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2004-01-23 samwidge (u!t!c!)

Where have I been all my life?

Been around the world and I, I, I
I can't find my baby

Lisa Stansfield

(Not particularly relevant to my situation, but persons familiar with the earwormy tune will now hate me for causing it to get wriggling back round their various heads.)

More interestingly, when picking from a list of visited countries, what is one meant to do with countries that were then but no longer are? I ticked Croatia rather than Yugoslavia, because that's where Dubrovnic is now (I think) but when I went there back in the 80's it was in Yugoslavia; anyone who spent time in a supranational supergroup like the USSR is going to get lots of spare tickage if they can remember which of the assorted subsequent solo acts they traipsed through.

Anyway, one globe, slightly trotted:

Varied Reader, I implore thee - show me yours!


2004-01-23 mornin' (utc)

Sun, sea and... snkaos

Hoorah and welcome to the club, Greece!

Snkaos i norra Grekland:

Snovder och stormvindar svepte ver stora delar av Grekland p torsdagen, vilket ledde till kaos p vgarna och instllda flyg- och frjeturer.

Snstorms and stormwinds swept over large parts of Greeceland on Thorsday, which lead to kaos on the roads and cancelled plane and rail journeys.

Oh, well, since the trains not going anywhere I'll have a large ouzo; thanks for asking. No ice.


2004-01-22 aprs-samwidge (utc)

How to learn German by actually learning some German this time, but at least there's beer

Ein zwei drei vier -
Lift your stein and drink your beer!
Ein zwei drei vier -
Lift your stein and drink your beer

Drinking Song

In response to my request for a country-by-country breakdown of beer consumption, Birgitte provides a source of exactly that. In, which is surely much funnier if like her you know the language, German:

Im EU-Schnitt wurden 2000 76 (78) Liter Bier pro Kopf getrunken. In den USA waren es im Vergleich dazu 82 (84) Liter, wobei der Begriff Bier dort grozgig interpretiert wird. Die strksten Biertrinker in der EU waren traditionsgem die Deutschen, die allerdings mit 125 Liter pro Kopf auch weiter hinter den 80er Jahren mit 146 Liter liegen. Groe Rckgnge gab es in den vergangenen 20 Jahren auch in Belgien von 131 auf 99 Liter, in Grobritannien mit einem Rckgang von 117 auf 95 Liter und in Dnemark von 122 auf 102 Liter. Der Bierdurst der Iren ist zwar im Vergleich zu 1999 auf 125 (126) leicht gesunken, im 20-Jahresabstand aber sogar um 3 Liter grer geworden.

Help me, Kauderwelsh Allemand, mot mot (available at, but not, hilarity fans will wish to note), you're my only hope!

Across the EU the average yearly beer consumption per head was 76 litres (76 litres) in 2000. [Figures in parens are for 1999 - DvB.] In the USA, by comparison, it was 82 litres (84 litres), where the definition of beer is interpreted generously. The biggest beer drinkers in the EU were, in accordance with tradition, the Germans, who at 125 litres admittedly lay behind the 80's figure of 146 litres. Large declines have also occured in the last 20 years in "Belgium" from 131 litres to 99 litres, in Great Britain [which is prolly the UK - DvB] from 117 to 95 litres, and in Denmark from 122 to 102 litres. The beer thirst of the Irish is indeed lightly reduced from 1999 to 125 litres (126 litres), but over a twenty year interval it has grown by 3 litres.

(No fishies were harmed in the making of this translation.)

Kauderwelsch phrasebooks, I can now announce, are not just worth learning German for, they are also a good way to learn it - the mini-grammar is small enough that you can find stuff in it, and comprehensive enough that you can, you know, find stuff in it.

That, and a Collins Gem dictionary, and Copious Free Time and your days of babelfishiness could soon be over...

Now where were we? Ah yes:

Drink! Drink! Drink!
To eyes that are bright as stars when they're shining on me!
Drink! Drink! Drink!
To lips that are red and sweet as the fruit on the tree!


2004-01-22 fika (utc)

Ingrid Alexandra, I ask you!

