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Jun. 18th, 2013


SickSky Launcher for Android

SickSky settings panel

SickSky Launcher (Google Play Store link) is a very simple Android launcher/home screen, with no widget support. If you love your widgets, this launcher is not for you. But if you just want access to your apps, calendar, and weather, you might want to check this out.

When launched, the homescreen is divided into three panels. The top panel shows the current temperature for your location, and the date and time. The middle panel is mostly empty unless you do some actions. The bottom panel has two buttons.

But where are your apps? Click on the button on the right of the bottom panel, and you get to see all your apps at the middle panel. You swipe to the left or right to access apps in another page (16 icons are shown per page).

SickSky apps panel

To show more information about the weather, just click on the temperature at the top panel, and more information is shown in the middle panel. But I have found one quirk with this panel. See screenshot below.

SickSky weather panel

As you can see, the locations shown in the top panel and middle panel are different. Anyway, you are shown temperatures, 5-day forecast, and current condition.

To access your calendar entries, you need to access the settings by clicking the button at the left of the bottom panel (see topmost screenshot).

There isn’t much customization options. This is a simple, minimalistic, no-frills launcher that works fine if you are not fond of customizing your home screen. I like this launcher, but I do like having a panel showing my frequently used apps – it can be tedious swiping around if you have tons of apps installed.

Power users will not be fond of this launcher, but for those who like their home screens simple, this app is worth their time.

Jun. 16th, 2013


Sungha Jung in Manila!


Sungha Jung played his greatest hits and some popular tunes last night, and oh boy it was a glorious night of guitar music.

I was so excited when I found out months ago that Sungha Jung would be performing here in Manila. When the official dates were announced, I was even more excited. When the tickets became available I was disheartened when I logged on to Ticketworld only to find that the cheapest tickets were sold out. Good thing I checked back 3 weeks ago. When I saw that tickets were still available I immediately booked one. I will not miss it, definitely.

And so last night, I found myself at the lobby of the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, lining up to buy a CD. If you buy a CD you could line up to have it signed after the show, but I find the time to be a wee bit late, and as I live up north I might have problems going home. Besides, there were 300 CD buyers who’d line up. I consoled myself that at least I get to hear him perform live.

The doors opened at 7PM. After finally getting Paint It Acoustic, I went to the doors, had my bag checked (cameras were allowed to be brought in but not allowed to be used during the performance), and wondered at the place. It’s like a large cinema with carpeted floors and red upholstered stadium seats (lesson learned – don’t wear red when watching at Newport Theater – see image below). The stage is so wide you could probably put in an IMAX screen in there. (Look at the image above.)

I was actually afraid that not a lot would come and watch, but I was glad that only a few seats were empty by the time the opening act started. I was a bit amused and annoyed, though, that Filipino time reared its ugly head. Halfway through the first set, you could see people still streaming in.

As I have said, Sungha played some of his original pieces plus covers of popular songs, including songs by Bruno Mars and a KPop singer/group whose name I wasn’t able to understand (Sungha speaks English, but his pronunciation is heavily Korean accented). His ukulele rendition of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and music from Super Mario Brothers got cheers from the audience (I admit I was looking forward to him playing the Super Mario music using ukulele, and I was quite happy when he did). He started the second set by playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D using an electric guitar.

The audience appreciated the technicality of finger style guitar playing by clapping on very technical parts of the music. As a non-player, I could see the difficulty in playing, but Sungha is a prodigy and played with ease.

Probably the highlight of the night was the last piece of the second set. In the middle of the “brief” intermission (the only slight I could cite for the night – really, how long is brief?), I thought maybe he should have planned on playing a Filipino song. When he announced that he was about to play The Eraserheads’ classic Ang Huling El Bimbo, the audience roared! (I am having goosebumps right now as I remember that part). Some of the audience sang while Sungha played. You could just appreciate that he took time to learn the piece, and I am sure the transcription alone took time. He did not play it perfectly, but for me it was a fitting climax to the set.

He did two encore pieces together with opening act Alyza Barro, which I found to be anti-climactic after El Bimbo. The two pieces were technical in nature, and the audience knew those pieces were hard to play.

