Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Joshua Tree, California: A Most Excellent Getaway Spot

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We found it odd. The way the chipmunk staggered woozily from the brush like the town drunk in a bad Western. Perhaps he’d nibbled his way into some camper’s stash of peyote. Maybe he was just a little dehydrated. But then we noticed the leg. It dragged lifeless behind him as he crossed the pathway and collapsed, tiny rib cage heaving, at the base of a small boulder.

I looked at Joseph, “Oh man, that’s sad. I wonder what happened to him. I hope some jerk camper didn’t slingshot him for fun.”

We took a few steps closer.

“I think maybe that’s a bite mark,” Joseph said, observing a small gash in the chipmunk’s left hindquarter. We watched as a crimson stain seeped through brown fur.

As the light in the little eyes grew dimmer, the ragged gasps for breath shallower, we looked at each other and knew:

“It has to be a rattlesnake.”

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Everyone needs a Most Excellent Getaway Spot Preferably Not More Than Three Hours Away (MEGS-PNMTTHA). Henceforth referred to as MEGS for the sake of brevity.

For most of my life my MEGS of choice was “The Place” – a rustic cabin on the Eastern side of Washington’s North Cascades, nestled amongst the pines just off a dusty gravel road within earshot of Lost River. It’s the kind of place where you wake to songbirds and pine squirrels to find bucks with velvet antlers off the back porch. For years this patch of forest and river bank has been my escape. A place of rest and restoration, and a vital point of connection to the natural world. Everyone needs a Most Excellent Getaway Spot.

Now, an ideal MEGS carefully blends several attributes into one location. The first of these is accessibility. Your place should be no more than four hours distance by car from your current residence. This is far enough to remove you from the distractions of normal life and makes it the perfect choice for long weekends, or mid-Friday getaways. Second, it must provide access to an outstanding natural area. It doesn’t have to be Yosemite, but it must bring you joy. It can be a lake, a river, an ocean, or a desert. The most important thing is that it be a little wilder, a little freer, and that it inspire you to be the same. It must also be peaceful. You should find yourself slowing down, unwinding, and breathing more deeply in the comfort of your MEGS. And finally, it should accommodate a group of 2-5 comfortably. The reason for this is simple: adventures are often best when shared.

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My first experience with Joshua Tree was at the age of 13 on a month-long road trip from Seattle to San Antonio and back. My parents piled enough camping gear, granola bars, and fruit snacks to supply a family of seven into our big black GMC van and we hit the road. It was the kind of youth-defining All-American road trip that sticks with you for the rest of your life, and while I have several vivid memories from it – shitting furiously, puking, shitting furiously again, then dry-heaving repeatedly over a decrepit toilet somewhere near the edge of the Grand Canyon being a particular gem – one of my favorites occurred in Joshua Tree.

Like most red-blooded American boys I was (am) obsessed with all things scaly. The capture and close examination of any fish, lizard, or snake representing the zenith of my youthful aspirations (an obsession I’m proud to say I’ve not entirely outgrown). I had in my possession at the time a copy of Peterson Field Guides: Western Reptiles and Amphibians which I pored over with the a religious fervor as the family van rumbled its way South. With each passing state – Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – I noted the various reptiles that might be found and formulated grandiose plans for their capture.

Of all the reptiles in my book, none captured my imagination like the rattlesnake. Beautiful, deadly, bordering on mythical, there are few creatures an adventurous boy would rather encounter (from a safe distance at least).

On the return trip to Seattle, my parents took us West through New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Our stop in Joshua Tree was brief. More of a drive-through on our way to bigger better things (Disneyland! Yosemite!) than a proper visit. But I’ll never forget the rattlesnake.

It was my brother Joseph who spotted it first, coiled and sleek, in a deep cleft between two large boulders. We marveled wide-eyed from our perch atop the rocks, hearts thrilling with our proximity to coiled death. The snake was unconcerned, brow furrowed in a perpetual scowl, tongue gently flicking the desert air.

Our encounter lasted no more than 5 minutes. But the memory lingers still. For 21 years whenever someone mentions Joshua Tree, the image of that little rattlesnake pops into my head, as clear as the blue sky.

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Which brings us back to the demise of our drunken chipmunk.

“If it’s a rattlesnake, that means he was JUST bitten. Which means it must be nearby.”

