Friday, January 31, 2014

Interview: Zombie Dog Tags

I ran into some fun folks when visiting OzComicCon, who made and sold custom dog-tags. When I wast told they had a Kickstarter going locally to me, to take their product to the next level. I got in touch with Sgt. Slaughter from Zombie Dog to talk about their products, vision and their Kickstarter Project.It finishes .

So, in a departure from my usual style, here's the interview...

Q: What is a Zombie Dog Tag?
A: Zombie Dog Tags are your way to show your support for humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. Zombie Dog Tags come in a range of styles and designs from engraved Zombie hunting permits, to the fully personalised MILSPEC embossed dog tags. Our hand anodised aluminium, USA made tags are engraved in Melbourne Australia and offer a smorgasbord of colours, images and text so you can dish out zombie carnage in style. Our super tough battle proven military grade dog tags are USA made, and embossed in Melbourne Australia on the same military equipment that has already seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are built to last and will ensure you will be ready to defend the world when the invertible happens.

Q: What made you think to design and make your own dogtags?
A: We were involved in a Zombie related website that photographed models in their apocalypse gear with knives and swords.
Each model had their own unique serial numbered dog tags which they got to keep after the shoot. The dog tags proved so popular we ended up having to buy more and more. We were paying a fortune for crappy quality embossed dog tags and we had no flexibility when we wanted to change them as everything had to be ordered a month in advance. So we decided to buy our own US Military Dog tag embossing machine. After the massive crate arrived with our new pride and joy, we sat around talking about how great it would be if we could put images on our tags and create other Zombie related dog tags. After a bit of investigation, our options were cheap crappy production in china or invest in our own equipment and make high quality ones ourselves. We talked to friends and family and everybody said we were crazy as no one would want a Zombie Dog Tag so that was good enough for us, we love a challenge so we purchased a machine and here we are. Of course it was an overnight success and these days we have primetime shows like the Walking Dead and Hollywood movies with Brad Pitt fighting Zombies so of course everyone gets it now!

Q: How did zombies in popular culture influence your designs?
A: I’d say our biggest influence is when we’re sitting around watching Zombie movies and one of our team says ‘That person needs a tag that says …’. We love the classic symbols used like the biohazard sign, but we’re also trying to create our own, for example the crossbow in the Daryl Dixon quote tag we make ‘I ain’t nobody’s bitch’.

Q: What about other apocalyptic disaster situations?
A: Not so much currently, we’re fixated with Zombies right now, but we do have future plans to expand into different genres.

Q: What uses do you foresee your dogtags playing in survival situations?

A: I’d say the most important tag would have to be our bottle opener tag, just because the world has been overrun by Zombies, doesn’t mean we should stop drinking beer! But we do also have a more serious side to our tags. We’ve created tags with parental contact information for children with disabilities, tags with vital medical information and tags for sports people with next of kin information (who takes ID with them when they do things like jogging at 5am in the morning!). ICE (In Case of Emergency) doesn’t need to be boring, and we’ve found people are much more willing to wear a tag like ours rather than a generic ICE tag.

We’ve also supplied members of the US Military with embossed tags which i’d say was our biggest challenge as we had to setup our machine to perfectly match tags from photographs, which was completely different than the usual army tags and in a layout we’ve never seen before.
The end result came out perfectly and was approved for use, we created MILSPEC and Special Ops Black tags so who knows where these tags are right now or why this different layout was approved. Maybe we have a bunch of top secret Zombie killing super soldiers running around wearing our gear!

Q: What are your KickStarter design options, and what do they represent?
A: Via Kickstarter we’re introducing a whole new concept, the personalised Zombie Hunting Permit, each tag has a personalised name and a unique serial number. This has never been seen before! We have 7 different tags suitable for Zombie haters, Zombie Lovers and we even have ‘INFECTED’ tags for Zombies! We’re also giving away FREE embossed tags with some pledges. We’re currently running a vote so the Kickstarter community can decide what goes on these bonus tags.

Q: What conditions do you expect your dogtags will survive?
A: We have the 2 types of tags, embossed and engraved. Embossed tags are battle proven and the same as used by the US military and are created by punching the letters through the steel so they are raised, just like the plastic letters on a credit card so you can’t get much tougher than that! The engraved tags is diamond drag so we actually remove metal from the tag rather than just burning the coating like laser engraving. We even engrave the tag twice to get the perfect deeper shine. I’d say both types of tags will outlast all of us in most situations!

