Today is the big day: 30.  I can still remember where I left my keys and I didn't wake up dead - so far, so good.

Thanks to everyone for your readership and kind words of support over these posts:

Personal Been 2(00)9

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

And in an anticlimactic finish to the personal decade, 2009 was for the most part relatively uneventful.  Amber and I were both fortunate enough to prosper professionally throughout our generations worst economic period, and our kitties kept us smiling for another 365 days (and vice versa).  It hasn't all been lump-free gravy but all in all, it was a pretty good year.

The singular most important thing to happen to me personally was Amber accepting my (fumbled) request for her hand in marriage.  I had staged a dinner out on a Saturday night and surprised her right before we left 123 Awesome Street.  It was a little confusing, the situation, on account of our having spent years talking about not ever actually getting married, instead just living together forever like a pair of Europeans.  But it was an itch I had felt needed scratching for a few months and decided to go for it.  Writing wouldn't give the romantic aspect of the story justice, so I'll leave it at: she said yes, and we're a month away from the wedding.  (Infinite thanks to my friend Lauren for helping stage a fake ring shopping session the week before, to run recon on Amber's ring tastes.  Had we not done so, I would've been way, way off on my ring purchase.)

-----

Grappling with 30 has been a trip in and of itself.  Writing out these major life events, putting things down on paper reminds me that things I've internalized and probably diminished do actually add up to a substantial decade of living.  I certainly can't complain; I should be so lucky to have another 10 years of this fortunate life.

Personal Been 2(00)8

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

2008 was a really rough year.  This blog was also in full swing so if you'd like to read up on anything in particular, just search.  But it's too much to go back and dig into details so I'm going to keep it broad and short.

We noticed Biscuit was sick over the holidays in 2007, and spent the first few weeks of 2008 taking him to the vet, running tests, and trying medicines.  But he had an incurable disease and succumbed to it that March.  It was incredibly painful - it is even now, two years later.  There's really little else to say.  One bright spot though was that we actually got to cremate him (we didn't do it ourselves, obviously).  He's currently in an old Oreo Sandwich tin on a shelf in our apartment.  The tin has the word 'biscuit' on it.

At the end of March, I had a trip scheduled to Ithaca, where I was going to start a three-year stint sitting on an alumni advisory panel for my communications school, the Park school.  A day or so before leaving, I was sitting at my computer with my old flip phone on my desk.  Baker had been walking around the desk, saw the phone, and pulled the classic pat-pat-pat-pat-shove cat move, knocking the phone off the desk, onto the floor, shattering it.  The phone had had a good run - probably over 6 years - but now I needed a new one.  (And despite losing my phone, I still laughed hysterically at what Baker did.)  And with little time until my trip to Ithaca, I needed it fast.  So just as the boys had got me blogging seriously, Baker got me phoning seriously: I bought my iPhone (out of urgency).

A few weeks later, another load of crap in 2008: some heartless, thieving asshole stole my bike; the bike I had had for 13 years, since I was 15 years old.  The thing that gave me freedom before I could drive.  I was sad, and I still miss it, but I was - and am - more pissed about that than anything.  F****** NYC.  (F****** humanity.)

In May, I got a new job, making a bit of a lateral move from one digital industry to another.  My worldview on all things digital, coupled with my awesome iPhone, really started to broaden around this time, as did my socializing.  Despite what the critics say about social media, it's social media that has made me more social in person over the last few years.  I still have some serious introvert issues I grapple with almost daily, but there has been much improvement.

In November, I helped elect President Obama.  That was pretty amazing.

Around this time, and after a few months with just Baker, Amber and I really wanted to find him a playmate.  He is an absolute pistol: great shape, full of energy, and likes to interact.  Usually he's great fun, but he was occasionally a gigantic pain in the butt.  So we window shopped for a little girl at our vets office where they temporarily house foster animals.