Joseph and I glanced at each other and immediately began searching the surrounding rocks and desert shrubs for signs of the cold-blooded assassin. To no avail. After ten minutes we were ready to admit defeat, turning to head back to the main pathway, when I saw it.

It was a small Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake. No more than 2 or 3 feet in length. It emerged from the brush and probed its way methodically up and over a small boulder, delicately tasting the air for the scent of its fallen prey. As we watched in awe, I was struck by the sophistication of the snake’s design; perfectly equipped for its deadly task.

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For more Rattlesnake info visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Joseph and I quickly realized that it was going to take the snake at least another 15 minutes to sniff its way to the chipmunk, which had fallen alongside the main footpath. In the name of safety – both the snake’s and future hiker’s – we decided to intervene. Joseph scooped up the lifeless rodent with a pair of sticks and gently plopped it down a few feet from the snake which quickly located it and began the gruesome yet fascinating process of consuming it.

For the next twenty minutes I was 11 again. We watched with rapt attention as the rattlesnake sniffed the length of the chipmunk, located the head, unhinged its jaw and slowly, inch by inch, swallowed it whole. I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed anything weirder, or more fascinating in nature.

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This remarkable encounter solidified what had become increasingly clear to me over three brilliant days in the high desert: I may have temporarily lost my Northwest MEGS, but until fate or good fortune finds me back amongst the pines Joshua Tree will make for a fine substitute.

If you live within driving distance, or if you’re road-tripping through Southern California, a night or two under the innumerable Joshua Tree stars will be well worth your time. Just make sure you come prepared.

A few quick tips on that note:

  1. Bring lots of water. This is the desert, there is no running water in the campgrounds. I’d recommend 1 gallon per person per day. That will probably be more than you need, but that’s OK.
  2. Bring portable shade. Joshua Tree is incredible during the first few hours of the day, and the last few. But during the high heat of midday it can be witheringly hot. We pack a large tarp which we string up wherever we can. Or you can look for shady slot canyons where you can get in a bit of bouldering in the cool shadows provided by the rocks.
  3. Bring lightweight breathable desert attire during the day, and a few warmer layers for the night. You’ll want as few clothes on as possible between 11-3 and you’ll probably want long pants and a warm jacket once the sun goes down.
  4. Bring appropriate footwear. Cacti, sharp rocks, and rattlesnakes abound in JT. This is not flip-flip country. Good sturdy tennis shoes or an appropriate outdoor shoe of some kind are a must.
  5. Bring firewood. There’s nothing better than roasting marshmallows or drinking beers by the fire beneath the starry night sky.
  6. Bring a camera. Desert sunsets are unforgettable. The harsh flat colors of the daytime retreat with the sun and a world awash in pastels – oranges, minty greens, purples, and blues – emerges from the dust.

Whatever city, state, or country you find yourself in, I encourage you to discover your own MEGS. Find yourself a little patch of forest, a favorite stream, or perhaps an entire mountain range, and make it yours. To quote the poet of The Sierra, John Muir,

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

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These Are The Days

Cover

The problem with digital photos is that often people never get around to having them printed. Even though Elias and I primarily shoot film, we send it to the lab to be developed and receive digital photos in return. A few years ago I made a book of our photos using Blurb for Elias birthday gift. The book turned out beautifully and it was so much fun to see our pictures in print. We decided then that we would make a book every year so that some day we would have photo albums to look through as we do with our parents.

As it turns out, every year is a little ambitious, but two years later we have another book of memories. We maxed out the page limit Blurb offers with a 240 page hardcover book made up entirely of film photos. Blurb is the only online bookmaking site I have used but I cannot say enough about the quality. For both of our books we chose the linen hardcover with a dust jacket. Though I would prefer the dust jacket to be matte vs. glossy, I am sold on the linen hardcover. We have chosen the standard paper quality and though higher quality might be nice, we have not felt the need to buy up.

A couple of people have expressed interest in purchasing the book so we decided to make it available for sale to those who are interested. Please know that the cost of the book is strictly Blurb’s price, we make no profit off the sale of the book.

Purchase here.

Please feel free to view the book in its entirety below (its best if you view it BIG!).

