SMICK.NET | Website of Mike Smick Graphics and Web Developer

Am I too quiet to be a blogger?

I added “blogger” to my email signature over the past few months. But I’ve been wrong on that.  A blogger is one who keeps the conversation going.  I jump across topics and go through very quiet periods because either I don’t feel anything is worth sharing, or more likely, the effort to share is  more than what I feel the outcome is worth. I’m no blogger. And tonight I decided, I don’t care either. I’m happy to toss out the title.

I’ve seen a lot of people in my circle quit their sites because they decided that they couldn’t keep up. Even I threw in the towel once. Have you been there?  If you started and then quit a blog, it’s probably because you had an expectation for what  you thought this whole blogging lifestyle was about.  And when your habits caused you to veer further and further from that initial picture your mind drew, the tension built and it was easier to cut the rope than climb up it at that point.

You envisioned you had the time and had tons of ideas to share. (And you saw dollar signs right? Well I admit that I did. ) But when it comes to going through the motions, blogging isn’t all that fun. Staring at the computer screen, editing yourself over and over, finding that your idea was not as funny or original as you thought.  It’s a challenge to create a projection of what you want to share in the form of a written piece.  That’s why micro blogging is suitable for more people. Because you are constrained to a thought instead of a big concept and you are easily forgiven for posting stupid crap. You know at the beginning you won’t be consumed by constructing a tweet, you’ll just fire it off. You never get that feeling of dread that you’ll be trapped by it for hours or days.

It reminds me of those mind tricks you play on yourself to stop procrastinating.  The idea that you don’t need to dwell on committing to a whole hour to your upcoming project. Commit to 5 minutes only. And the mind trick is that your momentum will take you through the next 35 minutes and your procrastiation melts and is reborn into progress. Tweets and micro posts work because you don’t procrastinate on them. They’re so easy it’s sick.

Where am I going with this? Well it’s a message to myself and to you. Don’t get hung up on what you think a blog needs to be or the expectation that your blog needs to be something like popular or constant. Just be. If you have a desire for a site or blog or curated collection, look within and watch the downside of what your attachment to what you think it should be too early.  Better  just build in a direction and see what forms. Like drawing.  Shade a little here, a little there. Let the image emerge instead of kicking yourself because it’s not what was how you hoped.

May 5, 2011 at 12:51 am | inspiration, learning, writing | No comment

My plans for 2011

I’ve had a great 2010. I watched my beautiful son in his first year, did some home improvements, had a lot of fun riding my bike. Went to Japan again. But I also have a lot of empty spaces. Well intentioned things left undone. And I want you to know, I write this up not because I think I need to somehow be more of a person to be worthy or loved, but because life is short and a little more pressure and alignment with my life goals is a great thing.

So here’s my list of things to crank on for this year under my chosen categories.

Health, Fitness and BMX

I used to run pretty frequently, and I did run a couple miles maybe 2 weeks ago, but I’ve started to let that slide. Mostly because winter kills my motivation. Luckily there’s a new image of motivation helping me during this winter… This.

It’s a photo of a guy in Belarus, a republic in eastern Europe. I don’t need to explain what’s going in this pic do I? Not only does this make me laugh thinking about it. It’s also an example of some of the eccentric badassery in the world that is unfortunately in short supply around me. So I’ve got my plan to do winter runs. Do them because they suck, but also because they are a small form of badassery. Much more rewarding afterwards than during. (Well except for the part where the thick air made you taste like you’re coughing up blood for 2 hours afterwards.)

BMX. My passion is Flatland BMX, no doubt. Running is fun, but nothing beats coasting on the front wheel of my flatland bike, spinning, switches, scuff tricks. I’m extremely excited to say I ramped up my riding in 2010 to levels not seen since college. But it’s not enough. I’ve got a few stunts to pick up and practice from that I demand from myself in 2011. Not that most people care, but making gains in this sport matter to me, even if I know I’ll likely never be a Matt Wilhelm, Simon O’Brien or Matthias Dandois. (Video links of those guys in action)  I believe that to get good, you have to go out with a mission every day, an agenda of what to accomplish. Usually I figure that out once I get there, or I’m just on fire in my mind, something burning to be learned that I’ve been visualizing over and over. That needs to continue and be exploited. I’ve had a hard time riding in this weather, so getting around that problem is next. By warmer weather, I intend to participate in more shows just like I did in 2010.


