Tuesday: Hili dialogue

October 27, 2020 • 6:30 am

Top of the morning to you (or bottom, if you’re a late riser): it’s Tuesday, October 27, 2020: both National Potato Day and National American Beer Day. It might as well be called National Carb Day. I remember when a doctor told the corpulent father of one of my friends that he had to give up either beer or potatoes, and it was a hard choice (the patient was a Brit). It’s also National Black Cat Day, Boxer Shorts Day, Sylvia Plath Day, celebrating the poet’s birthday in 1932, and World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. 

One week from today I again get gutted like a sturgeon, as the hernia “fixed” last year has recurred. My surgeon says that in his entire career this has never happened to him. Lucky me: a medical anomaly!  Posting may be light for a day or two after they gut me (they won’t know if it’s laparascopy or slicing until they go in).

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates Stamen Grigorov, described by Wikipedia as “a prominent Bulgarian physician, hero, and microbiologist. He discovered the Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacillus, which is the true cause for the existence of natural yogurt.” Apparently you can’t get real Bulgarian yogurt, made from a strain found only in that country, in Bulgaria, and I have had it there!

Grigorov, contributed to medical advances as well. Here’s the great man. Why do they always tout “Greek yogurt” when they could tout “Bulgarian yogurt” (if they could make it here)?

News of the Day: As expected, the Senate voted, strictly along party lines, to confirm Jesus-loving Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice. It was the most politically polarized Supreme Court appointment in history (there hasn’t been a Justice confirmed without a single vote of the minority party in 151 years), and now we’re royally screwed. The vote was 52-48, with Susan Collins (R-Maine).  She was sworn in at the White House by the Silent Judge, chowderhead Clarence Thomas (where was Roberts?), and will have another swearing-in at the Court itself.

President Donald Trump speaks as Amy Coney Barrett looks on, before Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, right, administers the Constitutional Oath to her on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, after Barrett was confirmed by the Senate earlier in the evening. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The New York Times has a series of editorials about how to fix the courts (packing them, term limits, do nothing, etc.), and the editorial board itself has a nice take called “The Republican Party’s Supreme Court.”

The first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S. has been located and destroyed—in Washington State. (This hornet kicks off my chapter on natural selection in Why Evolution is True.). The danger is that they’ll destroy American honeybees, just as they destroy introduced (but not native) honeybee nests in Asia. Here’s a video: look at the containment suits they had to wear!

Yes, NASA has announced that there’s water on the Moon. Well, we knew there was ice at the lunar poles, but now frozen water appears to be more widely distributed. The molecules were detected by observing a wavelength of infrared light (6 microns) emitted by water. Water on the moon, if plentiful, might be useful for astronauts, so it wouldn’t have to be packed on lunar trips, and might also serve as a source of oxygen to breathe and hydrogen for fuel.

The NYT also has its annual and poignant series of short profiles of those who died this year “Those we’ve lost“. The feature usually appears at the end of the year, but this one is about those killed by the virus. (Still, it shouldn’t be in October; there are more deaths to come. . . )

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 225,692, an increase of about 540 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,165,289, an increase of about 5,500 over yesterday’s report. 

Stuff that happened on October 27 includes:

  • 939 – Æthelstan, the first king of all England, dies and is succeeded by his half-brother, Edmund I.
  • 1838 – Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs issues the Extermination Order, which orders all Mormons to leave the state or be killed.
  • 1904 – The first underground New York City Subway line opens, later designated as the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line.
  • 1936 – Mrs Wallis Simpson obtains her divorce, which would eventually allow her to marry King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, thus forcing his abdication from the throne.

