Monthly Archives: January 2012

Secure Bike Parking

D’oh!  That’s what I said to myself as I went to lock my bike at work yesterday morning and realized that I forgot my u-lock at home in the garage.  I scratched my head for a moment and then rolled Betty through the back door, up the elevator, and into my office, where she kept me company for the day.

If I were not able to bring Betty into my office, I don’t know what I would have done.  It was too early to buy another lock from a bike shop, too risky to leave the bike unlocked outside, and too time-consuming to return home for the u-lock.

What would you do in this situation?  Has this happened to anyone else?  (I can’t be the only goof out there!)

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Black Ice Weekend

After mentioning that I have not put my studded tires on Oma yet, I missed them this weekend.  Some mild precipitation on Friday night caused patches of black ice to form all around the city.

I had to walk Oma over black ice several times while getting around on Saturday – biking to Logan Square to try on vintage outfits from Holly’s Lucite Box for the upcoming Bike Winter Fashion Show (found a gorgeous blue velvet dress), back to Lakeview for Heritage Bicycles’ grand opening party (crowded!), and to Wicker Park with a bikey group to see circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza (pure fun). On Sunday, I decided simply to take the L to the Loop to see Mamet’s Race at Goodman Theatre (excellent).

Not simply a wet road, but a sheet of thin black ice

Based on this experience, I decided to put the studded tires on Oma, but today’s forecasted high of 44 F has me delaying the studs again. But I’m extra cautious while biking, especially at night.

I’ll leave you with a Mucca Pazza song to brighten your Monday morning. :)

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Ride Above It

I love these prints I came across this morning.

His and Hers. Made by Chase and Wonder in England.

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Winter Bicycling Midpoint

I consider winter to be more than half-way over around this time, late January/early February. February is usually brutal, but at least I know spring is around the corner. This year, November, December, and now January have passed with only a few super freezing days and two noteworthy snowfalls that melted quickly. I haven’t even put studded tires on Oma yet.

By enjoying this extremely mild winter, I feel like I’ve gotten away with something major, like a jewelry heist. I almost don’t want to write this down for fear of jinxing myself, but I do want to celebrate making it over the hump of winter, however small said hump was this year.

How’s everyone else doing with winter bicycling this year?

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Favorite books of 2011

Continuing with our “Favorite of 2011″ series (read about our favorite albums here), I present our lists of favorite books of 2011.  We are both voracious readers and enjoyed our fair share of new books in 2011, especially Trisha, who is a book reviewer—as in reading and reviewing books is part of her full time job—so we put a lot of thought into our picks.  :)

Trisha’s Top 10

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Bossypants by Tina Fey
To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet

Honorable mentions: Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest; Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry; The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht; Boomerang by Michael Lewis; The Adults by Alison Espach; Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson; Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

2011 books still on my TBR: Swamplandia!; Zone One; The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; The Astral by Kate Christensen; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt; Blue Nights by Joan Didion.

Most overrated book of 2011: I think Dottie and I concur on this one: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Dottie’s Top 10

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
A Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
Gypies by Koudelka/Aperture (photo book)
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (audio book)

Honorable mentions: Most of the best books that I read in 2011 were actually written in 2010 or before and therefore were not eligible for this list.  Otherwise, they would have knocked off all but the top 3 (2010 was an amazing year for novels!).  They are: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Great House by Nicole Krauss, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin, So Much for That by Lionel Shriver, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

2011 books still on my TBR: Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and Dreams of Joy by Lisa See.

We’d love to hear – what were your favorite books of 2011?

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Breakfast at Heritage Bicycles

If someone asked me last year what kind of business I would most like to see open in my neighborhood, I might have said {deep breath} a combination bike shop and coffee shop that sells steel frame mixtes made in Chicago, cupcakes, and fancy coffee, with a friendly atmosphere and a communal table where I could gather my bicycling friends.

I mean, that’s awfully specific, but I could have said it.

Bicycles + Coffee = Love

Either someone read my mind or I am not the only lover of bikes, coffee, community, and local goods, because exactly this kind of business just opened a hop, skip, and pedal from my home. This magical place is Heritage Bicycles.

Excited by this development, my friend Elizabeth and I met there for breakfast this morning.  I learned that Heritage is a sort of sister store to the popular Bowery Lane Bikes in NYC.   The owner, Michael, was a founding partner of Bowery Lane.  He and his wife decided to bring the concept to his native Chicago.

