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Did you know men and women can watch sports together?

I noticed a theme watching the first two rounds of NCAA basketball this year: That men and women can’t enjoy sports together.

The obvious play on the stereotype is that the guys want to watch sports while the girls want to drink frilly drinks and gab.

If that’s what you’re looking for, Charter Spectrum has a pretty predictable ad with all the gendered rhetoric of “man cave” and “she shed” that we’ve come to consider classic.


Even this Buffalo Wild Wings that seems to turn the tables – where mom goes to watch sports while dad stays with the kids – invokes “art school” as the reason dad can’t come. First, I’m not real sure how some art school means you can’t watch some Bball. But, the real point is that art school is used to emasculate dad. The end result: The couple can’t watch college hoops together.

As I spend the weekend alone watching March Madness, maybe I’m oversensitive that there’s no one next to me to scream as Northern Iowa hits that buzzer-beater.

But, I know anyone is welcome to watch sports with me.

The TV room is big enough for both of us.

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AKA a human

You know who I told when my stories were picked up on the wires?
My mom.

As I caught up on the news this morning, I saw this hed in a tweet:

You could view this as another “Florida man” story. But, when I saw the labels used to describe someone who had been murdered, I thought this was was a bit too sensationalized. Most of these details are important to the story, but in sum the deceased was a human – and a tweet like that seems to try to make him less of one.

I would argue that particularly that the deceased  wore women’s clothes in public does not a headline/lede-worthy detail make. In the text of the story, Ovalle refers to this fact as “The twist.”

I attempted to convey my opinion in a reply tweet:

Some random dude voiced what most in the Herald newsroom was probably thinking:

You see who liked that tweet?

Yep, Ovalle.

Minutes later, he tweeted what is atop the page about the popularity of his story.

Look, I get this story fits the newsroom value of novelty. But, when someone in the story is dead, it’s ethical and just decent to avoid sensationalizing or publicly bragging.

And, in the interest of solutions-based journalism: A different angle to take might be to look at how the justice system treats Haitian immigrants – both as victims and defendants. The story is upfront that the defendant’s plea was partly motivated by the expected lack of understanding that a jury would have for this case.

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Seeking exposure. Performing expression: News on Facebook and Twitter

This morning The American Press Institute, The Associated Press and NORC released the results of a survey about Millennials’ news use.

It’s full of interesting results: They* don’t like to pay for news. They bump into their news instead of seeking it out. They get their news from social media.

But, here’s the part that I found most interesting:

Millennials say they are going online to be exposed to content. In the survey questions about what motivates the respondents to visit Facebook or Twitter, the majority of people said they were looking for exposure to content. These answers, including answers like “see what’s trending,” “find things that entertain me” or “get more information,” are all about the old model of information flow: from news organizations to audiences. The top motivation to visit Facebook and Twitter is to see what other people are saying. In fact, only 12 percent of respondents said they went on Twitter to share content or share something.

But, the activities that the respondents reported include more about expression activities. Three-fifths of respondents said they regularly click like on a news story shared by a friend. More than 40 percent said they share news regularly on Facebook. And, a third are commenting on news regularly.

Far fewer of the respondents use Twitter. But, still a third of those who do are regularly tweeting about news are retweeting headlines. Twenty percent are composing their own tweets and linking to a news story in a tweet regularly.

That Millennials are going to social media sites to receive information instead somewhat regularly sharing it or expressing their support of it suggests we need new models to explain who these new audiences are. What turns a person who is used to seeking out news into a news content sharing user? Commenters? Is news sharing more about the individual’s characteristics or the characteristics of the content? When they are constantly blamed for oversharing, what prevents more from sharing news?

So many good questions to explore as we continue to examine a news system that allows both exposure and expression.

*I use the pronoun “they,” but by most modern definitions including the one used in this survey I slide into the cutoff. Hello, I’m Megan, and I’m a Millennial.

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Tony Romo and DirectTV think being ‘arts and crafty’ makes you less of a man

I must be the only person in America put off by the message sent by the DirectTV Sunday Ticket alter ego campaign. No one  on the Internet appears to be calling out these ads. I thought it would be prime material for a Slate think piece. But, the best of my Google searching shows that everyone thinks its just fine for football players make fun of those who don’t match traditional stereotypes of masculinity.

