Upcoming performances in Warren, Tiverton, Providence

mcdaid_gigs_jan_2017.jpgHere's the details on my upcoming gigs in Warren, Tiverton, and Providence. I'll be playing a set of original folk tunes (and at AS220, a brand new song written for the occasion!) There's a venue for every part of the state and schedule — both weekinights and weekends. Hope to see you there!

Thanks to Don Tassone of Mediator Stage for the photo!

Friday, January 27
Church Street Coffeehouse Open Mic
Doors open at 7pm with open mic for about an hour with the 40-min feature starting ~8pm
First United Methodist Church
25 Church Street, Warren RI
$2 cover, pass the hat for feature
Coffee, water, snacks available
venue | map

Tuesday, January 31
Sandywoods Open Mic
Doors open at 7pm with open mic for about an hour with the 45-min feature starting ~8pm
Sandywoods
43 Muse Way Tiverton RI
No cover, pass the hat for feature
BYOB, BYOF
venue | map | directions

Saturday, February 4
RI Songwriters Sessions
RI Songwriters Association (RISA). Doors open at 8:30, 3 singer-songwriters each have a 30-min set
Brooklyn Coffee & Tea House
209 Douglas Ave Providence, RI
Suggested $5 cover
Coffee, tea, snacks available
venue | map | event info

Wednesday, Feb 8
RISA Songwriters in the Round
RI Songwriters Association. Doors open at 7pm and four singer-songwriters each perform three songs, with the second one written in the last month on the theme "Time to face facts"
AS220
115 Empire St Providence, RI
$5 admission
Bar and food available
venue | map | event info

Want to check out and maybe download some tunes? Right this way...

RI State Sen. Jim Seveney gets committee assignments

President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-13, Newport, Jamestown) has appointed Sen. James A. Seveney (D-11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) to serve on the Senate Finance, Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs, and Education committees for the 2017-18 legislative session, according to a release distributed today.

The Finance Committee handles all matters relating to revenue, appropriations and taxes, while the Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs Committee considers legislation on matters relating to veterans’ affairs, constitutional amendments, liquor laws, gaming issues, laws relating to domestic animals, license plates, and commissions and resolutions.

The Senate Education Committee is responsible for oversight of all matters pertaining to public education.

Senator Seveney is a retired Navy officer. He graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1972, earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College in 1976, a master of science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990, and an MBA from Salve Regina University in 2005. His father, Gardiner F. Seveney, served four terms in the Rhode Island Senate, from 1979 to 1986.

He resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Valerie. They are the parents of two children, Sarah and Matthew.

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

Arisia schedule (Panels saturday night + filking)

arisia-icon-2017.pngThis weekend is my favorite sf con, the always awesome Arisia in Boston. It's got something for everyone — sf, fantasy, print, film, anime, cosplay, music, the whole waterfront. By coincidence, it's at the Westin Waterfront, right next to the convention center. It's a full weekend of delightful geekery with all of the region's fandoms. I wouldn't miss it for anything.

I'm on a couple of panels (I'll also likely be hanging out in the filk room late into the night.) If you're gonna be there, hope to catch up!

Saturday, 7pm
Another Look at the Bad Old Days
Hale (3W), 7pm - 8:15pm
Jonathan Woodward (moderator), James Hailer, Heather Urbanski, Sarah Lynn Weintraub, John G. McDaid
A lot of SF has aged very badly. A lot of it bore appalling elements even for its time. There's some usual suspects, but let's look at the older works of SF with awful elements as a whole. Is there anything worth looking for in those stories? Who deserves to make problematic fave among the problematic horde? Are there lessons that are relevant to modern readers and authors to be found among the stories that make us wince?

Saturday, 8:30pm
The Prisoner at 50: Be Seeing You
Douglas (3W), 8:30pm - 9:45pm
Mark L Amidon (moderator), John G. McDaid, Michael A. Burstein, Justine Graykin, Jared Walske
Fifty years ago, *The Prisoner* helped redefine the spy genre and bring various counterculture themes of the '60s to the forefront in a groundbreaking science-fiction show. Attempts at reboots -- an '80s comic and a 2010 AMC series -- have failed to capture any of the magic of the original. What keeps this classic show so popular after so many years, and where (beyond obvious tributes like The Simpsons) can we see its influence in pop culture today?