Q: What materials do you use, and why?
A: We use the best materials we can source. This does come at a huge cost to us but we feel its the only way we can stand behind our product. The embossed tag blanks are USA made and our supplier also supplies them to the US military.
The Aluminium engraved tag blanks are also USA made & hand anodised in the US too. The chains we use on all the tags are also USA made. Both types of tags are embossed or engraved by us in Melbourne Australia. We have many options for cheaper materials and faster production, but that's not what we want, we don’t want to be the biggest seller of tags in the world, we just want to be the best!

Q: How did you get started in finding the equipment you needed?
A: A lot of phone calls! This isn’t standard equipment you can buy locally. After months of research we ended up managing to get the last military embosser available at that time from the USA.

  It was a big struggle for us as we could of easily purchased a ‘commercial embosser’ that would of produced a similar result and been much cheaper and faster, but we wanted the same as the US military use but you don’t just walk into a shop and buy that type of machinery. We ended up getting hold of the same machine that has seen action with the USA military in some of the worst hotspots on earth, if works for them, then its good enough for us. The engraver was easier and we imported that from France.

Q: What resources would you need to keep going, if SHTF?
A: Our embosser is classed as portable as the US military would obviously move it around a lot. It has a hard steel outer shell and a handle plus a few pins you can put in to stop things moving around on rough journeys but as far as moving it goes, its a very heavy machine! It works on both 110v & 240v so wherever we go in the world it’ll work. If we lose electricity then we go old school and we can use our manual embosser. Our manual embosser can be tailored to work with any piece of metal, so if things got really bad, I think we’d be cutting up old car panels up and using them for dog tags!

Q: What designs do you have in mind in the future?
A: We’ve been having a lot of fun at conventions like Comic-con, Supanova and Armageddon so we’ll be increasing our Zombie range for those shows. The biggest thing in our future will be more customisation, we’d really like to offer a whole range of personalised Zombie Dog Tags. We are getting close to making this happen now so stay tuned as we might have some nice surprises coming up this year!

So there you have it, my thanks to Sgt. Slaughter and the ZombieDogTags team. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: Cybernetic Research Labs - Tactical Pen

I've had a few good occasions to make use of this particular item, and thought I should give it a review.I covered the Tactical Pen a while back. I misplaced that pen but 2 is 1 and 1 is none ...

This was another Kickstarter item from the folks at Cybernetic Research Laboratories who previously produced the Tactical Whistle and the Tactical Cache. I wanted to "collect the set" of their products, because that's how I like to test not only the items, but the brand itself. More on that later.

This is a modular pen / hex-tool / stylus / glass-breaker with aggressive knurling and grips.

Machined from aircraft aluminium (with stainless steel and titanium options, too), I had my pen anodised in their "OD green" which matched the OD green their Whistle and Cache, which I must say, is a long way off what I expected Olive Drab to be. This could just be due to the sheen of it, (rather than being a matte finish). I think I should have gotten black.

The pen itself comes in four parts; The end cap, with a lanyard hole and a titanium clip. The main body, which is threaded internally, with three deep gripping groves. It is bored to accept a Fisher Space Pen cartridge from one end only.

Either end of the body can accept one of the various heads, in my case I have; the stylus end, the pen end, the tungsten carbide glass-breaker and the hex-bit driver (which I opted to get in titanium for additional resistance to wear).

Each of the heads have two different threads, one for attaching the head to the body, and the other for securing the cap to the head.

Interestingly, the cap can also take the tool-tips, including the pen with its cartridge.
This modularity makes this tool quite appealing, I tend to keep the glass breaker tip out and exposed, both for potential escape requirements I might have in punching out a window, but also for being a rather unpleasant pointy end to make my displeasure known. I've also used the carbide tip to scribe things onto metal.

The stylus tip is not very effective on my iPhone and iPad, but they did state this would be the case during the Kickstarter.

It's a functional tool, it makes senses as a backup item.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Platatac Bongo modular battle belt

It's been a while since I've covered a belt, and I picked up this piece recently, and gave it a good workout over the weekend, so wanted to tell you about it.

