Dear Erika, The Cynical Diaries

Dear Erika,

This morning I posted to that one site a commentary on recognizing fake articles that promote your hometown. After writing that, I thought that perhaps it was a little too condemning to the people who shared the actual article I was referring to. But, I thought it made me laugh anyway, so it is a keeper. Some things I post to that one site and realize that it is stupid, or mean, and it doesn’t make me laugh, so I delete it. So, I am considering making a new page or blog post subject called, “The Cynical Diaries.” Although, it might be already a thing. Hold on, let me check…

Okay. In my search I’ve netted 2 sites. The first one is a Tumblr site whose web address is named “foolish-beetle.” The name of their blog is “The cynical diaries,” and it is pictures and gifs and such that aren’t what I would necessarily consider cynical. They haven’t posted since April 2016. The other one is actually called “Cynical Diaries.” It is a Russian(?) site that is on blogspot, and hasn’t posted since 2012. I’m not sure how cynical it actually is, but it’s basically non-existent to the freedom-loving breed of Americanalism I think my target audience may be. And it looks a little sketchy, so I didn’t delve to deeply.

Wait a second… Maybe I am confused on what the definition of cynical actually is. Let’s check it out:

cyn·i·cal
ˈsinək(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: cynical
  1. 1. believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.
    “her cynical attitude”
    • doubtful as to whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile.
      “most residents are cynical about efforts to clean mobsters out of their city”
      synonyms: skepticaldoubtfuldistrustfulsuspiciousdisbelievingMore

      antonyms: idealistic
    • contemptuous; mocking.
      “he gave a cynical laugh”
  2. 2. concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards in order to achieve them.
    “a cynical manipulation of public opinion”

I believe the main component comes from the first definition in my case. Specifically, “distrustful of human… integrity.” Also, the synonyms help: skeptical, doubtful, suspicious. Especially when it comes to people’s motivations.

I understand I am a skeptical person and perhaps you, or some people, may not think that being cynical jibes with my Christian beliefs, but I believe that it is a characteristic that is essential to my core, and the results of my cynicism may be what most should be measured against my beliefs. That is to say, how I use my cynicism reveals what I believe. Sometimes it irks me to hear people justifying their behavior because Christ did it, and I don’t want to do that, but in a way, Christ was cynical.

Does it make someone cynical in knowing people’s motivations, or simply in guessing their motivations?

Anyway, I’m wondering about where to post my “Cynical Diaries.” Should it be a facebook site, or should I just make it a feature of one of my 2 different blogs? You know I have 2, right? This one, which is me, undeniably. And the other one: “Former Stranger In Rebellion,” which use to be “Stranger In Rebellion,” and now is my more “fun,” rarely posted to sites (although this one has become quite rare as well). On FSIR, I had a run of “Memes that make me go, huh?” which I enjoyed and this might be the same. Although this one that I’m considering may have more writing and thus might not be as accessible. But, then again, I have saved a few memes and think that maybe I could incorporate those into the new feature. The other thing I’m thinking of is changing the name of FSIR to “The Cynical Diaries.” Hmmm… What do you think.

Your brother,

Mark

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Dear Erika, The Beginning of Stories

Dear Erika,

I forgot to call Chris yesterday. No, that isn’t right. I failed to call Chris yesterday. And much like when I forgot to call you on your birthday, I feel the need to appease myself. Not that I probably will, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make a feeble attempt. After all, my not calling you on your birthday has led to this… I made a promise that I would call you every day that week and share something with you. That was a lot of fun for me. I was sharing my life with you, even though I’m not even sure you received the voicemails or texts. I think it was the idea that I was reaching out to a world that may be forgetting me, much like I, regrettably, am forgetting it. I called a couple of times in the last week or so, and left my rambling voicemails, and thought that I need to make a more permanent record of this life I now live.

Last Sunday, I was in our deacon meeting and they were talking about family reunions. Then David mentioned about how glad he was that I didn’t move several years back. Joe asked me how I felt about it and I was dwelling on the fact of family reunions. It hurts a little to think about what I am missing. The growth of your children and generally being in your lives on a day-to-day basis… or more rightly week-to-week… let’s stick with month-to-month then. I think I miss the idea of you all than the reality. Let’s face it, since we grew up and hadn’t had the weekly going over to Nana and Papa’s house every week or so, we were growing apart. Maybe not so dramatic as that; but we didn’t see each other as much as I’d like to have. Everyone had their life, and I had mine.

