Saturday, November 25, 2017

Circle of Life Moments

I wish I had a video of it...but it's etched in my mind. My whole family experienced it so at least I have a few people I can share the memory with.

A small woodpecker was peacefully eating at the bird feeder, flew off, and SMACK! ...it slammed into the picture window (making us all jump).  Stunned, it seemed to float in mid-air for a few milliseconds. JUST THEN, a hawk...a big, beautiful, deadly hawk, swooped in and picked it off in mid-float!

...all of this happening in just a few seconds moments after we had just finished Thanksgiving dinner!

We have hawks all around our land, but we've not seen one near the bird feeder (or as we now call it...the Hawk Buffet), until 30 minutes earlier. It must have flown in, seen the opportunity, and perched in nearby trees just waiting for his moment. Now, I'm not sure a Hawk has a degree in physics, but it certainly seemed to be thinking, "Aha, there's my entree fattening itself now at the bird feeder...it's a speedy little thing but if I can just move my wing enough to startle it into flying SSW at 92 degress, it will fly straight into that window...at which time I will have 0.348 seconds to swoop in while it floats startled at the impact"

...and that's exactly what happened. A classic "Circle of Life" moment. Right in front of us...no visual memory, but something we'll remember for years.

But that was not the only Circle of Life moment that day.

90 minutes earlier, our cat brought a soon-to-be-cat-food mole to our back door...and proceeded to join us in Thanksgiving meal ... where we could audibly hear the cat consume the mole...starting with the brain...leaving only the stomach and liver. I didn't take a video of that either. But we'll remember it for some time.

...but I do have a photo that captures glimpses of other Circle of Life moments from Thanksgiving that I'll remember for some time:


...like seeing our nearly-grownup kids interacting, having fun, playing games, and talking about their experiences in this soon-to-be-their-world-to-conquer.

...like seeing my oldest and his girlfriend help make Thanksgiving great by bringing food, fun, conversation, and sharing their journey through what committed relationship requires.

...like seeing Grandpa seeming to find peace in his surrounding family...even as his memories fade, conversations shorten, and independence shrinks.

...like seeing gaps where loved ones not with us any longer used to be...knowing some day that'll be me.

...like seeing a smaller gathering with immediate family only. I'll always cherish our past Thanksgivings with extended family, but maybe those days are gone? It seems the mantle has been passed to me to keep this family engaged.

...like seeing my wife, who has been by my side as we journey through this life, some times happy, some times sad, many times (especially lately) struggling to find peace...struggling to find each other...yet always finding moments to connect.

...

So many Circle of Life moments...I wish I had a video of them all...but they're etched in my mind. My whole family experienced them so at least I have a few people I can share these memories with.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Song Insight: Forevermore

This song, "Forevermore", best represents my artistic journey in my early 20's...

Take a listen...



As I mentioned in a past Facebook post, "Back in 1991, this was the "Anthem" song that closed out my arena shows and had everyone singing on the drive home...at least in some alternate universe...".

I wrote this during my year in traveling with Up With People...in October '90 in the middle of Northern Italy.  I remember the inspiration quite clearly: I was feeling blue that day (sounds like a life theme), and I walked into a church. I was the only one there, and it was quite dark, somber, and reflective. As I was soaking it all in, all a beam of light suddenly appeared and lit up the cross. I was deeply moved. Later that day I wrote this song.

For full context, I seemed to have always been a believer, and "grew up in the church". That resulted in a very protected environment...which made my faith shallow.

No that's not right...

...made my faith simplistic.

I was passionate about my faith, and my year in Up With People, at least in my journal, was filled with my impressions, thoughts, as if I was giving Jesus a daily account of my adventures. (For some reason when I read that journal now, I cringe a bit...because of that simplistic view? because it distracted me from other observations?).

But, on that day, in that Church, the beam of light deepened my simplistic faith...it suddenly appeared tangible...something I could taste and see...something real. (Now, I also know I can explain it away today as, "well did you pay attention to the weather? Seems like it was overcast, and there was a small break in the clouds that allowed the sun to peek through the stained-glass windows, which, by human-designed architecture, pointed all incoming light to the front of the church...where the cross was.)