"Coffee Guy" Cameron and owner Michael

Unlike Bowery Lane, Heritage is way more than simply a bike manufacturer and seller.  The place is also a full-fledged cafe, communal hang-out spot, and bike workshop.

Heritage perfectly executes the mixed-use concept.  Potential cafe customers should have no fear of being stuck in a crammed and greasy workshop while trying to enjoy their cappuccinos.  Everything about the space is beautiful, from the light-bathed reclaimed wood to the mirrored walls and sparkling chandeliers.  There is no reason to limit cafe visits to bike-related errands.  Anyone looking for a relaxing neighborhood spot would love Heritage, regardless of any interest in bicycles (although perhaps uninterested parties could be persuaded by the beautiful display bikes).

The coffee and food live up to the gorgeous space and inviting atmosphere.  With pastries from local favorite Southport Grocery and coffee beans from Portland’s Stumptown, the fare is as good as – if not better than – other independent coffee shops in Chicago.  Waaaaay better than Starbucks, it should go without saying.  While I’m partial to Chicago roasters Metropolis and Intelligentsia, the Stumptown brew was delicious.

On the other side of the business, potential bike shop customers should not write Heritage off as all style and no substance.

Separate from but open to the cafe is a bike workshop room.  There are two bike mechanics on staff and interns from non-profit West Town Bikes’ educational programs.  The crew will assemble Heritage bikes and perform maintenance work like a regular bike shop.   The place seems low key, the opposite of pretentious.

There is another small area that stocks accessories, including clothing, saddles, books, and Yakkay Helmets.  (You can also shop online.)

And the bikes?  Why, they’re the best part, of course!

In addition to carrying the Bowery Lane made-in-NY bikes, Heritage has its own Chicago model, the Daisy,  a mixte starting at $695 for a single speed, $795 for a 3-speed, and $850 for a 7-speed.  I haven’t had a chance to test ride her yet, but she is lovely.  Split top tube, Velo Orange Belleville bars, brass bell, sprung leather saddle, cork grips, chain guard, fender = love!  The best part?  She’s made of American steel and welded, painted, and assembled in Chicago.

After seeing the shop, chatting with Michael and Cameron, and enjoying breakfast, Elizabeth and I set off for work well-fueled.

I foresee that I will mention stopping by Heritage for coffee a lot in the future, especially since it’s along my commuting route. For sure I will stop by for their Grand Opening party this Saturday, 6 – 11. Heritage Bicycles is located at 2959 N. Lincoln.  Note: I think the shop will be closed the rest of the weekend and then open for normal business starting next week. See you there?  :)

For all of you who don’t live in Chicago, you might want to consider moving there, where all the cool kids are.  In the meantime, you can get your paws on these bikes through the power of the internets.

{Chicago’s bike geeks are all excited about Heritage.  Read Elizabeth’s take  on Bike Commuters and another write-up on Grid Chicago.}

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Everyone in Nashville should have taken a bike ride today

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If we don’t show that we appreciate 55 degrees in January, they might take it away!

Carpooling in a Snow Storm

Six inches of snow fell on Chicago yesterday afternoon and evening.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had no intention of cycling in that mess.  My plan was to take the L train, but a co-worker mentioned that she and a friend carpool along a route that passes by my L stop.  She offered to pick me up anytime and I gladly accepted the offer.  The car is already on the road anyway.

In the morning, I walked a block to the L station and a couple of minutes later she pulled up.  I sank into the heated passenger seat – yup, heated - and enjoyed friendly conversation during a calm drive downtown.   (I wonder, is there a way to make my Brooks saddle heated?  ‘Cause that would be amazing!)

The car ride was no faster than my bike ride along the same route, about 25 minutes.  (This is the busy route I recently recorded.)  There’s a lot of backed up traffic, so I’m able to keep up with cars most of the way.  Funny, they used to see me on my bike a lot in the mornings, when I took that route daily.

Snow started falling fast and furious around 1:30 pm and my office decided to close early at 3 pm.  I knew that taking the L home would be an easy 25 minutes, much faster than a car in a snow storm, but deserting my co-worker wouldn’t have been very nice.  :)   The car ride home in the snow took one hour, but I didn’t mind at all.  In fact, I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her better.  In my heated seat.

There is no way I would have biked in the snow given the road conditions.  If I were in Copenhagen with protected bike lanes maintained by snow plows, sure, but that was obviously not the case.  (You wouldn’t know, but there’s a snow-covered bike lane in the photo above.)