We were fortunate enough to find a sweet little doll with a folded ear tip, Zander, who we snatched up immediately.  It took a week of major watchfulness and eased, calculated socializations between her (renamed Scout, after "To Kill a Mockingbird") and Baker.  We had to keep them in separate rooms, with Scout purring lovingly in our bedroom and Baker hissing from the living room, two closed doors away.  But a post-Thanksgiving Day miracle brought the two together, rather quickly after our first big free-for-all: a week of hissing leading to a couch full of kissing.  They still spar as most kitties do but they're both very sweet to one another and melt our hearts often.

Personal Been 2(00)7

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

A few months into 2007, Amber and I started thinking about cats.  We had kicked around the idea of getting pets for a while.  We both love dogs and cats, and Amber really loves fish.  That March, we got our 30-gallon tank and Amber filled it with a bunch of ...fish, who knows what kinds.  (To her credit, Amber knows how to arrange a pretty sweet fish tank.)  We had already had a beta fish, Chef Boyardee, that Amber had received for Christmas the previous year.  So by spring, we had plenty of aquatic pets, but we were longing for some furry ones.

As much as we'd love to have a dog, this city wears us down enough; we're pretty sure we wouldn't be able to handle the mandatory, poorly scheduled walks, for starters.  So we started thinking about cats and sure enough, one scorching hot Saturday in August, we found ourselves ogling some shelter kittens at a sidewalk display on the upper west side.  We hung around for at least a half an hour, looking at each kitten individually, assessing their demeanor (poor things were on fire in the heat, so they mostly slept in the shade and drank water), and trying to get a feel for who stood out to us.  And as soon as we thought we had paired two up - we wanted two buddies - as we got ready to "check out", a foster mom showed up and placed two adorable black kitties in a cage.

The Thanksgiving before, in 2006, we had a little love-in incident.  The backyard at my dad's house is a hotbed for stray kittens, and that Thanksgiving night, as everyone peered out the backdoor at the little things on the deck, one of them somehow ended up in Amber's arms, in the house.  She was a tiny black runt, with crusted eyes and a feeble 'mew'; super cute but definitely in need of some TLC.  We tried to get our landlord at the time to let us keep her, but he wouldn't relent.  By that time we had dropped a pretty penny on getting her - Abby - fixed up, and her temporary foster grandparents took a liking to her, so Abby stayed with them (where she lives currently, fat and happy).

At the sidewalk shelter setup, the memory and affinity we had had for little black Abby translated immediately to these two brothers, Cosmo and Pepito.  The second we saw them we hustled over and really lit up; we knew they were the ones for us.  A few conversations, forms, and payments later, we were in the backseat of a cab with two adopted kitties.  After we got home and watched them run around a bit, we started thinking up new names.  The littler brother, Pepito, loved to make "love biscuits" on his older brother; kneading away, face buried.  So we renamed them: Baker and Biscuit.

The first few months of cat ownership was rough, but that all basically boiled down to Baker having a sensitive tummy that couldn't tolerate the food that we were feeding them.  It took us a long time - and a ton of vet bills and medicines - to figure out the cause, but as soon as we made the switch, he was fine, almost immediately.  (As a side observation, as I look through my old blog posts to ensure the correct dates, I remember now that the boys were pretty much the reason for starting this blog.)

Getting Baker and Biscuit was one of the best things Amber and I have ever done.  Ask any adoptive parent: you give these little things a home, and they give you endless love and happiness.  We can't wait to eventually have a real home and yard, and add a dog or two to the family.  If they're even fractionally as fun and loving as our little boys, we'll straight up explode.

Somewhere around this time I changed jobs.  Not much to say on this particular transition.  I went from the studio where Amber and I had met, where I had been for a few months, to trying out a new gig down the street; same work for the most part, different studio.  The job hadn't been a great fit and I had been really frustrated.  My supervisor, with whom I had a great rapport, had moved out of NYC so I was also a bit adrift.  It was the right move at the right time.

(Correction: I switched jobs the year before, in 2006.)

