Willful Misconduct

for @MinaANDMaya

Hi, my name is Josie and I willfully use illegal copy of Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office.

Report me if you want, chase me if you like; but I’ll run. I’ll do whatever I can to avoid capture, I’d kill if I have to.

I know there’s no free lunch. I know that whoever work in Microsoft need pay and food for their families, I know that I should be willing to pay USD 100 for each so that Bill and Melinda can continue to feed and educate some unfortunate kids in Africa.

But I also know that Mousy need medical intervention and if I must choose, and I did, I would rather be a pirate and embezzle USD 200 (that’s over two million Indonesian Rupiah, by the way) than living a good citizen but let Mousy’s life slip away and do nothing.

I met Mousy when he was just a few months old; tiptoe-ing from below that gawker’s stall toward the leg of the bench where I sit, filling my hungry tummy with junk food (it’s cheap). I was still a new recruit then, and few month prior had just started my own rescue operation.

I saw his pink nose, perfect and moist, sniffing my socks. It must have smelled all other cats in my boarding house, then he scan my shoes, then he got carried away and when he realize he went too far out from where he supposed to be hiding, he peeked above and saw me grin.

One half of meatball fall from the sky, at least for him; and he much it like it’s not gonna happen again in centuries. Then another half, and another half, and another half. Perfectly sized to his bite size.

And then he followed me home.

He was perfect little kitten then; but about three years later, his nose start to grow. Just a little lump by the bridge of his nose. I have one too, something hard like my nose was broken and mend and where it broke has some lump on the bone. It never bothered me, and Mousy’s lump never bothered him either, so I let it be. Everyone is different.

Two months later I asked a veterinarian and he said as long as it doesn’t bother him, let him be. Don’t fix what’s not broken right? I let him be.

But that lump grow. Very, very slowly, but it grow, covering his nose, though it never seem to bother Mousy. He doesn’t have difficulties breathing, he doesn’t have any abnormalities (except for a big nose), he plays fine, he sleeps fine, he eats fine, he lives fine.


I keep consulting the vets (plural), and they all agree that as long as the growth doesn’t bother him, they won’t do anything invasive and make it angry.

Until Mousy sneezed blood last month.

I rushed him to the clinic, and the vet decided it’s time to cut his nose open and remove the growth. By then Mousy was five years old, 15 pounds healthy cat who can trash and tilt the whole surgery table  and literally turn the room into a mess. He needs extra dose of sedation before he is calm enough for the vet to start the procedure.

The surgery itself lasted about five hours long, and require four senior veterinarians, two vet techs and gazillion of tools, equipments, injections et cetera.


The surgery cost me USD 300, and I draw that money I have been saving to buy that Windows and Office license in a whim. I know I was making the right choice, I know that I am taking the best decision between two bad options, and I know that I am very stupid in using that money (you will know why soon); but I am an animal rescuer. Life matters more to me compared to anything else.

Indonesia, where I live, does not have animal welfare law; and The Whiskers’ Syndicate is the first (and only) animal sanctuary. We are not supported by the government, we live solely at the mercy of donations we raised over social media, and since I left my company job three years ago I made a living as a blogger, translator, and selling crafts on Etsy. We have enough to live day by day, but we’d tumble on any sudden cost unless I made extra income.

Without software license I have to rely completely on my cell phone. I can fund raise through social media using my cell phone, but it’s a little difficult to compose a good blog post or translate long documents without a computer. Now you see why I said I was being stupid?

Mousy will need other procedures to make sure his nose won’t grow back, or if it does grow back, I want to make sure I give the best I can until his end. It means it will take longer for me to save enough money to buy the licenses, it means loss of opportunity, and loss of money because I can’t take up writing job. I’ll be in catch 22 all over, and this time who knows how long. Meanwhile, I will be using pirated software with limited functionality.

Nevertheless, I choose, and I don’t regret it. Mousy deserve a chance to live, and I will make sure he get it as much as I can.

So help me God.

~ Josie





Chaos ensued at The Whiskers’ Syndicate.

I was disgusted at the dirty walls of our living room and remembered that I have remnants of old paints from our renovation two years ago.

I went to the storage and pulled out a can of white paint, and noticed that the cap was so rusty, I can poke a hole on it with one finger.

