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Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
We're down to the final two episodes of Aaron Sorkin's take on modern news media. Most of the plot of this week's third-to-last airing, titled "Contempt" was about either (1) duh, Will being held in contempt for not revealing a source to a federal judge, or (2)  several of the pairings of M/F journalists developed during the season to date.  Apropos of the latter, I'll share only this slightly wonderful sight from the episode's final minutes, all the more wonderful because it's shot over Sam Waterston's shoulder:

What interested me far more was the C-story of the script, about the clash between Old Media and New, and the extents to which the standards of the former have to give way to the novelties, technologies and (quoting the fictional network's probable new owner) "disruption" opportunities of the latter.

The hypothesis is largely proven: Gen-X'ers/Y'ers/Millennials don't want to read their grandpa's newspaper, or watch their daddy's Evening Network News. They want to be entertained by the news, even becoming part of making and reporting it! And Murrow/Cronkite/Rather don't work anymore!

That's largely true; hell, I don't want to read my grandpa's daily newspaper anymore (although I'll admit to some sentimental tactile like for the physical paper for both books and periodicals), and I'm quite comfortable navigating the online versions of both Old and New Media. What I'm not comfortable with is the way New Media prioritizes: too little attention to what really is news, and virtually no separation of the editorial and business sides of the sites.


So much of current media is geared to the sensational, the salacious, and the celebrity. I now get a near-constant reminder of these priorities on Facebook, which sidebars "trending" items that are almost always weighted toward celebrities and sports figures. When hard news does slip in (such as Ferguson, at this moment), it's being filtered through the lenses of pundits, such as Charles Barkley's opinion of it (celebrity? check; sports? check). Even respected Old Media sources are kowtowing to this "trend," adding "links you may like" at the end of their stories (if not more prominently placed) with "Mom is 53 but looks 27!" teasers and with no obvious disclaimer that these are. Not. NEWS. At least not in the sense that I learned to define it- as reported fairly, completely and with respect for the sources, the language and, yes, the truth. That's what Jeff Daniels's character was seen going off in handcuffs to protect, and what Sam Waterston's promised to be the start of a war with his network's putative new owner.

Just as scary, though, is the form it all takes. I grew up, before and during my career as a journalist, with a clear sense of structure based on the STORY. Each had a predictable structure within it (top-down presentation, the 5 W's, clear rules for attribution) and, equally predictable, the structure among them (top to bottom and right to left of the page, front to back within the physical product). Today's news site is just as strictly structured, but the unit of measurement is not the STORY but the CLICK. This distinction caused much of the tension over the last two Newsrooms between a young but Old Media producer and his slightly younger but much Newer Media girlfriend; he was shocked to see her New Media employer basing her compensation on clicks, because of the temptation to sex up the stories to keep those "READ MORE" clicks coming.

These types of "stories" are all over my Facefeed, and they're as annoying as they are predictable. Almost always, they're teased as "THE TEN [or some other number between 5 and 20 tied to the typical Ritalin user's attention span) SHOCKING THINGS YOU MUST MUST MUST KNOW OR YOU WILL DIE." That first click will get you, eventually, only the first of those things, which takes forever as it loads the 20 different trackers and pop-ups and demands to LIKE US ON FACEBOOK and SIGN UP FOR EMAILS OR THAT'LL KILL YOU, TOO. Each click to five, twenty, whatever pads their stats and keeps you hanging all the way to the end, where, no doubt, you'll be greeted by still more lists of TOP [insert number here] THINGS YOU'LL CLICK THROUGH OR WE'LL SHOOT THIS PUPPY.

Not only is this not my grandpa's journalism, it's not mine. Hopefully it never will be. And yet, a week from this coming Sunday, Sorkin will be shutting down his Newsroom. It may only be a matter of time before the likes of NewsNight will only be quaint and fading memories to those of us who re

Going, going, gone-goodbye: My 2014 NaNo. Not a word. Two ideas now in the corral for future use.

Arriving prior to possible departure: Our passports. We are now free to move about the globe until 2024. Not even plans to make plans at this point, although we have mentioned return to the UK more than once, and some puddle-jumping to get to Bulgaria someday to meet our dear friend tilia_tomentosa.

Also arriving, finally: A book I ordered for Eleanor through Amazon before our September anniversary, which they never confirmed shipment on and which I eventually pulled from them and re-ordered, from Powell's Books of Portland via Alibris (a great site for hard-to-find finds) for the exact same price I'd subtracted from my checkbook almost three months ago:

Why that title? Look inside:

Eleanor learned of it through an site devoted to the ASMR phenomenon; there are Youtubes of it being read in the calming kind of voice that can evoke the reaction in her (and apparently in Emily; I seem not to have it).

Going.... slightly batty? I, on the other hand, got to wondering about one of my own mental phenomena today. I saw a review of Foxcatcher, and realized that I have it hopelessly confused with another Very Serious film just released by an unexpected, Usually Very Funny muse: Rosewater. I do this with other bits and bobs of factoids, too: Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet may as well be the same person, as far as my brain-based filing system is concerned, even though I've seen them in dozens of things and would have no reason to mix them up except for the similar cadence in their names. No idea what this means, if indeed it means anything, but I found it worth thinking about. Maybe eventually I'll mix it up with something else about myself;)

Coming.... to a realization about Going. I was working from home for most of today, and got a little worried about the dog. Ebony did not come out for the morning feeding without several calls from me; even odder, she did not come to the kitchen later in the day when I set out leftovers from last night's dinner (at Eleanor's noted behest) in a pot on the floor. (The kitties were more than happy to raid the pot once the lid was off, and with all that extra energy spent a good half hour basically kicking each others' asses tonight.) Then, I finally "got" what was going on: Ebony was missing the kids. She was hanging out close to the front window when I put down the goodies, as she has back to the days of waiting for the kid to come home on the school bus. (She was much better about getting into her noms tonight when I got home, but that's dogs for you: big hearts, not-so-big memories;)

And ending with one final going, or gong? I read earlier that China's government censors print and broadcast watchdog agency is cracking down on the use of puns and other wordplay as being potentially misleading and offensive to Chinese culture. To which one wag, somewhere in my travels today, tweeted back:

Fine, China.

