Road Trip Time!

Gardening Magnolia Style

Gardening Magnolia Style

TRAVEL THERE: GIRL’S TRIP TO NEW BRAUNFELS VIA THE MAGNOLIA SILOS

Last summer, my friend Shana announced she’d gotten her life coach certification and extended an invitation to her first retreat.  I didn’t hesitate.  Of course I was going to attend and I figured my bestie would go, too.  The trip also proved to be the perfect opportunity to stop in Waco at the famous Magnolia Silos.

The Magnolia

Deb and I aren’t exactly DIY enthusiasts, but we’re all about shopping opportunities.  In Dallas, the buzz about The Magnolia was so loud we figured it had to be wonderful.  As it turned out, we’re just not the Fixer Upper types.  I’m sure that’s not hurting Chip and Joanna Gaines at all, but it did increase my growing sense of disconnect with the modern world.

We took a few wrong turns, but found the famous silos in spite of ourselves.  I’d heard on the weekends you couldn’t get near the place.  This particular Friday morning it was quiet, which may, in part, explain some of our lack of enthusiasm.

Lunch Time

The “restaurant” at The Magnolia is a group of food trucks with picnic-table seating.   On the surface that seemed like my cup of tea and it could have been, if the sun hadn’t turned the gravel covered area into an Easy Bake Oven.  We strolled up and down the row of food trucks and quickly understood why everyone was standing in line at the Cheddar Box.

The other choices available didn’t resonate with us.  We should have wanted to eat at the healthy place, but this was a road trip after all and indulgence is the name of the game.  There were some unhealthy choices, but the heat made those unappealing.  The crepes sounded good, but I didn’t want to start with dessert.  That left the Cheddar Box.  While my Guac This Way sammie was good, I can’t give the Cheddar Box any points for efficiency.

After waiting in line we were given a number and sent to find a table.  They said they’d call us when our sammies were ready.  While there were plenty of tables, only a few were covered, so everyone who was visiting The Magnolia, on this particular day, was huddled together out of the sun.  We made nice with the strangers at our tables and found they’d been waiting quite a while for their grilled cheese sandwiches, long before we arrived to huddle with them.  Then we waited together for another while.  By the time we got our sammies, the heat had drained us of our enthusiasm for them.

The Shopping Opportunity

The Magnolia Market was at the front of the property on the way to the car, so Deb and I hit the new garden center next to the food trucks.  While charming, the gardening style was a little un-manicured for our tastes and the goodies in the shed a little steep for our pocketbooks.  We figured we hadn’t yet happened upon the Magnolia Magic, so we headed for the main store.

I’d only watched one episode of Fixer Upper, so I didn’t know the style used in that episode was the sum total of the Magnolia look.  To me, something named after one of my favorite types of foliage, should be as elegant as the aroma of the namesakes blossoms.  Instead it was sort of log cabin meets minimalist porcelain.  Everybody else walked out with bags of goodies.  Deb and I just shrugged our shoulders and went back to the car.

While it was not exactly the break we’d hoped for, we’d managed to get lunch and mark something off our to-do list.  On to New Braunfels!

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Coming Attractions

happy-new-year-sms-message-card_nyztjrgTRAVEL THERE: WHAT’S NEXT!

Just about the time I start to fret and wonder if I’m about to become the unwilling hostage of my pond, the travel gods smile on me and give me a peek into my travel future.  Here’s what 2017 holds for me – so far.

Wichita Falls, Here I Come!

OK, so Wichita Falls in March isn’t all that exciting, but Beth Moore is.  I’ve been enjoying her Bible Studies for almost as long as they’ve been available on video.  Confession, I watched the first one, A Woman’s Heart – God’s Dwelling Place, on VHS.

Perhaps you remember I finally saw the Bible Study Superstar in person in Wichita, Kansas in 2015, on a little road trip with my bestie.  Beth is compelling on video.  In person she’s riveting.  Her road show is called Living Proof Live and this time around I’m upping the ante and will also attend her You Lead training.  I’m about to get Beth-inized!

Bestie is coming along this time too, but I’ll also have a number of my Buffalo Gals Bible Study girls with me.  Road Trip!  Girl’s Trip!  Look out Wichita Falls!

