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Lifting Weights at Midnight

An accident-prone writer's guide to injury maintenance, good food, and wanderlust

REVIEW: Nathan’s Zephyr Fire 100 hand Torch (that’s a flashlight to us Americans)

I’ve been collecting a lot of products lately during and in preparation for my travels to Vermont, Colorado, Race Across the West, and Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail. I’ve been testing for the past few months or so, and thought you’d like a peak at what I’ve been into and why. First on the list is:

Zephyr Fire 100 “hand torch” by Nathan.

The first time I heard the term “torch” used to imply “flashlight” was, I believe, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, an incredible book that celebrates curiosity, the spirit of adventure, and the power of goodness (that’s what I got out of it, anyway). I like that it’s such an archaic, almost lazy term, since really, it is basically just an electric version of what people used to burn witches, hunt down Frankenstein’s monster, and make sure they don’t fall down the stairs while walking to the bathroom at night. I’ve done all those things with this modern day fire-on-a-stick, and there are noticeable upgrades since the days of Mary Shelley. Besides not burning anything down, whether accidental or not, here are some real bright sides:

  • It’s USB-charged. Not only can you charge it by your computer, you can also use any of the newer wall chargers that have a removable chord (just like most cell phones). This is also great if you are backpacking and traveling with a BioLite Camp Stove (review of that forthcoming!).
  • The hand harness is really comfortable and easy to use even with bulky winter gloves or mittens. It’s also adjustable for left or right handed use. I additionally appreciate the hand harness because when I’m not using the flashlight, I can wear it on my wrist so my hand is free without having to put down (i.e. lose) the flashlight in the dark.
  • The rear light. It’s such a simple addition to a classic flashlight but it means the world to people out at night in an area with other people and/or cars. It’s very visible and I felt safe the whole time using it. This was obviously designed for runners, but the benefits are much more broad.
  • The combination strobe light/emergency siren. They aren’t the same button, but in my mind they serve the same purpose because I can’t imagine running with a strobe light guiding my way, especially since the battery life of these things seems to be exceptionally long. If I were to fall off a cliff while hiking or trail running, the siren would (hopefully) alert people that there’s someone in danger and the flashing light would help locate me visibly.
  • The downward angle of the flashlight. It pairs well with the hands-free nature of the hand harness, as the flashlight is automatically angled at where I’m looking, without having to keep my hand in a certain position. 

There are a few negatives, however, though they certainly haven’t turned me away from this great device:

  • I wish it was a bit brighter. At 108 lumens, hiking in the woods with no moonlight still feels a bit dim. If my situation were a bit different, I may consider instead investing in the 359-lumen Zephyr 300
  • The light and siren buttons are right on top of each other. I’ve hit the siren a few times in an effort to turn off the light, and it takes 2-3 seconds to turn anything on or off on this flashlight, so in an effort to be stealthy I made quite a ruckus.
  • The rear light, while I love it, is really bright. If there’s anyone running or hiking behind me, they are blinded by the red blinking orb bouncing three feet off the ground, which is neither safe nor enjoyable. I wish there was a way to turn off just the rear light.

All in all, I love this “torch” and it has proven useful on hikes, runs, dog walks, and even snow shoeing (though it took a bit of adjusting to figure out a good placement with the walking poles). I’m very happy with it and think it will last me a long time and many adventures.

Next on the mat is GoGo Gear’s Kevlar Leggings.

Go, Van, Go!

Go, Van, Go!.

Right to Ride (plus healthy vegan brownie recipe)

O, Dinky Bridge! O, Iron Grate! O, Blue Slide!

You trails, thine mud is plush, and roots ripe with traction.


Ye olde mountain bike season is again upon us! Bask in yea glory of semi-dry trails. Bow down in thanks of the trail gods who build berms and fill ruts. And yea, kiss the tire treads of they who rode all winter when the trails were soft and vulnerable, for they knew not of their own power to corrode. Let us give thanks to the sun, brief in the sky as it may be, whose vitamin D reminds us that yes, we do prefer to be alive (though for the past six months may have lost sight of that mission). Let us not take for granted this day of beauty, let this not be our day of rest, for rest will come soon enough—tomorrow (or later today) when it rains, or post-ride at D’s for veggie dogs topped with avocado and Sriracha slaw, and washed down with a pint of 1919 Root Beer.


