Waymon

Chicago native in Seattle. Proud dad, sports junkie, & casual gamer with a passion for open water swimming, being outdoors, the occasional cigar & enjoying life as much as possible.

Homepage: https://waymonwilkerson.wordpress.com

Life in Ephemeral Moments

Continuing on with this theme of social media and moreover, life and technology today. All of these enhancements have made our daily lives that much more easier, that much more entertaining, and that much more…constricted. Bear with me. In the world we live in today, so many people spend so much time micromanaging their time through social media outlets or outlook calendars, they sometimes miss out on being present in the moment.  Or even more shocking, these outlets become a giant timesink where nothing ever gets accomplished due to arguing with random strangers on the internet or getting lost in Wikipedia / Cracked articles.

I find it interesting how our perception of time has changed over the generations and how we handle life moments. It seems we’re moving further and further into a space where everything just shy of  (or in some cases does) intimate moments.  There’s always a mobile phone somewhere ready to record and upload anything. That or someone’s always on the run barely ever taking a moment to take in the air and smell the roses. It’s kind of scary. Being that way appears to be very disconnected, superficial, and not fully aware of how significant certain moments can be.  Or sometimes, you just need to be unplugged from the world.

For example, I’ve taken up more hiking and camping this summer.  When I’m out there, I cut my phone off.  Same for when I go to the gym: no phone, tablet, or any of that stuff.  It’s just one big distraction nor does help me focus personally.  And most importantly, when I’m with my son. I may take a photo or two at the request of his mom. But for the most part, I want my attention to be on him and having fun together.  I want to be in the moment with him. I hope he comes to have this same kind of appreciation within his own life. Life’s too short to be a slave to your precious work / life balance and back to back meetings, or stopping to virtually record everything.  Sometimes you just gotta drop what you’re doing and take in the air from time to time.  Otherwise, you’ll be that much closer to grave and have nothing to show for it other than a collection of photos and videos you hardly ever looked at again.  Seize your lives today people, seize your lives.

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Is Facebook or Twitter Worth Paying for?

Facebook and Twitter are estimated to be worth roughly $30 billion combined. That is a ridiculous amount of value for companies that provide what essentially appears to be a free service.  So just how do these billion dollar behemoths actually make money?  Well  it’s quite simple: advertising.  Companies and governments alike are practically tripping over themselves to secure an established foothold in the landscape. Given their breadth of services and ways to spread information so immediately and connect people together is priceless. But sometimes that kind of power comes at a price. Rumors and breaking news spreads so fast that it’s not uncommon for things to be missed in translation or people to feel duped over trivial market research / science experiments.

Among the biggest complaints that’s continuing to hound Facebook and Twitter is the increased amount of advertisement placements. However, when you think about it, this was bound to happen if these companies are adamant in keeping the service free. It’s basic economics: as the breadth of services and features increase, they’ll need more capital to sustain them and for continued growth. But let’s consider for a moment if they introduced a subscription based service to users. This isn’t an entirely foreign concept. LinkedIn has followed this route. They’ve drastically scaled back many of their extra features are now broken out on a tier based subscription basis.  Free users are left with just enough of the core features to make it worth holding on to your account.

I could see Facebook and Twitter following a similar route. The major difference being paid users would no longer see any ad placements, promoted tweets or spots in their timeline, etc.  Free users, on the other hand, would need to tolerate more ad placements and probably some scaled back messaging / communication reach.  Given how some people utilize Facebook, this may actually be worth their time. More over, advertisers could incentivize people based on the subscription status (further discounts, access to sneak peaks, etc.). It’s definitely an idea that’s at the very least being discussed and put through the paces on smaller scale affiliates before deciding if a mass rollout is viable.  So are these services worth paying? I guess it really depends on the user and their needs. But given the ease of scrutiny to follow one’s digital footpath, it may be better to cut bait sooner rather than later.

