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Fire graphicLetters Archive

Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999
From:Steve Bushway <>
To: Norbert Senf
Subject: Re: MHA website

Hi Norbert,

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?  I'm looking forward to ours.  Not only for the food, but because I'm thankfull for the satisfaction I derive from building heaters for people.  Its kind of a dream come true for me. (Just
got my first confirmed MHA website-generated job.  Thanks for your good work!.

>Best,  Steve

Good News, Bad News on the Code Front

Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999
To: MHA News <>
From: Jim Buckley <>
Subject: IRC

Report by Jim Buckley

The International Code Council (ICC) membership voted unanimously to approve the International Building Code (IBC) Committee's action and approve our proposed code change as modified. That means the IBC code will be substantially the same as the International Residential Code (IRC) and will include a section on masonry heaters.

On Friday, however, the membership went against the IRC Committee to disapprove the proposal to add a section on masonry heaters to the International Residential Code.

I think the ICC membership was persuaded that, whatever flaws there might be in the masonry heater section, it wasn't worth throwing out the whole revision of the masonry fireplace and chimney chapter representing years of work. However, when the masonry heater issue was isolated, as it was in the IRC proposal, ICC membership seemed to be persuaded that there might be an unnecessary restraint of certain heater models and they could wait until the masonry heater community got it together.

In the hallways before the vote we had pretty much agreed, whatever the vote, to try to resolve differences over language and try to draft a unified proposal for the next code change cycle. Mike VanBuren of the Hearth Product Association (HPA) agreed to call a meeting of masonry heater builders and manufacturers in late October. Unfortunately the Masonry Alliance for Codes and Standards (MACS) meeting is scheduled for October 8-9 in Denver and there didn't seem to be any way to have the HPA meeting before then. Proposals for the next cycle are due November 1, 1999. There is no time.

Chip Clark of the Brick Industry Association (BIA) suggested that MACS prepare a proposal on masonry heaters anyway to be approved at the October 8-9th meeting. Hopefully the Masonry Heater Association and the Hearth Product Association Masonry Heater Manufacturers Caucus can submit a joint proposal after their late October meeting, in which case MACS would probably withdraw it's proposal. Even if the MHA and the HPA Manufacturers Caucus can't agree and submit separate proposals it will give us all time to work out an agreement before the Committee meetings in March.

I plan to prepare a number of code change proposals for MACS support and as soon as possible I will include draft a proposal on masonry heaters to be included and put them all on line here. I would welcome suggestions from any and all interested parties. I'm clear that neither I nor MACS represent the masonry heater community or any faction thereof. Our purpose in submitting a proposal on masonry heaters is only to give us "standing" at the ICC Committee meetings (we will be on the agenda) and in a better position to help negotiate a clear, fair and inclusive masonry heater section. Hopefully we will be able to withdraw our masonry heater proposal in favor of a better proposal supported by the masonry heater community.

Subject: Masonry Heater Code Challenge
Date: Sat. Sept 5 1999
Norbert Senf
undisclosed recipients

Hello Everyone:

Jerry Frisch and Jim Buckley will be flying to St. Louis next week to attend the IRC (International Residential Code) meeting. As you know, through their hard work and effort, masonry heaters have been included in the new building code. This is good news for all heater masons. It is good news for manufacturers as well, because many of them can take advantage of the "site-built" provisions of the building code to reference ASTM and bypass UL listing for their products.

A group of manufacturers has mounted a challenge to the MHA-endorsed code provisions and have requested that the current masonry heater language be removed from the code. Attached below please find an email from Jim Buckley that provides further details.

This is an important issue that directly affects your livelyhood and your future - please take the time to read the documents and let the MHA executive know how you feel.