Even so, it affected me enough to write these lyrics, which I think are pretty good...and write the melody over an interesting chord progression. I actually remember the first moment I wrote the piano chords for the verse (the first thing I wrote)...in how I wanted it to sound a bit dissonant that then resolved into something epic. Later, when I recorded the version above in the Fall of '91, I also added orchestration so you'll hear strings, french horn, and the final solo is doubled to add depth and power to it.

It's now been 27 years and after rediscovering these master recordings, it was so delightful to remaster this....

...and even now when I listen to it I think back to that day and get emotional.

~~~~~

Oh, and if you are curious about my earlier Facebook post, I did truly think I was destined to "make it in music" (more evidence of my simplistic youth)...maybe that's why my life's theme seems to have a sad/blue undercurrent.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Building a Strong Foundation


My wife crafted this on our Cape Cod vacation. To her, it was a quick way to represent our whole family…me, her, our 20-year-old, two 16-year-olds, 14-year-old, the dog, and even the cat on top.

I took this photo because I loved what she created, and, since it was such a beautiful location, I wanted to remind us what Marconi Beach looked like nearing sunset.

Now when I look at it, all kinds of thoughts swirl around in my head…here are some…


  • That's me on the bottom. The foundation. I think that reflects reality of our family, but I don't feel very foundational. 

  • I don't think we had any idea what were were building when we started out...just me and Her facing the world

  • What a life we've built. What an amazing, beautiful, wind-blown, facing-the-sun-and-feeling-the-warmth-on-your-face satisfying life.

  • There are way too many days that I don't see our life this way...I spend too much time face down in the wet sand...trying to keep the waves from knocking our family off balance...never really taking a chance to enjoy what we have.

  • We're not always comfortable with each other…I mean…look at all the sand in those tight places!  Yet, we all depend on each other. (even me…I may be on the bottom but need them to keep our family tall and strong)

  • This is a lot of responsibility.

  • On a good day it makes me so proud and I want to show off this family to the world (like the photo represents).

  • On a bad day I feel so much pressure…trapped…unable to be "free" without disrupting…and potentially toppling...this family. I think of our financial waves that wash in and out…it's up to me to keep it flowing until the kids have flown…and that severely limits any changes I can make to find "happiness"...whatever that means. 

  • I can't really control whether this family, or any one member, becomes unbalanced or falls away...After all, we are on a beach...where storms and waves can completely alter our landscape (the Cape Cod outer beach, the location of this photo, is notorious for changing/eroding/building all the time)

  • Everything is temporary. I'm certain some high tide, remote storm, or direct gale wiped out any evidence of this stone tower my wife made. My only hope is what I've done to support this family lasts longer than I do.


One more...

Maybe this photo represents how God sees me and our family...from a wider aperture than what I can at the bottom of the pile. He can see the waves, the dunes, what's to come, what would be best for our little family tower...

...and I need to rely on His perspective far more than I do now...

...I need to listen

...relax

...and most of all, I need to enjoy these moments. They'll wash away far too soon.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Lost Recordings of Music Legend Gregory Richards

In an alternate universe, I became a music legend.

But not in this one.

All I wanted from the time I started playing guitar and piano at 16 years old (waaay back in 1985) was to "make it in music". I wrote as many songs as I could. Eventually, I crafted what I thought were pretty great songs, and sent them to record companies. After the rejection letters poured in, and college and job offers trickled in, this reality led me to where I am now...

...but I always wondered what happened to Gregory Richards (that was going to be my stage name...to keep some anonymity between my real life and my Rock Star life).

Then three months ago I found my old 4-track cassette masters, restored them with Logic on my Mac, and decided to release the songs as a glimpse into what could have been...the first songs recorded by music legend Gregory Richards that launched his legendary career. 


Here are the first batch of songs...



The Journey
The text above is what I put on the album liner notes...

...and it's all true.

I had full confidence I would have a career in music...I thought for sure composing, but maybe if I got lucky, performing my own songs. I would spend a little time practicing for my piano lessons, but then spend hours just playing. In fact I still can't read music as well as I'd like because at the time it "slowed me down". Once I took up guitar 6 months later (from an amazing guitarist Reynold Philipsek), couldn't stop playing and composing. In high school I took 2 years of "Electronic Music" class (kind of an honors-independent study class) and that got me hooked on recording.

