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Thursday, January 29, 2004


The mighty Susquehanna isn't the only thing in town covered with ice and snow these days. Though the Susquehanna is covered with big thick ice chunks from shore to shore. Here's a close-up tonight.

What I am talking about though is the pedestrian pathways and sidewalks. The trails in Riverfront Park have received no (as in zero, nadda, zip, zilch) attention since the snow storms earlier this week. Not only is it impossible to bike through the park, it is pretty dang hard to even walk through as the snow rises over your ankles a few inches with every step. And to top it off the sidewalks along the Market St Bridge have also received no attention from the city. Riverfront Park is one thing, as there are adjacent streets and sidewalks along different routes through town. But there are no alternate ways across the river, its either slog through a foot of snow and ice on the sidewalks or get out on the road which I actually saw one person doing yesterday. Thats right, because the city fails to provide safe and clear pedestrian access across the bridges, it forces pedestrians out onto the roadway with the speeding cars. This makes me mad, and disappointed in this city which has been my new home for the past year.

I guess the money budgeted for the Wild West Museum has taken away from yet another needed resident and business service in this town.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


I've always been a helmet advocate. I figure why not? If there is a chance it will help prevent an excessive injury, then I'm all for it, especially when my head is involved. Heck I cry when I hit my head on the point of the top pantry cabinet that I forgot to close when I was getting out my baking items for bread or such. I guess the safety issue is built in, I know I wore my seatbelt from day one when I was learning to drive. I mean it all just doesn't make sense, commonly, logically, or emotionally in my mind, not to be safe in these ways.

I picked this little laminated handout up at the PA Farm Show in the exhibit hall, and didn't know what to do with it when I got home, So I thought I'd share it with you. The text reads:

How to properly fit a helmet
A. Fit the helmet low and level on the forehead.
B. Tighten the chinstrap, with the V of the side straps meeting just below the ear.
C. Adjust the pads inside so it feels snug, secure, and comfortable.

Courtesy of the SAFE KIDS Coalition

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


There exists somewhere along a plane of degrees, a point where the convenience of taking the bus during snowy and icy weather becomes an inconvenience. I wish I knew how to predict, though since it is likely due to the intensity and timing of a winter storm, I would be a rich weatherman if I could. In any case, today I experienced this "point" when my bus was not only 30 minutes late, but then took 40 minutes to travel a five minute drive due to the backed up traffic and snowstorm (and then I had a 10 minute walk to my apartment).

Now what can I learn from this, if anything? Maybe I should have just walked, I would have gotten home quicker. Or maybe I should have been on my bike at this point. Really now, even if I would have walked the spots where I was concerned about safety, and walked up the hill that is super slippy, and taken the back streets once into New Cumberland, I still would have been home quicker. But at what cost? It would definitely have wiped me out physically for the night, and the conditions would have put a beating on my bike.

So perhaps this was the outcome for me this time. But if I ever get those studded tires, and if I can figure out just when that "point" will be crossed, then maybe you should just look for me on my bike.

Song of the Day: "Drown" by Son Volt

Monday, January 26, 2004


Blogger, and thus Bicycle Commuting Now, is now available via syndication through the new Atom standard ("Atom is a universal personal content publishing standard created by leading service providers, tool vendors and independent developers" ).

About Atom from the Blogger website:
It's both a new standard for developers, as well as a syndication format or "feed" for your blog. When a regularly updated site such as a blog has a feed, people can subscribe to it using software for reading syndicated content called a "newsreader." People like using readers for blogs because it allows them to catch up on all their favorites at once. Like checking email—without the SPAM.

Atom provides the potential to share your blog with a wider audience. When you activate Atom syndication, Blogger automatically generates a machine-readable version of your blog that can be picked up and displayed in a variety of ways, including newsreaders, web sites and handheld devices.

You can get a list of client software to enable you to start receiving feeds via Atom. The list will presumably grow, and I have no experience with any of the services, so sorry I can't give any guidance. Anyone who has any insight and would like to share with your fellow readers please do. Personally I'm not sure about this service as I don't yet know if pictures are syndicated as well when they are included in posts. I am guessing not, so that may take away from the blog experience. Plus, I am guessing that changes to sidebars and other parts of the blog webpage outside of the posts will be lost to the reader when they are not visiting the actual website. Any comments on this out there?

