The #1 Reason I Absolutely Cannot Recommend Vivint For Your Home Security

It all began in January.

We became Vivint customers in 2015 and loved the app, the automated doors, the alarm, the cameras–like, it was new and all, but we were fans.

And then Houston got some bad weather. I don’t know if you reading this are familiar with Houston, but it often has bad weather. Like, big huge thunderstorms that cause flooding, some of which will close roads and disrupt traffic for a day or so. Others of which are part of big storm systems that cause far more serious flooding and that can shut down whole parts of the city for days at a time. When this happens, we get notices on our iPhones and our facebook pages about “severe weather” and “flash flooding” and, occasionally “tornado watch”.

I am not from any places with severe weather warnings, but I have always found the phone warnings and social media sharing to be quite sufficient.

Vivint does not.

In what seems like a cool feature but is actually truly wretched, Vivint has incorporated into its system alerts issued by the National Weather Services so that should an alert be issued, you will not miss it.

Say, for instance, that you are sleeping and there’s a storm going on outside and then the NWS issues an alert for flash flooding in Southeast Houston. Vivint will beam this alert to your system so that you don’t wake up to a flooded home! So nice, right?

Well, Houston is ENORMOUS and we don’t experience flash flooding my area. But, let’s say we did, okay? It’s worth it to be woken up, just in case. Except. Have you ever watched the news? Then you know that it’s not exactly a simple formula and so what may have been predicted to be an hour window of potential flash flooding can extend a little longer, and a little longer, and just a little bit longer. And every time the NWS updates its timeframe, Vivint notifies you.

Not with a message on your phone. No. Because a message on your phone could be ignored, swatted away by a still-sleeping being, or–God forbid–never even heard because you sleep with your plane in airplane mode.

No. Vivint is determined that you receive these alerts and so they send them TO YOUR PANEL and ensure that they are broadcast loudly. It’s just a chime–the same little chime, in fact, that I’ve heard on my Mother In Law’s phone when she gets  a new whatsapp message.

But before sunrise? But before sunrise when it wakes you up? But before sunrise when you awake to a sound that persists at such jarring intervals that you can’t stay asleep and must instead drag your tired self out of bed and down the stairs to turn off the notification manually, only to return to bed and be just in that delightful state of dozing–when it goes off again? And you are pulled from sleep again. And must go downstairs again. To turn it off again. To have it return AGAIN.

No, friends. No I cannot in good conscience recommend Vivint to you. Be you warned.

This is my story:

I am not a morning person, you see, and I do not live in a flood plain (on a flood plain?) and, perhaps naively, I am not all that concerned about storms that occur while I am sleeping unless the government has said, Evacuate your homes.

So when I was awoken, quite early and obnoxiously, by one of those awful Vivint alerts, I turned it off and immediately called Vivint. But–even that early in the morning (!)–there was a line and so I took my complaint to the internet. I wrote this email:

You have to disable these alerts. Talk to your manager. Talk to your manager’s manager. Talk to IT or the freaking coder himself but these alerts can NOT continue.
Or maybe they will and I won’t continue. Houston is enormous and stormy! It just is! So It isn’t helpful to get the alerts–I just dismiss them without reading–but more than that it’s like right now, I have to be at work early and work an 11 hour day. 11hours. I know some people have it harder but damn. Do not wake me up in the middle of the night for nonsense!
I’m so fed up with this.

And then I tweeted this tweet:

To their credit, they did ask me to DM them and then suspended my notifications. They were prompt and kind about it. But, and this is important: THEY WERE PAID TO BE AWAKE. I was rudely awoken and forced out of bed, and DEEPLY UNHAPPY about it. Guys. Let me just risk my life, okay? Really. Worry about yourselves. I got this.

I was irritated at having been woken up this way, and supremely bothered to have NO RECOURSE. Like, how was my only option to go downstairs to dismiss the alert on my panel? What if I were bedridden? How is this not part of the app? How is there not a remote dismissal? How does not got away ever?? The whole thing was so unjust!
I did the only thing I could: I wrote them another email. I sent the following right after the one above. I really wanted them to understand:

Is it clear why I’m upset? Let me explain:
I live in a two story home. The panel hangs by the front door, which is at the bottoms of the staircase. My bedroom is at the top. I sleep with my door closed.