As reported, breathlessly, by Hege Lyngved Odinsen, Robin Stenersen, Marianne Heen Johnsgrd, Tom Berby, Espen Egil Hansen and Hvar Bremer for VG. The prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, says:

- Ingrid er jo et kjent norsk pikenavn, samtidig ogs et norrnt navn og et kongelig navn i Bernadotte-slekta. Ingrid-navnet er ogs brukt i kronprinsessens familie, og derfor en fin kombinasjon av de to familiene.

"Ingrid is of course a well-known Norwegish girl's name, and also a norrnt name and royal name in the Bernadotte family [Sweden's Royle Hice]. The name Ingrid is also used in the Kronprinsess's family [which is common as muck, Herselfness apart] and is therefore a fitting combination of the two families."

Interpolations are of course mine.


2004-01-22 mornin' 2! (utc)


Each time that I visit Norway my first purchase after arrival is the current issue of Rutebok for Norge, a timetable which gives you the latest information about every railway, steamer, bus, ferry and airline service in the country. Even if you lack knowledge of the Norwegian language, a half-hour's study of this most interesting publication may make all the difference between rewarding, informed travel and dictated travel wherein the whole thing, lock, stock and barrel, is left to the advice of a travel agent. I do not mean to belittle agency travel. It is often helpful, even essential to the majority of travellers, but obedient travel, just adhering slavishly to an itinerary drawn up by someone else, is not consonant with the fun and feeling of utter independence when you act as an individual on your own. Then, apart from its practical side, I find the Rutebok, like most foreign timetables, enjoyable sparetime reading. For in addition to facts and costs on Jernbane (railways), Skip (shipping services), Bilruter (bus routes), Ferjeruter (ferry routes, across the fjords) and Flyruter ("fly routes"), there are many other odds and ends of essential tips.

[Gordon Cooper, Your Holiday in Norway, (1955?) p.32]

There is nothing quite like diligently combing a book-sized timetable in a language you do not know for odds and ends of essential tips, is there?

Mr Cooper's A Fortnight in Venice was previously featured in this bladet, and more of his work will most assuredly feature in the future. Given the antipathy to Germans which he generally neglects to make the slightest effort to conceal (the section on Bergen identifies the Hanseatic league as a self-proclaimed "master race", and I think there might be just a hint of a subtext there), I am especially keen to procure his Your Holiday in Germany.


2004-01-22 morning! (utc)


Hooda thunkit - there already is a prinsess Ragnhild, and she's not keen on having an ickle namesake! Because:

Ragnhild er altfor vanskelig uttale i utlandet.

Ragnhild is too hard to pronounce in Forren.

Bah! It's easy enough, Varied Reader, we assure you. Pronounce it as "Rangnhild" (try it, it's not as bad as it looks) and Norwegish persons will marvel at your cleverness, which is never bad.

The BBC notes that

Celebrations to mark the birth will include flying flags from all public buildings and cannon salutes from military fortresses.

Norway's last female monarch was Queen Margrete who assumed the Danish-Norwegian throne in 1380 upon the death of her husband and ruled until 1412.

Flying flags? That's a traditional Norwegish way to celebrate alternate Tuesdays; make an effort chaps! The Dutch are way out in front so far.

And Birgitte alerts us to rumours that Margrethe I of Norway (who was also sometimes Margrethe I of Denmark, since in those days they hadn't learned enough geography to reliably tell the difference) wasn't a real honest-to-goodness queen at all, but only a regent on behalf of various infants or children she had taken the precaution of bearing.

We'll settle this urgent constitutional crisis in the only way that befits its importance. Web rules wrestling: two falls, two submissions or a knock-out, and as always, Google's decision is final.

Bing! Round 1! This lot seem to have got "reigning" and "regent" rather mixed up at the worst possible moment:

3. Have there been any Queen Regnants in Denmark?

Yes, twice, even though the first one never used the title Queen of Denmark. Margareta, Queen 1380-1412. Born 1353 at Sborg, Denmark. Parents: King Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark and Helvig of Snderjylland. Ruled Denmark from 1376 and Norway from 1380 in the name of her son Olav. Defeated Albrekt 24 of February 1389 and was recognized as Queen of Sweden (a title she had used since 1375). She later ruled in the name of Erik, who in 1389 had been elected King of Norway and in 1396 King of Denmark and Sweden. She died 28 of October 1412 onboard her ship in the port of Flensborg. Married 9 of April 1363 at Copenhagen's Palace to King Hkan VI of Norway. Child: Olav (1370-1387)

Margrethe II, the current Queen. She acceded the throne in 1972.

