I’m Uninvited at the Shopping Malls (and how we can solve this)

Shopping malls can be as boring places as happening they were intended to be. “Seasonal Sales” in clothing section is what makes them boring for me. I know, right? Do you have raised eyebrows and twitching forehead at the blasphemy I just blurted?

 

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This is not me at a shopping mall, but it is pretty close. The only reason I don’t have a similar photo of myself is that there is no one to click it for me. (Also, because I don’t have a kid yet).

Now before you decide to close this tab cursing me under my breath, let me explain. I shop for things when I need them. Neither before, nor after. While this keeps my spending in check (and I could care less about that), it also gives me the sense of using something that we like to call “common sense”.

For instance, a month ago, I needed a pair of denims, so I went to this shopping mall, walked over to 34 inches section, picked up three pieces, tried them on, selected one trivially, and went on my way. The most time consuming process was the payment counter. Don’t get that wrong, there is nothing wrong in buying stuff that you don’t need, but the minimal person that I am, it becomes a major offence for me. What makes matters worse for me is the fact that my roommate Vikky is a big shopping buff.

How big, you ask? Here’s something for you feelers. If Vikky is confused between 3 trousers, chances are, he will buy all three to resolve the tiff (no exaggeration here). But that would be fine with me if he had not spent about an hour debating about the pros and cons of each with me, and with people over phone.

So, we have a shopping mall five minutes walk away from our apartment. There is this whole section of clothing in the mall, which I like to call the “Black Hole” because once we go in there, we are there for like forever.

I have nothing against shopping malls. But I always go to the malls with company. I would like to spend more time at the food court actually eating, rather than browsing clothes that my eating habits would not allow me to fit in. I would like to spend more time browsing gadgets and contemplating how many dinners I might have to skip before I can afford that 100-inch “LXD” TV (although I cannot skip any). I would like to spend more time OUTSIDE the mall where I can get some non-recycled air.

I recently bought a smartphone (and launched a mobile app as well, but more on that later) and it has tremendously helped me survive ordeal I spend at these places. But, Indian malls don’t have a lot of sitting space other than at food courts. Apparently, they don’t want people to stay there for long. They want people to quickly browse through stuff, pick up what they like and get the hell out. Why else would they not have lots of chairs for people like me who hate having to stand purposelessly? So, although I have the luxury of doing what I like anywhere, I cannot do it while relaxing as comfortably as I would like to.

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I dread my future wife might leave me to deal with similar situation, so I have made myself familiar with some good smartphone activities, mostly games and surfing the web. This person still looks pathetic, though.

The crux of this post is probably the most irrelevant of any post I have written till date, but it really expresses what more I would want out of shopping malls. I would summarize them in following brief points.

 

3 Feature Requests in all Indian Shopping Malls

 

- 1. Brain Activity Scanner and Segregator (BASS) at the Entrance -


This device is handed to the person who hovers metal detector over your body at the entrance. (S)he hovers a coil over your head which suggests if you are a shopper or not. If you’re not a shopper or not particularly in shopping mood, you’re immediately seized and made to enter an X-Ray-Machine-resembling entrance of a portal. Your shopper mates go the normal way. Non-shoppers are led into this place where they have lots and lots of chairs and couches, books, and mobile-tablet charging points.
Potential Benefits: Number of people avoiding shopping malls will come down. If non-shoppers like a book or two, they might buy them. The shoppers can actually spend more time shopping.
More sales, check ✔
More people, check ✔
Happier faces. check ✔

- 2. Comfortable Seats Everywhere -

Technical glitches happen all the time. I will believe that our systems are flawless the day I have spent a year in my office without a single JVM crash (or the day my girlfriend stops complaining about how slow her smartphone is, whichever comes first). So, our immaculate ‘BASS’ system is also subject to flaws. In the unfortunate incident that a BASS terminal basses out on me, I would like to have comfortable seats where I can even take a quick nap when Vikky decides to max out all the credit cards that he and I collectively own.
Potential Benefits: Same as previous point.
Reliability, check ✔

 

- 3. Asynchronous  Random Response Generating Hoop (ARRGH…!)-

This one is the best! There might be times, when you want to be there for your friend when he decides outfit for his first date, or when your spouses buy dresses for their family weddings, etc. The ARRGH system lets you do that without having to!