I've covered a number of belts before, from the surreptitiously tricky PM Leather Hobble Belt, to the hardworking 215 Gear Ultimate Rigger Belt, and the airport friendly 5.11 TDU belts as well as the very capable Young Guns Battle Belt by Platatac, so I wanted to show you this platform as well. This is the Bongo Modular padded belt (Mk2)

With 22 rows of PALS/MOLLE looping, 18 of which are 3 row, with the two channels beside the buckle being only double channel sets. This gives both a lot of real-estate to work with, but also narrows the form around the front, giving the wearer unrestricted motion when sitting, squatting or kneeling.

Designed to be ALICE compatible the belt includes 8 loops for direct attachment to harness or other vest system, such as my MAC armour carrier or the First Spear OAGRE.

It also sports 4 D-ring lash loops along the bottom, which could well be used for leg-straps too, if that's the way your mind works. The principle buckle is a large ITW buckle, as features on many of Platatac's gear. Twin webbing sliders allows you to adjust the belt from either side.

For my skinny (size 32) waist, I needed to cinch it all the way in on both sides, even when wearing it over belted pants and tucked in shirt. The up side of this is that if you have layered clothes, you will have no problem fitting it as an outer-wear layer.

I wore this out to an event, where is was doing First-Aid type monitoring, so fitted it out with my Half Med pack, a set of twin 40mm grenade pouches (they work really well as disposable glove/ mask storage, for quick access). I also fitted one of my SR25 pouches to hold my wallet, a Blackhawk removable side-plate carrier as a mini-dump-pouch, FUP pouch holding my Fenix TK-51 light, and also the SORD 870 Back sleeve, which I'm sneak previewing here. I didn't run it with a sword in it for the event I was at, actually had it filled with big cable-ties, but that's how I would like to roll... A set of CountyComm Premium EMT safety shears rounded it off.

Thankfully none of this kit was needed at the event, but the belt served me really well. The padding is mesh lined, giving it great weight bearing, as well as moisture management capacity.

I wore this rig just on my hips, no strapping, or braces, for 6 hours or so, including some running up and down stairs, with zero dramas. I would wear almost all the pouches identically, other then perhaps moving the 870 pouch to sit higher, if it was bearing more load, just to take advantage of the PALS/MOLLE attachments, but all in all, I was really happy with the belt. The webbing used for the buckles is sewn right into the body of the belt, wrapping the whole way around, and sits under the top. This made feeding the attaching straps of the pouches, both the Platatac-type integrated straps, and the Blackhawk STRIKE Speed Clips I use, a little tricky, but once in, they were rock solid. The overlap of the belt webbing and the middle row of channels makes it LOOK like its a staggered set of loops, but it isn't. Still, this adds to the stability and security of the belt! I might consider swapping out the ITW buckle for a Austrail Cobra buckle at some stage for climb-rating security, but otherwise this is an awesome addition to my load-out options.

Here's some obligatory tacticool shots of my load-out.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review: Tactical Keychains - TiPiK

The maker of the WTF tool, the recently well publicised TiKeY, (not to mention the very cool Keychain Grenade ,  Brad of Tactical Keychains also put together a very bad-assed set of lock picks, made to fit his TiKey (or in this case, his equally cool TiKeY Mini).

This very well crafted set of titanium lock picks, includes a variety of pick types, most of which are very uniquely designed.  These are the TiPiKs.

As well as your more standard "hook" types, brad has designed several combination rakes, with both half-diamond and half-round elements.

He also included a twin-faced tool, for double sided cam-locks (as seen in a lot of small cash-boxes, glass display cases and teenage diaries, apparently).

Each of the picks ends in a "quick flip" head, with a 3/16" hole to mound neatly in most key-keepers.

As well as the seven picks in this set, there are also two tension wrenches; one with a standard key-hole hole, for secure mounting, and the other with an ingenious and very highly machined "clip-on" tension wrench, which due to its high tolerance construction, and the innate properties of titanium, simple clips in and out of the far pin of the MINI TiKeY key-keeper, held in place by the tensioning washers.

