überlin

Doggystyle: Lisa, Jasper and Torque

by Zoë Noble

berlin doggstyle streetstyle Shiba Inu

“The first German word we learned is “Fuchs”, because a lot of people were asking us if Torque’s a fox. He’s actually a Shiba Inu, an ancient breed of Japanese hunting dog, which was almost killed off during World War Two.

I always knew I wanted this breed. About seven or eight years ago there was a woman who had a litter of Shibas, and she put a live webcam on the puppies six hours a day. That was when I first learned about them – sitting at my computer at work, watching. Oh my god, they were so cute.

But they’re a big internet meme now – such Doge – so we’ll be on the U-Bahn now and people will be taking pictures of him. Torque has a very expressive face. He usually looks really happy but he can look sad too. When he hasn’t been fed, he’ll get in this crouch pose and stare at you like, “come on”.”

closeup Shiba Inu beside owner

closeup Shiba Inu

Portrait: Mike Shannon, Cynosure Recordings

by Guest Blogger

Mike Shannon Berlin rooftop

by Emma Robertson

Mike Shannon hates interviews. A DJ, producer and label boss for over 15 years, Mike is the kind of artist that prefers to let the music do the talking. When I ask him about it over coffee at his flat in Kreuzberg, he laughs. “Sometimes when art is over-conceptualised,” he says, “It takes away from the actual art itself.” Luckily for us, his music speaks volumes on its own.

It’s not that Mike is shy — in a city like Berlin where everything is in excess, there’s no room for timidity. Mike chooses to stand out in a different way. His particular brand of music doesn’t jump on trends or ride the bandwagon. A pioneer in the Canadian techno scene, his career has seen a steady upwards trajectory over the years and much of that has to do with the authenticity of his music: “For me, what I’ve been doing… I haven’t really moved around. I’ve stuck with it, and in a city like this, people appreciate that. Even if it doesn’t make you stand out, it earns you a different kind of recognition: respect.” It’s for that reason that when people write about Mike Shannon, they call him a DJ’s DJ. His technique, creativity, and understanding of music are very special. The art of performance is something he will never compromise.

Mike Shannon Berlin studio

As a DJ and a live act, you must experience a lot of pressure in your life: creatively, on stage, in the studio, in the office… What’s your favourite kind of pressure?

Favourite pressure? I don’t know if I like pressure at all! (Laughs) My favourite would have to be the way we’ve been doing things lately with my live act with David DeWalta! We only know more or less half of what we’re gonna do… Maybe less! The other half is wide open territory! There is a certain amount of pressure when you’re improvising like that that creates the best possible situations. When you’re in unknown territory, it’s amazing what can happen.

At the same time, though, you’ve talked previously about your move to Berlin lending you a sense of calm, particularly when you’re DJing.

Sure. That’s an example of a pressure that I’ve felt very relieved from playing in Berlin. There’s a big difference to the way things are here, as far as DJing is concerned. You play six, seven, eight hour sets. You pace things very differently. You take your time. There’s a different school here for that sort of thing. You play a whole lot differently than you would in an hour-long timeslot, for example.

Does that sort of energy affect you?

Totally. When you’re playing an hour-long DJ set, you have to get to the same point in a fraction of the time. There’s less time to tell the same story. I always prefer the sessions where you have time to build up to those explosive moments.

Is it difficult to maintain an element of surprise with your sets?

Digital culture has kind of exploded, so it’s definitely hard to pull out tracks that no one’s heard before. People are just generally way more aware of things than ever before. It’s easier to get access, which is kind of cool but it also means that the only way I truly surprise anyone these days is when I play my own things that no one’s heard before.

We talked about improvising earlier… Does that play into your DJ sets as well?

Yeah! I think there are certain combinations of records that I always somehow go back to putting together. They’re two things that fit together like a glove so it’s hard to separate them, but otherwise, even my DJ sets are pretty much entirely improvised.

I know you love to just get the gear on stage and see how things go on the fly, particularly with the live act with DeWalta that you mentioned earlier.

It’s funny, once we were playing at this Arma17 event in Moscow and we were on after this really amazing experimental jazz band. We changed the plan last minute and just did half an hour of ambient stuff and we had this really long droney intro. The transition that happened there was really amazing. We did it all on the fly, right then and there. It’s funny how those things just work out sometimes.

