Ink & Paper

Saturday, April 09, 2005

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This is normal in Kuwait.

Saturday morning. I have begged/bribed two teachers to cover my period 2 & 3 classes, as George, who I now own my first and second born children to, has offered to take me to get the 'doggie passport' papers worked out. I teach my 1st period class and then we take off at 9 for the Ministry building, which is as ominous as it sounds. We will call this building A.

Get there about 930am. Walk in, wander around aimlessly wishing we knew how to speak/read Arabic. Talk to some guys, halting English. They say, "Go to department of Fisheries and Animal welfare, 3 km away, go left right, left, backwards, left again at this shrub, and look for a guy called Ehad. Get form"


Drive to department of fisheries and animal welfare, which is going to be known as building B. Building B is actually a complex made up of many buildings, all labeled in Arabic. It takes us 30 minutes to get there, as we got lost, surprise surprise.

Go in. Ask one lady where Ehad is. No idea. Go to opther building. Never heard of Ehad. Go to another building. Apparently we were misinformed, a trend that will prove to be a popular joke on the two Canadians. "Go to this building, down the street, can't miss it."

Missed it.

Finally found it, got some form filled out, stamped. Go back to another building, sit for a while. Finally get current form stamped again, more Arabic writing. "Go back to building A, all done here."

Back to building A. 20 minutes by car. Misinformed. "You go back to building B, Ehad, he type up form for you. Go go."

Sigh. Curse.

Back to building B, find Ehad, who was right across the F**CKING hall from where we got the first form. Ehad sits down, proceeds to type out the form. Worst typist ever. Blind sloth-bad. Mistake, mistake, backspace, spelling error, mistake, smoke break, paper jam in printer. This guys sole duty in life if to type out these forms, yet he is remarkably inept.

1 page form filled out, finally, 15 minutes later. He says we stay in building B, very sure, so we wander over to another building in the complex. "No no, you done here, go to building A now, get signature."

"You sure?"

"Yes yes, go go."

Go to building A. Vet looks at paperwork, typed sheet, for all of 2 seconds, signs and tells us to go get a 2KD stamp from a machine, down the hall, left, right, left, left, left, left, left. Down stairs, left, up stairs, "Can't miss it."

Missed it.

Ask around, blank stares. Finally find it, 20 minutes later and no more than 100 feet from vets office. Get stamp. Now we need the Directors signature. No idea who this is, where he is. Turn blindly into an office. Success!

Much examination of paperwork ensues. Jay getting nervous/psychotic. Signature, stamp, stamp, stamp. Paper goes into another room without explanation, 10 minutes later, emerges, more stamps, more signatures.


Halas, halas (Done done)


Back to school by 1155am. It has taken us 2.5 hours to get one sheet of paper typed out an stamped 4 or 5 times. This is one department, yet it is spread out over a 5km radius. We met many new friends, all of whom claim to know what was going on. All were partially correct.

So in the end, I have this Health Certificate, which according to George, the airline probably won't even look at. I now owe George, Shannon, and Richard dinner. Monday, as I was running around this morning, acquiring a good headache for myself, was probably sleeping, chasing those dreamy cats, altogether unaware that at least 5 people, if not more, have rejigged their entire schedules right around report card time, simply for her benefit.

The only saving grace for this whole day is that I am lucky enough to work with people willing to go through all of this with and for me. And I came back to school to find out that my boys basketball game, which was supposed to be tonight, has been moved to Monday, meaning that I can burn rubber outta here right after school lets out. Praise Allah.


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Thursday, April 07, 2005

From the same state that just went through the whole right-to-life, "culture of life" debacle, we get the following. Sigh.

Florida to expand law on gun use
A law letting people in Florida kill in self-defence on the street without first trying to flee an attacker has been passed by Florida politicians.

Florida law already allows people to shoot a potential attacker in their home, place of work or car.
But until now, courts insisted that anyone confronted in a public place should first try to run away.
Critics of the law say it will bring a Wild West attitude to Florida - magnet to hundreds of thousands of tourists.

One critic said all the measure would do is sell more guns and turn the state into a modern version of the OK Corral. The bill has been heavily backed by the National Rifle Association, the lobbying group which defends the rights of Americans to carry guns.

Dennis Baxley, the Republican sponsor of the Stand Your Ground bill said it was about meeting force with force.

"If I'm attacked, I should not have to retreat," he said.

The bill has already passed the Florida Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush, the president's brother.

Opponents said the move gave gun owners a license to kill. "For a House that talks about the culture of life it's ironic that we would be devaluing life in this bill," said Democratic state Rep Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.

"That's exactly what we're doing."

Opponents of gun control have celebrated recent victories: Congress let the ban on assault weapons expire last autumn, and since 2003, five states have approved laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons.
Thirty-five states now require the authorities to issue permits for concealed handguns to most applicants as long as they do not have criminal records, and two, Alaska and Vermont, allow concealed weapons without a permit.

Does anyone remember South Park? Remember that episode when the kids were out hunting with some adult and the adult would always yell "It's coming right at me!" before blowing away some inert deer or moose with a super-high powered gun? That is what I am thinking of after having read this article.

Floridan NRA member: "Well you see your Honor, my ex-wife, who left me and took the kids after I beat her for ten years, well, she was walking towards me. Sure I was hiding in the shrubs by her front door of her new house, which I am supposed to stay away from, what with that restraining order and all. But she was walking right towards me and I couldn't be 100% sure that those grocery bags in her arms didn't contain an Ak-47 or a terrorist. So I dove out of the shrubs. She screamed, it sounded like a battle cry, but I can't be sure. I just happened to have my new Smith & Wesson with me. I am obviously too out of shape to flee this homicidal ex of mine, so I reluctantly shot her. 27 times. It was totally in self defense."

New Judge, having replaced old judge, who was deemed a communist left wing democrat by Jeb Bush: "Absolutely within the confines of this nifty new law that was just passed. You're free to go and here is the custody of your two kids."

On down the road we go....