What this leaves you with is a very compact set of very highly engineered picks, including two tension wrenches, in a very innocuous but pleasant looking package. I had my TiKeY MINI anodized in "steampunk bronze and blue" because that's how I roll, and I've really enjoyed using the set, and having it sit in my pocket, ready to pull out and fiddle with my collection of practice locks when I've had some time to kill.

Brad and I agree that the size of the head of the tension wrench can make it tricky to place, but the convenience of a small set more than makes up for the need for more dexterity. Compare it to the Oscar Delta titanium Bogata set, and you'll see for yourself.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sneak Peak: Paleo GoST - PAWS on ANTERRA and BAMANOS

I just received a package from Jörg of GoST Barefoots.

You'll remember that I have covered the most excellent ANTERRA and PRONATIV chainmaile running shoes previously, and in fact, even took them to do the Tough Mudder last year.

The folks at GoST haven't been resting on their laurels, all this time, and have come up with an exciting development, to help counter the one shortfall of their shoes. Slipping on polished surfaces. Their solution? PAWS. Little silicone pads merged with the soles of the shoes mimicking the paw-pads of cats and dogs. I can't wait to try them.

Second item in the package was a set of the BAMANOS gloves; fingerless gloves made of the same foot-saving material, for those of us who grab, clamber and scramble. They also feature the PAWS upgrade.

This is going to be great!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Makershed -HPC lockpick set

One of my good friends got me started with LockSports, when he asked me casually "so,do you HAVE a set of lockpicks?" When I replied in the negative, he disappeared for a moment, came back and handed me a little package "now you do". That set was the Beginners Lockpick Set from the MakerShed.

I did some research, and it turns out that the MakerShed sources their picks from the well established LockSmith tool supply company HPC World. This is a great set, and really comfortable to work with. 

I thought I might go over the types of picks:
1) Hook
2) Snake Rake
3) Half Diamond
These first three are in Spring Steel, and are 0.022" thick. The handles are stainless steel.

4) Hook
5) Bogata Rake
6) Half Diamond
These three are all stainless steel, and are 0.020" thick. The difference between the two is that the stainless is very springy, and the spring steel is very stiff. (Go figure)

7) Tension Wrench
8) Tension Wrench with a twist
Tension tools are what give you the "twist" to bind the lock pins, and open the lock, once its set.

Here's this set up against the Ti Bogata set I got through Oscar Delta
This might give you an idea of the size difference achievable between a "SERE set", and a "working set". the broad handles of the MakerShed/HPC set made working locks a very comfortable task, with lots of purchase to maneuver the tools into delicate locks. I think I prefer the feel of the titanium tool though. The SERE feel of the Oscar Delta set lends to the idea I could secrete them on my person. If I really needed to ...

I'm really enjoying messing with locks that I am allowed to mess with, and building my skill sets for a time that may come when I need to open an unknown lock in an emergency.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Boker-American Kami MidTech Colubris

I was very fortunate to be able to take part in the Boker-American Kami pass-around program, after responding to a call by D.J. Urbanovsky. This was for the production level Colubris MidTech, the smaller sibling of the American Kami Super Colubris, which I reviewed recently. D.J. teamed up with German knife-making company Boker to "upscale" his bespoke knives, and they came up with this as their cooperative piece.

Here you can see it above the Super Colubris, on my Hazard4 Launch Pad iPad sleeve

The Boker - American Kami MidTech features the same G10 scales, with the American Kami logo formed into the scales to act as a very functional gripping surface, along with the hollow bolts that were also a feature of the Super Colubris. As is the protruding butt-end of the full tang construction. Nothing like an impact tool to make your displeasure known.

My pass-around was individually numbered 0074, and arrived in a lovely display case from Boker, along with a note for the fellow who had the blade before me, apologizing for the broken belt clip and furniture. The loss of that clip was moderated by some lovely stickers they had included. I got straight into testing.

Without the belt loop, I rigged a cord lashing system, inspired by D.J's own YouTube safety and carry clips. I wanted an "outside the pants" carry, to have on hand as a utility knife as I worked around the house.