That’s fine. I can work on it. I can buy some tint from material shop nearby and make it some sort of beige or yellow or light blue. Maybe pink? I can even make it calico because it’s a bit troublesome to make a tabby.

So I brought the can and walk along the sanctuary “hallway” down to the house.

I didn’t see Sierra stalking behind me.

She has this notion that I am a very tall and very soft cat tree. She often stalk me and lunge from the back, planting her nails into my flesh. Usually just as high as my legs but a couple of times, she landed on my head, or my shoulder, asking for piggyback ride.

If it’s my legs, that’s fine. I have enough damaged jeans to protect me. but my back only have T shirt.

But there she was, lunged at me, and landed on my neck.

She is six kilos (12 lbs) round bellied fresh cat.

I didn’t know which one happened first. But I yelped, screamed “ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (yes, with that many exclamation marks), and fall to the back.

Sierra slid down, scratching my back, I exclaimed more ouch, and the paint flew over.

And then, Sierra turned white (she is white and silver tabby) and the rest of the Syndicate who follows me turned spotty.

The washing machine turned spotty

The door turned spotty

The window turned spotty

The water bucket for drinks turn whitey

Neo the black cat turned spotty
Kibble (with all her luxurious hair!!!!) turned spotty
Jack turned spotty
Freed turned whitey
Siegfried is half white and half yellow tabby

The rest of the sanctuary turned paw print-y

So I cancelled all my schedule, and turn myself hose-y

First I hose myself down. Then I hose Sierra back to her silver tabby, then Jack, then Freed and the one who got the most hose and turn most angry was Kibble.

And then I scrubbed the sanctuary, and then I scrubbed the door, the washing machine, the window.

And spend 1500 liters (396.2581 US gallons) of water

Plus six loads of laundry.

Meanwhile, Stardust Bowie the Flame Point Siamese mix sat by the window sill, watching me.


~ Josie

Hose us down? paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate


I was walking home with 24 pounds (12 kgs) of tuna, swearing at my fate as a pauper. Well, but then come to think of it, no rich person ever carry 12 kgs of tuna with a limousine.

As I continue to be pathetic, my eyes stumble upon a little yellow tabby, about two months old, standing on both of his teeny weeny little leg trying to reach to a dangling tentacle of a squid.

All of a sudden I am warped to the top of the mountain with a green lush of grass and white little flowers singing The Sound of Music.

But the woman walking in front of me didn’t.

She skip two steps forward and club the tiny kitten with her own shopping bag, not any smaller than mine, and the poor creature flew to the air probably still wondering what was happening.

I dropped my tuna, turned myself into some sort of Babe Ruth and catch the kitten mid air, though landing right in the middle of the road. An incoming motorcycle followed by an (empty) ambulance swerved to my left with some !@$&*!!!!! but life goes on.


The clubbing woman was in awe, as with others who watch the show. Not everyday some flying squirrel catch a flying cat mid air and land on the road like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

But I didn’t.

I walked back to my bag of tuna with my eye on fire, glaring at the woman, who immediately pick her own club head shopping bag and run for her life.

The cat? probably still has no idea, because he just stay still the whole time.

I pushed him inside my jacket and moved on.

A few steps and a couple more moaning at my fate as a pauper, I caught up to the ambulance, just parked, the driver delivered something to some sort of a maternity clinic, and drove back off.

While dragging another yellow kitten as he drove through a curb.

I dropped my tuna again, screaming my lung out trying to stop the departing ambulance, flailing my hand like crazy. A parking lot guy saw what I was trying to do and chase along flailing his glowing stick.

Lucky the driver didn’t speed up thinking he was chased by a couple of maniac.

I fell on my knee, and crawl down under while the parking lot guy told the driver he’s dragging a cat, and when they are done talking, I am done rescuing. Life goes on.


The cat? probably no longer have idea because she was still stunned when I pushed her into my jacket.

I ended up taking a motorbike taxi to go home, pushed all those tuna inside the fridge, and on my way to the vet, totally forgotten to take pictures of the two gingers.

It’s probably a good thing. They are not a great sight, especially the little drag race queen.

I was in the middle of translating an old folklore about Siegfried, so I called the little boy, who lost one eye at such young age as Siegfried, and the nearly skinned young girl was named Brunhilde. Brunhilde the Valkyrie, who plays with death and shape shifting as a cat.