LTE: Rhode Islanders are "doers," says Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

The Rhode Islanders I know are doers—successful business owners, technology entrepreneurs, community advocates, and passionate educators. They know technology is part of our everyday life—online banking, GPS, email, Skype, search engines, even online dating. Every business, large or small, has a website, email, and a digital footprint. It’s how we do business.

Over the past three years, jobs have been unfolding in Rhode Island in technology, advanced manufacturing, Information Technology, nursing, healthcare, digital graphics, and computer science. These are STEAM jobs (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).

In five years, Rhode Island will have more than 4,000 jobs in computer science alone. So, let’s get our kids excited about jobs in the digital world. Rhode Island is the only state in the country to fund computer science (CS4RI) classes in grades K-12.

SENEDIA (Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance) is doing it. They’ve partnered with Real Jobs RI to develop internship programs for cybersecurity and undersea technology. They’ve developed an intensive cybersecurity training program with CCRI in Newport and this is an on-ramp to in-demand jobs in cybersecurity.

As co-chair of the Defense Economy Planning Commission, I’ll continue to support the Defense Sector. It generates $105 million in tax revenues for the state every year. In fact, the Defense Industry is the highest paying sector, with jobs averaging $94,000- $110,000. Recently, a public-private partnership at URI, Johnson & Wales, RIC and Bryant launched web development minors to prepare students for high paying jobs in software development.

Not every son or daughter is going to go to college. We also need electricians, plumbers and contractors to build things and get it done—on time and on budget. That’s why the PTECH (Pathways in Technology) pilot programs are so innovative pairing classroom work with real-world experience to succeed in a specific industry. On Aquidneck Island, SENEDIA (Defense Industry Trade Association) partners with Rogers High School on cybersecurity. In Westerly, Electric Boat teaches high school students to be welders and boat builders. EB has 1,000 jobs each year for the next several as Rhode Island builds submarines for the US Navy.

Let’s continue to educate and train our workforce so they can cash those paychecks earned (and spent) here in Rhode Island. Johnson & Johnson, a Fortune 25 company specializing in information technology and data analytics, plans to open its new health technology center in Rhode Island with 75 high-skilled positions. Wexford Innovation Center is creating jobs in our state from construction to computer science. Virgin Pulse, which recently bought a Rhode Island company ShapeUp, is expanding its operations in Rhode Island creating 300 jobs.

Rhode Island has always been, and will continue to be, a state of innovators and doers—from the spinning wheels at Slater Mill to the spinning turbines off Block Island. This country’s first off-shore wind farm, the Block Island Wind Farm, is a powerful example of the state’s long-standing commitment to innovation and getting things done.

Rhode Island is home to world-class beaches, parks, and trails, but Rhode Island must also be home for innovators, entrepreneurs, and just plain doers. So, let’s get it done.

​​###

Representative Deborah Ruggiero- District 74 Jamestown/Middletown, is chairwoman of House Committee on Small Business and serves on House Finance.

RI Progressive Dems slam Invenergy Woonsocket water bid

ri_progdem.pngThe Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America announced their opposition to the potential water sale from Woonsocket to Invenergy, a Chicago based company proposing to build a fracked gas power plant known as the Clear River Energy Center. In a statement released late Wednesday, RIPDA also called for all RI Progressive Democrats to oppose the sale of water to Invenergy and to ask the Woonsocket City Council to oppose the pending sale as well.

The RIPDA Executive Board unanimously approved the opposition stating that the project is “not in the best interest of Woonsocket, northern Rhode Island, the state or the region. The potential sale of water to Invenergy will provide little to no benefit to the state or the region and may exacerbate existing drought conditions, produce higher potable water treatment costs, as well as increase health issues for those residents in the all along the Blackstone River watershed. Environmental injustice burdens small towns that don’t have the financial means to fight against well financed companies like Invenergy.” RIPDA also believes that the potential sale of water would reduce water flow and harm the existing and growing interest in the development of hydro systems which depend on a steady flow of water.