Best .......... Norbert

Subject: GBlist: ecoVillage opening in Virginia
Date: September 12
From: Linda Lloyd

Announcing the opening of The Quarries, a 750 acre ecoVillage in Schuyler (Walton's Mtn), Virginia, 25 min south of Charlottesville ----- --- practicing the principles of responsible environmental design, building and progressive community building ---- located on former quarry property in the soapstone capital of the world - mostly wooded homesites with southern exposures -- amenities include The Aviary community building to be started soon (straw-bale), common land with extenisve trail system including beaver ponds and water filled quarries that are works of art and great for swimming and fishing and contemplating - covenants include sensitive siting and tree retention, solar and energy efficiency and healthful building materials -- in home occupations welcomed -- artist live/work spaces and gallery spaces soon to be available at nearby soapstone plant --custom site planning and design services available -- 2 acre lots - to 50+ acres - $20000 to $75000+ === Linda Lloyd
This greenbuilding dialogue is sponsored by CREST <>
Environmental Building News <> and Oikos <>
For instructions send e-mail to

Date: Mon. Aug 9 1999
undisclosed sender
undisclosed recipient

(personal portion snipped)

...By the way, this is the first time that our architect has ever heard of a masonry heater and she found your site very helpful, as well as the Masonry Heater Home page...

(client in Ohio)

Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 23:20:27
: Jerry Frisch <>
To: Bev Marois <>
Subject: Seismic news

Hello Bev,

The seismic issue is final at this point as far as I can see. The
report on five different sizes and shapes of heaters were analyzed and
they all passed without steel. Bulk weight - dead load, (gravity will
prevent tip over). However, the engineer who did the calculations
suggest four 1/4" rods with a 1/4" flat plate at top and post tension
applied would be recommended, JUST BECAUSE!!!

So I guess we have something to work with as opposed to grout. Also,on the code, I will go to LA for a hearing on Sunday, March 21st and on Friday, March 26th. Then I go on to the HPA show at Phoenix, March 27th & 28th. Will let you know what happens at both.

Jerry Frisch
Lopez Quarries Masonry Heaters
Firecrest Fireplaces Corp.
111 Barbara Lane, Everett, WA 98203
Phone: 425 353-8963 Fax: 425 742-3361
Web site:

Date: Wednesday, February 10, 1999 3:30 PM
From: John Meeker <>
To: aer <>
Cc: EPA <>; mha <>
Subject: Residential Wood Combustion Technology Review

I want to thank Alternative Energy Retailer for publishing notice of this EPA report, Bob McCrillis for putting me on to the download link and the Masonry Heater Association for posting the report.

I think any one who reads this report will be impressed with the sorry state of RWCT. "We don t have enough data to know the answer", "We can t afford to change anything because sales are so small", and "We can t get involved with the International Standards Organization (ISO) because of the large investment in Method 28 and the low sales volume" are typical of the answers given by experts, most of whom have not been close to anything new in wood burning in years. A lengthy literature list has very few citations dated after 1990.

We in this country like to think of ourselves as the technology leaders of the world and the premier example of the free enterprise system. I believe that the EPA should put out an RFQ for 15,000 (5000 for us, 5000 for Europe and 5000 for the rest of the world) battery operated stack samplers to cost less than $300 each. These could, for example, use the mass production experience of in home CO monitors, motion detectors to measure smoke density and digital recording from the answering machine manufacturers. Stack temperature could be used to turn the recording off when the appliance is not in use and provide good data on startup versus steady state pollution.

These devices could be given to qualified installers and sweeps who have the ability to download the data and email it to the EPA. They should be paid something like $300 for each valid 30 day report they submit. An optional on site readout should be available for the environmentally/cost conscious consumer who wants to purchase the system (from a dealer, not the EPA) to monitor his performance. The scope of this program should include all fuels, not just wood.

It should not take long to establish a data base from which to establish perhaps three categories ---Excellent, Good and No Good. New product could be allowed to come to market based on one season of data from six sights located around the country. Enforcement could be the threat of recall if random sampling indicates the claims to be false. The EPA could even offer a bonus for reports on product that is suspect. Local authorities could use the testing to shut down known polluters. Dealers could use the testing to sell maintenance and upgrading and the EPA could glory in the progress being made and gradually tighten the standards. Wouldn t this be better than continuing Method 28 testing for another ten years?

John "Offgrid" Meeker

Date: December 5, 1998
From: Jerry Alonzy
Subject: Your site has been mentioned in The Natural Handyman Newsletter

Based on the recommendation of one of our readers, we have mentioned your website in our December Newsletter, which is due to be sent out over the next few days.

Though the topic at hand was masonry ovens (arising from a question in our November Newsletter), your site is so interesting and informative that we have also added it as both a masonry link and a heating link in our Links Library.

