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1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Went to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Touched a whale shark.
Swam with hammerhead sharks.
Hiked to 16,000 feet up a volcano.
Threw a baby shower and became a sort-of (sort-of because we’re calling ourselves aunts, though we aren’t related at all) aunt to Nate and Shelly’s baby Owen.
Began to seriously contemplate giving Owen a sort-of cousin.
Earned my PhD. Officially became a Doctor!
Published a paper from my graduate work.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make an official New Year’s Resolution for 2010. Rather, maybe, the nebulous get healthy/stay healthy goal. And I think I’ve done pretty well. Mentally, I’m in a much better place now than I was a year or even two years ago. Physically, I’ve taken care of some healthy issues, really started exercising more, and have even lost a decent amount of weight. So all in all, I’d say I did pretty well. And frankly, I’ll probably make the same resolution. There’s always room for improvement.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yep, Shelly did! To a beautiful little baby boy on Thanksgiving morning. This is also the thing I’m most thankful for in 2010–that two of my best friends became parents to a beautiful, healthy baby. And that Owen is a wonderful baby.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, though we worried a lot about John’s grandmother due to all the things that contributed to her prolonged hospital stay, which included a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism. But she’s doing much, much better now.

5. What countries did you visit?
Ecuador and the Galapagos (same country, but vastly different). Both were amazing.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
Health care through my job.
More financial security.
A larger living space.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Owen’s birth.
My fifth wedding anniversary.
My dissertation defense date.
My graduation ceremony.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Earning my PhD.
Getting healthy.

9. What was your biggest failure?
With the goal of mental health, I’m not answering.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I threw my shoulder out again on December 26th, 2009, and thus spent the first 3-4 months of 2010 re-healing it.
I was diagnosed with a fairly non-serious medical disorder that is now under control.
Mild aches and pains at times, especially when I took up running again.
But in general, pretty healthy, especially right now!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Baby clothes for Owen.
A trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Perfect Christmas presents for everyone. It took awhile to find just the right thing for each and every person, but I did! This is, quite honestly, my favorite part about Christmas.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Rent and groceries and utilities and boring adult things.
Paying for my own health care for the second half of the year. Maybe I should have re-thought that whole graduating and no-longer-a-student thing. But it was worth it.

13. What did you get really excited about?
Owen’s birth.
Graduating with my PhD.
My new job.
Elizabeth’s residency here in the Bay Area, meaning she and Mark will continue to live here and we can see them all the time.
The San Jose Sharks pummeling the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Conference semi-finals.

14. What song will always remind you of 2010?
Black Eyed Peas “I gotta feeling”. (Was that even this year?) But it was a good year and a good song.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

A bit thinner. Maybe happier.
Overall about the same. And happy with that.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Scuba diving.
Exploring California like we always say we’re going to do.
But in general, it was a really good year just the way it was.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Not much. Complaining, maybe, but I think it was a good year. I like it how it was.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In Iowa, surrounded by family, extended family, and in-law family. Laughing, cooking, taking pictures, sharing memories, gossiping, eating, staying warm.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
Um, I didn’t watch much TV this year, honestly. Except for sports, like Sharks hockey and college basketball. John’s new favorite show is “Wild Justice”, which is pretty good. “Better With You”. “Better Off Ted”.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
“The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer. Love it. Highly recommend it.
Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink”, “Tipping Point” and “Outliers”.
Atul Gawande’s “Complications”.
I’m sure there were more, probably in the romance category, but none that come to mind.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Songs on the radio I could sing along with.
Handel’s Messiah, as always.
Christmas music, at least for the last month or so.
The group Cage the Elephant, who’s music is great for exercising.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I think I only went to see two movies this year. A chick flick with Elizabeth, though I can’t remember what it was. And “Eat, Pray, Love” with Shelly. Both were okay, neither were a favorite.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28. My dissertation was due to my committee about a week later, so I probably spent the day working on it. Went to dinner with friends, if not on my birthday, then right around that time.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It was great as it was. For others, better health for John’s grandmother. Less heartache in the beginning of the year for my sister. A Stanley Cup for the Sharks instead of for Chicago.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

26. What kept you sane?
John. My friends. My family. Scuba diving. Running. Graduating.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

Learn to be happy with who you are, or work to be who you can be happy being.


