Why Being a Dad in America is so Great
A friend of mine had asked about making a giant shoebox. At first I thought he was mocking the idea, then realized that he was willing to pay in American-Currency, not Monopoly money.

After watching the video from +Glass Impressions I started Googling the plans. There, of course, were plenty of plans and all for around $25. I found these plans from +Mario Cappellano at www.TheWoodFather.com. I wound up modifying them as I went, tweaking here and there and came up with this....

This is the single-drawer option from his plans. It's 40x28x19, closed. I used a dark ebony stain and 2 coats of urethane.

When opened, the slide-out drawer leaves room for at least 6 pairs of shoes on the bottom and 6 more on the deck.

As I said, I used the PDF plans from TheWoodFather and made minor corrections. All the cuts are the correct dimensions and I used 3/8 plywood, 2 whole sheets. The plans called for a sheet and one-half of plywood,

The plywood was $15 per sheet, $8 for drawer sliders, $10 for a 48" piano hinge, and about $10 for a small jar of indoor urethane. It took me all Labor Day Weekend, minus the occasional Florida-rain, to finish it. All in all, I was into it for around $60 plus minor hardware. I used a 1" staple gun and the occasional screw on the corners to suck the joints together nice and tight.

#MegaShoeBox #GiantShoeBox #ShoeBox #Plans
Of course I want another sandwich for lunch... for the ump-teenth day in a row, to include weekends. Why shouldn't I love the taste of bread, processed meat, assorted vegetables, left to sog in a refrigerator several yards from where I'm going to eat it... 4-6 hours later.

The paragraph above was called 'sarcasm' and was introduced to early settlers by Conquistadors from Madagascar, Spain. It's a small suburb just north of Philly. Not Philadelphia, just Philly.

The paragraph above, while not sarcasm, was in-fact bull(expletive). It was introduced to you by me, just now. Let us continue...

So my wife thought an article on "what men really want... in their lunches" would be a popular blog post. Since she's really good at it (she makes no less than 5 every morning) I am still convinced that this is a trick to get me to bust myself. The REAL trick is, how does one go about writing such an expose without "outing" himself in the process? Let's find out...

To be honest, my lunches are 98% (+/-2% margin of error) of the time delicious. I'm not just saying that because my wife's within arm's reach, they really are good! Then again, it's 98% of the time, sandwiches. The sandwich has a long history, too. Unfortunately, I don't care. The point is, how many different ways can you make it? How many times do I have to eat it?! How many times do I have to eat by myself staring at my computer screen before I "saved enough money" to eat with my
co-workers at Carabbas?!??!! When, God, WHEN?! Since I'm on it, wanna know something else?! I don't give two-putts to a birdie about bread either! My wife will eat it by the loaf and talk about how delicious this bread is or how we need to buy a new bread maker because she loves bread! If she loves it so much she should marry it! To be fair, I smoke cigars and can tell you about every little odor, taste, or vintage. So I'll stop there. The point is, how many ways can you make a sandwich appealing before you want to throw your lunchbox at your coworker, or your coworker at your lunchbox.

I searched Google high and low... I searched for "ultimate brown bag lunch" and came up with a +Cooking Light article on a bunch of sandwiches that wouldn't make it through the first 4 hours of the day before becoming soggy messes. Then I searched for "how to make a man's sandwich" thinking that I'd get a lot of really awesome ideas! Wrong... I found +Food Network's "Sandwich King" Jeff Mauro who also makes some pretty amazing sandwiches... that you can't eat outside of a restaurant. So then I searched for "ultimate brown bag lunch" and came up with lots of articles about adding dips and sauces and garnishing your soups. Holy crap! Do people really "live" for that?

"Oh, buddy! Wait'll you see what the little lady packed for me today!"
"Yeah? Cat poop would beat what she made you yesterday!"
"Well I gave her 'the what for' last night and she's singing a new tune. Check this out!"

And you didn't kill yourself last night because today was going to be better? Yup, your tomato soup with garnish saved the world. How about this; I'll tell you what my wife does and you can tell me how to make it better. Then, I'll pass that along with the preface "this guy on the internet said..." and then I'll show you the pictures of what happened next. I think that'll work!