I want to read one book a month. That’s reasonable right? There are a few classics I need to get to as well as some newer books that I own that have been untouched. Couple classics to mention, Great Gatsby, Art of War, and biographys of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Some newer ones to enjoy, Where ideas come from, Hitch-22 and something by Seth Godin.

I also want to write a book this year. Doesn’t need to be awesome, it just needs to be a contribution. I think I want it to be a book to my son, so far anyway. And it can include pictures / photos or not. Actually I’ve already started this book, but it’s not had a direction. That’s all it needs, focus and continuous contribution.

The last part of knowledge I’m stealing from a writer, Steven Johnson. In a book he wrote (and I’ve read this before.) he said most of the great idea people always had their notebook with him to record their ideas, document their experiences and work and their findings. I’ve started to do this already. It’s no masterpiece, but I found the book I like and filling it in has been helpful. I feel better knowing that interesting quotes and observations are slowly making their way into my little archive. I’ve always wanted a book like that to pick up 40 years later to say “wow” this is a fun little legacy keepsake. I’m not gonna lie here, basically I want my own grail diary from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I’ve always wanted one of those. Or my own DaVinci notebook.


The bottom line on this topic my freelance work needs a reboot. I’ve tired of my web company name, SmickWorks. Too many company use the word “Works” in the name and I need something that feels a little more fun and unique. I don’t mind changing things up and I think the right name will draw the right clients. I don’t take on too many clients because I’m too busy in life, but I desire to keep my company strong and to always have it ready for when it can take an uplifting turn to something bigger. Let me quote Steve Jobs, I want to make a dent in the universe with this one, but despite not always knowing how, I’ve gotta set myself up that way. And if it’s my son who ends up building from a foundation here, then I’m more than happy to let him make the dent.

Not to get too far off course here because this is more important in the short term. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’ve allowed the clutter around me to drain me and to let my freelance projects slip. I’m embarrassed to say it and if you’re a client who has suffered waiting for things longer than you should have. I can only say I’m sorry and I don’t mean to put anyone through that. The road to good intentions is paved with milk and cookies, or however that saying goes. BUT I realized that I don’t have a simple enough way to keep my project tasks in order. Emails, phone calls, text messages. My requests come in and I just can’t seem to keep it all in my mind when I need it.

To combat this, I’ll be installing a very cool Issue Tracking app on my website. What this will do is allow me to post project and bug fixes to the database. And I always know where to look. Not only that, but I can set up my contact form on my websites to auto-generate an project request. So it doesn’t have to be a complicated extra step or require sending logins to clients.

I have a few freelance projects I intend to do. Both are actually secret, but they are 2 websites I think need addressing. And this is all doable. Nothing amazing required except for the desire and follow through.

Learning in my field of web and design.

Outside the regular book reading I want to do, there are gains I want to make in my work. I’ve never been a trained artist or a programmer. I’ve tried to fill the shoes wherever I could. Sometimes that meant looking for the right solution premade because I couldn’t do it myself. And that will get you pretty far, but I have a few areas where I think I can be more helpful (and enjoy my work). That would be learning Javascript (JQuery) and PHP. There are a massive number of resources to do this. Too many actually. But the key is to stick to something and practice. That’s it.

Other than Javascript, I want to dabble a little in IIS web server so I understand how it works. And install a few instances of Dot Net Nuke to see where it will help me, if at all. At work we have a need for one-off microsites and it might be a good way to deploy them. Or not. But I’ll never know if I don’t jump in.

Besides Dot Net, there are a few Content Management Systems I want to work on. I’d like to work more with ModX CMS, Mediawiki, and MindTouch Deki. I’d also like to continue to use WordPress and maybe try out WebGUI.

I’ve already kinda mastered 2D graphics software, but my art still needs a lot of work. That’s why I’m so happy my wife bought me this sketchbook called 642 Things to Draw. It’s a book of blank pages, but it has labeled spaces for certain things to sketch in the spot. So it narrows focus. That is awesome. I want to make a big dent in this, getting about 80 drawings into their spots. When I was little, I remember my dad helping me with a drawing, he did a really good job. I think having a sketchbook to give to my son might inspire him to learn how to see and practice the craft too.