E-Bluehat

Jesse

Hunt

Jtree-Camping

T-snow

Joseph

ghost

T-Sun

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Riding Comets Through Outer Space

Forgive us while we nerd out for a minute…

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A 4 image composite photo of Comet 67P taken by Rosetta’s NAVCAM.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Ten years ago the European Space Agency (ESA) launched Rosetta, a spacecraft loaded with a small probe named Philae. Their purpose? To catch and land on Comet 67P, a mass of rock and ice the size of Mt. Fuji hurtling through space at over 84,000 MPH. On Wednesday, after a journey spanning a decade and covering a distance of over 3.5 Billion miles, they achieved their goal. Rosetta launched Philae, which successfully attached itself to the surface of the comet. And today I’m looking at pictures of Comet 67P on Flickr. What an incredible world we live in.

You may ask, “Who cares? Why does this even matter?”

And to that I just have to say, “YOU GUYS! HUMANS LANDED A SPACECRAFT ON A FREAKING COMET!!!”

Seriously though, I don’t have any big answers for you, but just stop for five minutes and think about the logistical marvel that humankind has just achieved. I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and awe at the achievement. And I will be looking forward to any new scientific discoveries that come as a result of this most impressive feat.

If you’d like some more specifics about the mission here’s an informative article from Vox that covers the big points: Why The Comet Landing Matters

Below are a few of my favorite photos from the mission, which are available on ESA’s Flickr. You can see the full set here.

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Rosetta mission selfie showing Comet 67P and one of Rosetta’s solar wings. Taken using Philae’s CIVA camera.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

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A “Beauty Shot” of Comet 67P taken by Rosetta from a distance of 10km.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

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A “Beauty Shot” of Comet 67P taken by Rosetta from a distance of 10km.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

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Infographic summarising the milestones of Rosetta’s journey through the Solar System.
Photo Credit: ESA

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What’s For Dinner?

A few weeks ago I had a friend request a post with some of my favorite food blogs, so I’ve gathered a collection of the ones I return to over and over for dinner inspiration. I love to cook but in order for me to really be inspired, I need a gorgeous photo to draw me in. Each of these blogs are just as beautiful as they are delicious. In addition to the blogs, I highly recommend the cookbooks by each of these culinary artists.

Sprouted Kitchen

SPROUTED KITCHEN
The photos on Sprouted Kitchen are just as beautiful as the food itself. It is a husband/wife team, she does the cooking, he takes the photos. I always feel good about the food I make from Sprouted Kitchen. Their recipes use natural ingredients, creating food that is healthy without sacrificing any flavor. Sara and Hugh put out a cookbook in 2012 that is filled with clean lines and beautiful photos. I am still working through the recipes but every one I have tried has been one to repeat.

A few favorites:
Lentil Soup with Chipotle Yogurt
Apple and Smoked Mozzarella Mini Calizones
Crusted Butternut Squash
Lemongrass Tofu Bowl (with chicken!)
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chilli Beans

Orangette

ORANGETTE
My sister turned me on to Orangette years ago through cookies… the best cookie recipes ever. Not only do you get great recipes on Orangette, but you get a story as well. Molly Wizenberg now has two cookbooks, both are incredible. The read like a novel with recipes sprinkled throughout the chapters. If you are lucky enough to live in Seattle, you do not want to miss the restaurant her husband opened in Ballard. Go to Delancey for pizza, and please stop next door at Essex (also owned by Molly and Brandon) for a drink before dinner.

A few favorites:
Boiled Kale with Fried Egg and Toast
Chilled Peaches in White Wine (We like to serve these with a bit of Mascarpone)
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Apricots and Espresso
Pasta with Fried Proscuitto (All time favorite!)
Red Wine-Mustard Vinaigrette

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JAMIE OLIVER
When I am looking for comfort food I turn to Jamie Oliver. Everything here is a hit but usually I am searching the soups and pastas. Sometimes when I make a meal Elias really loves he asks, “Is this Jamie?” because it’s so good, it just has to be. Again, you don’t want to miss the cookbooks. These are the kind you want to sit down with a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine and flip through each page. The photos are great but really you just want to touch the paper… a smooth matte reminiscent of a newspaper crossed with a coffee table book.

I had some trouble finding our favorite Jamie Oliver recipes on the website. I usually just flip through my cookbooks for his recipes and it seems that some of them are not available on the website. I did some scrounging around though and found them in other places.
Fiery Dan Dan Noodles
Crispy and Sticky Chicken Thighs with Squashed New Potatoes and Tomatoes
Mini Shell Pasta with Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce
Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella
English Onion Soup with Sage and Cheddar

* Photos from each blog respectively.