Stacey and I try to instill the idea of family bonds to our girls whenever there is a riff between them. We see the separation between Stacey and her family, physically, emotionally, spiritually and philosophically, and we desire to break that cycle with them. I don’t want to say that it is the same with all of us on my side of the family, but the chasm grows wider, and this is my feeble attempt to connect.

I am here in West Plains for the time being, and that is where I’ll stay until I am drawn otherwise. It has been such an area of growth for all of us that I can’t imagine my life any other way. It is hard to see that the distance is so huge, that I can’t afford to make a trip back more often than I’d like. We have a jar in our bookshelf that says “Utah Trip” that has some money in it, that we’d like to see full before the end of the year. But it stays mostly empty as things come up.

Anyway, I’ll keep this writing up, as I feel a great need to do so, and I hope in some way you look forward to them. I’m going with Chris to see Iron Maiden next week in Kansas City, and taking Ella too. Think of it! I remember going to see Iron Maiden when I was near her age and couldn’t imagine Mom or Dad going with me. But now I have the opportunity to take my daughter… to Iron Maiden. Ha! I hope it’s something she’ll always remember.

Speaking of remembering things, I remember the connection we had when I’d tell you stories about unicorns and a certain little girl. I know you remember that because we always talk about it. Now I’m going to tell you more stories. Stories of a more real nature. Hopefully they’ll connect with you in ways we have been missing since I left.

Your brother,

Mark

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Dear Erika, Burpee Visions

Dear Erika,

This morning we did “Jacobfit.” We were supposed to do it last night but because the new headmaster came in it interrupted things. I’ve been exercising regularly in the Crossfit style for a few months now with Jacob as our instructor. And, we call it Jacobfit. We go Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. This morning our work out was “As Many Rounds as Possible” of 10 burpees, 20 wall-balls, and a 250 meter run, in 20 minutes. I ended up with 3 rounds plus 16. After completing it, I was amazed that I did 40 burpees, 66 wall-balls and 750 meters. Thinking about attempting that several months ago makes me glad where I am right now. I mean, several times in this period I like to call, being alive, I’ve tried different kind of workouts; running, swimming, ellipticals. Nothing ever stuck, and my motivation level was low.

I wish I could say that if I was in Salt Lake right now, that I’d be doing this, but that is extremely doubtful. These people, and this difficulty of being away from you all, has changed me. The other day someone asked me the goal of why I was working out, and it is that I want to be healthy. But it’s more than that. I want to live past our father’s and his father’s age. When I got the cat bite and had to spend some time in the emergency room, I watched people. They were all so (apparently at least) unhealthy. That was a huge turning point as well. I was just becoming consistent with the exercise, then I get this bit that draws me to the place I don’t want to see: The immediate consequence of bad choices. All people in the emergency weren’t their by their own direct choices, but it is what I saw. And that is what is driving me now.

Laying on the ground during my third round of burpees, I see fat people in reinforced chairs, and I get up again. That could be me. I’m still fat, and have a long way to go, but I have a goal.

What is an immediate goal for you lately?

Your brother,

Mark

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Unequivocal Culture: Fake News and Those Evil Christians

It started, as many of my current rants usually do, from that one site’s news feed. Someone shared an article that said something about the uproar of Christians being offended because of the new gay character in the Beauty and the Beast movie. I was annoyed at what appeared to be another calling for boycott by so-called conservative Christians. It seems to me that whenever this happens the movie in question gets nothing but unsolicited advertising, making Christians look foolhardy, and weary producers begrudgingly shake their heads as their coffers grow by leaps and bounds.

Hmmmm… Perhaps they enjoy the free advertising and get to look more noble for their bold approach to an old story.

Of course they do!

I know not a one person who would protest these leaps of character by Disney, ever since the backfiring of Hollywood protests in the 80s and 90s. I can’t even imagine that most Christians, given the climate today, would even care about a gay side character. I didn’t. In fact, I thought he was rather interesting, except for the stupid part at the end.