Those readers who defend the monarchy: how can you justify making the King abdicate for marrying whom he chooses? At any rate, here are the lovebirds with Nixon in 1970:

Davis’s dad, the “Sr.”, was also the first African-American general in the U.S. Army. Here’s Davis fils, who was also a Tuskegee Airman:


  • 1962 – By refusing to agree to the firing of a nuclear torpedo at a US warship, Vasily Arkhipov averts nuclear war.
  • 1967 – Catholic priest Philip Berrigan and others of the ‘Baltimore Four’ protest the Vietnam War by pouring blood on Selective Service records.
  • 2004 – The Boston Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.
  • 2018 – A gunman opens fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue killing 11 and injuring 6, including 4 police officers.
  • 2019 – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi kills himself and three children by detonating a suicide vest during the U.S. military Barisha raid in northwestern Syria.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1782 – Niccolò Paganini, Italian violinist and composer (d. 1840)
  • 1811 – Isaac Singer, American actor and businessman, founded the Singer Corporation (d. 1875)
  • 1858 – Theodore Roosevelt, American colonel and politician, 26th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1919)
  • 1914 – Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet and playwright (d. 1953)

Thomas is one of my favorite poets though it seems few bother to read him these days. Here he is:

  • 1923 – Roy Lichtenstein, American painter and sculptor (d. 1997)
  • 1932 – Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist, and short story writer (d. 1963) [see above]

Plath is another poet I like. Like many versifiers, she was a depressive, and killed herself at 30.

I don’t know this dude, but maybe he’s a relative.

Those who went to the Great Beyond on October 27 include:

  • 939 – Æthelstan, English king (b. 894) [see above]
  • 1605 – Akbar, Mughal emperor (b. 1542)
  • 1927 – Squizzy Taylor, Australian gangster (b. 1888)

Squizzy was an Australian gangaster who met a violent end. I don’t know much about him but I love the name “Squizzy” (his real name was Joseph).

Squizzy on a release from prison three years before he died:


  • 1968 – Lise Meitner, Austrian-English physicist and academic (b. 1878)

Meitner and Otto Frisch discovered the phenomenon of nuclear fission. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize a total of 48 times, but never won. She should have!

Meitner in 1906, age 28.
  • 2013 – Lou Reed, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor (b. 1942)
  • 2019 – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); suicide (b. 1971) [see above]

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is birdwatching

Hili: We are all ignorant.
A; That’s true, but what do you mean by that?
Hili: That I don’t know what bird that is.
In Polish:
Hili: Wszyscy jesteśmy ignorantami.
Ja: To prawda, ale co chcesz przez to powiedzieć.
Hili: Że nie wiem co to za ptaszek.

Here’s baby Kulka—no longer a baby, really—with an apple:

From Charles: a banana Ganesha—an edible version of everyone’s favorite Hindu god. Here’s what Charles says:

Sambalpur village in the state of Odisha used bananas and bamboo to create this idol of Ganesha. After the festivities, the fruit will ripen and be distributed among the poor. Growing environmental concerns have led to the creation of eco-friendly idols.  Photo from 2017.

From Jesus of the Day. What’s most worrisome is the 30% plutonium!

From Cats in Art: Again an ancient cat drawing with a human face (16th century):

From Ken. I really don’t blame the landlord:

From Simon. I recently posted birds playing basketball, but these are into volleyball:

From Barry, a serendipitous photo. Feel free to provide a caption below:

And tweets from Matthew. Another parrot/parakeet (I don’t know the difference). But turn the sound up on this one:

Winter is the best of these seasons! The second tweet is lagniappe, except I don’t like the purpose of bird identification in that book.

I don’t get why some people don’t realize that, in this respect, a cup and a spoon are topologically identical:

I want to know whether this cat was really relocating its bed to a more salubrious location.

Crikey, I wish that Botany Pond attracted so many kinds of waterfowl. (Remember that there was a mandarin duck there last year?)


72 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. “939 – Æthelstan, the first king of all England, dies and is succeeded by his half-brother, Edmund I.”
    Was he England’s first Ætheist? 🙂

      1. Both Greek and Bulgarian Feta are better than the Danish one, and way better than the cow’s milk kinda cottage cheese they call Feta here.
        Feta maybe a designation of origin (where is Feta?) but it should be made of ewe’s milk. A max of 30% goat’s milk is acceptable, according to my Greek sources.