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Music For Touching

Cookies

I hope you all had a great weekend. We had a fun time celebrating our brother/brother-in-law Joseph’s Birthday while exploring the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain. If you are ever in Southern California and have the opportunity, I think it is worth the drive to see these strange places.

I discovered Cookies through the blog For Me, For You and was immediately hooked on this catchy album. If you need some music to get you through your Monday, give Music for Touching a listen. It might even make you want to dance.

Lastly, you might have noticed that we changed our header photo and bio photos. It was about time we gave the blog an update to reflect our California surroundings.

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A Wes Anderson Halloween

WA Group shot

About six months ago I expressed that some day I wanted to be Margot Tenenbaum for Halloween. This snowballed into planning a Wes Anderson Halloween party in which all attendees would dress up as a character from a Wes Anderson Movie. A month before Halloween, the group you see here got together to preview the movies and pick our characters. For the most part we kept our costumes a surprise, aside from little sneak peaks we sent each other in a group text stream.

I think we were all a little blown away by the amount of thought and effort each person put into their costume, down to the tiny little details. Hand-stiched emblems on shirts, hand drawn tattoos, haggling for a good price on a couple of matching sweatsuits at the flea market, holding a pout to look a little more like Owen Wilson, a wooden finger, a couple home hair cuts, the list goes on. It is worth noting that Mrs. Fox hand-made her entire costume, down to hand stamping apples onto yellow fabric. These costumes are incredible, and thanks to Elias for taking head shots of each attendee to commemorate the evening and share them with you!

In order of appearance:
• Elias Carlson
as Frances Whitman from The Darjeeling Limited
• Mary Anderson as Mrs. Fox from Fantastic Mr. Fox
• Aaron Henry as Team Zissou from The Life Aquatic
• Audrey Matos and Andrea Miller as Ari and Uzi from The Royal Tenenbaums
• Paul Pesnell as Sam Shakusky from Moonrise Kingdom
• Theresa Carlson as Margot Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums
• Jeremy Spyridon as Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic

 
Francis

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Mrs.-Fox

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Team-Zissou

Team Zissou SS

Ari-Uzi

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Sam-Shakusky

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Margot

Margot SS

Steve-Zissou

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Steve Zissou SS

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DIY Costume Roundup

AnnaBob

Several years ago we started a Halloween tradition in which we take a few friends to a cabin in the woods for the weekend to hike in the day and watch scary movies at night while eating soup, homemade pretzels, and drinking whiskey spiked apple cider. Some of our fondest memories come from these fall weekends transforming this “holiday” from one we felt obligated to participate in to something we look forward to each year.

Our plans have changed a bit this year since we cannot go to the cabin, but that doesn’t mean we have lost our enthusiasm. We will be dressing up for the first time in years and hosting a Wes Anderson Halloween party in which all guests will be showing up as a character from a Wes Anderson film. The best part is that our friend Jeremy, with whom we started the Halloween tradition, will be flying down for the party!

Have you picked out your Halloween costume? If you are still undecided, here are a few of my favorite ideas from a some clever people on the internet. I think most of these could be created with items you have at home or a quick trip to the thrift store and perhaps your local craft store.

I hope your Halloween is as memorable as ours, here is a playlist to make sure your party gets off on the right foot.

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Moonrise Kingdom

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Left to right, top to bottom: Anna WintourBob Dylan  • GardenersChampagne GlassVincent Van GoghFrida KahloMoonrise KingdomNesting Doll  • HipsterStrawberryForest Gump and JennyMary PoppinsDorothy Gale 

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Fall Wish List

Fall Wish List

Fall is officially here and every once in a while the temperature dips below 75 degrees in Southern California. A cool breeze blows across bare arms making us wish we had brought a sweater. Occasionally we wake up on a cloudy morning and pull on a pair of jeans knowing that we may regret the decision when the clouds burn off around 11am. We almost decide to cut out the mid-day wardrobe change and start the day in shorts but then again, how can we pass up the opportunity to cover our legs, even if just for a few hours? We can finally enjoy a full cup of hot coffee in the morning without pulling off our clothes and switching to iced coffee mid-cup. Its really starting to feel like fall here!

These are a few of the things that I wish I was wearing right now. A few of them are in my closet currently (or similar versions) just waiting for their moment to shine. As the temperature drops, the anticipation builds. Maybe, just maybe,  I will need a lightweight jacket today.