The first thing out is bread. It has to be fresh bread, obviously, but not the almost-expired-and-left-on-the-counter-so-it's-still-good,-right? bread. Next is the condiments, single-side only. If your lunch is gonna be damp then put it on one side so it doesn't ruin your entire lunch. You can still eat a one loafed sandwich and be legit. Next is some fresh veggies; not lettuce, we've gotta create a barrier for it to breathe! Were talking about onions, maybe some bell peppers, something for the meat to sit on like a throne! We're talking about the nerve center of your lunch here! Finally, throw down some meat. Whatever you want, just throw it on there! If you lay it on then it's not tender enough. Toss that meat right on there like you own it, but don't displace the veggies underneath. What you'll learn is that the soggy-ness comes from the bun-condiment-meat contact. Inevitably you placed your sandwich on the only side that could've ensured it's timely demise. Now, being properly educated though, you've created a barrier between the meat which will allow her to breathe and open up to you like a young flower on a warm day. You'll finish that bad-boy off with a slice o' lettuce (if you like) and the other loaf of bread. When you place it in your lunch make sure it's condiment-side-down, for that soggy-loaf-issue we talked about.

Everything else in your lunch is a compliment to your sandwich. Be honest, you've opened your lunch and saw the bag of smash you called a sandwich and even the Oreos didn't sound appetizing after that, right? It's all about presentation. Take pride in your preparation and the delivery will be flawless.

Armed with this basic and somewhat flawed knowledge, I'm curious to hear your side? What are some of YOUR lunch tips to make that brown bag look more appealing and less like a projectile? What are some good snack tips for the on-the-go lunch? What about the 'nibbler' who doesn't eat an entire meal in one sitting?
I remember sitting on my couch waiting for my Uncle to come over because my mom, the big-bad-ER-Nurse, couldn't pull a simple tooth! It blew my mind! I'd seen her dress wounds in the hospital that made ordinary men squirm but when it came to pulling her own son's first loose tooth you could forget it. In fact, I don't recall her pulling any of my teeth.

Last night my youngest son lost his first tooth... and I didn't have a single dollar bill. There are few horrors in the world such as this and fortunately for me there is a gas station just a few blocks away.

What spawned this article was not the recollection of loosing my first tooth but pulling my first tooth. Just as my mother was a nervous wreck to pull my first tooth, I, too, was "less than stable" when it came to pulling our daughter's first loose tooth. I put together a few tips for all those other "first-timers" to make your event go as well as mine.

- Dental Floss (to tie to the tooth)
                                                      - Pre-folded tissue (for bleeding)
                                                      - Willing child (unwilling ones aren't worth arguing with)
                                                      - A little bit o' salt-water rinse (after you pull the tooth your child                                                              should rinse their mouth out)

A few important facts:

1) Pull straight up, not out. The New Kids-Center gives a few tips on how to extract those wiggly teeth but more importantly, pulling up on the tooth prevents further damage to the gum.

2) Control the situation. I place my thumb on the inside of my child's mouth and on top of, their adjoining teeth. This makes sure that I am pulling the tooth away and not allowing my child to jerk their head back when they see my hand start to move. Since I'm an avid fisherman this technique is common to me. The trick isn't to jam your thumb down his/her throat but to gently control the jaw bone via the neighboring teeth. Literally just pinching the jaw-bone between your thumb and forefinger.

3) Don't lose it! Literally, not emotionally. These little teeth fly and then get lost in the carpet. Try explaining that one to the tooth fairy. A good knot will keep the tooth within reach, a.k.a. tied to the dental floss. The +Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a great site that shows you how to tie various knots. Ultimately, a simple knot will do. Just make sure you tie it on tight, and below the widest part of the tooth which is typically the gum line.

4) Pay the kid! Nothing worse than losing teeth and not having any coin. Of course, this is the tooth fairy's problem but you can help a fairy out at least! Another cool idea is from +Lainie Wicks at Maker*Land and they printed up miniature letters from the tooth-fairy. Pretty clever!

I've shared this video before from +Make: called the Tooth Fairy Transport System.

I hope this eases your tooth-pulling woes and puts you in a better position to yank those teeth out! Finally, let's all be honest and acknowledge the fact that +Pinterest is a real thing and check these certificates out...