A week from this moment I will be in Frankfurt. Drinking at the airport bar and being amazed that men and women are walking together, holding hands. Cause thats illegal here you know....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:32 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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"The only thing we've gotten is small packets of food and supplies. Where the money is, we don't know. It's just meetings, meetings,meetings."
SAMSUR BAHRI, a shopkeeper, on tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia.

Ah, the modern world, where bureaucracy and quick promises join forces to deny those that truly need the help. We continue to pat ourselves on the back when what we really need is a kick in the ass.

The NY Times was all about providing my blog with news today. They actually emailed me and said: "Jay, our readers are so dedicated to your blog, we would appreciate a plug." This is totally true.

Anyway, onwards to the news....

NY Times I

The streets around St. Peter's Basilica swelled Wednesday with an estimated one million pilgrims, nearly double the barely manageable number of the day before. The surge was so great that late on Wednesday night Italian officials closed down the line to view the body of Pope John Paul II.

Vatican officials said in this city of three million, one million people had seen the pope's body since it went on public display on Monday. Viewing is to end Thursday evening, and safety officials, concerned with the size of the crowd and recognizing the wait to see the body would exceed 24 hours, sent warnings on the radio and through text messages to cellphones advising people to stay away. Eventually they decided to close the line to newcomers.

A couple of things about the developing situation in Rome. Firstly, I have read, and it is becoming obvious that Rome was unprepared for the crush of humanity that was to come with the passing of the Pope. I'm sure there is a quote out there saying something to the effect of: "We just never expected this kind of turnout. We just weren't prepared."

Not to be overly sarcastic, but the death of the Pope didn't exactly surprise anyone. I mean, he was dying, rather publicly, for a long time. You would think that someone in Rome or the Vatican would have drawn up some plans for a massive influx of people. Estimates of the numbers, something, anything to prepare for what is happening right now.

Secondly, and I'm not sure this is being overly cynical, but I think if they have a million people waiting in a line that has been closed off, that trouble is only a few misunderstandings away. I'm not going to go so far as to predict a riot, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens. Which would be more than a little anti-Pope-ish, don't ya think?

NY Times II-- Excerpts below

Before, Republicans just scared other people. Now, they're starting to scare themselves.

When Dick Cheney tells you you've gone too far, you know you're way over the edge.

But there's some skittishness in the party leadership about the Passion of the Tom, the fiery battle of the born-again Texan to show that he's being persecuted on ethics by a vast left-wing conspiracy. Some Republicans are wondering whether they need to pull a Trent Lott on Tom DeLay before he turns into Newt Gingrich, who led his party to the promised land but then had to be discarded when he became the petulant "definer" and "arouser" of civilization.

On Tuesday, Bill Frist joined Mr. Cheney in rejecting Mr. DeLay's call to punish and possibly impeach judges - who are already an endangered species these days, with so much violence leveled against them. "I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today," Dr. Frist said. "I respect that."

Of course, Dr. Frist and the White House still want to pack the federal courts with right-wing judges, but they don't want it to look as if they're doing it because Tom DeLay told them to or because of unhappiness at the Schiavo case.

All the divisions that President Bush was able to bridge in 2004 are now bursting forth as different wings of his party joust. John Danforth, the former Republican senator and U.N. ambassador,
wrote an Op-Ed piece in The Times last week saying that, on issues from stem cell research to Terri Schiavo, his party "has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement."

I'm hoping this is a castle built on sand and that we see DeLay tossed out. I can resign myself to the fact that, behind-the-scenes, Republicans are trying mightily to stack the judicial deck in their favour. I can handle that, as that is what I expect lifelong politicians to do. But when they come out so publicly for a judicial overthrow, well, that is more than a little disconcerting.

Look, if you come home and your house has been robbed, it is a tough thing. You feel like crap. But how would you feel if the robber called you a month or so ahead of time and said "Yeah, the second you leave your house (and you will eventually have to leave for something), I'm going to be busting in and that Chia-pet of yours, well, kiss it goodbye." That is the vibe I'm getting from DeLay.

NY Times III- Excerpts below

It was appalling when the House majority leader threatened political retribution against judges who did not toe his extremist political line. But when a second important Republican stands up and excuses murderous violence against judges as an understandable reaction to their decisions, then it is time to get really scared.

It happened on Monday, in a moment that was horrifying even by the rock-bottom standards of the campaign that Republican zealots are conducting against the nation's judiciary. Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, rose in the chamber and dared to argue that recent courthouse violence might be explained by distress about judges who "are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public." The frustration "builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in" violence, said Mr. Cornyn, a former member of the Texas Supreme Court who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which supposedly protects the Constitution and its guarantee of an independent judiciary.

Listeners could only cringe at the events behind Mr. Cornyn's fulminating: an Atlanta judge was murdered in his courtroom by a career criminal who wanted only to shoot his way out of a trial, and a Chicago judge's mother and husband were executed by a deranged man who was furious that she had dismissed a wild lawsuit. It was sickening that an elected official would publicly offer these sociopaths as examples of any democratic value, let alone as holders of legitimate concerns about the judiciary.

Thanks to the future mother in law for emailing me this article

I don't even know where to start on this. It's like DeLay had himself cloned, except that the clone was even more evil, more dedicated to a police-state, where the whims of the ideological few run amok and unchecked. Are we really living in a world where a representative of the most powerful nation on earth is willing to nearly, if not totally, excuse the actions against judges?

Look, I hate Judge Judy as much as anyone, she truly is a bitch who wishes she was born a man, but that doesn't mean that all judges are out to inflame public sentiment. The majority of the public (the real public, not the political definition of the public) doesn't have a clue what is happening in their court system. I don't know what cases are in front of the Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton, nor did I know when I was living just across the river. Unless it makes the papers, most people, the public, don't know about it.

Do you think that very many people even had an inkling of what the Atlanta case was about, or if it even existed, before the guy shot up the place and caused a massive manhunt? No, the public was probably more concerned with the effects of the Congressional hearings on steriod use in baseball, and how that would affect the Braves chances this season, than what was going on in their local court cases.