Mike Shannon Kreuzberg studio

Born and raised in the suburbs of Ontario, Canada, Mike’s career has taken him everywhere from Montreal to Santiago. He fell under Berlin’s spell in the mid 2000s: he’s happily made a home here with his wife and seven-year-old daughter, and likewise carved out a niche for the distinct type of techno that he creates, collects, and shares through his labels Cynosure Recordings and Haunt Music. He hasn’t forgotten his roots, though. His days in Kitchener-Waterloo throwing parties, booking his idols from across the river in Detroit, and cultivating a music community with like-minded friends has done a lot to propel him to where he’s at now.

The view from Mike Shannon's flat

Do you feel at home here in Berlin?

I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else really. I’ve planted a lot of roots here. I can’t imagine having the same kind of quality, even in Canadian cities like Toronto or Montreal. There’s no way I would have the culmination that I have here anywhere else.

Why not?

It was always a struggle for me to make a living as an artist in Canada. The sound that I was playing, that wasn’t really happening enough to sustain myself the way that I can here. In terms of success, of course it depends on how you gauge those things. But it’s funny, the grass is always greener on the other side, you know? You become a bigger artist in Canada when you’re away from it. People get excited about something that’s from somewhere else. You’re never famous where you’re from! (Laughs)

Do you think that your hometown, Kitchener, Ontario, had any influence on you, creatively or musically?

It’s a small town, so there were many moments where you had a lot of time on your hands! We built the scene there. We really built that ourselves! We had our headquarters downtown in a record shop… It was a meeting point for so many people. It became a community. And that was something that really influenced us. You realise how important it is all these years later, to have that kind of community around.

Can you tell me about the parties you used to throw back then?

We threw all kinds of parties, from warehouse events to art scene kind of nights. We were very lucky in terms of where we were geographically, we had connections with those artists that were just south of our border in Detroit, and they weren’t huge artists at the time either: Theo Parrish, Mike Huckabee, D-Wynn, Boo Williams, Robert Hood… Those guys would drive up sometimes, you know what I mean? I remember a party way back when Dan Bell played and he was cool with, like, a case of beer basically! (Laughs)

Wow. Times have changed!

Way different times. Those were the days! We were able to bring in high-calibre people. That’s what made it special, too, just having those deep connections and having those DJs come up and play what they wanted to play. We just kept plugging in the things that we loved and our heroes that we wanted to have play there. Every time we had the opportunity to take advantage of that, we would.

Mike Shannon modular synth

Like most music producers, Mike is a nerd at heart. His studio space recently relocated to a small room in his home in Kreuzberg, and when he brings me downstairs for the grand tour, his face lights up. He can barely keep his hands off the gear: even when he’s talking to me, he’s tinkering around on his self-built modular system or on his laptop.

MIke Shannon modular synth

Tell me about your studio set-up. What’s going on here?

Sure, yeah! Everything is based around my computer. I do a lot of sequencing and sound design with computer editing. Next to it, I’ve got this modular system that I’ve been building for years. I add a little bit to it over time, and recently I’ve gotten into building some of those elements from scratch, which is really interesting. I’m getting even deeper into the nerd thing! (Laughs) More than ever before!

Is this where you feel most at home?

Probably! I love being in the studio. For me, when things are getting stressful, or when things are getting to be too much, I disappear in there. It’s the best way to relieve some of my daily stresses. It’s my escape. For the moments that I’m in there, it’s an escape.

Mike Shannon studio nerd

You just moved your studio back here, right? How important is it to have this space in your home?

It’s been a big change for me. There’s certain moments where you have an idea and you can bounce on it right away! Whereas before, the time it would take me to go down the street to the studio, I’d lose the momentum or get completely distracted… It’s perfect to have this ability to wake up in the middle of the night and work on something right away if I want to. It’s easier to act on creativity in this environment.

In another interview of yours from years ago, you said that, “My goal is to make a track that won’t be forgotten after one play, a record that you could put on years from now and still get the same feeling.” Do you think your productions so far have accomplished that?