And with that, I must be.... going.
I was going to title today's post "Slouching towards normalcy," only to remember I used that when posting after the kids' car accident last year. The return to "normal" (such as it ever is around here) was much less of a shock to the system this time, despite them being here for the holiday this year and having twice the incoming kitty population as they did during their last extended stay.

All in all, a nice time. Eleanor's posting about it as well, so I'll let brevity avoid some duplication, but,...

* Thanksgiving dinner wound up Friday night here- balancing out last year, when we did it at their Rochester apartment the day before the Day and airlifted in most of the fixings.  By no means traditional, but by all accounts appreciated.

* They spent a lot of Thanksgiving itself, as well as the past two days, with both camps of the CamFam.  His grandmother was hospitalized, and they visited her at least once. They also scored a lot of Christmas-decorating bling from his dad and stepmom, mainly because they're planning a move to a smaller home and are beginning the downsizing. It's kind of weird to see that kind of empty-nesting going round with them- Scott's younger than us, El much more so, and they still have young kids in the house and neither Cam nor his full brother have ever lived with them fulltime.

* We watched the sequel to How to Train Your Dragon with them over Friday and Saturday night. We'd really enjoyed the original together, and it's somewhat surprising that there was a five-year gap between the two, both story-wise and animation-wise. Shouldn't have been; we got our youngest cat Zoey right before the first film came out, which I remember because, had we seen it first, we likely would've named her Toothless on account of her resembling Hiccup's bud.  (In a sort-of turnabout related to that: our friends who were fostering the drug-house-rescused pit bull named Pocket?  Sent her off to her forever home the other day, and her new name is.... Zoey.)

* We thought about all going together to the Stephen Hawking biopic this afternoon, but they were already starting to get into move-on mode as of last night and they headed out a little over an hour ago. Their cats were among the last to be packed and, as usual, were finally acting Almost Sociable around us and the rest of our aminals by the time it was time for them to leave:

I can still remember my Sunday After Thanksgiving itchiness to get away from fam and back to the familiar after this holiday, so I understand completely their wanting to get going- as I hope they understand us appreciating the return of normalcy to our own routines. So far today, I've done some online shopping, copied some videos, and even dented the slag heap of work on my desk from being away two days and then off for two last week; I have four straight days of court appearances scheduled after tomorrow, so anything I can do to lessen that load will only help.

That, and not slouching too much;)

The visiting cats are getting a little more sociable after almost 48 hours. Gwenny is out and about in the house, mostly enjoying the Bird and Squirrel Show out the front window; Arthur, the more affable of the two (at least with me), is sticking to their room but comes out and preens and purrs when I come visit. At one point, Gwen got into the cellar and she and/or Zoey committed a little mayhem, knocking some books off their shelves. I decided to bring a handful of them back upstairs- mainly signed copies where I knew (or, in the case of the collateral damage, edited the book for) the author.

Most of our books are downstairs but I have a bookcase in here (one of the few "hairlooms" from my side of the fam) with some favorites from over the decades. To make room, I decided to move a bunch out- some Dave Barrys, a Steve Martin or two, and then I saw one which, instantly, I knew would not be joining its fellow evacuees in the basement but would rather be consigned to the rubbish heap:


I don't make this choice lightly, because my copy of the book was a gift from my mother, on the occasion of Emily's christening:


By then, she'd moved near my sister; within a few years, she was living with her, and Donna was caring for her, until she died not long after Emily turned 7.  So the sentiment will always be important to me (and is preserved apart from the book, here and in that photo), but I can't stand to see, much less read, the vessel in which it is contained.


The tsunami of charges against America's Favorite Dad™ has been overwhelming in recent weeks.  The rumors had been around for years, and the New Yorker did a profile a few months ago which was quite explicit about the allegations brought by some of the women. Yet it took another man- comic Hannibal Buress- and his explicit hurl of the "rapist" tag to turn Pater into Pariah in incredibly short order. His appearances canceled, his college ties repudiated, even his Fatherhood-era reruns pulled from TVLand.

And now his book is going in the bin.

Am I hasty? Judgmental?  I've reserved "dead to me" status for a few famous people in the past, who similarly found themselves tried and convicted in the court of public opinion if not a court of law.  Two famed movie directors, makers of some films I once loved and still respect, are in that category. So is the murderer (as far as I'm concerned) of a young unarmed man whose only crimes were the color of his skin and his possession of Skittles.  I refuse to support their careers, however indirectly, by promoting or purchasing their work, and to prevent the principle of succès de scandale from applying, I will not even mention their names again until they either are completely vindicated or have genuinely repented. And so, my memories of Thursday Night Must-See TV on NBC now begin with The Voldemort Show.

He will have his defenders, as do the other men of privilege have who I have consigned in my mind to this hell of guilt.  He was never indicted, much less accused, they will say, as has been said about their previous Voldemorts. Or, he was investigated and they found nothing.  That's fine; I don't need to waste hots and a cot on these guys. But my standard of proof is a bit lower than "beyond reasonable doubt." In this case, twenty accusers coming forward, all with similar stories of misuse of power and position, is enough to convict in my mind.  His punishment will not be fine or imprisonment,  but the mere recycling of his memoir about fatherhood into something. If I had a choice, I think a garbage can would make a fitting tribute to the man.

(I did, incidentally, tell Emily about my find and my intentions about it, and she was fine with it.)


This will take care of the tangible, but there's still a lot in my head that's in need of Brain Bleach.  I grew up on the man's recorded comedy; "Noah," "Chicken Heart," and the less known but probably funnier-to-me bits "Hofstra" and "$75 Car," are routines I could (and even now still can) recite from memory.  We have some of that work on CD, others on ancient cassettes.  I see only one answer to this conundrum: I would love if the current generation of comics would get together and re-record these routines, so their inherent value (which all predates their creator's international fame and, thus, his recorded misuse of that fame for sexual gain) could be preserved for future fans of the material to appreciate. Dedicate the proceeds of the album to rape crisis or awareness causes. Dare the man to turn down whatever his share would've been. It could be a first step on his road to redemption.


I ran five different errands this morning, only one of which involved shopping for anything- and that was at the Wegmans closest to UB, where all the students are away for the weekend and the store was relatively dead. (Eleanor just called- her store's pretty quiet, too.) I never got within a block of any of the conspicuous consumption going on today, driving over Transit Road on an overpass and detouring through back streets to stay away from the Amherst Walmart.

