Hello from the Humanoids!

A Day in the Life of a Comic Book Editor:

The things I do mostly correspond to what I have always done at school, except that there are a lot more pictures. I read books, think about them, and make changes. Any time a book is made here, it is put together in what would be a publisher’s version of a rough draft, and I read it. There are usually lots of problems on a first read-through: badly-placed speech bubbles, typographic errors, bad punctuation, mistakes in the coloring (one time I found a main character who was in the background of a picture, whose hair had turned from blond to black!).

After I read it, I pass it to the “Éditeur en chef” who does her own read through, saying which of my changes should be integrated into the next draft, and which ones she doesn’t agree with. After that, the book gets sent to the head graphic artist, who does a third read-through, focusing on the images and the appearance of the lettering, and noting mistakes there.

THEN it gets sent with all the changes to be made to the graphic interns, who go through the many changes and DO them. Then it gets passed back to me to make sure that everyone’s changes were properly put in place. The graphic interns and I usually play a few rounds of hot-potato at this stage of things.

After everyone is (almost) entirely sure that there are no more changes to be made, the book gets sent to the printer, who is “in China” (I never get any more information than that; every time anyone communicates to the printer they talk “to China”). They send us a final cut to read through once again before we give the go-ahead to do an actual print job.

I find myself reading hundreds of pages every single day–much more volume than I have ever read before in any given period of time. Because not only am I reading the French version, but the US office (Humanoids Inc.) has also been taking advantage of the the first anglophone intern in a few years and using me to read the English translations of many French titles. And then, there’s my personal reading, which has been a mix of Victor Hugo and the Humanoïdes Associés classics. I’m currently halfway through the Jodorowsky-Moebius masterpiece L’Incal.

One other responsibility that I will mention briefly (there are still many others) is probably my least favorite thing I have to do here on a regular basis. It is me and me alone who receives all of the project proposals we receive for publication. I have to read them, look at them, and decide whether or not they’re good enough to send on to the head editor and the literary director. It sounds like a fun and interesting job, but that’s until you realize that it also involves responding to these artists–countless sincere and talented artists–and in the VAST majority of cases tell them that we can’t publish their book. I have received perhaps 100 projects, and so far I have passed on one. Most of these are the creations of many years of work by professionals. Many of them even went to school to create these pieces of art (France has colleges just for comic book writers!).

This brings me to the new things I was given to do today, the first of which was the task of destroying a large pile of books. These are books that belong to the company and of which there are new editions that have replaced the old, but the old books are beautiful. It is not enough simply to throw them away; no, I had to stand outside next to the trash can and individually rip apart 50 or so books, to ensure that they couldn’t ever be resold. I’m not sure why they gave this task to the editing intern (read: the token book-lover) when there are marketing and law interns right downstairs, unless it was to hammer home my rude awakening to the harsh realities of the publishing world. Ripping a book apart is almost like what I imagine slaughtering an animal to be. In order to keep my conscience subdued I had to avoid opening the book and looking at the words–the same way I’m sure anyone working an abattoir has to avoid the eyes of the animals he processes.

On a more joyful note, I was was also given the job today of delivering books at the residence of the legendary Alejandro Jodorowsky a science fiction revolutionary and a household name at the Humanoïdes. He lives in a big and beautiful apartment next to a big and beautiful train station, and I was really hoping that he would be home. He wasn’t in, but his wife is very nice. And I got to see his desk–it’s just as cluttered as mine.

This internship is co-sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. Professor David Sedley is the faculty advisor.

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What Do Professors Do All Day?

By now more than a few of my professors have told me that ultimately I myself will be an academic; such a future is evidently inevitable. In order best to embrace my destiny, I’m spending the summer working as a Summer Research Assistant for Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Jamel Velji, who specializes in Islamic apocalyptic. As such, I’m pretending to be a professor, getting a behind-the-scenes look at what takes up Prof. Velji’s time outside of the 6 hours a week spent teaching classes. So, what do professors do outside of the classroom?