But of course, I am being rational and logical, and I am not trying to further appease the far-right extremists that want all legal decisions held in the palms of the few duly elected. I am glad that the Times called DeLay and Cornyn on their comments, but I worry this won't be enough, as the media never seems to get after anything that goes on behind closed doors, where all the real decisions are made.

Enough about that. A good article about the feasibility of the weaponization of space, which is something most of us will see in our lifetimes. And finally, all I can say about this article is that I wished it was a real bomb, not a fake one.

Oh, and check out Ciavarro, a blog that I read often. He's good. Zoom, I am gone.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Saul Bellow, 1915-2005

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A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:26 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Ah, the end of another week in the chaos bin that is our school. More stories, I have more stories.....

This is not an April Fools. I was laying in bed last night, reading and getting ready for the snooze, when I hear the sound of brakes locking up. For a good two seconds at least. Then a bang, followed by glass tinkling. Accident, just outside my window at the rather busy intersection.

Me and Monday go to the window to investigate. Car #1 is first in line and has not been hit. Cars #2 and #3 are behind Car #1 and are "in unison, together." Buddy in Car #2 gets out, walks back to examine his rear bumper, as Car #3 driver gets out. Arm waving ensues.

Then Car #2 driver walks up to Car #1 and pounds on the window. Car #1 driver gets out and is yelled at by Car #2 driver, who by the way is wearing the dishdasha, which is the traditional Kuwaiti robes, leading me to assume Car #2 driver is a Kuwaiti. Assumption is confirmed when driver of Car #2 haymakers driver of Car #1, who staggers back into his car and takes off through the red light. Car #2 and #3 talk some more, wave arms some more, and then both drive away. This whole thing took maybe 2-3 minutes.

I couldn't tell where Driver #1 and #3 were from, but I am assuming that Driver #1 was non-Kuwaiti, just based on how quick Driver #2 was to start throwing punches. Keep in mind that Car #1 was untouched. I think that Car #1 stopped quickly at the red light, leading Car #2 to nearly hit him. Car #3 obviously didn't hit the brakes soon enough, or wasn't paying attention, or both, leading to him to hit Car #2. All in all, an eventful and entertaining couple of minutes.

And for those of you who have ever questioned my manliness, I have a story that will shut your face holes for a while at least. Not to be chauvanistic, but this is why being a guy rules. A week or so ago, one of my old fillings in one of my teeth started bothering me. It was one of those metallic ones from the 80s and it had shifted somehow and was now managing to stab me in the toungue. Not a lot of fun; in fact it cut my toungue all to hell.

Now I hate going to the dentist when I am in Canada. Kuwait just ups the ante a little too high for me to seriously consider it an option. I asked Meg about it, wondering when we can cash in her new job benefits and I can go to the dentist. April break? Or June, when I come home? I am not covered under Alberta Health right now, for tax reasons, and my extra insurance that I bought only covers me in emergencies. Meg says probably not until June, so I asked her to call a dentist to price it out.

Meanwhile, while this filling isn't killing me, it is a pain to deal with. I have weak teeth to begin with, a nice little genetic hand me down from my dad, to go with the crossed eyes. Yea, I was an ugly kid. Freak show ugly.

Anyway, I am spending a small fortune on gum. This is stupid and I'm not going to the local dentist, who I am covered under via the school. Let's just say that the school's coverage is the lowest, which led me to buy extra in the first place. And what coverage I do qualify through the school only allows me to go to the "public" (read: filthy, unclean, lowly educated) dentist. And because I am not in the mood to contract some disease via a dirty dentist drill, I firmly rule this out.

My filling needs to be, well, if not fixed, re-adjusted. Hmmmm. What does stubborn Jay do?

Jay chews on a spoon handle for about 20 minutes. Problem solved, some bleeding, but overall, it is back to normal. Running my toungue over it right now. No pain, better than before. Thus I am a man. And a man of action too, which is even better.

So Meg, don't bother calling the dentist. I am seriously considering going into business as a back alley dentist. I would have an arrangement of utensils, some hard liquor, lots of gauze, and a sweat-stained wife-beater undershirt. There has to be a market for this.

And before you hurriedly stab at the comment button MOTHER, relax, my teeth are still straight and fine, all that $$$ for braces wasn't undone by a rogue spoon handle. So back off, it's cool, I got it under control.

Anyway, life is looking good. This weekend has started, the last one before the break. Tomorrow is Neil's birthday, so we are all going out for dinner. Oh, another story.

Neil and Lori are engaged. Awww. Whatever. Anyway, Neil is kinda like a young Bill Whalley, rather unconcerned with his appearance, which is why Lori is a good thing for him. Not that he is a slob, he just doesn't really care what his clothes look like.

So Neil has a pair of brown Doc Marten shoes that he has had since "at least grade 10", which was 12-14 years ago by my count. These shoes are beat to hell, one side is split wide open, the laces don't match, and they are more scuff than polish.

Lori tells him to go buy some new shoes, so off Neil goes last night to the mall. Success! He buys some kick ass running shoes that I have dubbed "The Assassins" after the Simpsons episode. He comes wandering out to the car this morning and I compliment him on the new kicks. He smiles at me, says thanks, and then tells me that Lori is cheezed at him.

Turns out that she wanted him to buy some new dress shoes, as he already has a relatively new pair of running shoes. She didn't make this explicitly clear though. "The first thing I did after leaving the mall was toss my Docs in the garbage. I get home and she asks me what kind of shoes I am going to wear with dress pants or khakis. I say, 'Hum, I never thought about that.' Oops." He is wearing his new runners with khakis, which I say looks great.

He suggested that he could just wear the running shoes, which he said she didn't approve of. He had this kinda bewildered look about the whole episode on his face. So did I offer advice, console him? No.

I made it worse, intentionally. I was sitting in the staff room when Lori came in for lunch. Said hello, then leaned over to George and said just loud enough for Lori to hear: "Hey George, did you see Neil's new shoes? They're pretty sweet, says he got 'em for a good deal too."