“In a time where alternative energy production sources are flourishing, to add a fracked gas power plant, destroy over 200 acres of second growth forest in an area hailed by environmentalists from all over New England is unconscionable. There is no substitute for clean drinking water or environmental diversity. This one power plant, according to Invenergy’s application submitted to the RI Energy Facility Siting Board on October 29, 2015, will use up to “one-million gallons of water” every day for the forty year life span of the power plant. Recent claims by Invenergy reduce the water consumption to as little as twenty-five thousand gallons per day. So we really don’t know how much water will be used by the power plant,” said Lauren Niedel, Deputy State Coordinator for RIPDA.

It is estimated that nearly 2 tanker trucks would cross the 17 miles every 6 minutes during a 12 hour time period, creating extra fiscal and environmental burdens on the region, a degradation of Woonsocket’s and North Smithfield’s roads, an increase of air and noise pollution and traffic congestion. The increase in particulate matter from both the fossil fuel power plant and the diesel fuel tanker trucks would worsen existing high asthma and other respiratory illnesses in the region. Woonsocket is one of  four “core cities” defined by the Rhode Island Department of Health where hospitalizations for asthma occur higher than state averages.

In addition RIPDA is in full support of the resolution by the  Burrillville Town Council opposing the siting of the power plant. The town already is home to a fossil fuel burning power plant - Ocean State Power - a gas compressor station owned by Enbridge Energy formally Spectra Energy and additional fossil fuel infrastructure. “This is a regional issue spilling over into Thompson, CT, Uxbridge, MA and elsewhere in those two states,” says Niedel.

RIPDA points to the Resilient Rhode Island Act and views the proposed fracked gas power plant as a direct contradiction to this 2014 Rhode Island law.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

RI authors join nationwide "Writers Resist" event

WritersResistOn January 15, 2017, the date of Martin Luther King’s birth, more than a dozen Rhode Island authors will join writers at 70 events across the United States and worldwide, coming together for Writers Resist: Rhode Island, a “re-inauguration” of mercy, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy.

#WRITERS RESIST: Rhode Island will take place on January 15, 2017 at 2pm in the DiStefano Lecture Hall at Newport’s Salve Regina University. Hosted by Salve's Writer in Residence, Jen McClanaghan, the event will bring together a diverse group of Rhode Island writers, including Karen Boren, Adam Braver, Tina Cane, Mary Cappello, Darcie Dennigan, Theo Greenblatt, Christopher Johnson, Erica Mena, Julie Danho O’Connell, Patch Tseng Putterman, Kate Schapira, Susannah Strong and more.

A short reading will be followed by an open forum/open mic.There will also be a fundraising raffle for a local charity, but the event is free and open to the public.

Simultaneous Writers Resist events will happen in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Austin, Portland, Omaha, Seattle, London, Zurich, Hong Kong, Singapore and many more cities. The Manhattan event, to be held on the steps of the New York Public Library, is co-sponsored by PEN America and features some of the best-known writers in America.

These worldwide events originated from a recent Facebook post by poet Erin Belieu, co-founder of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Belieu challenged writers to organize to reclaim democracy, which led to the Writers Resist organizer’s forum now boasting over 2,000 members, out of which over 70 events rapidly emerged that feature countless prominent literary voices. Belieu believes the events are a first step in focusing public attention on the ideals of a free, just and compassionate society. “This is only a starting point in raising our voices in defense of democracy," said Belieu.

Writers and interested public who want to attend can visit writersresist.org for a list of cities and contact information for local organizers.

Writers Resist is a national network of writers driven to #WriteOurDemocracy by defending the ideals of a free, just and compassionate democratic society. Links: Facebook, Twitter.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Sen. Jim Seveney sworn in as General Assembly convenes

RI State Senator James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 3, as the 2017-18 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator Seveney was one of 4 new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 38 Senate members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with a program of activities that included the re-election of Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) as President of the Senate. Elected to the post in January 2009, President Paiva Weed began her fifth two-year term today with an address to the Senate members and other assembled officials and guests.