I bought my gear (4-track, drum machines, keyboards...all of which are collectors items now!) and started off (even having my then-girlfriend, now wife sing some tracks). After a while I joined a christian rock band but at the same time send "demo tapes" off to record companies. I still have some of the rejection letters, and some photos of me gigging (solo with a bunch of that original MIDI gear backing me up as the band) at a few locations in the Minneapolis area.

Turns out I was pretty naive. The topic of most of my songs were about faith and Jesus (not wildly popular) and as a result never even considered entering the mainstream music scene...which would have been essential to connect with those that could possibly make a career possible.

Eventually I accepted my technology path...but even now at 48 not a week goes by where I don't think "What if". In fact, when I was asked by a senior in high school what he should do after he graduated (computers or music), I flat out told him I may not be the best to ask...because I chose computers...the safe, monetarily stable, predictable route...and some days I am filled with so much loss and regret I can barely walk into work.

That said, I have found outlets to play, including our church (yep, still songs about faith and Jesus), and even have composed some songs used in the services. I've found occasions to play around town, and even last week my wife suggested I just start showing up to Open Mic nights...to share what songs I have now.

I do have 2 albums on iTunes/Amazon/Spotify, and I've made a whopping $45 from the 5 years of streaming...and recently added more on Band Camp (including soundtracks to live theatre that was super fun to compose). You'll find the whole collection here:

https://greghint.bandcamp.com/ 



Re-Mastering
Anyway, it's been quite a journey to uncover what I recorded. I recovered about 30 songs that, while I've always had copies on cassettes, I never shared them since they sounded bad sonically. The versions I had were 3rd and 4th generation cassette copies that warbled, and really were not pleasing to listen to.

Now that I re-mastered them using, at least to me, the latest technology, I can hear parts I forgot about, I can make the tracks pop out, and I can make the songs sound like they're in stereo! I only had 4 tracks, but I would "ping-pong" the tracks and ended up with a mono music track with 5-15 instruments, then 3 tracks for vocals (or a lead guitar).

What you're hearing is the original mixes (since all music tracks were mono), and a remixed vocal, and then "mastering tools" applied.

I plan to publish more, but these first 10 are the ones I really thought were going to make it big. I have no illusions now, but I still love these songs so now I'll be sharing them every so often...

...if anything to give you a glimpse into an alternate universe where Gregory Richards was a music legend.








Sunday, July 16, 2017

Camp Nathanael - Why I Love This Place

A few weeks ago I brought my youngest to Camp Nathanael for a 1/2 week "Father-Son" camp.

Camp Nathanael means quite a lot to me because I was a camper for three years (1981-1983), a counselor (called "non-com") for two years (1984-85), and it truly set my moral compass in my youth that guides me yet today. This was my third father-son camp (I brought my oldest there twice about 10 years ago), and these weeks bring back so many memories of when I was there back in the 80's...

...but this blog isn't about those memories (I'll save those for another day)

I'd like to reflect on what I saw...

...through the photos I took...

...that make Camp Nathanael so unique, effective, and essential in preparing boys to become Christ-centered leaders in our world.


The Sign
...small and unassuming...but well cared for...


Just like Camp. There is so much love poured into this camp...it's not about how big or impressive or modern it can be...it's always focused on how to best serve the boys that will pass this sign...and take one step closer to becoming Jesus-believing leaders throughout their lives...wherever their journey takes them.


The Paths
...quiet, essential to connect one part of camp to another...





That's what happens on these paths. Campers become friends; quiet, meaningful (and gut-busting funny) conversations happen...connecting one growing young man with another to quickly become trusted friends.

What this doesn't show is the non-coms who are on grounds crew each week making sure the paths are clear even during the wildest weather.

Oh, and at night? These paths also turn into a delightful location for jump-scares when your non-coms are least expecting it! (not that I've ever done that :-)     )


The Cabins and Grounds
...rustic, lively, secluded...designed to create memories...





