CWT-7: Rocking Recovery

Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

What is CONVERSATIONS WITH TOM? Read THIS for an overview first…

Ricky Midway: Despite all you’ve written and produced over the years, there was still something missing right?

Tom Leu: Yes there was.

It’s what this new endeavor of yours is about right?

Yes… though it’s not really new, it’s just something I had been avoiding for some time.


Lots of reasons: too personal, too taboo, too defining, too confining, too controversial… take your pick.

OK, so spill it, it must be time.

I finally decided to go public with my writings and story about recovery and recovery-related topics. I’m now sharing my experiences and insights about my own recovery journey within my writings, radio show, podcast, and webcasts, etc. My primary purpose is to inspire and help others where possible.

Why have you been reluctant to do this for so long?

Like I said above… it’s always just seemed too personal to broadcast. I was concerned about any professional implications, And plus, I really didn’t think people would care that much, so why go into it you know?

So why now?

I think it’s that little voice in my head that has never gone away. It’s just gotten louder and louder as the years have gone by. According to the cool book, The Flinch by Julien Smith, a person is supposed to listen to those things, and act on them when they don’t seem to disappear.

So what exactly is this new endeavor?

It’s called Recovery Collective, and this is where I bring together and connect a ‘collective’ of creatives, experts, advocates, movers and shiFters who DARE to get up, stand up, and get down to the business at hand… which is to lend a helping hand to those still struggling (with self-defeating behaviors of many varieties). It’s part investigative journalism, part motivational speaking, part inspirational writing, and part entertainment.

How can “recovery” be entertaining?

Ever been to an AA or 12 Step meeting of any kind?

Nope. Can’t say that I have.

It can be very entertaining at times, trust me.

Who is the target audience for this information?

Generally speaking… for anyone involved in, or interested in recovery-related topics. More specifically however, this site will be slanted and geared for people who are pretty skeptical about the whole recovery thing. This is for those who may not be completely convinced they need any help (yet). This is for the person who wants help, but may be afraid to reach out for it. This is an anonymous way to get some good information that may help someone begin the journey toward recovery, if in fact, they’re starting to think they need it. Basically, this is for someone like me, back when I first started thinking… I was in trouble… with the drinking, but didn’t know where to go or what to do.


A web presence, radio show and podcast to start that includes:

Interviews with people in recovery… some who are succeeding; some who may be struggling.

Articles and posts on recovery.

Inspirational photos/audios/videos.

Eventually… events and get togethers.

Is this an endorsement for Alcoholics Anonymous or 12 Step groups in general?

Not necessarily. This is not an endorsement of any one specific type of recovery movement or ideology, but rather a resource for anyone to potentially find what they’re looking for… whatever that is.

Are you from the “God as you understand Him” school as they they say in AA?

Sure. If “god” is something that is important to a person (with respect to recovery or just life in general), then I say, whatever works for you to improve your life.

So how do YOU interpret… “God as you understand him?”

For me, “god” = some kind of Higher Power.

THE higher power is the realizaition that there are many conceptions of a “higher power.”

THE higher power is one’s CHOICE to have a higher power… or not.

THE higher power is the REJECTION of a higher power all together… or not.

THE higher power is the release of guilt over which higher power, if any, is the right one, once-and-for-all.

THE higher power is being OK with any or all of the above.

So are you an AA alumni?

Yes and no. I attended AA for a solid decade. But haven’t now for many years. It worked for me then. Things are still working for me without it. But I know it’s not for everyone and that’s OK. But I am not an alumni. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that you graduate or are “cured.”

But to be clear… you endorse AA, yes?

I do because as I’ve said, it’s worked for me. Again, I understand it’s not for everyone. But recovery can be, regardless of the path one takes to get there. A person has to first seek it for themselves in order to eventually find a way that works for them. The basic premise of AA… one alcoholic talking to another alcoholic is where the magic often happens, and is effective for many.

I have to ask… Who are you to be leading an effort like this? Why are YOU qualified to do this?

