Quick Summer TBR Update …

Greetings!

I finished Jan Willem Van De Wetering’s Hard Rain. It was a quirky and sometimes confusing saga featuring de Wetering’s usual cast of characters. The ending, however, was satisfying because the bad guys got their comeuppance! (Oops – spoiler alert!) My review may or may not appear on Amazon.

Now it’s on to the final book for this summer – Blood on the Sand by one of my favorites, Michael Jecks. It’s the second in a trilogy featuring a platoon of English archers during the Hundred Year’s War. It is an epic read and I have 20 days to finish it.

My Cedar Key mystery is making some steady albeit slow progress. My choral marketing strategy is being formulated. My university duty is eating my lunch! Retirement may be looming a bit closer! That’s all for now – please ley me hear from you. Comment, reply, like, share, etc.

See you soon!  -JAS

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Bless me, Father …

It’s been twenty-two days since my last blog. I am truly remorseful and ready to accept appropriate penance …

OK, so that’s out of the way! Hi again! Miss me? (Don’t answer, I’m sensitive!)

If you checked into the August 4 blog, you saw all the opera stuff associated with Santa Fe Opera this summer. I didn’t get to see Finta or Salome, but, thanks to famous son, I got to hang with some of the singers in those shows. Santa Fe is such a magical location, especially if your an opera buff. We’ve been there now three out of the last four summers and never come away without being enthralled! There’s nothing for us next summer, but look out in 2017 when both family super stars might make return engagements! Meanwhile, we’re globe hopping: Leipzig, Geneva, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore, etc. It’s frequent flyer heaven!

Let’s do the run-down.

Reading:
I finished Walker’s “The Crowded Grave.” It was rather thrilling for Bruno, Chief of Police in the French village of St. Denis. It had everything – romance, murder, international spy stuff, archaeology, cooking – you know – all the required elements for a ripping good mystery! As with the other tomes in the Bruno series, I liked it a lot. It’s, well, a mystery with which to relax.

Now I’m on to Janwillem Van De Wettering and another in the Grijpstra and de Gier series which takes place in Amsterdam. The title is Hard Rain. This author and this series takes a bit of intellectualism during the reading. The humor is a bit different and you really need to be familiar with the characters to not become confused. (This detective team play duets on the flute and drum set which they keep at the police station. They have two informants named “Ketchup and Karate.”) Anyway, I enjoy the series and I should have not waited so long to return to it. Sadly, Van Wettering is no longer with us and the end of the series is now in sight. If you’ve been reading from my list, hang in there, you really will like it! I hope to publish a review on Amazon when finished.

Writing: Rubbish!

Composing:

Also rubbish – although I have a marketing, promotional idea that will appear on the music page soon. Note to choral folks: I’m looking for a choir who might be willing to record some of my stuff. Reply here or privately at jashrader@gmail.com

Teaching:

This is the main cause of my blog fail! Lots of prep time required this term. OK, I’ll whine a bit! I’m returning to my Honors Leadership class with a new edition of the text. I last taught this about three years ago. I’m continuing with my online Music Appreciation and Development of Rock & Roll classes. Not a real problem for me, but students really struggle understanding and motivating themselves in an online environment. I’m doing a new preparation – Song Literature I. I spent a lot of time prepping this class and the students are good. The problem is it’s only a one hour class, which is like impossible to deal with the vast array of material! I think I’ll call it “Song Literature Light!!!” Additionally, I have some new voice students and all the returning ones – it’s a nice little studio and they will do well. I have a new teaching location which is a vast improvement. Then there are the committees – lots (Did I say rubbish?).

So friends, some of you know my quote, “Time is the currency of the new millennium.” I need more currency!

My goodness – what a bitchy blog this turned out to be! My apologies.

I’ve got to go cook some fried rice for dinner. That should make it all better.

If you’re reading this, thanks for catching up with me. Please share this with your friends list and like, subscribe, all that stuff.

See you online soon – and I really mean that!  Cheers!  -JAS

 

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Back in the mountains – Aaaaah …

Greetings again from Santa Fe!