Sadly, a taste of the wretched excess came passing by me in my travels. On my way to Errand #1, I passed a pickup truck, which had its bed completely consumed by a box labeled with two of the biggest brands of useless avarice known to humankind: BARBIE ESCALADE.

That's right. Somebody stayed in line, possibly all night, to get a Doorbuster deal on this:

Because what conveys the true meaning of Christmas than a pink pimpmobile that costs almost twice a monthly payment on our REAL electric car? I'd try to ask Barbie if it's at least energy efficient, but she'd probably just tell me that "math class is tough!" and pass it on to her coder friends Steven and Brian.


One of those errands was to pick up the final DVD of Elementary series one. This seemed a good idea now that Netflix has been bombing us with the Series 2 disks which have recently come out. I'd finished most of the first season earlier, after my ill-advised boycott of the adaptation finally fell, and Emily informs me that the final eps of S1 are quite intriguing.

No shit, Sherlock;)


Finally, apropos of Ferguson, the New Yorker nailed the present condition of "post-racial" America without saying a printed word:


Maybe someday, Barbie can bring both sides together and paint them pink- once she gets her friends Sherwin and William to do the actual painting....

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My third year running this thing, after a first year where I desperately wanted to get in and couldn't. This time I was plainly apathetic about the whole event; didn't plan to run with anyone, didn't pick up the packet until late yesterday, and less than an hour before the gun was still cleaning up the kitchen and not 100% sure I'd even head out the door for it.

But I did, and an hour and 6 minutes after running through one chute, I ran through the final one five miles down the road. Didn't see a soul I knew among the 14,000 in the event, but let the 119 years of history and the creativity of the crowd make up for that.

With Guardians of the Galaxy as the soundtrack (a few re-played to get it to the full hour), these were some of the sights that stuck:

1/2 mile mark: already started seeing gloves, hats and bibs laying in the roadway. This was the first time I both managed to remember all my essentials and still had them all in my possession and working (in the case of the earbuds) at the end.

Around a mile: Delaware dips under the 198, a traditional cheering point from both above it and within it.

Two mile mark: Start noticing some of the more interesting costumes. A family dressed as a portapotty, who for sanitary reasons had to stick together.  A mom turkey and her son in a chef's hat brandishing a hatchet.

Near halfway: My first sight of Wonder Woman. We wound up at more or less the same pace for the rest of the day.

Three miles, before Allentown: Rooters with dinner bells and signs: MORE COWBELL? WHO NEEDS COWBELL?

At North Street: giant American flag hanging from a firetruck ladder over the road. High-fived all the firefighters. Thanked THEM.

Also around here someplace- as in past the halfway point. The wiseguy runners who took the thing seriously (winning 5-mile times are typically around 24 minutes) start to appear on the sidewalk running BACK the other way. I hope their knees hurt even more than mine will:P

Passing Statler: Finish line and after-parties are on other side of the building, and I've reached it in under an hour, but there's still a half-mile of loop to go.  Also first sighting of the Green Centipede Family I've seen in prior years.

Final half-mile: Now the wind off Lake Erie kicks in. My gloves and touque, off since the first half-mile, go back on.  There's a half-block of uphill before seeing The End, moved a few hundred feet closer to cut down the congestion in front of the Statler/Convention Center.  I afterburn for one of my longest Actually Running stretches of the whole event before going through, officially, at 1:06:15. Three minutes longer than last year, but I attribute that to the 16F-degree temperatures a year ago that kept EVERYBODY moving fast.

I blew off the afterparty and got on an Urgent Care meat wagon which had me back to the car, then home, by a bit after 11.  Running wash, catching up on some Elementary episodes; kids and grandkitties just got here, and Eleanor should be home soon.
Kids are back on track. Their car wasn't quite ready at the end of the day yesterday, but got it finished, picked up, paid for and back on the road late this afternoon. They, and these two delinquents-


- will be here tomorrow. Arthur, the gray one on our right, is much bigger than when that was taken in April. He was also the far more sociable of the two of them while I visited, so it'll be interesting to see how this goes.

I have my number and shirt for a 5-mile run in the morning; the two previous Turkey Trots were much warmer (in 2012) and WAY colder (last year) than what they're predicting. I haven't run outside since the last one, but the fun and weirdness of the whole event make it tempting.

I'm grateful that I'm in good enough shape to at least give it a shot; that I will spend the afternoon with those I love the most; and that work and home have been relative havens of blessing and places of peace as we reach this occasion.

I am also thankful that I have neither need nor desire to go out into Retail tomorrow for anything (although Eleanor will be at work from 10-2).

So as this November winds down, to all who share these words, I also say: thank YOU.
The 24 hours since my previous post were about as nice a solar day as I can remember having in a good while. The Bills got even better after I hit send last night, totally blowing out their opponent. I got a decent night's sleep at the kids' place, then got to work for a very good day, resolving two long-festering things and even ending it with a somewhat stressful but coulda-been-worse negotiating session. One quick drive later, I was home and we were happily eating and QI-ing together. All in all, good stuff....

Except for the rather significant distraction of the latest "news" from Ferguson and the strife it set off.

I don't mean the rioting. The script was practically written to encourage THAT: Sir, the grand jury report is done! Let's announce it after dark but only after everybody knows it's coming, so we can prey on the protester's emotions and get good B-roll for the 11:00 news of them knocking over cars! No, I mean the whole lead-up to the announcement and divisiveness that followed it. Nobody cares about the facts so much as they care about the symbols- of Law And Order versus the Scary Black Man.

In my brief exposure to him* in the car today, Rush Limbaugh was simply dripping with sarcastic vitriol at his fellow Missourians of the wrong race. At least a dozen times, he referred to the homicide victim, Michael Brown, only as "the gentle giant," never by name. In so doing, he was continuing a trope that's been all the (white) rage on assorted right-wing sites about the Liburul Media portraying Brown as harmless and unarmed despite his undeniable bigness and unforgivable blackness. (Never mind that the cop who shot him was himself only an inch shorter than Brown, professionally trained and, you know, armed.)

