Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Friday 19 December 2014

Major announcement coming this afternoon. While prepping for that, however, I have cued up more things to read and one to watch:

And I found this classic Margo Guryan tune from 1968 that I can't get out of my head:

Friday 19 December 2014 09:44:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US#
Sunday 14 December 2014

I was a bit overloaded yesterday, so I didn't have time to absorb these articles thoroughly:

Even though I thought the 10 km walk Parker and I took two weeks ago was going to be our last really long one of the year, I didn't predict today's 9°C temperature forecast, so off we go on another one.

Sunday 14 December 2014 08:40:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Parker | US#
Wednesday 10 December 2014

I had a pretty good blog entry to post a couple of hours ago, and I forgot it totally. This is because I was wrestling a virtual machine to the ground because it had gone somewhere HTTP requests could not follow. I'd have posted about that nonsense, too, except the VM hosts The Daily Parker, you see.

I am therefore reduced to a link round-up, though this time I will embed, rather than link to, two of the things that people have sent me in the past day and a half:

  • I had an excellent dinner tonight.
  • Science writer Michael Hanlon thinks innovation peaked in 1973. I disagree, but I haven't got a rebuttal yet.
  • People in L.A. suspect that arsonists burned down one of the most anti-urban development projects ever thrust upon Americans.
  • My flight Sunday got delayed in part because of de-icing. Patrick Smith explains why this happens.
  • Chicago steak houses are suffering because the price of wholesale beef has shot up in recent days. I feel for them, I really do, but I also want to have a Morton's steak before year's end. Anyone want to join me?
  • Talking Points Memo has a timeline of the New Republic's self-immolation. I still mourn.
  • I got some personal news today that will make Daily Parker headlines when it's officially announced next week.
  • I'm staying up until 3am CET (8pm Chicago time) because I don't want to fall asleep at Euchre tomorrow. Just remember: the left bower is trump, you idiot.
  • A propos of nothing, I'm posting one of the best speeches by one of the worst characters in all Shakespeare:
    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

You have been patient, and have earned your reward. Here are your two videos, hat tip to reader MG:

And this, but you have to skip ahead to 37m 53s to get the point:

Wednesday 10 December 2014 02:10:14 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | World | Travel | Work#
Friday 5 December 2014

After Jack Conte got an ass-kicking by the Internet this week, he and Nataly Dawn posted two links to their defenders, who I think are correct:

As a tour manager, I have settled shows and handled finances for bands big and small. Some of these bands played the smallest and shittiest venues in the country, and some of them played arenas and the main stage at large festivals. I have slept on people's couches and had bands with big enough budgets to put their crew up at the Ritz. I have read a lot of the rebuttals regarding Pomplamoose and Jack Conte's article, and I have yet to hear from someone that is actually qualified to talk about life on the road. (Fuck you, Lefsetz). It is because of my experience that I feel entitled to say to the nay-sayers: Shut the fuck up.

They could have gone out on the road without a crew; lots of bands do that. But I have never in my life seen a band that headlines mid-level venues go on tour without at least a small crew. I am not talking about the band that goes out for a week to play shitty bar gigs up and down the West Coast. I am talking about an actual tour, where you have to take care of advancing, payroll, settling with promoters, babysitting support acts, and whatever else the day might throw at you. If you happened to be one of the people that thought the crew and band members were too much of an expense, then you likely have no clue what it's like to be on a tour — in which case I say shut the fuck up.

Writer Ari Herstand was more polite, but agrees:

Why did this surprise so many people, aside from the fact that there seemed to be a few expenses that were a bit high? It’s that the old guard is losing their power and prominence. They feel tall standing on these indie bands’ shoulders, chastising them, explaining how they could have done it better. But the thing is, Pomplamoose, and every other band growing up in the digital era, doesn’t need to be told how to ‘do it better.’ They’re figuring out what works for them. And what works for them won’t work for anyone else. Every band’s situation is personal and specific.

The real problem is, the major label system has a very cookie cutter formula for launching a career. They believe it takes at least $500,000 to break an artist. And when anyone challenges this formula (and actually starts to see some success) the old guard gets scared. However, the major label failure rate is 98%. Sure, the 2% become superstars, but what about the others? Instead of going for the lottery, craft a career that sustains. That makes sense for you.

Pomplamoose doesn’t need your approval. They and are making a fine, middle class income. They don’t need to be superstars to call themselves a success.

I'm on Conte's side here. Lots of people hate others' success more than their own failures. Conte's blog post attracted them the way picnics attract ants, and to similar effect.

Friday 5 December 2014 13:54:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business#
Wednesday 3 December 2014

We finished our business here in Baton Rouge last night, so I'm already chilling at the airport waiting for my (delayed) flight to Dallas. Had I taken the flight I booked originally, I'd get to our final Messiah rehearsal late, or missed it entirely. That would be bad.

The other problem with spending all day in meetings or airplanes yesterday: my FitBit numbers sucked. I went 27 days in a row getting more than 10,000 steps, and almost 40 days getting more than 9,000, but only got 7,500 yesterday. Pfah. Today at least I have the opportunity to park way over by our rehearsal space, which is almost 2 km from my office, and will get me at least 5,000 steps just walking to and from. There's also DFW Airport, where a simple connection can add 3,000 more steps to your day. I need the exercise, too, especially after last night's shrimp, grits, and Boudin balls, the latter of which I need to learn how to make.

Wednesday 3 December 2014 08:45:19 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 2 December 2014

Pomplamoose front-man and Patreon CEO Jack Conte published a blog post last week discussing the economics of touring musicians. I commented here, both as a fan of Conte's and as a supporter of Pomplamoose (including through Patreon).