No time for typing, today we ride.

Tonight, however, we make brownies (because: it is raining).

This recipe is adapted from Vega’s Easy Vega One Protein Brownies. I changed things around based on what I had lying (laying? I was a writing major, not an English major) around the house, and also to make them a bit more affordable and to my nutrition needs.

Semi-Easy Protein Brownies

vegan, gluten free, about as healthy as brownies can be


  • 3 Tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 6 pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F
  2. Soak flax meal and dates in water in a medium sized bowl; let sit for half hour
  3. Meanwhile, some prepping! Chop zucchini in food processor until finely chopped. Also, grease 9×9 pan with coconut oil.
  4. Add each ingredient, one at a time, to flax mixture, folding until just mixed. If zucchini has left a bit of water at the bottom of food processor, add it if batter feels excessively dry.
  5. Pour batter into pan and bake for 25 minutes. These babies are MOIST! So if you like cupcakes to be a bit on the cakier side, bake for an extra five minutes or so.
  6. Let sit, cool, and firm for a good 15 minutes before cutting. 

A Stab In the Dark

There comes a time in every blogger’s life where she needs to look at her surroundings and make some assessments. Last night, I stepped on a stick that impaled my foot about an inch and a half deep, leaving just a teeny tiny mark but swelling my foot to about 150% its size. Then, I sliced my hand on a knife my friend Nick Anger made me, attempting lamely to hold it in my teeth like a pirate holding her sword. My eye has also been twitching for about two days.

What do I make of all this? Even Wikipedia offers me nothing but, “no one really knows what causes it, your guess is really as good as ours. Oh wait, do you have any pain in your eye? Oh, no? Never mind, yeah, still don’t know. Sorry.” The twitching started before the stab wound, before the slice, and after I started the kickboxing challenge, around the time of Easter. So is it holiday stress? Sugar consumption? Not enough time to get everything done, with three days of the week pulled out for family activities?

Personally, I like to blame everything on water intake. Headache? Probably dehydrated. Nauseous? Have some water (and salt). Chest pains? Down some H2O. Muscle cramps? Load up on the good stuff. Eye twitch so easily falls into that. After all, it’s basically just a charley horse on my face. So I’m drinking water, infused with some old lime sliced effortlessly with my gorgeous knife. But I also put my feet up after a day of postering and editing an article, and have been watching Bob’s Burgers, so who can really say?
The point is, self care is important. Whether that means drinking enough water or taking some time to relax with cartoons. Whether that means punching things or taking a day off from punching things. Whether that means quitting one’s job to pursue one’s dreams or just eating a balanced meal every once in a while. It’s all worth while, and our body will tell us this by giving us an eye twitch or making us clumsy enough to step on a stick or stupid enough to slice our hands open with a knife. Or maybe by placing the stick there to step on at three a.m. to give some perspective on the important things in life.
Water and cartoons.

Out like a lamb

First things first…

I knew March was going to be a difficult month for me to keep up with the posts. So I’m *kind of* sorry I haven’t been updating very much. Does it feel better if I pass the buck and say I tried to get a few other people on board to write blog posts for me, and they never followed through? No? Hmm… How about if I regale you with tales of adventure in teaching adult writing classes, doing P90X at 2 a.m., and getting to see some of my favorite bands for free because I’ve been writing about them. I figured that one would win since I wrote it in a list of threes and usually that can make anything sound good. Oh well. I will say that I am letting go of some of my work obligations (and taking on some others, ssshhh) so I should have more writing time available to write to you fine folks here.

There have been some recipes I want to share, and also those REVIEWS. GLORIOUS REVIEWS of headphones, motorcycle pants, gluten free flour, a flashlight, and more (I think). I want to make videos, though, so I need a friend. Once I find one, I’ll be Good To Go. Any day now…

P90X is going….fine. But I’m also back at kickboxing and will be doing a challenge with them, having to attend 3 times per week, which will greatly supplement my P90X workout by switching it up, keeping it fun, and adding to the cardio days which don’t feel very cardio-heavy for me, based on my needs. So I’ll be a force to be reckoned with by May, just in time to turn 33.