The zit-ridden drug addict was positively gleeful that an emotional community had responded as you would expect them to given the long history and recent provocation. Scary Black People Being Scary and Black- Film at 11! Funny thing, though. You know who else ultimately saw no choice but to resort to violence after year after year and beatdown after beatdown of their rights- rights seen to be "self-evident" and "endowed by their Creator," even? Yeah- those Founding Fathers who he and his ilk worship so much. They even wrote a lot of it down in a Declaration which, at the time, was probably perceived by the ruling class as being as rude, as outrageous and as scary as the sight is today of Al Sharpton brandishing a bullhorn.

But, as is so often the case with modern-day Republicans, It's OK If You're A White-Wigged White Guy.

So, no- we shouldn't condone the reaction, but it would do wonders for the future health of this commonwealth if all of us did a little better job of trying to understand it.

And that's all I have to say on this otherwise perfectly lovely November day.

* Exposure to only his voice, fortunately. There's a reason this man never lasted on television, even fully-clothed;)
As opposed to fly. It's just been a delightful time, spending my first evening- soon to be overnight- I've ever spent in the kids' apartment. Unless, that is, you count the night after last November's accident, spent on a cot with two very stressed victims down a much smaller hall.

This time again involves car trouble, but way way less of it. I got here about 7:30 this morning, tried to jump their car (failed), and after we made the tow and repair appointments, I got Em to work by 9:30 and me to the Rochester office by 10.

Turned out to need a new alternator- ordered and to be put in tomorrow- and since I needed to be back this way tomorrow anyway, it made the most sense to stay. I laid in some groceries for them and have just had a nice evening looking in on their life.

Emily cooked. We ate watching a bunch of Brooklyn 99 eps on Hulu. Cats entertained and were entertained back. Then, I broke in my HBO Go app on this tablet and caught last night's Newsroom while they broke out a real video game.

It's been totally endearing just catching glimpses of them, in a plain mix of old shoe love and Mortal Kombat (or whatever game it is) while I multitasked between Will and his gang and online scorechecks on the Bills and Gang Green. (24-3 at this report- Gods they BETTER not blow this.)

They really don't need me for anything in the morning- and might not at all if she can get the six-mile ride to her car when they finish by day's end- but there's nothing like this kind of time to remind me of what we have to be thankful for:-)
Just the other day, Eleanor posted about how proud she was about how well the kids were doing on their own- one of their headlamps blew out and they fixed it by themselves. And we're still proud of all they're accomplishing. But November? Really. LEAVE OUR DAMN KIDS ALONE.

Last year, a week before this weekend, was their car accident.  They survived that and wound up with what had been my car for the previous seven years.  Other than needing new tires (which I put on it a year ago) and an occasional oil change, they've had no problems with it whatsoever.  As for the new apartment, that's been going great for them, too- more room, more opportunities to cook more interesting things.

Then, this weekend hit.  After the tired grups here went to bed around 10:30 Friday night, phones started ringing- Emily calling. Everything, by then, was okay, but they'd had a scare: Em had spilled some sugary sauce on one of their stove burners, and Cameron turned that one on and set the remaining mix afire. They got it out quickly enough, but the smell of the fire extinguisher material was eerily close to the odor from the airbags when they went off in their car last November, so that sent Emily into panic-attack territory.  By the time Eleanor talked to her during the day yesterday, they'd settled down from it, had it largely cleaned up and were planning a low-key day....

until I got the next round of calls from both of them, closer to 4:30 in the afternoon. Their car had begun a bit of electrical craziness with assorted accessories turning on and off, but it seemed okay to drive until Cameron was out by himself in it on the same Route 21 we'd traversed a week or so before- and the car suddenly jolted and everything turned off.  That's when he discovered that Emily's AAA membership doesn't mean squat if she's not with the car (silly me, I'd always thought he had his own card through one or the other of his own parents) and that they had no idea if he could even get the car towed home to her, much less if he could pay for it.

There were several rather distressed calls among the three of us, but ultimately AAA did show, did tow, and did not charge him- this time. But they're carless for the time being and have no idea if it's a simple issue like the battery (I replaced it a little over four years ago), or something worser and expensiver like the timing belt or alternator. Any of the above would be consistent with what happened.  I got in touch today to see if they'd tried jumping it (which would give a clue about whether and how much of a charge the battery can get), but they're still pretty freaked out from the events of both days and asked if I would just get there at buttcrack o'clock tomorrow.

Which I will. Our snow's almost entirely melted and there's no heavy weather expected other than flooding in the areas (not theirs or ours) that got the massive tonnage of snow, so I will be dealing with this tomorrow and, perhaps, Tuesday as well.  I'm catching up on chores of both home and work variety today in anticipation of being away from both for most of the next two days, and will be checking with them to see what they need in the way of a Wegmans run before I head over there in the morning.

On the bright side? It'll be December in just over a week:P
About our biggest local problem from the massive snowfall to the south? A lack of entertainment options, due to mail being delayed and Netflixes not showing up. (I know, this is about as First World Problem as it gets.)  Fortunately, we only recently learned that Hulu has finally answered the pent-up domestic demand for screenings of QI episodes, and we've been slowly working our way through last year's Series K.  With the free Hulu site, you get commercials, and while they're not too terribly long and reasonably well placed, we find ourselves totally shaking our heads about the content they seem to think we'd be interested in.

Three of them have been in rotation for most of our recent viewings. The lead one, for the New York lottery, is actually kinda cute (tied to their Monopoly-themed game, with Jimmy Durante crooning under some cute top-hatted images), but the other two, huh?!?

One is for a Type 2 diabetes med called Januvia.  The first thing to screech at you is the generic name they made up for the thing:


Eep. Sounds like a Middle Earth monster, yet that's what every generic maker will have to call it when its patent expires.  Then they run the ad itself, which starts with the happy sight of the diabetic couple swinging on a see-saw -

(click the link above the empty space if there's an empty space and it won't embed)

- but goes on, for more than two-thirds of the ad, to warn in the happiest voice imaginable of the restrictions, side effects and risks, "which may be severe and lead to death."  As they're walking down the fucking beach. Kervorkian himself couldn't make self-slaughter this appealing.

And still, thousands of patients are doubtless going to "ask your doctor" for this shit because a pretty-sounding voice on the tv ordered them to.


We only got that one once. The most repeated advert was for Grand Theft Auto V, which, I'm told, is the current generation of video game. These games have lifelike looking characters, real plots, even movie credits for the tales they tell. And someone at either QI or Hulu thinks a couple of mid-50s farts are going to want to run out for an XBox to play this.