As the year came to a close, my little lady-friend was approaching her big milestone of 30.  I'm a bit of a romantic (yes, I'm boasting) and I know my girl, so a surprise trip to Paris in December was arranged.  The trip was absolutely amazing.  Amber browsed a million side street shops while I stood outside (patiently, I might add!) observing the city.  They say traveling is one of the most stressful times in a relationship, but we had a perfect little trip from top to bottom.  And as much as we didn't want it to end, we had a family to go home to, which was just as exciting if not more so, and warm.

Personal Been 2(00)6

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

On the second day of 2006, Amber and I were officially together.  I'll spare the mushy details, but living in NYC drastically improved.  We were still working together through the winter until her internship ended that March.  (As Amber likes to tell it, we'd secretly make out in the elevators to hide from the bosses.)  She still had that last semester to finish up at Hyper Island, but working full-time and finishing the senior project in the States instead of Sweden was common.  So by mid-March, she went from intern to senior designer at a different shop - leapfrogging a few years of her career plan - and spent the following two months finishing up her senior project.

One Saturday morning in June, we decided to go out to brunch at a diner near DUMBO.  After the meal, we walked around and stumbled on a little real estate agency a few doors down from the diner.  The front door was propped open, and as we looked at the listings in the window, the agent inside said hello and started chatting us up.

At the time, having been together all of about 5 months, Amber and I were still living separately and hadn't had any explicit discussions on moving in together.  Looking in the real estate agency window, we were basically doing The NYC Thing, where everyone looks at real estate all the time, for no particular reason at all.  But a few minutes into our conversation and the real estate agent had us intrigued on a brand new listing that wasn't yet in the window: a garden apartment in a gorgeous Brooklyn Heights brownstone.  So before we knew it, the three of us were walking from the agency to the apartment to scout it out.

Late the year before, not long after I started working at that job, the MTA had a strike and shut down public transportation for a few days.  The two partners put together car pools to ensure we could all get to work in the freezing cold winter.  I had been living in Windsor Terrace, so my ride into the office included driving through Brooklyn Heights to get into DUMBO.  (I had only been living in Brooklyn for about 2 months, so getting around and checking out new neighborhoods hadn't really happened.)  I remember looking out the window as we drove along the stretch of Clark Street, wondering what gorgeous neighborhood we had stumbled into.  In the sparkly cold Brooklyn Heights was magical, and in the ensuing months Amber and I would occasionally sneak walks together at lunch to explore the neighborhood.  It was a kind of coveted plan for us to someday move there, and here we were looking at an apartment together in the today, not the someday.

We weren't - and aren't - one of those couples that rushes into things too quickly.  But in the guise of Amber's rapid career ascent, as we looked at this amazing apartment, we knew we had to have it.  And on July 1, we moved in - together - officially starting our lives together at the newly-dubbed 123 Awesome Street.

Personal Been 2(00)5

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

Next to 18, 25 was one of the best years of my life.  It was definitely the most lived.

At some point early that year, in conversations about life and the future, a good friend of mine reminded me about the work abroad program he had done right after undergrad.  It was open to full-time students 25 years and under (student status any time within that calendar year), and offered opportunities in a bunch of countries around the world for various lengths.

One thing I had always regretted about my college years was not studying abroad when I had the opportunity.  LA was a popular internship destination for our communications school, but LA is the wrong kind of foreign.  London was another, which I hadn't considered at the time, between being in a puppy-love relationship and just not being mature enough at 19 to take it seriously.  An ex had raved about her UK experiences, and this student program had an 8-month London option.  I had always wanted to see a bit more of Europe than my previous 2 trips to England, and the only other language I speak is some rusty French, so London seemed like a good spot to set up HQ.  So with this opportunity looking like the last one I'd be able to capitalize on as a student, I applied, got accepted, and paid the dues.

I powered through that spring, wrapping up my last semester and generally planning the adventure.  My girlfriend and I had broken up; I was going abroad and she was looking at graduate school in the fall.  Other than my usual 'home base' of Long Island, all of my roots were being uplifted.  I headed to London.