Google's dictionary says "regnant" is an English word, so we're stuck with it, and although the text suggest only regency, those dates aren't complete. Bing! Round 2!

Margrethe 1. (1375-1412)

I de frste r efter Valdemar Atterdags dd, regerede Margrethe for sin mindrerige sn, Oluf. Efter dennes dd som 17-rig i 1387 blev Margrethe som Rigets Frue Danmarks egentlige hersker.

In the first years afer Valdemar Atterdags death, Margrethe reigned on behalf of her underage son Oluf. When he died at the age of 17 in 1387 Margrethe became Denmark's sovereign in her own right as the Kingdom's Wife.

So 1380-87 as Queen Margrethe, Olav's Mummy, a stretch of independent rule of Denmark to 1389, and then a later period as Erik's Mummy, although we still don't know what the situation was in such parts of Norway as weren't Denmark during various parts of this time.

Bing! Round 3!

Med Olufs dd frsvann fundamentet fr Margrethes makt. Hennes ldre syskons arvingar vdrade nu morgonluft och sg chansen att gra ansprk p kungatronen. Men redan ngra dagar efter Olufs dd samlade hon det sknelndska tinget i Lund som valde Margrethe till "fuldmgtig frue og husbond og til ganske Rige af Danmarks formynder". Hon genomfrde hr en statskupp som sidosatte alla regler och traditioner; hon gavs utan traditionell arvsrtt makten som regent med en helt ny titel, med makt att i enighet med riksrdet utse en arvtagare nr det passade henne.

With Oluf's death the foundations for Margrethe's power vanished. Her older siblings heirs felt a change in the air and saw a chance to claim the throne. But within a few days of Oluf's death she gathered the Scanian parliament in Lund, which elected Margrethe to "alle-powerfull wyfe and Master and till quite ye Kingedome of Denmark's Guardianne". She carried out here a coup d'tat which disregarded all rules and traditions; she was given without traditional inheritence rights power as ruler with a completely new title, with power to designate an heir when she passed away in agreement with the state council.

Knock out! You might question the jurisdiction of Scania's parliament, and the legitimacy of the coup d'tat to which it consented, but so far as this 'bladet is concerned she was very definitely a proper queen of something, and that's good enough for us.

UPDATE: Birgitte, who did this in school when she was, like, ten, is having none of it. Rules is rules and queens is queens, and Queen Margrethhe wasn't (hence the name), and points to this biography of Dronning Margrete den frste ("Queen Margrete the First" ) by way of proof.


2004-01-21 still hoorah! (utc)

Prinsessor and pretentiosity

As the Norwegish blogosphere rejoices, Hilde remarks of the new prinsess:

She can be the first reigning queen of Norway since 1412!
That's about time!
And I look forward to the discussions about gender, power, monarchy, the state etc that will follow.

Of course, in Storbrittanien och Nordirland, where I live, we have had a Queen since 1953, and both Denmark and the Netherlands have also successfully tested their patches of the Infamous Succession Gender Bug, hoorah!

So while we appreciate the endless discursiveness of Norwegish public life, and we certainly acknowledge the need for things to do in the long winter evenings, there is a considerable weight of evidence that gender, power, monarchy and the state are likely to be profoundly unaffected by the reign of a queen rather than a king. (Although we're not going to find out for sure one way or another while Haakon is around, which we hope and trust will be a very long time, so there's no rush.)

But of course in 1953 nobody had even read Foucault, let alone J. Butler, so heaven knows but what we may have missed something crucial. We will, as ever, endeavour to keep our Varied Reader informed.


2004-01-21 samwidge (utc)

Beer - ice cold and international

"Katie weighs all of two tonnes, remember!"

Russian troops have retrieved 10 tonnes of beer trapped under the Siberian ice after a week-long operation.


They retrieved the kegs of beer but the rope snapped and the truck slipped back under the water.

The Rosar brewery in Omsk said the freezing temperatures probably kept the quality of the beer from deteriorating and said it will still take the delivery. It plans to sell the beer at a discount.