Anyway, I think some marketing manager needed to create a little more buzz for the film and came up with the controversial aside. They have an instant victim to their little ruse and bam! Christians are evil because they hate gay people, so come support our movie.

It all died down after the film came out and everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the gay character wasn’t performing gay feats of strength.

This whole thing came up again because of some stupid April Fool’s Prank apparently pulled off by Disney. Or maybe not Disney, just someone being a troll.

This one promoted the fact that Disney was making the new live-action Lion King’s Simba as a gay character. Then it said, “Homophobes go nuts!” Really? It might not have been the fact that it would change many elements of the story that people might have been upset? Initial reactions withstanding, this is just more blather to show how horrible it is to not fully appreciate gayness, gay-culture and gay people in our lives. And who are these horrible, hate-filled people??? Christians! That’s who!

This is pure propaganda. These ideas of intolerance by religious conservatives, and Christians are being foisted upon the general populace of facebook as fact. It is fake, and all this talk about fake news is detracting from the fact that we’re all being played! They make up a story about how angry we all are, post comments on these fake articles making us believe that these people are real, and it is all a line to push their followers to action. We are the fools in this, and they are all believing the lie about how intolerant we all are. And not a Muslim’s intolerance is in sight… just sayin’.

You know, we conservatives are losing the culture war. Not that I think many of us understood that we were in one in the first place. Where do we fight? Do we fight? The more we stand up it seems the more we are shouted down or told to be more tolerant by our apparent peers. We are not united as the liberals appear to be. Not because of Trump but because we don’t know where to stand and we haven’t in a long time. We argue about how far we should go and everything we deemed solid dissipates like dust in our hands.

Hold onto something solid people. Solid like a Rock. It’s gonna get crazy out there, these social sites are the testing grounds that will soon be in the streets. Find your truth and make it stand!

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Unequivocal Culture: Me Before You

Sometimes I go out selfishly on my own, and when I do, I try to appease my wife with a romantic movie borrowed from the local box of red. Don’t get me wrong, I like a romantic movie once in a while. In fact, I have watched many a Hallmark movie with her, promising less commentary in the viewing.

Last night I came home and she was in the middle of watching this film so I joined her. This morning she was extremely vocal regarding her dislike of the film. I call that art. When art evokes an emotion, good or bad, it succeeds. Disgust is another story. I think she was disgusted. You may disagree, but when anger comes to provoke change, that is art. But when it becomes disgust, it is a bad reflection on societies poor choices toward devaluing life, spirit, nature or whatever it is trying to bring down.

Spoiler alert:

I came into the middle of this seeing a bright, expressively wonderful, lovely, love-giving woman (Clark) taking care of a man (Will) confined to a wheel chair, paralyzed from the neck down. It was wonderful scenes of a woman showing a man the beauty of the world, whether it was in man-made buildings or the loss of a love you thought was forever.

At the wedding of Will’s former love, an older woman told Clark what a true man Will was. What I saw painted a picture of a man giving into a strange woman’s view of life; have fun, be free, take difficulties head-on, show your emotions, love deeply. I didn’t see the former Will, before he had his paralyzing accident, I’m guessing he was a hard man, and Clark was softening him.

My wife told me that it was Clark’s job to help Will see happiness enough not to… kill himself. What? Will wants to kill himself? I see that Clark is doing her job well. She even sacrificed her own life choices for Will.

There is a scene where Will is fondly remembering moments from childhood, only to say his visits to Paris as an adult was much better. He goes on a rant about how he liked his life better before. Clark’s beautiful character seems to crack his exterior of regret, but alas, he decides to kill himself. It was weak in making us understand that it was the pain he had constantly that made him want to end his life. All we saw was a man enjoying a woman’s company in a wheel chair, and it wasn’t enough to tell him he shouldn’t die. Wah! He never could do the stuff he use to do, nor offer Clark what he thought she should need.