I saw a couple of intrepid cyclists during the ride and I was stressed out just watching them.  I saw a couple others walking their bikes, like this mom and child below.  I assume they set out on the bakfiets hours earlier, before the snow got out of control.

Does anyone else carpool sometimes?  Seems it was all the rage in the ’90s, but I never hear anything about it now.  I enjoyed the experience and in the future when I need to take the L train, I may text my co-worker first to see if she’s carpooling that day.  I hate standing up on the L, plus it costs $2.25 each way.  And did I mention heated seats?  ;)

Did anyone bike home in the snow??  If so, my hat is off to you.

 

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A F-ing Cold Bike Commute (brrrrrrrrrr)

Have I mentioned that winter’s finally come to Chicago?  And she is not messing around.

This morning I biked to work in 15 F temps.  My alley was an ice rink, but the streets and bike lanes were clear and dry.  That’s good, because I haven’t put studded tires on Oma yet.  I was totally comfortable throwing a puffy vest over a wool skirt suit and wool undershirt, plus cotton tights, snow boots, scarf, gloves, and earmuffs.  I stuck heating packs in my mittens and boots, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.

By the time I arrived at work, I felt refreshed and happy.

Unfortunately, the day grew colder and this outfit proved to be lacking for the commute home.

The temperature on the way home was effing cold:

For the non-Americans out there, that’s:

Plus, it was windy!  As usual.  Windchill of -7 F, -22 C.  By the time I got home, my fingers and toes were in pain (despite the warmers) and my thighs were bright red.  Not gonna lie: my spirits were low.  But now that I’m warmed up, I feel good for the activity and fresh air.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since I can bike in -4 F temps, today should not have been a problem.  Now that I’ve been harshly reminded of the reality of Chicago winters, I wont be caught unprepared again this year.

Tomorrow happens to be Chicago’s Winter Bike to Work Day, but up to 7 inches of fresh snow are supposed to fall, so forget that.  I won’t be on my bike, especially without studded tires.  Not my idea for fun, but I hope anyone who rides has a good and safe time.

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Bike·a·Bee: urban beekeeping meets city cycling

I recently received an email from Jana Kinsman, a long-time reader and year-round Chicago cyclist, about a very cool project she is beginning with the help of Kickstarter called Bike·a·Bee.

With Bike·a·Bee, Jana aims to bring beehives to community gardens all around Chicago. She will be an urban beekeeper who visits every hive herself by bike. The entire operation will be car-free.

Jana Kinsman of Bike·a·Bee, photo by John Greenfield of Grid Chicago

She had me at bicycles and honeybees, but I especially enjoyed hearing that “honeybees are a female-run society. The queen bee is in charge, and all of the worker bees are female. Drones, the males, are essentially around for mating purposes :)”

Love it.

In order to make all this work, Jana needs to raise money to pay for the operation, including a bike trailer and beehives. Her goal is $7,000 and she must raise the entire amount by February 7th.

This is the kind of stuff I want to see in my community, so I decided to support the project personally as a bike trailer backer. When the project gets going, there will be an LGRAB logo on the trailer. Fun!

Anyone can become a backer by investing $1 or more to help get the project going. Other rewards for becoming a backer of the Bike·a·Bee Kickstarter project including bee postcards, bee stickers, bee posters, and bee honey! Plus, you’ll get the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with helping a project start and watching it grow.

By helping fund Bike·a·Bee, you are casting a vote for sustainability and urban agriculture as much as you are earning some sweet gifts! As Bike·a·Bee launches, we’ll begin creating webisodes to document our process and share the story. You’ll be there as we set up our first hives in the spring, check on the bees throughout the summer, harvest honey in the early fall, and tuck them in for the winter. You’ll be with us from the start because, without your support, a project of this scope wouldn’t be possible.

As of this posting, she has raised $6,236 of her $7,000 goal.

Let’s help push her to her goal and beyond!

{For more information about Jana and her project, read the excellent interview by John Greenfield on Grid Chicago.}

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Rhinestone Cowboy Ride!

We had great weather and a great crowd for the Rhinestone Cowboy Ride in Nashville on Saturday.

We met at new local bike shop The Hub and rode together downtown to Robert’s Western World, a honky tonk, of course!

The group, in front of one of the city's themed bike racks (the microphone).

Dottie and I spent Friday afternoon scouring South Nashville thrift shops to find outfits that would really make an impact. I think we succeeded.