Alas, no commute today to espouse about. The roads are just too dangerous after last nights snow. Numerous car accidents have been reported throughout the morning, the roadways (and especially the shoulders and sidewalks) are covered, and everyone is moving quite slow. If I had an alternate route to take that would move me away from the main traffic arteries I probably would tuff out the snow, but with having to overpass I-83 and having to funnell down to and cross the Susquehanna via the Market St Bridge, my options are limited. So the bus was for me, and even though it was 10 minutes late and I had to trudge through 4 blocks of unshoveled sidewalks, it was at least a safe way to get into work and to avoid dealing with traffic and conditions on my own.

Friday, January 23, 2004


No I am not depressed, I am talking about the outside temperature during my commute in to work today. Can you believe 6f with a windchill of -10f? I couldn't when I checked after I got to the office. I was pretty ok except for some numb toes from about halfway through the ride until I got into the office. But don't worry mom, nothing worse than I experienced during some of those childhood sled riding stints. And to top it off, I chose today to take my digital camera along to take some pictures of my route to share here in the future. So that meant an extra 10 minutes or so of stops and pulling off a glove, getting the camera out of my pocket, waiting for it to power up, taking the picture, and then getting back on my way. Suffice to say the ride home was much quicker and easier.

So lets have a week in review by the numbers (in honor of my -10 wind chill morning commute):
0: Number of minutes that the temperature rose above freezing this week during my commutes.
1: Tear in my windpants knee after my spill on Tuesday.
2: Tears in my left glove after one opened up right in the middle of my palm yesterday.
3: Number of sunny days that kept me motivated this week
4: Days I commuted this week (Monday was MLK's holiday remember)
5: Number of posts to my blog this week. (this is pretty typical)
12: Stops along the route today to take pictures.
1000: Times I rejoiced at feeling like a kid again, at breathing hard, and at holding at bay the demons of work, winter, and worry.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Stress Free Unhealthy Harrisburg? 

Hard to believe from a bicycle commuters point of view, or even any commuters point of view due to the often overwhelming traffic and numerous deadly accidents on Rts. 81 and 83, but the cities Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle have tied for the least stressful metropolitan area in the U.S. according to a BestPlaces study published by Money magazine. Commute times is one of the categories used for the rankings along with suicides, unemployment, theft, weather, alcohol consumption, self-reported mental health and divorce rates. The other winning location was also a multiple city metro area, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area in New York.

So if Harrisburg is so stress free and a BestPlace to live, how come it wasn't ranked in the Rating Guide of Environmentally Healthy Metro Areas conducted by Organic Style magazine and reported last October? I know different criteria may have been used, but how can Harrisburg be #1 on one list and not even crack the top 125 on the other? Sate College did come in at 35 in the Healthy Cities report and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were 118 and 120 respectively.

Somebody is fooling somebody, don't you think?

The other unfortunate part of the Healthy Cities report indicated that the mid-atlantic stretching from new york down to south carolina and west to indiana is the worst region (of the 10 the U.S. was broken up into for the study) in relation to health in America. This is an indication of pollution mainly, and the east coasts condition is attributed to industry emissions of course, as well as air pollution from the midwest. Breathe full people, ride hard and breathe full!

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Featured in Central Penn Business Journal 

Bicycle Commuting Now has been featured in the News and Tidbits section of the Central Penn Business Journal January 9th edition:

Keep on Pedaling

Frank _____ has the perfect plan for shredding those extra holiday calories.

He commutes by bicycle from his home in New Cumberland to his office in Harrisburg. The cold doesn't deter him, although he hops on the bus when it snows.

______, a Fayette County native, said he began pedaling in April and has lost 10 pounds, all without changing his eating habits. He also shaved eight minutes from his 25-minute commute by car. The trip included his walk from a parking lot on City Island to downtown Harrisburg.