Another end to exploit is video. I’m actually pretty flipping good at video when I eventually get onto the editing suite. I’m NOT good at thinkng about video projects because the amount of footage overwhelms me before I even open the tapes or files. I procrastinate on that. The difference now is, well I’ve got a kid and a life and an opportunity to share things with his family overseas. So video is the way to do that properly. And it’s a skill I want to teach him and I want to document our experiences that way. So I’ll be adding short videos to my monthly projects. Not enough to overwhelm. But things to get done.

Lastly in terms of planned learning, I want to get my head around the latest incarnation of Blender 3D. I haven’t worked with 3D for a while. I’ve played around a bit, but there is a lot to enjoy when you can get around the software. Since Blender changed so much I’ve avoided it to see where it finishes. But it’s pretty much where it’s going to be in terms of interface and so I need to dig in. Plus it will help me contribute to projects and solve visual problems.

Finishing projects

I’m ashamed to say it, but I’ve got a lot of half-finished projects I must address. These are videos and websites. I’ve made some promises, but kept the deadlines as soft. This has got to stop. Because if you’ve ever read anything about Getting Things Done, there’s a premise in that book that says projects that are unfinished make your brain always have to work harder because it’s always looping back to them. The more things in the done pile the better you’ll feel. I’d venture to say that unfinished projects even pulling softly at you could even affect your health.  Time to knock out those. Most if not all could be finished by March if I don’t pile anything else on them.


My son is almost one years old. My wife has spent most of the year cooped up in the house and not seeing a lot of outside. Some by choice, but I think introducing activities will help Andrew’s brain and let us enjoy our lives more. So I’ll be cooking up at first, monthly outings and then maybe increase that. Part of the things that can help a lot are family home projects that also need addressing. I’ve never been particularly good at them, but it’s not that I can’t work on them. I just too often choose not too. I have a basement to get situated, and a few wood projects and trim work. Those will be done in 2011 even if I have to enlist my dad.

Blogging in the ole notebook

A hundred thousand people will be resolving this year to write in their blog in order to make something meaninful. I’ve kept mine for years and several times made commitments to fill it up daily or weekly. BUT what I never did was create an editorial calendar to schedule blog posts. And that’s what I just did now. I used a google doc spreadsheet that lists the 52 weeks of the year. And I’ve made columns for each of those weeks to list a 1st blog topic and a 2nd blog topic. Two blog posts a week could be one post covering graphics, design or other area of my interest. Topic 2 can be related to family or photo post, or could be a contribution for my upcoming book. Filling in these areas on the editorial calendar is the important thing. I already know I can write. It’s the habit I need. I’ve already made twitter a habit by using a few tools and slightly modifying my routine. That will be helpful to lead into expanding tweets into full posts. Not only that, but I’d like to see my blog be a little more relevant and interesting to friends, family and colleagues. It’s always been challenging mixing the 2 topics, but 1 post per week of both types will let me do that. One challenge will be that I also operate 2 other blogs,, and Trying to contribute to all of those is probably too much on a weekly basis. I think that’s ok though. My editorial calendar will help me iron out how to space those as well.


Most of my issues in life are the result of a degree of discipline, focus and being energized and ready when I need to be. Sleep has always been hard for me because my cycle seems to be longer than most. Meaning I don’t get tired at 11pm, I get a second wind, that can take me to 4am without any effort. But I admire more the ability to wake up early being prepared to handle tasks. I’d like to beat a few people into work each day and even do morning exercise before breakfast, like the runs I mentioned earlier. I can do that if I make a habit of sleeping a little earlier. A fresh routine with the proper sleep-wake, wake-sleep transitions will help. This might be the hardest though. Because I tend to love the quiet of the night. But when you go to bed earlier, actually you can still get the quiet stillness of the night, just that it’s the after you’ve had full nights rest this time. I need a few tools for this one I think. On my own I’ll probably fail. If any of you have suggestions, please send them along!

So that’s a big list, but nothing too crazy, and it aligns with what I want to do just fine. I think that it will make a great year for me. Just have to read it over, stick to it.