As an aside, I was a five-to-seven cord a year man myself in the seventies and eighties. Your masonry heating system sounds like a wonderful concept, especially if the home builder designs the home around the heater as the "soul" of the home. Unfortunately, due to inefficient design, most homes struggle with wood heat efficiency and distribution unless the source is a multifuel furnace.

In our latest newsletter (December), we feature a book by Susan Susanka called "The Not So Big House". Your heating concept and her architectural concepts are a good match for modern and sensible living.

If you have a moment, please visit our site, The Natural Handyman. We
involve ourselves in small home repair information primarily, though we
also touch on some appliance and minor construction issues. If you think
it would be suitable, a link back to us from your directory would be

Thank you,

Jerry Alonzy
The Natural Handyman

Date: November 28, 1998
From: Michelle Mahood
Subject: Straw Bale House

>Hi, surfed onto your site with interest. I just finished a straw bale
>900 sq ft house in northern california, 3000' elevation. I've rice
>straw bales laid on edge with plaster (not stucco) inside and out. I
>put it a Quadra Fire propane fireview stove (since everything else is
>propane) and it does the wintry job so well I barely get to ever see the
>pretty flames. I.E., although thermostat's set to be at 60 while I'm
>gone, I get home and it's still at 65-68 inside. I.E., the stove hasn't
>come on all day. I love it. The house is so efficient you could heat
>it by turning on the lights. My clever neighbor built a masonry stove,
>however, and it's the focal point of the house and very lovely; he burns
>only a cord or so a year.
>- Michelle

Thanks for the note. You make a very interesting point that I have a hard time getting across to clients who are about to build an efficient house but have never experienced one -- namely, that you don't need a high output heating system and it is entirely optional whether you spend big dollars on radiant flooring, heat pumps, etc.

A masonry heater is an excellent solution if you want to burn wood, because it can match the low heat load of the house, and can double as a fireplace, hence justifying some of its expense. In your case, even though you burn propane, the impact is much less because the house is very efficient, which is the key.

Would you mind if I quote your comments?

Best.......Norbert Senf

Date: September 29, 1998:
Interesting email discussion about global warming between Eric Lawton (a senior policy advisor to the Ontario government), John Gulland, and Norbert Senf

Date: Jeu, 24 Sep 98 13:34:13 -0000
To: "MHA"
From: "d'Ornano" <>
Subject: bakeoven in southwest of France

Dear Sir,
I am also in the bakeoven trade. I am building masonery oven upon the traditional design of Gasogne region (southwest of France, south of Bordeaux). I am also organizing training workshops.

My URL is listed below. The page about ovens is :

some image also in http://pro.wanadoo/ateliers.boucaou/chantier.htm

I am quit keen of your website. Do you contact with other ovenbuilders in France ? Would you be interest in an exchange of links ?


Date:  Tuesday, September 08, 1998
To:  MHA Administrator
From:  Karen J. Davison
Subject:  Joining the association

I am a Master's student in the Industrial Design Department, Faculty of Environmental Design, at the University of Calgary. I am very interested in joining your association as I am doing my thesis project on masonry heaters as appropriate technology.   Can you please tell me if there might be a reduction in membership fees while I am still a student?  Thank You.

Yours truly,

Karen J. Davison

Date:  Thursday, August 20, 1998
To:  MHA Administrator
From:  Helen & John Donlan
Subject:  MHA Annual Meeting

Thank you so much for responding so quickly.  We are both very excited about the Masonry Heaters Association and the Annual Meeting.  Please do send some information to us as you have it!  We are already making plans to be there!

We are getting ready to construct our first masonry heater.  We are looking for information specifically related to incorporating a bake oven on the first floor with the fire box in the basement.  Is this possible?  I can visualize it, but we don't know if it will work or not.  We have had trouble getting much information until I bought this computer and got on the internet.  Your Web page and library are life savers. 

Again, thank you and we look forward to hearing from you soon!


John and Helen Donlan

Date:  Saturday, June 13, 1998
To: MHA Administrator
From:  Rob Deglau
Subject:  Straw Bale Housing

I was very impressed with your site.  I have taken the liberty to include you site as link for our site.  The SIM housing network deals with inner city housing issues and one of our solutions to building affordable housing is researching straw bale construction. It is our goal to eventually build straw bale housing in an urban environment.