George has no idea what the hell I am talking about, but I wink at him as I am saying it and he plays along. "Oh yeah. Nice shoes. Kinda shoes that are comfortable no matter where you are." George rules.

Lori, by now, is rolling her eyes at us. "I know what you two are up to and I'm not pleased." She's half laughing though.

"Yeah, Neil said to me: You know Jay, these are the only shoes I am ever gonna wear, they are perfect for damn near anything, they look great, and they are so comfy." Lori's eyes are rolling so bad I think that she may be having a seizure.

I'm such a shit disturber. I told Neil about it later and he was laughing his ass off, promising to not give it a rest about how awesome his new shoes are whenever Lori is around.

So by the end of the day, Lori was hearing how awesome Neil's shoes were from damn near anyone on staff, as Neil, George, and I made it our mission to spread the word. I even got two of my students to go up to her and talk about it. I'm pretty sure she is out to get me, but that is ok, I deserve it. She knows what to expect from me, as I have already suggested to Neil that they walk down the aisle together to the sounds of the original Mario Brothers theme song. I also told him it would be cool if he shaved his curly mop hairdo into a mullet, complete with shaved in the sides lightening bolts, right before the wedding. Since Neil has never been to a wedding, he is a little naive about it all, and Lori thinks that he takes my suggestions a little more seriously than most people would. Oh well.

So anyway, dinner tomorrow night, maybe the Hilton sometime, maybe coffee on Friday morning. Reading and blogging too. So all in all, I had a good end to my week, entertaining at least. Hope the week is treating ya well. Outta here for now.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A good thinkpiece from the NY Times.

An Academic Question

It's a fact, documented by two recent studies, that registered Republicans and self-proclaimed conservatives make up only a small minority of professors at elite universities. But what should we conclude from that?

Conservatives see it as compelling evidence of liberal bias in university hiring and promotion. And they say that new "academic freedom" laws will simply mitigate the effects of that bias, promoting a diversity of views. But a closer look both at the universities and at the motives of those who would police them suggests a quite different story.

Claims that liberal bias keeps conservatives off college faculties almost always focus on the humanities and social sciences, where judgments about what constitutes good scholarship can seem subjective to an outsider. But studies that find registered Republicans in the minority at elite universities show that Republicans are almost as rare in hard sciences like physics and in engineering departments as in softer fields. Why?

One answer is self-selection - the same sort of self-selection that leads Republicans to outnumber Democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.

But there's also, crucially, a values issue. In the 1970's, even Democrats like Daniel Patrick Moynihan conceded that the Republican Party was the "party of ideas." Today, even Republicans like Representative Chris Shays concede that it has become the "party of theocracy."

Consider the statements of Dennis Baxley, a Florida legislator who has sponsored a bill that - like similar bills introduced in almost a dozen states - would give students who think that their conservative views aren't respected the right to sue their professors. Mr. Baxley says that he is taking on "leftists" struggling against "mainstream society," professors who act as "dictators" and turn the classroom into a "totalitarian niche." His prime example of academic totalitarianism? When professors say that evolution is a fact.

In its April Fools' Day issue, Scientific American published a spoof editorial in which it apologized for endorsing the theory of evolution just because it's "the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time," saying that "as editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence." And it conceded that it had succumbed "to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do."

The editorial was titled "O.K., We Give Up." But it could just as well have been called "Why So Few Scientists Are Republicans These Days." Thirty years ago, attacks on science came mostly from the left; these days, they come overwhelmingly from the right, and have the backing of leading Republicans.

Scientific American may think that evolution is supported by mountains of evidence, but President Bush declares that "the jury is still out." Senator James Inhofe dismisses the vast body of research supporting the scientific consensus on climate change as a "gigantic hoax." And conservative pundits like George Will write approvingly about Michael Crichton's anti-environmentalist fantasies.

Think of the message this sends: today's Republican Party - increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research - doesn't respect science, or scholarship in general. It shouldn't be surprising that scholars have returned the favor by losing respect for the Republican Party.
Conservatives should be worried by the alienation of the universities; they should at least wonder if some of the fault lies not in the professors, but in themselves. Instead, they're seeking a Lysenkoist solution that would have politics determine courses' content.

And it wouldn't just be a matter of demanding that historians play down the role of slavery in early America, or that economists give the macroeconomic theories of Friedrich Hayek as much respect as those of John Maynard Keynes. Soon, biology professors who don't give creationism equal time with evolution and geology professors who dismiss the view that the Earth is only 6,000 years old might face lawsuits.
If it got that far, universities would probably find ways to cope - by, say, requiring that all entering students sign waivers. But political pressure will nonetheless have a chilling effect on scholarship. And that, of course, is its purpose.

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Kind of a human rights watch "roundup" of a blog today.

Vice President Cheney says he opposes revenge against judges for their refusal to prolong the life of the late Terri Schiavo, although he did not criticize House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for declaring that they will "answer for their behavior."

Cheney was asked about the issue on Friday by the editorial board of the New York Post. He said twice that he had not seen DeLay's remarks, but the vice president said he would "have problems" with the idea of retribution against the courts. "I don't think that's appropriate," he said. "I may disagree with decisions made by judges in any one particular case. But I don't think there would be much support for the proposition that because a judge hands down a decision we don't like, that somehow we ought to go out -- there's a reason why judges get lifetime appointments." Washington Post

Cheney is evil, I think we can all agree on that. But at least the polls showing massive public disapproval at government involvement in the Schiavo affair have had some effect, apparently. This doesn't mean of course that those 'left wing extremist' judges are off the hook, instead it means that they will be dealt with in a quieter, less public way. Tom DeLay, on the other hand, is apparently unrepentant, going almost so far as to outright threaten the judges.

But soon, especially since the death of the pope, this Schaivo story will fade into the background, as the media sharks leap towards another story, knashing their teeth. Just like they left that carcass of the native shooting story. Remember that one? I thought not.