But the iconic beer in Ice-cold in Alex was, of course, the mighty Malaysian juggernaut Carlsberg, on whose global empire the sun never sets:

Danish brewer Carlsberg has said it has made an offer to buy German rival Holsten for just over 1bn euros.


Carlsberg said buying Holsten would help its strategic goal of building its brands, particularly the Carlsberg brand.

It said Holsten was a "well-invested, highly efficient company", with a strong distribution network in Germany, Europe's biggest beer market, through which to expand sales of the Carlsberg and Tuborg beer brands.

We owe to an ex-colleague's wife's MBA course the insight that Carlsberg's core strength not in fact brewing but its ability to distribute perishable refrigerated fluids in vast quantities, so this deal makes perfect sense to Desbladet Business Focus. Germany, we will remark in passing, is also the most populous country in Yoorp, and we are holding out for a proper beer-per-person breakdown before we're at all impressed.


2004-01-21 hoorah! (utc)

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Kronprins - It's a prinsess!

Happy birthday dear Future Queen of Norway,
Happy birthday to you!

En liten prinsessa, nummer tv i den norska tronfljden, r fdd.
Kronprinsessan Mette-Marit lades vid fyratiden p onsdagsmorgonen in p frlossningsavdelningen p Rikshospitalet i Oslo.
Kronprins Haakon krde sjlv sin hggravida hustru till sjukhuset.

A little princess, number two in line to the Norwegish throne, has been born.
Kronprinsess Mette-Marit was in labour for four hours on Wednesday morning in the maternity department at the National hospital in Ooshloo.
Kronprins Haakon drove his pregnant wife to the hospital himself.

VG has gone predictably beserk with patriotic joy, so I may be busy for a while...

UPDATE: Birgitte points us to the Danish coverage which remarks,

Navnet p den nyfdte bliver ikke offentliggjort fr p et et ekstraordinrt statsrdsmde, der holdes i morgen.

The new-born's name won't be officially announced before an extraodinary cabinet meeting to be held tomorrow.

With Sigurd being a boy's name, we at this bladet are now solidly and unwaveringly backing Ragnhild, and you may be sure that we will be using all our influence with the Norwegish cabinet in this matter.


2004-01-21 mornin' (utc)


Babies are more like trains than buses, VG points out: although the timing of their arrival is certainly unpredictable, you still normally only get one at once:

Kronprinsesse Mette-Marit og kronprins Haakon m vre forberedt p vente mange dager etter terminen p torsdag fr de blir foreldre.

Kronprinsess Mette-Marit and her husband must be prepared to wait many days after the term of her confinement on Thursday to become parents.

While Denmark's blushing kronprinsess-to-be, Knudella "Mary" Donaldson, are going on a little trip after their eagerly-anticipated nuptuations:

Kronprins Frederik og Mary Donaldson rejser i juni den lange vej mod nord til Qaanaaq i Grnland.

Kronprinsfred and Knudella will travel a long way north to Qaanaaq in Greenland.

This is undoubtedly very wise indeed, since it is even further to Qaanaaq if you set off initially by proceeding in a southerly direction, and Kronprinsfred and Knudella undoubtedly have Denmark's finest geographers to advise them in these matters.


2004-01-20 allgonedark (utc)

Danish, slightly global

According to an Online Language Translators report: "Danish: national language of Danishsia, Brunei and official language of Singapore."

Danishsia? The largest non-existent potato importer in South-East Asia, for sure. Politiken, which has the original report, has also further sport with the story, but for some reason seems to have written it in an obscure dialect of Malay spoken only in Schleswig Holstein and nearby areas.

[via David TEFLSmiler]


2004-01-20 not hungry (utc)

Happy New Year

to all the loonies, monkeys, persons of cultural applicability and peripateticistes out there!


2004-01-20 samwidge (utc)

A Bulgarian in Siberia, slightly Swedished

We will forgive la-di-dah DN, although not for anything in particular, for publishing this account from Ulla Roseen of how she became a translator, and the circumstances thereof, in celebration of the International Year of Translation:

Jag blev versttare drfr att jag blev frlskad i en bok. Om Sibirien. Skriven av en bulgar. I det lget, nr frlskelsen r het och det inte finns ngon att dela lsupplevelsen med, finns bara en sak att gra: verstta. Med boken under armen stegade jag (24 r gammal) upp till Den Store Frlggaren med mitt projekt, han lutade sig tillbaka i sin skinnftlj och sa att "lilla frken frstr att det r svrt att verstta - det rcker inte med att kunna ett annat sprk".