Rob Deglau
Regina, Saskatchewan

Date:  Monday, July 13, 1998
To:  MHA Administrator
From:  William O'Donnell
Subject:  My beloved masonry heater

Just read Steve Bushway's excellent insights into getting a masonry
heater up to temp. most efficiently. I remember reading some time ago
that softwood, such as white pine, is often more effective in getting
the heater up to temp. than slower burning hardwood. Is softwood OK to use or should I stay with finely split hardwood as suggested by Steve? I guess my concern is not as much over performance but with
creosote/pollution, etc. Any thoughts? Love your website-- a huge


Bill O'Donnell

Date:  Tuesday, March 13, 1998
To:  MHA Administrator
From:  Paul B. Stegmeir
Subject:  MHA

Please send me info on your organization, and a list of your member
companies. I am trying to promote a broader acceptance of masonry
heaters in our area. I have many contacts with builders, designers and

Paul B. Stegmeir
Consultant, Lecturer, Writer

Date: Sun, 01 Mar 1998
From: Charles Hockensmith
Subject: small oven

Hello! Just found your web page. It was a bit hard to find information on y'all but I persevered so here goes. I'm a 4 5 year old mason been in the trade 25 years of my life went back to school got an associates degree in architecture, wasn't suited with that so I tested to see if I had enough gumption to go to the university to study architecture for a B.A.and now I am in school. So that's what brings me here. You see,the dean caught wind that I was some kind of wiz bang mason so he had me come over to his 1850 brick abode to have a look at the fireplace. Well it turns out that the wall is only 18" thick and the fireplace is bricked up, I can fix that part but, he also wanted a brick bake oven built in at eye level or so. I in my infinite wisdom have always thought that if you throw enough money at any project you can make it work and with that in mind, I gave him an emphatic encouragement that it would work! So I'm presently doing research on the subject writing this letter to y'all in hopes that some design can be worked out as I have one in mind but am not sure about all the details.

Also,when and where are you going to meet this year for the masonry heater association this year I may just come.

Charles Hockensmith

May 12: Feedback from Bill Derrick about bakeovens

Navigation buttons

The Ontario government on Global Warming

The Ontario government on Global Warming

Letter to John Gulland from Senior Policy Advisor, National Climate Change Secretariat

From: Eric Lawton []
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 1998 10:05 AM
Subject: the "real" real world of Global Warming

Your desire to promote the benefits of wood heating is
commendable, but there is an error in your statement on
global warming on your website.  You say that "Governments
are taking no action, not even the beginnings of the public
discussion needed to form a social consensus on ways to

The truth is that 14 "Issues Tables" have been formed by the
federal, provincial and territorial governments under an
18-month long National Climate Change Process to provide
expert and detailed input to help Canada and the Provinces
identify and analyze greenhouse gas reduction
opportunities.  The Tables, each with a particular issue or
sector focus, are managed by the National Climate Change
Secretariat, which is co-chaired by David Oulton (Natural
Resources Canada) and John Donner (Alberta Energy) and
staffed by federal and provincial government employees. The
tables are analyzing opportunities in the following areas,

o        agriculture and agri-food
o        analysis and modelling
o        buildings
o        credit for early action
o        electricity
o        enhanced voluntary action
o        forestry
o        industry
o        international flexibility mechanisms
o        municipalities
o        public education and outreach
o        sinks (carbon sequestration)
o        technology
o        transportation

Table members have been both invited and self-selected from
government, industry, environmental non-governmental
organizations, academia, municipalities and other
representatives. The tables typically have 20-30 members.
In total, more than 400 people are involved directly on the
Issues Tables and another 500 or so as "Tier 2" members who
contribute to the table discussions electronically but don't
attend Issue Table meetings.   One of the main objectives of
the process is to educate Canadians about climate change and
to engage them in the debate over what to do to achieve
Canada's Kyoto target.

