Numlock News: July 17, 2019 • Rushmore, Heat, Game of Thrones

By Walt Hickey

Mount Rushmore

A Nebraska woman illegally climbed Mount Rushmore, making it 15 feet from the top of the 5,725 sculpture and opting for what I’ll call The Adams Route, which entails the tricky climb between Washington and Jefferson. After pleading guilty to the crime of climbing the mountain, Alexandria Incontro was hit with a $1,000 fine and $30 fee, which is frankly a reasonable amount of money to climb a national monument compared to the fees associated with more on-the-level summits.

Arielle Zionts, Rapid City Journal

Cheese?

Retail sales in the plant-based food category rose 11 percent in the past year to $4.5 billion, which was considerably faster growth than the 2 percent seen in the food sector overall. Dairy alternatives grew faster than animal-based milk, with the newcomers now encompassing 13 percent of the total milk market. Plant-based yogurts saw a nearly 40 percent increase in sales this year, while dairy yogurts dropped slightly. Plant-based cheese, an abomination of science, which is where I draw my line, was up 20 percent, if you dare even dignify that congealed plant slop with the glorious halo associated with cheese.

Olivia Rockeman, Bloomberg

Textbooks

Pearson — the textbook juggernaut whose business practices have made them a larger enemy of college students than midterms, mono or even noise complaints — will completely overhaul their business by shifting away from the dreaded old-fashioned “revise the print textbook every three years to wipe out the resale market” model, and instead bleed students dry using the latest tech on the market. In 2019, Pearson updated 500 of its 1,500 textbook titles, while in 2020 the company will only update 100, instead opting for electronic textbooks on a subscription basis. Pearson makes 20 percent of its revenue from courseware, and half its annual sales are from digital.

BBC

Fire and Blood

Game of Thrones smashed the record of 27 Emmy Award nominations held by NYPD Blue in 1994 with a total 32 nominations this year. Thrones is by far the best-performing show in Emmy history, with 47 wins and what’s finished at 161 nominations. HBO’s 137 nominations are the most in the premium cable channel’s history, buoyed also by 22 other nominated programs, which included Chernobyl, Veep and Barry. Netflix increased its own record with 117, NBC and ABC saw dips and CBS and Fox were slightly up.

Michael Schneider, Variety

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Show Business

Americans will spend a projected $26 billion on music and video subscription services this year, almost double the amount spent in 2017, and up $20.4 billion from 2018. Music streaming revenue is projected to hit $8.4 billion of that, up 33 percent over 2018, and paid video streaming is projected to hit $17.7 billion, up 25 percent since last year. In 2020, the total figure is projected to hit $32.3 billion, as more and more companies roll out streaming options and consumers become amenable to that kind of distribution. Video game revenue still manages to make that look measly, with a projected $39 billion this year from video gaming.

Janko Roettgers, Variety

Heat

When it’s hot out people tend to get more aggressive, a maxim backed up by a new study of Los Angeles daily crime data from 2010 to 2017, which found that overall crime popped by 2.2 percent on days when the heat passed 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The effect was more significantly seen when it came to violent crime, which increased 5.7 percent. This makes a ton of sense because a particularly hot day isn’t going to make someone more likely to, I don’t know, launder money, commit fraud or scale Mount Rushmore.

Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post

Boxed In

E-commerce generated 1.3 million tons of container cardboard in North America in 2018, up from 1.1 million in 2017. North America has lots of space for tree farms, cheap pulp, few laws encouraging sustainability and large distances to traverse. All of these factors combined mean most cardboard is a tree before it becomes a box, as only 35 percent of North American cardboard manufacturing capacity is from recycled content. Compare that to Europe and Asia, where 80 percent and 93 percent, respectively, of cardboard manufacturing is from recycled material. Amazon — the biggest player in boxes — is attempting to cut back on superfluous packing material, reducing material used by 19 percent by weight since 2016.

Lydia DePillis, CNN Business


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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner ·  Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·

 Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

Numlock News: July 16, 2019 • Nanosilver, Speeds, Swans

By Walt Hickey

Attempted Avengeance

After another weekend at the box office where the film racked up $2.8 million worldwide, Avengers: Endgame is merely $7.16 million behind the $2.788 billion box office record (not adjusted for inflation) set by Avatar. Avengers has made $851 million domestically and $1.9 billion internationally, with $629 million in China alone. This is a crucial process that is seemingly designed specifically to spite James Cameron and also notch a record through sheer force of will alone, and I respect that.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Mobile

The U.S. is skyrocketing up through the ranks when it comes to average mobile download speeds, jumping a huge three spots too — wait, really? — 40th ranking worldwide. It’s even worse when it comes to upload speeds, as the U.S. has fallen 21 spots since 2018, down to a dismal 94th place. While download speeds are up 24 percent and uploads are up 13 percent, basically the rest of the world has been getting better at a much faster rate.