Why not me? Why not you, or anyone who desires to give something back? But, since you asked: Currently I have over 15 years of continuous sobriety, one day at a time. I have a Masters degree in Psychology. And I am an avid writer, professional speaker, and photographer. The combination of these areas, I believe, qualify me to undertake an endeavor such as this.

Well, I applaud the endeavor.

Thanks, but it’s those who willingly and diligently undertake active and ongoing recovery from that which ails them that deserve the applause. It’s the most courageous thing one can do IMO…

We’ll stay tuned-in…

**More Conversations with Tom archives.

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CWT-6: Bathroom Books

Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

Tom Leu: I love to read.

Ricky Midway: I know you do.

Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I love to learn.

Perhaps… reading may just be a means to an end for you?

Maybe. But that’s another conversation entirely.

Tell me about these books of yours.

Well, I have lots of books. Lots of great books full of great information. But I also have several “bathroom books.”

So are these “bathroom books” anything other than the obvious?

Nope, just books that may or may not be full of great information at the time of reading.

Books that you read, uh, while in the bathroom right?

If you say so.

I’m saying what I think you’re saying.

I’m saying that I frequently have serendipitous moments in the bathroom while reading my “bathroom books.”

Serendipitous moments? In the bathroom?

Yes. I’m just passing the time while taking in a bit of reading. And then it happens. Bang!

C’mon, you’re killing me here… IT happens? That’s banging…

It’s simple. I read something that blows me away. Something valuable jumps out of the reading that I wasn’t expecting. Something that stays with me and teaches me something. And I’m thinking: “How can this be? It’s just a bathroom book?”

And then it keeps happening time and time again right?

Yeah, that’s the strange part. After several episodes of this I start to realize that my bathroom books are every bit as important as my other books. They contain the same, if not, more useful information than any other book in my collection.

So playing devil’s advocate right now… the cynics out there are asking themselves, “WTF does this have to do with anything?” Books or bathroom books, who cares?

And I’d politely say that they’re missing the point entirely.

And so the point is to read more bathroom-type books?

No. The point is to be open to discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary… no matter where you find yourself or what you’re doing. The point is to keep your eyes open for new learning that can take place anywhere, at anytime.

Whether you’re in the bathroom, the bedroom, or the boardroom right?


Okay, I think I just found one… right here, right now, based on what you’re saying.

Good. That’s the idea. Seeing things from a slightly different perspective can sometimes change everything.

Kinda like the scene when Robin Williams is standing on the desk in “Dead Poet’s Society?”

Yes, exactly like that. But it’s hard sometimes. It takes work. It takes extra effort to find the different perspectives.

But most people are very attached to their world views; the way they “see” the world is predictably the only way it’s ever seen.

So true. Which is why most are unwilling and/or unable to do the work to “see” things from any other perspective except their own. And then they wonder why many of their interpersonal relationships are so often strained.

I believe this willingness to choose to see things from another person’s perspective is technically called [double-consciousness]. Is that right?

That’s it. And I think that’s the goal with all of this. Double your observation. Take a deeper look. See beyond the ordinary; just underneath the obvious. Consider another perspective; take in some new information; risk being wrong because we all often are; have an open mind. You never know what you might find. If we all did this just a little bit more, a little bit more often, we might be able to do a lot with a little, you know?

I know. And now I must go.

To the bathroom?

No, to find the proverbial “other” bathroom. The one that few others find.

Way to go.

**More Conversations with Tom archives.

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CWT-5: Something to Prove

Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

Ricky Midway: So why do you try so hard?

Tom Leu: Is this a trick question? Are there hidden cameras nearby or something?

Not at all. I’m serious… you seem so serious all the time with all you do. I’m genuinely wondering why you put SO much effort into your work? 

First of all… I know of no other way to be. Second, I respect hard work and dedication from those who produce it. And third, I guess I feel like I have something to prove.

To whom?

To myself and to others I suppose.

Honestly, isn’t it more about proving it to others than to yourself?

Yes, I suppose that’s probably true.

And that’s honest.

I’m trying. Contributing truth; even if it’s just mine, is what I feel I most compelled to do, and what I most enjoy.

You worry about your life contributions quite a bit don’t you?

I do. Very much.