Senator Seveney is a retired Navy officer. He graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1972, earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College in 1976, a master of science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990, and an MBA from Salve Regina University in 2005. His father, Gardiner F. Seveney, served four terms in the Rhode Island Senate, from 1979 to 1986.

He resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Valerie. They are the parents of two children, Sarah and Matthew.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

RIDEM issues deadline, threatens fines in Portsmouth landfill capping

Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 11.21.47 AM.pngThe clock is ticking for the company capping the old landfill in Island Park. Yesterday, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management issued AP Enterprise a "Notice of Intent to Enforce" for allegedly failing to complete the work in the timeframe specified in their original agreement, according to an e-mail sent to interested parties by RIDEM's Mark Dennen. Here's what Dennen said:

"[W]hen the site did not complete closure by the September 2016 deadline, it was referred to our Office of Compliance and Inspection for Enforcement Action. That Office has issued the attached action regarding the site."

The attached Notice of Intent to Enforce (NIE) demands a written response in 15 days, and requires that the capping work be completed within 180 days of receipt of the notice. It goes on to note:

"If respondent promptly and satisfactorily complies with the requirements of this NIE, then DEM may decide to forego the assessment of administrative monetary penalties. Continued non-compliance, however, will result in the issuance of a Notice of Violation and Order, which will include the assessment of an administrative penalty, which may be as high as $25,000 per violation for each and every day that violation continues to exist."

Read the full Notice of Intent to Enforce here.

The sad farewell of Brian Edwards

2016-12-06 11.36.24 HDR.jpg
Chris and Mike at Brian's grave. Click to embiggen.

It's a cold, raw afternoon in Loomis Hill Cemetery outside Syracuse. A middle-aged woman parks a dark blue SUV near a tin-roofed gazebo and approaches the two men standing by a casket.
"Are you family?" she asks. "I saw the hearse pulling into the cemetery with no cars following it, and I said to myself, 'Nobody should be buried alone."
"We're just friends," I say. "His name was Brian. Brian Edwards." I offer her my hand. "John."
"Sheila."
"Sheila, thank you so much for stopping." At this point, I had to turn away; I had something in my eye.

Death is disorienting. There's always that moment where you scan the subject line in the e-mail, see the caller ID from a friend at an odd hour, and suddenly your timeline bifurcates into pre- and post. I don't think it's the dying who see their lives flash before their eyes. That's just projection. It's those left behind who begin to wander mentally, like Billy Pilgrim or Dr. Manhattan, through an ensemble of flickering moments, emerging from the rubble of Dresden, remembering a cold glass of beer amid the strangeness and charm...

Brian Edwards died "at home" on November 16. Having no fixed address and no living relatives, the Onondaga County Medical Examiner did their best to find someone to contact. Finally, they put a death notice in the Post Standard and scheduled interment at the Loomis Hill Cemetery, the burial place of last resort. The process is documented thoroughly and clinically on the Department of Social Services web site.

It is just before 11am on Tuesday, December 6, and I'm standing in the cemetery with Chris Doherty. This is clearly an indigent facility; no gate, no office. No staff. We have to call the funeral home to be sure we’re in the right place. The whole north end has no headstones, only tiny metal name plaques, flush with the ground. The last row is freshly turned earth dotted with green plastic frames, each containing a name. There's a tin-roof rectangular gazebo with a church truck partly unfolded beneath. Next to the road sits an uncovered outer interment receptacle with its lid on the ground a few feet away. An empty concrete shoe box. Two roller bars span the open shell.

Funeral director Matt Klinger from the Frazier-Shepardson funeral home pulls up in a late-model hearse, climbs out, approaches us.
"Are either of you Brian Edwards' brother?" he asks.
We tell him we're not, just friends. He offers condolences, retreats back to the hearse where four of the guys from the cemetery crew have appeared to hoist out the pale blue fiberboard coffin.
"Over there?" one of the guys indicates the gazebo.
"No, just here." Klinger points to the concrete liner where they roll the casket to a stop.