The blade itself is tremendous. Rather than the CPM S35VN
steel of the American Kami version, the Boker is from 440C, a very serviceable steel.  The difference between the MidTech and the Souper is almost entirely in the blade section, with the MidTech having a 10.8cm (4 1/4") edge, with the same modified Wharncliffe geometry, just shortened. It has an overall length of 22.5cm (8 7/8") and weighs in at 225g (8 oz). Two inches less blade than the Super Colubris, but still a capable and impressive tool.

I had a great time testing this blade, I ran it though all my usual knife tasks; I did kitchen things, I cut cords and rope, opened boxes, I even wrapped my families Giftmas presents with it. The stonewashed finish gave the blade a nice sheen, and stacked up nicely against the finish of the Super Colubris nicely. It cuts well, and the width of the blade was still suitable for medium delicacy tasks.

I also took the knife out into my back yard to give it a workout in a more stressful setting, namely hacking back the noxious vines that were invading my kids trampoline. You can see here the effect it had on those vines, with both slashing cuts, and pulling cuts being effective. I was able to maintain a very good positive grip on the blade, and it went right where I wanted, every time.

I also took it out hiking with my family, when we visited a scenic National Park, to give it a carry-test. Now, before anyone gets all concerned, no, there isn't anything to be afraid of in our National Parks here (not if you've liberally applied Vegemite to your heads, to ward off Drop Bears. I just wanted to go hiking and see how it felt. I fitted it to my Hill People Gear Runners bag and off we went. It wore like a treat. It's length molded nicely to my chest, and the weight was insignificant. I carried both Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl up and over boulders and across creeks with it on me, and never a pinch or poke.

This is a really nice, very affordable addition to anyone fixed-blade collection. Super functional, sharp and rugged, with great geometry, hand-fitting and with a variety of carry-options.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Home Front: help Brad out! WTFs, TiKeY, TiPik sets!

You may remember the TiKeY that I recently covered (the article was picked up by Recoil Magazine, awesome, thanks guys) and the titanium WTF tool I covered a while back.

After being inundated with hits, and requests for product, it sounds like his lathe has up and died.
For those who don't know, as well as the WTF, TiKey sets and the TiPiK's (review to come this week, I hope), Brad is also the creator of the Bottle Grenade and has his fully funded TiPen project in the midst of production.

Brad needs your help need help! His lathe is going to cost 4-6k to fix, so he is doing a massdrop.

MassDrop link for the mini-TiKeY & TiPiK sets

also one for the WTF's

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Review: Loop Alien cord attachment devices

I just can't get enough of these shiny titanium cord-attachment devices.
I've already shown you the Piranha and Fishbone, both by Fishbones which are both awesome, and I have them on my person almost every day.

Whilst they were underway on Kickstarter, another kind of device came up, and I jumped on that as well. I have neglected to cover them until now, but have been spurred on by progress (and another Kickstarter by the same folks. From Canny Designs, comes the Loop Alien Original (small) and Loop Alien Ultra Fast Attatchment (large)
The original Loop Alien (small) is only 33mm x 22mm x 3mm (1.25" x 0.9" x 0.125") in size, I was surprised at just how small they were, but there is a lot of grunt in a little package. Made of Grade 5 titanium, these weigh only 4g. Canny Designs offer these in 6061-T6 aluminium (2.6g) , and 316L stainless steel. Three different metals to suit your different needs and budgets.

The smallest hole of the two "eyestalks" will -just- take paracord, if the end is finished to a point, but bear in mind the stresses this tight fit will put on the cord. Canny Designs recommends 1.75mm Dyneema (400lbs test) cord. Great stuff.

The NEW large LoopAlien UFA is 49mm x 32mm x 5.2mm (1.93" x 1.26" x 0.1875") in size and weighs 16g. It is about 1.5x larger in length and width and twice as thick as the small version. It's paracord friendly too!

The main difference in the UFA versions are the hole cut in the "body" of the device. This means that cord need not be threaded through the hole in the "body" as in the originals, but can rather be slipped through the gap, and over either of the "eyestalk".

Here is one of the UFA's, with paracord lashed through its large eyestalk, and looped through the body as a tensioned slider. Through the little eye, I had fed one of the lengths of 7/64 (2.5mm) silver Amsteel rope through the small eye, giving you an indication of the dynamics you can achieve with these little guys.

