

"How to shut the kids up." Um, I mean, "How to keep the kids busy and involved." (Turn this over to the older kids or younger couples. Tell them it's a rule and/or good practice).
Then of course there's the media frenzy with "news "reports braying about nightmareish Thanksgiving travel and crowded stores.

I have some advice for those who buy into such cynical pandering to the greedy, neurotic and disenfranchised among us: Get over yourselves! Stop kvetching! Oy vey, Enjoy already! (Okay, sorry, for a minute there I made Thanksgiving a Jewish holiday).
Younger complainers: if you can wait days in line for concert tickets, iPhones and X-Boxes, surely you can spend a few hours in an airport, train station or car to bring joy to those who love you more than any rock star ever will.

Grown children: Stop whining about schlepping to Mom and Dad's house. Remember. these are the people who spent time, effort, money and countless sleepless nights helping you make it to adulthood.

If they didn't, or were abusive, mean, nasty, horrible parents, don't go near them! You're an adult, you have the power now. Use it without guilt and with my blessing.
But if they did their best, give them the love and respect they've earned. Show up, bring something, smile, help with the cooking and the dishes. Appreciate how lucky you are to have a family and a place to call home.
Couples: Stop arguing over whose side of the family to visit and which mother will pile on the most guilt if you don't. Remind yourselves and your parents that doing so pulls you apart.

If they love you, they should encourage you to respect each other. Try to please each other. Make your own decisions. And refine your ability to  share.

If that doesn't work, use the big guns. Remind them that too many people have no families, homes or food on Thanksgiving or any other day.

Say you will pick a side to visit this year and donate money to a shelter in the other side's name. Then promise to switch visits next year.

If economics are involved, make the best plan you can, be gracious, firm and loving. Don't let yourself be bullied. It's your relationship, not theirs.

Never ever ever use your children as holiday leverage. Do not involve them in a power struggle over who loves who more. Work out a holiday schedule responsive to YOUR CHILDREN, not your personal grievances.

You are giving them memories. Will they need a shrink or learn to create a loving Thanksgiving themselves?

Assist/send/let them go to the other parent without guilt, anger or anything but a big smile and a "Have a great time!"

If you're a real class act (and, well, a little passive-aggressive), help them make something scrumptious to take along.
Reality Check
There's only one thing that should be really hard to handle at Thanksgiving: the empty chairs of loved ones -- unable to come, far away or gone for good.

How trivial to whine about your family's "dysfunctional issues" when others are spending Thanksgiving at a child's hospital bedside. In their own hospital bed. Trying to connect to or from Iraq and Afghanistan. Or bereft and alone.
Give Thanks
Do yourself a favor. Drop the anti-Thanksgiving attitude. Count your blessings for the things you have ... and the things I hope you never have to face.

Then take another moment to remember -and if possible, help- those for whom Thanksgiving is only another day of pain, or a painful reminder of loved ones missing and missed.

Andersons 2009

If you can't do that, then you're just a big turkey.

PS You'd also do well to remember there are those who might be dreading dealing with you. Help them get over it. You'll thank me.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Or else.
Now, go. Eat. Drink. Enjoy.
On a special note, we're giving thanks our Jersey Shore family's house was spared and donating to those less fortunate. We so grateful for the cease fire in the Middle East and praying for a lasting peace. We welcome three Israeli nieces and families to our table here in Philly this Thanksgiving. For a brief time, all they'll have to fear are bellies bursting, not bombs. Thank g-d.
cousins last year

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Karen Fern Anderson 5.20.1962 - 8.27.2010

y courageous niece Karen fought Melanoma with all she had. I wrote about her valiant battle a lot. I wish there was nothing left to say except: Cured!