Thank goodness because we were teaching another scuba class, and if something had gone wrong, that’s a lot of paperwork to file!

Especially good because I didn’t break myself, which I’ll get to.

I didn’t even break anything Friday, unless you count breaking my broken dish streak. 🙂

Anyways, the class rocked. Seven great students, a new instructor for Greg to keep an eye on (he’s a QA guy) who did pretty well, and good things to see.

4:30am came awfully early, as it always does, but Monterey this past weekend was a nice mix of gray clouds and bits of sun, and not to warm but not to hot. I never remember to put on sunscreen, so this at least saved me from looking like a beet. Plus, just fun times and friends.

My students spent most of the first two dives working on just figuring out the whole “I’m under the sea” thing, which is pretty typical. The did well on skills, enjoyed the dives, and had a good time. We did have one who got horribly seasick (underwater, even), but she handled it well and made it back to land safely.

We didn’t see much other than some decorator crabs. Above water, it was pretty clear that it was sea lion pup weaning time, as the little ones were everywhere. There was a lonely little pup up on shore, where most of them end up if they’re hungry/stressed/tired/sick. Of course, it’s where people can easily harass them. Sad. Animal rescue people came and got him eventually, but he was cute to see from a distance.

Shelly and I kept an eye on him whenever we were on or near the beach, and had to ask several people to not get up close and personal with the little guy, which is against the law here in sunny California–it’s harassment. One guy was pretty rude about it, and told me I was breaking the law too by being within 10m (or whatever the distance is) to the pup (I’d say I was 15ft away, about as far as I could get with students exiting the water), but he was within 1-2 feet. Idiot. James defended me, but the guy’s response?

“I’m an experienced diver!”

My response, had I not walked away in a huff, would have been, “That doesn’t mean you can be an asshat!”

Bah. Thank goodness the pup was taken into animal care. We saw a ton of them out on the rocks along the breakwater wall, but only the one sick one on the beach.

The only downside to the day was that both times I exited the water, I had students but no staff, and since I couldn’t leave the students alone, I had to head out with them, carrying my gear. All 80-ish lbs of it. Which I’m still pretty much forbidden to do by all sorts of people with medical training. Thankfully, not a lot of pain, and I only went as far as I absolutely had to. Here’s to not making the problem worse! (Sunday, James and John both forbade me from giving a repeat performance, but we all surfaced with our students at about the same time, so it worked out.)

The afternoon was filled with pizza, hot tubs, the usual Safeway run to buy gallons of water and Dove bars, plus some free chinese food from one of the other guys who dives through our same shop. Nice! We had a student stay with us in the room, but he didn’t seem to mind all our strangeness, which Greg pointed out made him good staff material. Plus, he was pretty damn good for a new diver.

We also watched “Pineapple Express”. Can’t say I’m a huge Seth Rogen fan, but I suppose it had it’s moments. It also had it’s low points. Maybe I’m just not cut out for that kind of humor.

Sunday was also cloudy and about the right temperature. We were sort of hoping that the dense cloud cover would trick all the little octopi into thinking it was dark enough to come out and hunt, but alas, none were to be found.

My student and I had two pretty good dives. Not anything specific on the first dive other than just a good dive. On the second dive, however, we saw a good number of rainbow nudibranchs, these big reddish guys that climb up the tube anemones and eat them. Some were perched on top of stalks, having already eaten, and some were on the sand, but none were in the process of “hunting”. Or at least as much as a snail-like creature can hunt a non-moving creature. It’s apparently pretty cool to see the moment of capture.

We also saw a frilly white nudibranch that I’ve been trying to identify for a year or two, but to no avail–he’s still around, and frilly and white, but still without identification. Also lots of fish, as well as people. Tons of people out kicking around, specifically kicking the sand around. The visibility wasn’t as good as the day before. Just as we finished the sun came out, which made for a beautiful afternoon on the beach.