Let’s make a list of the things DirectTV think its OK to make fun of:

  • Skinny legs.
  • High voices.
  • Petite stature. (Even though this version of petite is really just “short.”)
  • A talent for sculpture, paper mache and baking.

This campaign is an extension of the successful “alter ego” campaign that started ages ago with Rob Lowe’s memorable characters. The difference was Lowe’s alter egos were actually creepy. Super Creepy guys paid no attention to hygiene, lived in mom’s basement past the acceptable age, and leered at swimming women without their knowledge.Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 9.07.44 PM

In all of the alter ego ads, a handsome, masculine, suave man announces he has DirectTV. Then an undesirable version of that man steps into the frame and announces he has cable. In each case, DirectTV man is prosocial while cable man is antisocial to communicate that DirectTV is cool while cable is not.

This particular campaign is designed to promote the NFL Sunday Ticket. So, targeting a male audience makes sense. Additionally, these men watching might subscribe to traditional masculine ideals – even if they couldn’t run a 40-yard-dash in less than a minute.

It seems the ads are getting a good reception:



But, there are plenty of women watching football, too. And, there are men who like a good a cappella performance just as much as a great touchdown dance. So, that’s why I can’t believe that no one has a problem with the message of these ads: That being short, skinny, a good singer, or arts and crafty makes you less of a man.

I get that some of you will think I’m reading too much into this or being oversensitive. I’m pretty sure this guy agrees with you:

But, read this from a SB Nation article about the campaign that deems the campaign “actually funny.” Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 8.08.21 PM



“Screams like a girl” isn’t in any way ‘coded language’ in the way you might argue the rest of the ad is. Plainly, it’s an insult. Indeed, people are referencing the cable versions of the football players to insult or otherwise degrade actual football players who aren’t meeting expectations.


The Romo ad is the one that drove me over the edge enough to motivate me to spend the time writing about my thoughts. Take the 30 seconds to watch it.

Seriously, what kind of monster would disparage someone for mixing brownies and cupcakes? That sounds like a dream come true.

Anyway, the other ads from the campaign are below.

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J202 student advice

What have you heard about this class?

That it’s a packed course? That it’s intense? That it’s tough? That it’s a lot of work?

All of that is true.

But, you can do it.

Now, you’re sitting in a lecture chair, a lab desk where someone just like you sat at the beginning of the last semester. That student made it. You will too.

As a J202 lab instructor, I asked students to write a bit of advice for the person who sat in their seat the next semester. At the end of the spring semester, I told my lab students that I would not return in the fall. But, they wanted to share advice from their experiences, saying that they had kept their note from the beginning of the semester as inspiration. I told them I’d find something to do with them. This blog post is that something.

So, here you go: Fourteen bits of advice and inspiration from students who were where you were just a semester ago.

  1. “Breathe! Everything will be OK.”



  1. “Stay on top of deadlines”














3. Keep trying



4 & 5  You learn so much in this class.



6. Plan your semester


7. “Your lab will all become some of your best friends.”advice14

8. “Trust the process. Trust your TA.”



9 & 10. “It’s super rewarding.”


11. “Talk to your TA for better advice always.”


12. “What you learn in 15 weeks will amaze you.”























13. “Use your planner religiously.”





















Hope you have a great semester

~Megan Duncan

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Prelims – Some survival advice

In the weeks leading up to prelims, I was studying, reading, note-card-making, and Google-Sheet-organizing. But, I was also searching “How to pass prelims” more than a smart person would. Unless the websites that contain the magical answers have terrible SEO, the Internet doesn’t hold all the answers.

This is one step toward remedying that.

Each university, each program, each department administers the tests you must pass to earn a Ph.D. differently. In my program, each of the five people on your committee asks you one question of their choice, sets the time frame, length expectations, and topic area. That person also grades it pass or fail. Students must take all five exams within a 10-day time period. In preparation for the exams, students set reading list in cooperation with the committee member. In some cases, faculty expect you to only read what’s on the list. In other cases, the list serves as a guide but are expected to know the entire body of literature.