I got here on August 1st ostensibly to see some operas but actually to see granddaughter, Eva!  Oh yeah, Alek and Daniela too! I need to return to V-Town on August 6 in order to be ready for school meetings which start next Monday.

Santa Fe Opera HouseI saw the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain last Saturday. It was at the end of my travel day and the time differential was a bit daunting, but I enjoyed the show. Because I know many of the principals, I’m not going to actually review it. Outstanding performances by Nathan Gunn, Isabell Leonard, Jay Hunter Morris, Kevin Burdette, and especially Emily Fons. It was an interesting production with a serviceable albeit abstract unit set. The lighting was a bit dark for my taste, but arguably fit the story well. The orchestration was interesting with some percussion features that sometimes distracted, but, the Santa Fe French horn section is outstanding! Higdon favors the winds over the strings and there are some “chamber” like sections that make for a thin sonority at times. The men’s chorus of apprentice artists was wonderful and Higdon is a master at writing for this ensemble. All in all, I think this work will withstand the test of time and become part of the contemporary operatic repertoire. It is somewhat declamatory at time, but there are plenty of tuneful moments to satisfy the traditional opera-goer. Bravi tutti!

Last night I went to Daughter of the Regiment featuring my favorite tenor. It was a delightful production and Alek got all nine Cs and then some! Once again, the orchestra was superb under Italian Maestra Speranza Scappucci. In addition to Alek, kudos to Anna Christy and Kevin Burdette. Christy was having a great vocal night and the physical comedy of Burdette was amazing, particularly a long bit in a wheel chair! It was a really enjoyable evening at the opera house as well as an opportunity to hear Alek in what might be his final performances in this role as he moves on to a more lyric fach.

Tonight I’m off to see Rigoletto and look forward to a production that has garnered good reviews. It’s press week here in Santa Fe, so there’s lots of attention  by reviewers, agents, and guests from other companies. In the private opera club, there were many dignitaries and schmoozing was in full bloom!

Yesterday, I had the joy of having breakfast with my dear friend and mentor, Ken Davis who lives here in Santa Fe. Ken has turned to landscape painting as a second career after incredible years as a conductor and professor. He still keeps his hand in the choral world through The Ken Davis Chorale which meets occasionally to present concerts. It was a delightful time of reminiscing and discussion. It was so good that we’ll do it again over lunch today! Seeing Ken is another great reason to spend so much time in Santa Fe!

Reading: I finished Archer Mayor’s The Surrogate Thief. Here is my review available on Amazon:

Archer Mayor has a varied background of life experiences and he brings them all to play in the excellent Joe Gunther series. The plot of The Surrogate Thief is complex but not complicated! It’s more a How-Done-It than anything else. You know Joe will come out on top, but how it all unfolds makes for an intense and interesting read. Along the way Joe’s relationships play a big part in his state of mind as he is obsessed with solving this tricky cold case from his past. Because Mayor’s style pulls the reader deeply into the story, I’m looking forward to continuing the series with the next tome! As with any long series, I suggest you start at the beginning and work your way through the rich tapestry of character development. When you get to The Surrogate Thief, you won’t be disappointed!

Now we’re travelling to the French countryside and revisiting Bruno Courreges, police chief in the village of St. Denis. The book is The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker. This is a delightful series that sets the reader alongside the investigators right in the descriptive landscapes.

Composing: I got the official word from Colla Voce – not publishing When Christ Was Born of Mary Free. I disappointed, but that’s the composer’s lot! I’ll put it up on these pages as available from the composer and, at the same time, submit it to other publishers. I’m grateful to Colla Voce for publishing five of my pieces and they did invite me to continue submitting new works.

Please comment, reply, share, like, etc. I enjoy hearing from you on these pages!

Must stop now: Time to “bill and coo” with Eva!  Cheers!  -JAS

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Quick update …

Hi again!

I finished Donna Leon’s Beastly Things last night. My review is up on Amazon.com. Now it’s on to Vermont and Archer Mayor’s The Surrogate Thief starring Detective Joe Gunther. Happy reading! – Jim

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The heat goes on …

Greetings all!