My first visit to the Pyramids

My first visit to the Pyramids

The Big Trip

So, a few months back our nephew, Bassem, proposed to a lovely girl in Egypt.  Hubby made it very clear from the moment the engagement was announced that we would NOT be attending the wedding.  I complied obediently, because I knew the secret weapon was coming to visit in December.  Who could resist Bassem?  He’s as subtle as a freight train and as relentless as a Doberman Pincer, but also completely earnest.

Within 24 hours of his arrival, Bassem had Bill doing a 180 and I’m now researching round-trip airfare to Cairo in April.  I’ll see my first Coptic wedding and attend the reception at one of the famed Fairmonts in Cairo.  The schedule is still being hammered out, but a celebratory family trip to beautiful Sharm El Shiek is on the must-do list, while we juggle other possibilities like a short cruise on the Nile, a day trip to Alexandria and maybe a night at the luxurious Mena House Hotel in the shadow of the Pyramids.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about this trip.  I was in love with Egypt long before I fell in love with my Egyptian.  I’ve only been there one time before, but it was marvelous.  To return is a dream come true that I never dared to dream.

The Crazy Possibility

That should be enough excitement for anyone, but there is one more little possibility on the horizon.  I may actually have an opportunity to go to the Holy Land in the coming year.  It’s related to the ministry I volunteer with and a zillion things would have to fall into place for it to happen, but it is being discussed and I am keeping my calendar open.  Cross your fingers for me.

So that’s what’s up for 2017.  I have a couple of small trips from 2016 to cover in the next few weeks, but get ready to strap on your seat belt, because this plane is about to take off!

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Words Do Matter!

TRAVEL HERE: TRUTH UNDER SIEGE

Today is not my usual day to blog and I’m actually supposed to be writing a newsletter for my favorite ministry, but I just had to say something.  I’m a writer, so words matter to me.  If you are an American, Liberty should matter to you.

The Outrageous Nature of Outrage

Steve Martin was recently smacked down in the Twitter world for a nostalgic tribute to Carrie Fisher.  Some troll came along and chose to be outraged at his perfectly lovely sentiment.  He wasn’t writing a biography, just sharing an impression.  I’m thinking Ms. Fisher would have been flattered to be remembered so fondly by such a giant in the industry.

Nothing Steve Martin said could in any way tarnish the memory of Carrie Fisher, but for the benefit of their own sense of outrage, someone has forever added an asterisk to Steve Martin’s thoughts about an actress he admired – and a bunch of other trolls piled on.  I doubt Mr. Martin has a lot of time to fret over it, as he moves gracefully from success to success; but he is human and for awhile, when anyone mentions Carrie Fisher, he’ll remember the spiteful words.  So will we.

The Facts Are Often Unrelated to the Truth

I giggled at much of the fact-checking during the most recent political process.  Whether something could be counted as fact depended solely on what flavor of spin you preferred.  My favorite sound bite from the whole campaign suggested we should take the President-Elect seriously rather than literally.  To build on that suggestion, I believe we should all work at considering the words of others with an ear to understand, rather than a heart to criticize.  Would it kill folks to give others the benefit of the doubt, instead of seizing upon every opportunity to be offended, outraged or otherwise negatively impacted?

I heard recently of a college professor who was fired, because of our growing predilection for being negatively impacted by the words of others.  In trying to illustrate a point, he used his own opinion about abortion as an example. He recognized it was lawful, but he was personally opposed to it.  A student immediately went to some college official and claimed the statement had caused her to “not feel safe” in the classroom.  I cannot express strongly enough my disdain for that student’s actions, but I am even more horrified at the institution for their response to her tattling.

The Ethereal Nature of Feelings 

Where is someone supposed to go this day and time, if they want to learn to think rationally and logically, if not a college classroom?  There’s no way to impart every morsel of information a person will ever  need into a four-year degree plan.  In the best of cases, a student can only be taught to research a subject and evaluate the information available.  This is, in and of itself, a valuable gift!  If instead, all students want is a piece of paper to list on their resume, without ever having to go through the discomfort of thinking, then why bother.  Let’s just have a store where mommy and daddy can go buy a diploma.  It appears that’s the direction our institutions of higher learning should head, if this is how they are going to operate.