Within a few days, music critic Bob Lefsetz accused Conte of fabricating his figures, and also of concealing his role with Patreon. Master click-bater Mark Teo piled on, Conte responded, and it's now a standard Internet catfight.

I don't see the ethical problem here. I do see that musicians and other artists who make it, unless they vault over the middle, hard-working part of their career right into multi-millions, often get accused of selling out.

More later, when I'm not about to board a flight...

Tuesday 2 December 2014 09:35:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Blogs | Business#
Wednesday 26 November 2014

In a revealing post, Pomplamoose's Jack Conte says not much:

Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business. In order to plan and execute our Fall tour, we had to prepare for months, slowly gathering risk and debt before selling a single ticket. We had to rent lights. And book hotel rooms. And rent a van. And assemble a crew. And buy road cases for our instruments. And rent a trailer. And….

We built the tour budget ourselves and modeled projected revenue against expenses. Neither of us had experience with financial modeling, so we just did the best we could. With six figures of projected expenses, “the best we could” wasn’t super comforting.

Add it up, and that’s $135,983 in total income for our tour. And we had $147,802 in expenses.

We lost $11,819.

They currently earn $6,371 per song or video through Patreon, the artist-patronage site Conte himself created. So he's not starving. But he and Nataly Dawn work around the clock making music.

I'm glad Conte is so transparent about it. I'm also glad to support him and Nataly on Patreon.

Wednesday 26 November 2014 10:00:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Monday 24 November 2014

This morning I commuted to work in drizzle, wind, and 9°C temperatures. In the five hours since then, the rain has turned to snow, the wind has turned to gale, and the temperature has dropped 10°C.

Welcome to Chicago in November.

The biggest casualty of this in my life may be my FitBit. I've hit my goal of 10,000 steps every day for the last nine, and gotten close (>= 9,000 steps) every day this month except one. Today, I may hit 10,000 steps, but only if I really push myself. In the cold. And snow. And win.

Could happen, though. I'm already past 5,000, and my car is parked more than 2 km from my office. So if the wind isn't blasting ice pellets into my face this evening, I'll walk to rehearsal and possibly hit 10,000 steps on the way.

Monday 24 November 2014 13:30:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather | Work#
Sunday 23 November 2014

A couple days ago I reviewed three logical fallacies that had come up with unusual frequency in my life over the preceding weeks. I wanted to add a few to the list.

An argument from authority (argumentum ad verecundiam) relies on the source's reputation rather than on evidence relevant to the argument:

  • "Mike Ditka recommends this product, so I should buy it too." (Mike Ditka knows a lot about how to coach a football team, but there is no evidence that he has any particular expertise around the product he's endorsing.)
  • "This class is valuable because business leaders believe it's valuable." (Even if the business leaders in question have specific knowledge about the class and may even have evidence that, in general, it's useful, they may not have information about you that obviates the class or renders it less valuable.)
  • "The President eats pork rinds, so they must be good for you.” (The speaker presents evidence only of the President's snack choices, not that pork rinds have any value in themselves.)

Also common is the (correct definition of) begging the question (petitio principii), in which an argument relies on itself instead of evidence:

Moe: "I always vote wisely."
Joe: "Why?"
Moe: "Because I always vote Republican."
Joe: "Why is voting Republican the wiser choice?"
Moe: "Because it just is."

Finally, the classic material fallacy of after this, therefore because of this (post hoc ergo propter hoc, also known as "correlation is not causation"):

  • "I know that breaking a mirror brings bad luck, because my cousin broke a mirror one day and had a car accident the next." (There is no clear causal chain between the events; they are essentially random.)
  • Superstitions are often manifestations of this fallacy.

The teaching materials I put together back in the day got a little more advanced, but I'm proud to report that the juniors and seniors who went through the lessons understood it and were able to apply it to the rest of the history class I assisted with. I may post more of them in the next few days.

Sunday 23 November 2014 10:57:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 20 November 2014

Yes, I'm actually in training this week that is required of everyone at my level. This morning we did an exercise on meeting planning. Our table came up with the following responses to the "Meeting Expectations/First Five Minutes" part:

  • Show appreciation for the meeting: "Mr. Wirtz, thank you for taking some time to meet with me today."
  • Confirm available time for meeting: "You mentioned you had about 15 minutes this morning. Is that still the case?"
  • Offer a look back...how did we get here? "As you will recall, yesterday we discussed releasing my godson from the personal service contract he has with you, in exchange for $10,000 in cash."
  • Briefly state the goals / objectives for the meeting: "I was hoping that we could revisit that conversation today, and that you would reconsider your position."
  • Agenda: "To help us meet these goals, I thought the following agenda might help us. First, I will make you an offer you can't refuse, and second, you will sign the release my attorney has prepared."
  • What other areas to be covered? "I assure you, if you do not consider my offer, you will cover the release in a personal and compelling way."
  • Brief introductions of...
    • Your firm's capabilities: "I am not sure you know about my organization, but perhaps I could provide a brief overview."
    • Your team/colleagues in the meeting: "Let me introduce you to my colleague, Luca Brasi."
  • Have a few "Killer Questions" that initiate dialogue: "Now that you understand Luca's role in this meeting, would you please sign this release now?"
  • Listen, be present, and probe; be "sincerely curious" in your follow-up questions: "I insist that this is the best offer you will ever receive from me, and I am eager to learn your position on it immediately."
  • Begin to wrap up with a few minutes remaining: "Thank you for your time. I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement so quickly."
  • Summarize what you have heard: "I understand that you are also pleased with the outcome, and that $2,000 is a sufficient release fee, as we have just agreed."
  • Define specific next steps and, if appropriate, schedule follow-up meeting: "You will very likely not see me again, but I assure you, if a subsequent meeting is needed, perhaps because you have discussed this meeting with your colleagues or the Attorney General, Mr. Brasi will follow up with you in a timely and decisive fashion."