IMG_0814Well, I’m one week past 67 and surviving! Thanks to many of you for FB birthday greetings. I must say I’ve enjoyed my summer and contemplated, several times, what it will be like to retire to this life. Not bad, I must say!

I’m toasting you with a cup of delicious Swiss coffee! This is from a cafe in the heart of Crans-Montana, Switzerland which we visited last summer on the Georgia Ambassadors tour. I’m afraid it may be bad news for next year’s tour. The numbers are quite small for this time in the recruiting period and the trip itself is in doubt. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll try to talk Mrs. Dr. Shrader into a European excursion on our own. I’ll be disappointed because we had a really fine staff and we all became good friends. I’ll miss hanging with them. Keep your fingers crossed …

On to the categories –

READING: I’m still into Donna Leon’s Beastly Things. I love the Guido Brunetti series that takes place in Venice. Leon, although American, lives in Venice and manages to impart descriptive sentences that maintain the flavor of the Veneto and still be perfectly understood by the rest of us. Brunetti is the benevolent detective who always manages to outwit the bad guys. This one goes a little dark, especially in the description of the goings-on inside a typical Italian slaughterhouse! Yuck! Anyway, I’m about to the denouement and, when I’m finished, I’ll post my review on Amazon.

WRITING: I’m making some serious progress on Cedar Key. Of course, not as much as I had hoped, but the plot is unfolding. It’s turning out to be a bit more complex than in my original outline. I’ll try to take a research trip down to CK in a few weeks just to re-encounter the vibes and atmosphere of the village and the island. I’m about to begin chapter three of a proposed twenty-seven, so a long way to go.

TEACHING: I’ve been consumed lately with setting up a variety of classes for the fall term. Just today I finished my online music appreciation class. The online rock and roll class is almost finished. I’ll be re-doing my Honors Leadership class with a new text book (that’s for next week). Finally, I have everything I need to design the vocal literature class, except students! We have a very small number of vocal performance majors, so I’ll wait until the students actually return to make a decision about offering this class. Then, of course, I need to select repertoire for my voice students.

COMPOSING: I’ve given up on Colla Voce in regards to When Christ Was Born of Mary Free. I think it’s one of my best works but obviously the powers to be at CV don’t agree! They ran a “Christmas in July” promotion online and there was no Shrader. I’ll keep submitting to them hoping to strike the right nerve, but it’s probably time to diversify a bit. I have a website called Donaldson Music where I could self-publish but I’m not sure I want to do that yet. We’ll see …  Meanwhile, if you click on the music page on this site, you’ll find some pieces that are available directly from me which might be of interest to you or your choir director friends.

TRAVELS: I’m off to Santa Fe in eight days, ostensibly to see some operas, but really to see Alek, Daniela, and the darling Eva. She’ll be almost two months when I’m there and I can’t wait to see how she’s grown! I’m seeing Rigoletto, Cold Mountain (premiere), and, of course, Daughter of the Regiment, featuring all nine high Cs of my tenorish son! The reviews have been excellent and I love the Santa Fe venue. Down the line will be Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Fort Worth, and others. There’s San Francisco, but I may skip that one. You can always follow the singing kids on opera base.

That’s a full 700 words or so for today and bless you if you’ve made it this far! I’m actually in my home office today (not the gazebo!), but now we’re all going for a dip in the pool which, yesterday, felt like a sauna! The rain usually arrives around 4 pm, but that’s summer in South Georgia!

I crave your comments, replies, likes, shares, subscriptions,et al. Take care, stay cool and have fun!  Cheers!  -Jim

PS. I do have some political thoughts coming into my head, bu I’ll save them for a later post (God help you!).  Bye …

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Summer Reading Update …

Greetings!

Moxie - diving boardToday I’m writing from the cool (literally) interior of our local Books-a-Million store. I’m here because it’s right across the street from PetSmart and I just dropped Moxie off for her monthly grooming spa appointment! Here are some news snippets:

Writing – good news! Although I haven’t met my 2000 wpd goal, I did manage to crank out a thousand yesterday and the juices seem to be flowing. We’re into chapter three and events are starting to unfold.