  2. I understand Edward VIII had to abdicate because he was head of The Church of England and the C of E was opposed to divorce. Bummer.

    1. It seems that it was mainly Stanley Baldwin using this as a pretext to get rid of him, because he was already known to be a Nazi sympathiser.

      Contrary to popular belief, Baldwin and Chamberlain were well aware that another war was likely and were starting to rearm Britain, so having a Nazi King could have been somewhat awkward.

      1. For even more completeness, check out Henry Segerman’s video about the donut/mug Topology Joke, which I would link to if I were not incompetent in such matters.(and should be working rather than messing about on here)

    1. It would’ve been interesting to see the “How many holes” survey responses for a T-shirt.

      The topologically correct answer is of course 3, for that’s the number of cuts you can make between two holes until you get disjoint pieces.

        1. Would a better answer to the question “How many holes does object X have?” be “Do you mean blind or through?” Or would that just identify one as an engineer rather than a mathematician? To be honest, I don’t know topology from a hole in the ground…

          1. Let’s be fair, I doubt if many of the people were thinking in terms of mathematical concepts.

            For most people, a hole is a fuzzily defined intuitive concept. Does a cup have a hole in it (ignoring cups with handles)? Some say yes, some say no. If you saw a scaled up cup shaped indentation in the ground, with pile of Earth next to it, you’d say there was a hole. Applying that to a cup implies it does have a hole. On the other hand, if I gave you a cup and you came back later complaining it had a hole in it, I would assume you mean there’s an aperture through which its content leaks.

  3. Have to wonder if there is any type of guarantee on those operations? Probably not and they are covered by all those forms you have to sign up front. Not responsible if this does not last 3 years or 3000 miles.

    1. Good luck with the second attempt at hernia
      repair. Whichever technique your surgeons use, I hope this will be the last one for a hernia that you need. May all go well this time.

  4. As expected, the Senate voted, strictly along party lines, to confirm Jesus-loving Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice. It was the most politically polarized Supreme Court appointment in history (there hasn’t been a Justice confirmed without a single vote of the minority party in 151 years), and now we’re royally screwed.

    Shouldn’t take us long to get a handle on how Barrett’s seemingly extremist views on religion and LGBT rights will affect her performance on the Court. Set for oral argument on the SCOTUS calendar for a week from tomorrow — Wednesday, November 4th, the day after the election — is the case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

    Like many large municipalities, Philadelphia has a civil-rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the usual grounds, including sexual orientation. Philly also contracts with local agencies for the placement of children in foster homes. One of the agencies the city had such a contract with was Catholic Social Services, which refuses to place foster children with same-sex couples. The city consequently cancelled its foster-child contract with the agency, and the agency sued on religious freedom grounds under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause. The case has worked its way up to SCOTUS and, as such, presents a similar issue to the one the Court dodged on procedural grounds a couple terms ago in the gay wedding cake case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

    I don’t expect SCOTUS, even with Barrett aboard, to overrule its same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (and certainly not in this case, since the issue is not squarely presented), inasmuch as to do so would essentially create a state of national chaos (although it is by no means beyond the pale that this Court could do so eventually).

    But, just as the Court has steadily chipped away at reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade was decided, so, too, may it (especially with its current right-wing heavy composition) chip away at the ability of same-sex couples to participate fully in the rights and privileges of US citizenship — in this case, based on little more than medieval religious superstitions that people with same-sex orientation have cooties that can be passed on to children.

    1. Since WWII SC justices have this tendency to become more ‘liberal’ with age, when they mature. Some, like Justices Thomas or Alito are taking their time to mature, it seems.
      The only 2 Justices bucking that trend, becoming more conservative over time, were Justices Black and White, I kid you not!

  5. At any rate, here are the lovebirds [Ms. Wallis and the former Edward VIII] with Nixon in 1970 …

    If memory serves, the Duke and Duchess also got all chummy with Herr Führer at his Wolf’s Lair retreat in the Bavarian Alps shortly after HRM’s abdication.