In the meantime, here’s some pancakes I made this morning. They are gluten free, vegan, and super simple.

Gluten Free Vegan Blueberry Pancakes

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 C. All Purpose gluten free flour (I prefer Mama’s Almond Flour)
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Mix dry ingredients first, until well blended, then add the wet ingredients one at a time:

Wet Ingredients

Once wet ingredients are added, fold mixture until just mixed, breaking up knots of flour with purpose. Melt about 2 tsp. coconut oil on a skillet, then pour about 1/4 C. batter on pan. Let sit until edges look dry and bubbles form in the center. Flip and let cook a few minutes. I topped mine off with blueberry compote. These are the last of the batch, so they’re a bit thin of blueberry swirl. I ate through the first few so fast before I realized what was happening.

*Carton milk substitute isn’t the most healthy, in all honesty. Some people prefer using coconut milk from the can because it doesn’t have all the additives that coconut “drink” has, and then add water to desired consistency. If you live near coconuts, you can make your own. When my ultra vegan years coincided with my ultra poor days and my ultra bad at math days, I made my own almond milk using cheese cloth, a blender, and some raw almonds. I’ll post that another time, but I’m sure you can see where that one’s going.

Zen and the Art of Vegetable Juicing

In the morning, the urge is to consume fresh juice. The process is arduous, so I usually revert back to the old stable of coffee and toast, or coffee and leftovers, or coffee and a Vega One shake (I realize that what I have for breakfast equates to that good friend you decide to unfollow on Instagram because her pictures of her breakfast are just too much, but bear with me). Simple sustenance. The process of juicing can seem overwhelming pre-breakfast. Just like a bear coming out of hibernation, I’m groggy in the mornings. Not mean, but impatient — especially with myself. It’s also worth mentioning that I typically only get five hours of sleep, to coming out of it feels like the final episode of X-Files when Mulder is in the prison cell and the guard keeps waking him up with “No Sleeping! Tell me what you know!” I mean, not to be dramatic….

But the rhythm of picking out ingredients, cleaning, chopping, assembling the juicer, pressing, pouring, disassembling the juicer, rinsing the pieces, stacking the pieces, clearing the countertops, and drinking this incredibly powerful concoction of energy and life. It sounds like a lot of work (and it kind of is, considering the other option is to just put a slice of bread in the toaster and lather it with Earth Balance, or pour a scoop of protein powder of Vega One into a shaker bottle with 8oz of water) but it’s worth it, and it starts off the day with the assertion that my time is my own, and my day is my own, and I am choosing, at least on this day, to start it on the right food.

I’m still doing P90X, and today is the rest day that ends the first 3 hard weeks of constant workouts, next week being a relative rest week. I have to admit, I did skip a few workouts, probably one or two per week, depending on how much work I had to do, especially how much poster work I had. I considered riding my bike 15 miles with 30 pounds of paper to be a decent cardio, considering the Pittsburgh hills. Yesterday, I did the workout of two days ago: Legs and Back, and while my pull-ups are starting to regain some semblance of an actual pull-up (still not there, at least not when I’m trying to bang out a lot of them), but I did not want to get out of bed this morning. It could have been all the junk food I tore through last night after the workout (we had some friends over for a fire pit and one of them brought an Amy’s cheeseless pizza, my ultimate weakness, and E. made a vegan blueberry cobbler…and I also had some nonvegan ice cream, and oatmeal stout, but shhh), or it could have been that I’ve only been getting 4-5 hours of sleep this week as I tried to work on some writing projects, but it felt so luxurious for the first time to just put my feet up and relax in bed, rather than feeling rushed to get anyway. It’s also Sunday, but I grant the most appreciation towards that great workout that told my body, hey, just stay here a while. You earned it. I know I didn’t really earn anything, but it’s nice to think that every once in a while, especially on a Sunday morning while still in bed.

