Keep Trying

{I came across this post I wrote a many years ago, but never published and in the spirit of the post, am publishing it now.}

I have a quote I put up on my wall that asks:
“Who do you have to become to achieve all you want?”

I put it on my wall because it confounded me two reasons.
1. Who am I now?
2. What is “all I want?”


In the discovering of WHO you have to become, you learn a lot about who you are, now. I bashfully admit I’m not totally sure who I am. I’m still figuring it out. I have all these different sides and parts of myself and over the years some parts have been ignored or suppressed while other parts have taken the lead. You know the expression, “Life is not a dress rehearsal,” I think I’ve been an understudy. I’ve been an understudy for myself.  Now I’m pushing myself onto the stage and assembling it together, seeing what fits and what doesn’t. What fears and hopes are still relevant to me now that I really think about it. It’s like a scrapbook, some things aren’t going to make it into the final book and there’s going to be some messy glue residue left on the good table, but with time and effort, it will clean up. And some of the smaller scraps can be used as confetti. What I’m saying is self discovery is a process.

So here I am sitting on the F train with my laptop appropriately on my lap, trying to type up my ideas for this blog. And just in the center of the train, sitting on a stool, is a man playing cello so beautifully. Am I in a movie? In my beloved NYC, just when you feel uninspired, you look around and see someone taking a risk and putting their goods on the line. I can’t imagine how people felt having to listen to this gentlemen play for the first time on a subway, driven by an erratic and brake happy conductor. I can’t imagine it was very good at first. But here he is today, providing my ride home with a glorious soundtrack. I used to describe my favorite part of New York like this:

Imagine film noir lighting, naturally in black and white. It’s a lonely subway platform with a few ambling people keeping to themselves, maybe a couple engaged in some serious PDA, but French-style, so it looks romantic not juvenile. Way down at the other end of the platform near the tunnel is a saxophonist improvising a melancholy tune. You can barely see him in the shadows. He hasn’t come for the crowds, he’s come for the acoustics and the practice. In my movie mind version of this scenario, a tap dancer steps out in a fedora and raincoat, does a little soft shoe shuffle before disappearing on the incoming train and once again the saxophonist is all alone. The remnants of his music hauntingly pour up through the subway grates onto the sidewalk, conjuring visions of lone musicians playing on an empty subway platform.

In improv you learn that when you try to make the audience laugh, you surely will not. The artist must play for himself, paint for himself, write for himself and be for himself. We are all artists—even the businessman. If every business deal were exactly alike, we’d all be commodities. The standards we set for ourselves is much higher than the one we set for others. If we truly tried to live up to ourselves and not to others, we’d all be better off. And as my wise project manager tells me often, if you accomplish 50% of your goals, it’s a success. It’s not always about finishing every goal. But if you don’t start, there’s nothing to keep trying for and maybe the things that get finished are the things that you really care about and that’s a good thing.

So who do I have to become to achieve all I want? Me. And that’s my journey.



Me today. Exploring new environments after 20 years in NYC.

Rainy Friday at the office.

Written by Marina Romashka.

I came this morning to the office wet soaked. The beautiful thing about my office at Sunshine Suites, is that you can wear pretty much anything and nobody will care. So without any hesitation I changed into my yoga pants. I had a life is-good moment and wanted to share it on Facebook but did not in case others weren’t feeling as overwhelmed with happiness about their workplace. Most days I do not care. Today was a rainy day and I already felt melancholic even though I was happy about wearing yoga pants in an office environment.

As the day unfolded I started feeling sadness– things started getting to me and it was one of those days when you have to stick around and do the work no matter how you feel. It’s one thing to do the work and another thing to be part of photoshoot which I promised my time and body for. I won’t lie and say that I do a lot of preparation for any Photoshoot but there is at least an excitement preparation – you think what to wear, do your hair, some additional make up and you are trying to be in a cheery mood. I had none of it and promised that I would .

I was dragging myself to it. When Kat gave me her first scenario, it was something very sad and serious and it was right on target with how I felt, so I did not have to pretend and play happy Mary.

The more we got down to the process, the more I started losing myself and eventually the sadness left me and I started enjoying the process and being goofy and we found the spot where everything fell into place. The business owner in yoga pants, sitting at the window and stretching before her next important meeting.