All in all, a great weekend, and John and I agreed it was really nice to be down there teaching with the whole staff, just like old times. I may have even convinced him to start Assistant Instructor training sometime soon!

You just had to go and jinx it again, didn’t you?

Gah. No more references at all!

So, how about those Mets? No, Julie doesn’t like baseball. How about those Oscars?

My mom is fine. My grandmother is fine. I’m fine.

John Bridger: I feel so optimistic. How do you feel?
Charlie Croker: [shrugging] I’m fine.
John Bridger: Fine? You know what “fine” stands for, don’t you?
Charlie Croker: Yeah, unfortunately.
John Bridger: Freaked out…
Charlie Croker: Insecure…
John Bridger: Neurotic…
Charlie Croker: And Emotional.

Yeah, we’re all fine.

My mom is out of surgery, doing well. My grandmother had another potential heart attack last night, but is doing well right now. I’ve kept busy all day and done pretty well, given that my job was easiest. More details to come when I feel up to talking about it.

Thank you to you all, too!!

John is not the sort of person who rereads a lot of books. Once he’s finished it, he’s finished. With some exceptions. Same for movies–if he’s seen it, unless it’s been quite awhile or it’s a movie he really likes, that’s that.

I, on the other hand, am a rereader/rewatcher. There are very few books in my bookcase I haven’t read multiple times. I read them completely the first time, and after that, skim them in a “good parts version” where I skip boring parts but read most of the book. It’s something I’ve always done. So long as I still enjoy the story. More for my money, I suppose.

Something in “real life” will remind me of a passage from a book, and I tend to go and reread the book. If it’s part of a series, I tend to get sucked in and reread the whole thing. If I’m rereading, I can get through about 300 pages in 2-3 hours. It helps when you skip parts, I suppose.

I’m the same with movies. Not necessarily all of them, by any means. There’s some movies I’ll only watch once. Castaway, for example, or American Beauty–for some reason, now that I know the ending, I’ll never view the rest the same, so there’s no reason to rewatch it. However, with a lot of movies, I’m all about rewatching.

My favorite movies are ones I can watch over and over and over again. Maybe not back-to-back, but within a fairly short span of time. Of course, with John around, this hardly ever happens. But when he works late or on the weekend, and I’m not working or doing something else, I tend to rewatch a movie that he has no interest in watching.

Often, these fall into one of two categories. The first is just my all-time favorites. I love many things about these movies, and can watch them just about any time. In no particular order, those that come to me are:

  • Ocean’s Eleven (new one–I keep meaning to watch the old)
  • The Italian Job (ditto)
  • Princess Bride (ahh, true wuv)
  • Whole Nine Yards
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one, though the other two are good)
  • A Town Like Alice (this is a ridiculously long movie, something like 5 hours, but it’s so good–it’s my sick day movie for when I’m home all day in bed feeling gross but unable to sleep)
  • Night at the Roxbury
  • The Thomas Crown Affair
  • Usual Suspects

On a side note, it occurs to me that a lot of the above movies are about, among other things, revenge. Not physical, beat-’em-up, but more mind-games-revenge. I think what appeals to me is trying to figure out how they did whatever trick they pulled in the movie. Maybe. But maybe it’s just the revenge? Naw. I don’t think of myself as a particularly vengeful person. Verbally, to John, I probably am fairly vindictive about things that annoy me, but I’d never, for the most part, do anything about it. Maybe I have secret fantasies to, though? Hrm.

The second category is more movies I do love, but they also serve a purpose to me at times:

  • Emma
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • The Wedding Date
  • Sleepless in Seattle/You’ve Got Mail
  • When Harry Met Sally

With these movies, I tend to watch them when I’m feeling in one of two particular moods. The first is if I feel like I just sort of need to cry, to be a bit emotional and let it all out. Not necessarily that something in my life is making me sad and teary, but it can be cleansing in many ways to just have a good cry. You girls out there know what I’m talking about, right? And most of these movies are guaranteed to make me cry at some point. (I should point out, I’m a cryer at movies. Always have been. Always will be. No apologies.) The second is if I’m feeling a bit low and just need to feel good about something, with the “something” generally just being a happy ending.