December 31, 2010 at 8:19 am | family, inspiration, learning, publishing, writing | No comment

My New Favorite Pen: Tombow AirPress

My new favorite pen the Tombow AirPress, made in Japan. I picked it up at a bookstore for about 400 Yen ($4.00). They stole my heart by giving it the commercial industrial look, bright orange, rubberized tough design and perhaps most likeable of all, the perfect clip. I know it’s just a pen, who cares. But there is something rewarding about finding something on your own that you’ve always hoped for.  Pens are never my friends. I always break the clips, the plastic snaps from too much pressure. I can clip this Tombow pen to a hardcover book if I want to. It’s configured as a spring so it will cling to your shirt, portfolio or booklet and has a small hole if you wanted to put a lanyard around it or connect a cable to your belt.  The ink flow is also perfect. As good or better than the Fisher Space Pen. I like a fine point because I always write too small and because of that too many pens don’t work for me. They stop up, perhaps due to the way I create friction on the point. The AirPress feature of this pen, I don’t fully understand (packaging in Japanese) but my best guess is contents are under slight pressure.

A couple pics of the best pen you’ll see today. Damn good pen. A great pen worthy of a great man.

April 18, 2009 at 9:03 am | gadgets, Japan, tools, writing | 2 comments

Name Your Price – Irradiated Software Gets It.

Being a computer power user, you often have subtle needs that can improve the navigating experience. After a lot of time spent in your default environment you think, “I wish I had a utility for that limitation.” or “Why didn’t they foresee this redundant nonsense while making the operating system?” For a long time, my biggest pet peeve with Mac OS X was that you couldn’t resize the app or folder windows without being forced to grab the little bottom-right corner triangle.

For custom resizes, this became a big nuisance, as it requires precision mousing. I’d often argue with people about the inferiority there, even commenting on earlier Mac OS window shade capability. Mac users simply didn’t identify with my problem. No searches yielded any programs. Was I really mostly alone on my window management hassles? Was I just too fidgety for changing my environment? Later, likely due to the surge in Mac purchases and migrations, seemingly enough people were annoyed by this because programs emerged addressing my exact problem.

The first program I found is called Zooom. It’s a commercial utility that allows you to grab or resize a window by holding down a set of keys. Doesn’t even require touching the edges. You can even grab windows from behind others. Despite some cool features, at the time I found it too pricey after evaluating the trial version. Also it didn’t operate properly on all programs. I thought that for a small task like this, there must be a script or freebie out there. Coming from Windows and Linux, hundreds of small single-serving apps like this are free.

One day, I was searching the depths of a web forum and somebody had mentioned a free program written by one guy, called Window Dragon. This program modified your system so all sides or corners of windows and programs were draggable much like Microsoft Windows and Linux. It had some quirks and was programmed for a previous version of OS X. I was too skeptical to try it despite being free. Something in the program description didn’t sit well with me and I felt my system modification might be detrimental somehow with other programs.

Eventually on a day I was really frustrated with the problem, I went back and purchased Zooom. It had updated to a new version and I believed it would work well.  Zooom does what it advertises and some upgrades are free. Plus it can be kind of fun. But at $15.99 and the fact that it doesn’t work properly on multi-panel Adobe software (conflicting keys and jitters that I can’t really articulate verbally) I just didn’t feel my problem was fully solved. I phased it out of my workflow. Since I couldn’t depend on it for everything, I decided it almost isn’t worth initiating if I was getting mixed and unexpected results or annoyances.

A couple months ago, I found a little utility called TwoUp by a company called Irradiated Software. This program will pop your window instantly to take up the left, right, top or bottom half of your screen. No small adjustments, just quick reliable action. This is great for copying files from one folder to another, or seeing the contents of two webpages simultaneously. TwoUp is free. YES!  After they programmed it, the company got a lot of requests for certain functionality. So they created a beefier version of TwoUp with added features and called it SizeUp.  They listened to legitimate requests, kept the free version and asks that people pay for the better version. Many companies have this type of offering, but too many create the good version initially and strategically strip down the LE Lite Edition (Loser Edition). Going in that order, companies tend to take away too much and leave you feeling like, well, a loser.