Eleanor knows less of this genre than I do, but to me, "video game" means Pong. Or even something less real-time interactive, like this:


That, you young whippersnappers, is what a video game looked liked in 1979. I became addicted to it on Cornell's primordial IBM mainframe-connected terminals that year, rediscovered it in early PC form toward the end of law school, and have found it a few times in the decades since in quaint corners of the Interwebs. It, too, has a director, and his name is Satan: this game is positively evil. Your mission is to blow up anywhere from 10 to 25 Klingons without dying yourself, and there are infinite ways to accomplish the latter. Since reacquiring it a few weeks ago, I've settled right back to my lifetime horrid batting average at this game -somewhere well below the Mendoza line of two wins out of 10- but at least I pulled off a new way of getting myself killed last week:

I'd successfully knocked out a major Klingon colony using my (highly unpredictable) deathray, managed to avoid Tholian webs and black holes in pursuit of the rest, and was down to just the one positively evil Super-Commander, who I tracked to a spot where he instantly attacked and took out my engines, weapons, communications and sensors....

but not my self-destruct. And that, for the first time in almost 40 years, got me this epitaph:


Now THIS is the kind of game I'd find relevant, Stephen:P


In the end, the last-season episode titled "Keys" was quite fun. Among other things, we learned that a

German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, one of a number of people given the title of the last person to know everything, along with Thomas Young, Erasmus, Gottfried Leibniz and Alexander von Humboldt, thought cats with different pitched meows lined up together would make a good musical instrument which he called a "Katzenklavier".

They went on to describe this device, but the Internet, of course, has evidence of it actually in use. (Without real cats, sadly.)

We will have five of them plus a dog in the house for Thanksgiving, so if we find the right key, something might be possible here;)
The worst of the snow to the south is over, and there was little if any in this area today.  The Thruway sort-of reopened a couple of hours ago; you can enter and exit eastbound from here, but if you get on going westbound anywhere past the Williamsville tolls, you'll have to go all the way to PA before you can get off.  Most of the other closings and driving bans have also ended where they still were in effect.

So I can get to Rochester next week on the day when I have one appointment there, but today's hearing wound up settling first thing in the morning, so I've been mostly home, with few incoming calls and a butt-ton of junk faxes from roofing companies.  They'd do better focusing on the towns where roofs really are collapsing; one unconfirmed rumor is that the southtowns Wegmans at Transit & Losson had a roof collapse, but their website and other news sources have nothing on it.

Eleanor is still not home, and that's not a good thing; with the bans lifted and their southtowns stores unstocked for three days, I'm sure the crazy people were venturing north. That was confirmed by one of my cardio buds (who had the day off from work), who also said Eleanor's store had gotten deliveries intended for the snowbound stores and they were putting them on massive sale to get rid of them.

This Sunday's Bills game has been moved to the domed stadium in Detroit and postponed to Monday night, so that's one less distraction for public safety officials. Tickets, supposedly, are free, but even with that they're not expecting much of a turnout for two faraway teams where neither has a local following or a winning record.  It beats the alternative of trying to play in this:


I've taken care of a few chores in the relative quiet of the day but had better start investigating dinner options so I can help when Eleanor gets in here as whipped as I expect she'll be.
Day three of storm blah blah we're fine blah blah 2-3 more feet to south and east blah blah court canceled today 90 still closed blah blah blah Bills and Sabres home games both canceled blah blah crazy people still at Wegmans blah blah blah...


I called my sister yesterday to let her know we were fine in the midst of all this meteorlogical madness, and she had some news for us, as well:

She was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.  Not in person; on the wall.

Donna Winogrand

The year was 1965, and the photographer was Garry Winogrand. No, I hadn't heard of him before talking to Donna yesterday, but he was a fairly famous street photographer in that era:

At the time of his death [in 1984] there was discovered about 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film, 6,500 rolls of developed but not proofed exposures, and contact sheets made from about 3,000 rolls.The Garry Winogrand Archive at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) comprises over 20,000 fine and work prints, 20,000 contact sheets, 100,000 negatives and 30,500 35 mm colour slides as well as a small group of Polaroid prints and several amateur motion picture films.

Earlier this year, 175 of his photos, including some of the never-seen ones, were exhibited at the Met earlier this year, and Donna somehow got a hold of this picture of her walking in Manhattan that year.  She remembers the dress, the purse, and the Arnold Constable bag in her left hand. (I barely remember Arnold Constable, which was a department store and not a nerdy cop, and I never would have picked her out of the exhibit from this shot.)

Note the almost-catcalling Mad Men to her left. I guess some things in New York never change.

So, yeah. That's our Brush With Greatness for the day, which sure beats anything I might have been doing today with a snowbrush;)
For about an hour this morning, we got a taste of what our neighbors to the south have dealt with for more like 48: Eleanor left a little before 8 in whiteout conditions, with the snow coming down at a good inch or two an hour.  My out-the-window view this morning was much more wintry than at about the same time the day before:


That was taken at 9 this morning. I had a scheduled foreclosure auction of a client's property at 10, downtown, with a mixed bag of reports on whether the building would be open (the court part was closed, the clerk part open). Fortunately, by the time I shot that picture, the snow had stopped and remained stopped until a few flurries began an hour or so ago- and by the time I got coffee and onto the still-open Not Thruway to downtown, the sun was again out.

Nobody showed up for the auction, so I headed home- this time stopping on a bridge over the 90 to get this spooky shot of the completely closed highway:


(In the two minutes it took to part on a side street and shoot that, a guy in a passing pickup stopped, asked if my car had stalled and offered to help. Because that's how we roll around here:)

That highway remains closed, with hundreds in both cars and (like the ones you see here) trucks with noplace to go.  Reports vary on whether they've all been offered shelter, and the usual fingers are being pointed at the usual suspects for not closing the roads sooner.


Those flurries we started getting at day's end are a general snowfall, adding a few inches around the region. But Act II of the lake snow is due to fire up around midnight, and while our northern parts are due to get the first of it, by morning the band is forecast to head right back to the track that got up to six feet of the stuff in the first day of this event.  Travel bans remain in effect in those places, as well as in towns to the immediate east of here. My court to the north tomorrow has already been called off, and I have my doubts about being able to travel as scheduled Friday to Rochester,....

where, as of this writing, they STILL have gotten barely anything.  My office was deadly quiet today, which I attribute to so many locals being off work and so many out-of-towners assuming that I was.