Why are you worried? Doesn’t that rob you of the joy of being a creative person in the first place?

At times it does, yes. But I think I worry because of my fear of mediocrity. I’m deathly afraid of being average. I guess I’d rather not do something at all if my output is going to be just okay. I want to move people with what I do; with what I contribute. I want to be great. I suppose it’s all born from insecurity in some form or another. My experience is that perceived greatness (whether internal or external) temporarily quiets feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. But this is fleeting. The inadequacy and insecurity is hauntingly incessant and persistent at times. It creeps back in after some time, and the quest to produce greatness ensues once again.

That’s real honest! And kind of depressing as well…

It’s hard to admit, but proving myself good enough to others has been a lifelong process and pursuit. It is rather depressing at times, I admit.

I’d say it is for most people in one way or another.

Why is that?

Like you alluded to before, it all boils down to self-esteem, feeling like we’re good enough, and our basic need to be liked and loved.

Sounds very psychological doesn’t it?

Well, it is. Everything is. And that’s just the way it is.

And that’s the old Bruce Hornsby song from the 80’s.

Of course it is. And I knew that was coming…

Sorry, but it was right there. As you were saying…

So people want to be accepted, liked and loved at their core. And so they pursue acquiring this love and acceptance through many different means… thus attempting to “prove” to others their worthiness of this so-called love? Agree?

Agreed. But the irony is that once a person STOPS feeling like they’ve got something to prove is when they truly START to prove something. This is one of life’s great distinctions that I’ve only recently come to realize. This is wonderful, but it’s also way easier said than done.

Yes it is. But that’s the secret to ultimate success and satisfaction isn’t it? The ability to transcend the need to prove one’s worthiness to others (and ourselves actually) again and again?

Yes, but this is NOT the way of the world. In real life, everything is set up as a test. Pass or fail. Bad or good. Better or worse. Winners and losers. Successful and not-so-successful.

So how is a person supposed to persist against such a deeply imbedded and ingrained social expectation?

This is the hardest test of all.

And one that few of us actually pass.

The only ones who truly have a shot at passing this test are the ones who are aware that it actually exists; the ones who are aware that they are actually taking the test each and every day; and the ones who can arrive at the place internally where they realize they really have nothing to prove to anyone other than themselves.

I’m aware.

Then you’re on your way.

Guess I’ll keep studying.

As should we all…

**More Conversations with Tom archives.

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CWT-4: Pop Quiz


Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

Ricky Midway: I want to give you a little test.

Tom Leu: What kind of test?

A pop quiz.

I thought I was through with those things when I finished college?

We’re never through being quizzed and tested in life…

You speak the truth.

So just tell me the first thing that comes to mind when I say the following series of people, places, and things. 

What, is this some sort of Rorschach-style interview?

Call it whatever you want. Are you ready?

Let’s do it.




Relatively exclusionary.


A source of insight and explanation excluded from most religions.


A source of socially acceptable delusion and exclusion disguised as inclusion.


Often as fundamental as the Fundamentalists.


Fundamentally unsure about the nature of reality… past, present, or future.

Reality TV.

The new prime time.

Rockford, IL.

Primarily behind the times.

Los Angeles.

In time.

New York City.

Ahead of the times.

New York Yankees.

Old news.

Chicago Cubs.

The new New York Yankees.

“New York State of Mind.”

Timeless song.


Too much wasted online.

Social Media.

Personal Reality TV revealing in too much information.

The Internet.

More unnecessary evil will be revealed.







Bob Dylan.


Boz Skaggs


Ricky Skaggs

Don’t know.

Dr. No

Old times.

No Doubt

Ahead of their time.

King’s X

Good times.

Cleverly-creative idea.


Conservatively-exclusionary ideal.


Liberally-relative ideal.


The vehicle.


The difference.

Emotional intelligence.

The destination.


The ball game.

Well done. So what’s the moral of the story?

All of the things that you asked me about were loosely, yet contextually related to the next. And then it all sort of came together full-circle at the end, and became a six degrees of separation sort-of-thing.

Neat huh?