1. They read.

Above we see the cover to a recent major publication in the field of Islamic Studies, Messianic Beliefs & Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The ‘Abbasid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century by Hayrettin Yucesoy. This is just one of many texts I’ve read (or, more accurately, skimmed) in order to determine if it would be appropriate reading for a 300-level seminar that professor Velji will be teaching next semester called Mahdis and their Movements. The Encyclopaedia of Islam defines “al-Mahdi” (which in English is “the rightly guided one”) as “the restorer of religion and justice who, according to a widely held Muslim belief, will rule before the end of the world”; the course centers on a number of historical personages who have claimed or applied the title of Mahdi.

The course will have six case studies: the ‘Abbasid movement (Iraq and surrounding area, mid-8th century CE), the Fatimid movement (Egypt, early 10th-century), the Almohad movement (Morocco and Spain, early 12th century), Ibn al-Arabi (not himself a Mahdi claimant, but a prominent Sufi writer who used a lot of messianic imagery, 12th-13th centuries), the Mahdi of Sudan (late 19th century), and the Ahmadiyya movement (late 19th century-present). My responsibility has been to compile bibliographies for the case studies - a task that entails reading many, many sources on each one in order to determine which texts are appropriate for our purposes. Ultimately, I’m ending up with about 3-4 pages of single-spaced bibliography on each movement. All of this reading has been my primary effort from the start of my internship in early June until I finish in the next few days.

2. They write.

I can’t provide a picture for this, or really any details, but I do know that Professor Velji is working on a manuscript about Fatimid apocalyptic. I know this because he’s been promising me a chapter for quite a while now – a chapter that he has been working on for more than a year. I should see it soon, but for now all I know is that Prof. Velji suspects that I’ll find it entirely incomprehensible. After I’ve read his chapter and discussed it with him I’ll hopefully have a better sense of what goes into an academic book.

3. They design.

The next big project for Mahdis and their Movements (once the bibliographies are done) is one of syllabus construction, for which I’m extremely excited. As Professor Velji has explained to me, designing a syllabus is not simply throwing a bunch of books and articles together. Rather, a syllabus has a teleology (a fancy word meaning that it leads to an end goal): every text should build on the ones before it in a way that the course will ultimately lead to a conclusion of some sort. To try to explain this better, here’s an image:

Here we have an interesting artifact: a postage stamp from the contemporary Republic of Sudan depicting the Mahdi. It provides fertile ground for interpretation, giving a window into the Mahdi’s legacy in the Sudan of today. It’s probably worth including in the syllabus. But you wouldn’t just want it by itself; instead, you include materials with which to contextualize and compare it: a journal article on the role of the Ansar (the Mahdi’s followers) in contemporary Sudanese politics, a book on the communal treasury during the Mahdist period, a coin with messianic text and imagery from the Abbasid caliphate, etc. While each student will reach his or her own conclusions about the materials presented in class, professors design syllabi to guide their students in a certain direction.

4. They research.

A sort of side project that I have going at the moment is assisting Prof. Velji in collecting images of the end of the world. Above is one such image, a diagram of the Day of Judgment found in a manuscript copy of Ibn al-Arabi’s Futuhat al-Makiyya (Meccan Revelations). I wish I knew Arabic so I could see what people (or animals, angels, jinn, etc.) are in each circle, but instead I simply have to take translators’ work at face value. (While knowing Arabic would be extremely helpful in this internship, there are surprisingly many works available in English.)

I must admit I’m not entirely certain what the ultimate purpose of this image repository is (I think I asked Prof. Velji but I don’t remember his answer); despite the above image being from Ibn al-Arabi’s hand, it’s not directly related to the Mahdis and their Movements course. Nonetheless I have no doubts that it will in some way prove integral to Prof. Velji’s research as well as to that of other academics who access it.