Life has it is own moods and ways to deal with them by putting us in different situations and places and Kat’s approach to photography always takes me out of a state and brings me back to me, really experiencing life here and now. Namaste.

Marina, An Idea Coach, stretches before a Skype meeting.

I asked Marina to think of a moment in her life when it took all her strength to get thru a difficult time. I didn’t realize she might be thinking of today. ©Katarina Kojic

“Think of the dumbest thing that always makes you laugh.” ©Katarina Kojic

Marina gets in the mood. ©Katarina Kojic

Marina’s goofy side. ©Katarina Kojic

Marina has a passion and a determination for life that she shares with everyone around her. Her business, “Be An iDEA Leader” brings direction and productivity to her clients’ ideas helping impossible ideas become soaring elephants ©Katarina Kojic

30 Days 30 Strangers

Everyday for the next 30 days I will ask a complete stranger if I can take his portrait.

Aside from pre-arranged photoshoots (in which I have time to get to know a person and do my research) I love shooting in a photojournalistic, fly-on-the-wall style and have done it for years. The opposite is going up to a stranger on the street and asking him to pose for a portrait. I love looking at portraits and often I see strangers on the streets or subways in New York that I think would make an excellent portrait, but I shy away from asking. At the recent APANY ReFresh Workshop with Karen D’Silva and Kristin Duvall, they suggested doing the thing you are afraid of for 30 days to get over it. Or for some, the Costanza approach: Do the opposite of what you are comfortable doing.

So for the next 30 days, everyday I will ask a complete stranger if I can take his portrait and I will post a photo here. Good or bad. Of course, I only ever want to show my best work, but for the purpose of this project, I wanted to show everything, I wanted to share the process.

These are the parameters I gave myself:
1. It has to be a perfect stranger.
2. I have to ask their permission. (and get a model release, I added this a few days after I started)
3. I have to photograph 1 person every day before midnight. (more than 1 a day doesn’t count toward the next day.)
4. I will share the photos everyday on this blog

I started yesterday.  I asked 3 people, 2 said yes.

I liked his straw hat, his bag and his book. He looked a little like Indiana Jones ©Katarina Kojic

I liked his shoes and the yellow Nathan’s Hotdogs box ©Katarina Kojic


Vintage Parents

I fell in love with photography and film thru my dad and my uncle Vipsy’s photographs and 8mm films. They both loved taking photographs and filming their families. And most of the evidence is from the 60s and early 70s. My Dad’s 8mm camera was stolen when I was about 5 or 6, and as the youngest, that means there aren’t very many films with me. Perhaps that is why I feel extra nostalgic toward the look of those early films and photographs. The colors, the clothes, the lifestyle photographs of our family and friends–I love it! I have a box of 8mm film reels I brought back to NY after the sale of my mom and dad’s house. We lost my dad several years ago, so these are truly special memories for us. Big reels in blue metal cylindrical containers and little yellow Kodak boxes which were short films only several minutes in length. Films of us at Christmas, of my sister coming home from the hospital as a baby, or my first time walking… We used to watch them as adults when we were home visiting. We’d put up the d-Lite Projector screen, my dad would thread the film and my mom would make tea and serve something delicious she baked. One of the reels labled “1977 Big Garden Our House”- has a shipping label addressed to my Grandmother (Oma) in Germany. That’s how my parents shared our lives with the family abroad. They would make a film and then send it overseas.  I imagine it went down like this: The film reel arrives in the mail at Oma’s. Instantly, a tea kettle is on the stove and a cake that just happened to be baked already, gets sliced up and put on nice china with small silver dessert forks. Meanwhile, my uncle sets up the projector, feeds the film thru the spool, and the family is called in to gather in the living room. Oma brings in the coffee and cake and there in the living room in Planegg, Germany, they watch my mom and my sisters and me frolicking and picnicking in a huge weedy garden that was the plot of land my parents bought and where my dad would build our house (the one we just sold). My earliest memories begin around that time.

Another box I brought back, is filled with boxes of slides. One of the boxes is of my parents before me and my sisters came along. I never saw, or remember seeing any of these photos. There was one photograph of my parents on their wedding day that sat on the dresser in my parent’s bedroom, old and faded, for as long as I could remember. It was exciting to discover the other photos taken from that day plus a few others. Last night my husband and I devised our own method of projecting them onto the wall so we could photograph them to share. We now have on our wish list, a carousel projector, but we were pretty delighted with how they came out. Other than a slight adjustment to the darkness or lightness of the photograph, these were not retouched and we didn’t blur out anyone on purpose.