Time For Ourselves

It’s taken me a while to find time to update the blog. Posters, one of my many jobs, picked up, as did my writing work. It’s been hard to get in every P90X workout, and something that’s been causing me some contemplation is the purpose of the workouts, why I love this set of cheesy home exercise DVDs.

I constantly grapple with my own use of time. I’m a procrastinator when I don’t take up a project or assignment head-on and right away; most of my editors say I’m a dream to work with, because I get things done so soon; I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t do it immediately, I’ll forget about it. That said, it leaves a lot of room to be constantly accepting assignments, as they’re always finished ahead of deadline. A great problem to have, really. These assignments, of course, don’t appear out of the blue, but come from networking and loads of research, reaching out to new people, building and maintaining relationships on all ends of the spectrum. I find myself looking at my Facebook, Instagram, and email almost constantly. It’s addictive work, which isn’t really something I thought I’d say about a job, but here we are.

How does this pertain to P90X? It’s an hour of my day that isn’t dedicated to work or social media. An hour for myself, completely, where I have to be in the moment. It’s an active meditation. Before freelancing picked up, there was always time found in the day to meditate, time to clear my head and ground myself with my own goals and presence of being without the influence of outside forces. More time for art, love, nature. More time for health in all its forms. This mere 60-75 minutes, now, is a struggle to dig out, which makes it so much more important. Everyone wants something from us, and we can break parts of ourselves off, ad infinitum, if we choose, but its our choice, ultimately, to leave something or nothing for ourselves. Working out is my declaration that at least this small moment in my waking life is just mine. For 60-75 minutes. y attention is just towards myself. It isn’t selfish to need time for ourselves, it’s self-preservation.

After an incredibly challenging Thursday that including working all three current jobs (posters, journalism, teaching) and a bike ride with a loaded pack from the posters, I took all Thursday off. From everything. I didn’t respond to emails, reach out to editors, write anything, fix anything. I didn’t clean, I didn’t engage in internet drama. A friend who lives down the street came over with his dog and we hung out in the back yard for a couple hours while our dogs wrestled in the mud, then I took a nap, did some stretches, and went out for ice cream at Page Dairy (which just opened for the season). It took the declaration of “this is a day off” to realize how hard I’d been working, how little time I’d had for myself, and how much I needed to just reboot and not put myself up to any expectations.

Today, though, the posters and emails are piling up, and Kenpo X is on deck. It’s another rainy day here in Pittsburgh, my elbows, shoulder, and knee/shin are sore and swollen, but as Tony endorses, I’ll do my best and forget the rest.

Three Cheers For My Weird Body

Tony Horton, I wish I knew how to quit you.

After some time away from my boyfriend, we are again together for a round of rolling on the floor and grunting, and finding strange and unsurpassable reasons to press the pause button. This time, I’m doing the Lean program, which focuses a bit more of core, cardio, and yoga, rather than bulky muscle. I kind of like having bulky muscle, but I’m trying to slim down a little from the winter weight I’ve been slowly accumulating like periwinkles under a dock since last winter when I dislocated my shoulder. Sure, I’ve been kickboxing, and raced bikes, and run the stairs (not as often as I should, at least this winter). But I feel all-over rather soft and doughy, rather than the animal body I felt when I was in the throws of P90X, especially the first go around.

Don’t be fooled, though, kind readers. the Lean is still strengthening and muscle-building. Today’s Core Synergistics had me doing probably 200 push-ups in varied forms (all harder and more complicated than the original, I promise you that). My measly 8-lb. weights began to feel heavy in some of the exercises. “But Carolyne,” you may be saying, “you’re such a weakling! You’ve said so yourself!” And you may be right, but from my perspective I’m still strong, I’m just a whole lot of other things as well.