It took me about six months caring for her. From raw meat to growing her skin back to learn to walk pain free, to the way she is now. No photos. I couldn’t bare snapping on a painful skinned thigh and back, straight to the neck and almost boiled cheek.

It took her a year to be cat again: chasing the ball and climbing our lemon tree, flying to the air to catch some bumblebee, watching the world go round from on top of the kitchen cabinet, climbing the pillars of our cattery and the first to put her claw mark two days after we’re done with the renovation.

It took her another two months before she is fixed, but not before she made the vet and I chased literally high and low all over the house just to sedate her. She woke up faster than scheduled and almost fell off the operating table.

She gave us a good sport and a sizeable cardio (if not heart attack with that almost falling incident), but then she is fixed, and checked, and vaccinated and declared healthy as a fiddle. I mean Valkyrie. Oh, sorry, a cat.


One day I wonder how many deaths she has been cheating, and how.

I looked at her face, sleeping hugging an open can, probably dreaming of humble human putting kibbles, no, I mean offering, inside.

She is a Valkyrie, and she shape shift as a cat. So…


~ Josie


Girls Interrupted

Even hours after, my house still smells like carnage. Alcohol, disinfectant, antiseptic, medicine, pus, urine, the diminishing fume of two cups of warm green tea.

And this thick, sickening stench of blood.

It’s everywhere. In my cup of tea, on my clothes, on my skin, sticking into my nose clotting my brain.

The vet had long been free from the lingering choke, when she bid her farewell and on her way to her next client; and I should be able to run away as well, though I am still confined here, too tired to move.

For six hours we had been struggling to free one street cat from tangling, messy death; and it’s not a landslide victory.

Numerous times I have been taking a deep breath, hoping that fresh air will unwind my cluttered mind. What had happened was hard to understand, if it can be understood at all.

I remembered talking to Lori about it earlier, and she tried to give me an answer; but she was not here. She did not touch the cats for herself, she did not see it  just a few inches away with her own eyes, and she did not know the cat the way I do. She was tired and sleepy when I talked to her, and I don’t blame her at all. It was meant to be mine to deal with.

About three weeks ago I caught a glimpse of a street cat who walked stealthily with her rectum outside. It knew she was urgent. I have tried to follow her but I missed her when she slipped under a morgue cart in a clinic up the hill, at the back of my housing block. I was on my way home from paying a visit to the community authority who have just lost his mother-in-law.

When I thought they have calmed a bit, I came to visit again with a pot of Chrysanthemum and talked to his wife about the street cat who seems to have extra “meat” behind him. She told me she knew what I mean. Both her and the wife of another leader likes cats. They allow street cats to visit and give them food and not harm them, but that’s it. I don’t mind.

She told me she thought that cat has tumor and that the cat was going to be dead soon. Neither of the ladies want that cat to die in their house so they too have been keeping distance from the doomed cat.

At the beginning of the long weekend holiday last Thursday I found out that one of the cats in the colony I have been taking care of dripped blood from her vagina. She is still young, so my guess was that she got her first estrus and something went wrong. Since she was familiar with me I have no problem snatching her when she eats; and before she knew what was going on, she was already in my backpack, and I rushed to go home.


With antibiotics and herbal medication, her bloody rear seemed to get better; so I didn’t bring her to the vet when I rushed Liam to emergency. Besides, it is very hard to hold onto two restless cats when you ride a motorcycle.

The blood came back on Saturday so I contacted my traveling vet and asked if she can come on Sunday. She said she was out of town but will be coming Monday. I hung up and went to the market for some tuna.

By noon, the wife of that local authority told me that the sick cat I have been looking for is around. She gave the cat enough food and the cat is currently resting in an empty lot in front of her house, and she cover the cat with a big bamboo basket so she won’t go away.

I hid the tuna under the shoe rack at the porch and went to her house to retrieve the cat. The woman told me that the cat is female, not male as I thought she was.

She was a gentle cat. A bit skittish but she is sweet; familiar with human touch. I figured she belonged to someone but was abandoned when she has trouble with her rectum. When I release her in the living room she went direct to a basket in the corner and curl up there, watching around, until Tortie lazily drag herself over, yawned, and asked her to leave. That basket is Tortie’s after all. Then she just curl herself up in the corner and watch the other cats walked around.