I have a bunch of family in England (paternal grandmother's side).  A cousin I had met twice previously, once in the UK and once in the US, was gracious enough to put me up until I could find a flat to call my own.  It took a few days, but I found a room in a unit with three girls - two Brits and an Aussie - near Kingston, a posh little area about 30 minutes outside the city center.  Until we could get broadband installed, I was splitting my time between preparing documents and making calls at home, and job hunting online with my laptop at the B&N's Starbucks in Kingston.

Through these first few days, I had been having trouble accessing my bank account at HSBC, which I had prepared for international usage before I left the US.  The only way for me to rectify the situation was to head to one of the London headquarters, which was somewhere in the middle of the city.  So on the morning of July 7, as the city reveled in its victorious 2012 Olympics bid from the day before, I woke up, got ready, and made my way to the Kingston station for the train to take me to Kings Cross, where some terrorists were about to blow up a train.

When I don't have a lot of structure or pressure, I tend to take things slowly, especially when it's hot.  (I spend enough time rushing around and being uptight and punctual when I work.)  In a flat with no air conditioning, in a damn hot summer, I was not in a hurry to the train that day.  I must have not turned on the TV at all that morning because within minutes of leaving the flat and getting on the bus heading to the train, someone was already murmuring about some kind of fire or explosion.  I didn't make anything of it; there was no urgency in her voice and everything around me seemed normal.  But when I got to the train station and saw that everything was basically shut down, at that point I figured something serious was up.  I didn't have my laptop, so I headed back to the flat to see what was going on.

I figure I missed the bomb by about 45 minutes.  Kings Cross was my transfer destination so there was a pretty good chance I'd be nothing but rubble right now had I left the flat earlier and traveled with rush hour traffic instead of waiting.  I was shaken up, but I wasn't freaking out.  There was a certain numbness that came with 9/11; I was paying attention and I was absorbing the reality of the situation, but I wasn't breaking down.

At this point, I had almost no cash left in my wallet (though plenty of money sitting in an account I couldn't access), no real job leads to speak of, and now a rampant fear of terrorism at every turn.  The plans were all falling apart instead of coming together.  After a walk through an absolutely dead silent city the following day (and a few horribly tense bus rides), I got into my bank account and had money once again.  London was surprisingly resilient after the attacks; I heard a lot of references to the IRA bombings of years past and how for Brits, domestic attacks weren't entirely new.

I continued to job hunt, but with little luck.  I finally settled on a part-time gig, very similar to my programming / designing / project management job in Ithaca, and I could work from the flat.  It was for a start-up web video company that aspired to be the primary source online for global independent films.  While they had the backing of Microsoft, the company was clearly a disaster.

Everything about my London adventure was becoming a big fail.  I couldn't get a real job (the goal had been to work as a project manager to kick off that career with some international experience), my flat situation was painful, it was hot as hell all the time, everyone in the city was on high alert, but the final nail: London was just boring.  I couldn't seem to pierce through and find the subculture.  Everyone - and I mean everyone - would spend just about every night going to the pub and binge drinking.  (This was the year the Brits repealed the early curfew laws, so had I stayed, I would've been witness to that debacle unfolding.)

London just wasn't a culture I was interested in any longer.  So I set a date, gave my notice, and made some plans.  The one thing I hadn't done was any real traveling.  London was a convenient hub to all of Europe, and I had to take advantage while I still had time.

First, I detoured to the south, to visit some of my lovely British family in Tunbridge Wells (aka The Shire) some of whom I had met previously and others I got to meet for the first time.  We played trivia at their watering hole, The Wheel, and had a grand old time.

I had previously visited my French friend from grad school up in Manchester and met her Aussie boyfriend, with whom I had made plans to go to Oktoberfest in Munich.  So late that September, he met me in London, and we flew out to Germany and had the best beer ever in the best drinking vessels ever (steins are amazing).  When the two days in Munich were over, I hopped over to Oslo to spend a few days with my Norwegian buddy from undergrad.  One day, we drove across a bridge that connects Norway and Sweden, so technically, I also visited Sweden, while my polar bear friend picked up a few sleeves of tax-free smokes.