John will generally watch most of the movies in the first category with me, if it’s been awhile. The second category, though, is where he draws the line. Poor boy. I try not to torture him, though.

Anyways, we recently discovered we could pay for an Xbox Live subscription and instantly stream movies from Netflix. Wonderful technology, that! Especially as John uses our Netflix subscription to get/watch all sorts of TV shows when he’s holding down the fort at
work and staying late. Now I can add movies and instantly watch them instead of never getting anything I want to watch on our queue. Voila! Wonderful!

Anyways, last night I randomly watched You’ve Got Mail. Not because I needed particularly to feel better or to cry, but mostly because I hadn’t watched it in a long time, and he worked late so it was the perfect opportunity. It made for a lovely little evening of “me time”.

And now, today, we got a little red envelope with Night at the Roxbury in it. Fun times! Especially because it means he was nice enough to not get his movie so I could get mine. He’s good to me, you know? And for me, too.

My parents are home, safe and sound, and we’ve had a wonderful two days together. Sadly, John and I are headed home tomorrow, but I may be coming back soon.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time with my in-laws, and with my sister and now my parents, and have had a lovely time. Part of the charm of being with my in-laws was the complete lack of internet, which meant that, while I couldn’t check my email, I also didn’t need to worry about it! It was kind of nice being so sequestered for a week. We did manage to get a few texts in and out of the dead zone, so we weren’t completely without contact, and got to talk to my parents when they were on the way back from The End Of The Earth. In the meantime, my mother-in-law fed us every chance she got, we played lots of cards, and even did some sledding when the wind stopped blowing for awhile.

We came to my parent’s house a bit early to help Amy get it ready–decorated the tree, stocked the fridge, cleaned the house–and then rewarded ourselves with Thai food and “Marley and Me”, which I can highly recommend as an excellent, if tear-jerking, movie! Especially for those of you who’ve ever had a dog to love!

With my parents back, we’ve been to all sorts of doctor’s offices (all things are good!) and done some shopping, as well as quite a bit of fancy cooking. Today we had Christmas celebrations in the morning and New Year’s celebrations in the afternoon–holidays should always be spread out like this!

In any case, I’m off to squeeze in a few last hours of family time.

May 2009 bring you the joys of 2008 but none of the heartache. Here’s to joy and health and love and living life!

Because on crazy days like today, I nearly forget to blog. Thank goodness for alarm clocks on cell phones that ring to remind you of important things when you’re on your way home from dinner following a meeting following a long day at work.

So I’ll leave you this: A trailer for a movie that will either be amazing, or amazingly bad. Courtesy of John.

Hopefully, meaningful posts, or at least long rambling posts, will recommence tomorrow.

I leave you people alone for a week, and “Chihuahua” tops the box office?

Sheesh. That may almost be worse news than the stock market collapsing.


So here’s the deal: I’m a wee bit afraid of snakes.

Okay, okay, I’m completely and utterly and psychotically afraid of them. All of them. Even the small ones. Even garter snakes.



I’ve had this problem as long as I can remember, and no, I’ve never been attacked or bitten or even really threatened. And it’s not that I’m afraid of that–no, I’m afraid of the damn things themselves. My brain rarely makes it past “snake!” and on towards “poison! constriction! what fun!”.

I’d figured, for the longest time, that I was afraid of them due to the following memory: When I was about 5, I went to a birthday party at the zoo, and we got taken behind the scenes to see some of the baby animals or animals that weren’t on display. At the time, there was a large boa of some sort there. I remember some adult taking my hand and forcing me to touch it, probably to make me realize it wasn’t slimy or going to hurt me in any way. I remember being absolutely terrified of it.

I mentioned this to my parents, and my mom said that that person? Was her. And I was already terrified even before she made me touch it.