There are lots of ways you can fit the cords, either with knots, or self-knitting, in the same styles as those seen on the Fishbones. These however, lend themselves to doing guy-wire securing, and adjustable tensioning of loads of up to 45kg (100lbs).
Here's the small Original, also lashed with paracord, the slant of the eyestalks snags the cord nicely, securing the loop neatly, and with enough room to allow it to slide without rubbing on the opposing line.

I have not used the small Originals as much as I might have liked, not being fully paracord friendly limited my imagination a little, but I have been thinking of using them with shock-cord, to rig things to my kayak.

The larger ones the newer UFA's, which I got through Kickstarter as "super fast early delivery" are likely to go in my car with a spool of paracord, for emergency lashing options

These are very cool pieces of kit, and well worth a look in, especially if you are looking to replace your existing tensioning devices for camping or rigging.

I have been wondering if I could set up shade cloth over the whole of my backyard, (which is concreted over, and radiated heat like no ones business) to help with this summers heatwave.

These might just do the trick in adjusting the sails, to stand up to the hot winds.

Check these out, they are elegant and beautifully designed, as well as being very for for purpose.

Here's just a comparison with the two kinds of Loop Alien, and the two kinds of Fishbones

Lastly, to reiterate the manufacturers warnings:

*** The LoopAlien(TM) and LoopAlien UFA are not designed to support human weight. They must not be used as life saving devices, fall protection or in any manner where failure could cause property damage, injury or loss of life. ***

Friday, January 10, 2014

Events: The Valhalla Project

 My friend D.b. Watkins posted this, and I wanted to share it.

A place for combat Veterans to decompress.

The Valhalla Project aims to "establish modest training and educational programs – or facilitate access and participation in already established programs – in order to give Soldiers new skill sets and a sense of productivity that can be translated either into a new career field or simply a valuable hobby or pastime. Some learning/residence centers where stays vary from a long weekend to several months already exist in difference parts of the country, and Valhalla would apply some of their lessons in its own unique programs."

 Please consider supporting this, and other projects like it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: Oscar Delta - Ti pick set

I have been getting into lock picking recently. and wanted to show you some of the sets that I have acquired. I have had some experience over the years with locked doors, and different means of defeating them, Leaving my keys in the house, locking my keys in my car, a locked filing cabinet at work with critical medical records trapped inside, and no one knowing where the keys were.

Knowing how to open doors quietly and neatly is a really important skillset, especially in a disaster or survival situation when the usual resources are unavailable (ie: locksmiths). A smashed down door is no longer a door, a broken window is no longer a window.

I got in touch with my friends over at Oscar Delta who specialize in this kind of thing, and they were kind enough to ship me this very cool set of picks from their "Restricted Products" catalog, the Titanium Euro Bogota Picks, which arrived in one of their excellent GO-Tubes, very similar to their Deep Carry Tube that I have previously covered

The Bogata picks (a multi toothed "rake" and a single toothed "pick") both feature a twist midway, making the tensor end easy to grip when working the tools.

Having each tool end with a tensor (the part of a set used to apply pressure to the inside of the lock plug) means that the two tools make a full set, when you use one type of head, the others tail is used as the tensor.

The smooth titanium of these picks make them both comfortable to hold and manipulate, but also give them a very nice feel when working a lock.

I also found that the rounded, smooth edges of the picks, and along their lengths held their shape nicely. The flex that titanium offers, as well as its resistance to wear has meant that these tool have retained their finish even with my rather crude picking technique. This also would be of help not dinging up the inside of the locks I work on either, an essential aspect when teaching myself around the house.

As well as the tools themselves being nicely made, and working well (rakes, they really work!) The kit itself was a nice package.

The two tools were held together in a length of thick black PVC tubing, so they didn't rattle around within the GO-Tube, and there is still plenty of room inside the tube to store other needfuls.

I wrapped my set in a couple of meters worth of paracord, which I happened to have in my pocket when I last used the tools, and promptly dropped it into he helmet carrier of my Platatac Bullock Echo daypack and promptly "lost" it. It just vanished into the folds of my bag, and carried kit. Took some real searching to dig it up again. This first worried me (where are my damn picks?) then impressed me (these suckers are hard to find..).

I'm really pleased to have added these tools to my collection, and look forwards to using them, and my other sets, and improving my skills. How about you?
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