Someday, for others ... until then:

The beginning of her incredible journey is described here:

CANCER WARRIOR, 2009 and 2010
(each new battle, in chronological order)

I See Courage (revised) Karen Loses Her Right Eye and, We Hope, the Cancer Too

Here's To Alex, To Life, L' Chaim!
Alex's Bar Mitzvah

"This Is Not The End Of Your Life"
Karen's Diagnosis: Metastasis to Liver and Spleen

No More! No Más! Enough! Basta! Finis! Stop! **UPDATED
Karen's Birthday, 2009, More Bad News

Karen, Brave Warrior
Tried All Other Treatments, Time for Chemo

Karen Does Chemo ***UPDATED UPDATE
No Hair, Plenty of Humor

5 Reasons I'm Cranky, 5 Reasons I'm Not
11-year-old Amy is Belle!

Karen's Birthday, Cake with a Side of Chemo & Platelets Karen's Birthday, 2010, in the Hospital

Remembering Karen Eulogy For Our Shining Star

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bob Novak Could Sting, But He Was Really A Honey

"Beneath the surface, Novak was a sweetie.." Bernadette Malone, former Novak reporter; Senior Editor, Penguin

"There was nothing more fun after a long day than to sit down with Bob Novak and argue about capital-gains taxes, the Fed, the Contras or [any other] topic. But nobody ever doubted that we liked each other and that there was a part of us that would stand off in a corner saying, 'You can't take this too seriously.' " Democratic strategist Bob Shrum

"[O]nce you talked to Novak, you liked him.." Greg Gutfeld, Fox News

Liberals, moderates, even some conservatives have a right to dislike Robert Novak. Pundits everywhere have cataloged his "evilness" with great relish -- never more than in recent pseudo-eulogies and obituaries.

Well, why not? Novak gave them a giant target. He also gave them a solid example of a determined, dedicated Reporter. Even his enemies grant he was a professional political analyst par excellence.

There was another side of Bob Novak. A lighter side. Generous, funny, kind, thoughtful. And more. Not in public of course. Behind the scenes, among friends. It's true. I was there to see some of it for myself.

So, I am not here to defend Robert Novak's public politics, allegiances or deeds. My modest but determined goal is to assert that for those who knew the private man, especially in the years before his dark public persona had solidified, calcified, virtually taken over -- there was quite a lot about Bob Novak to like.

Yes, really.

I'm not speaking about or for his family. I don't know them and I imagine they're having a tough enough time dealing with his death and the public glee expressed by so many. I do know he wasn't an easy family man, so I also imagine they'll have a tough time making peace with it all.

I'm referring to Novak's other family. Not in a legal sense. Not other children. A privileged family of friends. An enduring love. Nothing "official" or even widely known.

Way back in the dark ages of the 1970's some things weren't acknowledged or discussed. The things some of us lived.

It seems like yesterday that I was such a young pup. First a student, then an intern, a low level 'operative." Eager for knowledge and to be all grown up inside the political universe of Washington, DC.

I ran in circles that included some pretty big names in journalism and politics. Some became my friends. Some my mentors. A few lovers. Many provided great stories.

My closest friend and mentor was Johnny Apple, aka R. W. Apple, Jr. of the New York Times. When he died in 2006, he took a big chunk of my early professional and personal years with him. And some of those great stories too. Read my Personal Notes on a Professional Journalist when you can.

Another whose path I crossed gave me one of my all time best stories: Dousing Dan Rather. (This one's especially dedicated to my Texas friends).

It's a different world now, but back then, politics and journalism were strange bedfellows, in both senses of the word. We all worked together, played together, helped --and used-- each other, loved and laughed and learned and betrayed and protected one another.

Life was a little more black and white on the outside and a lot greyer on the inside. Hard working, hard drinking, hard living people created and reported the news. Relationships were intense but friable. Entertaining, free-spirited, at times well-choreographed, often wildly chaotic and doomed.

There were very few constants. Oddly, Bob Novak was one. A grown-up, a power-broker, a potential king maker or breaker. A man who know exactly who he was, what he wanted and how to get it.