_____ chronicles his daily rides at www.bicyclecommutingnow.blogspot.com. His goal is to bring attention to bicycle commuting as a viable option. He also wants to work on his writing. Cetera is a watersheds program coordinator at _______, a conservation group.
- Joel Berg

On another note, quick props to the lock washer that has given me, at least a temporary, reprieve from my loose crank arm. I inserted it between the bolt and the inner casing and it held firm all day, and I expect it to continue to do so. But I know that I can't continue to rely on it indefinitely. And that I'll need to look into a more permanent repair.

Song of the day:"Hard is the Fall" by Jay Farrar (formerly of Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


The ice is in force on the road sides and the side roads. Witness my spill on the alley way I use to stay off Bridge St up to 16th. I was going very slow because of the ice, but if you hit a little chunk or ice upheavel in your path, then it throws your line off enough to lose balance on the ice. Which is what happened to me today. Other than a small rip in the knee of my windpants all was fine, but the riding in general was hard.

I stayed off of the roadsides as much as possible because the ice was so difficult, though there were areas I rode through it, such as the snow and ice covered Riverfront Park paths. I guess peds and bikers get no consideration by the city maintenance crews. In fact the road crews even make things worse by tossing snow and ice up from the roadways onto the ped paths in the park where it then refreezes into impassable ice piles. Snow riding is challenging though and the workout increases at least 3-fold. And my knobby mountain bike tires perform well in everything except on pure ice.

My other ice foe was the iced over lock on the gate to access the alley along my office building where I park my bike. I couldn't get in and so had to carry my bike up three floors to my office. At least the Diamondback got a chance to warm up for the first time in weeks. I have to carry some lock deicer with me from now on I guess just in case of this situation.

Seriously now, my crank arm bolt came loose again twice today, so if anyone has info on what I need to do, please pass it along. Is it just tightening enough according to the torque recommendations, or should I look at replacing the bottom bracket, or could I add a washer in to keep things tightened? (I might try this tonight as a holdover fix).

Monday, January 19, 2004


Well I finally have my Diamondback in one piece again. I made it to a larger homestore this past weekend where I was able to find the 8mm hex-head bolt I needed to secure my seat to the post again. Cost me a whole 69cents, but took me what, 4-5 weeks to run down? I did the deed today with semi-frozen fingers out on my side porch, but it was worth it. I retightened my loosened crank-arm bolt too, but I have to figure it may loosen again until I figure out how tight to make it. Without the torque wrench though? Perhaps, as my brother Michael suggested, I'll go across the street to the mechanic we use for our car and ask to use thiers.

I thought I'd pass along another website that is well known and used at this time of the year among commuters. Icebike, the home of the winter cyclist. The Icebike site is a super resource for winter riding and commuting through all kinds of conditions, for how to dress, and what gear to equip with. News, techniques, and photos are included too, for the curious and the cautious, and those in need of further motivation and inspiration.

Saturday, January 17, 2004


Since the holiday season is quite past now, I thought it was time to take down the photo of our little tree. But what to replace it with? What better than a daily reminder as to the road conditions along my route in the winter. Now this won't have a new photo daily, but is there so that we look at it every day, and so that it reminds us that we have to ride consciously of the road conditions.

One of the secrets to winter riding is taking things a little slower, a little more carefully, and recognizing when dangerous areas pop up along your route. It is obviously necessary to ride a little differently than in the summer. And I think that some of us don't always take that to heart. So when you look at the photo remind yourself to be aware while out there commuting.

This little stretch of road is ride outside my doorway at home, but is typical of the route all the way along to work. This is along the shoulder, or parking area, along the roadway. And fortunately the actual roadways are clear, but there are few of us who can keep up with traffic enough to be able to stay in the road consistently without holding up traffic, and we are sometimes relying on the shoulders for travel.

I cannot for example keep up with traffic along Bridge St out of New Cumberland because it is a long steady uphill, with some undulations along the more level stretch at the top of the hill. But I always use the side of the extra wide roadway so that vehicles can pass me along this way, well now that isn't so easy because of the ice and snow, and the lack of clearance along the sides as opposed to the main road path. And unless another warmup arives, it may stay like this for a long time, so we ahave to be aware, practice our winter driving skills, and give ourselves a little more time perhaps to be safe.

Song of the day: The Grateful Dead's "Ripple" performed by Jane's Addiction

It's official, my previous commenting service Blogspeak has gone to the great HTML field in the sky. Many thanks to Haloscan for picking up the pieces. All comments have been transferred to their service, which will continue hosting my comments in the future.