This revolutionary system does just what its name suggests. It’s a hoop you put around your shoulders, and it generates random affirmative and exclamatory responses for you without you being bothered by your shopaholic friend. There would be ARRGH booths at all floors; you can simply pick one up, and put your head into one of those sweet transparent rings, and forget about anything else. Here is how a sample communication would go.

Vikky (to me): You think this tee-shirt is worth a buy?
Me: *activates the ARRGH and it takes over the conversation*
ARRGH: (taking over the communication, nods) Yeah, it looks cool, man!
Vikki: How about the pink one with yellow stripes we saw earlier?
ARRGH: Go with it!
Vikki: But there you said it was cool! I’m asking about that one.
ARRGH: Yeah, man, totally!
Vikki: Do you think it makes me look gay? I’m straight, and I don’t wanna look gay, buddy!
ARRGH: Of course, go for it!
Vikki: Wait, are you wearing one of those ARRGHs?
ARRGH: (detects the usage of the word ‘ARRGH’ ) What? Are you kidding me? (brilliant AI, quick response)
Vikki: Thanks, man! I’ll buy that, and the skinny shorts you recommended an hour ago!
ARRGH: It totally suits your taste!

Vikki out.

Potential Benefits: Friends offer you good advice, and ARRGHs offer you even better! Shopaholics will end up buying things that look funny, thus giving rise to a new trend in the fashion industry. I can already envision the best Bollywood designers buying ARRGHs to make their color scheme decisions for them.
New trends, check ✔
No hassle, check ✔
Friends remain friends, check ✔
Increased sales and faster decision-making, check ✔

So, there you go! Better shopping malls in Three Easy Steps

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Serious side-note (although it appears at the bottom instead of appearing on the side)

Technology, I believe, has the potential to solve the most complicated of problems. Being an engineer and a problem solver at heart, I like to take up random problems I face every day, think of hypothetical solutions to them, and see how it goes. If I do come up with good solutions, I turn them into inventions. If not, I muse about them here.
In our lives, we have to make many trivial uninformed decisions, each alternative of which can be highly consequential. 50% of the times, the decisions might go wrong, since they were trivial to begin with in the first place. I have seen people blame themselves for trivial bad decisions. Let us understand that there are no bad decisions, they become wrong only in the hindsight.

It would be great to have an ARRGH system to put blame on for those!

Alok Nath: Data aggregation and sentiment analysis tool for the NSA? The meme uncovered.

Disclaimer in Bold and Italics: This post contains no Alok Nath memes.

If you think I’m going to troll about Alok Nath here and bore you, no reader, no! I’m here to scrutinize what has been a dismal display of mockery and to pin down the reason for the same. I have 3 theories on why this happened. (and one of those is NOT a conspiracy theory). I like the third one the most. I have evidences for that one.

Theory 1: The PR Conspiracy

Alok Nath (the character, not the person) has been the forgotten hero. In his movies, he braves the world and has to bear the curses and melodrama of the society. He almost certainly has an irrant wife and a beautiful girl, who, for obvious reasons might have been the apple of “Mohalle Wala Gullu’s” eye, death threats and dowry warnings. All this hyperness all over his face has balded him half like a good suburban Daddy, and despite all this, the ‘sanskari’ ‘ghar-jamhai’ steals the show instead of Alok Nath himself! Second place is bagged by Alok’s daughter, who is imcomprehensibly beautiful, and still settles down for even the most ordinary guy her Dad would choose. Big sacrifice, that! Third place goes either to Alok’s wife, or to a villianous character in the movie (Sometimes, these both are the same).
The point is, Alok is nowhere in the picture. Not even in top 5. While in real life such a character should have been the lead role, in movies, he is brightening his sly smile in the backdrop of married couple, but is taken out of focus by the cameraman. What a disgrace!
So, this first theory states that this was a stunt pulled off by Alok Nath’s PR agency, so that the next time a cameraman gets a job for an Alok Nath movie, he focusses on Alok even if the villian is getting murdered in the side-frame. And if he wouldn’t, you as viewers would. Even if it is just for LOLs.