#ToothFairy #FirstTooth #KidsDental
I was able to see a special sneak preview of +American Sniper starring Bradley Cooper but failed to post this review, for which I must apologize to you. But on with the news.... Without stating the obvious, "this movie's great! A must see! Great acting! Etc..." I want to give this movie an honest review with sincere content. I'll preface it with what I hope is an original statement; I don't like to read the book because it'll ruin the movie. 

I think the first great "war/military movie" of our generation was Saving Private Ryan. THAT movie set the bar for excellence and truly left everyone expecting Saving-Private-Ryan-esque results. You know the type; when you saw that movie you left the theater feeling a small twinge of PTSD and an intense feeling of patriotism. There hadn't been a whole lot of movies since then that addressed the subject of "war" until recently.

Lone Survivor and the story of Marcus Luttrell was, as far as I can remember, the first movie to broach the topic of the War in Afghanistan. You could tell that producers were waiting to see how it was going to be received by the general public before proceeding, too. But, thanks to movie directors who are willing to tell the story of these modern-day-Heroes, we have come upon an age of story-telling that broaches the delicate and numerous topics that war produces.

American Sniper is the true-story of +Chris Kyle, a normal rodeo-riding-guy from Texas who joined the +US Navy Seals after seeing the embassy bombing on TV. Naturally he's a good shot. What I most enjoyed of about the movie were the "effects of war". Clint Eastwood did a superior job demonstrating the biggest killer of Veteran's, PTSD. NIH medicine posted an article on PTSD that says "... hundreds of thousands of service men and women and recent military veterans have seen combat. Many have been shot at, seen their buddies killed, or witnessed death up close. These are types of events that can lead to PTSD.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts:
  • Almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans
  • As many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans
  • 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan
  • 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans"
American Sniper, obviously, is a "must see", and while it's intense action and true-story plot line will keep you on the edge of your seat, it will also make you keenly aware of the hidden killer of today's veterans. Not a whole lot needs to be said about this movie, nor CAN it be said without ruining it, just make sure you see it and "Never Forget". Hopefully this will push you over the edge to see it if you were teetering on the fence of uncertainty

#AmericanSniper #ChrisKyle #Hero
There was yet ANOTHER article on +Military Spouse about cheating spouses. This time the wife had become friends with the victim and their husbands worked together. Go check out the article and come back... First of all, I can respect Life Coaches but I don't consider them any more value-added to a problem than a Kleenex to a runny nose. Their education and training consists of "helpful opinion" to "guide" the counseled towards a solution they find, eventually, on their own. Let's stay specific... if you're having relationship issues, seek emotional counseling which may reveal deeper issues either clinical or symptomatic of a greater issue. At any rate...

This spouse was writing in to ask "what should [she] do" because she "feels like every time [she] see[s] her, [she's] hiding a secret." Guess what, you are! Without addressing the husband/co-worker role in this I'll dive into the meat and potatoes... TELL HER!

If you see someone robbing a bank you don't have the option to withhold that information from the police, even if they don't ask you! If you see someone jumping the fence to your duty station are you going to keep quiet about that, too? I would hope not! But why do we feel so empowered to tattle on someone when the outcome won't affect you, or so you think. Do the right thing and report that bank robbery you witnessed and you'll be called into court as an eye-witness. Report the base-jumper to the Security Forces and you'll be asked to make a statement. The bottom line is that righteousness demands conflict. If you see someone or something wrong you must confront it or it will get worse!

In this person's case, she should have thought of creative scenarios that would have required her husband to be around when he had to "be at work" or come up with cunning questions that would have made her "friend" question herself and her husband's actions without being dramatic. Let's be honest, females can be cunning when they want to be and this specific scenario just looks like a chicken-crap friend.

Another blogger posted a similar response with video. Check it out here... Apparently this is a pretty ongoing dilemma since divorce in the military exceeds 60% with infidelity being a leading cause.

Men, we MUST live in righteousness and in such a way that the thought of infidelity would never
cross our spouses minds. We must hold one another accountable and I'm not talking about tattling here. If you see something, say something! We work together every day and spend more time together than we do with our wives. If something seems "off" with your battle buddy, ask them! Encourage one another's relationships because we all know that there are SOME times we'd like to push one another off a cliff; it happens. What we HAVE to do is remember that she is the one we chose, the one we said we'd put on a pedestal and worship. If something within your relationships have changed then that needs addressed and not brushed under another skirt.