This will be a good transition (as good as I’m willing to give you, anyway) for the other thing I’ve been thinking about lately. Modcloth did a great photo shoot recently that used their own employees to model their bathing suits. A lot of the deserved feedback resound of women feeling like their bodies were finally represented. It’s important to have representation in photographs that are selling clothes — how will I know how this will look on me? (It looks great, by the way.) But it made me think about representation and my own perspectives on my body. I don’t think my body can be represented. I’m awkward, I wear a 32-long pant leg and a small shirt, lengthwise. I’m muscly in some areas (namely my limbs) and doughy in others (this vague middle area). I love my body. I love what is can do, I love that it’s mine and that no one really looks like me. I’ve earned every cell of fat or muscle, each pint of beer at the pub with friends or pint of ice cream at home alone, each “one more” run up the 36 flights of the Cathedral of Learning, each long way home on my bike or decision to run rather than walk through the park. It’s all me, all mine.

The things I wish were different about my body aren’t things that have to do with aesthetics. I wish my right side didn’t light up in the dank Pittsburgh winter from all the times I’ve fallen on that side. I wish my epidermis wasn’t numb, that I knew what this rash was that’s all over my shoulders, neck, and chest, and that I still had as much energy as I did when I was 20. Oh well.

Even as a kid I didn’t really judge myself, and I know I’m lucky for that. I had an older sister who was half my size and couldn’t help but remind me of that all the time. But I’m lucky to have my parents, who made it a point to teach me that my sister and I couldn’t be compared. I was heavier than my sister, but taller, different, my own person. And that was a great thing. It is a great thing. I still have a sister who is half my size, and I still love her and look up to her as she looks up to me (literally, because she’s tiny.).

In fifth grade, a visitor came to class and asked us to each write down something we didn’t like about ourselves. I couldn’t think of anything, little brat that I was, so I put my eye color. My dad and I have always been a lot alike, but his eyes are blue and mine are brown and turn green when I’m upset. It doesn’t bother me, but it was something that, sure, it could be changed I guess. A girl in my class, whose name I absolutely remember but I’ll save her this memory, told me she could think of a lot of things she’d change about me. I don’t remember whether she told me what they were, and certainly don’t remember what I thought they might be, if anything. Why think about those things? I thought. I still think that, unless I buy a dress that I think will be my size and fit right because it fit the model, and the model looks nothing like me.

I feel the need to give this disclaimer in talking about doing the Lean program because I don’t think people should feel bad in their bodies ever, unless there is something actually wrong that needs to be addressed. Do you feel bad because your appendix is about to burst? Get thee to a doctor! Do you feel bad because a waitress gave you a once over when you ordered fries with your burger? That sounds like a whole lot of her problem. But I like how I felt, on a physical level, when I was more fit. I liked feeling like a mammal, each muscle working towards a purpose of supporting another muscle, to propel my body forward for even the most basic actions. I didn’t notice the physical change until I saw photos later, or until I started gaining some of that fat back (which I had sort of missed anyway).

I agree with the need for more representation, with the idea that having models all look the same is very dangerous because people are not built the same and will never achieve those beauty standards. But the word is Model. They are modeling clothes to show what they look like. It’s helpful to have the models show what the clothes may actually look like on a variety of bodies, but don’t take it as a representation of your own validity if you don’t see yourself up there. You are your own body, my precious and beautiful reader. If you are tiny like my sister or muscular like me, if you are a feather or a whole hawk, if you have curves on curves on curves or are as linear as the Kansas horizon. It’s your body. It isn’t you, but it’s your body. Learn it, love it, accept that it is probably weird and un-replicable. Now go out and make it do whatever it is that it does best.

The day I went outside for the sake of breathing (banana pancakes recipe)

It’s been hard to get back into the groove of Pittsburgh living since my return at the beginning of the month. The over-stimulation of high speed internet, the constant noise and frustration of city life and a home under the highway, the smells and struggles of living in a working-poor neighborhood where the street never gets plowed because it will just pull up more chunks of concrete and cobblestone, the lack of structure, the demand for structure. Plus, my office chair just isn’t as comfortable as the one in my old studio at the Vermont Studio Center (poor me, I know). There have been so many positive changes that have happened not only since this past summer, but in the two weeks since I’ve been home, but it can be difficult to keep that all in perspective, to prioritize time affectively, and to stay focused on the real goals in life.