Yeah… because when you really think about it, most things in the world are more or less interconnected. All of creation is dependent, yet interdependent at the same time. Each of its own, on its own, yet deriving meaning from, and within the context of the other. All things are complex and commonplace; esoteric yet exposed; sophisticated yet sophomoric simultaneously. Such is life…

Congratulations. You’ve passed the quiz.

**More Conversations with Tom archives.

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CWT-3: Lust Kills


Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

Ricky Midway: Catchy title.

Tom Leu: Glad you like it.

So are you going to be preaching about sexual indiscretion or something now?

Nah… I don’t preach; I prefer to teach, and coach. There’s a big difference.

Some think preaching and teaching are the same, but they’re practically opposites… they can actually be contradictions of each other. Preaching is rarely teaching anything.

Exactly. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about here… this concept of paradox.

Paradox? Sounds uninteresting. Lust sounds much more intriguing.

Well it may be, but maybe not.

Define paradox.

According to the dictionary, a paradox is something that is self-contradicting; any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature. An example of a paradox would be saying something like “I always lie,” because if that fact is true then the statement must be false. Get it?

Sure… A working title of one of your other writings is called “The Beautiful Secrets.” That’s an example of paradox or an oxymoron, yes?

Yes. That’s the idea. Why would something that is beautiful have to be a secret?

It’s a mystery.

It is. Which leads me to my thoughts about people who appear paradoxical.

People are paradoxical?

Sure; and often contradictory and oxymoronic and on and on. Although they’re not as mysterious as they’d have you believe.

Give me an example.

I have one intriguing, yet sometimes frustrating old “friend” who comes to mind.

So tell me about this old “friend” (in quotes) of yours.

She’s a person who markets herself to be so FOR things, but is really AGAINST more than she’s for.


This chick has always been a cool customer; a rock star you know? But her whole gig is presenting this thing I call an “Attitude of Against” or A-of-A. This is when someone or some group comes across more strongly “against” things that “for” anything. It’s an energy-depleting position, and the opposite proposition of everything I promote.

So she’s kind of a pessimist or a cynic?

No, I wouldn’t say that. Actually, she’s very smart and seems to know exactly what she wants and appears very driven to achieve those things. But in her quest to achieve these goals, she comes off with an antagonism and an aura of belittlement aimed at that which differs from her, and her preferences. And with her world-class sarcastic wit, and above-average intelligence, she makes it seem bigger than just preference differences. She has this uncanny ability to make things appear bigger; to really make things appear to be about what is truly right and wrong. That’s both the irritating and intriguing part.

This chick sounds complicated!

Yeah, that’s what she wants you to think. She wants you to think that she’s this very deep, complex, tortured, misunderstood, dark and brooding artist type. She sometimes comes off as the “I’m too-cool-for-you,” punk-apostle type… if you know what I mean. But she’s not really what she presents. She’s just a person. An insecure girl who’s very clever at marketing herself. A paradox…

But can’t we all be that way at times?

Oh absolutely… of course. But not everyone goes out of their way to wave this “Attitude of Against” flag by admonishing all things “mainstream” while admiring anything anti-establishment.

You sound a bit threatened by this person.

Sometimes I do feel that way truthfully. She’s a smart cookie. Taking a closer look at this, there’s really a lot going on with this.

So what’s going on?

It’s the classic rebel-with-a-cause complex. People like this thrive on attitudes of angst, anti-establishment, and arrogance. They always seem pissed off; seem against all forms of authority, and think that they’re better than everyone else. But they’re not really that pissed off. They conform to authority like the rest of us. They truly aren’t any better than anyone else. And they often suffer from high levels of low self-esteem like so many others. They are a paradox; a contradiction in and of themselves. And in a way, they actually represent all that they rail against.

Amazing how you turned that whole thing around a full 360°… so what’s the take-away here?

Literally pointing out what you don’t like can actually make you more like it, (or like it more)… figuratively speaking. Those who run around strongly preaching against those things which they despise are usually the ones most attracted to those very same things. For example, “lust kills” is most often preached by the most lustful.

You’re surely not saying that being outspoken and passionate is a bad thing?