What I’m very impressed with, and what prompted my comments here is the pricing strategy. I mentioned earlier that Zooom was $15.99. Not that expensive right? Obviously not since I did end up springing for it albeit reluctantly. That’s fine, but a power user often needs 4 or 8 utilities like these for easier computing. A few utilities priced at this level you are approaching the cost of the entire OS X operating system! And when you use little utilities for one thing, and not too often, the popular $19.99-29.99 pricing scheme just looks wrong. That’s why I was so pleased with Irradiated Software’s pricing of SizeUp. They use the pricing scheme called “Name Your Price.” They state that given the cost of sales / download / administration, they need to price it at minimum $1.26. You can own it for that price. They have a suggested price of $7.99 to match what they think it’s worth. And if this is the greatest sliced-bread utility you’ve ever used, you can go above that too and they will be thrilled.

I love this. Their suggested price is very reasonable. Clearly they get it. And they will sell more in volume than if it were $16 or more. Plus, it’s stupid not to buy it at $1.28 if you’ve had the trouble with windows like I have. Plus when you are in the middle of the transaction, you might begin to think, well I appreciate their efforts, so why not throw in a couple extra bucks because I want their continued progress. And certainly among good honest people, many wouldn’t feel right not paying the entire suggested price. Then of course you have the very generous folk pledging even more. There you go.

To wrap up, I don’t want to say that Zooom is bad or TwoUp/SizeUp is much better in all ways. I’m just expressing my appreciation for what I feel is clear, objective thinking and pricing. I think with the iPhone and the app store, there are a lot of people getting used to charging for, and paying for smaller yet useful utlities at lower prices. More might even buy just to try it. Just like you’d spend 75 cents on a video game just to pass the time. These are good tools and I’m glad they exist. See below for links for Mac and for a Windows alternative.

Irradiated Software, TwoUp
Irradiated Software, SizeUp
Zooom/2 by CodeRage
MaxTo for Windows (screen partitioner)

March 31, 2009 at 10:43 am | computers, tools, writing | 3 comments

Wanna feel smarter today? Sign here please.

I had to go through a new exercise that I’m not used to.  I’m working with a couple people on a website, and I needed to write contracts for everything, in order to protect and benefit everyone.   I looked at the task as a necessary evil.  It was time consuming and something that I needed to do before anyone even agrees I can get paid, so every minute working on it, is in hopes that it will result in a closed deal.  There’s no guarantee that what I write, can in effect kill the intention of the contract in the first place.  One or both interested parties could back out.  Then I’m left with an unsigned useless piece of paper.  Whew I’m tired…

Regardless, I had to do it, thinking positively about it.  Turns out something happened that I didn’t expect.  While writing a contract, you have to search for words with the right meaning, not just kind of the right meaning, you have to consider what you can and can’t agree to, and how to present it.  You also have to go back over it multiple times, removing problems with the logic.  I know no one would go for this just as an exercise by itself, but I actually doing it was quite valuable, in that after completing it, I think my brain has grown some new neurons or connections.  I actually think I got smarter writing contracts.  And that’s not to say my contracts are perfect, or bulletproof.  I’m sure they are flawed.  I was constrained by time and experience.  But I did however start to see new things, and again just logical thinking, using factually descriptive and consistent language to create these documents was even satisfying at the end.

I can  see how lawyers can get quite good at this. Much of a contract is repetitive sort of lingo.   Words used and understood inside this special  framework that, once you know, turn into words as we know them, like emotional or logical tags of sorts.  Some of it feels very foreign as if from an older different culture.  I think by thinking this way, by exposing yourself to the limits, or benefits or extensions a contract creates, you then take from that a slightly more logical brain perhaps.   You look at how to use exceptions, and what you can and can’t include according to your status and how the contract affects someone’s ownership of an actual tangible thing, or in property of an intellectual nature.

Now, based on this experience in any discussion in the future I may be more aware of the consequences of a certain type of argument and whether it was presented responsibly.

So men, let’s go out there and write some contracts!

January 17, 2008 at 7:47 pm | learning, writing | 2 comments

Try not to anger your one true fan

I sent my mom a small stack of my new business cards in the mail before heading off to Japan. I was really proud of them because Juri and I collaborated on them for a considerable amount of time. The card was also meant to be the symbol of my new business. We even made one side of the card in Japanese so we could show them off to Juri’s family and some other VIPs we are meeting with. I’ll also have to talk more about the barcode that I put on the cards at some point.