Obviously this student has been taught to measure the words of others by her own feelings and the university is reinforcing that dangerous concept.  You can’t change the truth because it makes you uncomfortable.  The student might feel safer now, but she has cost an honest man his livelihood.  What’s more, feelings often change.  Who knows what will make her or someone else feel “not safe” tomorrow.

Thank You Dr. Kim 

During my first attempt at college I took a political science course under a professor named Dr. Kim.  On the first day  he informed us there was no God and if we were brave enough to discuss that fact, we would be allowed to continue and complete the course.  Half of the class dropped out.  I certainly didn’t agree with Dr. Kim, but I was curious to see how things would go.  BTW, I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe in any way.

The remaining students  fell into three categories:  those who enthusiastically supported Dr. Kim’s assertion, those who vocally opposed it and a smattering of folks like me, who were primarily curious.  Along the way, most of the remaining students who chose to vocally oppose Dr. Kim, eventually dropped of the class, joining those who had not made it to the second day.  The earnestness of an argument was not enough to overcome the brilliance of Dr. Kim’s logic.

I often found myself supporting the arguments of the opposition.  I didn’t agree with their opinion about the existence of  God, because I understood it was a matter of faith, but I could appreciate the logic of what they said.  I also got very good at picking out weaknesses in the arguments of my fellow Believers.   My faith grew, even as God’s very existence was being disproved.  Since a good portion of our grade was based on class participation, I wasn’t allowed to sit in silence.  I had to learn how and when to speak.  It was good training.

By the end of the class there were only a handful of us left.  Dr. Kim finally got around to pointing out what I had suspected all along.  His class was an exercise in learning how to think.  Dr. Kim admitted proving or disproving the existence of  God didn’t affect in any way whether God actually existed or not.  The students clamored to know whether or not Dr. Kim actually believed in God.  His eyes twinkled as he refused to admit his opinion.  I chose to believe he believed in God – maybe more than those of us who admitted we did.

The Erosion of Truth

While I was brave enough to finish Dr. Kim’s class, wise enough to make a good grade and devout enough to leave the class with my faith intact, I was not mature enough to finish my degree plan at that time.  However, I returned to school when I was much older and much wiser.  I was sad to discover many of my new professors had abandoned the practice of teaching us how to think and were more interested in teaching us what to think.  This was not universally so, but there were many who adopted that lesson plan.

The saddest example was a poetry professor.  On the first day of class the professor warned a student they should probably drop the class, if they were taking it to learn to write worship and praise poems.  I was embarrassed for the student, who turned twenty shades of red, but I wanted my piece of paper and I’d already realized if it was going to be the flavor of degree I wanted, then I needed to overlook a few things from my liberal professors.  

The professor’s warning demonstrated her own shortcomings more than she realized.  Besides, as the oldest person in the room, I felt I needed to set a good example of tolerance.  I also thought I might be able to do more good for God in the classroom, than I would by demonstrating my outrage with a drop slip.

I’m happy to admit I learned a lot in the class and it wasn’t the last I took from the professor.  In fact, we sort of became friends. Not lifelong buddies, but more than acquaintances.  She spent a lot of time trying to get me to see myself from her Liberal viewpoint and in turn, I gave her the benefit of my actual life experiences.  There’s a lot of things she didn’t know about religion (the difference in the terms “Jew” and “Hebrew”), the history of the American language (that Afro-American was once a politically-correct term) and that to use racially-coded language, one would first have to be aware of the code (which is apparently a closely held secret of the Left).  Thanks to Dr. Kim’s training, I was able to adequately express my appreciation of her opinions, without offending her with my opinions – as long as I didn’t dare voice them in the classroom.

Long Live Liberty – and May Real Tolerance Win Out

Were I to base what I believed on the popularity of my opinions, I’d be a very different person.  I seem to hold a lot of opinions which differ with popular culture – kind of like Galileo.  In time I may be proven wrong, but so far, no one has proven me wrong enough to change me.  I know, even if they don’t, that my opinion and theirs together are unable to change the truth – no matter what that may be – so I’ll keep looking for Truth.  This wouldn’t seem so risky if political correctness were more of a two-way street, but I seem to be on the wrong side of that particular avenue.