Not everything has been timeless, no. There are certain things that I slightly regret that definitely sound like they’re from a very specific time. I think if you can put a date on it, then it’s not timeless. It’s not so easy! But I do think I’ve made some tracks that are timeless. I hope there’s one at least!

Space Hall records close up

Mike is a vinylphile. His record collection spans multiple walls in his office, and it’s not uncommon to leave his place with a stack of CDs or records that he just has to have you listen to. He grew up in a musical household — a tradition that he carries on in his own home. There’s always some kind of melody floating around, whether it’s a Bohren & der Club of Gore track, a tune he’s working on with his daughter, or the latest release from his label. Ever since buying his first record (Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two”) when he was young, Mike was hooked on vinyl. He’s become a regular at Space Hall in Kreuzberg, so he takes us on a quick tour of his favourite sections. Flipping through the house and techno crates, he’s completely in his own world.

Mike Shannon Space Hall records Kreuzberg Berlin

I read that you used to listen to Thomas Dolby’s The Golden Age of Wireless. You said something funny, which was that it was “a record that would fuel your little world.”

It really was! I still have that record in my office! (Laughs) I still listen to it. I put on “Windpower” and it changes everything! I’m moving in the office when I put that on!

Is there a record that kind of accomplishes the same thing for you today?

I think probably the coolest record that that I listen to endlessly is The Hearts of Empty from these guys called Dakota Suite. It’s on a label called Karaoke Kalk, which is by far my favourite German label. I’m rarely disappointed with the records they put out.

Let’s talk about Space Hall for a bit —

This is my favourite record store in the world! I buy all kinds of different records here — you can buy just about any genre here. That’s the best thing about this place is that they have a massive backstock that really expands all the way through every genre. Their techno and house section is particularly good, which is what I like to buy mostly. The guys that work here are crazy as hell! It’s a very relaxed atmosphere.

Mike Shannon Space Hall records

It’s my first time here and I feel very welcomed. I’m always secretly a bit intimidated coming into record shops for some reason.

I’ve totally been there. People get really scared! Some people get really intimidated in record stores, especially these famous shops; you walk in and your tension goes up and you’re scared to talk to anybody. There are definitely certain shops in Berlin that are like that but at Space Hall, it’s way more relaxed. I can light up a smoke in the shop and be completely at ease with what I’m doing there. I can almost always find what I want to find, too.

When you’re shopping, where do you start? Do you know what you’re looking for?

No, no, no. I almost never know exactly what I’m looking for in there. I start by looking at everything that’s new in house and techno, I look through and listen to all of them. I skip through and I like to shop maybe twice or three times a week. I start there in the morning and go through as much as I can. I could spend days at Space Hall and not get bored.

Cynosure records Space Hall

There’s definitely a certain romance about wax. Those who love it really love it.

There’s something about flipping through records in my bag or at the shop, something about that whole process that I find way more comfortable than scanning through CDs or files. I try to do that! I’ve had a couple of situations where my records didn’t come and I had to try to play with just burning some CDs… I couldn’t do it well at all. Totally lost on how I organise myself. With vinyl, you’re touching it and feeling it. There’s something really special about that.

Mike Shannon Space Hall records Berlin

Brewberlin: The Big Berlin Beer Week Roundup

by Guest Blogger

By Hannah Graves.

Craft beer is officially A Thing. It’s not going anywhere, so it might be time to embrace it. The people behind Berlin Beer Week insist that they aren’t hipsters intent on ruining booze for everyone, but instead want people to try something other than watery yellow piss beer – maybe something with actual flavour.

They want us to appreciate beer in Berlin, the same way we’ve come to appreciate burgers. Who eats at McDonald’s when they know they can go to The Bird? There are some seriously strong Berlin breweries and bars that do what they do exceptionally well. So, whether you’re a seasoned beer geek or someone just venturing into the world of craft beers, this week should be a good one.

The Berlin Beer Week website has a full run down of this “celebration of beer culture”, starting tomorrow! And here’s my pick of the eventsI’ll be attending over the week. Prost!

The Opening Party

I’ve been behind the scenes at a brewery before, so will be taking the chance to snoop around Brauerei Lemke, where 10 Berlin brewers will be pouring their beers. This isn’t one of the free events but the very reasonable ticket price does get you the Berlin Beer Week glass and two small beers. Beer bonus!