Also along the human rights angle, I found this article today, the numbers somewhat shocking.

China accounted for the majority of executions reported worldwide last year, but the true frequency of the death penalty is impossible to count because many death sentences are carried out secretly, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

During 2004, more than 3,797 people were executed in 25 countries, including at least 3,400 in China, the rights group said. More than 7,000 people were sentenced to death in 64 countries, it said.

Humanity continues to be one of the few species on the planet that engages in acts of killing against itself. And I suspect that we are the only species that has institutionalized procedures dedicated to the killing of fellow species members. The only people that should die for their crimes are people like this. That is one of my few right-wing leanings, the death penalty for child molesters. I offer no apology.

This story broke a few days ago here in the Middle East, excerpts below....

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Nur Miyati lies on a Saudi hospital bed, her hands bandaged, her toes black from gangrene and her body still marked with bruises.

Whispering hoarsely, the 22-year-old Indonesian housemaid tells of the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of her employer, who beat her when she asked for her salary and locked her up when he left the house.

She became so ill that when he finally brought her to a Riyadh hospital -- nurses say he warned her to say she hurt herself falling over -- doctors feared they might have to amputate part of her foot.

"Assault. Gangrene both hands and legs," says a medical report hanging above her bed. Another lists bruising around Miyati's eyes, lips, shoulders, ears and the sole of one foot.

The frail woman from Sumbawa Island in central Indonesia had worked for eighteen months in Riyadh for a monthly salary of 600 riyals ($160) -- money she never received.

"The first time she asked for her salary, that's when it started," said Mohamad Sugiarto, labor attache at the Indonesian embassy in Riyadh. "It wasn't only the man, the wife beat her too."

She developed gangrene in her hands and feet, perhaps from infected cuts or bruises, a nurse said. When the gangrene began to smell unpleasant, the family made her sleep in a bathroom outside the main house, he said. For a month, they locked her up whenever they went out.

Sugiarto said 4,582 Indonesians complained of mistreatment by their employers in Saudi Arabia last year. Nearly a quarter said they had not been paid. Another 800 complained of "torture or maltreatment" and 400 said they were sexually harassed.

Those numbers reflected less than 1 percent of the 600,000 Indonesians, most of them housemaids, working in Saudi Arabia. All but a tiny fraction of the cases were "resolved" by the embassy, working with Saudi officials, he said.

Sugiarto said his country imposed a one-month moratorium in March on sending workers to Saudi Arabia and four other Arab countries -- Kuwait, Jordan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates -- while it improved ways of keeping track and protecting Indonesians in those countries.

I hope this disgusts you. It is a glimpse, a sliver of light shone into the dark corners of the 'maid business' that flourishes in the richer Middle Eastern countries. I cannot go more than a few weeks without coming across some story in the local papers telling me about how a maid committed suicide by leaping out a window, or a story of how a maid has been charged with murdering their employers.

It is ongoing, unresolved, and swept under the rug. Far more goes on than is ever reported and this mentality of a 'disposable human' is remarkly accepted here. I would not hold out much hope for any massive change, as these slaves, for that is what they are, are poorly paid, very restricted in their movement, foreigners in a biased and racist society, and usually poorly educated. The chances of a court case being lauched is remote, the idea of a court victory laughable.

One of the fellow teachers put it well, as we had been discussing this story. He stated that the ideals of rich middle eastern countries/people can best be summed up as such: "They have first world money but third world consciousness." Indeed, as I have found this culture of the maid, the servant, to perhaps be the most difficult aspect of life to observe and adjust to, aside from the inhumane treatment of animals. Live and learn. But some don't live and most won't learn. And the cycle continues.

I'm going to read, tomorrow is Wednesday. And I'm not from Sri Lanka or Pakistan, so that means that I get the weekend off. We have a long ways to go.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:58 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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For those of you who thought and hoped that Cadrin was in prison after being caught engaged in 'lewd conduct' with a kangaroo, I am sorry to say that he is still free. Probably on bail, but free nonetheless.

Hey Jay,

Yeah I know it seems as if I've dropped off the face of the Earth, but well I haven't really felt anything too interesting has been happening in my life. So if you like I'll give you a little run down of some of my more recent events, which is a good excuse rather than fighting any further with this stupid assignment (due Thursday and I'm so f**ked).

The month of March was relatively quiet, school was just getting into the swing of things, and I usually spent one day of each weekend exploring something new. First off it was down to Surfers Paradise to finally play in the ocean and check out the local wildlife (wink wink, I'm talking about the femanita's). Nice place, loaded with resorts, it's really a big vacation point, equivalent to going to Miami from Canada. The following weekend was a little more edcuational with a tour of the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Another nice place, got to see loads of lazy koalas and feed some kangaroos. It's really more of a place for families with young children.

Two weeks ago Sunday it was off to Noosa up along what is called the Sunshine coast. This was a poorly planned trip between me and my friend because it occured to us while we were already on the train that Noosa was 130km away from Brisbane and it was already 12:30pm. This was a bad day, by the time we got into Noose it was 3:30pm and we had a little over 2 hours to do a little hike and have a quick swim before catching the last bus out of town. We caught the right bus but got off at the wrong train station and missed the last train back to Brisbane.

After seeking assistance from the local watering hole bartender, we attempted hitch hiking to the next town where the train was running later, but with no luck. Walking to the next town was also briefly considered until the highway ran out of street lights and I didn't want to become roadkill.

By this point we missed all trains for the night and decided to call a cab that could take us to the next town and we'd catch the 4:00am train the next morning. Which is exactly what happened. After making it to the next station we found a couple comfortable (haha) benches and went to sleep. The night was a little chilled and at one point a security guard woke us up, but all in all it almost seemed like a typical Cadrin moment.

This past week was Easter break, so on my week off I decided to take a trip some place cooler, New Zealand. I arranged for a flight into Christchurch, with a return departure out of Wellington. Firstly I must say I really enjoyed New Zealand, the best way I could describe it, it's like smashing British Columbia together with England.