I survived  – barely. And, so will you. But, to help you survive with minimal misery, you can learn from others. I also solicited comments from other people in my department who recently took the exams. Three people were kind enough to contribute: Catasha Davis, Mallory Perryman, and David Coppini.

Catasha began studying at the start of the semester term and complete her prelims (all 8-hour, open-book format) in mid-July. Her research focuses on health communication with a particular focus on minorities and intersectional identities. She uses mixed methods, though her methods question came from quantitative studies.

Mallory began studying at the start of the summer term and completed her prelims (all 8-hour, open book format) in mid-July. Her research focuses on presumed influence and she uses quantitative methods.

David took his exams during the summer after months of studying. His research focuses on public opinion and public participation in democracy.

How did you manage gathering your lists?

Megan: I met with each of my committee members in person and suggested a topic area that would combine their specialty with my intended dissertation topic. When scheduling this meeting, I asked committee members how they wanted me to prepare. Most of them said to come with a list ready. I put these lists on Google Docs and shared them with the committee member. After our in-person talk, the lists were revised and I started reading.

Catasha: I met with my committee members, individually, at least once.  I set a date with each committee member about when I wanted to have the reading list finalized.  I emailed the list to each member.  They all sent back comments at least once, some even sent comments backs two and three times.

Mallory: Putting your lists together and meeting with your committee members takes time. I had an initial meeting with each committee member to discuss the area they would ask me about – then I created a list based on that conversation. I divided the readings on each list into categories. For example, one of my prelims covered media contributions to social perceptions, so my categories were schema and social cognition, framing, priming, agenda setting and cultivation. For each topic, I included seminal pieces, a couple of empirical studies, applicable chapters from books like Media Effects (Bryant & Oliver), and meta-analyses, when available. Do the list-building task during the semester, so when it comes time to start studying, you can dive right your daunting – but complete – lists. My committee members appreciated my lists being broken down into categories, and they each added only a few items.

David: For me, this was BY FAR the most stressful aspect of preliminary exams and it took me a long time to finish my lists. If you’re not the most organized person in the world, do start this aspect much in advance because otherwise it will drive you insane. At least that was my experience. 

Since all my questions had very broad lists, I spent a lot of time researching articles and coming up with comprehensive lists. Once I was ready, I scheduled meetings with all committee members to make sure I was on the right track. 
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Prelim books. Like a library of MegDunk’s favorite things.

How did you study? Keep notes? Organize your information?

Megan: As I read each article, I filled out a single note card with the main point. I tried to remember that in the time I had I wouldn’t be writing extensively about a single article. Then, when I was done with a list, I typed my notes into a Google Sheet with the in-text citation and the full citation. Typing that way at the end helped me study even more. For books, I put sticky notes with my thoughts at relevant passages. I also typed up those notes.

Catasha: I studied for 6 weeks.  I made outlines.  I printed all the articles and I organized my material into binders by subject area.

Mallory: Best advice: Be organized. Use a system that works for you, but do use a system – lest you plow your way through your lists only to find that five weeks have gone by and you have no idea what you just read (and then you start over, when research has shown that re-reading does little to aid in learning).

  • Storing your readings: I kept all my work organized in Mendeley.
  • Getting access to everything on your list: The library is your friend. I used the interlibrary loan or Uborrow system to request materials unavailable in our library. Sometimes I needed articles or book chapter that weren’t easy to find, so I’d put in a  request with the library and they would find it, scan it, and email it to me.
  • Taking notes: I created a Word document for each prelim and had section headers for the various subtopics I identified while reading. For example, my prelim on message processing had sections like affect, cognition, affect + cognition, affect + behavior, etc. Instead of taking notes on each of my readings separately, I would log my thoughts or observations in the appropriate category in my notes. It helped me see how things fit together, and I was able to add new pieces to the puzzle as a I read through the list, rather than trying to put that puzzle together at the end.
  • Using time wisely: I didn’t give every reading an equal amount of attention either – part of the process is identifying what is important and what is just sucking up your precious time and energy. I call it “thoughtful skimming.” I gave myself five days for each list. Once the time was up, I moved on.