Suspicion and Grumpiness are not keys to success.

This morning I sold my tv and digital converter to a nice young married couple named Manny and Melissa. They answered my craigslist ad: I’m addicted to tv. Please buy my 27″ Sony TV & digital converter– $45) While examining the tv, from 1999, he looked at his wife and said proudly, “it’s a nice tv right? It’s a Sony!” She nodded uncomfortably. He told me he could give it to his son one day, they are expecting their first child, a boy, in March. It occurred to me how differently we were looking at this tv. For me it was an albatross. For him it was a glorious new SONY television he would pass onto his son one day.

I should have been delighted– a lovely start to my day–being a part of the beginning of a young couple’s life and 40 bucks in my pocket. But instead I practically kicked him out of my apartment because he didn’t bring exact change.

I got on the 7 train today and there was a tired-looking mother and her 4-year old son. He was holding one of those musical toys you can play while it’s still in it’s original packaging. (Packaging with logos and writing on it to lead you to believe it could be from Apple, Disney, a luxury airline, baby einstein, Playskool (which spells school incorrectly disturbingly.) I thought well that’s a nice way to entertain and teach at the same time. It had animal shaped buttons that when pressed play moo, meow or in this case a sound that no matter how many times it’s pressed over the course of a 20 minute train  ride, may never make sense. One of those toys that produced an incessant amount of noise that varies in loudness based on which button you press. It never stops and no one else seems to be bothered. Everyone on the train either has children and has learned how to tune it out, or are involved in some severe meditation practice. It’s a good thing I was on my way to a fucking yoga class. It’s as if he were completely oblivious to everyone else on the train. He ignored all my dirty looks and mental beatings. Seriously, no one else  wanted to tear the toy out of that child’s arms and beat his mother with it?

Getting onto the subway, I like to wait for people to get off the train first, so I don’t feel like a salmon swimming upstream against the mass of people coming out. Not everyone shares this societal more. The MTA will start to close the doors while there are 5 people boarding. So I understand the urgency, but I refuse to contribute to the pushing and shoving, we are still trying to have a society here, we aren’t animals! (There is a New York Post beside me with the headline “Welcome to New York, Now Die.”)

I got on the bus and a woman, rushing to go past me while carrying a parcel big enough to obstruct her view, smacked the back of my ankle. I said OW loudly, so the offender knew an apolgy should come next. But all I got was, “Excuse me.” I must have still been on edge because of the 4 year old. I heard myself saying loudly, “I think an apology is supposed to come with that excuse me.” Am I becoming that person? There must be another way to react. I’m glad I’m getting to yoga, but maybe I need to get out of town for a weekend.

I ran into my neighbor Ellen, a tough, 80+ year old german lady. I’ve shared friendly banter with and her even older husband Ed since I moved into the building several years ago. We exchanged snippets of our day and general pleasantries. She was very sweet and I thought of her as an older unrelated aunt who I liked well enough, but didn’t have a lot of extra time to spare, and hadn’t been engaged with for more that 5-10 minutes at a time. Ed had broken his hip or something years before, but the last few times I saw them, he was slowly moving down the stairs and she was bumping their things down them in her cart. In the past, she would vehemently refuse all attempts to help with her push cart. Today I saw her with her daughter trying to get into her apartment. Ellen looked up and returned my cheery hello. She came walking over to where I was standing, her sparse hair drenched from the rain and clinging to her face. She pointed her index finger at her chest and shook her head, indicating she didn’t want her daughter to know what she was about to say. She whispered, “Ed passed away in August.” She whispered it to me in front of her severely mentally challenged daughter who I guess she hadn’t told yet. I was so take aback. I stood there wanting to comfort her, offer my condolences. I looked from her weathered face to her daughter’s contorted and animated face. I wanted to hug Ellen and let her know I really cared. I was profoundly sad for her. And for a horrible moment I really pitied her. And of all things I knew that was the last thing she would want. Her usually strong and determined face looked worn down and fragile. The toll of the caretaker was starting to show itself. I don’t know when she had last, if ever, been pampered. I feel like this is a letter that should be submitted to Oprah. I’m not sure what the best course of action is, but I want to do something nice for her. Something just for her. I wonder if she would enjoy being dressed up, pampered and photographed.