I first stepped foot on these grounds 36 years ago and now each year it's like I'm stepping back in time. I know there have been changes physically (some trees are gone/grown, some cabins are new, but most are still there!) but the spirit of this place is never ending: a wide open expanse to run, play, talk, study the Bible, share devotions, and learn how to become a young man with character.

I can't help but see what's just beyond the photo: the grounds crew, the fall/spring volunteers who wield their trade (for free) in support of this place.

Most important? The memories. Some are etched into the cabin walls (I found my etching "Greg H '81" in one cabin), some are shared between best friends that didn't know each other last week, and some are the epic 'telling the tale' to fellow cabin-mates of the day's adventures.


The Skills
...dangerous, engaging, challenging...FUN...






Life is full of danger, risks, challenges, and (hopefully) delightfully engaging moments. Camp prepares young men for just that. I LOVE that most every session starts with, "OK, you could die or get severely damaged today...so lets teach you how to do it right!".  Guns? yep...you could die. Rock climbing and rappelling? yep...you could die. Canoeing and Sailing? yep...you could die. Woodworking? Well, to quote the leader, "this saw here can really damage your finger...that saw there can cut your finger off before you feel any pain".

The reason I love this is that it prepares young men for the real world. There are countless things that could damage/kill/hurt them, but if they prepare, train, buddy-up, and proceed with confidence, they'll be successful. And if not? Most likely they'll have a belt sander burn to remind them for weeks that there are consequences for even the briefest moments of losing focus.


The Waterfront
...prepared, ready for adventure, awe-inspiring...





To me, the waterfront is a direct reflection of the non-coms that arrive 2 weeks before campers, prepare to guide, train, bond with, and lead campers to believe in Jesus.  I am in awe seeing these great young leaders dedicate a whole summer to make a difference in the campers (and dads) that engage in this waterfront.

These photos struck me because I love how peaceful the water looks, how majestic the steam rising around the docks look, how orderly the canoes are lined up...I love precision...

...yet, once the campers engage with the waterfront, it's not peaceful, not orderly, not precise...

...and that's where memories are made. That's where non-com leaders impact the lives of the campers...in the chaos. It's quite a lesson that while most of us like order and peace, it's only in the chaos and messy relationships are we truly going to make an impact for Jesus in this world.


The Board
...keeping everyone accounted for...


This camp, the non-coms, don't leave anyone behind. Just like this sign...we need to account for everyone, and if you look closely, you'll see this board requires campers to buddy up. The campers need to buddy-up as we engage in any of these activities. When campers want to swim in the deep end? They need a buddy. Sailing? Need a buddy. Yes it's impressive to sail on your own, but it's not safe, not as fun, and who are you going to impact? Nobody. You may impress someone but not make an impact on another.

This board...it teaches (forces) young men to buddy up, to depend on and help one another, even slow down while the other catches up. Will it make you look the most impressive? No. Will it make a life-long friend that you can impact (and who may impact you)?  Absolutely.


The Gazebo
...a great place to prepare to go fishing...


This is where all the staff and non-coms meet before breakfast for morning devotions. I think it's more than fitting that while this the place to find your rod and reel for the day's fishing, it's also where the staff arms the non-coms daily to have meaningful spiritual conversations with their campers...fishing for eternal outcomes.


The Bugle
...looks simple, requires a lot of effort, sets the tone


The bugle is what wakes us, notifies us for all meals and special events, and ends the day for us (lowers the flag)...it sets a great tone for the whole week. But lets be honest...it's the program director who's doing that...and while this responsibility may look simple, the program director requires an amazing amount of effort to be the 'face' of the camp to all the campers.

The program director sets the tone. I had the pleasure to watch this current program director for a few days, and he was up before anyone else so he could bugle the camp awake, he was always preparing for the next thing before the campers even knew it was nearing time, and he seemed to be always happy to be serving the camp.

What a great example...he sure set the tone for all the non-coms and campers to follow.

Oh, and this tone/behavior/sacrificial attitude has been here since I saw my first program director, Herb. Imagine...the work he put in back in the early 80's to show what it looks like to serve campers, non-coms has lasted all these years and has impacted 1000's of campers...I'm sure at the time he wasn't thinking of his legacy, just "how can I love and serve these young men today?"