The rant my wife went on was the fact at the apparent promotion of ending your life because it doesn’t compare to what it was or could be, was a positive view. We should give into our selfishness even when someone gives us their all in showing us a life filled with love. We need to appease those who sacrifice for us. Give them cash enough to assuage our guilt. It is still right to end your life, no matter what people do to help. Drag them down with you into your selfish whim, and spit them out because it doesn’t fit the plan. Even though you love, the pain of regret is never enough to stop the selfish need not to be here anymore.

Clark screams at him because she regrets ever taking the job and falling in love him only to find out he is still planning his suicide. She ends up going to him in Switzerland where you can peacefully kill yourself apparently. “I love you so much that I will see you through to the end of your own selfish demise.”

Weak, sad, culturally disgusting. I loved Clark and her expressiveness, but it was hard for me to see the truth of this story. It was ill-treatment of a sensitive subject. If you want to see a more compelling story of a similar subject, watch Million Dollar Baby.

The choice of name for this movie I am not sure about. It seems ironically perverse, or stupidly cute. If you’re going for a romantic movie, stop it after the thunderstorm scene in the Caribbean, and imagine Will made the choice to stay with Clark to the end. They grew old, Will learning to grow in his suffering and Clark loving to see every moment of his growth because he stepped away from self toward focusing on another.

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Ketchup With Mayo: Encouragement

This last weekend was a little hard for me. I ended up cancelling a group on that one site because it wasn’t sparking much discussion. It started because I wanted to read Keep In Step With The Spirit with a friend and we didn’t have a lot of opportunity to connect, so I suggested making a Facebook group. Then I thought it would be good to make it available to men in West Plains as a discussion group. I created the group, invited a few friends and then started posting. There was a little response to some things, but no discussion abounded. Maybe I’m not a good provoker to talk, or maybe that one site doesn’t promote discussion. Or both. Either way, it was dumb because it was just me. My friend ended up doing a lot of other things and isn’t able, at this time, to read much. So, I shut it down, or in that one site’s lingo, I archived it.

Last Thursday we had youth widows night and I did a little devotion on encouragement. I don’t see enough of that, so I wanted to encourage the encouragers. Then I thought that the next book on my list (see a couple of posts ago) was called, Encouragement: the Key to Caring. I began reading it and thought it’d be a good thing to go through with the youth.

Back to that one site: I also started thinking to delete my Facebook profile, so I began to clean up. I came across a lot of writing. Not only links from this one site, but long, rambling status entries I thought were really interesting and couldn’t delete. But the thing was, was that there was a lot, I mean a lot of stuff I use to write. So, I wanted to get back to that. And here I am.

In some of my digital cleaning up, I came across this email that really encouraged me. It was one of the best things that I came across and I wanted to post it. For posterity.

Mark,

I just wanted to say – I’ve not done a good job being aware of your contributions to our community. Or to your overall well-being. It’s my fault. I think that I just get caught up in the jesting moods and never really factor in the reality of you.

I want to thank you for what you did for Ken, and what you’re doing for others. I’m sorry for things I do and say that don’t edify or encourage you. I welcome you to brings these to the surface. In public when I do so publicly. Privately, otherwise.

You have a blessing of contentment. Maybe internally you don’t  – but I find that most people can only fake things without medication a few days, so I doubt your discontent on the inside. You’ve done a wonderful job separating issues from your identity. This always leaves room for joy to prosper.

Your joy is infectious. Not many people can simply bring a level of comfort through an introduction. But Mark Mayo can do just that.

Keep on being the beacon of hope and comfort that you have been and I know will be. I just wanted to let you know that God is using you when you least expect it, in ways that would seem mindlessly normal – these are the ways that God is making huge waves in the lives of those around you. And of course in the ways that you know, the ways he is actively leading you also 😉

Much like a comet ( which will be visible in the coming days ) you have a noticeable ball of energy, but everywhere you go, you leave a little bit of you around just because you were there. It illuminates to remind us all of the work He has and is and will be doing in the life of you and your family. Our community is fortunate for our Father to bring you to us.

Thank you.

It is hard for me to think that this was written to me, and about me, but I guess that is what the writer sees, and the joy it brought me will carry on for quite some time.