Two screens were set up at both ends of the stage. It was a good thing since I was seated the second to the last row and so I couldn’t see much. The stage was almost bare, with a chair over a carpet, plus guitar stands, amplifiers, and lights. I found the addition of the carpet to be tacky. The backdrop of star lights was glorious, though they must have forgotten they had it installed, since they only turned them on on several songs, then on throughout the last parts of the second set.

But then again, it’s all about the music, and Sungha Jung did not disappoint, most especially this fan. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and I know he’ll get better with his guitar playing. I look forward to see him play again here.

Sungha Jung!

Jun. 12th, 2013


The big losers


Now that the grand circus that is Philippine elections is over, we know who won and who lost. Who are the big losers in this election?

1. The Enriles – The United Nationalist Alliance (or UNA) is composed of so-called three kingmakers – Vice President Jejomar Binay Sr., Senator Juan Ponce Enrile Sr., and former President Joseph Estrada Sr. Each of the kingmakers fielded their children in this year’s Senate race – Binay’s daughter, Nancy; Enrile’s son, Jack; and Erap’s son JV. We all know that Nancy and JV won, but Jack didn’t make it.

Framing this in terms of 2016, Enrile will have a hard time spending his political capital. This election proves that his name is not enough to bring his son to the Senate (though the negative propaganda against Jack and the Senate budget scandal last December may have helped cost him a Senate seat), and so his political capital might not be enough to influence the 2016 elections. It is now important for Enrile Senior to retain his position as Senate President in order to increase his political capital. Sure, he can make sure he’s relevant as leader of opposition, but with so many senators with political ambitions, he has to fight 22 of them – including the children of his pragmatic allies Binay and Erap.

As for Jack: he has a lot of options at this point. He can return to the House by 2016, or take another shot at the Senate, or run for governor of Cagayan. The House is the safest bet.

(Enrile has resigned as Senate President – a day before Congress adjourns sine die).

2. The Liberal Party – As much as most media people and pundits call this election as a victory for Team PNoy, I have to disagree a wee bit and call this a loss for the Liberal Party.

The 2010 elections was probably the first elections since 1986 where no major coalitions were formed to carry candidates. Each of the major political parties at that time fielded their own candidates on national level. This time, two major coalitions were formed to battle for 12 Senate seats. The Aquino Administration framed this election as a referendum on the current administration, banking on the unprecedented popularity of the President. The field of candidates was so thin that neither of the two coalitions could form a complete slate – both had “guest candidates.” However, due to pressure on both sides, the guest candidates were forced to exclusively join Team PNoy, while UNA had to make do with 9 candidates.

In the Team PNoy coalition, three candidates came from the Liberal Party, and only one made it to the winner’s list (all the Nacionalistas in Team PNoy won, BTW). As the majority party this is a blow to the Liberals. Bam Aquino will join Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, and Teofisto Guingona III as the Senate, making 4 Liberals – definitely not enough to gain the leadership without coalescing with other parties. As these coalitions tend to be fragile, the Liberals cannot afford to antagonize its partners or else it loses control of the Senate.

If the NP decides to field a candidate for president in 2016, I don’t expect the current coalition to last.

3. Mar Roxas – While LP retains majority of the House, and its coalition about to take control of the Senate, Binay has one advantage against Roxas – Binay has made his daughter win. This election validates that the Binay brand is bankable and durable, and his grassroots network can deliver.

Roxas, on the other hand, seems to be drifting. He has nothing to show in his stint at the DOTC, and his performance at DILG lackluster. He tends to be slow, indecisive, and too careful, hence after three years all infra projects under DOTC have yet to be started. If this continue, and Binay becomes more aggressive, Roxas can kiss 2016 goodbye.

4. Isko Moreno and the city of Manila – Isko scored a landslide win against Lou Veloso for the post of Manila’s vice mayor, so why is he a big loser? Because once again he will have to break with the would-be incumbent mayor in order to fulfill his ambition to be mayor of Manila. Why? What made him think Joseph Estrada will honor his word that he will only serve one term? This, coming from someone who promised never to run again for any public office only to run twice? Erap can either run again or field one of his children (some are already salivating on the idea of Jake Ejercito as mayor of Manila).