5. They tweak.

The last project I have going right now stems from another one of Prof. Velji’s courses, called The End of the World as We Know It. To quote the description on the course guide, this class, which Prof. Velji has taught a number of times before (though I have yet to take it), “will explore the genre of apocalypse, looking for common themes that characterize this form of literature. Our primary source readings will be drawn from the Bible and non-canonical documents from the early Jewish and Christian traditions. We will use an analytical perspective to explore the social functions of apocalyptic, and ask why this form has been so persistent and influential.”

Even though the model is successful, Prof. Velji wants to tweak it with a new question: what is apocalyptic? I can provide the standard definition: an “apocalypse” (a word which comes from the Greek αποκαλυψις apokalypsis, meaning “uncovering”) is, according to the book The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature by Professor John J. Collins of Yale Divinity School,  “a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” This definition was made for texts like the Hebrew Bible Book of Daniel, Revelation in the New Testament, and a number of apocryphal texts such as I Enoch, IV Ezra, and the Apocalypse of Peter. The word “apocalypse” has, however, come to connote meanings better denoted by the term “eschatological”, itself from the Greek εσχατον+λογος eschaton+logos, or “study of the end”.

This idea of apocalypse as eschatology is what brings us to the above image from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead as seen in the Papyrus of Hunefer, in which the dead person’s heart is weighed against an ostrich feather that represents truth. Ancient Egyptian ideas of death and the afterlife, as well as those of time, history, order, divinity, and other notions central to the ways in which the end of the world is conceived, differ starkly from those found in Abrahamic traditions. Can Egyptian perceptions of what we might call the eschaton qualify under a definition of “apocalypse” tailor-made for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? To facilitate the addition of such a question to the course is the reason I’m putting together a bibliography on Egyptian (possibly-)apocalyptic.

6. They learn.

Obviously you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I’m learning a ton from this research assistantship. But what seemed to come almost out of nowhere for me is the fact that this experience is just as educational for Prof. Velji. Of course he’s an expert in his field, but given the level of specialization in today’s academic environment, the field in question is Fatimid and Isma’ili (a branch of Shi’a Islam, of which the Fatimids were part) apocalypticism. Most of the other case studies we’re looking at are practically new to him or have escaped his memory after years spent not studying them; for instance, there’s a classic text on the ‘Abbasid movement - Black Banners from the East by Moshe Sharon – that he remembers loving in graduate school but hasn’t looked at since.

More important in this topic, though, is the way that professors use classes as educational opportunities for themselves. As Prof. Velji has explained to me, a class – particularly a high-level research seminar like Mahdis and their Movements – serves for a professor in the humanities in the same manner as a laboratory serves for scientists. Remember the syllabus teleologies I mentioned earlier? That’s like a professor’s hypothesis – his or her interpretation of the material at hand. As the class progresses, professors use in-class discussions to test their conceptions, garner new ideas, and reconsider their interpretations – probably the primary reason why syllabi can sometimes change midway through a course. When the semester is over, professors take what they learned back to their offices, and more often than not the class will have a profound impact on the professor’s research and writing.


As I mentioned in the beginning, there’s one central aspect of a professor’s work that I won’t be able to experience in this assistantship – teaching. By the time the fall semester rolls around and this course is taught, I’ll go back to being a student. I won’t be taking Mahdis and their Movements, but for every course I do take, I’ll come in with at least an idea of what went on behind the scenes in creating that course, and I’ll have a heightened awareness of what’s going through the professor’s mind and what he or she is getting out of the class. I can’t give a full judgment on this point until I have the opportunity to experience teaching, but I’m really enjoying this research assistantship to the point where it seems that my apparent destiny is a welcome one.

That’s all for now. Part of the deal is that I have to blog at least twice before the summer is over, so to those of you with judgment poor enough actually to read all the way through this long-winded ramble, I apologize in advance for the next one.