And when I got back to London in October, after a day or two, I packed up my things and flew home, thinking about what to do next.

It was 2005, and the post-9/11 economy was recovering well, at least in tech and interactive.  While I recouped on Long Island, I had my sights set on working in NYC, the city I grew up with and never thought I'd ever live in.  A bunch of my good friends from Ithaca were living in Brooklyn, and countless other friends from high school, so I would train in to interview and catch up with a few people here and there.  And I got to experience this New Brooklyn, which seemed pretty dope.  There was one particular shop I was most interested in.  It had a good reputation and my in-industry friend, on whom I relied for job advice, was recommending it highly.  So I put on my fancy suit and made my way into DUMBO for the interview.

I got to their office, which had a strange, dot-com-era "funky" organization to it, and wandered around looking for someone, anyone.  Behind one of the cubicle-y walls popped a very cute, very smiley blond girl.  (At the risk of being a cheeseball, that snapshot of the room and Amber's enthusiastic "hi!" is etched in my head for good.)  I interviewed with the partners, I got the job, and I moved to Brooklyn.

Over the last remaining weeks of 2005, I hung out with Amber a couple of times, both with groups and once just the two of us.  We were onto something, but never really talked about it explicitly.  She had been dating someone long distance for a little while, but it hadn't been going well and she had been planning on breaking it off after the holidays.  That Christmas, we spent most of the day flirting over text messages.  I wouldn't get to see or talk to her again until after the new year, but 2005 definitely closed out on a hopeful note.

-----

Right before my birthday in 2005 when I was still in Ithaca, I was at a bar one night with a friend and her boyfriend.  He had asked how old I was going to be, and when I answered, he immediately yelled out, "25 was the best year of my life.  It's going to be awesome.  25 is a great, great year.".  And it was.  2005 was the year it all came together.

Personal Been 2(00)4

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

By 2004, my days and nights were packed with 40 hours of work, another 20 for school, and socializing with some friends in the grad program when I could.  One of the strange aspects of the very obscure graduate program at Ithaca was that of the 30 or so students enrolled, about a third were American and the rest international: Greece, France, Norway, Bulgaria, Taiwan, China, India, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia.  That worldliness of the overall experience added a lot of value to what could have been a very dry study in corporate communications.

That spring marked two years at my job.  It was still enjoyable even if it wasn't a great fit.  More importantly, I was looking at a longer graduate experience than I had hoped, being on the part-time track.  What most students would do in 1.5-2 years full-time, I was looking at about 3 years part-time, with the last semester or two becoming very taxing between work and an in-depth senior capstone project.  So I flipped it, making the second year of school full-time, and turning my full-time job into a part-time one.

Like the year before it, 2004 was also fairly unremarkable.  I started dating a girl in the fall.  Between my PC and my Xbox, I got back into gaming again like I did when I was a teenager.  By the years end, with only one full-time semester left in graduate school, there was another crossroads on my horizon.  After what would be seven years in Ithaca come graduation in May, one thing I knew for sure was that it was time to go.  All of my closer friends from the grad program graduated that December after only three semesters and a summer and only one was staying in town.  Beyond the idea of leaving, I had zero clue what to do my life.  I was itchy, but I didn't know what I was itchy for.

Personal Been 2(00)3

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

After the first few months of working full-time, things got a little rocky.  Truth be told, I was still grappling with the work ethic that comes with busy 40-hour weeks, and I was faltering.  I was fortunate enough to pull through, shining at an important moment for the company, though ultimately a large part of my job involved a task through which I just couldn't advance far enough: programming.  I was learning as I went, and though my coworker was a brilliant coder, it couldn't be her responsibility to work full-time AND bring me from Coding 101 to Master Class.  At the same time though, I was getting to use a dormant skill - project management - that I rather enjoyed.  Part organization, part communication, PM'ing seemed to fit.