Formal Postulate: The PR firm wants to draw the attention of movie-goers towards Alok Nath, to define him as the lead actor in his upcoming movies.

 

Theory 2: He wants to pull off ‘The Miley’

No, I’m not referring to the obscenity. Miley Cyrus used to be this girl-next-door untill she turned into this super-spoiled brat who is obscenely clad and is flirting (to put it mildly) with a man her Dad’s age. Result? Moolah! Publicity! Talk show topics!
Now imagine if in the next movie, Alok Nath comes in the frame drooling over a pool of cigar-scotch cocktail, side-slinging an M4 Assault rifle, sporting an shabbily overgrown beard, being caressed by five bikini babes (yes, five is the precise number, but more on that later)! Wouldn’t it be… Super badass!? Just like a Gabbar Singh of modern times. So, that’s with this theory.

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Insert Alok Nath here. See the effect?


Formal Postulate: Keep calm, and forget the memes. And wwwwait for his upcoming movies.

 

Theory 3: The NSA Angle: The Strongest Evidence

We all know how NSA tracks down everything. Right from this blog post to the tab that you recently closed and don’t want anyone to know about, they make it a point to know all of these little things. This is gazillions of pettabytes of information and they run out of storage frequently. They needed a more streamlined approach. Now what follows is a bit of an inside information. I’m a bit scared as I type this Class One classified piece of documentation, but hey, I’m brave! Here it is:

The NSA found out about this incorrigibly good character of Hindi movies, and sat down a team of Harvard-Stanford psychology experts on how they could leverage this ‘phenomenon’ to aggregate the moods of the masses. And those experts came up with this solution “Start a trend on Alok Nath’s peculiarity. A meme would be ideal, and circulate it amongst the masses. The jokes that people make, and the responses other people make to those jokes will help us find out the exact sentiment of the people of different areas”.

How do I know this?
While I was outrunning the brutal hounds of Area 51, I managed to get my hands on this piece of super classified documentation. It is torn, and still soaked in my blood. Here it is:

 

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Formal Postulate: Alok Nath is a data aggregation and sentiment analysis tool for the NSA. Keep calm, and feed noise to NSA.

 

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All said and done, I deserve a pat on my back for the near-fatal espionage of journalism, uncovering the truth, what India TV has failed to do at all. I have more evidences and documents in my custody. If you’re interested, please let me know. I’m willing to share them all.

If you’re NSA or Alok Nath, please contact me through your fake Twitter handle (fondly called ‘fandle’) to get a hand on these.

Your Internet Age: You Could Still Be a Toddler

There indeed is such a thing as your ‘Internet Age’. It is the sum total of the number of years you’ve been exposed to the Internet, mostly to the doldrums of social media. What does that mean and what are the implications?

Well, for starters, your grandpa, who only recently joined Facebook on insistence from your younger cousins might make a faux pas on the Internet, which you are too matured to make at the virtual social gathering. This, and few little bit more crucial aspects elaborated below.

Internet age can be classified into four main categories. Here they are along with symptoms to identify where you fit in there.

~ I. The Toddler ~

You have just learnt that Facebook thingy lets your friends say “Hi” to you, and lets you say “Hi” to them, and lets everyone say “Hi” to everyone else, and so on. Also, your distant friend posted a B’day cake on you Wall (huh, weird! Why call it that? It clearly is my computer screen, and not a wall!), and you called him up to learn to send the cake thingys to other people, and now you send them to everyone, even outside their birthdays. You post online once or twice a month, and those posts are so embarrassing that your well wishers don’t want to acknowledge that they came from you. Now you know why they didn’t like them even when you electronic-mailed them to do so! Also, your niece told you about this weird restrictive writing platform called ‘Tuitter’. These signs clearly signify that your Virtual Umbilical Cord has just been cut because you plugged in the power cord of your computer and finally took up to ‘Internetting’. Congrats, you’re born on the internet!