The other scenarios we batted around the table were more, ah, risqué, to say the least.

Thursday 20 November 2014 10:35:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Work#

Mayor William Ogden inaugurated the Galena & Chicago Union R.R. on this date in 1848:

In the fall of 1848, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad began laying track. On November 20, a group of distinguished citizens boarded Chicago’s first train. They sat on wooden benches in a pair of crude baggage cars, pulled by a wood-burning steam engine. Ogden gave the signal, and they chugged off at a breath-taking fifteen miles-per-hour. In a half-hour they reached the end of track, eight miles out on the prairie, in what is now Oak Park.

Ogden had provided the rides for free, as a publicity stunt. And it worked–the riders were enthusiastic. On the way back to the city, two of the passengers spotted a farmer driving a load of wheat and hides behind a pair of oxen. The passengers were merchants. They had the train stopped, bought the wheat and hides, and hauled in the railroad’s first load of freight.

The railroad evolved into the Chicago & North Western, and then got absorbed into Union Pacific in the 1990s. But it still runs down the same track along Lake Street—the right-of-way first laid out 166 years ago.

Thursday 20 November 2014 10:00:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 19 November 2014

Since we can't really see it in the middle of November in Chicago, here's what we're missing, sped up 58 times:

Wednesday 19 November 2014 06:56:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Astronomy#
Tuesday 18 November 2014

A couple of incidents recently got me to look up some teaching materials I created just after college to teach high-school students the basics of logical argument. Specifically, I wanted them to learn the names of basic logical fallacies to arm them against irrational persuasion (e.g., religion, politics, and advertisements).

The two most egregious arguments made in my presence within the past few days used arguments to pity and to the people, and in one case someone made an argument that a prima facie argument to force was, in fact, a meaningful choice. Here is what those terms mean, and how the arguments were made.

An argument to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam) is an appeal to your compassion rather than to your logic. It looks like this:

  • "These children are suffering; give us money to help them." (Giving the person money may not do anything to help the children; the appeal is trying to short-circuit your bullshit detector by making you feel bad for the kids.)
  • "Please don't give me a bad grade for this assignment, because bad grades will trigger my depression." (It's unfortunate that the student will feel down because of the grade; but that's not an argument in favor of a higher grade.)

An argument to the people (argumentum ad populi) is an appeal to your sense of belonging, or not wanting to be left out:

  • "Buy our product because all the cool kids have one." (The merits of the product and the cool kids' decision to buy it are completely separate concepts.)
  • "Four out of five people agree our gum tastes better." (Whether you find the gum tasty has nothing to do with anyone else's opinion.)

An argument to force (argumentum ad baculum) is an appeal to your self-preservation; it's a threat, not an argument:

  • "Clean your room or you're grounded." (There is no evidence about the benefits of cleaning your room, only a threat if you fail to clean it. The kids liked this example the best, I'm told.)
  • "Use our product if you don't want morning breath." (The advertiser shows a link between something he calls “morning breath” and the mouthwash, but does not define “morning breath.” Instead, he plays on the audience’s fear that “morning breath” will harm their social standing. Fear, in this case, is a force.)
  • Your grandmother says, "Eat this or I'll kill you." (She has not made an argument about the value of eating her food; she has made a threat, which is irrational. Also, if she were Jewish, she would have said "Eat this or I'll kill myself," which is also a threat of force.)

So, the person I overheard said, "Even if someone holds a gun to your head, that's still a choice." No, it's not; it's a mortal threat, which completely removes the possibility of choice.

I don't expect that people will refuse to make decisions based on these fallacies, but I have a fantasy that people will at least recognize that they are not rational arguments. Doing something on the basis of an irrational argument is, it follows, irrational. And people who learn to recognize these fallacies have a better chance of making rational choices instead.

Tuesday 18 November 2014 17:41:31 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 17 November 2014

A pretty Dutch village outside Amsterdam is really a nursing home for dementia patients:

Today, the isolated village of Hogewey lies on the outskirts of Amsterdam in the small town of Wheesp. Dubbed “Dementia Village” by CNN, Hogewey is a cutting-edge elderly-care facility—roughly the size of 10 football fields—where residents are given the chance to live seemingly normal lives. With only 152 inhabitants, it’s run like a more benevolent version of The Truman Show, if The Truman Show were about dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Like most small villages, it has its own town square, theater, garden, and post office. Unlike typical villages, however, this one has cameras monitoring residents every hour of every day, caretakers posing in street clothes, and only one door in and out of town, all part of a security system designed to keep the community safe. Friends and family are encouraged to visit. Some come every day. Last year, CNN reported that residents at Hogewey require fewer medications, eat better, live longer, and appear more joyful than those in standard elderly-care facilities.

There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility. Residents live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. Perhaps the most unique element of the facility—apart from the stealthy “gardener” caretakers—is its approach toward housing. Hogeway features 23 uniquely stylized homes, furnished around the time period when residents’ short-term memories stopped properly functioning. There are homes resembling the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s, accurate down to the tablecloths, because it helps residents feel as if they’re home. Residents are cared for by 250 full- and part-time geriatric nurses and specialists, who wander the town and hold a myriad of occupations in the village, like cashiers, grocery-store attendees, and post-office clerks. Finances are often one of the trickier life skills for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients to retain, which is why Hogewey takes it out of the equation; everything is included with the family’s payment plan, and there is no currency exchanged within the confines of the village.