Das Gift

It’s possible that you MIGHT be a wee bit tipsy after that opening party, and while there will be food trucks at the Brauerei, I’d recommend getting to Das Gift. This Neukölln favourite is going to be serving up its famously good Scottish food next to Scottish ales. Some dishes have been paired with matching beers, and I’ll be having the haggis!

Das Gift Scottish Food

John Muir

Sunday has long been my favourite day of the Berlin week, and I am more than happy to spend it eating barbeque. The bar with the speakeasy vibes is teaming up with Spice Spice Baby and the Berlin beer team on a bike, Flying Turtle, for some seriously summery vibes.

Monterey Bar

I’m going to be drunkenly throwing the horns after trying the Slayer beer at Monterey, where they will be celebrating creative design and rock music in beer culture. Three local artists from Berlin’s street art scene will be creating original mockup labels live, accompanied by a rock and metal DJ set.

Monterey Bar Berlin

Das Gift (AGAIN!)

This one was an easy decision to make. Cake. Beer. Beer cake. “A sculpture of cupcakes all made with craft ales as ingredients”. SOLD.

The Closing Party

Apparently, Stone Brewing are a big deal, the people behind beers with names like “Arrogant Bastard”. Being cool, they want to have their bit of Berlin too, so this event will be held at the site of their future new brewery and restaurant. There is a mind-blowing list of beers on offer, as well as non-alcoholic drinks, food and music. Also, 100% of proceeds from the event will go to a local charity organisation, so you’ll be drinking beer for a good cause.

Good luck making it through seven days dedicated to beer. I’m going to give it my best shot 😉 There’s SO MUCH going on, and for those who aren’t allergic to physical activity, there is even climbing with craft beer (?), and walking tours and bike rides. Even if you just try a craft beer at some point this week, Berlin Beer Week will have been a big success.

Doggystyle: Giulia, Mattia, Nacho and Ninja

by James Glazebrook

Doggystyle Berlin Streetstyle Couple with Chugs

“Nacho is very chill and quiet, and you can find him looking out at the sea, and thinking a lot. He’s a real philosopher.

But Ninja is super active. He wants to play all the time, and always lets his brother know when he’s won.

We went to pick up Ninja, but they were playing together and they were obviously inseparable. They really stick together. They watch Game of Thrones with us and bark at the bears!”

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Nacho

Ninja

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Berlintercourse: My first sex party

by Guest Blogger

You all know by now that my quest for new experiences knows no bounds, so you’ll probably only be half surprised to learn that I recently attended my very first sex party.

It all started during one of my Sundays spent dancing the day away at Berghain. I met a fairly good-looking guy, and our conversation turned quickly and naturally towards sex. Before I knew it we were comparing our number of Tinder matches and sexual partners. I mentioned this upscale sex party I’d heard of, and my new companion told me about a secret one happening regularly in Berlin. He suggested we go together and, without hesitation, I said I’d love to.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and this guy is telling me that he’s arranged for us to attend the next edition of this secret sex party. But as this is Germany, I still had to submit an official application full of disappointingly pedestrian getting-to-know-you type questions, and include a photo of myself. I nervously waited for a reply, and felt like I had won the lottery when I finally received an email welcoming me to this very special club.

It was a fancy dress party, so I spent a few days carefully planning my perfect outfit. I tried to look my ultimate sexy self, in my most slimming high-waisted thong and a transparent mesh crop top. But when I entered the venue, I found that most people seemed more interested in looking fun and artsy than hot. Just as I was wondering, “how come everyone is wearing more clothes than I am?” a girl walked past wearing nothing but a pearl thong, immediately making me feel better about my revealing outfit.

We grabbed our first drinks and scanned the main room, a vast space that nonetheless fostered an intimate atmosphere. I remember anticipating the moment that it would start being all about sex. Was there going to be some kind of signal? Right now, it looked like a large group of old friends catching up and having a regular night out.

Well, except for the guy proudly displaying a drill with a dildo attached to it. He was a non-threatening old bear, but I couldn’t help feeling a little violated when we pointed that thing at me. I sought refuge in the smoking area, always a good place to meet new people. Little did I know I was about to make my first almost faux pas.