The world has gotten pretty scary.  We seem to have regressed to the days before the legendary King Arthur, where Might proved Right.  If someone disagrees with you, then bomb them, run them over with a truck, shoot them, knife them, stage a protest against them, boycott them…or berate them on social media.  These all seem of the same cloth to me.

A student should feel safe in the classroom, but that assurance should arise from the strength of their own convictions, not because the classroom has been swept clean of any opinion differing with their own.  And Steve Martin should be able to say lovely things about Carrie Fisher without ridicule and abuse. At least, that’s my opinion. 

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Cruise Afterglow

dsc_0496

Cruising the Wachau Valley

TRAVEL THERE: VIKING’S DANUBE WALTZ – WHAT A TRIP!

As I sit in my office on an October Saturday afternoon in Heath TX, listening to the fountain that dances in my pond and writing a post you will read in December, I have nothing but kudos for my  April cruise on Viking Cruise Lines.  My travel agent, Sandra Rubio at CTC set up everything perfectly for us and Viking Cruise Lines is amazing – simply amazing!

What I Liked Best

  • 20160421_210026Wonderful new friends!  Deb & Mike Radcliffe and Gwenne & John Penkert were the best cruise buddies you can imagine – and they live in Oregon, which gives me an excuse to return to one of my favorite places.
  • The inadequately named “Silver Collection,” a part of the Imperial Apartment Museum in the Hofburg in Vienna.  Decorative Arts overload! I will never forget it.
  • Pretty much everything I ate and drank on the Viking Tor, but especially the bottomless wine glass at dinner.
  • Budapest – yep, the whole thing.  Can’t wait to go back someday.  And Rick Steve’s is right about the Baths.
  • Lunch in Cesky Krumlov
  • A sunny afternoon stroll in Passau

What I Liked Least

  • 2b-castle-tor-7

    The Faux Castle

    The non-stop Lufthansa flight from DFW to Frankfurt.  Worst flight EVER!!

  • Not having more time in Budapest.
  • Bratislava, Slovakia – didn’t feel good, didn’t get the shore excursion I wanted, the guide was iffy.  Other than that it was a great stop (tee hee.)
  • Being in Vienna in the rain on a Monday, which is when the Lipizzaners don’t perform and some of the museums are closed.  Loved Vienna, but after three visits there, I have yet to see the Lippizzaners and I could have done without the rain.
  • Anything to do with Empress Elizabeth, otherwise known as Sissie.
  • The guide in Passau.

On Our Way Home

Viking got us home as smoothly as they did everything else.  While we were at breakfast, our bags were whisked away.  We boarded a bus and after a pleasant drive were at the Munich airport.

While not awful enough to include in my “least liked” list, German airports didn’t rate very highly with me.  They get high marks for cleanliness, but they were confusing.  We roamed in befuddled circles in Frankfurt and repeated the exercise in Munich.

Security was on high alert, because we got there just as some international dignitaries were strutting through the airport.  I think there had been some sort conference, but the airport was full of people who looked as if they were used to getting preferential treatment and security was tight.

Thankfully, the Delta flight to Chicago was much more pleasant than the Lufthansa non-stop torture chamber.  However, because customs dumped us outside the secured area, we had to go back through the TSA screening and that was a nightmare.  They were so backed-up, we had pity on some people who were about to miss their flight and gave them our spot.  What else were we going to do with our time?  Go shopping?

Finally, Dallas!  As much as I love traveling, I do love getting home.  As if to welcome us home, a full moon hung low in the sky over our pond.  It was the first trip I’d returned from without having my beloved Shih Tzu, Precious, to greet me.  I miss that white ball of fur.

I’ll give you one more look at our overview video and then I hope you’ll come back next week to see what else I’ve been up to.