And no matter how high he flew (and he did, um, fly), his feet stayed on the ground. He seemed almost a father figure to the younger among us, me included.

He was so proper, edging toward pompous, it was beyond fun to watch him let loose, make indecently funny jokes, double over with laughter, become The Enforcer trying to quiet our riotous behavior.

Even when serious, if you knew where to look you could still see that private twinkle in his eye. Often pointed in one specific direction.

From the 70's through to the present, Bob Novak was friend, mentor and more to one of my oldest, dearest friends. For her loss, I grieve. He was her treasured LH (initials of her private nickname for him), known only by a few intimates. No, I won't tell you what LH stands for, you'd never believe me anyway.

There are a lot of things I'll never tell. But it doesn't matter now to say that Bob Novak had a very special relationship with a small group of insiders and with one very special woman.

You're shocked? Doubtful. You don't care? Fine. Enough of us do. We know there are no absolutes in people or relationships. Everybody's got secrets. Regrets. Imperfections large and small.

Everybody's got some good inside too. And true light. Just because you've never seen it doesn't mean it wasn't there. For some of us, that light's gone out. Though not darkness, but sweetness remains. And we'll always have P Street.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008



YA GOTTA BELIEVE! Tug McGraw, threw winning pitch of 1980 World Series, RIP, Tug

Well yeah, 1980 and 2008 ... something karmic there.

My throat hurts from screaming, right in my own living room.

My hand hurts (my good arm) from high-fiving my husband.

My windows are rattling from fireworks and car horns and people whooping outside in the streets in joy.

We're going out there now to join the spontaneous block party that's just started.

There are better things than this, but right now, it feels as good as it gets.

PS I'd like to feel this good on November 4.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yo, Phillies, Go For It!

Language, smanguage, we just want to WIN!

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman, No Failure To Communicate With Me

Warning: If you feel as I do about Paul Newman, this will make you cry.

No one can deny the timeless appeal of Paul Newman. No one will ever replace his precise blend of sex appeal, sensibility, intelligence and rare grace. As an actor, as a human being.

He was my first movie star crush, and no one's come close to this day. Not only because he was also undeniably gorgeous, but because of his reality and humanity, his unwavering devotion to his wife, his family, those less fortunate in the world.

Few celebrities genuinely fit the label Uses Power for Good, Not Evil. Paul Newman defined that concept. And lived life his way, with brio, bravery, honesty, commitment and even modesty.

I had the honor and--oh yeah--the thrill of meeting Paul Newman in 1979 at the Daytona 500. Pure. Magic. I was a guest of friends who owned part interest in Newman's race car company. (It's a business, believe me). They had a big deluxe RV parked in a prime spot inside the track. It was like a luxurious home inside, plenty of refreshments and facilities. We watched the races from swivel chairs bolted to the roof.

Newman didn't sit around and chat. He came and went, focused on the cars, his crew, the preliminary races. His presence was calm and electrifying at the same time. Not that tall, not a loud voice, dressed like all the other drivers. But there was something special about him, a supreme self-confidence and a charisma that pulled you into his orbit.

When we were introduced, he shook my hand with both of his, gave me his full attention, asked a few questions ... for a few brief golden moments making me feel important and yet totally at ease, as if we were old friends. I wish. Wow factor squared. And oh those extraordinary piercing blue eyes, as another friend once described, you could see from the back of his head.

My sister and I were just talking about him yesterday and I said, Is he sick? I've been having this feeling he's going to die. (I'm like that, get premonitions good and bad, always correctly predict the sex of my niece's babies, know when I'm going to hear from someone, stuff like that. My grandmother had it too.)

I so wish I'd been wrong this time. And I feel humbled too. Here I've been, whining about my stupid shoulder surgery, while I bet anything Paul Newman was dying as he lived, with dignity, grace, humor, bravery and love.

My heart goes out to his family and to all of us, his family of faithful fans.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Shouldering Some Surgery, See You in 3-4 Weeks

This is not me, I have much better muscle tone.