Rani Molla, Recode

Washes

Lots of apparel companies are rolling out clothes that don’t need to be washed because they’re treated with antimicrobial oils or nanosilver particles that reduce odor. The advantages are clear: not only do I get to live my best life and embrace a future I’m calling “Schlub Elysium,” washing clothes is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with one McKinsey study finding 1 pound of clothing emits 11 pounds of greenhouse gasses, with a Levi’s study finding 40 percent of the climate impact of a pair of jeans is notched after manufacture when it’s in consumer hands. Still, there are some perils here; “silver-impregnated fabric” holds to the good-but-not-great industry standard of 50 washes before it starts releasing those potentially toxic nanoparticles into a wash.

Alden Wicker, Vox

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I Don’t Care If I Ever Come Back

Foul balls can be really dangerous, with one 2014 estimate from Bloomberg suggesting 1,750 fans per year are injured by baseballs hit into the stands. Serious recent injuries have motivated some fans to push for expanding the netting that protects fans in the immediate area around the infield. A new analysis of the most foul-heavy game at the 10 most foul-heavy parks — 906 foul balls all told — found 454 hit zones protected by netting while 452 hit places in the foul ball zones with no such protection. Looking only at balls that were hit at speeds of 90 miles per hour or higher, 71.8 percent landed somewhere on the sidelines in areas not typically protected by netting, including all line drives that were hit at 90 miles per hour or more.

Annette Choi, FiveThirtyEight

Avian Midwives

It’s long been speculated that birds play a role in spreading fish to new ecosystems, but how exactly that gets pulled off has remained mere speculation. A new proof-of-concept study found that the eggs of two species of killifish — found in mangrove swamps — can not only survive days out of the water, they can also survive getting consumed by birds, digested, and then ejected. The researchers mixed the eggs with corn feed and fed them to swans; upon examination of the swan poop, the researchers discovered five live killifish eggs, including one which hatched into a tiny fish after 49 days after 30 hours in a swan.

Richa Malhotra, Hakai Magazine

Water

South Asia derives about 70 percent of its water from a few short months in monsoon season, and a rough year could spell an access crisis in a densely populated part of the world. The frozen peaks of the Himalayas provide meltwater for 1.65 billion people. Parts of India — specifically Chennai and its 8 million residents — are in the grips of a water shortage, with the city seeing 55 percent less rainfall this last monsoon season than average. Chennai and the two neighboring districts were once known as the lake districts, with more than 6,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, but today there are only 3,896. Part of this is due to simple mismanagement — 90 percent of India’s freshwater goes to agriculture, particularly water-intensive exports like cotton and rice, and leakage alone causes a third of India’s water to exit the system.

Meera Subramanian, The New York Times

Instacart

The delivery company Instacart has lower-than-typical ratings from the gig workers who work on contract to make the app’s grocery deliveries, a forthcoming study found. An online survey of food delivery workers on the various apps found that — on a 1 to 7 scale — the average Instacart worker rated 3.4 when it came to the app being fair to them compared to an average of 5 for other delivery apps, and reported job satisfaction at an average of 3.5 compared to 5 from others. Part of that may be that Instacart’s couriers are penalized for turning down deliveries they perceive to be not worth the pay.

Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg


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 Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

Numlock News: July 15, 2019 • Vacations, Omega-3, Toxoplasma

By Walt Hickey

Farms

Small farms have found that turning to AirBnB to bring in a little extra money from city slickers trying to relax in pastoral settings is a great way to pad the margins. According to AirBnb, 943,534 people booked stays on farms over a one-year period, a full $81 million transferred from the vacationers to the farmers. The appeal varies — some want to get up close and personal with where their food comes from, others want to get out of dodge and kick back in a tiny house — but it’s part of a larger trend of smaller farming operations setting their sights on ancillary income, like wedding or event hosting, organic farming, or bed and breakfasting, in an enormously competitive agribusiness.

Liz Tracy, Vox

Aquaculture

A new factory in notoriously landlocked Nebraska kicked off production last week on a new way to manufacture omega-3 fatty acids, which currently require millions of fish to produce. In addition to being a standalone product in their own right, omega-3 fatty acids are essential to farming fish, providing a necessary nutrient that’s added to the feed for farmed salmon. Today, it’s made by grinding up oily anchovies and herring, the extraction of which is fairly terrible for the oceans. The new factory instead makes omega 3 derived from algae, allowing for the farming of salmon that are functionally vegetarian. Algae, water, sugar and corn are combined in fermentation tanks to produce the feed. It should produce enough feed to sustain 15 percent of annual demand, replacing 1.2 million metric tons of wild fish that are killed for feed annually. For perspective, that’s roughly on par with the annual catch from the Mediterranean sea.