- Jeremy Steinberg ’16

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Engaging with History at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

After countless summers of babysitting and getting sunburned at the beach, I am finally trying to be a “real person.” This summer, I have a full-time internship at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, funded by the Hurford Center’s Philadelphia Partners program. I am an education intern, which perfectly combines my history major and education minor and fuels my desire to teach history on the high school level.  The Society aims to bring primary sources into the classroom and helps teachers integrate primary sources into the history curriculum by providing programs and resources. As an education intern,  some of my tasks include editing and updating the lesson plans on the website, observing student programs, analyzing student surveys, and creating my own lesson plans using primary sources found at HSP.

I have been working on a lesson plan about the Vietnam War. HSP houses the papers of Joseph Sill Clark, a Democratic politician from Philadelphia who served both as mayor of Philadelphia and a US Senator. Part of his vast collection are several boxes of items pertaining to the Vietnam war, including personal notes, correspondence with other senators, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and speeches. While perusing these resources, I found a very interesting article about Haverford.

Found in Joseph Sill Clark Papers, Box 246 at Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The article states:  “Communist North Vietnam’s official radio reported Monday that a committee of students at a Pennsylvania college was collecting money to help the Vietcong, which it called the South Vietnam National Liberation Front. The Hanoi radio said students at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, had formed a ‘May 2 Committee’ to collect funds for medical supplies for the Vietcong. The committee also was reported planning a demonstration in New York on May 2 opposing ‘United States imperialist intervention’ in South Vietnam.”

For those of you who are rusty on Vietnam War history, the Viet Cong were the ones that the U.S. was fighting against during the war. Haverford students have never shied from controversy!

Being able to do research at such an extensive and important archive is an amazing opportunity. I never get over the thrill of touching a piece of history. The other day, I was holding letters from William Penn in my hands. Who decided to trust me with that?  I am excited to see what new things I will learn throughout the summer and hope that I do not ruin any priceless documents.

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Summer at the Fringe

Hey guys, I’m Miriam, and this summer I’m interning at FringeArts, funded by the good ol’ Hurford Center.


So at work the other day I drew bunnies.

Yep, interning at FringeArts involves many tasks, and one of those tasks is bunny-drawing.

FringeArts is a performing arts organization in Philadelphia, best known for their annual Fringe Festival in September. There’s gonna be some crazy stuff, guys. I definitely recommend that you venture out of your Haver-homes (I know, they’re so cozy, but just this once!) and trek into the city to see some performances.

So what am I doing at the Fringe? Certainly not acting—though my starring role as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a hit in the elementary school theater community. No, once you cease being a cute ten-year-old you must start relying on real skills, and acting is not one of mine. I work more behind the scenes, as the Guide & Information Management Intern. (I know, super descriptive title, now you know exactly what I do.) I help create and edit the Festival guide, which lists all the shows and where to find them. (Basically, I’m writing this book but for the performing arts.) I also blog for FringeArts, which means I get to interview some really interesting people and learn about the performing arts in Philadelphia.

But I know, this is not why you’re all here. You’re just waiting with bated breath: “where, Miriam, where do the bunnies come in?!” I don’t blame you, bunnies are awesome. Well, occasionally I get to draw something for the Festival guide, and one such drawing was an image for the play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour. I won’t post the finalized drawing here—you know, gotta keep up that element of mystery—but the above image shows some of my sketches.

Well, that’s all for now, folks. I’ll be back later in the summer, ready to overuse parentheses in the name of the Hurford Center once more!

–Miriam Hwang-Carlos

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Sandy Tripods

DIY "crane shot"

DIY “crane shot”

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have drifted to the far corners of our collective memory, but its impacts are still being felt along the affected region of the Gulf Coast. From Pensacola to New Orleans, there continue to be environmental, economic, and sociopolitical consequences that have often escaped the attention of those not directly involved in the aftermath of the spill.

Through the Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellowship, the four of us, Hilary Brashear, Dan Fries, Gebby Keny, Sarah Moses, have had the opportunity to travel down to the Gulf Coast. Following Prof. Helen White and her two chemistry students, Alana Thurston and Chloe Wang, we traveled from Pensacola, FL to Gulfport, MS to New Orleans, LA as they collected samples of oil that continue to wash up along the shore. Rain or shine (mostly shine…hot shine) Helen, Alana, and Chloe marched forward on their search as we chased them with our cameras. Their discerning eyes were quite impressive, finding the tiniest of oil samples among the decoy debris (much to our chagrin, whenever we tried to help we just picked up wood chips).