I'm serving notice to all you active young pups still south of 50: Beware Father Time. Especially if you're an athlete. Or a fitness freak. Or both. Trust me, that wonderful, endorphin-enhanced pounding high you're getting now will come back to bite you on the ass. Or, in my case, this time, the left shoulder.

Today I'm having major shoulder surgery. Two 3-centimeter full-thickness rotator cuff tears front and back, a nearly severed biceps tendon, bone spurs, a crack in my scapula (aka shoulder blade). My shoulder's so bad it partially dislocates (called subluxation) at the slightest movement. So the surgery will also include inserting pins for greater stability.

You'd think I was a Major League baseball pitcher. S'okay, I'm in good hands, my doctors treat our Philly teams.

By the time you read this --sometime Friday morning-- I'll be in the OR or in recovery. Drugged and needing it. Hoping to wake up and find the 5-hole arthoscopy did the trick, that they didn't have to open me up with a big nasty incision.

Of all the sports surgeries, they say shoulder is the hardest. Worse, they tell me, than having a hip replaced. (My hips are just fine, thank you). But at least I had fun getting here.

In my teens and 20's it was competitive swimming, volleyball, softball. Plus skiing and running. In my 30's switched full time to tennis, squash, racquetball. Nautilus. Free weights. Aerobics. All necessary not only for health, but stress relief, especially working in politics and journalism.

By the time I reached my 40's I was a full time mom with my own little wellness business on the side, contracted to run fitness centers in federal office buildings and at my local health club. My favorite task was conducting quarterly fitness testing for the FBI, the Secret Service, Customs agents. Damn, that was fun.

Running those guys up and down 10 flights of concrete stairs, making them hit the floor for 50 push ups, hold weights while running an obstacle course, calling them "Sissy maggots!" at the top of my voice. Oh, and did I mention I was doing everything they were doing too? Plus, in those days I was teaching 2-3 step and aerobics classes a day, 5 days a week.

Not. Any. More. Over the past 20 years I've had both knees "scoped" ... handled it pretty well. Also a wrist, an ACL, a small rotator cuff tear/frozen shoulder (the right one), my lower back twice. Less fun, yet manageable. My left hand last February. The worst so far. Hands freakin hurt.

Today they'll fix my left shoulder. I'll suck up the 3-week immobility cast and the pain as best I can. Then I'll start the 3-6 months of rehab. It's okay, I'm a PT fanatic. Physical therapy is my middle name. And my health club. I've been going there throughtout August 3 times a week in advance of this surgery to get in tip top shape for it.

My sister (a nurse, how convenient) will be staying with us to help me manage with only one arm. At least I'm right-handed. But still, fully immobilized left side -- I know from the hand surgery it isn't so easy having only one arm.

My respect for amputees and other disabled people soars when I'm in my 'temporary' situations. You can't cut your food. You can't push yourself into a sitting position in bed. You can't even pull your own pants up without a lot of circus-style contortions.

BUT: they promised me I'll be able to type in a few weeks. Maybe two, maybe three. You gotta know that's almost as high on my list as rehab and recovery. I can always dictate to my sister, but it's not the same. Although if something major breaks, my voice will get here somehow.

In the meantime, maybe this is a good thing. A break from the cerebral and the outrageous, some time for dumb TV shows, chick flicks, good quality heart-to-hearts with my sisters and friends. I'll get flowers and candy and maybe even (stay back, Freaky Troll!) cake.

And from now on, no more tennis and skiing. Instead it's the treadmill, the elliptical, yoga, Pilates, bands, lighter weights, more reps. I love it and it's good for me, health-wise. I have the blood pressure, cardio-vascular endurance, muscle strength, low cholesterol and body mass index of an active woman half my age.

And I have the joints of a worn-out, washed up pro football player.

So take my advice, be a little kinder to your joints while you still can.