The Moments
...fleeting yet remembered for years...




The smallest moments can be the most impactful. These create the memories that stay with a young man for years. Whether it's in the cabin, at the gun range, or on our "Monday Night Cookout" where we hike, find wood, make a fire, and create a delicious "hobo-meal" cooked over the coals....the non-coms and campers spend so much time together that inside the "Big Events", hundreds of micro-moments are what truly make camp spectacular.

It's not the "I shot guns" event, it's the micro-moments of a non-com teaching how to load a gun, fixing a jammed bullet, the "great shot" compliment...it's the non-com, who, when his team is "skins" in the "skins vs shirts" game,  comes up along side a self conscious middle-schooler and makes his day with, "I'm so glad I'm on your team...lets go get 'em".

For me, my hope is that these memories will trigger a young man's future action: "Oh yeah, I remember when I was really afraid to try, I found I could at Camp...especially when I had trusted friends and mentors guiding me....and now I'm prepared for new challenges and adventures all the time!"

As I said...I love Camp Nathanael.

...but not just the place...

...it's the leaders

...the spirit

...the attitude

...the love for God, campers, serving, adventure, mentoring, training, learning...

...most of all, I love Camp Nathanael because young men get to experience what it means to truly be a leader...and how we can impact the world if we trust Jesus deeply.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Raw to Polished - "At The Edge" - Song Insight

"We are all at the edge...good or bad. What we do with it...how we react at the edge...will shape our lives"

I have several "Song Insights" blogs for songs I've written...kind of a "what's the backstory". For the next few songs, I captured the very first spark of the idea, record it into my phone, and once once the final recording is done...I provide you with a "Here's the raw idea I started with and here's how it ended up"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Song: "At The Edge"
Composer: Greg Hintermeister, ©2017
Arranged: Greg Hintermeister
Performed by: Greg Hintermeister, Karyn Hintermeister
Recorded: 2017 in Hint of Light Studios
Emotions: Finality, hope, determination


Finished Recording:



Insight:
It all started with the phrase "At the edge, it's all so clear"...and I imagined standing (physically or metaphorically) at the edge where everything I've done up to this point in my life has brought me here...and the very next step, one that I cannot undo, will determine the rest of my life.

...and then I just started playing guitar. That's where the raw idea recording came.

The raw idea (take a listen):

The hardest part is to write lyrics that talk about these ideas. I love the craft of lyric writing, but it doesn't come easy.

In the spirit of #design, I interviewed my family and asked, "What do you think of when I say the phrase "at the edge". They came up with a whole list of ideas that ended up in this song!

Even better, not all the ideas were "happy" "hopeful" ones either. Which I liked as well.
  • "The edge of the knife" - could be good or bad, could be for vengeance or for defense
  • "The edge of the wood" - could be coming out of a very dark period in life, or it could be at the "edge of the lake" where most of us get flooded with memories
Highlights for me:
  • My youngest son suggested the double time section for the solo...not only does it give the song energy (which I was worried it was too sleepy), but adds an urgency to the 'adlib' vocals at the end of that section
  • My Julia sat and analyzed the lyrics for a while to give other input which made them so much better
  • Recording the guitar solos...the intro 'jazz' was all octave doubled and sounds so smooth with the PRS guitar set to the neck pickup, and the fast solo was the first time I doubled the whole solo to give it a bigger sound
  • My wife sang!!!! I love it when she sings on these songs. I know I'm biased but it gives it so much depth and beauty when she sings.
  • The drums! I (for some reason) chose hiphop drums for the song. Not sure why, but in the spirit of my #unfiltered year of recording, I kept it. Then for the chorus, I added a "loop" that just sounded really cool. 

One more thing: This (and all the songs on the emerging album called #Unfiltered), are songs that I try to not filter what I write musically or lyrically, and also songs I try not to spend too much time in post production. At this point I want to capture the energy of the songs, and if I mess up or there's lousy note, that's OK. I just need to get what I feel out into a song.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Technical Specifics:
Recording Unit: Logic Pro - iMac
Drums: Logic Pro "drummer"
Acoustic Guitar: Paul Reed Smith Tonare Grand Custom
Electric Guitar: Paul Reed Smith Starla
Guitar Amp: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
Electric Guitar Mics: close: Shure SM57;
Vocal Mic: Sure Beta58
Keyboards: Rhoads keyboard: RD-500, Vibes - Logic Pro