It is May 9, 1981, and I'm sitting with Brian and Tom Boyce outside the Carrier Dome, yelling "US guns killed US nuns" as Secretary of State Al Haig is given an honorary doctorate at commencement. We had just busted our knuckles raw hauling a keg of beer down from the house many of us shared on Clarendon Street to support the protesters. We set up at the back of the physics building and began pumping. It being the 1980s, the police were remarkably restrained, simply telling us to stay out of the way of foot traffic. Brian had to run down to M Street to resupply cups when we ran low. We sat on the ledge at the back of the building, chanting and dispensing refreshment until now-Doctor Haig was bundled up in his limo and whisked off.

It is sometime in 1980, and I'm with Brian and a gang of our friends in the front row of Gifford Auditorium, watching the all-night Ape-A-Rama. In the days before Netflix, DVDs, or VHS, the University Union Film Series was the way you could see movies, and we were part of the crowd that hung out and watched them. All of them. The programming was wildly eclectic, with Syracuse debuts of foreign features cheek-to-jowl with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Head, and The Stunt Man. On this evening, we had settled into the front row with a carefully concealed case of Schmidts to watch all five of the original Planet of the Apes films. It was about three in the morning when someone got on the stage to sheepishly announce that the distributor had sent the wrong film. Instead of "Battle for the Planet of the Apes," the film cases contained a print of "Rabbit Test." I remember watching Brian laugh hysterically at things that I don't think the filmmakers intended.

It's the night before the burial, and Chris and I are at Mike Schafer's house north of Syracuse, on a soggy isthmus between a lake and a swamp. Mike is a musician and one of the founders of the post-punk/grunge/noise band "Mechanical Sterility." Brian used to do lead vocals (and I sat in occasionally) back in the early 80s. His house is pleasantly stuffed with books, toys, 20,000 records, and an enormous range of musical instruments (there are entire milk crates of "untuned" and "tuned" toy instruments, something Spike Jones would appreciate.) We sit in his living room, jam desultorily on our old standards, and talk about Brian. Mike hadn't seen him in a while. He'd been trying to keep Brian connected, picking him up for a weekend so that he could shower, sleep in a bed, and have a couple of square meals every few weeks. The rest of the time he was living behind stores, on benches, in a nest where the reporters from Syracuse.com found him, or sometimes in a crack house with street friends. Not a situation that seemed to have any future to it.

Brian was one of those "nonstudents" who hang around a university, much more common I suspect in the late 1970s than these days. He came into our group through science fiction, frequenting a used bookstore that Chris ran on Geddes Street downtown. That plugged him into the campus sf group that used to get together and watch the original "Battlestar Galactica." I first recall meeting him in 78 or 79, probably at some sf film in Gifford, maybe "Dark Star" or "Silent Running." He was smart, funny, always carried a sketchbook (as many of us did in those days before smart phones) and liked the same stuff. Over the next few years, we hung out, jammed, wrote stories, used whiteout to repurpose comic books, recorded tapes, created weird art, listened to the Grateful Dead, lay in Thornden Park watching the stars rotate around the Earth, and generally did stuff which I'm glad is not recorded on social media.

But then there was a commencement and Al Haig, and some of us moved on.

Brian, well, did not.

I remember looking at a line he had copied down in a sketchbook, "I promised I would drown myself in mystic heated wine." It's from a Doors song, "Yes, The River Knows." Folks may think it's Jim Morrison, but was actually written by Robby Krieger, who admitted in an interview that he was channeling that dark, nihilist vibe that runs through Morrison's stuff. And while Brian was a wide-eyed optimist (his favorite song was Lennon's "Imagine") he was ill prepared for the grim meathook realities of the 1980s. He struggled with inner demons that he never spoke about but which showed up in his artwork. And I think it’s fair to say that he had a complicated relationship with alcohol and other substances. In many ways, he was both Jim Morrison and Syd Barrett. Inventive, clever, and wry, but somehow not quite a match for the rigged game where we all find ourselves, for better or worse, playing cards dealt by an invisible hand.