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My Cynical Dalliance with Social Media

Compared to many of my peers, my digital footprint is relatively large but my engagement has been minimal.  It’s a gift and curse in some ways.  On the one hand, it’s great to be connected to some of the venues as they can be a great source of valuable information immediately. But on the other hand, social media can be relentlessly malicious and ruin entire careers, let alone, someone’s life. It’s as though people lay in wait to public shame someone the first chance they get; however, this can often lead to them being reversed shamed themselves. In any case, we’ve all heard the countless stories of someone losing their job, marriage, or even their life due to some altercation involving Facebook, Twitter, etc.  To be honest, sometimes, it doesn’t shock me. In fact, I find incredibly bewildering that so many people become outraged when they hear companies such as Facebook, Google, etc. are monetizing via their data collection and surveying. It’s these very same people that more often than not, share of their life’s most intimate and personal details that are better left offline in the first place. It’s not so much ironic as it is hypocritical or flat out idiotic.  But I get it. People use social media in many different ways or whatever suits their needs.

For me, getting involved in it was purely a way for me to network with people in the industry I wanted to become part of.  And for the most part, it worked. I did end up meeting a lot of outstanding and like minded people.  But in hindsight, I do believe I spent far too much time than I cared for trying to network in certain circles than I cared to or even needed to.  But it didn’t land me my ultimate goal of landing the coveted dream job I had my eye on.  So again, it was a gift and a curse scenario; I met a ton of cool people but not the job.  Not to say I have any regrets about it. Because I’d much rather choose the friendships I picked up over the career job any day.  But as life progressed, my life’s goal have progressed and altered as well.  Now I really don’t have the time or desire to stay as connected to the world of places like Facebook and Twitter so much.  Time constraint aside, I’d rather be meeting and engaging with people in person or hanging out with my son.  The experience and joy you get from having a good time with friends and feeling will always trump any amount of likes and retweets someone gets, hands down.

I really have no stance on the issue other than what I know works for me. Many of peers work in customer facing roles, so it’s pretty critical for them to stay connected on a somewhat constant basis. And part me is jealous about that. Think how awesome (& grueling) it would be to get paid for spending 25%-50% of your day just doing Facebook / Twitter. It sounds like a great on the surface, but from a practical, everyday perspective; it’s a real grind, especially if you want to stay genuine. Not to mention how someone draws the line between their personal and professional engagements. That’s a headache I’d rather avoid altogether.  In any case, like many things in life, the power of social media more often than not is only as strong as the power you give. Yes, there are those occasional embarrassing moments that go viral, it happens. But do yourself (and your dignity) a favor by taking a moment think about that witty comment or peculiar picture / video you were gonna post.  Sometimes it’s better to let life happen in the moment and not try to capture it for the world to see.

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I’m So Chicago…

As often with Facebook, there’s been this trending post of “I’m so Chicago…” where people who’ve grown up in Chicago recall some of their on personal memories.  Most of these are generally revolved around defunct establishments (such as Funtown, Jew Town, etc.) or monumental periods in our history such as the 85 Bears or the Chicago Bulls Dynasty of the 90’s. After reading through some of the posts, I couldn’t help but feel a bit reminiscent for my hometown.  And that’s a really foreign feeling for me.

I haven’t been home to Chicago in over 12 years.  for reasons not delving into, going back home never appealed to me.  Not that I had a horrible childhood or anything, but I couldn’t e wait to get out of there.  In fact, I never really understood the whole idea of living your entire life in the same area you grew up in. I understand that’s how it works for many people but it never suited me.  Once I left, I never looked back til now. Sure, I miss my family, but they’ve always made it a point to visit me everywhere for the holidays. But the lousy hot and humid weather, the subzero winters, the immense crime, and  all that other nonsense. Yea, I have yet to have any reservations about leaving.