David: I am not a note person at all. However, I had notes about the main books and articles for each question. I also relied on memory a lot and went through some articles during all the exams. It took me about 6 weeks to go through my lists. During the study preparation, I read, read and read, rather than focusing on note taking. I read several articles outside of the lists. I also tried to think about the general themes associated for each question. 

What did you do in the final weeks?

Megan: For me the final weeks of studying were the only weeks that I devoted entirely to prelims. I checked back in with my committee members as the spring semester wrapped up and got a few hints about what the question might be (or so I thought). Based on that, I returned to my notes and put together a few sentences or outline of how different authors had defined key concepts, key conflicts in the literature, and obvious gaps in the literature related to my dissertation topic.

Catasha: It was stressful, but I tried to study for about 6 hours a day.  I also set daily goals about what material I wanted to read each day.  I also set a schedule for each reading list.  I gave myself 7 days for shorter list and about 10 days for longer list. (There was some overlap in my list so it worked out). With my schedule, I had a extra week before beginning prelims so I had the opportunity to go over material again.  Additionally, in order to relieve some stress, I decided that I would do some studying while taking prelims.  I scheduled my prelims over two weeks (taking a longer break before the second week).  I took three prelims the first week and two exams the second week.  I studied/reviewed for the prelims during the second week over the weekend.

David: I tried to re-look at the most important readings for each question and focused on my notes and thoughts about them. I also tried not to stress to much about it. I went out with my friends and tried to relax. The psychological aspect is probably the most important part of preliminary exams in my opinion, try to relax as much as possible and to somewhat enjoy the learning process if you can. 

How did you negotiate terms with committee members?

Megan: This was actually the easiest part for me. Several committee members asked me what I wanted. Others use the same format each time, so there wasn’t room for negotiation. My goal was mainly to communicate to  committee members specifically where I was headed with my dissertation so they could do their best to make the questions something that might be helpful for me to study and think about.

Catasha: The first thing I did was read the graduate handbook.  I received lots of different information, so I decided to read the handbook in order to know, for sure, the prelim requirements.  Second, I  had a discussion with my adviser and the graduate adviser. Between those conversations, I had a good understanding about the deadlines and the types of test I wanted to take and each committee member’s question area. I set up meetings with every committee member.  I asked them about the test type, topic area and list deadline. My committee members were pretty open to doing the things I wanted.  They all agreed to 8 hour open book test. They all agreed to a deadline to have the prelim list finalized.

Mallory: I believe everyone gets to decide which dates they take their prelims and the order in which they take them. I was not planning on studying any more after I started – I felt as prepared as I was going to get- so I wanted to get them over with in the shortest amount of time possible without running myself into the ground.  I took five exams (all 8-hour tests) over eight days. My days off were stressful as I felt I was just biding my time until the next exam, so I’m glad I got it over with, while still giving myself a few days off to rest my brain. I saved an exam I was very comfortable with for my final day and I’m glad I did.

What was the actual experience like?

My step count from my first prelim week. Can you guess which days I was sitting locked in a room for eight hours?

My step count from my first prelim week. Can you guess which days I was sitting locked in a room for eight hours?

Megan: So, when I got handed the first question on the first morning, it asked me to address four specific articles. Two of those had not been on my reading list. I decided to take a beat and just spend the first 45 minutes of the exam period just reading those articles. I thought getting fewer words on the page would be better than getting wrong words on the page. That day was pretty awful. But, that meant everything was better after that.  The meal prep, scheduled bathroom breaks, and occasional stretch were key to making my life the most efficient it could be. Also, my friends checked in on me in the afternoon with caffeine and even gave me a ride home when I couldn’t remember which way I lived. Basically, it’s just as exhausting as you might expect. Doing things ahead of time to make it less awful are key.

Catasha: It sucked!  It was really stressful.  I was very nervous before each test and it was hard to get sleep the night before a test.  I went through a variety of emotions.  I would say that the thing that help was I decided that i would eat healthy and I tried to get some exercise in, but  I was intellectually exhausted after each test.   I took the test at the same time as other grad students, which was helpful. Support from others is really important.