Ellen Proper and Deena Shanker, Bloomberg

Surveillance

Life360 is an app with 18 million active users as of 2018, essentially a location sharing service for families angling to keep tabs on where kids are at all times, how much battery their phones have, and how fast they’re moving. Needless to say, this is an enormous escalation in the parenting wars, and kids are ticked off. We know that by looking at TikTok, a popular app the youths are using, and where videos about Life360 racked up 13 million views. The company uses the location data to sell custom car insurance and other products it gleans you may desire based on your behavior. Needless to say, the offspring have launched a proportionate response, with one Iowa teenage 007 agent detailing how she uses the app to spy right back on her parents, allowing her to sneak out and ensure she gets home before mom.

Louise Matsakis, Wired

Potted Plants

In what is by far the most Vermont story possible, 34 marijuana plants were found growing in flower beds outside the Vermont Statehouse. The plants were found after some narc snitched on the grow, and whether they’re actual cannabis or merely hemp hasn’t been determined. In the best possible twist, officials conceded that this is not the first time this has happened. Police said the only way that this will lead to criminal charges is if someone comes forward, presumably to claim their Earth’s Best Prankster award from the governor along with the keys to the state and a truly reckless number of high fives.

Associated Press

Succession

Many companies in Japan and South Korea are closely held family businesses, and lots of those companies are contending with aging founders eyeing their heirs and then thinking hard about their fitness and then subsequently eyeing their exit. Right now, 66 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses in Japan lack successors and 84 percent of mid-sized South Korean companies don’t plan to pass on the business to the next generation. Lots of private equity companies — who have a collective $1.26 trillion ready to go — see all these local productions of King Lear and sense an opportunity to scoop up firms with limited succession options. This could be for a lot of different reasons — perhaps it’s related to the inheritance taxes of 55 percent in Japan and 50 percent in South Korea, or where the aging founder doesn’t have a kid, or ones where they do but are in Disney Channel Original Movie territory and the kids don’t want to take over the family business, they want to follow their own dreams, not dad’s.

Yoojung Lee and Shiho Takezawa, Bloomberg

Food

Postmates has been locked in the fourth position in the U.S. delivery market for going on two years now, with 10.2 percent of the market as of May according to Second Measure data — behind Uber Eats (19.7 percent), Grubhub (31.7 percent), and the newly kinged DoorDash (32 percent). Postmates has been considering a delayed public offering, but that hasn’t yet put to bed considerations of mergers or sales, potentially to DoorDash, Uber, or Walmart. Part of this is that there’s a ton of overlap and customers aren’t loyal — 26 percent of Postmates users also ordered from Grubhub in the first quarter, 27 percent also ordered from DoorDash, and another 27 percent also used Uber Eats.

Theodore Schleifer and Jason Del Rey, Vox

Cats

Toxoplasma gondii reproduces exclusively in cats, and when the parasite infects a rodent, that rodent becomes attracted to the scent of cat urine, which in turn makes them more likely to be eaten by cats and thus allowing the cycle to renew unabated. It also infects a third of humans, and though it doesn’t have the same cat urine effect, it’s really quite bad for fetuses. Until a recent scientific breakthrough, the only way to study Toxoplasma entailed experimentation on cats, which irks people, or infecting mice with strains, waiting 30 days, sending their brains to a lab in Maryland, having that lab feed that to cats, and then eagerly awaiting a parcel full of cat crap to come back. But now we figured out why cats are the only places the parasite can reproduce, namely that linoleic acid is 25 to 46 percent of the fatty acids in cat blood compared to much lower concentrations in other animals, such as 3 to 10 percent in mice, which is too low for toxo to reproduce. Now, researchers figured out how to make mice have linoleic-rich blood, and the kitties may be spared.

Ed Yong, The Atlantic

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Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at walt@numlock.news. Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at copy@numlock.news.

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner ·  Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·

 Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

Numlock News: July 12, 2019 • Whales, Friendship, Maroon 5

By Walt Hickey

Have an excellent weekend!

Friends

A new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that physical distance in New York City is actually of less consequence than public transit distance. Inherently, people’s social networks are informed by proximity, but in New York that proximity is more temporal than physical. Increasing, the distance correlated with a 10 percent reduction in Facebook friendships, sure, but increasing the travel times by 10 percent led to a 15 percent reduction in friendships. This held even after controlling for a litany of factors. You see that, Albany? By neglecting MTA maintenance and letting the subways go to hell there is scientifically less love in the world. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