But the rest of the participants were no slouches, either.

These boots are made for riding (bikes)

Sisters Abby & Sarah; Lauren and her bike

Edwin brought the whole family!

Sarah and her cruiser

Edwin's jacket / Chewie the dog and his owner

Dottie's outfit was even more authentic than we realized!

Abby and Jessica

Dottie rides Le Peug

At the honky tonk, these young cowboys enjoyed some lemonade

One thing’s for sure: Nashville is willing to turn out for themed rides! Thanks to everyone who came out. Hope you’ll join us next time.

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At Long Last: Snow!

The inevitable has happened: snow finally arrived in Chicago!  Yesterday evening I was biking home without a jacket and today the streets look like this:

Instead of my bike, I took public transit:

I’m escaping to Nashville for a long weekend tomorrow, so I can deny the arrival of winter a little bit longer.  :)

Anyone enjoy a snow ride today?

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A Downtown Chicago Adventure on New Year’s Eve!

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I was sipping coffee in my pajamas when I got a text from my friend Elizabeth, encouraging me to join her for a bike ride downtown.  I was sorta prepared to spend the entire day in my PJs with books, but after some peer pressure, I said yes (don’t we all need a lil’ push sometimes?).

I’m so glad I did because it was a lovely way to end the year!

The weather was chilly but mild for Chicago winter.  I broke out my new hot pink Kate Spade tights to go with my suede boots and red jacket – a totally comfortable outfit for the day’s outing.

Betty Foy was ready to go, dorked out with her Christmas lights and mounted camera (with which I recorded this video of the Lakefront Trail).

And of course my dear friend Elizabeth with her Santa hat!

We took the Lakefront Trail south 7 miles to the Buckingham Fountain.

 It was off – booo.

Then we made our way to the Art Institute of Chicago


…to check out the awesome lions with their famous holiday wreaths.

About that time we started to get a bit too cold.  No problem – we popped into a cafe for hot cocoa.  Mmmm, the perfect fuel.


Next, we looped over to North Michigan Avenue, where I had to take one photo of this truly ridiculous temporary Marilyn Monroe statue.  I’m a fan of MM and kitsch, but  if you have any doubt how icky this installation is, watch for five minutes how tourists interact with it when posing for photos!

Finally, I said goodbye to my favorite Chicago building before getting back on the trail to return home, stopping at local book shop, Unabridged, on the way.

By the time I got home in the late afternoon with nearly 20 miles under my belt, I felt great – tired in a good and healthy way that allowed me to spend the next two days curled up with books and scotch without feeling too much like a sloth.  :)

Here’s to motivating friends, fun bike rides, fresh air, and 2012!

{Read Elizabeth’s side of the story at Bike Commuters.}

{See a similar ride I did two years ago (dang, time flies!!) complete with holiday lions.}

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T-Shirts and Holiday Lights

I continue to ride with my Christmas lights on Betty Foy.  Apparently, I’m all confused about what time of year it is.

Adding to the seasonal confusion, the weather was so warm when I left work, I shoved my light jacket in my basket because my cashmere sweater (another $6 thrift store purchase) was more than enough to keep me warm.  A few miles from home, I began overheating and pulled off my sweater to ride the rest of the way in my t-shirt.  Imagine that: a t-shirt in mid-January in Chicago!

So if you see some crazy lady biking by with short sleeves and Christmas lights, that’s probably me.  ;)

 

 

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January’s Women-Who-Bike Brunch

The first Women-Who-Bike brunch of the new year marked an excellent start to 2012! The lure of beautiful weather and the highly-acclaimed new restaurant Nightwood drew 23 women, including several first-timers.

Because the restaurant was in Pilsen, about 8-10 miles from my house depending on the route, I met up with a group of six to bike together. Sunday morning is the best time to cycle and low traffic allowed us to ride side-by-side and chat most of the way.

After a delicious meal, we all spent a good amount of time outside, chatting and bike-gawking.

Martha took some photos for her fab blog, Bike Fancy.  Other highlights: Purple!

Carrie’s Fluevog boots and the skirt she made herself!

Everything about this outfit with the headscarf, orange coat, lace slip, brogues, and leather bag!   Comfortable windbreakers!

A pink DeFietsfabriek and glam sunglasses!

Letterman jackets, leopard scarfs, and chic black!

Red jackets!