The city of Manila is the biggest loser here, because it now has a convicted plunderer as mayor. Erap may be able to improve the physical condition of the city, but a single term will not have any long term effect on the development of the city. If Erap is seeking redemption, he did so at the expense of the city. If he is really sincere, then he has no choice but to seek reelection and continue with his plans to make Manila a great city. This convinces me that Moreno has no choice but to do to Erap what he did to Fred Lim. I wish both of them luck.

5. Echiverri and the city of Caloocan – It seems that any attempt to establish a dynasty in Caloocan always fails. Rey Malonzo tried it years ago, fielding his common law wife and his son for mayor and councilor, respectively, while he ran for a House seat. All of them lost.

Then Recom Echiverri tried to build a dynasty by making his son RJ run as congressman – RJ lost. And as Recom’s term limit came, he made RJ run as mayor this year. RJ lost again. Recom will return to the House to represent the first district.

Echiverri must be so pissed off. After Oca Malapitan was proclaimed incoming mayor, all the blue boys (the Reformed Department of Public Safety and Traffic Management) are gone from the streets of Caloocan, as if telling the residents of Caloocan that they made the wrong choice. Now the residents of Caloocan have to pay the price – just look what a mess of a traffic jam is Rizal Avenue Extension from 2nd Avenue up to Monumento. Temporary vengeance, but a cruel one.

May. 20th, 2013


SPlay Launcher for Android


I have this app installed yesterday a week ago, and on its second day 2nd week, here’s what I think about this Android launcher.

The launcher (currently in beta but available at the Google Play Store) is basically a group of tappable texts. When you tap and hold on a text, another set of tappable texts are shown, and while still holding the text, you slide your finger to the text that you want, and the corresponding action to that text is launched. For example, to create a new text message, you tap and hold Diary, then slide up to New message.

There are four main text groups, and Apps is the customizable group. You can add up to 7 shortcuts to your favorite/most-used apps by tapping and holding Apps then sliding to Edit Shortcuts. You can also access Google Play in the Apps group. To show all the apps installed, you slide to Apps (you can also show all apps by tapping the context menu (at the top right).

As I am right-handed, the placement of the texts works for me. It should probably work for sinistrals, but I think there should be a setting so that the user can select where the ring is oriented.

The animated ring stops after a few seconds, maybe to preserve battery life, but I feel that it defeats the purpose of the animation. It should rotate infinitely. I am sure most Android users will have set up a screen timeout anyway.

If you are a creature of habit and only uses a set number of apps, this launcher is good. But for those who uses a lot of apps, the limited number of shortcuts is limiting, so this launcher may not be for you. Is the user experience enhanced? Some may doubt it.

Normally, when I test an Android launcher, I usually revert to Go Launcher after a few days. I am on my second week with Splay Launcher, and so far I have no urge to go back to Go Launcher (not a fan of the stock Android launcher). It offers a different experience unlike those other launchers that look like they’re no different from each other. We’ll see if this holds.

May. 8th, 2013


Shingeki No Kyojin


The weekend was spent watching new anime – Shingeki No Kyojin (aka Attack on Titan) and Arata Kangatari. Both are very good. Very, very good.

Let me start with Shingeki No Kyojin. Based on the manga of the same title, the premise of the story is that humankind has to live within 50-meter walls due to the Titans – large humanoids who like eating humans even though they don’t need to for sustenance. Humans no longer venture outside the walls except for a group of soldiers called Recon Corp, whose mission is to find a way to finally defeat the Titans. After a hundred years most people no longer wanted to be part of the Corp, and thinking of a life outside the walls is considered an act of heresy.

Eren is, however, not one of most people. He dreams of joining the Recon Corp, but only his half-sister, Mikasa, knows of this dream. When she told his mother, his mother vehemently objected, but his father was ambivalent.

Then the walls got breached by the Titans. Specifically, by a Titan so tall it can reach the top of the wall.

I have only seen one episode so far (there are five currently), and I must say I am intrigued by the premise. I can’t say more since it’s just one episode, but I am sure I am going to see the next episodes.

I find the Titans creepy (I am having goosebumps right now). They look like zombies, only that the “exposed” muscles are not as random (for lack of a better term) as that of zombies. They have this nasty, creepy, malicious smile in their faces, teeth exposed, ready to have a meal of human meat. The fact that they are huge and nude adds to the creepiness.