One of my new bike stickers from Microcosm Publishing:

Can you tell I got my new digital camera up and running? Two new photos on the site in one day!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

From The Autonomist 

The Autonomist has discovered Bicycle Commuting Now and I have discovered the Autonomist. From the most recent post:

Bicycle Commuting Now is probably the quintessential blog for the spiritual bicyclist. News items about biking in cold Pennsylvania weather, new parts purchased for Frank's bike, rude motorists, and more Frank opinion fill the page of this website. Having lived in rural, urban and suburban areas, one post I found interesting was on urban sprawl:(See my Jan. 5th Post Little Bicycle Future in Sprawl)

The Automomist then goes on to make a number of very interesting points and observations about cycling in high density urban areas. I encourage you to check out the post Bikes & Cars: Like Oil & Water

While you're there feel free to surf around, lots of good links and posts to peruse.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


I thought my bike was more mature, but she sure has been acting cranky lately. My crank arm came loose again, the same one that fell off before. You'll remember that I acquired a replacement bolt, but it seems to have worked its way off a bit. I suppose this can mean a few things.

One, the threads that the bolt screws into may be stripped, or the casing may be cracked I suppose. This based on the fact I have a new bolt that is performing the same as the old bolt. Or two, I had it tightened incorrectly, as I mentioned I don't have a torque wrench (yet), so perhaps I didn't tighten enough, or maybe too much and caused irreperable harm. Or three, maybe an extra part is missing I don't know about. Is there supposed to be a washer between the bolt and body? This is a possibility I suppose. Anyone have any advice?

Fortunately, I wasn't far from the office on my way home when this happened tonight. I was able to retrace and call Sue for a pick-up. I think I will carry my socket wrench along with me over the next day or two, after I retighten it, in case it comes loose in transit. My Alien tool doesn't have a function for tightening this bolt I discovered, though I really knew this before I pulled it out.

In case you are looking to leave a comment on this or other topics, and have noticed the comments link has disappeared, it's not my fault. The service I have been using, Blogspeak, had its hosting suspended for some unknown reason to me. Supposedly it will be back up this weekend, but there is a possibility it won't be for a while. So I inserted an email link at the end of each post to encourage folks to contact me that way.

Song of the day: "Mad World" by Gary Jules - and if you haven't seen the movie Donnie Darko in which it was featured, you're missing out on an interesting and recommended cinematic experience.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


Change was in the air today. The temp this morning started off at a balmy 39f when I got into work, after a frigid weekend. Yet it was almost frigid once again for the ride home, at least colder than I expected by the end of the day, since I didn't bring my fleece vest, or warmer gloves along. But I wont make that choice tomorrow, cause it is going back into the 20's for a high. Cold, cold January.

I also changed back to my Diamondback today after I picked up a new crank arm bolt from my LBS. It was $1.59 with tax, but well worth it considering I had no other source for this part. Though perhaps I could have found it at one of the larger hardwares, I have yet to make it to one recently. I did not have a torque wrench however to make sure I tightened enough without overtightening, which can be a concern for this repair (see crank arm repair help). The larger frame that actually fits my body, made my limbs feel so much longer and stronger too.

I also was noticing some changes in my body for the first time in a while. Its been some time since I felt any soreness from riding, that occurred mostly in the first week or so of my commuting, and I have been fine ever since. But this weekend, I was fortunate enough to go crosscountry skiing. I got out for an hour in the morning and another 30 min in the afternoon. It may not seem like alot, but x-country skiing is quite a workout in any case. And in my case, a very inexperienced skiier, every movement was twice as strenuous as I was grappling with the techniques. So I woke up sore the last two days and it felt great. Reminds me of the joys of using our bodies on a more regular basis, and getting outside more.

Commute song of the day: "Righteously" by Lucinda Williams

Monday, January 12, 2004


I don't think I ever planned on writing a list like this, it even seems a little cheesy don't ya know, but what the hell. It is amazing the things you notice or don't when you are a bicycle commuter. So here are a few observations that you know make you a bicycle commuter.