The two of us biked home together along the Lakefront Trail, chatting the whole way, taking the 18th Street protected bike lane that I blogged about here.

Good times, Ladies!

Anyone in Chicago interested in joining the monthly brunch group? Email LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.

Also – Chicago’s Critical Lass Ride is this Thursday.  Who knew January would be such a great time for bicycling?  Take advantage of the freakishly mild weather!

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Video: Chicago’s 18th Street Protected Bike Lane

Yesterday I was in the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s southside for the Women-Who-Bike brunch.  I decided to take the Lakefront Path for the 10 mile ride home, which I could reach by taking the new protected bike lane on S. 18th Street from Canal to Clark Streets, connecting the Pilsen and Chinatown areas.  This protected bike lane is one of three in Chicago and exists in part thanks to Alderman Solis (read more about his Ward’s projects and his recent trip to the Netherlands here).

Here is a quick video I made of the entire half mile long lane, sped 250%.

Grid Chicago reported on the construction of this bike lane in November.  Progress has been made since then, but I assume (hope) that the lane is not finished because there is no protection on the grated bridge and not much treatment for the intersections.  The riding experience for new bicyclists could be stressful at those points.  Overall, the protected bike lane was a pleasure to ride and certainly an improvement, although not as thoroughly executed as the Kinzie protected bike lane.

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Is it really January?

Sunny blue skies, clear roads, mild temperatures – is it April already? I’m used to the occasional brief warm up during winter, but this year winter hasn’t yet arrived at all. If the forecast is right, this will continue for at least the next five days.

Yesterday was so warm (relatively) that I simply threw a long cashmere cardigan over my dress before heading out the door. By my evening commute, the temps had increased to 50 degrees F and I didn’t even use my cardigan. And I’m thrilled to continue riding Betty Foy, who usually gets packed away for the harsh winters.

This is the same outfit I wore two years ago for my video demonstrating how I dress for winter bicycling, but now without the wool leggings, second pair of socks, wool sweater, wool overcoat, huge mitts, handwarmers, scarf, hat, and glasses!

I think the weather I’m experiencing now is more like typical winter for most of you, but this will go down in the books as one of the warmest winters in Chicago’s history.

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Join us for a Rhinestone Cowboy Bike Ride! January 14 in Nashville, TN

 Ah, the title of this post pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Come one, come all to the Rhinestone Cowboy Bike Ride.

When: Saturday, January 14 at 2 p.m.

Where: The ride will start in Edgehill Village at Green Fleet Hub, 1579 Edgehill Ave (they will have limited bike rentals available for $15).

Why: It’s a group ride! Dottie will be there! You can hit Lower Broad with other cyclists and be marveled at by motorists. Plus, you get to dress up!
Proper attire can include, but is not limited to:

  • cowboy boots
  • cowboy hats
  • red and white checked shirts
  • bandannas
  • a colorblock shirt
  • sequined suits
  • sequined ballgowns
  • white eyelet lace
  • overalls
  • suspenders
  • denim, in any iteration (or multiple iterations! Break out Shania’s Canadian tuxedo)
  • a lariat bowtie
  • a little white tanktop
  • an American flag
  • the color plaid

Need further inspiration? Check out these photos:



And, of course, the man who came up with this brilliant descriptor:

Can you say no to this face?

Say you’ll be there!

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New Year’s Resolutions

I came across a great collection of New Year’s resolutions as depicted by graphic artists today, thanks to design blogger Swiss Miss. There are dozens of inspirational, gorgeous posters at the link, but when I saw this one I had to share it here.

I don’t generally make specific New Year’s resolutions, but I do try to set aside some moments to think about what the last 12 months of experience might have taught me that I should use to shape the next 12. (Stay tuned for our post reflecting on 2011 for LGRAB.)

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not? Has anyone resolved to start trying to ride their bike for transportation in 2012? (If so, you definitely need to click through and download this for your computer wallpaper!)

Video: Cycling Chicago’s Lakefront Trail

I ended the year on Saturday with a ride downtown along the Lakefront Trail with my friend Elizabeth.  Here’s a little video of cycling the Lakefront Trail heading south. I’m riding my Betty Foy and Elizabeth occasionally pops up with a santa hat on her helmet. The video is sped up by 150% and the song is by The Moonlighters from Free Music Archive.

You can see that the car-free trail is a very nice route, especially when it’s not crowded. I would take this route to work every day if it were a little more conveniently located for me.

Happy New Year!

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