One of the oil samples collected on the trip

One of the oil samples collected on the trip

Running after Helen in the blazing heat consists of only part of our documentation this summer. Together, we are developing a short film about the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill that explores questions of restoration and voice, while examining our own role as outsiders to the region and the issues at hand.

We return to the Gulf in July, focusing our efforts primarily on New Orleans. To be continued… 


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An Interactive Flood of Spectacular Proportions

Synchronous Objects

Remember when God said to Noah, “be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”?  God’s probably being redundant in his phrasing because it’s such a big thing to ask of someone.  It’s not just a casual, “go ahead and populate your household, when you get around to it.”  Noah is expected to “populate the earth abundantly.”  The earth is enormous, and Noah probably thought the earth was flat and like fifty miles wide, but it’s still an intense concept to wrap your mind around.

So it was, when history professor Andrew Friedman told me, “be fruitful and search for web-based digital humanities initiatives; catalog them abundantly and comment upon them.”  Not in those words exactly, though he is eloquent.

My summer job is essentially to track down as many DH projects as I can, dump them all into an Excel document, and judge them mercilessly based on a rubric invented for this very task.  I annotate the Project Name, URL, and Creators of course.  Then I go on to rate each project by the following criteria: Richness of Aesthetics/Design; Usability/Navigability/Ease; FUN; Value of Information; and Theoretical Interest.  After all this, I write a small blurb of closing commentary.  I do this for hours each day, and I still haven’t cracked the surface.  It is a good job, and often a dull job.

I have a secret for you.  Come closer.  I’m not supposed to say this, so I can’t be too loud.  Are you ready?

Digital Humanities is mostly rubbish.

I may have just offended thousands of librarians and Spanish teachers, but I stand by the claim.  I find myself skeptical of DH.  Many times, the projects are so eager to hop on board with digital initiatives (since they are hyped as the future of academia) that they don’t think critically about why their project belongs on the World Wide Web, what it means to work on a web-based platform, and how that is substantively different than more traditional humanistic inquiry.  The prevailing sentiment of the movement (or one of them) is form over function–the idea that projects are automatically better because they’re on the internet–and that can lead to hollow experiences.

But that happens with every new medium–the inception is riddled with hiccups and false starts as we puny humans scramble to figure out how we can best take advantage of the tools we have made for ourselves.  Besides, I have to acknowledge that it’s easy for me to pass judgment on these projects, sitting comfortably on the sidelines.  I’m not even a DH guy, really.  Computers aren’t my thing.  I just keep getting involved in DH criticism as an outside eye.  I guess my point is, I still respect these DH initiatives, even the wrongheaded ones, because they are attempting to bring knowledge to the world in new ways.  Every project is worth talking about, even if it’s only as an example of what-not-to-do.

I ought to end this post on a positive note, so I’ll share with you my favorite project that I’ve encountered so far.  It’s called Synchronous Objects.  The website begins with a fifteen minute long video of a dance called One Flat Thing as reproduced by William Forsythe.  From there, it uses its digital platform to let the user interact with that dance in all sorts of visually compelling and horizon-expanding ways.  This is a project fully aware of its medium, fully aware of its content, and fully aware of the potential living in the interstices between the two.  Play around with it for a while.


As wary as I am about DH projects, I would never tell Synchronous Objects to build an ark and gather two of every species of DH in preparation for my destruction of the medium in an interactive flood of spectacular proportions.  That seems excessive.  Besides, I’m not even close to finished finding what contemporary digital humanists have to offer.  I have a whole world to explore.