What are the odds that something like that could happen in the U.S. health-care system? When they're ringing my curtain down, I want to move to the Netherlands.

Monday 17 November 2014 11:58:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | World#

And no, I didn't lose a bet.

Monday 17 November 2014 09:26:10 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Work#
Sunday 16 November 2014

I didn't even realize until just now I failed to post anything yesterday or today. I guess the weekend intervened. (Maybe the 18,000 steps I took yesterday had something to do with it.)

This coming week I'll be in all-day training from Tuesday to Friday, which may have some effect on posting. Or not, depending on how interesting the training is.

Sunday 16 November 2014 16:11:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Work#
Friday 14 November 2014

Damion Searls, writing for Paris Review, finds the link between language and the soon-to-be-extinct penny:

One thing we’ll lose, when the penny eventually goes the inevitable way of the half cent and the Canadian penny (extinct as of 2012), is the last possible link between our language of money and the everyday physical world.

A quarter is a fourth of a dollar, a dime a tenth (Old French dîme, Latin decima), a cent a hundredth or one percent—all math. Anyway, a cent is not a piece of money: a U.S. penny is technically a cent or one-cent coin, but in spoken language, a cent is a value and a penny is a coin. We offer someone our two cents, not two pennies; pennies can clink in your pocket, cents can’t. (When Americans adopted the British term penny in 1793, they took over the distinction, too: in England between pennies and pence.)

As for penny, its etymology is uncertain, though the ending implies a Germanic origin—the word used to be penning, with an -ing, like shilling and farthing, instead of a -y. The root may be Pfand, which turned into the English word pawn meaning “a pledge or token”: in that case, penny basically just means money. Or it may derive from the German Pfanne, “pan,” the round metal thing that you cook in. My head says it’s pawn: the pan pun sounds like classic folk etymology that somebody simply made up. But my heart belongs to Pfanne: surely the original coin goes back to some concrete reality, an object of actual use.

That said, the American penny isn't going anywhere. It's going to keep coming back like a bad...yeah.

Friday 14 November 2014 09:01:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US#
Wednesday 5 November 2014

Except for one minor problem, this has been a good trip. I'll have photos of the super-cute hotel probably this weekend. And the meeting today went surprisingly well, notwithstanding the 10 times I had to leave the room.*

One amazing thing happened: at the end of the meeting, we stopped by reception and asked about getting a taxi. The receptionist pushed a button on a small device, which promptly spat out a receipt, which she handed us. By the time we got outside the building, there was a taxi waiting. Amazing. Why don't we have these things in the U.S.?

* The minor problem seems to have come from a salad I ate Monday for lunch, and has has made it unlikely I'll get to experience any great dining here in Oslo. I am not pleased.

Wednesday 5 November 2014 18:34:52 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Sunday 2 November 2014

The Apollo Chorus of Chicago will perform at 3:30 this afternoon at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, right by the Chicago/Milwaukee Blue Line stop.

We'll perform two movements from Schubert's Mass in A-flat, five choruses from Händel's Messiah, and a few other pieces (including a beautiful soprano duet by Monteverdi).

The church is gorgeous. I mean, gorgeous. Even if you don't hear us perform you should at least poke around the space.

Oh, did I mention the concert is free? You should still subscribe, so you can hear us perform the entire Messiah in December and the entire Schubert in March.

Sunday 2 November 2014 09:37:10 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 28 October 2014

The New Republic yesterday declared the British men's suit to be the island's greatest invention:

We have to thank the members of the Romantic movement for the sober colors of suits. It was their love of the Gothic that put us in grey and black but the suit stuck. It said something and it meant something to men around the world; it said and meant so much that they would discard their local dress, the costumes of millennia, their culture and their link to their ancestors, to dress up like English insurance brokers. There is not a corner of the world where the suit is not the default clobber of power, authority, knowledge, judgement, trust and, most importantly, continuity. The curtained changing rooms of Savile Row welcome the naked knees of the most despotic and murderous, immoral and venal dictators and kleptocrats, who are turned out looking benignly conservative, their sins carefully and expertly hidden, like the little hangman’s loops under their lapels.

Every man imagines that he will turn his suit like a double agent, that it can be twisted to his will with irony or comedy, that the man can undermine its origins. Every chap thinks he’s a match for his suit and, every year, clever and witty designers offer a twist, a take, a rejig; but for over 200 years, the suit has remained impervious, maintained its bland menace, kept its implacable secrets uncreased. You think you wear the suit: the suit wears you. It is woven magic, necromancy, the black art that hides in plain sight. No one knows or can say what the spell of the suit is, or how it works, but still it exudes its inoffensive writ.

Sure, but hey, I look good in a suit.

Tuesday 28 October 2014 17:20:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 27 October 2014

The final score from my FitBit challenge over the weekend was: friend, 33,800; me, 37,800. Yesterday I gave Parker 3 hours of walks and also walked home from dinner instead of taking public transit or a Divvy, which got me almost to 23,800 steps (and 17.7 km) for the day.

There was a cost. My feet hurt, Parker was lethargic this morning, and I ate too much. And this week it's not likely I'll get 10,000 steps in every day this week because I've got an all-day meeting Wednesday. Which is probably a good thing, according to my feet and my dog.