Reading – moving right along:

Finished:
Beaton – Death of a Liar
Eccles – An Accidental Shroud
Ellis – Fragments of the Dead
Ellis – Whispers of the Dead
Haddam – Festival of Death
Harrod-Eagles – Dear Departed
Jance – Remains of Innocence
Robinson – The Hanging Valley

Currently reading:
Donna Leon – Beastly Things (Guido Brunetti – Venice)

Still to come:
Mayor – The Surrogate Thief
Van de Wettering – Hard Rain
Walker – The Crowded Grave
Jecks – Blood on the Sand (This one is an epic!)

It’s very hot here recently – 99 yesterday and 97 today! I’m off to the mountains of Santa Fe again on August 1 to see Daughter of the Regiment (as well as Rigoletto and Cold Mountain). The new granddaughter is also on the visitation list! When I return, it will be time for school!

On Thursday, 67 will stand up and punch me in the nose! More later … Cheers! -JAS

Please comment, reply, like, share, subscribe and anything else that you care to do! AND, please tell your friends to check this out!  Thanks – J

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Fireworks, Schmireworks …

Hi all!

Pardon me whilst I weather another shower in the gazebo, although I did manage to get in a brief swim  before the clouds opened up!

So, on Saturday, July 4, we all went to Wild Adventures Theme Park to see the fireworks!

Valdosta is fortunate to have a venue like Wild Adventures. The complex includes a water park, a thrill ride park, lots of wonderful animal shows, a regular concert series featuring big-name performers, and all the typical accoutrements that one finds at a full-service theme park. Of course, that also includes an inflated entrance fee, a gigantic parking jam when leaving, sub-standard food, etc. But’s it’s our theme park, there is none better, and we love it!

Over the Valdosta years, we have experimented with different locales for firework indulgence. Last year, we trekked east to Jacksonville and joined a vast mob of humanity along the river to see a really good pyrotechnic show. Of course, Moxie escaped her harness in the middle of the crowd causing me some palpitations, but she was rescued immediately and gladly returned to my welcoming arms. A new harness made an appearance the next day! We also have tried to see the City of Valdosta display, but the instructions say sit anywhere between Exits 16 and 18 on I75 for best viewing. Hmmm. I remember the first year in town when we asked a local where to watch the fireworks. We were told the Valdosta Mall parking lot. So we faithfully lugged chairs, etc. over to the mall and set up waiting for darkness. Finally, way, way, way (did I say – way) off in the distance we saw some fireworks. “Gee, Honey,” I said, “someone has their own fireworks show going over there.” Lo and behold, that was the city show. No one told us to bring binoculars!

Oh well, on to this year’s saga.

We arrived about 4:30 in order to see the Tigers of India Show. It’s been one of our favorites for all the years we’ve been here. It was great again, despite the fact that two of the tigers urinated (we’re talking spray!) on folks in the front row. We were in the front row, but the tigers knew better …

After the Tiger Show, we decided that we would ride the Safari Train, a lazy little locomotive ride through various groupings of exotic animals that’s always fun. Unfortunately, everyone else in south Georgia also thought that would be a good time to ride the train. After moving VERY slowly through the labyrinth of waiting lines, we arrived at a opportunity to exit the queue. We took it!

We wanted to see the Ancients Among Us show which was a bird/dinosaur historical attraction. We made it just in time. The show was informative and more or less entertaining. The most exciting part was when a rather large EMU walked right by my front row seat (yikes!). There was a trainer along side the beast, but it was roaming free and unleashed! It looked into my eyes in a very unsettling way!

We decided not to try the train again and made our way to the other side of the park. We watched a science/comedy show that was pretty lackluster, but entertaining for the kids. It featured Mentos in diet coke and other such “experiments.”

It was now time to grab a bite for dinner and then stake out our territory for watching the Fireworks Spectacular. We all ordered hamburger meals. The product quality did not reach that of McDonalds (make your own grading scale).