It is sometime in 1983. I am jamming with Brian and Mike in his apartment on 109th Street in New York. Most of our crew had moved to New York City, as one did in those days when one was young and looking for work in creative fields. We are riffing on Lennon's "Oh, Yoko" making up new lyrics about Ronald Reagan. Brian is side-splittingly funny. There may be a cassette tape somewhere. But as Mike says the day before the burial, "Man, we used to buy such cheap tapes. Four for a dollar. If we'd just spent more on the tapes, we could actually listen to them now." Such is time and technology and crisis of capital. Brian only has enough money to stay in New York for a few months. Bouncing around Manhattan filling out job applications. On the day he's already planned to move back to Syracuse, an offer at a video store finally comes through. But it's too late, he's already committed to leave.

Matt Klinger looks at his watch. It's 11am. He stands at the head of the casket and reads a committal service prayer from a small, stapled pamphlet, then looks significantly at us. I reach out, touch the cool blue cardboard and recite a bit from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. "Follow the Clear Light." Chris mumbles something that I don't catch. Then we both take a few steps back, looking away, not catching each other's eyes, which are leaking.

"This is as far as we can go," says Klinger. "The cemetery workers will take it from here."

And they do. Chris and I retreat to our cars, parked on a gravel swale just west of the gazebo, as the workers slide straps under the coffin and lower it into the concrete container. They bring in a backhoe, which picks up the lid and hoists it into position. Then they spread a sling around the vessel, two loops, one lowered over each end, secured only by friction, and pick up the entire ensemble for the short trip up the road to Section M, Row 1, Grave 25. The backhoe lowers Brian into the grave.

The years after Brian moved back to Syracuse had ups and downs. For a while, several of our gang would head up to Mike's house and jam. I was off in the world of full-time jobs, never had the time to get there. I'd listen to the tapes that Mike sent, full of weird music and Brian's infectious laugh. Then the first decade of the 21st century took its toll on the group. Our friend Tavis, who played kick-ass lead guitar, drowned in a rip current off a south Jersey beach. Was that an inflection point? It hit us all hard. Mike’s ex, Mary, also a vibrant, clever writer, passed away. It’s September 26, 2009, and I’m standing with our friends at the surfline of Coney Island. Mary loved the dilapidated charm of the boardwalk, the delightful dive vibe of Ruby’s, being in the Mermaid Parade. We are tossing roses into the ocean.

The backhoe has finished filling in the grave and now repositions to smooth out the fresh earth.

Mike drives up. He's had trouble finding the cemetery and couldn't reach us on our cell phones. He's wearing a long black coat. "I went through my closet trying to find something, and finally put this on," he said, "And when I looked in the mirror, I heard Brian saying, (imitates commercial announcer voice) 'What the well-dressed man is wearing to funerals this year.'"

It is, truly, exactly what Brian would have said.

RIP Brian Jay Edwards

brian_photo.jpgBrian Edwards, one of my good friends from undergrad days at Syracuse University, passed away last month. I only heard from friends this afternoon; the obit has no detail. The funeral will be this coming Tuesday. It's just awful.

Brian was amazingly creative with both words and images. He always carried a sketchbook, and drew clever cartoons and elaborate, trippy designs. When we'd all get together and jam, he'd sing, or verbally doodle lyrics in a style that few but Jim Morrison have pulled off successfully. He was clever and creative and always seemed like he was just about to laugh -- usually at something absurd in the world that he would gleefully point out.

He was a kind and gentle soul. His favorite song was Lennon's "Imagine." He could put that on repeat and sketch for hours.

Life threw some tough stuff at Brian, and Syracuse is a hard place to find work. Over the last few years, he didn't always have a place to live.

Our friend Steve Shapiro posted a slide show on YouTube featuring music by the band Mechanical Sterility that Brian used to play with back in the early 80s; that's him on vocals. (As the name might suggest, the sound is post-punk/noise/grunge, so content warnings and all...)

Brian was special person and a good friend. It's a poorer, sadder world without him in it. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

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