~Mayo

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Ketchup With Mayo: My Future Book Reading Plan

A few weeks ago I had the flu. It started on a Wednesday night and stayed strong until about Saturday morning. By then I could move around fairly well and went on a cleaning binge. Part of that was a reorganization of my bookcases. My bookcase is filled with Christian books that I’ve either partially finished or never got around to. I recently brought home 3 more and realized that if I keep bringing them home, I’ll want to read those and never get around to the ones that I already have and was once excited about. Well, I went on a book purge. I sorted the list to 1. Get rid of, 2. Not gonna read right now, but want to keep, and 3. Gotta read. Incidentally, the whole get rid of pile netted me a cool $31 at Half Price Books.

So, I have sorted the gotta read pile in an order that won’t get me too tired of one subject for too long, I hope. I am determined to get through these. I have never been a huge consumer of non-fiction titles, but why have these if I’m not going to learn from them. The list is not a hard-locked list. I may want to read another book someone recommends, or an opposing view read if someone recommends one. Here is my list, in order of intention to read, with commentary on why I want to read it and any other pertinent background you may want to know. I would be glad to read these with someone else and change my order if interested.

This one was suggested by a friend who I am having discipleship with. I asked him what he wanted to read because his passion and interest are difficult for me to pin down. It has taken me about 3 weeks to read chapter 1 and I intend to write a review after each chapter. I started a group on that one site called “West Plains Christian Men’s Deliberation Alliance.” This group is intended for discussion but hasn’t had many posts. That is where I’ll post my reviews… well, maybe they’ll be more of a summary. Packer seems to be a hard read; this one will take some time.

This one I received from my wife’s uncle, whom I lovingly call dad. A few years back he was getting rid of books too, and this is one I got. I think I started reading it at one point but then got distracted. It is up early in the list because the subject is something I very much want to be. I have always been fascinated with Barnabas and hope to be one some day. It is not a thick book and I think it may be a much quicker read.


I’ve appreciated Viola for quite some time. He was instrumental in my understanding of the Church’s purpose. I have listened to many a podcast and read many a blog from him. The fact that I have picked up and began reading this particular book at least 3 times shows my interest. It is a larger book, but one that I really need to finish. We all could learn a lot from this. I believe this one will always stick with me.

Unity is a subject I am very interested in. Since a friend of mine moved here, whose main ministry is unity, I have gained the desire to see the Church come together in many ways we have come apart in that we never should. My friend gave me this book. Seeing the Church live out its purpose is a hope for many of us seeing such division within His body. It should be a quick read, but I think might be a bit controversial to some who are close to me and may in fact be reading this post now.

I like listening to Timothy Keller. I like his books too. He and Frank Viola are probably my favorite authors, as well as James Sire. This one I found at some junk store and happened to read a lot of it. It is an excellent read so far, from what I can remember. Suffering has a purpose.

I read this one years ago with my men’s group in Salt Lake City. We read it together and was a real eye-opener finding out all who struggle with the horrible temptation of sexual lust. After a sermon at church the recently, I thought it’d be a good one to read again… perhaps with a friend.

Dialogue. One of my biggest passions. This also was found at a junk store. I had never heard of the author, but the synopsis sounded spot on. Not a very prolific author, this is one of his two books apparently, but I’m eager to get to it. Small book, hopefully easy read.

Another Viola, another one I read a lot of. This one I’d like to study to share with the youth of our church. Let us get back to focusing on Jesus.

One of my favorite books is the Universe Next Door, which comes much later in this list. That book was given to me by my best friend. He is very philosophical and recommended it to me. It was a hard read, but not completely over my head. This one is one I am eager to get to, interestingly enough, because it might be difficult to get through.

Another one that may be seen as controversial. I have heard a lot of warnings about Nee, but have never fully read a book by him. I have a very old copy that I don’t remember where I got, but was found or given to me around the time of my great understanding of the Church. Small book, most likely a very challenging read.

This one was given to me by someone I do discipleship with. We were all given a copy and were reading it together. We never finished it. It is very textbook like and was hard for me to read. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I felt like I was in school and my mind couldn’t wrap around this big textbook. I really enjoyed the discussions we had and hope that when I get to it, I can convince others to read it as well.