So imagine now that you are sleeping in your bedroom with your door closed. And then you wake up. At first you’re not sure why but then you hear it: a sound………and then again……and then again–you know that you need to address the sound because it’s woken you up and it plays at just the right intervals that your mind can’t tune it out. It’s like it was designed to keep you awake. It’s like you inadvertently signed up for a small torture device. You are now part of a psychological experiment perpetrated by some company in Utah that does not offer 24/7 support and so you must choose:

Lie there, as the water drips
Onto your forehead, preventing you from sleeping. And not only preventing you from sleeping, but actually causing you to be afraid to fall back to sleep. Your body tenses in anticipation of the next sound. Time passes.
Is it done? Has the alert passed?
You begin to allow yourself to relax and consider drifting off back to sleep and—WOM.
The sound.
It does not let you sleep.
It is designed to keep you awake.

So you must choose the only thing you can, because it is 4AM and you are a working adult with responsibilities and soon–too soon–it will be time to fulfill those obligations. Reluctantly–oh how reluctantly!–you get out of bed. It’s cold and also you’re in your underwear and because you don’t want the vivint cam next to your alarm panel to catch you in your drawers, you out on your bathrobe and slippers and, with rising annoyance, descend the stairs.
It sounds again.

You look for a sledgehammer.
You decide not to detour to the garage.
You see the alert. It was issued four minutes ago for the next 45 minutes.
You clear it and head back upstairs (!) to bed. You can squeeze in another few hours before work.

Once snug under your covers, you can see the lightning flash behind the curtains. It must be far though, for you hear no thunder, and no rain pounds the windows.
Too bad. It would have been a nice lullaby.
Not that you need it. It is, after all, only 4 AM. You’re plenty tired and once back under that pile of covers, you’re ready to doze off once again. You feel your breathing slow, and your mind begin to wander, and your muscles heave a sigh of relief.
Breath in…..breath out….


It hasn’t even been five minutes but that damn alert is back to tell you that the tornado alert has been updated and is now in effect 5 minutes longer than the previous alert and it absolutely will not stop alerting you to this and not even the good Lord himself knows how that is helpful, let alone valuable enough to pay for. Especially in a place like Houston which is HUGE and gets tons of storms, many of which do not affect your home, much like the case is at this very moment.

The craziest thing to me is not that y’all still have this feature (but don’t misunderstand me: It is indisputably crazy. My MIL has complained of exactly the same thing. How have you not fixed this?) but that it is so persistent. Every few minutes it has an update. A loud update that will not rest until it is certain that it has disrupted your night’s rest.

I’m so tired, Vivint. I’m so tired and upset that I set off my own damn alarm because I tried to rip the panel off the wall. That’s how fed up I am.

Sleep deprivation makes you do crazy things.
Don’t make your customers crazy.


It’s the truest thing I’ve ever written, but evidently not the most effective for just TWO DAYS LATER I was awoken AGAIN by that 8&#*$(%(*# WOM sound and this time I was so fed up I tried to rip the panel off the wall.

Do you know what happens when you try to rip panels from the wall?

The ALARM sounds. (Sorry, husband!)

More twitter DMs. More promises to disable alerts. More seething rage. And then, suddenly as it began, it stopped.

For two full months, I did not get a single alert. (Perhaps, perhaps, it is because we did not have any severe storms. Perhaps.)

And then, Sunday April 2, 2017, it happened again. I heard that damn sound and instead of finding our sledgehammer, I went back to sleep. I dozed off. I dreamed about the alert waking me from sleep. Then I woke up. To the WOM.

I took to the Twitter

And then my husband got involved

And we resolved it with this sad baby gif that is the best gif ever made


So in summary:
Vivint will make you crazy. It will disrupt your sleep and send you into rages in the wee morning hours. Also, the app is only 3 stars in my opinion, and the panel has a way delayed response, and sometimes when I get a notification that our doorbell was rung, the footage only captures the person LEAVING. Like, what is even the point?!