But mind you, some Internet Toddlers can be very conscious, very mindful! We all had that ‘cool guy’ down the lane who never pooped his diapers. Of course, that wasn’t me.

~ II. The Kid cum Teenager ~ 

You chat and chat and chat. You comment on every shitbuggery you can find. You are proud of your little ‘wall timeline’ out there, and of all the ‘Friends’ and ‘Followers’ lined up in there, who would give you a moderate number of likes on everything ‘incredibly smart and funny’ that you post. Some of you are early bloomers, and come out with flying colors here. The rest of you are just ignorant here. You post silly pictures of yourself on the Internet, because you want to prove that you’re really ‘fun’. You’re happy; you see the rainbows of the Internet, you follow the butterflies on the World Wide Web, you run into wild animals making love behind the playground. You nag yourself to walk back to where you started. But, will you? Of course, this isn’t going to destroy your childhood, but your curious clicks might cause your accounts to spam other people’s timelines with weird advertisements about masculinity and manhood. This is where gender biases become evident to you in life. If you’re a girl, everyone will think of you as “poor kid” who might have “accidentally clicked on some shiny button”. If you’re a guy, you’re just considered downright pervert. Troubled Teens! If you’re a guy, you recite the hymn “Girls will always get more followers.” If you’re a girl, you’ll say something to the tune of “A million followers ought not to be enough for me. A Billion sounds like Okay.”

Oh, and this is where you might find ‘true love’ of your life as well, not to last this next stage of life. Naughty adolescence!

~ III. The Adult ~

Of the thirty things you used to love about the Internet, that you swore you couldn’t live without, you hardly love three now. But those three, you love by heart. One of them is definitely Google, your faithful friend. Ironically, you’ve silently deleted or are completely inactive on your Orkut profile. You scroll down and down on your Facebook page to remove any conceivable signs of the dumbness of your internet-childhood. You’re a goddamn adult now, and you live like one. You don’t pick up fights in the Facebook comments section. You don’t have conversations about your weekend on your Twitter account. You follow good artists, musicians, businesspersons, corporations, etc. Basically you’re bored of and are boring to the Social Media. You need to move one. You yawn at your screen 80% of the time. You’re basically a nice person. A busy person, with more important shit to do than Share and View random things. You’re sometimes found on Youtube watching Cat videos, music videos, documentaries, but that’s about it. And yes, your typing speed had set new records!

~ IV. The Old ~

Whenever you see people around you, you go like “Been there, done that.” Things do not interest you much anymore. Most of the ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ that you drop around are those of goodwill. You often say “for the sake of old times” while doing it. You’re done. You’re still secretly proud of your little ‘wall timeline’ out there, and of all the ‘Friends’ and ‘Followers’ lined up in there. You no longer count the number of likes you get for anything, because it is plenty. You seek Nirvana. Salvation. Good Riddance.
Internet is no longer your ‘playground’. It’s just a place where you are, like the green, grassy park outside your window, which was heaven when you had homework to do and class-teachers to scold instead. After retirement, you just find solace by sitting on that one wooden bench to the corner.

Where am I? Considering the fact that I’m updating my blog (and that I have a blog), you might find me in one of the words in the Adulthood paragraph. Maybe. Where do you see yourself?

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Get the most Amazing Sleep In Minutes.

Sleeping pattern Graph

This is how seven (approx) hours of lying down on the bed would look like, on certain bio-mathematical graphs and shit. ( Image courtesy sleepcycle.com. I added this just to cast an impact that I have actually studied a lot about this stuff, which I haven’t)

I’ve been an insomniac for a long long time. When I finally discovered a groundbreaking way to put myself to sleep, I thought the secret must be shared.
But a little pre-talk first. Whatever I have to say is something that I have experienced, I have come across no book which validates or advocates this. But you have nothing to loose, so you might as well give this a try.
After months of observations, what I concluded is that our mind lets us fall asleep when it itself is in a state of confusion.