After yoga today, I wanted to find a cafe to go and write. It had started to drizzle just to the point before you would call it rain. It was constant and my apparently fake raincoat was now slick and drenched. I felt the calming effects of the yoga wearing away as I schlepped thru the west village from one crowded, bathroomless cafe to the next. I stood under the eave of a fancy restaurant that hadn’t opened yet. A nice handsome restaurant worker, running into the restaurant smiled at me and made a comment about the rain. Ah comraderie. Sweet relief. It’s all I needed to jolt me out of my funk. I decided to embrace my grumpy mood. I decided to embrace my suspicious thoughts about Manny. What if he asked for water not because he wasn’t used to a five flight walk up and was thirsty, but because he was trying to distract me while they cased the apartment? What did it matter if he did look into my purse. What if he did purposely only bring $20s even if they were just at breakfast and in all likelihood had a wallet full of 10s and 5s. In all likelihood he was trying to impress his wife with his boss man behavior. So instead I think of my mom and dad just starting their lives together struggling and eeking money out and scrimping and saving. How delighted they were to get a used Singer sewing machine the neighbor was getting rid of. I imagine that neighbor wasn’t worried that my parents were casing their apartment to come back and steal their rice cooker. They are a young couple like my parents were. (or are they?)

The point of all this I guess is sometimes you don’t know what someone is going thru. And does it matter? Maybe I’m going thru something.  I decided it’s okay to be grumpy. I decided it was okay to be suspicious. And now I don’t need to be either. I look around at my surroundings–a very cool hotel lobby with a DJ spinning great music, interesting, attractive people abound, in town for important reasons… it makes me want to throw up. Look at all these uber attractive people doing uber interesting things, connecting with other uber interesting and attractive people. The threesome to my left was just discussing their properties on Lake Cuomo in Italy. They have artistic resident programs for people to just go for a month and work on a project. I overheard that many Opera’s were written on their land. I bet they aren’t complaining about getting the skin on the back of their heel torn off. Unless they got a blister from hiking thru the vineyards and down to George Clooney’s place. But this isn’t helping me make my original point. My original point was that I don’t believe that successful people complain as much as the average achiever. Successful people assess and act. They are decisive.

Being surrounded by so many fabulous people is distracting. I’m shutting down my computer and going home. And I’m downloading 30 Rock.

Ways I am like a european model working in the US.

I was trying to remember where I learned things like “Not to sit on a cold step in winter with wet hair.” or “When getting water for boiling, fill the kettle from the cold water tap, not the hot water tap.”

A few cycles ago of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), I saw part of an episode featuring 2 of  the european model hopefuls. This was a new twist for the normally all american cast.  Apparently earlier in the show a few of the Americans made an incredibly hurtful and cruel comment, like “You wouldn’t understand, you weren’t born here.” And the two european waifen were incredibly hurt and upset by this comment. It cut to their core. “You don’t know what it’s like.” “We have to model in a different language,”  “It’s really hard…” While these aren’t actual quotes from the show, it’s not far off. Now the show is edited and filmed to be dramatic, but even without that direction, it seems a bit dramatic. What is the big damn deal? I know ANTM is like Model High School, what with everyone being high school aged,  or just past. Girls are girls. They can be bitchy in every culture. And maybe these european girls were really irritating  or the american girls were incredibly mean, I didn’t see the whole show.

But it left me wondering if there was any truth to it. And what about for kids who were first generation born American. Do they have any trouble culturally? I mean everyone’s family has its quirks right? I was born in the US to a German-born mother and a Serbian-born father. They both came to the US in their early 20s. Growing up, my sisters and I were surrounded by mostly other Germans, Serbians and every other nationality that came encased with thick accents: Korean, Indian, Filipino, Armenian, etc…If there was a party at our house, the other people were 90% non-americans. They just both seemed to befriend more immigrants like themselves than Americans whose families have been here longer.Which, I realize now, has had a major impact on what I considered normal. Certain things that are universal, would always have a funny twist on it. For example, Dressing for the school bus stop in winter. Every winter morning, on my way out the door to the stop, one house a way, my father would ask, “Where’s your muffler?” He didn’t mean where was my fancy puff of fur little women in books like Little Women would stuff their hands into while ice skating in long skirts. He wasn’t asking about the car, he wanted to know why my face, neck and ears weren’t completely covered with a scarf. And why wasn’t I wearing a hat.