For more information contact the National Climate Change
Secretariat, 55 Murray Street, Suite 600, Ottawa, Ontario,
K1N 5M3, ph. (613) 943 2678, fax (613) 943 2695,  website


Eric Lawton
National Climate Change Secretariat/
Sr. Policy Advisor,
Ontario Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology

tel (416) 325-6852
fax (416) 325-7023

Reply to Eric Lawton from John Gulland

Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 15:18:20 -0400

Thanks for writing to rattle my chain about content on the web site.  I have been meaning to either update or delete the article you mentioned because it was too strongly worded to begin with for this kind of site and events have made it somewhat dated since it was put on the site two years ago. I have now deleted it and when I have time I'll write a more current treatment of the greenhouse gas/global warming/climate change issue.

That said, considering the scale of the problem and the lag times involved after policy decisions are finally made and the potential for environmental overshoot into unknown territory over the next 20 years, I would suggest that the National Climate Change Process is rather late and feeble; after all, Canada signed on to begin dealing with the issue in 1992.  Yes, I can be challenged for saying in the article that governments have taken no action, but the action taken, including the laughable "voluntary controls", have not yielded much, except perhaps having afforded the fossil fuel industry lobbyists good opportunities to hone their arguments against any action at all.

What conclusions should I draw when Alberta's premier issues threats against any federal action on climate change by saying that it better not have any effect on the oil patch?  Should I be encouraged when you point out that John Donner of Alberta Energy is a co-chair of the climate change secretariat; this considering that his department until recently (and perhaps still does) dispute the existence of global warming?

No, despite your assurances that "opportunities" for greenhouse gas reduction are being sought, I am not reassured.  I agree that it is useful for governments to combine their efforts to look for solutions, but such an exercise can be an effective way to do nothing while being seen to do something.  I think a better gauge of the level of government commitment to the problem are the gutted and demoralized environment departments that exist in the national and each provincial capital.

We still have bargain basement pricing on fossil fuels and until that changes, the economy will continue to consume them like there is no tomorrow, literally. There are insufficient price signals in the economy to encourage conservation or efficiency improvements or energy source switching.  Note that fuel mileage is absent as a selling feature of new cars, vans and sport utilities, and that solar and wind energy are still considered too "expensive".  Note also that when elected leaders (including Mike Harris) express themselves about energy pricing, it is most often to fume about unfairly high gasoline prices (it still costs less than Coke) or to give assurances that hydro prices will stay low.  What prospects are there for meaningful greenhouse gas emission reductions as long as the cheap fossil fuel binge continues and governments and the economy send out entirely the wrong signals?

I am cynical because so much of the economic and political power in Canada lies with people and industries with a vested interest in the status quo.  And I am also hopelessly optimistic or I wouldn't bother writing back to you or maintain a web site like

I will make you a bet right here and now:  I'll bet you that after all the talk, dithering, and fighting over what to do is done, the only solution that will emerge as viable is some form of green tax shifting in which taxes on fossil fuels (and other environmental pollutants) are increased and taxes on labour are reduced by a like amount, and I'll bet you further that by the time any form of consensus is found on that issue, world-wide shortages of fossil fuels will cause their prices to spike upward, triggering another energy crisis.  I think there will be reductions in greenhouse gas emissions alright, but they will come much too late to prevent a very messy situation.

Thanks again for writing.  Good luck in your work with the Climate Change Secretariat; you'll probably need it, we all will.

This is for business:
This is for pleasure:

Reply to Eric Lawton from Norbert Senf

Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998

Dear Mr. Lawton:

I would like to express my support for John Gulland's statements in his reply to your critique of his global warming article. I would suggest that all John has to do to update his article is change the words "governments have taken no action" to "there have been no results from federal or Ontario government actions."

While the elaborate consultation scheme that you describe sounds interesting, I would suggest that your first hurdle is to establish your own credibility, considering the Ontario and federal governments' track record on the environment. A cynic might suggest that this is a smoke screen to mask a lack of leadership, even fundamental comprehension, of the issue.

John's pointers to the tax shifting concept is right on target. The "no brainer" in this debate is a carbon tax, and the fact that it is not front and centre in your discussion undermines your credibility and suggests an ignorance of the fundamentals. When Anne MacLellan was recently minister at Natural Resources Canada, she would not even allow this issue to be put on the table, at the behest of her Alberta oil patch pals. Except for our American neighbours, the rest of the industrialized world takes a carbon tax as a given.