Monday 27 October 2014 11:51:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 26 October 2014

Following a friend's example, I got a FitBit this week. The same friend has challenged me for the weekend, getting 15,300 steps to my 14,000 yesterday, and going hiking this afternoon. Ah, but I have a dog, you see. And the weather is perfect. So far today I've walked 15,400 steps (11.6 km), almost all of it with Parker, and we're about to go out for another walk.

Here's walk #1, this morning, in Lincoln Park:

And walk #2, at lunchtime, down the Lakefront Path:

I got my 15,000-step badge on Friday, my first full day with the thing. Today I'm aiming for 20,000. My friend is too. This will be close, I'm guessing...

Sunday 26 October 2014 15:36:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Parker#
Friday 24 October 2014

I'm a little busy today, preparing for three different projects even though I can only actually do 1.5 of them. So as is common on days like this, I have a list of things I don't have time to read:

I really would have liked another week in London...

Friday 24 October 2014 12:59:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US#
Sunday 12 October 2014

It wasn't the fastest race ever, but at 2:04:11, it was pretty fast:

Eliud Kipchoge didn’t hesitate to press his advantage over Kenenisa Bekele in the news conference before Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

“I have more experience,” Kipchoge said.

And Kipchoge used it to drop first Bekele and then everyone else, as he won the race in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 11 seconds.

Kipchoge, who collected $155,000 for the win and a time bonus, led a Kenyan sweep of the podium. Sammy Kitwara was second in 2:04:28, with Dickson Chumba third in 2:04:32.

But for real speed, the wheelchairs can fly:

Illinois' Tatyana McFadden won the women's wheelchair race in 1:44.50. Joshua George, also of Illinois, won the men's wheelchair race in 1:32.12.

Parker and I just walked over to the course (it's a block away), and already it's like the event never happened. The logistics involved in this race are phenomenal.

Sunday 12 October 2014 15:49:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 10 October 2014

Over the next 10 days I have four long flights, one round-trip to Los Angeles and one to London. Even though I'll have to work a bit on all four of them, I'm also getting ready to have some quality reading time. (In fact, there will be at least one afternoon in London spent reading and drinking beer, as usual.)

To start, I've added two challenging books to my Kindle: Cervantes' Don Quijote (in the original Spanish) and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (in the original Middle English). I've never read either; both will push me linguistically. (And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm also adding a Spanish-English dictionary...)

Also, I've sent these articles to the device:

The L.A. trip was expected, as it's a follow-up to the trip I took last week, but it's still weirdly timed. And poor Parker will be boarded forever. Of course, when I take the recycling out to the alley, clearly I've been gone forever when I return, so that's not exactly a neutral benchmark.

Friday 10 October 2014 11:29:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
Thursday 9 October 2014

Vox's Sarah Cliff reports some data from health gadget maker Jawbone about when we go to sleep, and for how long:

Jawbone's data shows that, on average, no major American city gets the National Institute of Health recommended seven hours of nightly sleep. You see that in the light green areas [on the interactive map], which tend to surround large populations.

Jawbone also put together a map of when people go to sleep. And there you see mostly people who live in large cities and college towns staying up later. That shows that people in Brooklyn, NY tend to have the latest bed time in the United States (they turn down, on average, at 12:07 a.m.) where as people living in Maui, Hawaii get to bed the earliest at 10:31 p.m.

In a similar vein, people in Massachusetts are grumbling about their time zone again, thinking that year-round daylight saving time (or year-round observance of Atlantic Standard Time) will somehow make life better:

As sunset creeps earlier—it’s down to 6:19 p.m. today in Boston—we’re already dreading what happens a month from now: Clocks turn back. The first Sunday morning, it’s fantastic. An extra hour of sleep! Later that day, though, the honeymoon ends. Why is it pitch black before dinner?

The same weekend we experience these conflicting emotions, Americans in Arizona and Hawaii will do something foreign to most of us: They won’t change their clocks.

More evening daylight could be part of a broader solution to retain the bright young people who come to New England from afar to our world-class colleges and universities. Retaining college graduates is so important to our region that the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is studying the issue. But consider the actual experience of students who come to Boston for their education: On the shortest evening of the year, the sun sets here at 4:11. When they graduate, they might find themselves with options in New York, where the shortest day extends to 4:28, or Palo Alto, where it’s 4:50! Shifting one time zone would give us a 5:11 sunset—a small but meaningful competitive change.

Well, sure, but the sun would rise as late as 8:15 am in December, which would cause parents to complain. (For an excellent takedown of the Globe's argument, check out Michael Downing's Spring Forward.)

Thursday 9 October 2014 16:20:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Astronomy#
Thursday 25 September 2014

Last night I got to see the Cubs win their home closer. I'll have photos this weekend.

After the game I played a game of Euchre at a local pub, and got dealt an extraordinary: Right bower, left bower, trump ace, trump king, off ace. This hand is literally the second-best hand possible in the game. (Having trump queen instead of an off ace would be best.*) I made only one mistake: instead of slamming down all five cards at once and grinning stupidly, I slammed down the top four cards, grinned stupidly, and then got upbraided by my partner for not dropping the whole load at once.

We went on to win the game 10-4, so my partner didn't upbraid me much.

Fun night.

* As a reader pointed out, this is not technically true. Any other trump card would have the same effect as the off-ace, since any other trump in the game would be exposed when I played the right and left bowers. Yes, my readers are that nerdy.

Thursday 25 September 2014 15:03:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

CityLabs' Laura Bliss wonders if straight-sided pint glasses should go away:

Let's start at the beginning. A shaker glass was, and is, the 16-ounce glass half of a Boston cocktail shaker. They've been stocked behind bars for mixing drinks since the early 20th century, long before their takeover of American draft, as if waiting in the wings.