For the first time in a long time, these posts has a guy thinking back on all those moments growing up there. I’ve been talking about going home many times the past few years, but never made the trip for one reason or another. But one thing is for sure, it is long overdue. There’s too many places I need to so and people I’d love to reconnect with that doesn’t require Facebook or any other form of virtual communication. For all intents and purposes, Seattle is my home now. But Seattle and the PNW in general that sense of regional pride or connectivity. There’s a more superficial esthetic here.  It’s missing that sense of unitedness within the city. Regardless, Seattle is a lovely city that fits me and the direction my life is going. But Chicago is always going to be a very strong part of my identity. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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In The Land of Tech & Glumly

It was a beautiful summer day in Seattle today, sunny, comfortably warm, not humid, just perfect. But the cloud over Redmond was dark and gloomy. Coming hot off the rumor mill and confirmed now as fact, Microsoft will be eliminating up to 18,000 jobs. In some ways, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Generally speaking, whenever a new CEO comes onboard there’s usually a round of house cleaning. But in the case of Microsoft, it’s coming at yet another inopportune time.  And quite honestly, that’s been a repeating trend for the past few years now. So much so, Microsoft finds themselves in this constant state of flux with no real sense of direction or growth.

Let me jog my mind and provide a high level recap of just the past few years:

  • Surface: The major confusion between the difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro was such a mess they ended up discontinuing the Surface RT line within the year, taking a $900 million dollar bath.
  • Xbone: After being completely upstaged by Sony and the PS4 at E3, Microsoft essentially walks back their entire vision and strategy. Shortly thereafter, Don Mattrick (the head leader of Xbox driving this show) picks up and leaves the company altogether. Sales struggle initially until Microsoft finally listens to the public demand and strips out the Kinect 2 from the console. Sales actually doubled because of this move. Oh all those plans for branded shows and what not, forget about it.
  • Nokia Acquisition: While this acquisition went fairly smooth barring a few hiccups with the EU and India, the net loss for Microsoft was huge considering the poor sales of Nokia devices and those that were flat out discontinued in the process. In short, Microsoft is paying a lot more for this acquisition than what it was supposed to gain, especially in human capital with these layoff hitting mostly the folks in Finland.
  • CEO / Organizational Transition: Ballmer stepping down was years overdue, that’s not for debate. and say what you will about the guy, at least he was consistent and committed in leadership.  He didn’t cut and run when the chips were down and towed the line through thick and thin. But as a result, Microsoft hasn’t been as nimble as they needed to be.  But that’s likely to change with new leadership in place.

All of this adds up to Microsoft finding themselves in this constant loop of uncertainty. There’s a strong lack of committed direction or vision, and more over no real sense of personality. To coin an old American colonial term, Microsoft is very much a doughface. They’re being pulled and drawn in every other direction but their own, unlike their peers. But this state of flux presents Microsoft with a superb opportunity to attempt some major moves and innovative ideas instead of playing catchup. While everyone else is concerned about wearable tech and virtual reality devices, Microsoft is in a prime position to go in a completely different direction.

While this provides Microsoft a tremendous potential boon from an organizational perspective, this real collateral damage comes in the form of the discarded workforce. Having been on the unfortunate side of layoffs more times than I care to, I can empathize with these people. The anxiety and worrying of who’s safe or not, does not provide for a very effective nor focused working environment.  It’s not something I wish on anyone. For those that make it through the round of cuts, congratulations. Now it’s time for you to start making Microsoft a better place, a different place it’s been the past few decades. Put aside your ‘survivor’s guilt’ and shine. And for the unfortunate ones out there, this is not the end.  There is life after Microsoft. This is an opportunity to move on to something different, something better, or even the push you need to pursue that life passion of yours.  Regardless of wherever you land, just use the moment to start shining in your own way. Be kind to one another and just be awesome.

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The Day My Dog Died

Unless you’ve been avoiding the interwebs, chances are you’ve come across this article about this dog that was recently euthanized. I was drawn into it immediately since Duke looked exactly like my dog Maxx.  Like Duke, Maxx suffered from tumors that had aggressively grown around his heart. It was a tough call but it was decided it’d be in his best interest to end his suffering. I’ve never really spoken about the experience much; but like Duke, we made sure to make his last moments with us the best we could.

I held on to a lot of guilt for not being the best friend he needed, especially early on. All the walks and swimming we passed on, the missed sessions, etc. In spite of all that, he still loved me regardless and always happy to be by my side no matter what.  He always had this subtle playfulness that everyone loved. But those last few months, he lost that spark.  I chalked it up to old age. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Balling like an unconsolable babe practically on the floor, the good vet did her best to explain there was no way of knowing this could happen. These messed up things just happen sometimes.