The only possible explanation she or my dad had was that when I was a couple months old, they’d been out hiking in the deserts around Tucson and had seen some fairly rare rattlesnake. Now, my dad’s a reptile person–he works with lizards and has always liked them and snakes. So, naturally, they wanted to get a bit closer to see it. I was in a little backpack thing on my dad’s back, and apparently just started screaming my head off. (Clearly I was smart back then–who’d willingly want to get closer to a rattlesnake??) My parents think that the backpack or a diaper pin or something poked me, and now I associate that pain with seeing the snake. Possibility.

So in general, I’ve avoid snakes like one might avoid the black plaque. Let’s just say that The Crocodile Hunter wasn’t my favorite program on TV, eh?

This fear generally manifested itself irrationally–I actually went to see Anaconda when it came out (brilliant, I know–my earlier brains had deserted me in the face of peer pressure and a lack of any other summer movies worth seeing), and had to get up and walk out of the theater, but not until I’d left fingernail scars on the arms of the two people on either side of me.

When I’d be flipping through TV channels, if I came across a snake, I tended to scream, cry, hyperventilate a bit, throw the remote away and press myself as far back into the sofa as possible. This usually resulted in John coming and turning off the TV with equal parts exasperation (WHY would you throw the remote away? WHY not just change the channel?) and sympathy (It’s okay, it’s gone, stop crying).

It wasn’t fun, but it didn’t really impair my life in anyway.

Then, if you remember, there were snakes galore up in Chico in May when we (Amelia and I) rode the Wildflower Ride. There were two snakes encountered on that trip–one crossing the road while I was driving, and one (dead) on the side of the road. Neither experience went very well, let’s just say.

And my reaction to the dead one that I biked past? Was to swerve out into the road, far away from it. Aside from the general crying/screaming/hyperventilating, swerving out into the road on a bike is not a good idea. I’m just sayin’. If there had been cars, I know that wouldn’t have stopped me. This was too instinctive, too “get far away right damn now”, to control. I just went.

And that was a bit terrifying to realize. A dead snake, or even a live snake that I bike past, hopefully isn’t going to do me too much damage. A car, on the other hand? Will do a lot of damage to a biker.

General safety point number 2: We’re going on vacation next week with Nate and Shelly, James F and Cara, James M and Rae and Aaron. We’re going on a dive vacation, to be specific. And we’re going to a place that has… sea snakes.

So, if my instinctive panic-reaction (prior to any sensible rational reaction about 10-20 seconds later) is to get as far away as possible, there are two options. One: I’ll turn and swim away at torpedo speed. Two: I’ll use my low pressure inflator button to shoot for the surface at rocket launch speed, possible bursting my lungs or giving myself an air embolism or giving myself decompression sickness in doing so.

Like arguing with a car while you’re on a bike, these are all things best avoided. Death is not really preferable to a snake encounter, no matter what the irrational part of my brain says.

So it was decided, in company with John and Amelia, that phobia therapy was in my immediate future. Luckily, Student Health is (not) equipped to deal with this. Bah.

But go I did, for 6 sessions. We mostly talked about snakes, although at my first session the guy wanted to know all about my family and my relationships, my medical history, if I’d had any thoughts of suicide, etc, etc, etc. I appreciate his thoroughness, but really? Snakes, buddy.

Step one was to buy a large toy snake, which John did for me. He was 5 feet long, blue, fluffy, and had purple eyelashes. I named him Jake, as in Jake the Fake Snake. Since then, I’ve decided that Jake may be female (see above, Re: eyelashes) but oh well. Jake wasn’t too bad, although he gave me the willies at first. Then the therapist decided if Jake was sort of okay, we’d move on to step two: watch a video.

Unfortunately, the first one he pulled up on Y*uT*be was of an anaconda (see above, Re: Anaconda the movie) that had crawled into someone’s livestock pen, eaten a member of the livestock (goat? sheep?) and now was too big to crawl back out of the pen BECAUSE IT HAD A FREAKIN’ GOAT OR SHEEP INSIDE IT!!!! Needless to say, this did not go well. I’m not sure what the people in the rooms on either side of us thought, but I think I did prove my point to the therapist that this was irrational and debilitating at times.