It was around this same time I learned about the small graduate communications program offered at Ithaca College.  For some reason, through my four undergrad years, I had never known it existed.  (The programs total lack of exposure has been confirmed by a friend from the same undergrad program; she too had zero clue it ever existed.)  The program partially targeted working professionals; all classes started at 4pm or later.  So after some school and loan applications, by September I was back in school part-time.  And within a few weeks of some strange classes, questionable professors, and downright bizarre students, I was seriously questioning my decision.

If you're not living back home or enrolling immediately back in school, the year after graduating undergrad marks a major sea change.  The structures you took for granted are gone and it's up to you to figure everything out.  I saw a lot of friends graduate and fall victim to (I believe) unaddressed fears of loneliness.  They'd make overly safe choices and subsequently miss out on great opportunities.  One could make the argument that I had actually taken a safe and even lazy choice by staying around in my college town, which probably has some truth to it.  But for me that year, I worked, I went back to school, and spent a good portion of my time alone - on purpose.

Generally speaking, this was about all that was personally notable in 2003.  My dad remarried.  I had had to say goodbye to another round of friends who graduated that year (though my buddy Lauren was sticking around another 1.5 semesters, which was awesome).  That was about it.

On to 2004.

(Correction: Dad remarries the following year.)

Personal Been 2(00)2

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

January 2002 kicked off the last semester of undergrad.  It was painfully bittersweet before we even got back to campus to start classes.  Just a few months before, everything in my life had spiraled in some way: family, relationship, and the world at large.  But at school, I was having the time of my life and didn't want it to end.

A friend of mine from freshman year was spending senior year in a house off-campus with three other girls.  Before the break the month before, she and the girls threw a holiday party.  I had known two of the other three and at the party I met the fourth.  Long story short (I'm keeping the names and details of past romances vague; I'd like Amber to marry me as planned), we started dating in February.

This was also around the time when, as students, the real world started seriously breathing down our necks.  It felt like lying in bed dying, as Death stands outside the door, waiting patiently, sharpening his scythe.  And it was 2002; the dot-com bubble had burst and the post-9/11 economy was in the crapper.  For the first three years of college, the class of '02 watched the real world bathe in money and opportunity, while we toiled in libraries, counting the days until our release.  But for those of us who decided not to jump the academic ship to invest in pets.com or to become a webmaster, we arrived at senior year with a pocketful of not-so-magic beans.

Fortunately for me, I had inadvertently learned a very useful career tactic: networking.  One of the full-time staff members at the computing center was dating a woman who worked at a local web development shop, and they were looking to hire.  The owners wife had just had a baby, and they needed someone to fill in at the 3-person shop.  This is one of my favorite personal accomplishments: when no one I knew was landing any jobs, while economies were in shambles, and people feared everyone and everything, I got my first real job - and two full months before graduation, no less.

Spring and summer were exciting and difficult.  I was about to be 100% on my own for the first time in my life.  As I watched everyone pack up and leave Ithaca for the last time, I looked for a long-term apartment, as I made my own journey from "student" to "townie".  It was a lonely summer.  The majority of American kids in the more populated areas of the country spend their first 18 years being incredibly social (whether they like it or not).  Many tack on another 4 years (if not more), and for many it's the apex of their social lives.  I had gone from hundreds of frequent, in-person contacts in high school, to thousands in college - to a couple of daily contacts at work and one or two outside of it.  It was a painful process but a great personal learning experience.  (For example, I learned that while I want to be left alone, I don't want to be alone.)

Early that fall, my girlfriend and I broke up.  She had been living in Boston while I was in Ithaca.  Long-distance wasn't working, but at the same time I wasn't in a mental or emotional place to move in with anyone.  It was a selfish decision, I'll admit, but as cliched as the line is, I just wasn't ready.

I had had a couple of friends who were a year behind me at Ithaca, so I got back into socializing a bit when they returned for their senior year.  I welcomed them with open arms.  My job had been going okay (I still had a lot to learn about 40 hour work weeks), but we were definitely having fun.  I had found a boss and a coworker with a very similar - if not somewhat dormant - ridiculous sense of humor.  By the time I got the hang of the job project managing, coding, designing, and getting coffee, I was coaxing the lols out of them.  Hard.

"LOL!"

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