Do the right thing, talk about the right things, treat one another right and it'll be alright.
In September of 2013, +Forbes had published an article that ...Welfare Pays More Than Minimum-Wage Work in 35 States. This was based on a study performed by +The Cato Institute and subsequent results published by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes in a document entitled The Work Versus Welfare Tradeoff: 2013 (link provided). Basically the government has made it more prosperous to be poor than employed.

"The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work." And that's straight from the horse's mouth! It reminds me of a line from Office Space; "Why
should I work any harder? So Initech ships a few thousand more units? What's in it for me?" Why work harder than you have to when you're getting paid MORE to do LESS, in 35 states at least.

Then there ARE some people who try to compare apples-to-apples which is where I like to dwell... Let's talk about the "average" worker who earns minimum wage. And I'm going to stick to fast-food establishments to make it easy. I realize that there are tons of secretaries and delivery people on the same boat but, let's keep it simple. The +NCSLorg (National Council of State Legislatures) lists minimum wage by state and includes all future amendments in a table. In Florida, for example, Federal minimum wage will go from $7.93 to $8.05 in 2015. But back to the average guy... This is the person who shows up on-time, does their job, leaves on the dot, and doesn't incur foolish workman's comp fees. Sure, minimum wage for that guy! He did "the minimum" required for his job to KEEP his job. What about the "above-average" worker? The one who's early, preparing for the challenges of their day, always polite and professional, finds busy-work to do, and generally the epitome for others to follow? I say give that person a $2/hr raise! And why not?! They've earned it!

My point is that if you keep everyone on the same pay-level/scale then you're going to have a workforce of mediocre operators. If everyone in the military got paid the same, no one would be motivated enough to accept the challenges of leadership! Yes, military members are ALSO monetarily stimulated. Think about it though; what if you hired a complete shift of workers at +McDonald's and paid everyone in 50-cent to $1 per hour increments, from the bottom up? Your manager makes the most and your register-person makes the least. Of course I understand that this wouldn't work in a perfect world since all team members are capable of filling in any position at any time, but think about it like this for me and tell me your thoughts. What IF you had a system established on rewarding achievements by rewarding pay?

<------------  I love this image. It illustrates my point exactly. Let's say that they've all received a boost. No one is making minimum wage in this example, illustrated by all boys standing on a box. The tall boy is enjoying the game and might catch a foul ball. The middle boy thinks it's a good game to watch and enjoys his view while the shorter boy can't see the game. He sees how much the other two are enjoying the game and is motivated by their perception of their individual success (seeing the game). He is motivated to work harder and goes out finding another box. The boxes equal hourly wage and the height of the children represents their potential/desire to succeed. In the left picture, the wages are the same (box height) and the taller boy is thinking "why should I work any harder, I'm getting paid the same and have a better view!" While the shorter boy might also think, "no matter how hard I work, this is the view I'll always have!" Certainly you can expect the quality of their work to differ but what's the motivation?

The picture on the right illustrates the effect of differing wages. Now, all workers have the same view. The shorter boy (harder working/better quality of work) is reaping the reward of his work. The taller boy who is performing to "minimum" standard now receives minimum wage and the others are being paid according to their performance level. Why don't we do this?

Well, business is business. If you pay someone more then the money has to come from somewhere and that's the shareholders. They certainly don't like missing money but at the end of the day it's the worker that suffers so how can we affect that change? BE the change! Perform to our best! Do our jobs with a smile knowing that everything you do affects everyone around you. If you mop the floor and you're too lazy to put out the 'wet floor' sign and someone slips it's going to be your fault! What YOU do affects everyone, everyday! When it comes to setting those wages though, businesses have to look at your "value". What are you bringing to the table that will enhance their business? How is paying you more going to make them more money? +Entrepreneur published an article called How to Set Salaries. While you may not own the business you can certainly arm yourself with the knowledge that other business-owners will judge you by.