1) You don't know the current price of gas at the pumps, and you have to ask someone in the car with you if you should get gas here.
2) You look bewildered at the person in the other car screaming their head off at you in the parking lot, and since you remember stopping at all the signs, signalling, correctly, and otherwise driving correctly, it must be something miniscule like taking their parking space?
3) You forget what side of the car the gas tank is on when you go to fill-up, and don't realize it till you get out, and then have to get back in and turn the car around at the pump.
4) When you are driving a vehicle, you notice all the other drivers around you speeding crazily to get somewhere (they probably don't even want to ge going to), and you have the peace of mind to be calm and take your time, a state mastered while on the bike.
5) and lastly for now, you dread getting into the car for a trip to the store, especially when it is just for one or two items, and you stay home more and make do, rather than fight with all the other consumers on a daily basis.

Thursday, January 08, 2004


Awesome, I got my package from Microcosm Publishing today who specialize in zine distribution, stickers and buttons, and it rocks. I ordered a few stickers from them for my bike. I got an "I (Heart) Tofu" stiker, two "Bikes are traffic, not targets" stickers that have a cool looking bike graphic, and a "BIKES NOT BOMBS" sticker. I wish I had my dig camera ready to roll, maybe this weekend I'll get it out and setup the software, then show my sticks.

I also got two zines from them. One is the "arts and crafts revolution" that I ordered thinking of Sue (who by the way signed my guestbook today, you rock Sue, and by the way if you haven't signed or noticed the link to my guestbook in the right column, just click here). The other is the "Stolen Sharpie Revolution" which is a DIY about making and distributing your own zines.

For those who don't know the short definition of a zine (from the Stolen Sharpie Revolution) is "(pronounced like magazine without the maga) A zine is an independently created publication containing anything you want it to...put together by one person or a group of people and they are usually photocopied but can also be printed offset, letter presses or mimeographed". They have lots of great stuff on every topic out there, so support independant DIY publishing by reading zines.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


Sorry I didn't post last night, it had nothing to do with the cold. I got a little waylaid trying to chase down an overdue video that I had returned on time (American Wedding, o.k., not nearly as good as the first two American tales). Make sense? Nope, not until you realize that I returned it to the wrong video store.

The temperature this morning, as evidenced by my online weather service when I got to the office was 19f, with a wind chill of 11f. Blue, blue skies with a few clouds and a nice little light wind were also on tap. I have yet to be in awe of this type of temperature though, especially when you realize that riding a bike in the cold is no different than doing any of the other outdoor winter activities that millions of people participate in every year, like skiing, skating, sledding, snowshoeing, and more.

The idea is just to be prepared and wear the right gear. I switched to midweight synthetic socks this morning from the light weight cotton I usually wear (both are the long style so I can tuck my pant legs into them). My feet got a slight chill about midway into my ride, but I noticed no negative effects other than that from the cold on my feet. The next step up would be to add on a plastic newspaper baggie, but it would have to get real cold for that. I also switched to my lined windpants from my unlined ones, no coldness in the nether regions to speak of. Finally I brought along an extra longsleeve cotton shirt (a freebie from a nursery I worked at in the fall and winter months one year) just in case for an extra layer, but didn't come close to needing to stop for it.

I did notice my bike seemed to be a little sluggish in the cold, or maybe it was just me. For a second I was also afraid that my gear shift lever had frozen in place, but it turns out to just be a little loose and was moved forward far enough to be in a somewhat locked position. I was faced with riding a fixie to work and back until I figured that out. No biggie cause I wasn't moving too fast today anyhow.

The last aspect of the frozen morning is that when I lowered my balaclava from my face at a stop, the moisture from my exhalations froze up almost instantly, and when I went to pull it back up it wouldn't reach back up to my nose without smoothing out the frozen in place fold creases. Ah, the little details that make it all an experience. Something that can easily be lost from our lives as we replace them with the details of our "Friends" on t.v.


What a perfect time for the heating system to go down in my office. I worked with an extra layer on and relished the warmth of the sun through my windows when it popped out this afternoon. So I left work today for my commute home with a numb chill through my fingers and toes before I even got outside.

It is something to note that it is cold enough to harden my cord lock enough so that I have to slightly fight it to coil back up after it has been on my bike all day. Thats cold I think. Though it is comforting that when the real cold arrives in January and February we are already trading it off for increased daylight.