    Neither instance speaks well of their taste in companions.

    1. Pedant alert. (I hope that doesn’t get Q-Anon after me.)

      Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair was his Eastern military headquarters in what is now Poland during Operation Barbarossa. Before the war, Hitler entertained the Windsors at his Berghof home near Berchtesgaden. During the war, the Windsors were packed off to the Bahamas.

          1. Oops.That was meant as a response to jeremy pereira’s discussion above on the fuzziness of holes.

            Ken- to compare a wolf’s lair to an eagle’s nest is just eyrie.

  6. “1 BEDROOM apartment. All utilities included. No poets. No Smoking.”

    I imagine the disappointment in reading that ad of some poor schnook living in a shabby cold-water garret, scribbling verse in his notebooks, puffing away on Gitanes and Gauloises.

    Never send to know for whom the classified ad tolls. It tolls for thee.

    1. That was property owned either by Plato or Muhammad. They despised poets. Muhammad was a poet and so was Plato (one of my favorite quatrains is attributed to the philosopher). They couldn’t live in their own rentals.

  7. There are a few Dylan Thomas poems on yootoob that are read most beautifully by the late actor Richard Burton.

    As for Lise Meitner, yes, it is amazing that she never won a Nobel Prize, but a far greater honor is to have an element, Meitnerium, (Mt), atomic number 109 named for her. Unfortunately she wasn’t alive for that honor but of the 15 or so who have elements named for them, only Glenn Seaborg was still alive to enjoy that. There are two videos on Meitnerium on the wonderful Periodic Table of Videos by Brady Harren and featuring Prof. Martyn Poliakoff on the yootoobs as well.

    1. There are a few Dylan Thomas poems on yootoob that are read most beautifully by the late actor Richard Burton.

      I stumbled across one-such of “Under Milkwood” some years ago, while familiarising myself with the poem before a friend appeared in a production. The wife being a native Russian speaker often struggles to keep on track with such things so I need to know where the production is to put her back on the rails. Metaphorically.
      Still got the Burton somewhere on the hard drive – worth a listen through again.
      Along with the “War of the Worlds”. Llareggub wrong with that.

      1. I believe that PCC(E) doesn’t care for Dylan Thomas reading his own work. My ears and sensibilities tolerate no one but Dylan Thomas reading his own poetry.

      1. Oh duh! Of course! Can’t believe I forgot him. His name doesn’t register as a person to my non-Russian mind. It’s too much like organ/organic/organism but I’ve seen that video do there’s no excuse for my mental lapse. Thank for the reminder.

    2. Of those who did not live long enough to enjoy the honour of having an element named after them, were there any who had to wait as long as Copernicus to win the honour posthumously?

      1. Copernicus was named after the element, it is thought he came from a family of copper smelters or copper smiths.
        Negative time to get an element named after you, is that long or, since negative, inconceivably short?

    3. “The poor relationship between Siegbahn and Meitner was a factor here,…” [“https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lise_Meitner#Nobel_Prize_for_nuclear_fission ].

      Both Manne and his son Kai Siegbahn were – justly or unjustly – renown for their “meritocratic” manners AFAIK.

  8. “…Supreme Court …. and now we’re royally screwed. ..”

    To what extent should us non-USians feel badly about this? Those judges don’t have their fingers on the thermonuclear catastrophe button. But their effect on climate change improvement might be something that affects us badly as well.

    Otherwise, as I’ve said before, this is the bed you’ve collectively made for yourselves–on crappy medical systems, on gun-crazy dickheads running around with AR15s, on the most extreme wealth discrepancies in the ‘western’ world, on having a constitution which produces to a large extent a make-believe democracy, etc. So too bad you have to sleep in it.

    But maybe we shouldn’t waste too many emotions feeling badly for you. Hard not to. But especially if Mass Murderer donald ends up in the White House after Jan. 20, it’s probably the best way to preserve our nervous systems.

    Winston Churchill’s old saying, about democracy being a terrible form of government except that it’s far better than any other, maybe needs some more precise thinking about the vast differences between democracies.