I became a translator because I fell in love with a book. On Siberia. Written by a Bulgarian. In that situation, when the infatuation is raging and there's no one to share the reading experience with, there's only one thing to do: translate it. With the book under my arm I marched up (24 years old) to The Big Publisher with my project, he leant back in his leather armchair and said that "you have to realise, young lady, that translation is hard - it's not enough just to know another language."

Nonethelesswisely, outcome it did, with Roseen having learned on the way to cherish the "freedom" offered by the non-existence of any Swedish-Bulgarian dictionaries, which is proof enough that she's a born translator if you ask me. It's "Bortom Ural" ("Beyond the Urals") av Jordan Raditjkov, and it's won all sorts of prizes and acclaims and who-knows-what.

Some of his other books are out in other languages; he trades as Yordan Raditchkov in the Frenchy-French whose Amazon has several but not, so far as I can tell, the Siberian one, Jordan Radichkov in Italian and possibly in Engleesh (although Yordan Radichkov, the Kafka of Sofia has its champions); neither of the Engleesh-speaking Amazons stocks any of his books. He's also Jordan Raditschkow in German, but only has one story collection.

So it looks like it may be time for the old "it's simply marvelous! Of course, I don't read Bulgarian; it's out in translation. Only in Swedish so far, though, but it really is absolutely exquisite - you'd love it, I'm sure you would!"


2004-01-20 mornin' (utc)

Cheap flights, slightly spendy

Aftenposten brings timely warnings about budget airlines, which are of course expected to play a crucial role in the current International Year of Yoorp:

Flyselskapet Ryanair tillater kun 15 kilo bagasje pluss syv kilo hndbagasje. For hver kilo overvekt m du ut med 50 kroner. Dette er bare n av de mange konomiske feller du kan g i ved fly til lavpris.

Budget airline Ryanair allows only a 15 kg baggage allowance plus 7 kg handbaggage. Every kilo over that will cost you 50 NOK (6 EUR). That's just one of the many economic traps you can fall into flying on the cheap.

Otherwise: it is widely suspected that Ryanair's lowest (advertised) fares meet at best some legal miminum threshold for existence with little relevance for purchasability in practice; Easyjet sells only point-to-point tickets and couldn't care less if you make a connecting flight, even if it's another Easyjet flight; Ryanair (especially) flies to some airports with pretty random relationships to the cities they are alleged to serve; none of the cheapies gives you anything to eat or drink on board (but you can buy it or take your own, which is a better deal than Disneyland offers); and they will weigh your baggage, and make you pay for any excess.

Also they alert me to the hard-to-google budget Norwegian carrier, Norwegian, which offers Stansted->Bergen for 30 GBP one way including taxes, which is by no means a bad deal, especially if you happen to be fond of Bergen, which I certainly am.


2004-01-19 samwidge (utc)


1. Look, an opinion!

You don't see many of those these days, for sure, and what a splendid specimen this is! Scott Douglas - for it is he! - is in no danger of picking up a finder's fee on the plot:

Now with no books or literacy we can finally eliminate language, at least language in the traditional sense. Hearing somebody speak in complete sentences will be confusing and hard to follow. When the world is surrounded by graphics, speaking in words seems inappropriate. Since it is impossible to speak in images, something else needs to be worked out. At first it will be best to speak using chat room abbreviations; when you find yourself amused at something, you will smile and tell the person "L-O-L" or when you are leaving you will say "B-F-N." A formal, romantic wedding proposal would look something like, "W-Y-M-M?"

Ho ho! Cultures whose languages lack a writing system, is it that they find "[h]earing somebody speak in complete sentences will be confusing and hard to follow"? Astonishingly, it turns out that this is by no means the case, which is on the contrary quite otherwise. The persons best equipped to announce this fact are called "anthropologists" and "linguists", and they have been announcing it to anyone who will listen for a century or so.

Of course, Scott Douglas's piece is by way of being an indulgence in hilarity or "humour", which is Journalisme for "offensively stupid", but we are impressed that a world in which email and texting have made the written word indispensable to communication as never before could be mistaken for one on the verge of illiteracy.