It may feel like a long ride when it is this cold out and I am fighting the wind at times, but in all reality, I am outside for a shorter time than many of the pedestrians are who are walking from downtown to their car at the City Island lot. Shorter than my walk would be for sure.

I slowed traffic today for 100-200 feet or so through the middle of Lemoyne, but I was totally in my right. Passing this along because it is one of my pet peeves when people try to pass me through intersections. This is dangerous because I can get lost behind the car and not seen by vehicles coming from the other direction who may be wanting to turn through my lane. So I take the whole lane through intersections and slow down anyone behind me. No passing through intersections people, bikes are entitled to the full lane, change lanes fully to pass!!

Lastly, I almost mowed down a pedestrian neighbor from the next street over. I get off of Bridge one street early to, well to get off of Bridge first of all, and to settle down a bit while coming down the alleyway behind our apartment. Well as I was turning off Bridge, some guy was obliviously crossing the street in the dark and nowhere near the intersection. No offense meant, we all do that, but he could have been looking out onto the street. I am sure he thought that he recognized their were no cars coming, but he wasn't thinking of bicycles huh? I even had my lights shining. I yelled "look out" and he looked up and slowed and laughed (good naturedly). I'd have felt bad if I hit him, it wouldn't have been too bad on me as I wasn't going very fast and was in control, but could have given him a bigger scare for sure.

Commute song of the day: "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes

Monday, January 05, 2004


The Sunday Patriot News ran a number of feature pieces about sprawling development in Central PA and the negative effects it is having on our communities. Sure if you only look at growth as an indicator it may seem a good thing, but of course along with the growth, comes loss of open space and farmland, more and bigger highways and traffic, the loss of community from our currently developed boroughs and business centers and thus wasted infrastructure, and more and more negatives.

Sprawl affects bicycling and commuting in numerous ways too. The bigger highways mentioned above are often too fast and unsafe for bicycle commuters to traverse, and the spaces they connect get farther and farther away making it harder for citizens to access the shopping, living and working spaces they need without the use of motor vehicles.

Public transport would be an option, but in our small sized metropolis the system is not large or frequent enough, nor does it thoroughly permeate the region enough, to easily cater to everyone's needs. Thus leading people back to their cars. Of course, the light rail system coming to town will help with this somewhat.

One reason I am still riding my backup Giant is that I haven't been able to get to a larger hardware store without getting in my car, and I often don't want to get in my car, especially if it is afterwork when the roads are always jammed, nor if it is only for 1 or 2 items. A trip cross town in my car after works eats up most of the evening, and leaves little time for dinner with Sue, or for taking care of other non car and retail pursuits, and it stresses me out.

Most of the pieces in Sunday's feature on sprawl do not paint a good picture, and I can only hope that those involved in land protection and law can put an end to the destruction that is going on. Maybe we'll all be able to take to the woods when were older and living in town, without having to drive 1 or 2 hours to find the little pockets of green left. Save our Lands, Save our Towns is a good place to start to learn more.

Sunday, January 04, 2004


As I sit typing another entry, the rain continues to fall outside. Just for your info, this past year was the 2nd wettest in Pennsylvania history, and my garden can attest to that. I actually can't complain as far as my commuting goes, but I would still not mind if next year were a little closer to average.

I am thinking about playing with the template of my blog a little over the next few weeks to give it a more original style and design. Probably won't redesign from scratch, but just edit what the current stock template is. I don't anticipate any problems with viewing the page, but just so you know. I also want to give it an update as I make an attempt to bring more local and regional folks into the site. I am looking to advertise via some flyers I recently designed that I plan on posting at bike shops and other bulletin boards in the area. I also hope to initiate some advocacy activities in the next year as time and interest allow, and maybe some folks will be interested in taking part who learn of such through this blog.

Finally, I was interviewed by a writer from the Central Penn Business Journal last week. The piece is a short one to focus on local weblogs, so don't know how much they might delve into any bike commuting details, though I provided them with quite a few. If I find out when it might be published I will pass the info along, and if you are a regular reader of the journal keep your eyes out for it (and let me know if I miss it).

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