I texted my vet again and told her there will be another patient with a prolapsed rectum who everyone thought has tumor. She asked me if it’s a new case, I said the rectum was dried outside and was exposed too long. She said ok.

At 8 pm I went around the hillside doling food for the colonies. It was quiet because everyone always wait until the very last second to go back home regardless they will be tired in the office the next day, but that’s how Indonesian, especially Sundanese, goes. They are national icon of laziness and carelessness.

I noticed that the tabby road had migrated higher into the hill, but I am not surprised. They live too near to the house of that brat who likes to throw stones at us whenever I feed the cats and like the way Sundanese goes, he was protected by his parents, which gives them the idea that whatever he does is correct.

When I turned around to feed the cats in the side yard, I noticed that the black and white cat in that colony has weird looking mouth. It was dark, so I cannot be sure, but I feel uneasy about leaving her, especially since she seems to try to draw my attention, so she went to my backpack carrier and went home with me.

It was late so I didn’t tell the vet she has another patient. I just send message to Lori about what happened and told her I won’t be around the next day.

I woke up earlier today, clean the house, feed the cats, and prepare for the surgeries. The vet came, I summarize what she ought to do, and she choose the prolapsed kitty first.

She was sedated, with a little bit of a riot. We put her on the table thinking that we will be cutting some rectum, stitching some intestines, and if condition allow, spay another street cat.

But upon closer inspection, we found out that it was not her rectum that stuck out.

It was her uterine that was somehow pushed out of her body and since it was exposed for who knows how long, dried out, got infected, and well, become a tumor.

I tried to joke that God tried to upgrade my vet tech skill by giving me harder cases. Still, it’s not much different. Instead of some rectum, we have to cut the protruding uterine, cut her open, cut the other part of uterine that was inside, leave a part of it, made a new vagina by sewing what is left of her uterine to the opening on her rear, and sew her back shut.

But blood was spurting and flowing like Niagara falls when we cut the tumorous uterine. Vet put a lot of clamps but she is still bleeding and her blood was damn smelly. It’s not fresh blood. It’s very dark, almost black, and it is very thick and sticky. We had so much trouble that I left the vet and bring a set of human sized hemostat clamps  that I have been using to turn my toys to the right side when I finished sewing them.

Her uterine was already so damaged, it start to stick together. If we just sew it she will have a new vagina but she won’t be able to pee, so we have to first sew the part of healthy uterine and then made her a new pee hole, then connect that new pee hole to the other parts.

l hope you can get what I mean.

If you don’t, bottom line is, we have a big surgery that supposed to be done in a hospital, with slabs of lab tests, breathed in anesthesia, laser cutter, skin glue, and probably a magnifying glass and a flash light strapped onto the vet’s forehead.

But we don’t have a hospital and we don’t have those fancy labs and flashlight, and we don’t have blood transfusion for cats, and we don’t have time. So we do all the procedures with three sets of surgical tools, injection anesthesia, scalpel, catgut thread and suture needles of various sizes, bottles of antibiotics, peeled eyes, desk lamp, all the swiftness in our souls and a lot of prayers.

And we made her a new set of urinating apparatus, tumor free, in six hours of surgery while keeping our own gut from throwing out.

When the vet finally said we’re done, she hold the cat in her arms and cradle her to a mat nearby. I told her that we might just perform the nastiest and craziest surgery in history.

We drank our teas in big gulps to calm our racing heartbeats and count on our fortunes.

We ran out of those fortunes on the next case.

I don’t know how it happened and who did it, but I know I would rather not find out.

The cat from the colony who got bloody mouth has her upper lips cut off. Her body was full of bruises from some blunt force, and the other bruises indicated she was dragged.

I don’t know how she survived either, but remembering how she greeted me so cheerfully the night before gave me a very hard time holding my tears. It must be painful. To have your mouth cut that you can’t eat or drink anymore, and beaten, and dragged. And she greeted me as if nothing happened.


Across the table, my vet was knitting her eyebrow, while stroking the cat who was sitting on the table. I thought she might be trying to digest what had been done to this cat and how to fix it. I tried not to get angry about what happened and I barely succeed; so I know how hard it must be for my vet, herself a cat lady, to try to understand what was going on and how to undo so much damage with very little technology that we have.