What you eat for breakfast. How you wash the dishes and wipe the counter. What you eat at lunch. For instance, raw pumpernickel bread and store brand cream cheese is NOT par for the course in most american children’s lunch sacks. Offering your friends when they come over after school salted meat that you have get from the garage because that’s where it’s hanging, is not par for the course. Every part of life was influenced by the mainly European way of how to do things. But this leaves me straddling 2 worlds. One world is natural to me, but weird to everyone else. The “Right” way of doing something, means the average way an american would do it or experience it. How is everyone else, who is non-american, doing this activity. Not that it matters, do what works for you. But I think I felt it more strongly than my sisters. I think they had a much stronger sense of self at a much earlier age than I did. I only just learned that a breakfast of toast, jam cottage cheese, tomatoes and a runny egg is wierd.

I didn’t grow up with expressions like, “That’s rad” for the hippie parents, or I’d gamble a wager, for the college educated, {Insert a couple other examples}…, (or I’d gamble a wage on? -that’s probably what it used to be.) This is my point. The american expressions my dad picked up were, “What is this Micky Mouse? or No Monkey business.” Which now writing it out, sounds totally normal and American. But my dad was a 6’3″ stern looking man with a thick, or rather “tick” Serbian accent. So hearing “what is dis mickey mouse?” come out of his mouth was always a little disjointing. Let alone because he used it in slightly the wrong contexts. He would say it to a construction worker who wasn’t doing a good job. Or about a neighbor who was having trouble. “I don’t know it’s some Micky Mouse with Nestor.” Nestor was a Serbian neighbor who had come to the US much earlier. He went to High School here in the US and represented to my sisters and myself the “normalized” serbian. He was rational and spoke clear english and understood how things worked in the corporate ladder. He was probably on the Project Manager side of life. My dad was an engineer and was on the creative side of life. I am a lot like him. Which leaves me wondering, is it genetic or environment.

Just Start.

This is the first sentence of my first blog. I’m sure a lot of people have started their blogs out this way and then erased it when they went thru the editing process. I’m not going to be doing that because it takes too much time. And I made a bet with my project manager that whoever didn’t write their blog by Friday at 1159 owed the other person 25 bucks. So I have given myself an hour to write this first entry. I apologize in advance for any lack of clarity and correct grammar or punctuation. Like I said very little time to write and edit it and as I seem to have gotten my fingers to start typing it out onto the page, I can actually start writing my blog.

Which is about this documentary I started working on over the summer. In a nutshell I had an idea for something I really wanted. Forced myself to brainstorm about it in every direction then put it into an order and an outline. Which, the outline is an excellent source to force your ideas into an order. I don’t know if I’m the only one who is lacking clear ideas on ways to organize each part of your life. I mean I am seemingly just now, at age 36 almost 37, beginning to see the benefits of having self structure. I haven’t been working at a job in a company for almost a year. It’s taken me a very long time to get my head back in the game in a very different capacity. I have always relied on structure coming from the outside, subconsciously, and not really built it for myself. So now I am learning how to get what I want out of life, I need to be steering the boat. So many opportunities are thrust upon you that you just go with what’s presented. And now I feel like I have had the time to figure out what I really want to work toward for the next couple years and I am learning how to put the steps in place. And the truth is Marina, my project manager who I have the $25 bet with, (yes I know with whom…) has been a major part of that. Before we met I had already started to get a lot of that work done and became aware of the need for structure on my own. (Actually it was an inadvertent result of an honest conversation with my good friends Radhika and Holly). Either way she’s been able to accelerate this process of articulating and achieving goals for me in such a huge way. (I think I get a pr fee…)