Eren is the typical young male lead character – bratty, opinionated, annoying, idealistic. He argued with a drunk gate guard, hit an old man who doesn’t believe in the Recon Corps, had a shouting match with his mom – all on the same episode. This kid has serious life issues.

Normally, characters like this annoy me (if I am annoyed by the lead character at episode 1, I stop watching and never bother with the next episodes), but I am willing to give this some more time before making any judgment.

Speaking of life issues, wait for my post about Arata Kangatari.

Apr. 20th, 2013


The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

The Ballad of Narayama

The Ballad of Narayama is the story of Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka), an old Japanese woman who willingly chose to go to Narayama to die, as expected of her due to her old age (this custom is known as ubasute or obasute). Her son, Tatsuhei (Teiji Takahashi), loved his mother so much that he wanted her to stay and defy the custom, but his own son had taken in a wife and was expecting a child. Living in poverty, they could not afford another mouth to feed, hence Orin’s decision to go to Narayama.

For a modern cinema viewer, this movie would seem quaint. The first thing the viewer would notice is the artificial look of the scenery, as the director Keisuke Kinoshita chose to film in a studio. The effect is beautiful but haunting scenes of rural life in feudal Japan, highlighting how poverty drove the cultural norms at that time.

The movie was filmed like as if it was shot as a play; in fact, some elements of Kabuki are present. The movie narrator is a kuroko, who chanted the story in the strains of Japanese musical instruments. There was a scene where each of the characters were lit in soft, green light, and as a character leaves the scene, the light turns off until the old woman was left.

The movie could use some cutting. Though not very long (only an hour and a half), there are scenes that seemed too slow for me; I think this was in compensation for the cramped space brought about by being shot in soundstages. The journey to Narayama, for example, was just scenes upon scenes of Tatsuhei carrying his mother, with some dialog added to break the monotony.

It is a bleak and depressing movie, a movie that not everyone would want to see for recreational purpose. But this is expected from a movie that dares to show the problems facing the elderly – after all, we will all get old, and we will have to face what Orin had faced, and I assure you that it will be depressing.

Apr. 19th, 2013


Filipino to Spanish

This week has not been merciful on my wallet. And diet. :/

Aside from chunking a significant amount of money on bills (pfft), the Expense Manager app on my phone says I spent too much on food as well. Yay?

Last Wednesday afternoon/night was spent with former officemates eating at Kanin Club in Ayala Triangle. It’s been almost a year since I last visited Kanin Club, and it was nice to be back to taste the old favorites.

The original plan was to go to this bagnet place at Makati, but since the weather made the stay outside like being in a sauna, we decided to just eat at Ayala Triangle. While walking, everyone was saying “I know where we’ll end up.”

We ended up at Kanin Club.

Upon being seated, I checked in at Foursquare, and only then I noticed there’s a Poco Deli nearby. If I had only known, we might have eaten there. Funny thing was, you will pass by Poco Deli before getting to Kanin Club (if you’re coming from Ayala Avenue/Makati Stock Exchange building). It’s either we’re really hungry not to notice, or our unconscious had already decided to eat at Kanin Club.

Crispy Liempo

Anyway, we started with the old faithful crispy liempo. I totally avoided this tried avoiding this but there and then I decided “What the hell, today is cheat day!” so I had a few. Promise.


My all time Kanin Club favorite – Pocherong Tinomas. Kanin Club’s take on pochero is interesting: it’s more like stew rather than soup, the saba was fried, and they added fried camote. They used beef, and added some ham. My friends totally avoided this, I dunno why. At least I had something to bring home.

We also ordered Bistek Pinoy (I took a photo but it was blurry; it’s in my Instagram – pls to follow me kthx), Crispy Dinuguan (I forgot to take a photo), and Tinapa Rice (I also forgot to take a photo). The rice was completely consumed, the bistek almost all of it, the dinuguan only a few of it left.

Total damage for everyone is Php 285 (rounded off and including service charge). Not bad for a sumptuous Filipino meal. For bachelors, you should eat there with friends; eating by yourself is expensive and lonely.