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Amancay Internship- Links Hall in Chicago


My self-designed summer internship at Links Hall in Chicago started last week, and already I’m feeling useful. Starting on June 19th Links Hall is presenting their original production, River See, so it’s all hands on deck. So far, I’ve created unique and personal welcome packets for all the out-of-town performers that will be visiting, updated information about the show on their mobile app, and helped to organize ticket sales for students and industry members. I’ve also had a few side projects related to future shows, mostly involving the mobile app and emailing performers for information about their shows. It’s been fun so far, and I’m learning a lot about marketing for now. I expect once the show is over I’ll start learning about other areas of theater management.

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Throwback Thursday 11

Hi guys! It’s Thursday again, and today we’re talking about an art show in James House.


The HCAH Student Arts Fund enables a variety of artistic endeavors, including the mounting of exhibitions. In April 2009, James House displayed work by Ryan Cameron, ’09, and Allyn Gaestel, ’09, in the exhibition, Nudes, featuring work from both artists spanning the past year. The exhibit included paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs that tip-toed the line between the artistic and the pornographic. The visitors and artist discussed this dynamic on the opening night.

While James House looks nothing like it did in the photos above, the building still hosts exciting students arts events. This Friday, come to James House for another Student Arts Fund exhibition, “A Terrarium of Books: New Work by Honglan Huang.” Honglan Huang, ’16, has created a system of interacting texts and plants in the James House Pop-Up Gallery. Andrew Szczureck, ’16, will perform an original composition at the opening, so be there tomorrow, April 18th at 7:00 PM!

For more information on “A Terrarium of Books,” see: http://www.haverford.edu/calendar/details/260639

Hope to see you there!

Anna and Miriam


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Throwback Thursday 10

Whazzup, peeps?

Back this week with a Student Seminar. Lucky for you, the HCAH has just released next fall’s student seminars, so read on and think about how awesome your fall could be.



Lewis Bauer (’06 English) led the seminar, “The Bizarre and the Grotesque in Literature, Art, and Film: Honest Looks at a Mad World,” to explore our cultural idealization of normality and the repercussions of deviation. Participants discussed not only the impact of the bizarre and grotesque on the arts, but also on society. Questions of cultural relativism recurred throughout the seminar.

James Weissinger (’06 English), participated in the seminar and reflects: “Taussig, Ballard, Foucault, Bakhtin, Kassler-Taub–the seminar introduced me to a few folks who would end up becoming familiar friends for the rest of school and after. One of my most important experiences at Haverford.”  To sum up the fantastic ride that was the seminar, James points to this bizarre music video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFsHSHE-iJQ.

If you’re interested in cross-disciplinary discussions with new friends while munching on free refreshments and reading free books, apply to one of the upcoming seminars: “Decoding the Videogame: Reading and Writing in New Media,” or “Beyond the Reals: An Exploration of Mathematics in Fiction.” More information: http://www.haverford.edu/HCAH/center/programs_and_grants/student_seminars.php (sorry this hyperlink didn’t hyperlink, back to the good ol’ days of copy and paste it is).

Hope to see lots of applications this year!

Until next time,

Anna and Miriam




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Throwback Thursday 9

Welcome to another Thursday! Today we’re talking about the symposium, “Romancing Passing – Race, Gender, and Nation in Cinema.”

The cover of the Indian romantic drama "Veer-Zaara"

The cover of the Indian romantic drama “Veer-Zaara”

In the second year of a Mellon Fellowship, each fellow stages a symposium or forum relating to their area of study. Yiman Wang was the Mellon Fellow from 2003-2005 and researched transregional and transnational image translation, particularly the relationship between film in China and the West. She presented this symposium to explore themes of racial, ethnic, and gender passing processes as portrayed in cinematic romance. Visiting experts ran panels entitled “Romance, Horror, and Globalization,” “Coding Hollywood Asians,” and “Dystopia and Utopia of the Passing Body,” followed by a roundtable discussion.

Curiosity piqued? Read about more Mellon Symposia here: www.haverford.edu/HCAH/center/archive/mellon_symposium.php

Until next time!

Anna and Miriam

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