They're still talking about a big warmup after this passes, with temperatures in the 40-50F range by the end of the weekend. And that, earth science fans, means flooding and plenty of it. (We have too little to worry about, and our drainage is pretty good anyway, but lots of places in the worst of the snow area will be treading water by Thanksgiving.)


And, finally, there is sport.

Da Bills are scheduled to play a home game on Sunday- in an undomed stadium that someone estimated to have 220,000 TONS of snow in and around it.  Clueless callers to talk shows are already bitching about the competitive advantage the Jets will have if the game is played as scheduled (due to loss of practice time), postponed, or, egads!, moved to Jersey or worse.

The Sabres, meanwhile, literally told their fans not to show up last night, and yet 6,200 of them did, witnessing their first two-game winning streak of the season.  The game had some weird non-snow-related moments: the game's starting Sabre goalie, Michal Neuvirth, was injured early in the game and the only other netminder on the roster went in. But what would've happened if HE got injured?

This would've:

Goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, who last played in the NHL in 2004 and in professional hockey in Slovakia in 2007, dressed in a No. 35 jersey and suited up for the third period in case something happened to Jhonas Enroth. The Sabres signed Irbe, 47, to a tryout contract between periods. Irbe played for San Jose for parts of five years, including 74 regular-season games and all 14 of the upstart Sharks' playoff games in 1993-94.

"I obviously don't want 'Jony' to get hurt or something bad to happen but if I would have gone in I would have had fun," Irbe said. "I know that. Once a goalie, always a goalie."

Fortunately, Enroth made it through the final minutes without much work, but the farm-team goalies in Rochester suck and probably couldn't get to town anyway. So anyone who knows anyone with a goalie mask- other than this guy-

-is encouraged to apply;)

Today, that could stand for:

*Not Too Decrepit.

With my new age come new aches and pains, but I seem to be working through them.

Sunday morning, I awoke with pretty massive pain in my right knee. It's not totally unheard of, but it's the left one which seems more susceptible to it, and I generally avoid the exercises (step-ups to high steps, jumps, and really low bends) that typically aggravate it. Sunday was weird because Lefty was relatively fine, but the right one came, seemingly, out of nowhere. So I tried, first, ibuprofen and then a new arthiritic supplement Eleanor's been using. Each seemed to help, but neither cleared it. Then yesterday I figured I'd try the indomethacin, which I've used periodically for gout for going on 20 years. Two of those capsules later, the thing seems back to normal, and I've done cardio two days straight without further pain.

Then in the middle of last night, during one of the Parades of the Animals, I realized I had a sore throat and said, shit. People have been coughing all around me for days now and it looked to be my time. Yet, for most of today, no cough- or any other seeming symptoms. Then I remembered- I had soup for lunch yesterday, overheated it and the first swallow burned like a mofo- much of it on the back of my throat.  I'm not totally ruling out illness, but I think this is just a case of Chronic Recurring Stupid, which goes well with my other pending case of CRS.


* Not Terribly Deep.

That's the overall weather report for this, but only this, section of the Buffalo area after the past 24 hours of threatened OMGSNOWPOCALYPSE.  The sight out our back door this morning was positively piffle-ly in the snow department:


It never got much beyond that, and for most of the day the sun was brightly shining overhead Yet a mere 15 or so miles from here, a far different weather tale was unfolding, as shown in this picture out a friend's similar window in Alden:


And late this afternoon, another friend took this picture on her way out of downtown (which itself got little snow but was close to The Wall that separates flurries from feet):


The other blessing, compared to the early-season storm of 2006 here, was that most of the leaves were off the trees, and this was mostly a snow (as opposed to ice) event, so not many people have lost power. It's still pounding parts of the region, but we are home, safe and warm for the foreseeable future.

A second round is forecast for Thursday, and these lake-effect bands are fickle enough that we may not be out of the woods ourselves.
One side benefit of LJ constantly logging me out of my account? I get to see my profile fairly often, and so, after posting last night, happened to notice this:


Which, if I'm doing the math right, would make this one the 5,000th time I've put pixel to monitor and shared thoughts with family, friends and who knows how many spambots.

It's been quite a ride, lasting over 10 years, with Eleanor now on her own journey here, as well.  I've reported elections and emergencies, concerts and conventions, and way more about work and sports than anyone other than a few probably care for.

While I've toed in other waters- some permanently like Facebook, others fleetingly like G+, Dreamwidth and Ello- this has been, and likely always shall be, my blog's friend.

Thank you for being along for it all.


We're both home after a day of OMGSNOWPOCALYPSE preparation today- a lake-effect storm was forecast to dump between one and two feet here between tonight and Wednesday morning. That estimate's come down for our immediate environs quite a bit, but it's still likely to be the first Stick-er of the season, and that always brings out the idiots on the highways and the Chickens Little in the Wegmans grocery aisles.

Annnnd, it's thundering outside.  Maybe this WILL be interesting after all:P
I hesitate to post this a day after reporting on the needless deaths of college students, but a lengthy piece in today's paper dealt with the even more needless death, last year, of a local high school football player. Among the scaries and stupids in the story were these:

* New York does not require scholastic teams to have medically-trained personnel on the adult staff.  The other team at this game had an athletic trainer, but the victim's team did not, and thus they missed key chances to get him into treatment earlier than they did.

* What treatment they did attempt can only be described as Keystone Ambulance Korps: EMTs were present, but wouldn't drive the ambulance to his side, to keep the football field from being damaged. Once they walked the stretcher out to get him, they began transport, despite the first-responders admitting they weren't certified for the needed level of treatment; that ambulance was intercepted and he was put on a second one, with properly trained EMTs, but they transported to a Southern Tier hospital without trauma center. Worst of all, even then, they didn't Mercy Flight him to Buffalo. A Womens and Childrens Hospital team drove the 75 miles to Olean, and then back to Buffalo, to get him the appropriate care, but by the time he got here, he was all but DOA.

* Yet the simplest step in a preventive process, which wouldn't have required trained personnel on the sidelines or in the meat wagon, wasn't taken:

Westfield/Brocton did not use baseline tests for its football players. The tests – also suggested but not required in New York – measure an athlete’s brain function in the preseason to set a baseline that can be compared with scores registered after a suspected concussion. The comparison can help determine whether a player in any contact sport should leave the field and whether they might return to play at a later date.