But. Having said all of that?

It will give grant you some excellent Twitter fodder

Help Me Get A Cat!

girl with armful of kitties

This is me when I was 5 years old.
girl with armful of kitties

Actually, let me rephrase that. This is a picture of me that was taken when I was 5 years old, and it is also a picture of me at almost 30, if you could see inside my soul.

The only difference between me and her is that I no longer have any cats.


I’ve moved a lot in adulthood, including several overseas moves, and then when I settled down, it was with a professed pet-hater. Did you even know such a thing existed?


Well, I’ve been telling myself for years that when it’s right, the Universe is going to send me a cat (isn’t that what the cat fairy’s for?). I’ve gotten my family on board, too, with trying to persuade my husband that cats are not the evil the dog-lovers lobby has made them out to be. They are so smart! They are funny! They can even be sweet!

We even went out in January to visit my sister, who is a very clean woman, and Ben got to see up close that you can have a litterbox in your home and not even smell it, and a cat in your home and not have any hair on your clothes.

He was not convinced, but our yearslong campaign of cat videos continues. And it seems to be working.

Last night we were both sitting at the bar working on our computers when he looked at over at me. What are you doing?

Um…watching@fosterkittendiary ‘s livestream? I turned my phone to show him their darling little kitten faces.

You know that look you give your spouse when you don’t quite understand what they’re saying but you’re definitely concerned about their answer? He gave me that look, and held it for several seconds before turning back to his screen. Then, a second later, he turned back to me.

Okay look, he said. If you make $2000 a month on your blog, you can get a cat.

Did he just say that? He did not just say that. Make income from my hobby? And we’ll get a furbaby? What’s the catch?

Okay…Like, for how many months?

When you start generating consistent income. 

Right, but, what counts as consistent? 2 months? 3?

Yeah. When you start making money each month, we can get a cat.

And then we shook on it. We shook on it!


So, not really sure how to do that yet but I think getting some readers is a good place to start. Read. Tell your friends. Help me get a cat! And then you can come back and get original cat content and it will be the best!

This blog has been many things over the years: my travelogue in Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen,, and a smattering of other places. A space for existential reflection. An unflinching look at how the great recession of 2008 affected me as a college graduate and contributed to 6 months of jobless bumming on my parent’s couch.  A glimpse into my home.

These days, I continue the ponder the meaning of my existence and the purpose of my life. I do this mostly through literature though not exclusively. And I continue to be a near insatiable consumer of stories–books, podcasts, interviews, interesting stories and videos–and I share the best ones. Most recently, I’ve been working on a series of posts about your body–well, my body–and struggles with eating and feeling good and bad and angry and great. I’ll be adding to that, and expanding to other topics (see the site tagline).

So. I think you should go get your friends and y’all should stick around. Or, tell me in the comments what would make you stick around! What do you want to read about?

And remember to tell your friends! If not for me, then for her:

girl with armful of kitties
Look at all those kitties! They’re bigger than I am!



International Women’s Day

Look, I know what title says–I wrote it–and I’m not really going to write about International Women’s Day. 

I’m sorry. 

I mean! Thank you for understanding. 

I really just wanted an excuse to talk about how I don’t participate in national and international holidays, even ones like this that I think are awesome. I knew about day without a woman but forgot and didn’t wear even a speck of red (unusual for me) and didn’t do anything about IWD until freaking everyone on social media was posting about it. 

Fine. I won’t be tone deaf. 

I posed this. 
But I wanted to post this dramatic, more graphic version: 
because it’s so cool and I’m still not over that exhibit. I’ll post more about it sometime probably. We’ll definitely actually because I’ve got to do something with all these photos. 

So, I don’t know. That wasn’t empowering and it was totally cis of me, but it was a genuine celebrations. Bodies, and especially those of women (cis and non alike), are just amazing. 

So the picture is a statement on beauty, complexity, intricacy, work, and purpose, just like I want my life to be. Except I don’t really care if anyone calls it intricate or complex. 

And I’m grateful to be a woman and for all the women who came before me, and those who are next to me. Thank you.