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A Lovely Afternoon in Passau

5p-oooTRAVEL THERE: GLADLY GUIDELESS IN GERMANY

After lunch Bill and I ventured into Passau on our own.  While we’d been frustrated by our guide’s demeanor during the morning, he had led us through a shopping area and shown us a nice riverside walkway.  Passau is no Vienna and we’d had lunch, so Bill was amenable to hoofing it around on our own.

 

A Marvelous Afternoon

While our morning tour had left a bad taste in our mouth, it had not besmirched the charming little town.  The first item on my agenda was to find some tokens for my friends.  A thorough search of the room did not turn up any of the darling gingerbread ornaments I bought in Cesky Krumlov, so I needed to get busy.  I wanted to get something for my Bible Study girls and then I had a couple of other friends for whom I wanted to buy something more substantial.

Ludwigstrasse

Ludwigstrasse

Passau has a significant pedestrian area with shops called Ludwigstrasse and nearby are a couple multistory of enclosed malls.  My patient husband wandered through all of these with me, hunting down the appropriate souvenirs – only I wasn’t finding much that I thought was appropriate.  Finally, we wandered into a knick-knack store and while most of the items were tacky bibelots   with the words “Passau, Germany” emblazoned on them, I found a shelf populated with charming ceramic cherubs molded into a variety of poses.  I’d found the trinkets I wanted for my Bible Study girls.

5p-ooo-3Strolling Along the River

I was still baffled about what to get for my best friend and my next door neighbor, who is truly the best next door neighbor in the world, but Mr. Bill was ready to roll.  We headed toward the river and were hugely rewarded.

The morning had been chilly in more ways than one.  Yes, our guide had been Mr. Rude, but the weather was overly crisp, also.  I’d layered up with a denim jacket and a wool cape, but had still been uncomfortable.  The afternoon weather was so glorious that we might have been in Dallas on one of its best days.

We discovered it was the first really warm day for Passau that spring and the whole town had turned out to enjoy the river.  Children tossed balls into the air.  Lovers ogled one another on shared blankets.  Giggly girls shared secrets strolling along the river.  Another girl sat on a stairway leading down to the river captivated by a book.  Beer drinking students toasted everyone that walked by.  It was like a movie set!

Once More to the Ludwigstrasse

Armed with a map the rude guide had provided, Bill and I maneuvered around the finger of land pointing to the confluence of the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube.  When we got back to the boat, Bill agreed to hit the Ludwigstrasse with me one more time.  I was in a tizzy.  I had to finish packing and dress for dinner soon, but I just didn’t want to head home without something for my friends.

As I bounced from storefront to storefront appalled at the pricing, Bill came to the rescue.  One of the clothing stores was having a bit of a sidewalk sale and Bill pointed it out.  I doubted anything would be affordable, even marked down, because all the prices I had seen were pretty steep.  Bill helped me figure out the exchange rate and the discount.  Suddenly, I was all smiles.  Not only had we found exactly what I’d love to get for Deb and Sherry, but I wasn’t going to break the bank!

It was a quiet night on board.  The evening happy hour was devoted to disembarking instructions.  Dinner was delicious, but sad.  We’d made wonderful friends and we didn’t know when we’d see them again.  Then there we had to be out early in the morning.  For all practical purposes, the cruise was over.

Come back next week and I’ll get you back to Dallas.  In the meantime, enjoy this video of our final stop.

 

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Pretty Little Passau

5p-ooo-6TRAVEL THERE: THE FINAL SHORE EXCURSION

Waking up in Passau was bittersweet.  During the night we’d passed from Austria into Germany and docked at Passau, but my research had not mined up any nuggets for my “must-see” list, in this town at the confluence of three rivers.  The overwhelming emotion was regret.  I was going to have to leave this cozy boat where they took me from destination to destination, fulfilling my every need and desire along the way. 

The Morning Rush Hour

In Viking River Cruise land, mornings were busy.  We had to get up and get breakfast before the tour started.  There were no lazy days at sea. It might have been nice to intersperse all these activities with some down time, but Mr. Bill is not a two week vacation kind of guy and on an 8 day river cruise you are engaged every single day, all day long.

Passau was no different.  The walking tour began at nine.  After a delicious breakfast we disembarked and found our guide.  We did not get the pick of the litter.