Bass:  Logic Pro "Thumb Bass"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lyrics:


V1
At the edge, it's all so clear
I finally see what brought me here
It's too late to turn back now
Here at the Edge
 V2
At the edge the moment's here
The next step is what you fear
Will it make you or make you fall
Here at the Edge
 Chorus:
The edge of the knife I see sweet revenge
The Edge of the bed I feel sweet sweet tenderness
The Edge of the cliff there's majesty
We're all We're all at the Edge
We're all at the Edge right Now
 V3
At the edge we make our peace
or give in to our wildest dreams
I always wondered where I would fall
Here at the Edge
 Chorus:
The edge of the knife I see the hero's fight
The Edge of the woods running from the dark towards a better life
The edge of the lake rich with memories
We're all
We're all at the Edge
We're all at the Edge right Now
 It's a beautiful edge
Launch you beyond what you thought was possible
It's time to leap from the edge right now
 (solo)
...
We're all
We're all at this glorious edge
What will we do with our edge right now
  END:
At the Edge
I finally see
Where I will fall
Here at the Edge
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ideas vs Action - And the Birth of a Hope-ist?

Yesterday I had a decent idea.

It started with an old friend saying that she had a couple of "Up With People" dreams, and one dream involved letting alumni travel for 6 week mini-tours. (We both traveled in Cast D'90…a one year adventure with 107 students traveling the world learning, singing, dancing, and promote the concept that we're all connected)

My response?

"IBM has a program that takes employees for 6 weeks into developing regions to help with basics. Imagine if Up With People did that? Organize a 6 week focused program for alumni to gather in groups of 10-12 and apply their skills to help a struggling community. Not only do we have experience from our year of travel, but we have a life-time of learning under our belts we didn't have when we first toured…we could help others even more."

I thought that was pretty good. And lately, since I've really struggled with my purpose in my last 1/2 of life,  I pondered what I wrote

...and did some googling

...and followed up with this

"So I want to name this program, and it made me think that if this were an actual thing, it would accomplish exactly the opposite of terrorism….and we could be exactly the opposite of a terrorist. So I look up "antonym of terrorism"…

…and interestingly there isn't an antonym.

That's sad. 

So maybe we can start something new: "Hope-ism" and we can be "Hope-ists". Maybe another phrase would be better. Thoughts? "

I was getting pretty excited. Except for the name, since I know it's not a word (yet), and people would by default write it as "hopist", and then I think of bunnies, and then I think of my yard, and then our pup who loves to chase bunnies…

In other words…I get distracted

…which is why I engaged the group to think of a different name. Besides, it still bothered me that while a small group of people hated with such passion that they had a house-hold name for what they did, but it didn't seem like there was a name for people who loved with such passion.

Then I continued…

"But imagine the headlines: 'More Hope-ist cells…formed back in the 90s in an Up With People group, emerged again and surprised a local community by acts of hope: this one just dug a well in an emerging economy...another taught young mothers how to budget for a micro-business...another partnered with a homeless shelter to feed and educate"

And then reality hit.

I was just an idea generator. It would take real work to get this running. Maybe I'm guilty of this a lot…great ideas but lacking the grit to act on them.

Yet it still bothered me: Why is there not a "house-hold" name for a group who loves with such passion? Is it easier to hate than love? Is it harder to get passionate about helping others than hating others? It sure seems like there are a lot of similarities in the commitment level: your time, your money, you must believe in your cause…with enough passion to push past the roadblocks, and possibly give your life dedicated to your cause, and finally a conviction that the world will only become what you want if you continually repeat acts on unsuspecting people you want to impact.

I know there are many, many groups working to do great things. But imagine if everyone was passionate about hope…enough to actively engage those without hope?

I finished my discussion by suggesting an "Agile" approach (my passion for design is never far away)…experiment, start small, fail fast, learn, and grow…

"Well, maybe we start small...even a friendly competition within our cast...share how we delivered hope in our individual communities. "I was a hope-ist today...drove a struggling youth to her job today...one small step to independence". And whoever is voted the most awesome hope-ist of this group gets a free meal at our next reunion"

So will I turn my idea into action?

I hope so.

Hmm…maybe hope-ist isn't such a bad name after all.

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