Maybe this was a post about today after all. Man. 


I’ll just have a slice of cheesecake to go, thanks.

I woke up angry today.

Anger is new to me, and it’s the scariest thing. Everything else I feel is just that–like running my fingers over a rough surface–but anger feels like a monster inside of me. It’s a separate being inside of me, and I know neither how to release it nor to tame it. I only feel the heat of it, the intensity in my chest. Does everyone feel this way Because if so, the world suddenly makes enormously more sense.

I didn’t fly into a rage. I didn’t even wish ill on the other commuters on the freeway. But, sitting in the quiet morning light, I kept replaying in my head the same scene: walking over to my husband–who was in bed sleeping–and yelling at him for making me so angry! What did he do?

I haven’t a clue!

He was a little ornery yesterday, a little antagonistic. Completely normal behavior for him, by the way. It just happened to fall on upon which fell several other things–poor diet, headache, stress, feeling out of control of my life and lost about my future–and there I was, ready to pummel him with my pillow.

I didn’t, though. I held back. I reasoned with myself that that was a terribly unfair thing to do to him, and also a scary one. You shouldn’t have to worry about your wife yelling you into consciousness unless someone has been shot, and it’s you.

Don’t get me wrong: this was definitely the right decision. I would go back and choose the same thing.

And yet.

And yet.

I could have done something with that anger. Anger can be channeled into creativity. I know it can, and I don’t know how.

Last spring, my husband and I got in a big fight–or maybe it was a small fight–and I was so mad at him I couldn’t bear to be in the same room. But I also couldn’t bear to tell him how angry I was, so I let him fall asleep and then I crept downstairs to the couch. A mix of anger and the light from the downstairs windows made it difficulty to fall asleep, so I decided to watch Lemonade. I turned to it for her soothing voice, for the poetry, the visuals. I wanted to take my mind off the anger, to be distracted enough to fall asleep, but instead I watched the whole thing. It had never struck me how angry she became, how angry she let herself become.

I had always resonated with one piece early in the album. She’s suspended in water, submerged, just beginning to wake up, to rise up, and she tells a story familiar to most women, about self-contortion, passivity, containment, and trying to make yourself something else, ignoring your own voice for another’s.

This time, I saw that the basis for the entire film was uncoiling that need. And to do it, you must feel love, desperation, apathy, hurt, introspection, and yes, rage. Oh, the rage! I never imagined how cathartic it could be. What a relief it was to see her yell and swear and seethe on camera, to flip it off, and to never apologize not even once. She never blames herself or wonders what she did wrong, or questions what the other woman has that she doesn’t. She is so mad she’s practically on fire with anger, but she stays so cool. She doesn’t become passive, and she doesn’t shrink. In fact, she doesn’t do much at all. The song isn’t really about her.

Her job is to stand there and rage.

It’s only later, much later, that she returns, forgives, goes back upstairs to bed.

First, rage.

I don’t know how to feel that kind of rage, and I certainly don’t know how to channel it. It’s so much easier to eat the cheesecake.


I’ve long feared anger for its destructive potential, but maybe I need to mine it for its creative power. Maybe next time, instead of imagining yelling at him, I write the scene.

What else has anger created?

I tried to change.
Closed my mouth more.
Tried to be softer, prettier, less awake.
Fasted for 60 days. Wore white.
Abstained from mirrors.
Abstained from sex.
Slowly did not speak another word.
In that time my hair I grew past my ankles.
I slept on a mat on the floor.
I swallowed a sword.
I levitated into the basement.
Confessed my sins and was baptized in river.
Got on my knees and said amen, and said I mean.
I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at Your feet.
I threw myself into a volcano.
I drank the blood and drank the whineI sat alone and bent and begged at the waist for God. I crossed myself in thought.I saw the devil.I grew thickened skin on my feet.I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the holy book–
But still inside me, coiled deep, was the need to know.

It’s modified because I’ve never needed to know if someone was cheating on me. I just needed to know.