David: I went in very relaxed and confident about my first question. I wrote a lot during the first 4 hours, even too much and I was exhausted but then I just powered through and ate a lot (I ate A LOT of sugary stuff, it works for me, just find the food that helps you and motivates you.). The process itself is really tiring and exhausting, but it was also great to be able to write a decent question and every time I finished a question I felt I had given all I had.

How did you manage your time during the exams?

Megan: Mostly, I got the question and wrote succinct one-sentence answers to each part right away. Those sentences served as the topic sentences for the main sections. Then I went back and filled out my thoughts. I wrote the introductions as the last section. As I did that, mentally labeled each part of the question and tried to match it with the section of the paper that answered it. I tried to reserve the final hour for editing and organizing. But, honestly, that didn’t happen. In my final exam, I intended to produce a sample survey instrument and even mentioned it in the paper. I flat out ran right up to the deadline with that exam, though, and never got to put the instrument questions in the answer. That’s an example of bad time management.

2015-06-08 21.34.47

This was from the first night of my 72-hour exam. I call it “Midnight in the Garden of Desperation and Incompetence.”

Also, I took a 72-hour exam, which was a much different experience than the eight-hours. The first day I worked from 10 to midnight. I wish I wouldn’t have. I would advise others to cut that first day off a bit sooner. Because by the third day I was staring blankly. However, I got the bulk of my writing done in the first 48 hours. The third day was mostly editing and adding in citations. I even turned in the exam in more than 12 hours early.

Catasha: Another grad student told me that when you get the question, you should take the first 30 mins to outline the question, which was really great advice. During first 30 minutes I made sure I understood all parts of the questions and outlined the question.  I placed sub-heading in my documents to help organize my writing.  During every test I included an introduction where I explained what I was going to argue.

David: I just went right into the question and tried to write a decent introduction. After, I did do an outline for three of the questions, while I sort of wrote first and then organized for other two. For me it really depended on the question. 

How did you deal with the unexpected question?

Megan: I had two questions I didn’t see coming – the first was the two readings that hadn’t been on my list. The second was just a topic area that I had read very, very little about. But, after I took a deep breath, I realized that while I knew next to nothing about the historical development of a concept, I’ve been in school long enough to know the techniques and methods of analyzing any social science concept. Yep, I read new articles during my eight hours, which is something I had been told was a no-no because it’s so inefficient. In that experience, I proved to myself that I’ve developed enough tools and broad knowledge to put together a logical answer even on topic areas where I’m not an expert.

Catasha: Honestly, when you get a question you just need to take a deep breath.  Even when the question was unexpected, I knew that I could find the answer.   You have to put your nerves aside and focus on putting together the things you know and determining where you might find the answer.

David: One question was very unexpected but doable. I did go through some extra readings during the eight hours but it was not that big of a deal. Another question caught me a little off guard because it included an area of research that was not an important part of my reading list. I just wrote what I remembered from that area of research and, in the last 2 hours or so, I made some additional research. 

What technology issues helped/hindered you?

Megan: I was digital everything. My notes were digital. I didn’t print my articles. I got all books that were available digitally instead of print. I’m a person who will remember the concept or a specific line from a reading but not have the faintest idea which reading that was from. I envy people like my officemate who can recall citations without effort. So search-ability is key for me to locate the things I know.

Catasha: Several grad students told me to use google doc to write my prelims.  Google docs was great because I didn’t have to worry about my computer crashing and losing my work.

What was most surprising?

My friends brought me this many sugar packets with my afternoon iced tea. The lack of energy was likely evident on my face.

My friends brought me this many sugar packets with my afternoon iced tea. The lack of energy was likely evident on my face.

Megan: I was most surprised how much my friends were willing to support me – and how vital that was to me making it through those two weeks. I like to think of myself as an independent gal, but I was super appreciative of rides home, people willing to take walks outdoors with me when I needed fresh air in the evenings, and surprise pop-ins.

Catasha: I was most surprised by how exhausted I was after each prelim.

Advice? What would you do differently?