I won't be doing any heavy lifting for a while, but I'll be thinking of you, and I wouldn't mind some kind thoughts and good karma from anybody willing to shoulder them on my behalf.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Best. Campaign. Twofer. Ever.

Blending the names of a twosome, whether celebrity couple or political running mates has become a big trend.

Now that Obama is the nominee and has chosen his Veep, the Twofers are starting.

On Letterman Monday night they came up with some ideas for the Democratic ticket. "This is a CBS News Election '08 Update. In a new CBS Poll, voters were asked which nickname they preferred for the Democratic ticket of Obama-Biden.

In second place is ‘Obiden,' with 39%.

In last place with 3%, ‘Jidenamackojoba.' " (I have no clue what that means).

Then, tonight, after Obama's rock 'em, sock 'em speech, Tom Brokaw made a classic slip of the tongue, saying again: OBiden.

But I have to say again, especially in this town, the hands down winner by a country mile:

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Politicians' Infidelity - Playing with Power

"He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still." Lao Tzu

I don't want to talk about John and Elizabeth Edwards. They have enough on their plates. They don't need anything from me that feeds the beast. But I have something to say about an already well-fed beast, our very own Bubba, and his already well-documented infidelities, specifically with Monica Letmeinsky.

The Clinton-Lewinsky affair is an object lesson for all politicians.

Infidelity among us common folk is about a lot of things, mostly dissatisfaction with a marriage. Not the same dynamic in celebrity circles. Movie stars, rock stars, we know all about their groupies and the Cult of Celebrity. Getting behind the velvet rope. 'I'm with the band.'

There's an even different, I'd say more seductive dynamic among political groupies. A sprecial breed. Getting behind the rope line. 'I'm with the Man.'

My checkered career includes working in politics from the State House to the White House. I've seen firsthand how enticing Political Power can be. And how willingly young women (maybe these days young men too) offer themselves sexually to their powerful superiors.

Power is an incredible aphrodisiac. During the act, yes, but even more important to the less powerful, after the fact. Think about it. What did Monica Lewinsky get out of the sex or 'relationship' with Bill Clinton? A cigar? Sheesh. No cigar. A recycled book of poetry? Please. She was the one on her knees. She did the work, sex-wise, not the other way around. She was totally turned on by the fact she was, ohmigod, doing the President of the United States.

There's another aspect about the whole mess that's just plain wrong. It's bad enough Republican hypocrits used the Clinton-Lewinsky affair to further their own agendas at the country's expense. I got almost as sick and tired of liberal feminist bleating about Bill Clinton's sexual harassment of a poor little intern. It. Didn't. Happen.

Their affair wasn't about sexual harassment, it was about sexual dalliance. And the pull of power. She was more than a willing participant, she was an instigator. What, the president just looked around, their eyes met across a crowded room... and... give me a break. She put herself in his path. Probably climbed over others to get there.

L'affair Lewinsky was inappropriate behavior by the president, but not harassment. Monica Lewinsky wasn't seduced. Her job was never in jeopardy. Her reputation was ... ironically at her own hand.

Bill Clinton certainly rocked his marriage, but the only person who damaged Ms. Lewinsky was Ms. Lewinsky, with her inability to keep her mouth shut, on and off the job. She couldn't keep the details of the affair discretely to herself.

She had to brag. They all have to brag. There's no fun in having sex with a powerful politician if you can't tell your friends about it. Revel in their envy and awe. That's the draw. The telling, not the doing.

For those who've got real power it's tough to resist when attractive people throw themselves in your lap. It's tough to resist reaching out for whatever you want. Including low hanging forbidden fruit. That's the fatal flaw in many of our political protagonists. The ego and sheer guts it took them to get to the top makes them believe they're invincible. Untouchable.