Choose Anger, Not Cheesecake | Monday Wisdom

“That makes me very angry,” we might write instead of eating the last piece of cheesecake. The cake is a sedative that dulls our emotions while anger is a spark that can be used as creative fuel. Entire books, plays, and operas have been written out of anger. The creative arena is the best possible arena in which to express anger. Anger gave us Picasso’s Guernica. Anger gave us Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Properly channeled, anger is a lodestone for creative endeavors.”

–Julia Cameron, The Writing Diet

(I would also add Beyoncé’s Lemonade to the list. I am so grateful she used it as creative fuel.)

That strange feeling

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.

-Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

I left the UAE four years ago, and the Middle East 3 1/2. (I may have even shared this quote back in 2013 because it resonated so strongly with me then.) and now I’m back and I’m a tourist and I’m with my husband’s family and when peiple ask where I’m from, I say Texas (!) and it’s like I’m not even the same person. 

I’m not the same person. 

And Dubai isn’t the same place. 

And there’s no going back, not ever again. 

It’s a strange feeling, indeed. 

I’m writing this above Cluj-Napoca

Do you know where that is? Because I know a lot of things about the world, but that I had to google. 

Cluj-Napoca is in Romania. 

I am 35,000 feet in the air, traveling 547 mph over Romania and typing a blog post. Romania, dude! 

The world has changed. 

13 years ago, my first time across the world in 2004, I had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam and people were smoking in the airport. Now I am blogging over Romania. 

I just re-read that. 13 years, dude! That’s nearly half my life. I now have internet on international flights but Emirates’ in-flight entertainment system? Still can’t detect my finger. Touchscreen technology has been on the mass market for 10 years but Emirates, a world-class luxury airline, still won’t play Ugly House to Lovely House episode 1.

Anyway, here are some headlines I’ve been watching instead:

Not a single word about the big American circus of 2017. 

Guys, my legs are cramped and my knees aching and my nose dry and my eyes tired and I’m thirsty and uncomfortable and ready to land in Dubai–but this is the best. 

Superbowl Recap

But an incomplete one because I don’t really care about the superbowl.

I do, however, care about #Hamilton! Who watched the Schuyler sisters perform? Wasn’t it gorgeous?
Thank you to this twitter user whose LMM RT made it easy for me to find this video:

And how awesome was Lady Gaga? I’m a Beyonce fan, and last year’s performance with Bruno was awesome–but dang. This was the best halftime show I’ve ever seen.
Rather than posting her performance, though, I am putting up the video that started it all:

Good job, #sb51. Great performances and, I’m told, a historic game. Bravo.

8 Years Later

I wrote an impassioned post on October 11, 2008 called Why I’m Voting For Barack Obama and published it on Facebook, as we did in those days.  I was re-reading it today, on the eve of the end of his presidency (*cry emoji*) and am excerpting it below. The original post talks more about McCain, Palin, and the ugliness of that election. This speaks to my hopes, the things I wanted from an Obama presidency and which I now, 8 years later, think I got.

My favorite part of that DNC speech all those years ago, the one that made an Obama supporter out of me, is this:

it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper — for alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga,  a belief that we’re all connected as one people. If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there is a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief — It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

We’re so far from that. On the eve of a Trump administration (! can it really be?), I feel like we have never been further.

So I’m taking  a moment to be so thankful for the past 8 years, for the leadership of Barack and Michelle. We’re not more unified right now. We seem to be more like one big estranged family.

But I got hope. Not blind optimism and willful ignorance, but hope that the folks like me will come together yet, that we’ll reach out to our hurt, angry relatives (and they to us) and we’ll be stronger for it.

First, though, it’s going to get really ugly.

So I’m taking a moment.


I have been an Obama supporter since the beginning. Shortly after he entered the race in the spring of 2007, I stumbled across his address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Listening to it sent through me a surge of pride for America I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

I’m quite certain we all grew up believing everyone outside of America wanted to be in America. Everyone sees America as a land of opportunity and wanted to come here and live out the American dream. America is a land of freedom and equality and opportunity. Our constitution is the best, our military the most honorable and our people the most successful. This message has been repeated so many times in our lifetimes that most of us accept it without question. I did.