I arrived into Christchurch shortly after midnight and found a sweet car rental deal. Picking up my car I took off for the city and to find someplace to sleep. Just my luck another Sunday night, no backpackers where open or even available. Being ol'cheapo me I decided to spend the night in the car. I found a quite neighbourhood street and parked for the night, only to wake up early freezing my ass off.

That next day was really nice, I headed further south into the mountains. Ultimately ended up driving 1100km in less than 48 hours, just relaxing and enjoying the sights. After dropping off the car I took the ferry across to Wellington where it rained all day. The sea's were rough that morn, 10metre swells if they were a foot, and a grey sky with the likes of a ghostly fog. Once sorted I checked out a few of the local museums and planned for my train ride north to the Tongariro National park. I especially wanted to go to the park because it hosted three semi-active volcano's and a world class day hiking trail. Truly one of the best walks I've ever done was through those mountains. Then that was it back to Wellington and back to Brisbane. So that's my recent life in a nut shell. Ok well before I have to double check anymore of my shitty writing I'll end it here.

I like how he says that he hasn't emailed because he feels that there is not a lot going on in his life. He then goes on to tell me how he is feeding local wildlife, scoping girlies, sleeping on train station benches, getting harassed by security guards, and eventually driving all over New Zealand, exploring active volcanoes.


I also liked the comment about the sea having 10 metre swells "if they were a foot." I dunno, just made me smile.

Anyway, he's alive and kicking. I suppose thats a good thing, as I picked him to die in the third month in the second running of the "Cadrin Death Pool", which is a little friendly betting among friends whenever he goes off to the southern hemisphere. With friends like us, I know I know....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:05 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Oh this just pisses me off to no end.

Jackson makes call to fans' party

Michael Jackson has made a personal phone call to hundreds of fans who threw a party to show their support during his child abuse trial. Mr Jackson told the fans by speakerphone: "We will be victorious."...He apologised for not being able to attend Sunday's event at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria but said he had "the most wonderful fans in the world"....On Monday, Mr Jackson's trial is set to hear from witnesses about past abuse claims. He denies all the charges....The party was attended by about 400 people, according to the BBC's Peter Bowes.....Guests included Michael Jackson impersonators, singers and fans who have remained outside the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, since the trial began.

When Mr Jackson came on the loudspeaker with his publicist Raymone Bain, his first words were "I love you", which was greeted by screams and cheers....."You understand I can't be there today," he said. "I wish I could... I know you've travelled from around the world and I'm glad you came."...He added: "I'm looking forward to being with you very soon. Keep on dancing. I love you all very much."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the absurdity of holding a party in honor of someone who is accused of molesting a teenaged cancer patient. It's all somehow beyond surreal, as if I have slipped into an alternate universe where popularity, even dwindling popularity, allows for a celebration amid abhorrent allegations.

Michael, you do not have the 'most wonderful fans in the world.' You have a collection of people who have quit their jobs to stand on a street waving flags and banners. You have people that are so weak and so inept that your life, as messed up as it is, has become a beacon for them. You do not have fans, you have fanatics. This is not normal and only continues to add to the bizarre journey that your life has become.

As for the impersonators, they are on a level removed from even the most fanatic of the fans. Everyone likes a good Elvis impersonator. For about 5 minutes. Then it starts to get a little creepy. And Elvis didn't 'interfere' with prepubescent children. So what level of creepiness does that attach to your impersonators? It is almost off the scale.

No matter what roads life may take me down, I will never be so enthralled with another human being that I will scream and cheer when they speak to me, or in my general direction. To the fans: Despite what Jacko said, he is not going to show up at any future parties. Don't lie to yourself more so than you are already doing so.

And here comes the rant....

This is the ugly side of an overly materialistic society. This society has so much to offer from a consumerism sense, but it is lacking something undefined, something solid. In a society where people can live with remarkable ease, can buy almost anything under the sun, there is something missing. It is as if this society forces people to look outside themselves for inner peace, as if peace is something that can be picked up along with your milk and eggs.

You cannot buy what you are missing, you cannot fill whatever gap is in your life with money or fame or power. Whatever makes us whole, for those few people that ever get to that point, has yet to be marketed to us. There are fillers of course, from the pop music to the Hollywood movies to the latest sports competition. But these pass, and in their wake people catch glimpses of their neglected inner self. And it scares them. It scares them to think that what their life has become is nothing more than a collection of consumer forces. They are empty, and no matter how much 'society' they ingest, there remains a leak in their boat. We are a binge and purge society.

We all are a victim of this society to one extent or another. To deny me and to disagree with me is what I expect. Most of us are never so far gone as to move to LA to wave banners at has-been celebrities. But we are all weakened somewhat by the society that we live in and loathe to acknowledge it.

I am the first to admit it, I desire a new vehicle when I return. I want to be able to dress well, to perhaps afford a vacation to Mexico someday. I am a consumer, a target market for a thousand and one companies. And I fall into this trap, as we all do to varying degrees. But I am trying, every day that I see a new product, to remind myself that no matter how cool the new gadget is, no matter how cool the celebrity of the month is, they will not be there for me when I am 80 and looking back on a life lived. They or it will not make me truly happy, truly fulfilled.

In that quiet morning, when my withered, wrinkled old face stares back at me from a mirror, it will matter only that I was, or tried to be, true to myself. If I was honest with my shortcomings, my failures, and worked to become better, to understand more of who I am. In the end that is what I want out of my life, to look back at it with honest eyes.

This has been preachy, I know, I know. This is my way, this overly self-critical assessment that I do on a regular basis, of ensuring that I am listening and learning from my experiences, right or regretted, instead of pretending that what is created in a Hollywood factory has anything to do with how I live my life. And I am not so vain as to assume that to a causual person that may stumble across these words, this would all appear remarkably hollow, or remarkably high-handed. That is fine. I do not write these words to change their life. I have no right to attempt to do that. I only write so that I can reflect and learn about all the odd little things that make me tick.

And back to work we all go....