Anyway, after my mom recieved the cards, she fired up the old PC to look at my website and what I had been up to. I have always had the suspicion that everything I write makes her roll her eyes. She’s has been supportive despite the eyerolling thing. I wrote a post over a month ago about 25 things I had been thinking about. In it, I mentioned that I wanted to encourage my dad to quit smoking, but I often felt blocked by her. Seeking to deter conflict between my dad and I, she would steer me away from yelling at him about it. Isn’t that the true mother’s role in the animal kingdom? In order to continue the species, the mother must occasionally prevent the idiot son from getting eaten by his father for mouthing off about something he knows little about.

My comment that she was an apologist came from my perspective on several situations. But perspective, like perception doesn’t mean s***. Because perspective doesn’t show you that when you weren’t looking, your mom has been hounding your dad at every appropriate moment how his smoking will affect her and him in the future. Perspective won’t tell you how someone has been battling behind the scenes. Your belief in your own perspective can render you absolutely wrong. How many times do I have to learn this? If you scrubbed through my site right now, I bet you’d find tons of very uneducated comments that I would be embarrassed to recall if you reminded me of them. Even right now, I have to ask myself “Have I looked over this entry to make sure it really says what I mean? Will this entry bite me later? Will this entry hurt my number one fan when she reads it?”

If only self-editing weren’t so troublesome and time consuming. If only we could change our minds about a subject given new knowledge and have all of our old writings updated for us automatically. “Oh you see I don’t really hate people from Florida, I’ve righted all those wrongs, just check out my blog now!” We could be consistent instantly and always. Of course it wouldn’t be good for those of us who need to be truly held accountable for our actions such as presidents and dictators. But for those of us who don’t want to ruin their number one fan’s day, that ability would really help.

May 31, 2007 at 8:36 pm | family, learning, rants, writing | No comment

A little sad tonight

A book is never the labor of just one person. In my case our Adobe Creative Suite 2 book was written by several extremely talented people with a wide range of experiences. I appreciate their contributions immensely. The book officially released in September 2005. Sadly though, one of my co-authors named Carla Rose passed away in December 2005 just after being apart of the project. She was 62 and had thirty books under her belt. Her website was and her passion was photography, scrapbooks, writing and family. I am honored that such a great person would inject their energies into the project. It saddens me I didn’t know about all of this sooner than now.

May 28, 2006 at 3:20 am | books, friends, graphics, writing | No comment

Get some video tips

With all the effort put into making my friends wedding video, I thought it would be appropriate to offer some tips in case you have to do this kind of thing yourself.

Read my Video Tips article.

May 9, 2006 at 12:49 am | media, training, writing | No comment

Vocation Week

When I was younger, I remember in my Catholic elementary school, we would have special weeks with names like Vocation Week. During this particular week, there would be some soul searching for what our life calling was. Yes, you are supposed to be called by age nine. Anyway, various classwork and dicussion would be based on this theme. At the time it seemed that there was a miniaturized recruitment process going on to see who might be interested in a life of service to God.

It always put me thinking about what life as a priest would be. I remember really enjoying the thought of the quiet mysterious corridors in the seminary. On my way to retrive a book of secretive traditions, I would encounter an evil monk who had infiltrated the monastery. Of course I would have to battle the monk using my martial art that that we trained in. Fists and kicks would fly in the moonlit marble hallways. Paintings of Martin Luther or Napoleon would be knocked off the walls. Soon, due to some holy intervention, the evil monk would mistakenly throw himself off balance and tumble out of the stainglass window.

From his broken body, the evil monk’s spirit would burn through his flesh like acid and escape into darkness, only to vow vengeance for a later moment.

Turns out that a man of the cloth lives too violent a lifestyle, so I instead decided computer graphics were my calling.

April 4, 2006 at 8:40 pm | writing | No comment

Write my memoirs?

Last night, I had all these memories of when I was little, all the silly things kids go through, the friendship dramas that always seem so big when you are in the exchange, but looking back are just amusing or stupid. Anyway, I started thinking that I could write a book about me. Not that my stories are so important, but more of a way to preserve ideas and how my life crossed paths with so many important caring people.

Preserving this history may impact others, or may have a lesson to teach. Or it may serve as entertainment or a bridge to a past that vibrates through time. I’m not sure. It was just these very strong memories.

March 27, 2006 at 7:40 pm | general, writing | No comment

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