By this point, Maxx could barely walk without hacking up gobs of bloody phlegm. Even the pain medicine the vet provided couldn’t cull his pain.  At this point, I contacted his ‘mom’ because the writing was clearly on the wall: He’s had enough. As a point of clarification, we did discuss euthanasia when I first learned of his condition. Now the procedure for euthanasia in veterinarian hospitals allows for loved ones to be present with their pet until they are in the deep sleep state.  After all the good byes and what not are done, they are wheeled off to a private area where the lethal injection is given.  In light of this knowledge, we thought it’d be best if his last days be with family and friends, not complete strangers.

 

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Drowning in Molehills

Apparently, wisdom comes with age. If that’s supposed to hold true, then how come it seems with every passing year I feel that much more distraught when faced with seemingly menial setbacks. Take this blog for example, I’ve made a pact to knock out a piece of writing for the better part of this year everyday regardless of its length or depth (or lack thereof) content. It’s only day two and I’m hit with the worst case of writer’s block yet. Sure, it’d be easy to just grab some random hot topic but I want to try to make these bits original.  But this little quandary has allowed me to look back on the past few years of my life in similar situations.  And shockingly, I’ve noticed a pattern that sometimes, I’ve made many more mountains out of molehills, some of which has derailed me from pursuits I was dearly earnest about. And that can be seen as a critical character flaw on my part.  No one likes the coward who cuts in run when there’s smoke in the air. It reeks of distrust, disloyalty, and ever other derogatory ‘Dis-‘ in the dictionary.

There is a silver lining hidden in this muck and mire. And it comes in the form of my son. There’s something about being a responsible and committed parent that (should) changes something in you. Having this new being in the world you’re responsible for really makes you reconsider what you’ve been doing with your life. You no longer are living for yourself. And you want to set the best possible example for them. And for me, that means showing my son that his dad has a ‘stick-to-it’-ness and doesn’t easily cut his losses when things are tough or doesn’t get his way. I hope at the very least he learns that chasing your dreams and passions is worth it, even if it means a bit of sacrifice or even failing miserably numerous times. It’s very rare in this life people know what they want out of life and even fewer that actually pursue them. And even if I fail, it’s my earnest desire that my son doesn’t let the molehills of life stop him from being a happy and productive member of this world he’s now part of and he breaks on through to the other side.

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Dusting Off the Cobwebs…

Yea, yea, yea, I know! I’ve been MIA for quite a while. Well, there’s no legit reason for that other than I let my writing responsibilities go to the way side and had to focus on other things in my life. Most notably: being a dad to my baby boy.  But that’s not all that’s happened since we last left off.  It’s your basic garden variety of life cliches: learning how to be a responsible adult and raise a child, a death in the family, a few romances and few heartbreaks, new relationships, new jobs, new friendships, new adventures, some successes and some failures, some dreams died and some dreams changed completely.  In spite of all of that, the spirit of Maxx has been nagging away at me to carry on his spirit. He wants me to continue chasing my own birds. On that note, I’m gonna try some things in the near future. I’m not sure how it’ll turn out and it most likely won’t be pretty; but I need to follow it through to the end for once and see what happens. I don’t want to say anything until I actually produce it. Until then, be awesome and keep chasing your own birds.

 

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Retrospective: The Last of Us

Ellie & Joel

Courtesy of justpushstart.com

Initially, I had doubts Naughty Dog would be able to break away from the framework they established with the ‘Uncharted‘ series. Although the series is a massive success, it was  becoming old hat. But their latest entry, ‘The Last of Us‘, showcases an amazing depth of what Naughty Dog can deliver. What Naughty Dog crafted here is, hands down, one of the best gaming experiences this generation. Everything from the character and level design, UX/UI interface, story presentation, and so on just shines. But most of the chatter around this game circles around one major aspect, the ending. If you completed the game, then you know know it  was nothing short of shocking. As a forewarning, this post will contain heavy spoilers though out. Do NOT read any further if you have not completed the game.