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The next pope faces challenges so urgent that many church leaders and analysts worry that even a pope with the charisma and capacity of John Paul II will have to resort to a strategy of triage.

The rich nations pose one set of concerns: the Roman Catholic Church is withering in Europe, the continent that once supplied it with priests, cathedrals and intellect, while in the United States, the church is self-consciously struggling to make its message relevant in a materialistic society where even religion is market driven.

The poorer countries pose a different set of concerns: in Latin America, home to 4 of every 10 Catholics in the world, priests say they cannot compete effectively with the exuberant, proliferating evangelical and Pentecostal churches. In Africa and Asia, growing Catholic populations often live uneasily among Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.

The Roman Catholic Church is, more than ever, a global institution with global problems. With more than one billion members, amounting to half the world's Christians and 17 percent of the world's population, it is the largest and wealthiest religious or charitable institution on the planet.

NY Times

It will indeed be interesting to watch the selection process, as secretive as it is. Apparently the manouvering within the church to position oneself as a contender is subtle yet vicious, as one can imagine when the leadership of 1/6 of the world's population is at stake.

Continuing coverage of the Canadian seal hunt, as reported on the BBC website is still getting play on the major news centres all over the western world and continuing to influence foreigner's views and opinions of Canada. The BBC is probably the foremost international news source and this story has been moving around it's front pages since the hunt began.

At Saturday's non-televised gala, Toronto-based rapper k-os won best video for his song B-Boy Stance and on Sunday, won best rap recording for his album Joyful Rebellion and single of the year for the catchy chart-topper Crabbuckit. CBC

Although the Junos always end up looking like a second or third rate Grammys, and contribute to the overall homogenization of music, I was pleased to see that k-os and Sarah Harmer won, as they manage to be successful without selling out to the lowest common denominator. I am quite fond of k-os (thanks bro) and hope that he can continue to make music successfully without experiencing the anti backlash that we Canadians seem to dish out to our homegrown talent. Speaking of talent, Billy Talent did well too, although it remains to be seen if we will know their name after their second or third album.

Bill Kristol, right winger nutjob, got it good the other day when he was pied by a college student. Among others, Kristol is a member of the Project for the New American Century, which among other things, advocates an ongoing US presence in the middle east, the use of military means, and the projection of American values all over the world. Scary stuff, especially when you see how many of the participants are close and snuggly with bush jr. Makes me happy that the little college student managed to at least get on base for Team Goodguy, or the rest of Humanity.

And lastly, I am happy to see that the little green numbers on the left of this page have tripped over into the single digit category for days. This dog of mine is proving to be more costly than I imagined. I have to go get her a health certificate ($120) this weekend for the airline, then on Saturday I have to go get some other piece of paperwork, ($40) a doggie passport of sorts, for her to leave Kuwait. So that means that I have to buy Shannon, Marc, George (especially George) and Jan dinner ($$$???) sometime next week to thank them for covering my classes, driving me around, etc etc as I deal with this dopey pooch. But it is still the right thing to do.

Megan's first words to Jay as he gets back to Canada: It is SO good to see you, how was your flight?

Jay: Here is YOUR goddam dog.

Of course, this would be factually incorrect, as it is and has been my dog. But after all this running around, dealing with the ultimate bureaucracy, this dog now belongs to Megan, at least until June 17.

Hey cool, CKUA just started spinning k-os.


A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 4:14 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Right now, as this hazy humid evening draws to a close, I am simply feeling totally overwhelmed by it all. My dog is sleeping at my feet, snoring and chasing dreamy cats, merely content with life in all its aspects.

I am listening to radio from half a planet away, wishing I was having a pint with my brother, fearing that this year away will be all for naught. I'm so tired of worrying about money, time, and what people think of me. Even this blog frustrates me, as I chase the newspapers, wanting to avoid ignorance while trying not to let the cesspool of human stories get me down, as if I could construct an objective wall.

My diet has gone to hell, and I'm starting to feel it. My back aches a lot more and I think I have added a few wrinkles to my furrowed brow in these last lost months. I feel old, but it seems too soon somehow. Just feeling blue, and even though the green numbers are counting down, they seem to never go fast enough. Faster, do more, be better.

There was two kids fighting in the hall today. I broke the fight up and dragged them down to the principal's office. I expected that after being caught in mid-haymaker, they would be sent home for the rest of the day, maybe suspended. I saw them at lunch. They were sitting and eating, looking relaxed. I asked. "Just a lecture." I walked away, my head softly swinging from side to side.

I don't want sympathy, the day I get it I will stop writing. I'm just quietly venting in a despondent way, wondering about the grand scheme of it all. The traffic light outside my apartment just changed, red to green. It took a split-second of delay for the chorus of horns to echo throughout the night. No patience, no patience, everyone gotta get going, get going, don't you dare slow down and rest even for a second, there is a line up behind you and they'll remind you good and proper. I am in need of a vacation, I know, don't tell me.

I remember walking in Ireland, my backpack light, and the feel of cobblestones, old cobblestones underfoot. I wondered to myself how many pairs of feet had trod along this street in the past centuries. Then I wondered if I needed to buy some new shoes. I walked into a bunch of athletic shops, window shopping and calculating the exchange rate. I didn't buy any new shoes and I felt the ancient stones as I moved about, solo among the crowds of people smoking on their lunch hours. And this was a good decision.

Do you know that I am always on time for everything? I'm never late. I'm so dependable. Ahh, that sounds too cryptic to keep but too layered to toss away, to DELETE.

Why don't other people I know have blogs? I'd like to read someone else's angles, views, opinions. I don't want competition, I shun that now, but just someone else with a take on the story of the day.

This one, this post, is all over the place, leading you to wonder how I am doing. I know, but relax, I'm ok, I'm always ok. I'm just feeling rambly. There is a small lie tucked into everything I write, don't believe it all.

Remember how I said I wanted to be more eclectic? Can one truly 'decide' to become eclectic, or will I merely end up spending too much money on some avant-garde pair of running shoes from a back-alley store on Whyte Avenue? I think its one of those things that one is either born with or fakes, hidden behind a bad haircut and obscure literature.