Enter the post-War years, a time when American beer entered a long, steady decline. Prohibition had forced the vast majority of small breweries out of business, leaving mostly larger brands like Schlitz, Anheuser-Busch, and Coors in operation. If you wanted a draft beer, this meant you were kind of drinking yellow, flavorless stuff—and in large quantities, since it had such low alcohol content.

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at The Brooklyn Brewery and author of the Oxford Companion to Beer, surmises that this dearth of quality beer (though with plenty of mass-market brew to go round) was the shaker glass's opportunity to rise. Why bother with a fancy glass when you're drinking nothing special? "Complaining that your glass wasn't good enough for your beer would have been like complaining your paper plate wasn't good enough for Wonder Bread," he says.

[The proper] glass is a tulip, Oliver explained, in which the beer's complex flavors and aromas can escape, and where a nice head of foam can form. The shaker glass, detractors point out, functionally negates both of those things from happening, with its wide mouth and straight edges. Fancier glasses do more to promote the beer's aesthetic qualities.

On the other hand, the glasses are very convenient for bar owners, they're sturdy, and they're unpretentious. So no, they're not going anywhere.

Thursday 25 September 2014 14:58:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 22 September 2014

Poor Parker. I picked him up from boarding yesterday afternoon, and he had to go back again this morning. I've got a one-day trip to Pittsburgh early tomorrow morning. So not a lot of time at home.

Today's lighter at work than any last week, fortunately. Just prepping for tomorrow.

I'm hoping for a more regular, Chicago-based schedule once my project kicks off again.

Monday 22 September 2014 11:09:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Thursday 18 September 2014

One of my oldest surviving friends is getting married this weekend in the southwestern corner of Michigan. Fortunately they have WiFi. Also fortunately I won't be stuck inside doing work tomorrow, because we ran flat-out today to finish a deliverable.

I'll get photos and such up when I can. I forgot my real camera, but my phone does fine in a pinch.

Thursday 18 September 2014 18:21:41 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Monday 15 September 2014

Yesterday I got accepted into the Apollo Chorus in Chicago.

Apollo performs Händel's "Messiah" every year at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. This year we're also doing Schubert's Mass in A-flat, plus a number of South American works in the spring, plus a performance to celebrate the Auditorium Theater's 125th anniversary.

I'll have more as the season goes on.

Oh, and: subscribe!

Monday 15 September 2014 11:26:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 11 September 2014

The Chicagoist reports that new FDA regulations may curdle the raw-cheese market:

...due to the FDA’s decision to change the allowance for non-toxigenic Escherichia coli (E. coli) in dairy products. Non-toxigenic E. coli is a typically harmless bacterium found in the human gastrointestinal tracts as well as in raw milk cheeses. Recently, the FDA changed their allowance for this bacteria from a Most Probable Number (MPN) of 100 per gram, a fairly average amount in raw cheese, to 10 MPN per gram. Because of this drastic decrease, Roquefort and other cheeses such as raw milk versions of Morbier and Tommes de Savoie are now on Import Alert. The cheeses are held on Detention without Physical Examination, the FDA's infamous "red list."

The FDA is detaining the raw milk cheeses in order to take at least 1,600 samples. Their goal is to determine how often certain foods, specifically raw milk cheeses, are liable to become contaminated under the new definition. ... The FDA wrote this letter to the American Cheese Society, outlining their objectives in this study.

Fortunately, the U.K. still exists allows raw cheeses to be sold. Unfortunately, the U.K. still has a bit of BSE floating around....

Thursday 11 September 2014 13:40:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 6 September 2014

Birthday dinner last night at Tru followed by burlesque. I have wonderful friends.

Saturday 6 September 2014 11:19:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 5 September 2014

CityLab's Kriston Capps wants to stop Florentijn Hofman:

The Dutch artist has just debuted, and I cannot believe I am about to write this word, HippopoThames, a wooden hippo river sculpture headlining a festival on the Thames. At least, that's what it's doing this week. In the months to come, you might find it on the Yangtze or the Ganges or the Rhône.

Rubber Duck, on the other hand—that's the floatation for which Hofman is best known—is a decidedly Western fixture. Los Angeles sculptor Peter Ganine patented the design for the original toy duck in 1947 and went on to sell millions of them. A generation later, Jim Henson breathed life into the rubber duckie with the greatest song about bath time ever recorded: "Rubber Duckie" only lost the 1971 Grammy Award for best children's recording because the statue went to the full Sesame Street album featuring the song.

Cities that cash in with Rubber Duck are outsourcing their public art, meaning they aren't doing their artists or themselves any favors in the long run. In the same sense that building another Ferris wheel is a sure bet—if one that emblandens a city—tugging the same old Holman into the bay is a lost opportunity for a place to reach for greatness. Creativity is and ought to be a source of pride for cities as diverse as London, Beijing, and Los Angeles—and an engine for their economies. When I see images of it floating in a new harbor, I can almost hear Rubber Duck whispering, in a raspy duck voice: The place you love is no more.

The worst part of this story is, now I've got the Bert & Ernie song in my head...

Friday 5 September 2014 13:28:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 28 August 2014

On those rare occasions when I opt for it, I usually enjoy having in-flight WiFi. At this particular moment, however, I'm staring down another two hours of flying time with WiFi throughput under 200 kbps. That speed reminds me of the late 1990s. You know, half the Web ago.

This is painful. I'm not streaming video, nor am I connected to a remote server like the guy next to me. I'm just trying to get some documents written. I believe I will have to write a complaint to GoGo Inflight, as this throughput is completely unacceptable.