Today, however, the sun was out. Those who live in the Southwest may not take their sunshine for granted, but I sometimes feel that those in New England do. It may be more grey there in the winter than in the summer, but it’s a beautiful part of the world, and the sun is out more often than not, that cold blue winter sky that reminds you you’re on Earth, that feels so warm in contrast to the frosty snap of wind on your nose. The sun is a brief relieve that we in Pittsburgh so rarely get. Today, however, was cold enough to bring out the sun, and I was sure to make the most of it.

E. and I went for a cross-country ski adventure in Frick Park, taking advantage of the small amount of snow we received the past two days. I would never tell my poor Bostonian friends and family (except here, publicly, where I can’t be assaulted), but I am a bit jealous of all their snow. The grass is always whiter, I know, and I really do feel bad that they are trapped with inoperable public transit and limitless snowbanks that make driving perilous. That said, I will probably never get to use my snowshoes in the Pittsburgh area, and the inch of snow we have here now practically peeled off the grass with my skis like lint from a sweater with masking tape. On the hiking trails was a bit easier, since a lot of the snow was packed down. I had picked up my skis, boots, and poles last year at REI‘s winter garage sale for about $45 total, after I dislocated my shoulder and needed something active to do besides boxing or cycling. They were pretty much new, so they are a lot faster than E.’s old skis he bought off Craigslist. I found myself slowing down a lot (or attempting to) so that I wouldn’t run him over, or being a bit intimidated by the changing elevation that’s unavoidable in this area. Harder than that was going up, sliding back if my ski remained on the ground for a second longer than necessary as I waddled uphill. I only fell once, as I attempted to slow down and ran over a stick.

 
But just skiing wasn’t enough on a day as refreshing as this. I came home and my poor dog was so lonesome, knowing we had spent a few hours outside without him. He hates the cold, but when the sun is out, everything looks so warm, and the heat from the sun’s reflection off the snow comes through the window and I know he thinks it’s finally nice out again. So I bundled him in a fleece and we headed into Schenley Park, the woods behind my house. It was such a beautiful day, and we ran and slid through our private trail we’d dug, up to the top of the hill. His paws were cold and he insisted on walking on the sidewalk once we reached the top. Within moments, he was stalling and holding up his paws in pain, the salt having burned wounds into his cold pads. I brushed them off and eventually coerced him to walk with me in the snow, and we went further back into the woods, where the trails were padded with snow and we could run freely (on our leash, of course— we’re both prone to running away). It was nice to be out of the house and enjoying the outdoors. I think it’s something that’s been especially bothersome for me as I sink back into Pittsburgh life. I ran the stairs last night, and have been going to kickboxing, but it’s not quite the same as a few hours outside in the fresh air and the tranquility of trees. I’ve found myself no longer dreaming of Santa Fe every night, but often dreaming of Johnson, VT as well. These are sweet reliefs from the sadder dreams, but when I wake up, I’m filled with a longing I can’t shake, for a landscape that brought me such quietude I can’t seem to muster in my own environment here.
No blog post is truly complete without a recipe, of course, so here’s one which is almost exactly like the one from Vega‘s site. The only changes is I use All-In-One and they use protein powder, and they use coconut oil and I use Earth Balance. Also, I’m heavy on the cinnamon because it’s delicious and really good for you. Among other things, it helps break down sugars and combat inflammation. 

Vegan Banana Boost Pancakes

  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I like Mama’s almond flour mix)
  • 1 serving Vega One Nutritional Shake Vanilla Chai
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Earth Balance (or oil of choice)

Mix together mashed banana, vanilla, and milk in small bowl and set aside. In large bowl, mix flour, shake mix, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add banana mixture slowly, and mix until just blended. Add more milk as needed. I added about 1/8 cup milk at the beginning of making pancakes, and as the batter sat as I made the first round, the batter thickened and I added some water. Heat pan on medium heat, add oil to pan, and cook those babies up, flipping once the glorious pancake bubbles appear.


These cakes are sweet enough on their own, from the banana and the stevia in the shake mix, but your topping of choice would only sweeten the deal even more. This recipe fed me well for two mornings.


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