Many are untouchable. Except by willing sex partners. And that's what inevitably brings them down.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Widowhood After (gasp!) Two Years

"Celebrations of anniversaries of disasters provide opportunities, as do holidays." Joey Skaggs

Two years ago today my sister's husband was killed in a plane crash. She's shared her feelings about widowhood several times here. Every time I learned something. Which is what older sisters are for ... but I would have preferred to learn a different way.

Last year Judy gave us some real insights On Widowhood, After One Year. I asked Judy if she was up to another set of musings on the second anniversary of Bob's death. She came through, bigtime.

This was a difficult assignment because there was nothing monumental to write about. It was a year almost like any year, except I was still living alone. And there were times I wished Bob were here, but I did what I had to do anyway - live - and segued to the next project.

I read what I wrote last year when approaching the first anniversary. I made comments about how I felt then, and here I would like to address those comments and see how I feel now:

I still sleep on my side of the bed.

I finally went through the box of 'our' personal items. Saved some, didn't save others.

I have learned I can do just fine on my own, and it's kind of nice to live without fearing 'the look' when I failed to meet Bob's expectations.

I finally gave away all the flight suits from his closet. But mine is tucked away, waiting for someone to fly me to an air show.

I've resumed flying, which is great. What's not so great is that there's no Bob to call and tell about my great piloting. He loved my war stories.

I'm still not ready to part with his blue blazer with the Harvard buttons, his ski jacket and the Hawaiian shirt he wore on our final trip to Maui. Maybe by the time I write "Widowhood After Three Years."

Bob and I disagreed on some furniture, so I replaced the ugly dining room table and chairs, but most of the house remains the same. These familiar surroundings make me feel comfortable.

I am still learning that I don't have to explain myself to anyone. I really can do anything I want. If that sounds selfish, maybe it is. I've found that I enjoy spending time with Judy.

I can't imagine that I will ever minimize the depth and importance of Bob's and my relationship, but with determination I have learned to manage as a onesie.

No one can take away my memories, and they are still firmly packed away for the future, dosage to be determined at the time of need. Bob isn't here. That's the big fact. But I am. And I continue to believe that moping my way through life accomplishes nothing.

The tears don't flow so easily any more, though I am, after all, a woman.

When a memory of 'us' pops up I still get a little misty. But it's just another one of those memories than no one can take away. So I think past it and it gets tucked away. What's the point?

I still work as often as possible. Great distraction, great co-workers, long and hard days which keep me busy with little time for reflecting.

I did make the trip to Israel last year. Two days after my xxth high school reunion, where the women looked great and the men were fat and deaf, I was on a plane to Tel Aviv. When I deplaned I felt like I was on another planet. I couldn't read, I couldn't speak, I couldn't communicate. First question (puzzled face): "Speak English?"

I never understood, with his love of history, why Bob chose never to go there. I took in the magic of the sights, the hills, the buildings, the museums, and I wanted so much to share it with him.

I've had some personal tragedies during this year and as a result have spent a lot of time in airports. And hospitals. And bedrooms. While these have been distractions, too, I still miss being able to call Bob at the end of my day and tell him all about it. He would have offered an ear. He went to UVA and then Harvard Law School - the right words were built in.

This summer I am nursing at the camp my grandchildren are attending as rookies. I thought it would be nice to have Grammy around in these strange surroundings. Two days after camp concludes a friend and I will go to London and embark on a twelve day cruise through the Baltics, another trip Bob didn't care to take. I still don't get it. But now he'll never be able to explain it to me.

I realized why I had so much trouble trying to put these thoughts together. It's because life is lived one day at a time. Pain is temporary. Every day just happens, and you do what you have to do. I've survived a few depressing hiccups with a great deal of support from family and friends. Here I am, about to embark on my third year of widowhood ... and saying the word doesn't hurt so much any more.

I am surviving. It is not easy, but if you remain stuck in the past you will never get to the future. So tune in next year.
Once again, Judy, you've taught us what real coping looks like. Thank you. I hope you meet a new Prince Charming on that cruise. It's time.

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