It is past my bedtime now, meaning that I will be tired tomorrow and will probably drink too much instant coffee. I miss good coffee and cold winds. It is starting to get hotter here now, and the dusty hot wind blew the discarded plastic bags and empty chip bags around my neighbourhood this afternoon. Then I went to the Hilton and after passing through the security, past the soldier sitting on the Humvee with the machine gun on the roof, everything was lush, clean and smelling ok. And I could almost fool myself into believing that this was normal.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 11:35 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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It was nondescript. Just an airport bar. In the middle of nowhere, waiting to go somewhere else. I was tired with several hours to kill. He came by and sat down and said, "Hi Pat". I had to do a double take. But it was him. I hadn't seen him for five years and time had taken its' toll. Bloated, resigned, but still full of charisma and mischief.

Doug was a major figure in Canadian music. A character who entered my life fifteen years ago while living up the street in a funky west coast neighborhood. Our kids were the same age and there was a bond. I knew him then only through reputation but that would change. His life, like mine, was one of adapting. Guys like us never roll well into the middle class. Or middle age. We sat up countless nights debating everything from sports, politics and music. The Jack Daniels and other joys were plentiful. We both favored the artistry of Tom Waits and got through the turmoil of foreign situations like parent /teacher interviews as best we could. We were constantly smiling at the irony of it all but the ropes that bound him were constantly lurking in the shadows. He was always negotiating some big deal but his pathos directed him more to the attractions of the darker side. But he was a star in many ways and that was presumed to be his savior. I knew better. As did he, even those many years ago.

That airport bar was illuminating as we chatted animatedly. The kids were older now, moving to their own beat. Money was set-aside for them and he could now finally give in. The charade was lifted and he fell into the complete Malcolm Lowery lifestyle willingly. His talk had no regrets. Out of home he settled in a cheap hotel complete with characters and round the clock desperation. In this new world he could be the figure of his dreams. And he was living them full of dissolute glory. Freely chained, he was a spirit seeking the embers.

We reminisced about days gone by, with wry smiles all around. If only tears could form the grin. He wanted to see my latest musings. My thoughts were always interesting to him or at least he pretended so. We laughed about that long ago song that I gave him and why it only made the demo list. Caught up on the kids. Knowing my fascination with gambling he voiced the opinion that he has now opted to live the biggest wager of all. Just how dark he could go and how far that would take him. Life was now full of the over and under play. We missed our flights and headed to a joint he frequented in a town where he was rejoiced as a welcomed prodigal. The stage was his, the room was his. So too was the audience. They knew him well and fantasized about his gift. I was along for the ride. Just sitting shotgun.

The next day I left, full of bleary remorse. My head was heavy with a pocketful of loose change and a vague sense of broken dreams. A line reverberated in my head, something like, "A man can play a lone hand in a high stakes game, but it doesn't mean he'll win". Indeed. I never saw Doug again but that was by his design. Soon after he left us all for good after a show on the Prairies. I missed the announcement and heard by happenstance. The news hollowed me out thoroughly. In memory I went to his hotel home, full of red terrycloth, weathered wisdom, ordered a JD and put on some Tom Waits. I imagined the room knew why. Farewell Doug.

(Doug Bennett, founder of Doug and the Slugs, passed away recently.)

This eulogy was written by my uncle Pat Archibald and I found it to be extremely moving and poetic, perhaps one of the best glimpses of a life I have ever seen put to paper.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:44 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Well I won the pool for picking the day when the Pope was going to die. Just kidding, I'm not that anxious to speed my way into Hell. But for a second there you all thought I was the most evil person in the world, didn't ya?

Joking aside, as one should when this kind of thing happens, this will be the first new pope for me, as JP II was picked just shortly after I was born. No I'm not some re-incarnation or anything like that, as much as I would like to have a following of 1 billion people. But the picking of a new pope is an interesting topic to think about. Am I being too light-hearted about this? I don't mean to be. I'm just kinda curious to see the drama that goes into picking the next Pope. It's almost like a world election of sorts. For example, Catholicism is growing extremely fast in Africa and Latin America, leading to some speculation that the next pope should be chosen from those parts of the world. Of course, that would potentially mean a pope who isn't white, which might be interesting. My bet, if you are gambling on this (which you shouldn't be despite my earlier joking, you heathen) is another white guy, probably older (65+) and probably more conservative than JP II was in his earlier days. That is my suggestion, but by no means is it overly well informed.

I am just thankful that the Pope didn't linger too long, both from the humanitarian side of things, and from the fact that I surely did not want to see him being kept alive by machines, prompting another Terri Schiavo-debate. That would have been crazy.

I really should be marking right now, but I'm not feeling a whole lot of motivation to do so. I should be feeling motivated, seeing as how report cards are fast approaching, but no dice. Maybe tomorrow during my prep.

Meanwhile, the price of gasoline in Vancouver has topped $1. Toyota Prius anyone? I wonder what the price of gas will have to be to get people to start buying smaller, more fuel efficient cars. I was leaning towards buying a smaller truck (ie- Ford Ranger) when I return, but now I have been thinking more about the Toyota Matrix, or something similar. I dunno, but maybe that would be (gas wise anyway) the smarter decision.

And from the "Gettig away with murder, literally" file, you can read here how the US Army is now allowing (apparently) its troops to play God when it comes to deciding when someone is to die. Anyone for a cup of tea? I have Earl Grey, Lemom, Hypocrisy....

On a lighter note, check out how two Newcastle soccer players decided to fight one another during a game. Now, correct me if I'm wrong (I'm not though, so don't) but isn't the team chemistry somewhat damaged by having two of your players tossing punches at one another? Can't you just, I dunno, put Tiger Balm in his undies? Do you have make it so public? Ah, well, this is why soccer is the spice of life in all countries that have yet to discover how awesome televised poker is.

Outta here for now.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 4:05 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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