We found a great spot to observe the fireworks and set up our folding chairs and settled back with drinks and cell phones prepared to wait about 45 minutes until dark. About 9:15 pm an announcement came over the park’s speaker system that the fireworks show would begin in fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes later, an announcement proclaimed that the fireworks show would begin in ten minutes. About twenty minutes later, an announcement stated that the show would begin in five minutes. After another twenty minutes, an announcement said they were having technical difficulties and the show would begin as soon as possible. From here my recollection becomes somewhat hazy. I think there was another ten minute announcement followed by another twenty minute wait. At any rate, the next thing was a apologetic announcement explaining that they really, really wanted to give us the show tonight. The crowd was becoming restless. Words like refund started to jump out from the rumble. Some folks actually packed up and left. Suddenly, the park lights went out and fireworks started filling the sky. It seemed like all was well and we could forgive the park for issues beyond their control. About ten rockets went off and suddenly it seemed like one of the larger units exploded on the ground. There was silence for a minute (that’s a long time!). Then – an announcement came on thanking us for attending the Fireworks Spectacular.

Disgruntlement ensued …

We packed up, shuffled off to the car, endured the parking lot jam, and made it home (but not in time to watch the National Broadcast from Washington, DC!). On the way home, we discussed the management problems and possible solutions available to the park in a situation such as this.

My feeling is that it would have been nice for the park to reschedule the fireworks for another night (maybe even July 5th, the next night,which was a Sunday), and admit July 4th ticket holders free of charge. That didn’t happen.

Today in the July 8th edition of the Valdosta Daily Times, there was an article stating that the park was rescheduling the fireworks for a date in mid-August. No mention was made of any compensation for the July 4th patrons.

Did I mention that tickets for the park are about $40 plus parking.

I remember when I was a kid and when my kids were kids, the highlight of a July 4th backyard celebration was holding and waving a sparkler and being in awe of the brilliance of this wire thing that you held in your hand. I guess the best thing was – it never let you down. Of course, it wasn’t “the rocket’s red glare,” but it was fun and faithful …

I’ll see you soon online. Cheers!  -JAS

Oh – please comment, reply, share, subscribe, tell your friends to read it, etc.

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Happy Almost July …

inside gazeboGreetings on this overcast, but hot and humid morning from very South Georgia!

I was up and to the gym early this morning, then a bagel and coffee, a check of the emails, twenty minutes of meditation, and we’re ready to go! Errands today include a brief stop at my office in the Honors College, pick up meds at CVS, and replentish some staples at Publix. I hope to be back in time to write about 2000 words and reward myself with a few swim intervals. I’m cooking Shepherd’s Pie tonight from the Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook. After dinner, perhaps just a wee dram of Glenmorangie single malt scotch!

Reading News – I finished Jane Haddam’s Festival of Death and I’m now starting Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s Dear Departed. Next up will probably be Donna Leon’s Beastly Things. I hope you’re doing some reading this summer. If you’re reading any books from my list, please let me know so we can compare notes.

Travel News – My buds from the Oklahoma Ambassadors of Music have returned from their 16-day European tour. Judging from the photos and reports, it was lots of fun and very successful. I’m going with the Georgia Ambassadors next summer. Incidentally, I’ll be composing some music to be performed on that tour! As for personal/family travel, I’ll be returning to Santa Fe the first week in August to see Alek in Daughter of the Regiment. Additionally, I’d like to squeeze in a day to the beach at either, Jeckyl Island, St. Augustine, or Cedar Key.

Relaxed MoxieNB. It just started raining like crazy and our resident frog, who is quite vocal, is having a great time! The oblivious Moxie is asleep on the couch …

July News – I do a vocal masterclass tomorrow for the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program singers. Also in July, I’m going to make a concentrated effort to write 2000 words per day on the Cedar Key mystery novel (untitled at the moment). I’m hoping to be at 60,000 words by the end of the month. That a real self-disciplinary challenge for me! The good news is that I think I’m coming out of the slump and the ideas/words seem to be flowing again!

Okay, time for a quick lunch and then I’m off! Thanks to Rebecca Lanning for another comment here. I would love it if more of you would reply, comment, like, subscribe, share, and all the rest of it. When the book is done, I’ll embark on an interesting marketing plan that should generate lots more activity!