I would issue you the following challenge:
- provide documented evidence of ANY greenhouse gas reductions directly attributable to Ontario government legislation or regulatory initiative.

Get serious, please, and demonstrate some leadership. Global warming will not be reversed via media spin!

Yours truly,

Norbert Senf

Reply from Eric Lawton to Norbert Senf

Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 16:16:52 -0400

Dear Mr. Senf:

You've touched on a lot of issues in your message.  There
appears to be a gulf between where you want the Ontario
Government and/or Federal Government to be and where you
think they are now.  It reminds me that there is a lot of work to be
done to inform people about where we are and what's going on.  I
know I'm right in the thick of the process and there's so much
going on it's hard to keep up. 

You also have to remember that I'm not a decision-maker for the
Ontario government.  I do my best to provide advice and
information as input to that decision-making process.  I'm not
passing the buck by saying this.  It's the reality of heirarchical
organizations.  You only have to look at the Ministry's Business
Plan to see who our leader is.

I was simply trying to clear up a misconception in John Gullard's
website by informing him about the National Climate Change
Process.  I hoped that this would encourage him to look to the
NCCP website over the next several months as the analysis is
developed.  There's a lot of people working hard to figure out how
Canada can get from "here" to "there".  

I like a recent comment by Greater Vancouver Regional District
Director Gordon Price, who said,

"The world apparently has the flu, but it's not clear how sick we're
going to get.  Consequently, we're not in the mood for strong
medicine - at least not yet."

It's a given that drug companies spend a lot of money doing
research and trials before they're ready to market.  I think
government policies are somewhat similar.  A whole lot of people
and companies must work together to deal with the climate
change problem.  You don't just down the hard stuff before you
know what it's going to do to you.  I would agree with Price that
the National Process is populated by people who are "[not]
tolerant of extremes, junk science, weak data or well-intentioned
policies with unintended consequences."  Personally, I'm glad
about that.

Price is accurate, in my view, in saying that "Having committed
itself to the terms of the Kyoto agreement, the feds want to know
what it would take to reduce greenhouse gases by six percent
over 1990 levels by around 2010." 

(EL: The provinces and industry want to know, too, and the
Canadian public needs to be informed so changes have a chance
of happening.)

Price:  "That is a very ambitious goal, and they fear it could come
at a high political cost.  Wrenching change, inequitably shared,
with no assured or even visible results is not the sort of thing
politicians put high on their agendas.  But without action, it's
estimated that carbon emissions from developed countries will rise
by some 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2010. 

So, they consult.  Like the saying goes: If you want to stall
something into the ground, hand it over to an action committee."

I disagree with the last sentence.  I don't think it's a fair
assessment of the reason for the National Process.  It's also an
insult to the many intelligent, socially- and
environmentally-conscious, determined people who are working
overtime to come up with fully-reasoned ideas on how to proceed.
I haven't seen any evidence that the National Process was set up to forestall action on the issue.  The fact is that there are a lot of
questions that need answers to make progress towards the goal.  

I have to get back at it now, but I'll direct you to the MOE website
( for more information about climate change
activities in Ontario.  Look under Programs and Initiatives - Climate
Change for Publication #3611 (Ontario's 1997 VCR Action Plan)
and #338701 (Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change). 


Eric Lawton
Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology

Reply from Norbert Senf to Eric Lawton

Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998

Dear Mr. Lawton:

Thank you for your considered reply. I will indeed check out your website to see if any of the discussions relate to my own areas of research on this issue.

Forgive me for not having much faith in this process. I am simply going by the government's track record on its Rio committments, and am waiting to see some concrete results before shifting my own attention. I recently reviewed some pamphlets from Environment Canada, and they made my stomach turn with their PR flack and lack of substance. As I mentioned, the words "carbon tax" and "tax shift" would indicate to me that the government's policy advisors are not living in a parallel universe from mine (and many other researchers).

For your information, attached below is another email from today that you may find of interest.

Best............Norbert Senf

--------message separator-------------

From: Worldwatch Institute <>
To: "''" <>
Subject: Online discussion invitation

(please post and circulate; apologies for cross-postings and
duplicate mailings)
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