No, definitely not. I’m saying that it’s all about the underlying content of your message. It’s about what you’re putting into the world. It’s easy to be negative and to be against things. It’s everywhere, all the time. But tell me what you’re for, not just what you’re against. Injecting positive into the world is a much more challenging and worthwhile effort in my opinion.

So “Nice Wins” as you often say. Is that right?

In the end, I believe nice does win. Be yourself. Be transparent. Be for shit. But be nice for fuck’s sake! An overbearing and overindulgent “A-of-A” is actually negativity cleverly promoted as something positive. But to the discerning eye, the surface bravado really only reveals a covert cowardice.

Very observant.

Beware. Be aware.

**More Conversations with Tom archives.

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CWT-2: Buffet(t)


Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

Ricky Midway: So are we pronouncing this one buff-AY or buff-ETT?

Tom Leu: Both.


Yes, because I have a love/hate relationship with both.

You mean… “buffets” as in the “Old Country”-style large food conglomerations that are often over-populated particularly on Sunday mornings and on other assorted holidays?

Apropo description… Yes, that’s one of them.

And the other “buffet” you’re referring to is…?


Jimmy Buffett? The singer/songwriter, “Margaritaville” dude?

The one and only.

So let me get this straight… this is about your love/hate relationship with food buffets (one T), and Jimmy Buffett (with two T’s) the musician?

Yes. And it’s hopefully going be “inspirational” in the process. Because I believe there’s a great lesson that exists within that which we like and dislike at the same time.

Okay. I’ll play along. So let’s start with buffet-style food. What’s the deal there?

It’s not so much the food as it is the way people act – around the food. I, like a lot of other people, love buffets for all the choices available. A plethora of seemingly unlimited food selections is one of my last surviving guilty pleasures in life. The whole “all-you-can-eat” concept is arguably a very unhealthy, yet alluring option. I hate buffets though because in my experience, most people’s manners go out the window at these places. With little regard for others who paid the same amount of money to be there; a lot of apparently very hungry individuals (and their impatient families) cut in line, crowd you, shoot you dirty looks, and otherwise operate as if they are more entitled to be there than you are.

Yeah… what the hell is that all about?

I think that as soon as some people enter a buffet-style-situation, a scarcity mentality kicks in and rears its ugly head. Despite the obvious abundance of food, these people seem to somehow, someway, begin to fear that the food is going to run out. That the well is going to dry up and they are literally going to starve to death right then and there in front of the turkey carving station… It’s really amazing to watch. The lesson here is that every time I witness this sort of behavior, it makes me (literally) step back and re-evaluate my own social etiquette and commit to improving myself because I don’t want to be that way, or worse, come off that way without realizing it…

And so you’re saying, (with your typical bit of exaggeration), that this scarcity mentality serves as a justification then for some people to be rude, inconsiderate, and intolerant?

Exactly; though I don’t think most even realize it whatsoever. This is why I rarely frequent buffets and actually hate them more than I love them.

Okay, but what does this have to do with Jimmy Buffett, the musician/marketing guru? I thought everyone liked Jimmy Buffett music? Scores of “parrotheads” flock to his annual summer concerts every year. You’re gonna piss off all the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” apologists by bashing him.

I love the idea of Jimmy Buffett’s music; not the actual music itself. Jimmy “sings” about sun, sand, beaches, vacations, margaritas, cheeseburgers, and the hyperbolic “paradise” of course. I love the feeling I get from the images he paints, and the stories he tells in his songs lyrically. That’s what makes him great. But his music is technically not great. And it’s grossly overplayed by every “classic pop/rock” radio station and bar band from coast-to-coast; which makes me hate it. Musically, the songs aren’t necessarily well-written, sang, or played. But therein lies Buffett’s genius. He knows this. Jimmy Buffett, the marketer, knows it’s the idea of his music, not the actuality that sells it. It’s not the actual chords, melodies or lyrics, but the emotion his music evokes in people that is its most redeeming quality and valuable contribution. These are the reasons why I actually love Jimmy Buffett’s music more than I hate it.

So you’re essentially saying that Jimmy Buffett banks on the notion that “Come Monday” the fantasy is often better than the reality?