The cat looked at my vet and give her a soft head butt.

She understand I said slowly. The vet looked at me. I think she understand, I said again.

I told my vet how she cheerfully greeted me last night, and she sighed.

I know you want to save her as soon as possible, I said, We have to save her as soon as possible.

But part of that saving her should begin with clear mind and good concept of how it supposed to be done, and knowing that she will be able to endure whatever procedures that can be done.

I try to smile.

In front of me, I see my vet’s contorted body, stiff and small, expanded in relief.

I am glad you understand, she sighed, most people who call themselves rescuers won’t. Their best interest is announcing to the world what cruelty that has been done, as gruesome as possible, and that they save the cat. Whether or not the cat will live just another day or three years after.

Well this cat ain’t going anywhere. I shrugged. She wouldn’t be able to eat or drink without an upper lips and she was torn apart by all these wounds. I am not sure she is going to hold on even if we can fix her and do another six hours surgery. Even if she is, she won’t be going back to the street that way I guess.

Looking at the cat with pity, my vet delivers her verdict, She’ll be a baby. You will have to prepare a semi liquid food for her, you will have to drip that food into her mouth until she stops bleeding, you will have to bump up her weight and let all the smaller wounds heal. Meanwhile I will contact all the senior vets I know if they can help with her cut up lips or if we have enough technology and expertise to transplant some of her other parts to form a new upper lip.

I seriously can’t digest what people are thinking and how they come to have an idea to do what they do to this cat.

I replied honestly, Me neither, but she is here now, so I am going to just do it.

It will cost you a lot.

We’ll see about that, but I am not going to answer her cheerful greetings to me – despite her pain – with hopelessness and despair.

The vet dug her backpack, pull out various bottles and start to teach me what to give, where to give, how much, and when to give. It’s going to be an ensemble, but if it brings hope to this new resident of The Whiskers’ Syndicate, I’ll play that ensemble.

Vet will come again next week to check on the other cat, and her progress.

Let’s see what I can do meanwhile.

~ Josie


Going Green

On May 5, 2008, I arrived at Bandung train station after 12 hours journey with only one travel bag and straight to the first day of work. I took a bath in the office, change my clothes in the office, throw my travel bag under my desk and straight to job one.

Today, May 5, 2016, eight years later, I am sworn in as one of a team of community leaders. I am in charge for issues related to environmental sustainability and climate change. In short, I have to lead people to live green.

I am not into politics and never will. Besides, with how things are going at the moment, I wouldn’t be able to take anymore responsibility unless I find a way to make 24 hours in a day into 28.

Still, I take it.

Not because of the promise of financial gain, but for the promise of power.

The power to make people listen, the power to educate people, the power of an opportunity to make a better turn for the street animals.

For about a year now, I have been growing my own vegetables. People got interested and I taught them about organic farming. More people coming, I told them story about urban farming. We have poor people in our community. We have struggling orphanage. The community leader’s wife, the one who likes cat, approach me, and I came there with a bunch of scrap fabric and taught the children to sew a cover for their Quran. I taught the boys how to grow their own carrots and cucumbers, I taught them how to make compost. Now they have their own shop and a sustainable life.

So the community came together and fund my urban farming project in an empty plot where Hanshin and the cats used to roll over on the wild grass. That empty plot is now a lush vegetable garden, gated, with a tiny house in the middle to store things, where cats of all walks of life share a bit of space with each other just to sit a while, or nap to their heart’s content.

The community came together and fund the water cleaning program; the community came together than fund crafting class where young mothers and older women share crafting ideas or baby nursing technique or exchange recipes for the next Sunday market where they sell things and donate to charity.

But there will be no fund for the TNR, no volunteer, nothing. the only promise is that they will leave me alone whenever I trapped the cats.

That’s OK.

It took me eight years to build The Whiskers’ Syndicate, and the building is ongoing. It took me eight years to come the way I am now, with our own roof, our own website, one thousand followers.

It took me three years to successfully harvest my own vegetables, the ones that don’t have something that move inside them, the ones that are not misshaped, the one that tasted like fresh vegetable.

It took me the whole year to nudge a bunch of people to value handmade crafts, and although it is the money that win their appreciation, it’s a start.