IMG_0148I hope everyone is well and enjoying the summer. I’ll see you soon, online!  -JAS

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Back Home Again …

Welcome Back!

We returned last night, just in time for Father’s Day and the first day of summer! It’s a very humid 95 degrees as I sit in the gazebo typing. About every 30 minutes or so, I jump in the pool to ostensibly cool off. Unfortunately, the pool temperature resembles that of a warm bath! Anyway, the breeze combined with a wet body serves to cool one down a bit.

I want to catch up on the summer reading list breakdown. So far, I have read:

Ellis – Whispers of the Dead
Hillerman – Spider Woman’s Daughter
Beaton – Death of a Liar
Eccles – An Accidental Shroud
Ellis – Fragments that Remain
Jance – Remains of Innocence
Robinson – The Hanging Valley

I am currently in the middle of Festival of Deaths by Jane Haddam.

Still to come are :

Harrod-Eagles – Dear Departed
Jecks – Blood on the Sand
Leon – Beastly Things
Van de Wettering – Hard Rain
Walker – The Crowded Grave
Mayor – The Surrogate Thief

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s seven down, one in progress, and six to go! If you’re reading from my list or you have constructed your own TBR, please let me know of your progress and what you’re reading. I read everything on the Kindle app on my iPhone 6.

The negative thing about doing this heavy reading during vacation days is that I’ve badly neglected my writing regimen! I’m thinking of doing my own NaNoWriMo in July to get a first draft into the editing process.

In academia news, my Fall classes are filling up as we’re in the summer enrollment period now. My Georgia Governor’s Honors Program masterclass has been set for July 1. I’m excited to hear and work with these talented high school students from across the state.

I was disappointed to miss the Ken Davis (my mentor) Chorale in their “Return to Lubbock” concert at Texas Tech yesterday. I think I was flying over Lubbock at just about the time the concert started! Hopefully next time …

Now, it seems like it’s sufficiently hot enough for another pool plunge, so, stay cool and enjoy the summer from this day one forward.  Cheers!  -JAS

Please leave a reply, comment, like, subscribe, share, or anything else. I value your participation in this forum!

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A Transient in Santa Fe …

IMG_1187Good afternoon!

On the left there is a shot of the summer outdoor office here in the Santa Fe casita! It’s been a gorgeous day and this will be a very brief update,

 

First of all – babywatch continues! Grandpa-to-be is still in waiting …

Yesterday I finished MC Beaton’s Death of a Liar featuring Scottish policeman, Hamish Macbeth.  My review is online at Amazon.com. That’s four down from the Summer TBR list! If you’re not reading from my list, I hope your reading something this summer. I’m now in the middle of The Fragments That Remain by Tim Ellis. This is the latest in the series featuring the English detective team of Inspector Jed Parrish and his step-daughter, Dectective Mary Richards. Watch for my review on Amazon. This entire series is not for the squeamish, but the dialogue is marvelous, sarcastic, and funny. It’s a bit irreverent, but strangely hard to put down. It’s not for everyone, but I urge you to try a few chapters just for fun. Next up is a return to Arizona with Sheriff Joanna Brady in Remains of Innocence by JA Jance.

IMG_1186Alek finishes up Candide in Vancouver tonight and comes here tomorrow. The next day we return to Valdosta for three days, but we’re back here on Saturday. I’m hoping the baby is cooperative and waits for our return!

There should be some choral music and authoring news on the horizon – stay tuned!

I’n trying to avoid buying a marketing and promotion service, so again I ask you to please reply, comment, share, like, subscribe – whatever all those things mean. Thanks and see you soon – possibly from very hot South Georgia!  Cheers!  -JAS

IMG_1184Here’s a far-off shot of the Santa Fe Opera Complex taken from the condo patio (It’s that white thing sticking up from the mountain in the upper center of the pic). It’s a great season here this summer. Try to come see some shows if you can – especially Donizetti’s  Daughter of the Regiment featuring my first-born as Tonio (yup, all nine high Cs!).

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