So we took a step back to pictures, and eventually to videos, and eventually, on my 6th visit, I made it through 6:30 of a 7 minute video of a guy playing with a 14-foot King Cobra. I kid you not. Google it. The thing is damn scary. The guy says that it’s highly venomous, though not at the top, but given it’s size, it probably packs enough venom to be the single most deadly snake out there. And he’s playing with it. And his dream in life has been to touch one on the head. Which he does.

Umm, I’m so not there. But hey, I watched most of it, right?

Since then, I haven’t had too much exposure, other than attempting to visit the snake that I recently found out lives next door to James and Cara. It wasn’t home (or at least, it’s owner wasn’t), so that may be the plan for this Saturday. There had also been a plan to visit the SF Reptile House, but that was nixed when we did the math of gas prices+time+(theoretically) easily accessible snake next door.

And last night, when the snake came on in the show? (The show about mold–WTF?? I think it was a metaphor for how fast mold can strike, maybe? Still, WTF??) I tensed, I shook a bit, but that was about it. There was no screaming, no crying, no hard breathing, no real panic.

All of this bodes well, but the real test will be when I see one in the ocean. Let’s just say that my fingers are crossed, and I’m feeling sort of maybe okay with this.

Yes, I know that most of you can do this, but I always have trouble with it. Thursday night, however, I did it all. by. myself.

Go me!

Sometimes you’ve gotta take pride in the little accomplishments when it feels like the big things are stuck, right?

Thursday was actually a really fun night. I hung out with my new friend Sydney at her place. We met Sydney about a month ago in Monterey–she was taking a scuba class with someone, and we were all in the hot tub talking and hanging out. Afterwards, James F and I decided we needed to steal her away from the other shop and get her to take classes with us and be a staff member if she was interested. Mission accomplished, or at least she’s said she’ll take classes with us the moment our class schedule and her work schedule line up.

She was actually drinking a beer in the hot tub, and James gave her a hard time about it. Neither thing is particularly recommended after diving due to possibly increasing the chances of the bends happening, but to combine them? Granted, we were in the hot tub too, but we always try to wait a couple hours before going in. I think sometimes James gives a hard time to the people he likes, so it was probably a good sign.

Anyways, she and I struck up a conversation, and it turned out we had a lot in common–diving, biking, we work at the same place. She seemed like a really level-headed and fun girl. James, afterwards, kept going on about my new BFF, but given that he kept inserting comments like “you’ve got to steal her away to come dive with us”, it was all in fun. I think he’s secure enough in his relationships, particularly his one with me, not to feel like he’s being replaced.

Since then, she and I have talked a lot, and we went camping with her and some of her friends over Labor Day weekend, which was a ton of fun. Like her, they’re all really cool people. We’re actually planning on some more camping/backpacking trips, and since she just got her time off approved, possibly even going to Thailand with her in January. Not that either John or myself have the time off available, and we definitely don’t have the money, but it’d be super fun.

So Thursday we got together for some girl time, and it was really nice to just sit and chat with someone without sort of feeling like I had to be on good behavior–we’ve fallen into a pretty natural friendship.

Plus, it’s nice to meet someone who understand both halves of my life–the science and the diving. It always seems like my science friends could care less about diving, and seem to be pretty bored whenever it comes up in conversation (yes, I know, I probably talk about it a lot, but it’s a big chunk of my life), and I think a lot of my diving friends come from diverse jobs so we don’t necessarily relate on a job-level.

Sydney and I ended up watching the movie ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’, which was really good, although I wasn’t really prepared to see Tom Hanks’ naked ass right in the opening scene. We also realized we were watching it on the anniversary of Sept 11, which was a bit poignant, given the message at the end of the film–for want of a million bucks to build a school system, we let down the Afghans a heck of a lot. Any wonder that they hate us? Not that I think it justifies at all what happened, but it made the whole situation make a lot more sense to me.

All in all, hanging out with her was a nice little pick-me-up. And tomorrow there’s diving to be done, as Nate and Shelly work on completing their Divemaster candidate requirements. Should be a blast.


December 2018
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