I had brought fortune cookies to share and decided to hand them out to the smokers sat next to me on a worn-out couch. After everyone had read out loud what was written on their strip of paper, someone asked, “So, what did you get?”

“Mine says ‘You will have good health’, which I’m happy to hear considering my flatmate just told me that he has chlamydia!” Everyone went silent for a minute, and that’s when I recognised that this might not be the best place to joke about STDs. Then everyone started laughing, and I realised that I might have stumbled on the perfect ice-breaker. Phew!

After a few more drinks, I was approached by a young man who told me: “The first thing I noticed upon entering the room is your butt.” Given what I was wearing, this came as no surprise. He offered me wine and told me he wanted me to meet somebody, before walking off towards a girl who was chatting with somebody else.

He interrupted her to point at me and whisper something into her ear. Then they both walked my way and stood around me. She was his girlfriend and they attended this party with the sole purpose of finding girls to have threesomes with. I actually even got to meet the girl they had hooked up with at a previous party, which I guess was weird – but it takes a lot more than that to make me feel uncomfortable these days.

We flirted for a little while before they made it clear it was time to go to the other room – the darker one filled with mattresses placed on top of piles of euro-pallets. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to have my first threesome, after several missed opportunities, and I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be awkward? Were they going to get busy with each other while leaving me out? How was my second time with a girl going to be? I had no idea, but we got undressed after making out for a little while. What happened next ended up being one of my best sexual experiences so far.

There I was, lying on my back, while a hot guy and a hot girl were making sure I had the time of my life. I never felt left out and I’m pretty sure neither of them did either. And the other people getting busy on the nearby beds hardly even registered with us. A very natural synergy arose and I kept on thinking, “I can’t believe this is finally was happening.”

Once we were done, we got dressed and I retrieved my shoes from a tangle of arms and legs on the opposite side of the room. I had one more drink with the couple and decided to finally hit the dance floor. The DJ had started playing ridiculous pop songs and the party was approaching its end. Unlike the “regular” music-oriented parties that Berlin is known for, this one was indeed set to finish promptly at 4 am.

I spent the rest of the night talking to other guests, save for a single detour back into the second room on the invitation of a friend. I was seriously impressed with how uncomplicated and easy-going the vibe was. It felt like a hippie, free love-inspired gathering – think more Burning Man than the Shortbus sex club scene.

I never would have predicted that this night would meet – let alone exceed – my expectations. After reading about Slutever and Chelsea Summer’s experiences, I wasn’t sure I’d do anything sexual even if I found myself in a similar situation. But I guess that after all this time I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that, out of all the cities in the world, Berlin is the perfect place for these kind of liberal, experimental, mutually rewarding parties.

Can’t wait to read more? Follow Dating Disaster on Twitter for regular updates.

Doggystyle: Jodi, Max, Luna and Moose

by Zoë Noble

jodi luna doggstyle berlin park

“Luna (left) is part Burmese Mountain Dog, Labrador, Boxer and German Mastiff.

“We found her on eBay Kleinanzeigen, and got her from an old man in Treptow. He had her grandmother, her mother and father, ten puppies and a cat in this tiny apartment. Luna was the odd one out – the only long hair in the litter – and she was always off by herself playing with bottle caps and things. We were like, ‘this is the one!’

“Having a dog has changed our lives in lots of positive ways. The only negative is that Luna really doesn’t like being on her own. Berlin is such a lovely dog city, so we take her most places. But if we ever go out somewhere she can’t come, then it’s like having a baby. She knows when we’re getting ready to go out, and she prances arounds, throws toys, shows off her skills, and does absolutely anything to get your attention.

“So we have to find a sitter, and either trade off with our friends who have dogs (like Moose’s owners) or leave her with someone who’d like a surrogate dog for the day.

“We always call Luna ‘the cat’. She licks her paw and cleans herself, and the way she eats is very delicate and dainty. Once I took a bit of ham and threw it at her, and actually landed in the face! It dropped to the ground and, even then, she sniffed it before she ate it. She’s really picky – she’s a total princess.