    1. Thanks for your empathetic commiserations for the many of us USians that are distant relatives of yours. Since a great deal of our government and laws were originally based on the British model, some of this governmental kerfuffle possibly goes back to the old country. Seems to me that Great Britain has not been doing especially well for quite some time now either with the direction your government has gone. Your Parliament has some of the same flaws our congress has in that much of it is non-functional. The royalty are figureheads (that might be a good thing). Brexit isn’t fixed yet. If/when it is, Great Britain and the E.U. may be in for years of economic hurt. England’s unemployment rate has been terrible for years. When our government was set up, an effort was made to consider the needs of all the populace instead of the landowners and wealthy only. We may not have done as well as we desired, but I, like a lot of people in the U.S., will not give up on us and will continue to work towards equality in every way I can.

      Unfortunately, Trump has caused havoc throughout the world, not just the U.S. If Biden becomes president, it will take an immense amount of work on the part of the government and many of the rest of us to undo the terrible things Trump did. Wish us luck.

      1. I don’t disagree that the UK (where I am from) is in a pretty parlous state in terms of its governance but I believe Phoffman is not a brit but a Canadian. I am not in a position to say how healthy democracy is in Canada.

        Trump seems to be a symptom of a problem that is manifest in many parts of the World right now – the UK, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, Poland, India are all examples (amongst others) of countries where populist governments hold sway. I would not suggest that the results are equally bad in all of those countries but, generally, they all seem to have resulted in illiberal and anti-enlightenment attitudes gaining sway.

        I hope the US electorate will have the good sense to kick Trump out – it looks as though it may be nail-bitingly close and we can be sure that if he winds up narrowly on the losing side Trump will not hesitate to undermine the result with whatever lies he can muster (he is after all already preparing the ground with all of his comments about mail-voter fraud). For the sake of the United States and for the rest of us whose lives are inevitably affected by whatever policy path the US goes along I hope that you manage to kick Trump into touch and begin the work of undoing the havoc he has caused. I certainly wish you luck.

      2. As I said, Rowena,
        “..maybe we shouldn’t waste too many emotions feeling badly for you. Hard not to.”

        So I’m not completely unsympathetic. On the other hand, the dreadful climate change record of the US, not just the last 4 years though that’s been far worse, might just cause some of us to be less sympathetic than otherwise we might have been.

        I’ve also been careful to only refer to the US record in comparison to other countries when the latter are so-called “western” countries (so Japan and Australia are included by the “..”.) I note that with the exception of UK, Jonathon’s list is disjoint from “western”.

        As far as Canada is concerned, I’m pretty pissed off about how poorly we have done with respect to Covid, despite being more than 2.5 times better than US when measured by deaths/population; and almost that much better than the clown Johnson’s UK. Why is Germany more than twice better than us despite having much less time to get their act in gear? I think largely because they have decent regulations re nursing homes, and they enforce them. I’m also pissed off about our own climate change performance. We are however largely under the thumb of US on trade and those regulations.

        A bit off topic just there, but Amy might just put the Mass Murderer back in charge despite him losing the election, so not entirely off. Since her husband is her total boss according her goofy evangelical pseudo-Catholic theology, maybe somebody should see whether he’d take a bribe on that one, and tell her to back off or she’ll go to hell.

  9. Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 225,692, […] The world death toll is 1,165,289

    So, fairly close to one fifth of the recorded deaths come from a country with about one twentieth of the world’s population, as well as (by their own trumpeting) the best healthcare system in the world.
    Way to go. Slow. Hand. Clap. For the leadership of that country. Truly a performance displaying genuine American exceptionalism. And they’re gearing up for an absolute and entirely literal bloodbath after the polls are held (if the polls are held).
    Britain isn’t exactly doing well, but at least we’re not doing quite that badly. Overall. Yet.

  10. I want to know whether this cat was really relocating its bed to a more salubrious location.

    “Who had the PRESUMPTION to move my bed!? Ohhh, their knees are going to get such a clawing!”