The Walking Torture

So what date do you think this is?

So what date do you think this is?

He was a Frenchman, resettled into Germany and I’ll just say it, he was rude.  He was quite knowledgeable, but so unpleasant.  He was obviously unaware that we were on a walking tour, not taking an oral exam for a PhD.  He’d pepper us with questions and then ridicule our answers.  If we dared ask him a question, he’d belittle us.  I’m not exactly ignorant of history, but the one question I asked him about a date painted on a castle, resulted in my most uncomfortable moment of the cruise.

We  put up with him for a while, but it was finally so unpleasant that we wandered off and found our own way back to the boat.  However, Passau is a lovely little town, in spite of the rude guide, so I’ll show you some of it.

Pretty Little Passau

If you’ve been following me along on this cruise, then you know the operative word for the predominant architectural style along the Danube is Baroque.  We got a taste of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Cesky Krumlov, but pretty much everything else has been Baroque-on-steroids.  Passau was no different.  The architectural highlights are the Prelate’s Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, but the whole town is lovely.  For some reason, the Rathaus has murals painted all over it which are reminiscent of the Middle Ages, but they are merely modern interpretations of that era.  Architecture aside, the three rivers are the real stars of the show.

Enjoy this gallery of shots from our walking torture.  I can’t tell you much more about them, because the only way I was able to avoid killing my guide was to ignore him.  We finally abandoned him and made our own way back to the boat.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about the rest of the day, which was a lot more fun.

 

 

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A Great Night of On-board Entertainment

Cruise buddy Deb hams it up with the talent

Cruise buddy, Deb, hams it up with the talent

TRAVEL THERE: RODGERS, HAMMERSTEIN AND MOZART

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did!

Back to Elegant Dining

I’d been disappointed by the over-hyped Taste of Austria dinner.  Visually, it had been lovely, but the culinary experience couldn’t beat what we’d already been enjoying.  Quality not quantity is my interest.

After my trot around Linz, we scurried back to the boat and I jumped into my evening attire.  This was the penultimate evening of the cruise and the captain was throwing a cocktail party.  That included a toast, which meant champagne would be served.  So I was janie-on-the spot in the lounge.  I didn’t want to miss any champagne.  The captain didn’t try to labor through another bout of English, thankfully.  Instead our cruise director translated for him.

After the toast, the lederhosen, dirndls and oom-pah-pah were gone from the dining room- much to our relief.  We waxed nostalgic about our service throughout the evening as if we’d been living on the boat for years, instead of a matter of days.  The Viking Daily had promised Mozart and the Sound of Music as our evenings entertainment and we wondered how that mixture would pan out.

A Salzburgian Romp

A troupe of singers appeared and offered a few tunes.  Their voices were wonderful and they wore authentic period costumes.  The evening started out very high-brow and then they began the audience participation part of the performance.  I was not surprised in the least that they chose Bill.  They always choose Bill.  I’m beginning to think he must be offering bribes.  Anyway,  here’s a few photos from his appearance.

That was fun, but the next part was even more wonderful.  They switched from classical to a classic, The Sound of Music.  I can’t say I was actually yearning for tunes from the Julie Andrews movie, but as soon as the first few bars of intro wafted through the lounge, I had tears in my eyes.  The singers merely zipped through the soundtrack, hitting the high points, which was lovely, but I secretly wanted more.  I wanted to be reminded of every frame of the movie and especially Edelweiss, which is on my personal top 10 (along with Leon Russell’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and  Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People.)  I’ve never streamed a movie to my phone, but it did cross my mind that evening.

The performers were real characters.  They were hamming it up with all the guests, so Bill wasn’t the only one to garner their attention.  He’s just the only one who entered the spotlight.  After the performers left, the tempo got much faster and the girls hit the dance floor.   I have a few more photos to share below.

The boat didn’t head towards our next destination until 10:30 and I’d entertained thoughts of taking another stroll onshore, but it didn’t happen.  If you let them, Viking will fill every moment of your day and that’s what happened on this particular day, except for the visit to the Mariendom.

Next up is Passau, Germany.  Come back next week and visit this lovely little town at the confluence of rivers.

 

 

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