“But it’s the love you get every day, that makes it worthwhile. I laugh every single day looking at my dog – she just makes me happy.”

closeup of luna closeup of moose luna dog berlin

A Year of Coworking: What We’ve Learned

by James Glazebrook

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Happy birthday to us! It’s been a year since we opened the doors to the überlin coworking space, and we’ve learned a lot in the past twelve months. What started as a dream of turning our online community into something tangible has become a bricks-and-mortar reality, an actual business, a space where great things happen, and one with potential for even more awesomeness.

It’s been rewarding, but it hasn’t always been easy. We thought we’d share our experiences, which should be of interest to anyone who’s thinking of starting something, be it a coworking space or any other kind of enterprise. Hope this helps!

Keep it simple
When we first opened our doors, we experimented with flex desks and day rates – until we worked out that we just aren’t big enough to accommodate everyone’s specific needs. We also tried to rent out our downstairs to event organisers, or photographers who wanted to use Zoë’s studio, but the extra income wasn’t worth the disruption to our coworkers.

Now we’re really clear about what überlin is – a coworking space that offers full-time fixed desks, and a private photo studio that doubles as a space in which to host our own workshops. We’re always open to new ideas about how to use our facilities, but we’re focused on being a space where our close community can do its best work.

Not (just) a place for expats
This blog brings us into contact with Berlin’s somewhat transient international community, so we just assumed (but didn’t intend) that ours would be a space for expats, by expats. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, from the very start, actual Germans (even Berliners!) wanted to join as coworkers.

We’ve maintained a nice mix of about 50% Germans and 50% other – people from all over the world who benefit from Deutsch Dienstag practice and just being around native speakers who know how the country works. As an added bonus, our neighbours seem to be into what we’re doing, and some have even rented desks here!

Location, location, location
We always we knew we had a great location – a minute’s walk from Schönleinstrasse on the U8, 10 minutes to Kotti (and the U1) in one direction, and 10 to Hermannplatz (U7) in the other. But what we didn’t appreciate is just how local people like their office spaces to be.

Most of our current coworkers live in Kreuzberg or neighbouring Neukölln, a handful are based in our beloved Graefekiez, and one even lives on the same street! It seems that, in Berlin at least, people love a coworking space they can walk to.

A big empty überlin, this time last year

Be selective
A year ago, we were pretty desperate to fill desks. We had rent to pay, other costs to cover, and our egos on the line, so we let pretty much anyone who was interested rent desk space. That included people who wanted to be in desks part time, wanted to share them with others, only planned to be around for a month – or, for a host of other reasons, just weren’t right for us.

Now we have enough people in place, and enough desk capacity that we don’t have to be stressed about being full all the time. That affords us the luxury of being really selective about who we let join the space, so we pick people we like, who we think will get on with our other coworkers, and are into the idea of sharing – space, ideas and doggy cuddles 😉

This is probably the biggest lesson we’ve learned: pick your coworkers, don’t let them pick you.

Un-break the internet
Forget desks, chairs, doors or a roof – the most important thing in a coworking space is fast, reliable internet. We had some serious teething problems that it took us a while to sort out, even with the help of an expert. But now we have lightning-fast wifi that’s accessible from anywhere in our space – a must-have for an office of any kind.

How to shop at IKEA like a boss

Do It Yourself…
When you run your own small business, you learn how to do everything for yourself. Coworking space managers are often glorified janitors, so we’ve earned our black belts in IKEA construction, unblocked sinks and done so much DIY we’re practically German! But as well as the practical stuff, we’ve learned about accounting, marketing, community management, customer service, tech support… and found people to help with the things that we can’t teach ourselves.

…but know when to ask for help
We couldn’t have done any of this without the help of a wonderful bunch of people. At the risk of getting all awards-speechy, we’d like to thank:
WelanceMorganJoelDanilo for the advice and expertise;
Lavinia and Karin for the business support;
Kathy and Judith for the invaluable interior design input, Olli for branding our space and Dan for building us beautiful custom furniture;
Everyone who came to and helped out at our official opening party;
Expath and Ray for running our workshops;
All of our coworkers, past and present, and all of our friends and family for the support.

Here’s to a great year of coworking, and hopefully many more!

We currently have a few desks open in our coworking space. If you’re interested in joining our little community, check out the full details here, or drop us an email.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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