My final position is not that minimum wage should be $15, but certainly raised to cut tax benefits that continue to empower people to NOT work whereby making it more lucrative to remain on government assistance than staying employed. For your situational awareness there's a website at ConvertUnits.com that will tell you roughly how much you would make based on an hourly wage. It's pretty eye-opening and I encourage you to check it out.

This handy chart tells you how many hours you need to work to afford a one bedroom apartment. Pretty amazing when you consider the "reality" of the above graphic and compare it to the graphic at left.

Ultimately I feel that this attitude of what I call "owe-er ship" stems from our establishment of childhood values. I've spoken with several parents who give their children money as an allowance but they don't do any chores. I've also spoken with parents who have practically "slave labor" for no allowance! I prefer to meet somewhere in the middle... Our 4 children make their beds, brush their teeth and hair, and put their clothes in the dirty hamper; these are their mandatory duties. While two of them are too young to understand value, and not just in the mathematical sense, of money they can still earn "points" towards rewards such as a movie date with my wife or I, sleep-overs, junk-food Fridays, or other rewards. Their points come from extra duties we assign them. Google has tons of chore charts and ideas for this but my input is that it MUST be visible! Put it somewhere the kids can see it and directly correlate how their behavior affects change.


#minimumwage #hourlyrights
When I ask if we influence or determine our children's futures, I'm adding the emphasis on "or". So the question is really, do we influence their futures whereby they can still choose, or do we determine their futures in which we play a leading role in deciding their careers, colleges, etc.?

I've always loved aviation. I can't remember a time when I was doing something, heard or saw an airplane, and didn't watch it in amazement. If I was born earlier, the Wright brothers and I would have been best buds. I say all of that because my mother is a nurse and I'm not a doctor. I'm an aircraft mechanic. Don't get me wrong, I love medicine and if I wasn't almost 40, I'd go for medical school. But, I'm not.... and like I said, I love aircraft. My mother never told me stories of flying, I've just always loved it. My grandfather on the other hand was also an aviation buff and told me lots of his WW2 stories; about his time in the Navy and Guadalcanal, growing up on a farm in Arkansas during the depression and becoming a rocket scientist (You can thank him for the Apollo program), and how he always wanted to fly but never took the opportunity.

I'm sure that deep down in my brain he had a large influence on my love for aviation, but I want to share this with you.

If A=B and B=C then A=C, right? Okay, that seems simple enough.

This was me as a boy...

20 years later...

So.... Using the same logic; this is my son this Christmas...



As our children grow, are we identifying their gifts and helping them develop them or are we deciding that 'it would be nice to have a doctor in the family' and push them to this-or-that academic endeavor instead? Our youngest daughter is a tiny-little thing and has already shown outstanding promise as a cheerleader. She weighs 10 lbs less than our youngest boy who could play for just about any football team he wanted to. So, do we, as parents, foster these gifts and nurture them? What about reality? What about the fact that less than 1% of high school baseball hopefuls "go pro" when they grow up? The football jocks? Only 1.7% of college players are playing after graduation. Those facts are from +Business Insider and a 2011 +NCAA article on the same. So how about setting them up for success?

My "cheerleader" daughter? She's equally gifted for gymnastics... I was talking to another "dad" friend and had asked him if he knew of any good gymnastic gyms in the area that would prepare them for college, potentially earn her a scholarship, etc. He brought up a good point. He said that "if I saved the money every month (or invested that) I would normally pay to a gym, I'd probably be able to pay for college anyway!" So, if I paid $60 a month to a gym for my daughter to hopefully get a scholarship to a college I'd pay $7,200 over the next 10 years in membership alone, not to mention uniforms, competitions, and God knows what else! Not a bad gig but not cheap either!

So, do we influence our children's futures by identifying their gifts and allow them to develop within them or do we look at our "cheerleader" daughters and push them to be neuro-surgeons and make them work on academic programs? 

Obviously I'm not the first to think it, especially after my 5-year old asked his mother, "Aren't we supposed to do Thanksgiving before Christmas?" An article posted from a Houston, Texas, newspaper, The Observer, said that "Thanksgiving is that kid that no one wants to play with on the playground." Another blogger, Robert Loftus, posted on +Ask A Great Dad that his favorite holiday is Thanksgiving but "as soon as Halloween was over, the American public was forced to focus on Christmas, and not the religious aspect, unless your religion is consumerism." Again, a true statement...