“Wait, what??

Let me be clearer. The mind needs something or the other to put itself to while you’re asleep. It needs something to keep itself busy, so that you can just go to sleep instead of giving it conscious thoughts to think about (If you say your head is completely blank when you’re asleep, you, my friend, are either lying or are misinformed).

Well, that’s tricky, is it not! To give our brain (rather, mind) something to work upon without giving it problems consciously! Here’s where a little knowledge will come in handy. We do not consciously process paintings and music. We just look at them and our brain fires up its processors and starts crunching it over and over again, looking for patterns, anticipating and identifying  known patterns, correlating new patterns to older ones, and so on. So the key to get it to work would be to look at a painting that starts off simply enough, and then keeps getting complicated, and gradually puts enough questions in our mind to suffice a good, sound sleep. It’s like feeding the brain. This is probably why counting sheep has been the age-old thing to fall asleep. It follows the pattern:

Simple –> Complicated –> Simple –> Stop.

But since you’re consciously imagining the sheep, it ceases to be as effective as we would think. So, we definitely would require a painting to do the trick.

But how would you sleep with open eyes? You cannot (normally). I used to put my little sister to sleep by chatting with her. We would talk about the usual stuff at first, and then gradually I would start talking about things like Pythagoras’ Theorem, about how our life would be so much more difficult had Tesla not lived ever, and about the merits and demerits of having to live our entire life in a spaceship. While some of these talks were interesting, they were compulsively a bit complex, as they had to be understood, but when she didn’t have to reply back, she would be listening passively, and would thus fall asleep (Thanks, brain!). But who would do for you what I did for my dear sister? Won’t be surprising to realize that the answer is “Probably no one.”

Music, which I mentioned above, is our very need of the hour. Classical music is supposed to be good for sleep. Reason? It picks up simple notes, builds a foundation and architects elaborate and intricate structures over it, reaches a peak of complexity, and then eases down in a simplistic and beautiful conclusion. It’s like caramel-dipped vanilla-chocolate ball or <your favourite dessert here> for the brain. Which means, our brain not only loves it, it craves it like anything!

But not just any music, mind you. Certain music might just wake you up to appalling uncertainty of ever falling asleep that night. But some selective music will flow like a breeze and puff you into the sweetest sleep you’ve ever had.

Recommendation:

Here is the soundtrack from the superbly awesome game Braid, which I use to put myself to sleep on a not-so-easy night. Just let yourself go, flow with it.

Each and every track of this game is relaxing as Joey Tribbiani’s chair. Give it one try at the very least!

Happy Sleeping!

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A Serious Ignored Issue with Facebook Privacy: Be Careful!

I think some people have had this question, but I couldn’t find anyone who had this query. Let me cut to the chase.

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Facebook Privacy

Suppose you don’t want people to know that you’re active on Facebook. Say, your boss is ‘Friends’ with you on Facebook and you don’t want him to know that you’re active online. At the same time, you don’t want to compromise with your ‘Virtual Social Life’ either. So, you’re browsing through the contents on your News Feed. An old school friend of yours has shared a very awesome picture of some place he went for vacation and you want to ‘like’ it or ‘comment’ on it. So you go to see the privacy. It is “Friends Only”. Okay, so if you hit the button here, you’re still out of your boss’s reach, because you know that these two people are not ‘friends’. You post your comment. “I wish my boss grants me leaves so I can go some place too! Boy, he’s a terrible human being, my boss! Blah Blah…”

Now a day or two later, your friend thinks “Hey, this is an awesome picture. It’s not from my intimate family pictures either. I must share it with the world!” And he sets the privacy to “Public”

Whoosh! That’s the sound of your promotion being dumped down the window once your boss sees your comment.

However, there is the option to screen your activity from certain ‘Friends’, so you may enable those. Facebook is refining this aspect of the social network vigorously. They will come up with some brilliant solution in time. Nevertheless, if the stakes are too high,take this piece of advice-

No matter what, be careful about what you say online.