The recent spate of head injury reports in football- some current, others coming to light only after players' retirements and, in some cases, autopsies- has reached the NFL level. No longer do you just go back in with a pat on the ass when you "got your bell rung;" a protocol is in place to ensure that the player knows who he is, what he is doing and what the game situation is before being cleared.  Not so in this podunk, where he was essentially left to his death.

Such indifference by state officials is even more hideous when compared to the technicalities we've seen used in recent weeks to get players off the field for non-injury reasons. In addition to the one I wrote about in Rochester a couple of weeks ago, we had another kerfuffle here this past week when a star prep-school player was suspended for a school-rule violation. He's pissed, but he's alive. (And ironically, one of last month's Night Vale podcasts prominently covered a game being forfeited because their high school's star player didn't, technically, exist.)  Yet the simple inclusion of baselines and questioning protocols would likely have led to this student continuing to exist, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Both schools lawyered up and refused to discuss the incident, or even release the game films, to the newspaper, but they still got the story pretty (and disgustingly) complete.


That was front-page sports news.  Also sad sports news elsewhere in the paper: the longtime organizer of Buffalo's annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, died unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 61:

Tom Donnelly, a devoted father of four, avid runner, good friend and running community organizer credited with leading the annual Turkey Trot race to its current popularity – including this year’s registration sell-out of 14,000 – was found dead by his wife in his Buffalo home Saturday evening of an apparent heart attack. He was 61.

Mr. Donnelly, who was one of nine children, was known for his sense of fun and his management abilities.

“He was tireless,” said his older brother, Bill Donnelly. “He did so much for the race. He was always in the media making contacts. He knew enough to delegate authority too, so he wasn’t doing everything.”

Mr. Donnelly was marketing manager at the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority, where he worked for the last 27 years. For the last decade he worked with the YMCA’s Turkey Trot, founded in 1896 and one of the nation’s oldest road races.

“He’s been running in it since it was just a few hundred runners,” said Bill Donnelly, who remembers introducing his brother to running in 1976. At the time, Tom Donnelly was overweight, out of shape and wanting change.

“I was running marathons and I gave him a pair of my old shoes and he went out and never stopped,” he said.

That's much the same spirit that got me into running shoes and outside for the first time just two years ago, and into that very race the past two Thanksgiving mornings (I'm signed up for this year's, too). Me, just six years younger than he was.

Godspeed, sir.


Our movie choice last night, which we will finish tonight, is Amour, a Cannes Palme d'or winner from a few years back about an elderly French couple facing the downfalls of their bodies while trying to maintain their spirits and their lifelong love.  It begins with first responders breaking down the door of their Paris apartment because of the immediately apparent death of at least one of them- and flashes back, then forward, from there.  At least these guys didn't care about damage to the door.


So. Anybody got any good jokes?

It's almost 35 years since I covered the death of a fraternity pledge in a horrid rite of initiation, and this weekend brings news, closer to home from a campus further away, that another has died in a similar rite of passage-away:

An 18-year-old college student from Amherst died today, about 36 hours after he lapsed into unconsciousness during an underage drinking party at a fraternity house near West Virginia University.

The death of Nolan Michael Burch, a Canisius High School graduate, was announced this afternoon by E. Gordon Gee, president of the university in Morgantown, West Virginia.

[As reported in a later article:]  Based on conversations with Burch’s family, a family friend told The News that Burch was “challenged” by others present at the frat house into drinking large amounts of liquor at the party. Preston said he could not provide specifics on what happened at the party at this point in the investigation.

“His parents are in a situation that I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” the police chief said. “Nobody who sends their 18-year-old son or daughter off to college should ever have to deal with something like this.”

A second individual became ill at the same event that Burch was attending, Preston said. He said police are trying to determine what happened to that person.

The WVU fraternity in question is one once affiliated with the national Kappa Sigma organization. The national office pulled its charter on account of earlier bad conduct, and now disclaims reponsibility for the death on that ground. UB also has a rogue Kappa Sigma chapter, which the university warns against joining- a red cape in the eyes of any Red Bull-drinking 18 year old I ever knew.

This is not the same as drinking parties on the baseball team or a school club. These are organizations with long-standing traditions of mystery and secrecy. Wikileaks got its hands on and published the text of the national Kappa Sigma initiation document, and it's a Dan Brown-worthy ritual of bizarre mumbo jumbo.   Among other promises, the pledges vow that their "first duty is to God and your family, then to the Fraternity, then to your fellow man in general." That latter group also includes university and police investigators, who will likely have has hard a time with this lot today as their counterparts in Ithaca, New York did 35 Aprils ago.


April 1980 was my last semester of junior year, and my journalist career to date was unremarkable. I had a full class schedule including an Honors program, was working two jobs, and had joined the paper a year behind the eagerer of beavers. This got me the less than preferred city beat, including what little there was to cover at the far less famous Ithaca College across town.  There was the occasional lecture or performance, and a fire or labor dispute here and there, but all that changed after word came down from the other hill about the tragic death of a student there:

In the early morning hours of April 2, 1980, freshman Joseph Parrella collapsed in Terrace 6. He had been participating in Delta Kappa fraternity’s initiation rites, which involved the 14 DK pledges doing 100 pushups, then running up and down a steep hill, doing 100 more pushups and sprinting up and down the hill again. The concerned DK brothers circled around Parrella, who had become severely overheated and was having difficulty breathing, and asked how he was feeling, to which Parrella reportedly replied, “Sucky.”

Sensing the seriousness of the situation, the fraternity brothers carried him into the hallway and removed his clothing in an attempt to cool him off. A brother began administering CPR and called an ambulance. Parrella was then transported to the Tompkins County Hospital, where he later died from hyperthermia, or heatstroke, as a result of the intense calisthenics he and the other pledges participated in.

In June 1980, a Tompkins County grand jury investigation found DK guilty of hazing, murder and “collective stupidity.” This prompted the college to reevaluate the need for Greek life. While professional music fraternities were allowed to continue, social fraternities and sororities were subsequently dissolved.