Men’s Nike SweatshirtBaggu Pouch Utility JacketMidi SkirtOversize ScarfDistressed Black JeansBlack FlatsFjalraven Backpack Statement NecklaceMen’s Flannel ShirtAdidas Sambas

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Seven Years to Celebrate

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This year we were lucky enough to find ourselves in Big Sur for our Anniversary weekend. We discussed several destinations within driving distance before taking a look at VRBO in the Big Sur area. With less than a month until our anniversary I am not sure how we found anything at all, let alone something so perfect. All we really wanted was a cabin in the woods (not so easy to come by in Southern California) and that is exactly what we got. We spent three days in a little cabin nestled in a redwood grove just up from Bixby Creek Bridge, whose only toilet/shower was on the back deck.

This stretch of Highway 1 holds a beauty that is hard to surpass. On one side of the road rocky cliffs drop to the ocean where humpback whales leap and play in the surf. On the other, hills dappled with reds, yellows, greens, and pinks reach to the sky as cows graze, oblivious to their charmed life. If you time your trip right, you may be passing through this stretch of paradise at sunrise or sunset, in which case you may not get very far as each pull out holds a view that will take your breath away.

We spent our days driving up and down the coast, hiking the cliffs, enjoying the cooler air during the day and a fire in our cabin at night. We saw seals, sea otters, deer, and so many whales. Seven years is something to celebrate and Big Sur is one of the better places to do so.

On our way home I finished a roll of film in my little Rollei. This one had some good stuff on it, I am sure. It had been down Highway 1, to Joshua Tree, and now back to Big Sur. I wasn’t sure exactly what would come out of it but I was excited. I rewound the film, and rewound the film, and rewound the film… It never stopped. Turns out it was never loaded. On to the next.

Without Further ado, please enjoy our (mostly Elias’) photos of Big Sur!

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30 Things: Theresa

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Theresa is 30! You know what that means… It’s time for one of my favorite annual traditions: writing up a new list of favorite things about Theresa.

So much has happened since “Sad Songs and Birthdays” (AKA: 29 Things). Another year and a new city have provided numerous opportunities to rediscover all the ways Theresa surprises and delights me. Here are 30 of them:

1. Last year’s 29 Things #2 was this: “She wants to move to LA, or New York, or anywhere with me. Just because it’d be fun.” Well guess what. She moved to LA with me, just for fun. And it’s been wonderful.
2. Tously beach hair and salty skin.
3. She’s the best office mate ever (sorry Jeremy & Shaun)
4. Hole Mole (pronounced ho-lay mo-lay) Rosarito Tacos at least once a week, preferably twice.
5. How cute she looks in her banana rash guard.
6. Floating on our backs together as the waves wash over our bodies.
7. Carefully selecting songs for our seasonal playlists so that they don’t overlap
8. Outdoor showers under the Big Sur Redwoods
9. She makes me catch baby lizards because she wants to touch their warm dry skin
10. Learning to love a new city together
11. Mid-morning workouts
12. Leaving the air conditioner off all day out of stubbornness and then cooling ourselves at night by rubbing ice cubes all over our skin.
13. Long walks on the beach.
14. Traveling back to Seattle together to see friends and family, and visit all our favorite old spots.
15. That one time in Joshua Tree when she made us all stay up late saying nice things about each other.
16. California Road Trips!
17. She’s not afraid to learn new things like rock climbing and how to dive under the waves.
18. The upcoming Wes Anderson Halloween Party she’s been planning for the last year.
19. The way she smooths off my rough edges, and lets me smooth off hers.
20. Her undying affection for popsicles.
21. She’s on Joseph’s short list of “Women Whose Advice You Should Always Heed.” (And mine too, duh.)
22. New Chairs!
23. She’s turned our Long Beach apartment into a home just as wonderful as the one we shared in Seattle.
24. Cold Brews & Coconut Scone mornings at Lord Windsor
25. She’s the very best kind of friend, sister, aunt, and wife.
26. Her happy face when I get back from my latest trip.
27. Her instagram is always better than mine.
28. She patiently helps me shop for hiking gear when I’m completely unprepared and being a little silly.
29. She has the best ponytail.
30. After 7 years of marriage, and 30 years on this planet I find her as beautiful, witty, intelligent, wise, creative, and strong as the day I met her.

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