But enough about that minor sadness; I've found something truly horrible.

Everyone who took English 1 at my college had to read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language. (I would actually extend this mandate to everyone on the planet who speaks English if I had the power.) In the essay, Orwell calls out a specific passage from Ecclesiastes to show how business English can destroy thought:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

He renders it in modern English thus:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Two things. First, "modern" English in 1946 seems a lot like modern English in 2014. Frighteningly so.

Second, there are worse translations of that passage in actual, printed Bibles. Now, I'm not a religious person, as even a causal reader of this blog knows. But I have an appreciation for language. So it pains me to see that some people learned Ecclesiastes 9:11 like this:

I saw something else under the sun. The race isn't [won] by fast runners, or the battle by heroes. Wise people don't necessarily have food. Intelligent people don't necessarily have riches, and skilled people don't necessarily receive special treatment. But time and unpredictable events overtake all of them.

("GOD'S WORD® Translation")

Or this:

I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

NO! No, no, NO! This isn't a children's book. Why does anyone need to dumb it down? I mean, fine, vernacular and all, but can't we at least keep the poetry?

It's no wonder the religious right have such poor cognitive skills. The one book they were allowed to read as children has been reduced to pabulum.

Thursday 28 August 2014 17:57:34 MDT (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US | World#
Monday 25 August 2014

Someimes—rarely—I disconnect for a couple of days. This past weekend I basically just hung out, walked my dog, went shopping, and had a perfectly nice absence from the Web.

Unfortunately that meant I had something like 200 RSS articles to plough through, and I just couldn't bring myself to stop dealing with (most) emails. And I have a few articles to read:

Now back to your regularly-scheduled week, already in progress...

Monday 25 August 2014 12:25:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Travel#
Monday 18 August 2014

And wow, is it frustrating.

I mentioned last week that my cousin, a professional musician, had replaced his old stage piano and given me the old one. I implied but never stated explicitly that I took many years of piano lessons as a child, ending about 30 years ago. Off and on since then I've picked up some music and banged away at it in a practice room—I was a music major for a year, after all—but I haven't done anything of significance in such a long time I'd almost forgotten what it was like.

So I've been practicing again, and it's incredibly frustrating.

Take Petzold's simple Menuet in G that ever kid learns. In only two or three playings, I could get my right and left hands to sail through it independently at about 132 to the quarter note. Putting them together even at 108 was excruciating, however. Fingers on one hand would fire out of sequence while the other hand stammered along like a wounded cicada; transitions I'd practiced two dozen times would fall apart for no reason; my mind would go blank for half a second causing the whole edifice to fall. And this is the 16-bar Petzold menuet, not a freakin' prelude and fugue, FFS.

Yes, this is normal, I know. It's just that I'd forgotten. And also that I'm doing pieces every 10-year-old can do. But after only a couple of hours, I got two Petzold menuets back to fighting strength (at least until the next time I practiced), so it's more encouraging than discouraging.

And finally, I'm experiencing the chagrin that adults have always felt. Remember when your parents told your teenaged ass you'd kick yourself for giving up piano/horseback riding/competitive Yahtzee when you got older? They were right.

Monday 18 August 2014 11:43:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 13 August 2014

Really a sad week in American entertainment. Lauren Bacall died today at 89.

If you haven't seen To Have and Have Not, stream it tonight:

Tuesday 12 August 2014 22:12:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 12 August 2014

Shazbat.

A friend sends this clip:

Monday 11 August 2014 23:11:20 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 11 August 2014

Crain's has a good summary today of new moderate-alcohol beers that craft brewers in the area are making:

In June, Temperance Beer Co. released the first batch of Greenwood Beach Blonde, a creamy ale that checks in at 4 percent alcohol. The beer became the Evanston brewery's second-most popular, and the first batch sold out so quickly at Temperance's taproom that owner Josh Gilbert decided to broaden his focus: When Temperance made a second batch last week, it was immediately canned and sent to distributors.

The session-beer trend isn't limited to upstart microbreweries. Some of the largest craft breweries—including Founders Brewing Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Deschutes Brewery Inc. of Bend, Oregon; and Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma, California, whose Midwest and East Coast operations are based in Douglas Park—now are making ales with less than 5 percent alcohol content year-round.

Premier local breweries such as 3 Floyds Brewing Co. of Munster, Indiana, and Two Brothers Brewing Co. in Warrenville are marketing session brews, and this summer Half Acre Beer Co. in Chicago's North Center neighborhood collaborated on a session ale with a brewery in Maine. The king of lagers, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, is filling out its line of ballpark beers with Endless IPA from Goose Island, a limited-run ale with a 5 percent alcohol content.

I've had a couple of these, including Lagunitas All-Day IPA and even the InBev Endless IPA. I've also written about English craft beers that fall into the American "session" category because most English beers are 5% or so anyway. Even my go-to Belhaven Twisted Thistle is only 5.3% ABV.

I always knew the hop-and-high-alcohol fetish beers would give way in time to much more drinkable brews. I'm glad the market has responded so quickly and affirmatively.

Monday 11 August 2014 12:16:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Best Bars | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | London#
Sunday 10 August 2014

My cousin, a professional musician, parted with his stage piano recently, so now I have it. Since I last took piano lessons during the Reagan administration, I worried I'd have to start from scratch.

Nope. I remember a lot of the pieces I worked on as a kid (mainly from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook), and I'm even making some of the same errors I did back then. It's pretty cool. And I found most of my old books, including exercises, which I'm also doing just fine except that my hands aren't as strong as they were when I played every day.