Nicely put. And that’s exactly what I’m saying. That’s the lesson. Gene Simmons of KISS has said that he’s not in the music business; he’s in the emotion business. That’s never left me. It’s brilliant!

So how do you tie together lessons from the buffet (one T) with lessons from Buffett (two T’s)?

Whether at the buffet counter or the Buffett concert… even if the negatives are glaring; even if the nuances are elusive, take an extra second to look for the hidden positives to apply. There’s always more to “see” and that readily meets the eye. There’s always more to learn; more lessons to apply. They’re right there; just underneath the obvious for those paying attention.

So… pay attention to your attention?


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CwT-1: Once Written


Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

Ricky Midway: What’s this?

Tom Leu: An ongoing column or essay in the format of a Q&A. I’m calling it Conversations with Tom.

Who’s asking the questions?

Ricky Midway (that’s you); the interviewer and my alter-ego. He/you represents all the voices in my head asking the tough questions.

Okay… and you (Tom Leu), are answering these questions that I am asking?

That’s right. With brutal honesty, humility, and (hopefully) humor at times.

Don’t you think this sounds kinda pretentious and weird?

To some it will. Absolutely.

But you’re doing it anyway?



Because some will think it sounds kinda pretentious and weird, and therefore get their attention, and doing so will piss them off. And because some will find it clever and compelling, and doing so will intrigue and inspire them.

Has taking this approach to writing and content creation taught you anything about yourself?

Yes, unexpectedly for me, this format really frees me up to say/(write) things that I may not say or write within the context of some of my other writings. And that’s very attractive and fun for me.

So do you think you’re a good enough writer to pull this off?

I think so. I consider myself a decent writer; though I’ve never actually written anything “noteworthy” yet. So I don’t know if that qualifies me as good or not.

Define “noteworthy.”

Unless one’s writing has been legitimately published by a reputable (and often sizeable) book or periodical publisher, it doesn’t really count, nor matter (they say)… therefore not noteworthy.

So who are “they” that get to determine what is “good’ and what is deemed “worthy?” And how does one go about getting that job?

That’s a good question… I guess it’s those people in any industry who decide what gets mass produced and what doesn’t. I’ll call them the “Keepers of the Content Contingency” or the KCC.

So only something legitimately published qualifies it as noteworthy? Don’t think I agree with that.

It seems that way, though I know a lot of exceptions exist. But not only does a writer’s work have to be legitimately published for it to really count; this published work also has to be consumed (i.e. purchased) by some pre-determined (large) number of people to validate the writing’s relative worth by financially justifying its existence. Then and only then can one be truly considered “a writer.”

Sounds stringent.

It is.

So who made up these requisite rules of writing? Members of the KCC?

(laughing) Most likely. But ironically, I’m fairly certain that whoever it was probably isn’t a “real” writer themselves.

Now that’s funny! And likely true.

It’s actually kind of sad if you think about it.

These supposed “experts” in any field are certainly not the final authority are they?

No, of course they’re not. But they are the gatekeepers to a certain extent. This is why we (the writers, artists, content creators) have to understand the relationship between creativity, contribution, and commerce. You see, only YOU (the creator) can truly decide what is “good” regarding creativity. And only OTHERS (the consumer) can truly validate what is “good” regarding contribution. And then for commerce to truly exist requires an “agreement” between YOU and OTHERS.


Thank you.

So is that what this column is about? Communication? Creativity? Contribution? And the Psychology underlying it all?

Yes, that’s a pretty good overview summary. It’s an ongoing conversation and commentary where I talk shiFt about life and the Lifestyle Initiative Training that results from embracing the many principles of personal development that exist within the Communichology™ of Pop Culture. It’s a process.

Wait, so what is Communichology™?

Very simply, it’s an approach to studying human behavior from the vantage point where communications skills and human psychology collide.


You already said that.

I did, didn’t I?

I’ll take that as a compliment.

You should. Your whole approach here sounds rather insightful, exciting and fresh.

Well, that sounds like a good ending note to this initial conversation.

It does. Guess I’ll “talk” to you soon…

**More Conversations with Tom archives.

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