Tag Archives: Body Language

Just Listen

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Here in the Kansas City area, we have had one of the strangest Winters that I have ever experienced. About every four or five days for the last couple months, the temperature has shifted by at least 30 °F. It will go from being barely 20 °F with blustering winds and snow, to 65 °F and sunny, back to 10 °F with sleet and ice, all in a single week. Even for a born and raised Midwestern boy like myself, who is used to the frequent meteorological fluctuations of the “plains states,” this has been a little tough to handle. When you never know what the weather will be even 48 hours from now, it can be a little hard to plan various activities and such. As inconvenient as this has been for everyone in the area though, for those of us with certain types of chronic pain and disabilities it has been much more difficult to deal with. This increased hardship is a result of the fact that every one of these large shifts in temperature comes with an equally large change in the barometric pressure, which can cause increased discomfort in some types of pain (anyone with severe arthritis knows what I am talking about). In trying to cope with my elevated pain every few days, I have been reminded of how quickly my body can go from completely healthy and fine all the way to agonizing pain and illness, as well as how you can easily avoid this potentially life threatening problem.

Scott Drotar Changing Weather
The frequently changing weather in the Kansas City area lately has made my chronic pain much worse.

As the weather has been fluctuating so often recently, I have gotten many opportunities lately to examine the sensations that my body goes through as the shifting barometric pressure amplifies my chronic pain. You would think that this would be a gradual process, and as the new weather front moves in my discomfort would slowly grow in magnitude, but this is not the case. There is nothing gradual about it. Instead, it is like a switch gets flipped in my body once the atmospheric pressure changes a certain amount, and this switch instantly causes my pain to increase substantially. I will be sitting, writing on my tablet or even just lying back in my wheelchair watching television, and in the blink of an eye I will go from feeling my normal level of aches and pangs, to being in agony in all of my joints. My hips feel like they are filled with sandpaper that grinds on my bones with every movement, and my shoulder feels like it is covered in broken glass that cuts into my flesh with every breath. I will get this instantaneous increase in my pain, and I will look at my nurse and say, “The front has moved in hasn’t it?” They will go outside or get online to check, and without fail, every time the new weather front will have just passed over us. As excruciating and difficult as this is to deal with and as much as I would love to be rid of my internal, weather forecasting system, it has had the one bright spot of reminding me of the important life lesson of how critical it is to listen to your body.

As I touched on in a different way in the latest post in my Roll Models series, “A Recipe For Success,” it is extremely important to be aware of what your body is trying to tell you. Your body has evolved to be able to monitor and communicate to you what it is feeling and what it needs in order to stay in a healthy, working condition. We so often turn to the internet, books, and doctors to make decisions about what to eat, how to exercise, and how to determine our health, and while I am all for being well educated and learning as much as possible before making a decision, more often than not we can make a good, well informed decision simply by taking the time to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. Are you tired all the time? This is your body’s way of telling you to get more rest. Gaining weight? Your body is telling you that you are getting more than enough energy from your diet, and you could eat less. Shoulder hurting? Maybe you should take it easy on the racquet ball court for a couple weeks. Your body will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about your health, if you are just willing to listen. Even though the examples above may seem a bit mundane and not all that critical to your overall health and well-being, there are also times when your body tries to prevent you from serious harm, and you can avoid a lot of pain and suffering by merely being aware of these signals. There are even situations where your very life could be in jeopardy if you do not pay attention to your body, which is something I know all too well.

As I wrote about in my most viewed article and most popular Roll Models talk, “I Can’t!” when I was 15 years old I nearly lost my life. I had three different types of pneumonia at once, both of my lungs collapsed in the span of a few hours, and there was a period of time when it was not clear whether or not my body would be able to fight off the infection and recover. Thankfully, not only did I pull through this near death experience, but I also

Scott Drotar Just Listen
If I had listened to my body and skipped the marching band competition, I could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering.

learned many important life lessons through this process. One of these critical pearls of wisdom was how vital it is to listen to your own body. Two days before I went to the emergency room and ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia and such, I woke up not feeling well. Even though I did not feel good at all having chills, body aches, and a ton of chest congestion, the regional marching band competition that I had spent weeks preparing for was that afternoon, and I did not want to miss it. So I did what any teenager who thinks they are invincible would do, completely ignored what my body was telling me and went to the all day band competition. I spent the afternoon sweating in the hot sun in my black, polyester band uniform, and then spent the evening freezing in a cold drizzle after the sun went down. When I woke up the next morning, surprise, surprise, I felt like death. I could barely breathe, ached all over, had a fever over 103 °F (my father actually thought the thermometer was broken because my fever was so high), and within 12 hours would be fighting for my life. All of this suffering and hardship could have been avoided too, if I had simply been willing to listen to my body.

While I hope that you will never be put in a situation where listening to your body is a matter of life and death, I do hope that you will think about my story and keep it with you as a reminder to pay attention to your body’s signals. Just like I could have avoided nearly dieing and everything that my family and I had to suffer through as a result, you can save yourself a lot of effort and discomfort by simply taking the time to listen to your own body. If you really give this a try, you will quickly see that your body is truly an amazing machine and will tell you everything you need to know to maintain your health and well-being. After a week or two of focusing on how you are feeling and what your body is communicating to you, this process will become second nature, and you will find that without even thinking about it that you will be more aware of your well-being and in tune with your body. Just take a few moments throughout your day, shut up, and listen to what your body is saying, because no one knows what you need better than you. Not only will you avoid nearly killing yourself by attending a marching band competition, but you will also feel healthier. This newfound improvement in your well-being will allow you to put more of yourself into your life and relationships, which will bring more happiness and success to your life.