Courtesy of Videsor.com

Courtesy of Videsor.com

I appreciate and love that Naught Dog did not give us game built entirely on conventional themes or cookie cutter characters. This is a look at an early dystopia and there no heroes or bad guys. There are no happy endings. For all loses, Joel is clearly not a ‘good’ man. He’s not even close to being a disgraced or fallen hero. Even at the onset of the game, he’s shown to be a very selfish individual. In the very beginning while driving through town, they see a family trying to flag them down for help. But Joel forcefully insists that his brotherTommy keep driving and leave them. Even his daughter Sarah makes a minor quibble about this. After surviving an ambush, Ellie asks Joel how he knew they entered an ambush and if he killed any ‘innocent’ people. Dryly, Joel responds he’s been on both sides of the situation regarding her former question and leaves it up to her decided regarding the latter. Most of his motivations are shown to be in his own self-interests, even to the very end. In another instance, Joel and Ellie partner up with another lone wolf and cub duo by the names, Henry and Sam.  During a pursuit by some hunters, Joel is suddenly cut off from the group. A flustered Henry hesitates, but fails to see any immediate solution. Henry then leaves Joel and Ellie to fend for themselves. This example is played out many times throughout the game. Regardless of who these people were in the old world has little relevance here, what matters is survival. In short: ‘good’ people are sometimes forced to make ‘bad’ decisions given the situations they’re put in.

This game is just chockfull of these kind of humanistic moments.There’s one touching scene between Ellie and Sam where she gives me a toy robot he had to leave behind. This is off set by the next morning where it’s revealed Sam is infected and is by by his brother, Henry.  The grief of which drives him to commit suicide right there. I call out this scene for a few reason.  One, this is a perfect example of how well Naughty Dog is able to convey human emotions and moments flawlessly. And second, they display a keen attention to detail. Before this event occurs, your group is in a toy store where Ellie will stand next to the robot. Proceed to the next section but don’t go through the door just yet. Turn around and look at Ellie, the toy robot will be gone. This kind of attention to detail and continuity is what makes this game memorable. If there were any protagonists in the game, it would be Ellie. Despite seeing the world fall into madness, Ellie still maintains an air ‘innocence’ (and I say that ever so slightly). Her teen sensibilities and child-like nature provides the perfect balance to Joel’s gruff nature.  But unfortunately, she’s never really given a true moment to be the “hero” of the game aside from saving a dying Joel. Who, arguably, may not be worth saving in the first place.

The Final Confrontation

Courtesy of Kotaku

But that’s the real question: who’s worth saving in the first place? Joel and Henry briefly discuss how quickly people turned on each other when the infected begin to spread. On one hand, it’s easy to empathize with Marlene’s perspective. The key to humanity’s survival potentially lies with Ellie (more specifically, within her brain). We learn that Marlene has essentially raised Ellie from a young age after the death of her biological mother. And the choice to sacrifice her does not come lightly but she believes it is for the greater good. In contrast, Joel has never quite come to terms with the death of his own daughter Sarah. But the journey with Ellie, has softened him into viewing her as his adoptive ‘daughter’. There was no way Joel could endure that kind of loss again, humanity be damned. It’s interesting how both Joel and Marlene are surrogate parents to Ellie; yet they both have their own agendas in mind. There’s also some eerily Messianic ties in this dynamic.  Would you sacrifice your only ‘child’ for the greater good of man no matter how far they’ve fallen? For Marlene, begrudgingly Yes. For Joel, Hell No! Ultimately, it was not a decision for either of them to make. It should have been Ellie’s choice.  Granted, laying the fate of humanity at the feet of a child is extremely messed up in itself. But it’s still a decision that belonged to Ellie, not her ‘parents’. Joel was right about one thing: Marlene would never stop hunting them. Obviously, that’s no sound justification for killing her, but it is a fairly accurate assumption given Marlene’s demeanor.  In the end, it’s clear Ellie knows something doesn’t add up with Joel’s explanation of what happened. Part of me even believes that Ellie realized later on that she was going die to help develop a cure, but played along as a comfort to Joel. What is clear is their relationship going forward is standing on some serious rocky ground.