For two and a half years, though, I had been surrounded by people down on America, overwhelmingly because of President Bush and the Iraq War. They felt the hurt of family members in the US who had been discriminated against in the aftermath of September 11th. I met several Arab students who were forced to return because the government cancelled their visas. I met Iraqis frightened for their family members still in Baghdad. Iraqis who had to flee their homes, leave their jobs, their own country because circumstances in Iraq had gotten too dangerous and miserable to continue living there. But it wasn’t just Arabs who were upset. In 12th grade, my first year in the United Arab Emirates, I was grilled by many of classmates who wanted to know whether I supported Bush, whether I supported the war, and why so many Americans did. It puzzled me that they even cared. What does South Africa, Australia, Europe care what America does? No, I don’t support Bush (though I don’t really care all that much), or the war in Iraq and I neither know nor care why so many do. America rocks! The end.

I started college at the American University of Sharjah and began seeing America in a more complex dimension. America, the greatest nation *ever*, had hurt people. Lots of people, and very deeply. I traveled to nearly a dozen countries in the three years I lived in the UAE and in each place it was the same. They were excited to learn I was from America because they had a son, cousin, uncle or sister there and, oh, it is so beautiful. But isn’t it violent? (Thanks a ton, Hollywood!) I could never go there because I have a beard—or I cover my hair or my name is Khaled—and they’ll think I’m a terrorist. Many Europeans I talked to had great things to say about America and its people—they had actually been here—but, for one reason or another, were resentful for President Bush and his policies.

In June of 2006, I spent a week in Lebanon. Just days after getting back, Hizballah kidnapped an Israeli soldier, Israel retaliated and the rest of the summer was engulfed in war. Anti-Americanism in the Arab world spiked. Lebanese children were being killed, the airport and the road to Damascus (a main route out of the country) was bombed and the US—Israel’s closest ally—wouldn’t even call for a ceasefire. What happened to everyone being created equal?

I spent the summer in the US studying Arabic (no kidding) and on my return to the Middle East, I had to confront a whole new level of bitterness. People across the Middle East were openly and increasingly supporting Hizballah. One Lebanese friend got hit in the leg by some shrapnel. Another hadn’t gotten to see his family because the airport was bombed a few days before he was to land. Many more Lebanese and non-Lebanese expressed to me their resentment of America’s inaction.

I knew this was my last year in the country and thus my last chance to help my peers see the America I knew, an essentially benevolent nation full of friendly and hospitable, moral, nonviolent citizens.

I know it looks bad, what with the wars, the President’s incompetence and the outright belligerence of his administration. Okay, it looks really bad. But America really isn’t all that bad. Honest! Remember Abraham Lincoln? Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement? Remember Jimmy Carter? The Statue of Liberty?

But my peers hadn’t grown up on School House Rock and so they didn’t know that America was a melting pot. They didn’t know the progress we’ve made since its founding. They didn’t know that when a bunch of Americans come together and rally for a cause, change happens. They weren’t aware of all the criticism that had lobbied against the Bush administration. Most knew America through its entertainment and saw little more than moral decadence and violence. Most had experienced the negative effects of its foreign policy. Few knew of its warmth, beauty and diversity.

It was in the midst of this identity crisis, this reconciling of the two Americas I had come to know, that I came across this speech. He described my America. The one I grew up with, the one I was trying to keep faith in. His message, that America is not just a great nation, but a good nation, too, is the one I wanted to pass on to my peers. I wanted them to know that maybe America has been overshadowed by divisiveness and greed, but that our founding principles are still in tact. There are people in America who think that the nation could do a lot better and are willing to make it so, for us and for the rest of the world.

Most people know I’m excited about this election. My roommates know I can hardly refrain from talking about it. To my parents, I don’t shut up about it. The reason, above all, that I am so zealous in my support is that I have hope for America. I have hope that we can make our similarities more important than our differences. I have hope that we can be a force for good–not resentment and fear–in the world. I want to be led by a person who has proven himself above ordinary politics, smear tactics and who truly embodies change. I have hope that together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea —

Yes. We. Can.

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