  11. When I read of Barrett’s confirmation I couldn’t help but wonder what she thinks of all this nonsense surrounding her big promotion. A bunch of Nortre Dame profs asked her to refuse confirmation until after the election, which she appears to have ignored. But how does she justify her situation? She will be forever stained by the controversy. All her legal positions will be under a cloud. What does she tell her grandchildren when they ask why no Democrats wanted her on the court?

      1. And she’ll add that democrats are Satan-worshiping pedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring. Also, Trump was sent by god to smite the evil democrats.

    1. If I had to guess, she’ll just say that getting on the Supreme Court is the ultimate goal and, while the ugliness of the process and the political context is deplorable, nothing else mattered. If she really does think this, then we may have some hope that she values her legacy, more than appealing to who nominated and confirmed her, when making decisions.

    1. Food with sting!

      Sweden has just grudgingly aligned with EU in temporary allowing insects as human foods as some of our nations do, despite that the Commission hasn’t studied and ruled on the health issues. (Insects can be loaded with poison including metals, and of course they have to be properly labeled ingredients due to common shellfish allergy cross reactions.)

      1. One tends to forget that a person can’t simply step outside and harvest them on the wing, a hornet here, a locust there, a good, fat palm weevil or witchety grub,

    1. The number of votes most definitely matters. States will only contest if the votes are extremely close, though I don’t know how many votes makes it “extremely close”.

    2. That shouldn’t happen. The worst rumor I read today, that the Supreme Court will rule out late mail votes that are to be read after the polls close but now may be discarded.

      The remedy is to vote early.

  12. “I knew a man, his brain was so small
    He couldn’t think of nothing at all
    Not the same as you and me
    He doesn’t dig poetry
    He’s so unhip that when you say Dylan
    He thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas
    Whoever he was
    The man ain’t got no culture”

  13. “Natural” yohgurt can be made without travelling to Bulgaria. Prepare your milk like always, but instead of adding a spoonful of commercial yohgurt, throw in the stems of some stinging nettles, or the stems of peppers/capsicums, which carry Lactobacillus plantarum.

    The manufacture of Greek yohgurt has an ecological impact.

    But as the $2 billion Greek yogurt market continues to grow, so does an unexpected caveat: a yogurt byproduct that is harmful for the environment.

    Modern Farmer reported in 2013 that for every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can only produce one ounce of yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey, which is a runny, toxic substance.

    The whey used to be dumped into waterways. It’s seven years since that article was published so maybe a better solution has been found for its disposal.

  14. In the news today, WHO despairs over the White House strategy to let its population be sickened and die from an uncontrolled pandemic. Vote to save your lives!

    I found out that US has fallen from its globally “most popular nation” position since Trump came in office 2016 to #10, just behind Sweden. Germany has top position [ https://www.vk.se/2020-10-27/fortsatt-positiv-sverigebild-trots-pandemin ].

    NASA has announced that there’s water on the Moon. Well, we knew there was ice at the lunar poles, but now frozen water appears to be more widely distributed.

    The involved scientists claim that the water content is considerable.

    “That is quite a lot,” said Mahesh Anand, professor of planetary science and exploration at the Open University in Milton Keynes. “It is about as much as is dissolved in the lava flowing out of the Earth’s mid-ocean ridges, …

    [“Water exists on the moon, scientists confirm” @ Guardian]

    If it is at our own MORB mantle derived concentration, it may well be a mantle source. Exciting!

    1. “Vote to save your lives!”

      It’s clear who to vote for but I fear that Biden will not be able to do that much to lower the COVID death toll. He can come out with a mask mandate but those who are going to wear masks already do and those who don’t want to will continue to not wear them. He’ll continue the support for a vaccine and that will come when it’s ready. The case load is really too high for a test and trace policy to have much effect. Biden will do what he can but I don’t see him changing the trajectory much at this point. I’m afraid that peoples’ expectations on this are way out of line and that Biden’s enemies will claim, “See? He couldn’t do any better than Trump!”

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