Today I had lunch with an officemate and her friend at Barcino Wine Resto Bar. The original plan (decided yesterday) was to try Wrong Ramen at Burgos Circle in The Fort. Before we went there I asked another officemate who had eaten there for feedback, and we were discouraged because (1) they open at 12nn, (2) the place is small, and (3) there might be a long queue.

We thought of going to Wildflour Bakery + Cafe, but even before I could begin contemplating on their prices the officemate suddenly craved for paella. So off we went to Barcino.

It was my first time there. I thought it was a classy, high society place for cheese and wine. Well, it is a classy place for cheese and wine. But they do have something for those not into cheese (I can eat cheese but I don’t crave for it) and wine (teetotaler). Basically they carry Spanish fare. As I was a Barcino newbie, I let my officemate order the food.

Sopa de ajo

We started with the classic Spanish sopa de ajo or garlic soup – basically a simple soup with garlic, bread, egg. This one has small strips of jamon Serrano. Surprisingly, the taste of garlic was not that strong, which I find I liked. I should probably try making this at home, the recipe looks simple enough.

Paella Negra

We ordered this Paella Negra. They put in squid ink in there, hence the color (and the name – but apparently it is not really a paella but arros negre). There are five squid rings on top, some mayo, and a slice of lemon. I tend to avoid squid because most of the time I find them rubbery and unchewable. The squid here was surprisingly chewable, and I was kinda sad there were only five pieces. Paella negra looked icky at first but I liked it.

The officemate was tempted to order wine, but as we had to go back to work, we wisely did not order. (The reality was that we can’t find the prices per glass in the menu hehe).

Total damage was… secret. Let’s just say Php200 each, which is not bad. Also, they have a lunch promo ongoing, 20% off on your bill.

Again, for bachelors, not for eating by yourself – unless you have a large appetite and can wolf down the entire content of the paellera. Or if you just want to get drunk. But better to get drunk with friends over a platter or two of cheese. If you invite me I’d let you have the wine and I’d have the cheese and tapas.

I did say before that this category will just archive the past entries, but I need a place for my food (mis)adventures, so here it is. I dunno if my co-writers could read this, but if they are interested to write again, just let me know. :D

Apr. 17th, 2013


Let It Be on violin and cello

Wow. Let It Be never sounded so cool. I like this very much. I just find the shifting between the two awkward. But yeah.

Apr. 16th, 2013


Just show us the numbers, CBCP


(image from here)

In a recent SWS survey, 9% of the respondents said they sometimes think of leaving the Catholic Church; that means 1 out of 11 Filipino Catholics thought of leaving. Of course, the Catholic hierarchy is scandalized. The survey result is questionable! The churches are always full! The government is behind this survey!

Funny thing is, the survey statement that the respondents were asked to react to is “Sometimes I think I might leave the Catholic Church.” But then again, in the eyes of a pastor, 1 out of 11 is large enough number to cause worry.

A true pastor would ask why, investigate, talk to parishioners, and implement programs so that people won’t leave. Unfortunately, the hierarchy has chosen to live in denial.

The best way to refute the survey result is to bring out data. Unfortunately, what Peachy Yamsuan said were generalized information, like:

“The Diocese of Imus has more new parishes created in the past 10 years or so… which begs the question, why create parishes if the number of Mass-goers is dwindling?”

How many parishes were created in the Diocese of Imus in the past 10 years? We don’t know.

There is a way to rebut the statement that the Churches are full.

Let’s take the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. According to its web site, there are around 900,000 inhabitants in the archdiocese, 90% of whom are Catholics (around 810,000). There are 30 parish churches, and around 67 priests (including retired ones). Assuming all parishes have equal number of parishioners, that means in Lingayen-Dagupan, there are around 27,000 parishioners to a parish. A priest has to minister to around 12,000 parishioners.

No wonder the churches are full. (And the hierarchy being disingenuous.)

Nine percent of 810,000 is 72,900; assume that 72,900 is equally spread in the diocese, that makes 2,430 parishioners who have thoughts of leaving the Church. Assuming that all of the 2,430 decided to leave, it’s a negligible amount.

No wonder the bishops are in disbelief.

How many parishes will be created in the near future? How many seminarians will be ordained as priests in the future? These numbers are important, but the Church will not give us these information. And these official, verifiable numbers will help the Church show that it is going strong. Just show us the numbers, dear bishops.