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Keep Walking Wallpaper

I got bored of all the ‘inspirational’ wallpapers I can find over the internet, so I made one of my own.

A camera, a random click and then Photoshop.
Because inspiration is the virtue of success! ;)

Image: Relentless streets

Relentless streets

Download larger resolution image here

Why India is ‘filthy’

Frankly, I’m proud enough to be an Indian to skip an article that would have a caption similar to mine. And probably I’ve lost many readers by captioning it this way, but it doesn’t matter.

I came across this post this evening and was, so is to say, ‘moved’ to write on about it. Well, I have known and heard of quite too many proud Americans and Brits, who take pride in the city they live in, in their country and so on. And to be fair, they do have a point at that. But I have also known a few people who have seen the older versions of their cities. I very clearly remember an elderly New Yorker, David, who told how the older New York would be filthy, fly-ridden, hotchpotch, unplanned, basically everything India is ill-famous for in the Western world. “That was a phase”, he would say, “it came and went away, and we had a cleaner life then.”

I would like to have a scientific scoop at it, just for fun and also because I’m what we call a ‘man of science’. Where are we (Indians) in terms of change? It is often convenient to understand a society by comparing it with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The pyramid, as we know it, is a representation of how and when we will feel the need of anything as an individual. It describes the individuals just perfectly but I find it to be applicable on collective set as well.

Image: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

A society too evolves in a similar fashion. India, as Time quoted has a ‘battered economy’ and an ‘incompetent’ leader. Not delving into whether that is right or wrong, or to what extent, a majority of Indians actually would agree to it. Whether we would like to believe it or not, but we as a nation, are still somewhere in the yellow region in Maslow’s pyramid (Love, Belonging), or maybe even slightly lower. This is not a verdict, nor a thing to be scared of, but most of us are just too damn poor. We’re yet to have that self-esteem that would make us flinch at sight of garbage piled up in open sight in broad daylight.

Many of us would claim to be far above in the pyramid, but our entire society’s average is not. There are still many below poverty line, many with broken homes, fickle jobs, lost hopes, blah blah (noteworthy is the fact that cities of south India are refreshingly cleaner, reflecting a more satisfied population).

Our metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi are still like that old New York of David. ‘filthy, fly-ridden, hotchpotch, unplanned’. We’re rising up the pyramid at our own inevitable pace. Nothing would quicken us, nothing would slow us down either.

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Memory

A piece of an original composition on acoustic guitar which I recorded for a ‘nostalgic’ video we made some time back.

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The Morning Sun: A Solo Acoustic Guitar Snippet of Composition

I composed this piece of plucking long back, and thought of sharing it now!

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Making Awesome and Healthy Peanut-Rice in about 10 minutes (step-by step guide)

Peanut Rice

10- Minute Peanut Rice

This exploration started when I was back at home for vacations and my Mom wasn’t around for the day. I had to cook myself something and that’s when in my mind, I stumbled on the idea to make Peanut-Rice. It’s easy and quick! Here’s how to make it:

peanutsIngredients:

Rice, butter/ghee, turmeric, table salt, garam masala, peanuts, and other dry-fruits (optional), coriander leaves (optional)

  1. For two people, take about a medium bowl of rice (of course, your appetite might vary) and clean them thoroughly.
  2. Rinse the rice and soak it in little water for about 5 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, warm up you cauldron or any other cooking utensil of your choice, for about 2 minutes. It is preferred that there’s no moisture left in the utensil by the time this step is complete.
  4. Add ghee or butter to the warm cauldron and let it cook for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add peanuts, cashew, almonds, resins (everything but peanuts is optional in this step) till they start browning up a bit and then add all the spices one by one. This might take about 2-3 minutes I made it with just peanuts and resins the first time, but it was yummy nevertheless.
  6. Add the now moist rice and stir well to mix the contents well. Add a little water to make the texture of your choice. Cover it with a lid and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Keep the lid closed for a while. Remember, steam-cooking is always the best for rice.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves before serving!
    You’re done!
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