Megan: I would definitely do more thinking about how to answer questions in advance. Writing answers in advance is cheating, but knowing how you would answer the expected question isn’t. I was pretty silly for not designing a study in my head for my methods questions. Of course my methods question was going to ask me to design a study. I also wish I would have stopped writing earlier during the eight hours exams and spent more time editing. One of my committee members pointed out  afterwards that having poor sentence structure or grammar/mechanics makes me look just as unintelligent as not having the right answer.

Catasha: Educate yourself about the process of taking prelims.  Talk to the graduate adviser as well as your program advisor.  Read the grad handbook.  Make a plan and stick to the plan.  If you make plans to take prelims stick to the schedule. Do your best not to reschedule your prelims.  Plan something fun right after prelims so that you have something to look forward to!

Mallory: First, I’d say that you absolutely can complete prelims in the time between the end of the spring semester and the mid-summer deadline. I read and took notes for five weeks, reviewed for two weeks, and then took my exams. I’m not a genius, I just got my crap together and accepted that the first eight weeks of my summer were going to suck. Don’t sell yourself short: You can do it.

Second, mastering self-discipline was more difficult than mastering the material. The process is exhausting, mentally, emotionally – and honestly, sitting around for that many hours every day ends up being physically taxing. I did my best to eat well, stay on a strict sleep schedule, and get out and move as much as I could, but it’s still a difficult process. It consumed two months of my life.

But it was only two months. As hard as it was, the finish line was never that far out of sight. I kept close to friends going through the prelim process alongside me, and it was helpful, once we’d gotten through the readings, to discuss our ideas and talk through stuff we didn’t understand.

I’m not sure I’d call the process rewarding – that’s painting it a shade too rosy – but in the end, I did feel like I had earned something. The exams are humbling in that I saw the massive scope of knowledge that exists in my chosen field, but empowering in that I now know I  have something to contribute.

Third, do what you need to do to get through exams. Take others’ advice and adapt it to what works for you. Don’t compare yourself to others: Who cares if your reading list is shorter – or you take more days to take your prelims – or your prelim answer is only 10 pages – or it takes you twice as long to read through a list? Everyone has different ways of doing things, and the only “correct way” to get through prelims is to get through them. Surround yourself with people who encourage you – and in return, try and encourage others who are in the same boat.

David: Do what you think it’s best for you, at every step of the preliminary process. Listen to everyone if they have advice but then follow what you would usually do for a regular exam, it’s only longer and more stressful. For example, I don’t work very well with notes and organizing them stresses me out, so I didn’t do much of it, I did some but just what I knew was enough for me. 

During the process, eat a lot and try to take some breaks. I took several breaks and listened to music that would motivate me. 

I would definitely start the list building process in advance, especially if you’re not extremely organized  and don’t like preparing lists. As I said, for me it was a terrible experience, way worse than studying per se.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed studying for the exam. It gave me a lot of ideas for research projects and dissertation, it’s a moment where you have the opportunity to really reflect on what I study and learn a lot. Then, the exams are what they are, it is an exhausting process and you need to be aware of that, but we have to take them, so I tried to have less anxiety and stress possible.

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Fugitive Take Down Day

The NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh today is running a “Fugitive Take Down”  day in cooperation with the Allegheny County Sheriff’s office. It’s coupled with a Twitter campaign that uses the hashtag #TakeDownDay to accompany photos of the fugitives, the crime they have been accused of, and their last known location.

I was bothered by this when I first saw it in the early morning hours before I went to bed. I’m bothered even more by it now. The violent imagery associated with the words “take down” seem over the top for any media associate to advocate. While the message only encourages audience members to report tips by phone or online form, the words “take down” seem to advocate actions. While it’s commonplace for organizations to feature fugitives, ask the public to be on the lookout for someone a law enforcement agency wants to get off the streets, or call with tips about a specific crime, these incidents are an immediate public safety issue that fills part of the news media’s mission in society by providing timely and specific information. But, this hashtag, the posting of some fugitives’ faces with the words “captured over them,” and asking the public to participate in a day long event that doesn’t provide context to each situation, and posting videos of arrests almost like a game (there is a computer game with the same name), feels wrong and irresponsible.

Capturing fugitives is not a game, and using words associated with violent imagery to get the public involved is not OK.

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