Solita Monsod is right – the Church should stop playing ostrich (BTW read it for she has better numbers than I do). Instead of trumpeting numbers, the Church has to address the fact that members of its flock are thinking of leaving.

As for me, the reason people are thinking of leaving is that the clergy has become politicized. I know someone who has decided to leave the Church. The straw that broke the camel’s back? The Church’s use of the pulpit to denounce the RH law and its proponents. God knows how many Catholics like her have already made the decision to leave. Reports of dioceses calling pro-RH candidates as Team Patay, and a lay group forming the so called White Vote, will not help the Church retain its followers.

There are more reasons, and they deserve a separate discussion. Just to name a few: disgust over liturgical decay; resistance to top-down, centralized governance; Church doctrine that are out of touch with reality (contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage, ordination of women, optional celibacy).

Apr. 15th, 2013


Why I am not voting for Nancy Binay


No one questions Nancy Binay’s qualification to run as a senator. The question is whether Binay is qualified to be a senator. That single question must have hurt Nancy Binay so badly that her only retort is for her critics to file a disqualification case against her in Comelec. If this is the quality of thinking that she is bringing to the table, then as voters it is our duty to refuse her offering by not voting for her this May.

An employer, in seeking a new employee, conducts due diligence by investigating the background of the prospective employee. It is the same for us voters.

Her resume is unimpressive. She has no experience in private and public enterprise that can show she can handle the job of a senator. Her only exposure in government is being his father, Jejomar Binay’s, personal assistant. In terms of experience, it would have been logical if Binay fielded his other, more experienced children Junjun and Abigail. (Then again, as I have said before, Nancy’s campaign is dry run for her father’s 2016 bid for the presidency.) Heck, a three-term councilor would have been more than qualified compared to Nancy.

If an employer considers a candidate even if the resume is unimpressive, the employer may interview the applicant. For us voters, one way we can learn about a candidate’s thoughts, plans, and vision is by watching him speak in a debate or a forum. Unfortunately for us, Nancy Binay would not indulge us. Risa Hontiveros, one of the better candidates with something to show in her government work, said she is ready to exchange opinions with Binay in a debate; Binay chose to campaign instead, she just doesn’t have time, she said. Yes, it is like a job applicant telling the employer to shove it up his ass.

Her obstinate refusal to debate and her ominous absence in TV forums are, for me, signs that she is afraid that her unfitness to be a senator would show. The irony here is that a senator must be ready to engage in a debate in the Senate floor, and here we have a candidate who wants to be a senator but is afraid of engaging in a debate! It’s like a cadet aspiring to be a soldier but afraid to shoot a gun.

Why I am not voting for Nancy Binay? One, I believe she is not qualified to be a senator since she doesn’t have the experience that will show she can handle the task. Two, she refuses to share to us her platform and vision, and refuses to engage with other candidates in a debate.

Third, her stand on some issues are not compatible with mine:

* She is against the RH law, her objection being of budgetary concerns:

“I have an issue with the budgetary requirements of the bill, the budget to buy contraceptives. A 4-year-old child died of meningococcemia which is preventable through immunization. Why can’t we allot a bigger budget for immunization, day care centers?”

Which only shows her ignorance of law making, because if that’s her concern, the answer to her question is to increase the Department of Health’s budget of immunization. Besides, most of the functions of the DOH are already devolved to the local government units. She should ask her brother Junjun and her sister Abigail – they should know.

* She sees nothing wrong with political dynasties. But of course. No.

* She is for the anti cybercrime law.

* She is against same sex marriage.

But the ultimate reason why I am not voting for her: arrogance. She is relying on the name, popularity, and extensive campaign network of his father, thereby excusing her (she thinks) from telling us voters why she deserves our vote. She is qualified to be a senator because not only she is a Binay (it’s a birth right, and it’s her edge against the other candidates, says the daddy), her father tells us so. Jojo Binay even compared Nancy to Margaret Thatcher, so his daughter is very much qualified. All these show that the Binays are too sure and too full of themselves.

And that, my friends, is why I am not voting for her.


She’ll dance, she’ll wave, she’ll throw Binay candies and t-shirts and fans; she won’t talk because if she opens her mouth her ignorance will be discovered.


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