I was the lead reporter on this story after it broke, getting my stories into national collegiate syndication and ultimately leading to a position with the daily/Sunday papers in Syracuse which almost diverted me from law school.  I listened in pain as the local DA could do nothing with the grand jury's charges (other than the "stupidity" part, which, not surprisingly, is not illegal in New York State). The brothers toed the thin Greek line, all took the Fifth (amendment, this time), and left prosecutors with insufficient evidence to charge anybody beyond some wrist-slapping misdemeanors. As the link above notes, Ithaca College used the incident as reason to shut down its campus Greek system, but numerous fraternities and sororities, including the Delta Kappa brothers who killed Parrella, re-formed unofficially and now have large percentages of students wanting them welcomed back with official collegiate arms so they can host more events and kill, rape and maim again.

Yes, I'm bitter about history repeating itself. No, I was never in a fraternity.  Yes, I was thrilled when our daughter showed no interest in that aspect of college life.  I hope these "brothers" get everything the criminal justice system can do to deter this form of winkingly legalized harm to their fellow students, but after seeing that system fail at that 35 Aprils ago, I'd put that hope in the thimbly small category.

Word has it (word from my sister, anyway) that I saw Billy Joel perform live, in the mid-60s, with his then garage band The Hassles, somewhere on the east end of Long Island when I was about six.  I remember at least one trip out there with her, but him? Them? No recollection of the music at all.

Also no recollection of me ever attending any concert that he put on, anywhere, in the close to 50 years since that forgotten trip.  That's not for lack of opportunity: he was a Cornell regular even in his days before the major success of The Stranger, and he played dozens of tours, upstate and down, in the decades since then. I can't say I was avoiding him any more than my many chances in those years to see Springsteen, another who is still waiting to fall into my (list of) bucket, but for whatever reason, the Piano Man and I have never been under the same roof (or, in the case of his closing Shea Stadium concert, under the same airport flight plan).

In a little over three months, though, that will finally change. I think.


As I'd heard earlier in the year, and as was confirmed in this recent New Yorker profile, Billy Joel has taken up semi-permanent Artist in Residence status at Manhattan's Madison Square Garden (which, per the Confuse the Tourists Act of 1967, is nowhere near Madison Avenue, is round, and has only the smell of compost in common with any true garden).  He has pledged to continue monthly shows there until his voice or the crowds completely run out, whichever comes first.  The voice, at least as of the final Shea show in 2008, was still doing quite well, and as for popular interest, it's there, too. You can read this Forbes piece about the aftermarket average prices for these ducats throughout the first dozen of the MSG monthlies (roughly four times the face value), or you can just take my word for it: Dude's still popular.

I'd looked up tickets for the shows he did this past August and one other time I would, or thought I would, be down in that area earlier this year, with no luck (unless I wanted to consider Stubhubbing my way into insolvency), but I happened to catch word a couple of days ago that the tickets for the first two 2015 monthly shows would go on sale at 10 this morning.  At that very moment, I was here, just waiting for a bunch of return calls/answered emails/promised documents, so I opened the dreaded Ticketmonster site and decided to try my luck.

For close to half an hour, I had none: two open tabs (one for the January show, one for February which I actually preferred), switching between Regular and Citicard Preferred (I have no such preference but the code is the first six digits of any Citi credit card, which I include in about three bankruptcies a month so I knew it). And, amazingly, two February 18 seats in the 200s popped up and said they were mine if I could claim them in time.


If it's not clear from these dullities, we don't go out much. I do have a TM account, but the site was not recognizing my stored password, and when I submitted a change order for it (with about 4 minutes on the clock), it erased all my pre-saved billing, shipping and payment information (which, even if it had the latter, would have been wrong anyway because, FU Homer Depot). So I had to re-enter it all manually, and quickly, because any missed field sent you back to the start of that screen, and I hit SUBMIT with exactly 0:00 left on the clock, getting a browser URL ending in "order_confirm" but a screen that just spun round for close to an hour without advancing to confirmation number OR kicking me out without ticketing.  Finally, tired of the spinning class, I called the 800 customer service number, endured 20 minutes of busy signals, and yet, somehow, came away with no sign of my order (a sign eventually confirmed online which alleged I'd "canceled"), but, nonetheless, with two seats on the other side of the 200s, a little closer to the stage, and for a couple of dollars more, but, all the same, this little tiny corner of Manhattan real estate, for a few hours, was....


Except it wasn't. No, not yet.

I'd been promised tickets by email within five minutes, but nothing showed for close to an hour. (Very little of the work I was waiting for ever showed up, either.)  My Ticketmonster account showed no evidence of the purchase, although the credit card account, now, did, but I still had nothing to give an usher on the way in.  So, back to the 800 number, another half dozen voice prompts, more hideous waiting on hold (Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie," guys? REALLY?), but, finally, a human being and an explanation:

No actual tickets until December 1st. Confirmation email in 48 hours, not five minutes. And I triple-checked that they had the email address right.

So I think it's a go.  Eleanor and Emily have respective first and second dibs on my left, but if that doesn't work out, check this space as 18 February nears, especially if Billy's in your bucket, too.
Today, we got to the last thing I wanted to do for my birthday, which will be a gift that could keep on giving:

We got our passport pictures taken.

I got my first one before going to the UK for the first time in 1983; Eleanor, before our honeymoon there in '87.  In 2000, when we went back for our second (and most recent) trip together, we got them both renewed for 10 years.  Here's how we looked back then, Eleanor rocking what we fondly referred to as her Celebrated Harry Potter period:

Passport 2000

I still had the beard back then, but the grey was clearly taking over and it didn't last long beyond that.  These documents expired without much fanfare or need in 2010; with dogs in the house and TSA in our lives since 2001, we haven't found international travel that appealing. Still, I thought it would be a good time to get it done, since there's an expedited renewal process if your previous passports were issued within the past 15 years, and that window will close in about five months.  So the first step was today: AAA has a photography service for members, and here's what we officially look like, now, without the greybeard or wizard glasses:

The grey's still there for both of us, if mine's a little further north, but I think we make a pretty good looking couple, still.  It was also a moment on a milestone day for Eleanor, because she was officially discharged from a course of medical treatment that guided her through an amazing journey over the past almost four months- one which we're both better for:)

There are no plans to break out the passports once they arrive here- it'll make Canadian crossing easier, and a return to England or even other places will now be possible- but it's nice to just know that they'll be here if we want them.
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