It took me tears and blood. I crashed and burn, black and blue to get where I am.

Why would an alien like TNR win overnight?

But I don’t look for breakthrough, I look for progress. I don’t make revolution, I follow evolution. I do not anxiously count on what I have not yet have in my hand; I just put one feet after another.

A rustle at the back of the crowd cut everyone’s attention from the presentation and some didn’t hold back to look around. A skeletal cat jumped out of the garbage bin just next to the door.

“She has five kittens and she lives on the porch of the house at the corner”, the leader’s wife whispered.

Not everyday heaven is listening to my prayers.

By the end of the event, the mother cat and her kittens will be my pilot project. They will be the first of controlled colony in the whole community, and they will be my witness on the power of TNR in improving the quality of animals and man.

It will be my own money, my own energy, my own effort. I am not sure if I will have enough when the time comes. I am not sure if I will have enough means, I am not sure if I will have enough resources, or tools, or equipment.

But just like eight years ago today, I start the journey of thousand miles that led me to Whiskers’ Syndicate when I put my first step on that train station with only one travel bag, hope and faith, this time too, I will embark on this journey of another thousand miles, that hopefully lead to the betterment of street animals, one little alley after another.

So help me God.

~ Josie



Imagine: she is someone’s pet. She is loved, she is cared for. She is clean and well fed, she has nothing to worry about.

Imagine: all of a sudden all that happy world, the calm days, the warm night was taken away from her overnight, and the next thing she knows, she is alone, on the street. Burned by the sun, frozen by the night wind, no roof, no bed.

But life goes on, and so should she.

Imagine: fending off for herself, in an unknown world, with nothing but instinct, and her four tired legs. No more food bowl, no more clean water. Only garbage, just a puddle.

But life goes on, and so should she.

Imagine:an uninvited misfortune, too slow for an incoming car, sleeping under wrong vehicle, or seeking warmth on wrong car. It could be failing to escape a vicious dog, or a drunkard. Lost one leg, barely alive,

But life goes on, and so should she.

Imagine: giving birth to a litter, season after season, but unable to care for her children just like other cats. Watching them got carried away by naughty kid, watching them drown in the flood, watching them wander too far and got lost, watching them starving to death because she can no longer hunt.

But life goes on, and so should she.

Imagine: having to rely on her one and only surviving kitten. Having to teach him how to hunt, while she herself can’t. Still no roof, still under the rain, still hungry, still nothing

But life goes on, and so should she.

Imagine: a bag of fragrant food, that she faintly remember from long gone days, the one she thought she couldn’t even hope anymore. One piece, after another. It’s like a dream.

Imagine: the arm of a human, that she used to know, that she probably almost forgotten

Imagine: a house full of cats, annoying, noisy, cramped, but it’s a house none the less, plentiful food none the less, clean and fresh water none the less, warm and fluffy mat none the less. Away from the scorching sun, the raging flood, the night breeze, the vicious dog.

Life goes on, so should she.

Imagine: losing her one and only son, the one who keep her sustenance, the one and only company.

Life goes on, so should she.

Imagine: she missed her boy so much, that all of the wall around her heart is crumbling, the pride is crumbling, the distance is going. So, maybe just once, maybe there is one among the crowd that can understand her, love her, like her son would, like she would her son. And then one day, a lonely orphan approached, and it felt just right.

Life goes on, so should she.

Imagine: watching her go about her daily life, learning to love again, learning to live again, into the moment, out of her reservation. Exploring, jumping, cuddling. Her fur is white and her patches are bright.

Imagine: her sniffing around when she follows you, with trust and curiosity mixing like a promise of a new heaven.

Imagine: how life went out of the rail and corrected itself.

Life goes on, and so does she.

Imagine: all of those unfolding, like a flower blooming in the first day of spring, in front of you. I can see it in her eyes, I can hear it in her purrs. The water that trickles, one drop after another, through the rock, through the desert, underground, in the stream, into the mud, falling, through the forest and one day, the ocean.

Life goes on, and so does she.

And then I remember why I am doing what I am doing. I remember why I want to give the best. I remember why I am trying the hardest. I remember why I give.

I cannot promise, sometimes, life fails me as well.

But life goes on, and so should we.

~ Josie

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