Since, however, this is a very common position, I will do the world the largely undeserved honour of explaining how it came about, which is actually quite simple:

The increased importance and convenience of textual communication has lead to increased exposure to the writing of persons who aren't very good at it.

Fifty or a hundred years ago there was certainly at least as high a proportion of illiterates in western societies, but they weren't sending email or writing web pages or texting with abandon, and they were correspondingly easier not to notice. These days the kind of peasants who would have been tugging their forelocks down on t'farm back in the "good old days" are emailing badly crafted memos about business meetings and texting each other (in Yoorp) till their little thumbs are sore, while the corresponding shortage of minions means we're all our own typists and proofreaders, and the secretaries who would once have silently disentangled our dysfluencies are these days doing it for themselves.

I would, in fact, bet good hard currency that the proportion of persons in the Western world who are skilled in the use of the written word has in fact risen over the last 50 years, although the proportion who are just getting by has certainly risen faster. And if you must insist that this is a bad thing, do not be surprised if I hold it against you.

[Via the Muselivre]

2. We were somewhere around Jnkping when the sn began to take hold

Oh yes:

[U]tanfr Jnkping rdde sent p sndagskvllen kaos sedan det blivit totalstopp i trafiken dr ven plogbilar och sandbilar satt fast.

Outside Jnkping chaos ruled late on Sunday evening as traffic came to a complete halt when even sn-ploughs and sand trucks were stuck fast.

I was initially disappointed that New York, unlike the Scandewegians, did such a poor job of succumbing to the sn. But it's fair enough, really, if you think about it: New York probably only occasionally has really serious blizzards, so they are bound to be rusty when one finally comes along, while Sweden gets them several times a year, which gives them a great deal more practice in being surprised.

[via Birgitte, tack]

3. Vickan solves the Middle East crisis!

Kronprinsessan Victoria, 26, is in Saudiarabien.

Kronprinsessan r Sveriges viktigaste nyckel nr delegationen med finansminister Gunnar Lund knyter nya affrskontakter i oljelandet. Kronprinsessan och minister Lund har mtt regeringen och kronprins Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz i huvudstaden Riyadh.

- Vi har diskuterat Mellansternkonflikten. Kronprinsen r en viktig aktr som kan samtala med de olika parterna.

The kronprinsess is Sweden's most important key when finans minister Gunnar Lund seeks new business contacts in the oil-rich country. The kronprinsess and minister Lund have met the government and kronprins Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Azis in the capital Riyadh.

"We have discussed the weather middle east conflict. The kronprins is an important figure who can communicate with the different parties."

(The Saudi royal family is certainly the opposite of an advertisement for monarchies having actual power and stuff, but probably the rigid protocol of state visits made it impractical for Vickan to say so.)


2004-01-19 10:30


1 X-ray vision, slightly undisproved

Our new friends at Izvestia have another scoop. (Must! Learn! Gavareetya! Pa russkee!)

Russian scientists have been unable to disprove a teenage girl who claims she has x-ray vision and can see inside human bodies.

Doctors at Saransk's children hospital carried out exhaustive tests on 16-year-old Natalia Demkina whose claims she has x-ray vision has gripped the Russian public.

But according to Russian daily newspaper Izvestia, the scientists have so far failed to explain the vivid and detailed accounts she gives of the inside of bodies.

[12 Frogs]

2 EU power, more than slightly struggled over

Crooked Timber, the Grauniad reader's Slashdot, covers the implications of the EU stability and growth kerfuffle. This is some very implicative for the future stuff, and it is a thing of goodness that there are clever people analysing it, because the news meeja haven't shown any great willingness to do so. I'm cheering for the treaty, the commission, the rule of law and a hearty slap in the face for the French government, not necessarily in that order.

3 Travelicious!

I have never been to Scotland, of course, but that's about to change. As part of the International Year of Yoorp I shall be attending a scientific meeting in the former Yoorpean Capital of Culture, Glasgow, where they speak a special Glaswegian dialect in which pretty much the only intelligible word is "fookin". Luckily this is also, in my experience, a good half of the words by volume, so there isn't really a problem understanding the majority of what is said.


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