My friend’s daughter was getting rid of books after graduating from college. These two seemed interesting to me. Not sure specifically how this will benefit me, and they may not be a good fit, so they are in the bookcase together and we’ll decided at that point, when we come to it.

I have had this book for a few years and I think I read almost all of it. Good commentary on the war we are facing on earth that is a spiritual war. My friends had it in their bookcase and I was interested so I bought it. I think this is another of those must reads for every Christian.

I am interested in the viewpoint of those in the Church outside of the United States. Another friend of my constantly references this book, so I bought it. Started it at one point, but became distracted don’t you know.

I like Schaeffer. I watched his videos. His books are a little harder but I like his viewpoint and I am determined to get through this one… of course not all in a row. Tough read. I predict failure to get through this one, but NO! I will read at least one. My wife got this for me for Christmas or my birthday some years ago because of my interest, but I haven’t been faithful. I am sure it will be rewarding. Also got this when my Uncle was giving away books and I felt bad that I didn’t get any Schaeffer so it was then that I asked for them.

I don’t remember where this came from. Maybe someone gave it to me. I had it at work for a long time, I think I intended to read it on breaks but it got lost in the paperwork. It sounds really good and might be for just where I am.

I have been getting the magazine “Israel, My Glory” for many years now. I remember seeing it at the Matlak’s home and asking about it. I got a free trial, paid for it for a few years then let the subscription run out. I still get it. I don’t know how and I don’t ask why. Elwood McQuaid is a regular writer in the magazine and I bought this book because I like the symbolism of Christ in the feasts. I read a lot of this book, but never finished.

This is another James Sire that I probably will find difficult to read, but rewarding to complete. Ow, my brain.

The other Packer on my list. This one I have had for a long time. I remember people telling me, when I was a new Christian, that this was essential reading. I got it, and never picked it up again. I suppose reading a book about the Holy Spirit by Packer, I should read this one too. Another brain buster in a row!

Another Viola! I printed this one out when I got the digital copy for free when I signed up for blog updates or some such on Viola’s website. It is a retelling of Christ on earth told through Lazarus’ eyes. Oh! I just thought about putting it higher on the list. Alas, it’ll have to wait.

This one was another from my Uncle’s great book giveaway… I think. A subject I’m interested in, but rarely read about. Should be good. It looks like it is no longer being published. I wonder if that means anything…

These two I put together because I believe they make up the same controversial make-up of previous entries. Given to my by my friend who cares about Church unity and mostly read, they are small reads I can quickly finish. Very controversial indeed!

A kind of follow-up to Every Man’s Battle I think. I have had it for some time. I put it on the list mainly because the cover looks like the other one.

I read this one fully before. The only one on the list. We’re nearing the end.

I was given this one by a big Steve Brown fan. I listened to his podcasts for a time, man does he have a deep voice. I think this is good stuff and finished most of it. Even though it isn’t difficult to read, you’ll find it difficult to read.

The important part about being a Christian is transferring the passion. At least that is part of what I believe. If we aren’t becoming more Christ-like and helping others do the same, we are missing much of the Christian life. Quick read.

This one I’m not so sure I want to read. Keller many times tells us this such-and-such book is for the seeker, or non-believer specifically. This is the second to last book on the list and in the time it’ll take to get here, I’m sure I’ll find many more to be interested in. Although it is good to revisit arguments for belief.

This last one, the men in our Bible-study were kind of reading together. One bought them for us all because he liked it so much. Same guy who bought us Three Free Sins. Although I think some of this is fluff, it is very valuable to know when questions arise. It may be more of a reference book than one to outright read. I have been through most of it by the way, and it is a very easy read.

The last one on this list is a book I have at work and intend to read it at breaks and down time. I have been called to make my own personal “Statement of beliefs” so I think this’ll help.

There you have it: 31 books to read. I can’t imagine how long this will take me to read. I wanted to publish this list, because I never had such a strong intention to finish a good, healthy list of books to improve my walk and my understanding. Again, if you’d like to read along with me any of these, I’d be glad to switch some around. If you have any recommendations that have an opposing viewpoint, I’d be interested in those as well.

Happy reading!

Mayo

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