In closing, a big round of applause and bravo to Naughty Dog for delivering such an outstanding masterpiece. I love this game so much that I truly hope they opt NOT to make a sequel. I’d welcome the planned DLC, but the game itself is perfect as a stand alone title, moral ambiguity and all. What do you think?

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Should Nintendo Exit the Console Market?

Courtesy of IGN

Courtesy of IGN

 

When it comes to consoles, Nintendo just hasn’t been able to find their footing this past generation. Despite strong initial sales, the system was a flop. And if the Wii U sales continue to struggle, it may see the same premature fate. But when it comes to portables, sales skyrocket and stay strong, as is the case with the Nintendo 3DS.  So it begs the question: Why does Nintendo have such a difficult time emulating the success of their handhelds to their consoles?

CEO Satoru Iwata blames the disappointing sale on Nintendo’s lax marketing efforts. Which bears a bit of truth as many gamers perceived the Wii U as merely an accessory that complimented the regular Wii or an upgraded Wii, not as an entirely new console.  More over, Nintendo failed to communicate the value properties of the Wii U and how it would benefit consumers.  Even at rock bottom price cuts haven’t helped invigorate sakes. But there’s more to the story that Nintendo just can’t seem to admit to themselves. And that simple truth is this: in spite of Nintendo strong innovations, they don’t produce content that attract steady consumers.

This is the same enigma that plagued the Wii. Nintendo failed to produce content that connected with the mass appeal (hardcore gamers or the casual crowd who suddenly an interest in the Wii and gaming). Make no mistake about it, from a pure financial perspective, the Wii was a success and dominated sales charts for many years. During this same time, the Gameboy Advance and DS sales were rock solid without cannibalizing each other. Today, that dynamic isn’t happening with the Wii U and 3DS.  While console numbers were phenomenal, actual games sales were a different story.

The generation that grew up on a steady stream of Mario games and other Nintendo icons is becoming older. And as gamings has evolved, they’ve have embraced other icons from different platforms from Halo’s Master Chief, Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, and so on.  As that spectrum grows and fragments in itself, Nintendo’s relevance in the market becomes that much more challenged. Nintendo shows unwavering commitment to their content, even to this day.  There’s no denying that Nintendo produces stellar titles like clockwork.  But the reality is that Nintendo can no longer rely on the financial success of Mario and Zelda titles.

Putting out the Wii U was extremely pre-mature given their poor standing in the market. Most likely, Nintendo’s aim was to capitalize on the success of the Wii. And Nintendo knew where their shortcomings were.  What they didn’t anticipate was alienating themselves further from hardcore gamers and casual users which we’re seeing now with disastrous Wii U sales. Given where the console war is headed, the Wii U appears to have already lost. Even 3rd party publishers are keeping the WiiU on hold. Compared against the competition: Wii U is underspeced, 3rd party support is minimal, and the games still lack the mass appeal addressed earlier. Let’s be clear: the problem isn’t Nintendo’s games but the platform on which those games are produced. If Nintendo wants to stay ahead of the pack, they need to play to their strengths more, and that’s handhelds.

Let’s play devils’ advocate. Instead of throwing more capital and resources in a losing war, Nintendo could bow out of the console race and redirect focus to the handheld space and develop games on other platforms be it console and / or mobile. That may seem blasphemous to many hardcore fans. But no one would have predicted ever seeing Sonic the Hedgehog exclusively on a Nintendo console either. This sort of transition would allow their games to reach an even larger audience. Additionally, dedicating more assets to the mobile / digital space could lead way to more innovations Nintendo is known for.  Not only could Nintendo extend their control of the handheld market; they could start dabbling with other mobile devices / partners. The possibilities for expansion in the mobile market are endless and fits some areas of Nintendo’s wheelhouse.

Obviously, Nintendo is not leaving the console market anytime soon, nor should they. The original Wii is still selling at a somewhat moderate rate, believe or not. And despite the Wii U’s failings, I have no doubt Nintendo has another console in the works to stay current with the competition. I do fear however that if Nintendo doesn’t find it’s footing in this coming generation, they really could be forced in a position where it only make sense for them to get out the race. Sometimes, that’s the only way to stay in play. Just look at Sega.

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