So the documentary of this journey, ew how many times is that word written in blogland? How cliché of me. Well. The story goes like this. I was sitting on my couch watching Bonnie Hunt and I had watched Ellen or Oprah or Regis and probably all of them in a row. And a six year old is on the show and telling his story of how he’s going to figure out what to be when he grows up. He is going to work for a day or an hour at a different job every day or something like that. And today he is going to learn about television. He did all these different jobs and they took him thru each one. It dawns on me how envious I am of this kid. He gets to go try out all these different jobs. And I decided in that moment that that’s what I want to do and that it would be a really interesting process to film. And as I started to think about it I found myself creating all these reasons why I couldn’t do it. I don’t have a film camera, I don’t have decent sound equipment. And then in a very unlike me of late fashion, I solved each problem. Just start. I just kept hearing it in my head. Just start, it will figure itself out. There isn’t a big investment. Grab a tape recorder and call someone you know tell them about the project and ask for an interview. So I just started. And the first interview I did was with Barbara Nitke, a very cool chick and amazing photographer. She’d always been very helpful in the past and I thought well her life seems pretty great. I don’t know anything about her financial status, and I didn’t ask, but she’s what I would say is successful. She’s doing what she loves and getting paid for it. So I interviewed her and it was very inspiring because when you share a love of something like photography, I find it very hard for a lengthy conversation to NOT turn very inspiring, at least for me. I find it always helps ground me to talk to other photographers. I think I have the impression that it isn’t a stable profession or a lucrative profession. And I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think you can be as successful as you want to be at anything. I believe it’s how seriously you are taking it and whether you’re good at what it is you love.

Well I digress. My interview with Barb lead me to just start setting up the meetings with different people. In my gut I felt very uneasy because I wanted to be taken seriously, but at the same time I had a lot of questions that could be called “dumb”. Unless I really did a lot of research on each person I would naturally ask questions that were pretty basic. And I decided that is the point. That I would ask people the basic questions about the constructs of their job. What do you do?- on a micro level. But as I started talking to people it expanded to include great pieces of advice and conversations about what and when were the times in your life that really shaped who you are today. Where do your expectations for success come from. All these questions that I somehow hoped would help me figure out what to do next.

So my gut was uneasy and I just convinced myself I would be prepared enough, just keep going, don’t stop, keep asking. So I set up these appointments and had created this outline which contained everything that had been happening. To clarify that, I brainstormed about ways to get this project done, like a lot of stuff came out, and I put it into this outline and I refer to it every now and again when I get someone new on board. But what I am saying is I don’t consciously remember everything and all the steps that are on that outline, but they are happening on their own without me consciously saying this person is a producer, interview him so you can lure (different word than lure) him into producing your project. But I had thought about that on my outline as a way to get people interested and have them learn about what I do and how I do it on from the inside out. I guess I was creating kind of an inverted interview for myself.

So in the process of making this film, or television series, or HBO special, I am thinking big, I would learn a lot and possibly come away with a television series or something like that.

Okay I have 16 minutes left to write this blog. I had started this by saying I would leave in the flaws because time was short. But really on a very small level I think maybe someone will read this and think oh dear lord this woman is dyslexic or has some sort of neurological disorder that makes her think in such a circuitous and tangential matter. And because this project I hope will reveal what the basic skills are that just about everybody really needs to know how to function within themselves, like if your were the head of your own corporation of your body and mind and soul. When I interviewed my sister she described what roles she tends to go after and how she processes information. I better understand how she ticks and am really appreciating her more objectively, the way I would be with a friend versus tolerating her quirks that may have been annoying (I can’t even think of one to tell you how I feel.) Not that I was tolerating anything, my sister is awesome, but there were some years there I think we hated each other. But I think it’s a function of not really living in close proximity for so many years. How often do we get to just chill out and share deep dark secrets. That’s not the relationship I have with my sisters. And on the one hand it makes me sad, because it is the kind of relationship I would like to have with them. We don’t ask each other a lot of questions, or at least they don’t ask me a lot of personal questions. I would never ask them—8 minutes left. Off track again. Hold on……….Right point of not editing, so reasons so far: 1. No time. 2. I may have a neurological disorder 3. Reflects the theme of showing the process in everyway.

I know it seems obvious, but it never occurred to me that the way people process information may influence the type of work they’re interested in.

1 minute left! Ahhh. I did get a phone call in the middle of this about selling the couch, it was a friend of Marina’s Ah sabotage! Ok 5 more minutes to run spell check.

I promise these will make more sense in the future. I’m just starting. I’m not worrying about being perfect. I’m taking away an excuse to just start.

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