So, whatever happened to Thanksgiving? Typically it's been a Holiday of excess (mostly food) when most people develop their annual aversion to turkey after consuming it for at least one week in a variety of leftovers. Thankfully (no pun intended), +Allrecipes has an array of recipes that should keep your lunch pails diverse enough to subdue your aversions... until next Thanksgiving at least. Another, more unfortunate tradition, and obviously not nearly as intentional, are motor accidents.

The +National Safety Council anticipates/predicts 418 auto fatalities this season; the second highest since 2007. The study, presented Nov 6, 2014, can be found here. Aside from statistics and depressing numbers, I echo the sentiments of my peers...


Well, first a brief history lesson... According to +HISTORY, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated after the Pilgrims' first successful corn harvest (coincidentally in November); thanks largely in part to the Wampanoag tribe. This 50-year relationship also "marked the sole example of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans." Don't believe me? Read it for yourself! It wasn't until 1863, "in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November." So there you have it, 'how it all began'.

Unfortunately, like our friend Robert Loftus said, it would appear that our beloved Holiday has been reduced to commercialism and Christmas anticipation. So how can we bring back the feeling of "thankfulness" and gratitude? After all, shouldn't we celebrate the memory of our ancestors who had the guts to get on a ship, sail across an unknown ocean (to them at least), and open their minds to the spirit of exploration? The accompanying vessel, The Speedwell, sprung a leak and was forced to turn back. At first appearance, it would seem that they had the brunt of the luck since Pilgrims aboard The Mayflower faced a harsh winter and disease which killed-off more than half of them before seeing their first New England Spring.

Nowadays we're faced with Black Friday ads, "Door-busting deals" and commercials that resemble more of a Nation of consumers than grateful descendants. But why not? We invented the wheel!! Well, practically... Like it or not your neighbor's Christmas lights are up, your kids are already telling you what they want for Christmas (as opposed to hoping Santa brings them that new bicycle they wanted all year) and then providing constant updates to this request every 10-15 minutes as new commercials pop-up on our televisions. So what's wrong with commerce? Nothing, I say. Commercialism? It's what makes our world go 'round doesn't it? The buying and selling of goods and services providing income for our families, right?

Well, I won't be a neigh-sayer since I particularly enjoy all the "deals". To be honest, I'm the guy walking around the store slowly, clogging up the aisle with my empty cart, who has no intention of buying anything. Yes, I get my kicks from frustrating everyone else. I think I'll enjoy it more this year than any other. Mostly because all of those "great deals" that people are camping-out or waiting patiently by the door for can be found online, with free shipping, and guaranteed in-stock. Don't believe me? Check out the most recent ad from +Best Buy and see for yourself. This is only one example but believe me, +Amazon.com has some great deals going on, too! Go on, shop 'till you drop, and feel free to go around me; I'm just browsing.

But don't let all that commercialism get you down. Just don't forget how you got here. Unless you're of  Native American descent (of which less than 2% reported on the most recent +United States Census Bureau) the majority of us got here on a boat, somehow, within the past 400 years. Thanksgiving isn't the only holiday that's being re-labeled as a "sale" though. Veteran's Day saw record commercialism, i.e. advertising as well as consuming. In a 2008 article from BusinessPundit.com, the Fourth of July has turned into fireworks and Bar-B-Ques, shaking your grandfather's hand and saying 'thanks for your service' while the other 364 days of the year find us squabbling over our "rights" and "freedoms" that we, as Americans, believe we have an inherent 'right' to simply for being born here; just don't forget how we got those freedoms on those other 364 days and try celebrating the opportunity we have to even HAVE differing opinions. Celebrate the views of others and agree to disagree, for lack of a better word...

Ultimately it's up to you....Celebrate Thanksgiving how you want. I'm going to politely ask though, that you turn down your Christmas lights for another 24 hours, please. So where did Thanksgiving go? I live it everyday. I'm thankful for waking up today, for making it to the end of the day 'happy, healthy, and safe', and for being home with my family. In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one."

#thanksgiving #BlackFriday #Pilgrims
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