My goal for the remainder of this year is to get back to the level of skill I had in 1983. We'll see.

Sunday 10 August 2014 17:14:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 9 August 2014

As a city boy, the country occasionally surprises me. The Cleveland client has an office well outside Cleveland in rural Geauga County where we've spent some time over the last few weeks. One of the senior guys there hunts. And this is how I got to taste fresh, smoked pheasant last week—complete with a warning about birdshot:

Saturday 9 August 2014 09:29:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Thursday 7 August 2014

- There's something very important I forgot to tell you.

- What?

- Don't reboot Ghostbusters.

- Why?

- It would be bad.

- Look, I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing. What do you mean 'bad?'

- Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

- Total studio reversal!

- Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

Wednesday 6 August 2014 22:21:47 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 6 August 2014

New York Times writer Tim Kreider reflects on his 19-year-relationship with a stray cat he adopted while on vacation:

Biologists call cats “exploitive captives,” an evocative phrase that might be used to describe a lot of relationships, not all of them interspecies. I made the mistake, early on, of feeding the cat first thing in the morning, forgetting that the cat could control when I woke up — by meowing politely, sitting on my chest and staring at me, nudging me insistently with her face, or placing a single claw on my lip.

WHENEVER I felt embarrassed about factoring a house pet’s desires into major life decisions, some grown-up-sounding part of me told myself, it’s just a cat. It’s generally believed that animals lack what we call consciousness, although we can’t quite agree on what exactly this is, and how we can pretend to any certainty about what goes on in an animal’s head has never been made clear to me. To anyone who has spent time with an animal, the notion that they have no interior lives seems so counterintuitive, such an obdurate denial of the empathetically self-evident, as to be almost psychotic. I suspect that some of those same psychological mechanisms must have allowed people to rationalize owning other people.

We don’t know what goes on inside an animal’s head; we may doubt whether they have anything we’d call consciousness, and we can’t know how much they understand or what their emotions feel like. I will never know what, if anything, the cat thought of me. But I can tell you this: A man who is in a room with a cat — whatever else we might say about that man — is not alone.

Kreider's blog post made me think about the way two of my closest friends have (or had) cats, whom they called "Cat." One explained further: "It's not his name, it's his role."

Wednesday 6 August 2014 14:27:09 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 5 August 2014

Two housekeeping items.

Number 1: Walking to the airport. I finally found a path through the parking garage that looks intentionally constructed. It took me about a city block out of my way, but also prevented me getting run over by cars.

Number 2: Suburbistan dinner options. Thanks in part to Yelp, I wound up at Taza Lebanese Grill in Woodmere, Ohio. I'll write a Yelp review later this week. In sum: very good hummus, tasty kifteh, and bold-as-brass sparrows that actually took pita right off my table. Because honey sparrow don't care.

Tuesday 5 August 2014 08:37:15 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Monday 4 August 2014

We put in ridiculous hours last week on my Cleveland project so that today we only had to polish and sand a few spots to feel like we're in a good place for a client presentation first thing tomorrow. So tonight my PM is heading to a workout class and I'm having a good dinner.

To that end, though: what in the world did people do before Yelp?

I'll tell you what we did: we had lots of bad meals while traveling. Even out here in the buttskirts of Cleveland, Yelp has located at least three restaurants worth trying. And I will.

Meanwhile, walking distance from my hotel—that means, within this shopping center, because I'm surrounded on four sides by unwalkable roads—are Chipotle, Abuelos, Chik-fil-A, and Olive Garden. So: thank you, Yelp. I mean it.

Monday 4 August 2014 18:07:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#

From my hotel room right now I can see the A-concourse at Cleveland Hopkins Airport about 500 m away. Between here and there is a parking lot and the terminal access road. The setup isn't fundamentally different from the location of the O'Hare Hilton, except a few trees and traffic levels. Oh, and the walkway.

The O'Hare hotel connects directly to all three terminals via underground walkway as well as surface paths through or around the parking structure. In other words, a traveler can walk from his plane to the O'Hare Hilton directly, without taking his life into his hands.

Not so here. Look (click for full size):

If you walk along the terminal access road, you run out of sidewalk by the first curve. Somehow there's a path through the parking structure, but again, once you get to the edge of the parking lot southeast of the structure, you're climbing through sod and ground cover to get to the hotel's ring road.

Still, I did it last night, and from my gate to the hotel took 17 minutes. Last time, when I waited for the hotel shuttle bus, it took twice as long. Fortunately it didn't rain either time, but if it had rained, waiting for the shuttle bus would have been damper.

Now I've got to catch the rental car shuttle, which picks up back at the terminal, so I'll have to pick my way across the parking lot and parking structure until I find a way though to the pick-up spot. Because no one wanted to build a sidewalk to bridge the one-block chasm between the hotel and the airport.

Related: NPR reported this morning that our food intake hasn't changed in 10 years; we're all getting fat because we don't walk enough.

Monday 4 August 2014 08:15:07 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel#

Nah, I've just been super-busy the past few days. Regular posting should resume shortly—depending on how this week in Cleveland goes.

Sunday 3 August 2014 21:39:35 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Blogs#
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How much do musicians make on the road?
Cold front
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Management Training
Chicago's first railroad
Here comes the sun
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It suits everyone
FitBit challenge: crushed
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The end of shaker pint glasses?
Back, for a day
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Hallelujah! Chorus!
You make the baby cheeses cry
They should all be like this
Kill the duck
The throughput is not to the swift
Plugged back in
The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing
You know how to whistle, don't you?
Robin Williams, dead at 63
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Not a foul client
Ecclesiastes 1:9
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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