Aarian Marshall, Wired

Hobbes & Shaw

Hobbes & Shaw is the heartwarming story of Magdalene Shaw, a smart woman played by Helen Mirren, who is the proud mother of a lovable group of grown children. Deckard, the retired government employee, Owen, the well-known activist, and the Hattie, the government bureaucrat. The film tells the heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship between a police officer and her unemployed son as they look past their differences, talk their problems out, and come together to work as a team to stop a cyber-genetically enhanced international terrorist from global annihilation. The Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham-starring Fast and the Furious spinoff is projected to make $65 million on its opening weekend in early August, and it will also make history as the first film to average 5 percent body fat across the board.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Bystander

Some dated research produced the idea of the “bystander effect,” where people who witness a crime or altercation refuse to intervene. Despite plenty of urban apocrypha, past studies had serious problems actually figuring out how often people will intervene. Under laboratory conditions, the studies observed bystanders intervening in anywhere from 11 percent to 74 percent, but thanks to a global surveillance dragnet that thrusts us all into a withering panopticon at the pleasure of the state, a new study was able to determine that bystanders intervene in bad situations all the time. The new study looked at over 200 incidents captured on CCTV cameras in Amsterdam, Cape Town and Lancaster to determine how often people stepped up to defuse a devolving conflict. The average number of bystanders was 16 and in nine out of 10 incidents at least one intervened, with an average of 3.8 interveners, and the more bystanders there were the more likely someone would intervene.

Richard Florida, CityLab

Maroon 5 featuring Absolutely Nobody, Apparently

“Girls Like You” is a song by Maroon 5 featuring the artist Cardi B, but not according to Adult Contemporary radio stations. The song — which does not contain Cardi’s verse in the bridge when played on many Adult Contemporary stations — just broke the record for longest time atop the AC charts, with 29 weeks at number one across 86 contemporary stations monitored by Nielsen. This is emblematic of a larger story, where just as hip hop secures more and more of U.S. pop AC stations routinely spurn the genre. Indeed, when Whiz Khalifa’s song “See You Again” featuring Charlie Puth spent 12 weeks on the top of the Hot 100, most AC stations played a version that cut all of Khalifa’s verses.

Jason Lipshutz, Billboard

This past weekend’s Sunday edition featured a really great conversation with writer Peter Fairley about the fascinating story of how Moloka’i became Hawaiian Electric’s guinea pig when it comes to their 100 percent renewable grid mandate, and the complications that resulted. His wonderful original story, The Hot Mess of Hawai‘i’s Renewable Power Push can be found in Hakai Magazine.

Thanks so much to the paid subscribers whose support makes Numlock possible, I’m super grateful to be able to do this and it’s thanks to your support! Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

Cosmetics

The men’s skin care market is projected to grow 24 percent over the next five years to $5 billion, thanks to younger consumers with less traditional views regarding who cosmetics are for. The value of the global men’s makeup market is considerably smaller, $1.14 billion, which is a tiny sliver of the $71.1 billion cosmetics business. Globally speaking, the market seeing the largest growth is Latin America, where 2018’s $11.3 billion in men’s grooming is up more than 50 percent compared to value in 2013.

Lisa Du, Bloomberg

Water

In the U.S., about 7 percent of water consumption is used in households, with the rest of it going to industrial use or farms. Worldwide, it’s getting pricier and pricier to keep the taps flowing: where once the total worldwide cost of water distribution and production hovered consistently between $40 billion and $45 billion, today it costs about $200 million to keep the spigots on. Even in established systems, maintenance is costly: the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates 2 trillion gallons of drinking water are lost every year to water main breaks.

Tim Gray, The New York Times

China Box Office

China’s box office is in an awful slump, down 3.6 percent in the first half of the year after at least eight consecutive years with first half growth. This is the result of a confluence of things — a weaker year from American film studios, trade tensions, and the cascading effects emanating from an enormous scandal that wrapped up the entire Chinese film business in a tax spat with the government. When last year 77 films launched in July and August, this year only 68 are slated. While the top four films of last year were all Chinese, this year Avengers: Endgame holds the second position after The Wandering Earth, which made $691 million. Last year China spent $8.2 billion at the box office, five times as much as 2010, and the weak year is throwing water on the projections that the Chinese box office will overtake the American one next year.

Sheryl Tian Tong Lee and Jinshan Hong, Bloomberg

Whales

Despite international condemnation and a waning industry, Japan has returned to commercial whaling as of July 1. Fewer than 300 people are directly involved with whaling around Japan and the amount consumed annually is less than 0.1 percent of all meat consumption. About 5.1 billion yen — roughly $47.31 million — was budgeted for whaling in 2019, and meanwhile whale watching has exploded in popularity, particularly among tourists. About 65 percent of the tourism boat business in whaling country is to watch the whales, and the number of whale watchers around Japan doubled from 1995 to 2015.

Elaine Lies, Reuters


Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at walt@numlock.news. Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at copy@numlock.news.

The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.

Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner ·  Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·

 Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

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