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A Recipe For Success: Trust Your Tastebuds

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As a result of my spinal muscular atrophy and the damage it has done to my body, I have to be very careful when I am eating to avoid choking. With my disability weakening the muscles used in swallowing, along with all of the scar tissue from my trache surgeries taking up extra room in my neck, there is not a lot of room for food to go down my esophagus. One of the ways that I have adapted my diet to overcome this obstacle is by keeping my food as soft and moist as possible. I accomplish this by putting sauces, dips, and other condiments on pretty much everything I eat. These sauces help moisten my food, while also acting as a sort of lubricant to help things slide on down to my belly. Since I put some sort of condiment on nearly every bite I take, it makes sense that as I have gotten into cooking I have started experimenting with making my own sauces and dips. I have developed, and I would nearly say perfected, my own delicious recipes for various condiments ranging from a tangy honey mustard to an Asian sweet and sour sauce to, most recently, my own blazing buffalo sauce (which is available on my Pinterest Cooking Board). The last few weeks, as I was working on my buffalo sauce recipe and going through the process of gradually modifying it until it was just right, I realized something. I realized, as I was tinkering with my concoction one little bit at a time, that the process for modifying and developing your own sauce recipe is extremely similar to the way you should go about monitoring and adjusting your body’s health, mood, and overall well-being. Furthermore, by learning this process in the kitchen, you will then be able to apply it to your life in general, which will help you be both healthier and happier (plus you will have some kick ass sauces).

The first step in developing your own sauce recipe is to find an existing recipe to use as a starting point. You can get this jumping off point through the recommendation of a friend, out of a cookbook, or by finding a well reviewed recipe online. All that matters is that you think the recipe will at least be similar to what you want your final product to be. After selecting your starter recipe, you should make the sauce exactly as the recipe describes without any alterations. Once it is done, taste the sauce several times to really get a good idea as to its flavor profile, and then put it in the refrigerator overnight and give it another taste the next day. This is important because many sauces change quite a bit after being allowed to settle for a few hours. Now that you have a working knowledge of what this recipe tastes like, as well as what needs to be improved upon, it is time to really start cooking. With my buffalo sauce, I knew that my starter recipe needed more heat (surprise, surprise), and it needed to lose the harsh, vinegar-like aftertaste that lingered after each

Scott Drotar Cayenne Pepper
I knew that adding more cayenne pepper would increase the heat of my sauce, but a little spice can go a long way, so I needed to go slowly.

bite and made the flavor seem very acidic. It is always important in altering a recipe to tackle one thing at a time, and since I knew that adding more heat was as easy as adding more cayenne pepper spice than the starter recipe recommended, I did that first. I added a pinch more cayenne pepper, then gave it a taste, added a pinch more, gave it a taste, and just continued this process until it was as spicy as I thought it should be. Next I needed to find a way to get rid of the overpowering, vinegar aftertaste. Thanks to my knowledge of kitchen chemistry and flavor profiles, I knew that milk products often work well to tone down overly acidic and spicy flavors, so I decided to substitute some of the vegetable oil in the starter recipe with butter. This would maintain the high fat content that the oil provided, while also inserting some dairy to diminish the acidic flavor ruining my sauce. Once again I worked up slowly by adding a teaspoon of butter, giving it a taste, add another teaspoon, give it a taste, and so on. Eventually (two tablespoons of butter later), I found the right mix of vegetable oil and butter, and my sauce was finished. It was a great consistency, had just the right amount of heat, and had a good flavor that left you wanting more. In other words, it was the perfect buffalo sauce.

Scott Drotar Buffalo Sauce
I knew that substituting some butter for some of the vegetable oil would improve my buffalo sauce, but I needed to trust my tastebuds to know how much.

If you look back at this process for modifying and developing the perfect sauce, you will notice that I probably tasted the sauce, in various different forms, at least 30 times. I let my tongue and tastebuds be my guide as I moved closer and closer to my perfect, final product. I did not jump to Google, some other recipe, or another person to try to find a way to improve my sauce. I just let my body guide me. It was recognizing this that caused me to realize that this “taste test process” is very similar to the way that I keep my body in proper balance throughout my day. In order to make sure that I am in good shape physically and my mind is well centered emotionally, I am constantly checking in with my body to see how I am feeling. I listen to what my body and brain are telling me and adjust my actions accordingly. When I feel like my lungs need a break or my hips hurt a lot, I do not go to the internet or look in a book to find a way to fix things. I just trust what my body is telling me and follow my instincts. Just like following the guide of your tastebuds is a gradual process, I take what my body tells me and make small, minor adjustments until my body says that is just right. By trusting my body and following this same method that produces a perfect sauce with my overall well-being, I am able to maintain the best possible balance within my body throughout the day and get the most out of each and every day that I can.

Developing the perfect sauce recipe is not an easy task and can be quite time consuming, but if you trust your tastebuds you will eventually end up with a delicious product to enjoy. Likewise, keeping your body and mind in the proper balance during your day is not easy either, but if you listen to what your body is telling you and go with your gut, you will end up in a place where you are both healthy and happy. This may be a lengthy process on both counts, and you may have to endure tasting a lot of bad sauces and withstand some discomfort along the way, but this method will get you to the best possible outcome both in the kitchen and in your life. Remember that you are an expert on your body, and even if you do not realize it consciously, your body knows what it needs, so trust it. Just like you would not let someone else tell you what your favorite flavor is (you would trust your tastebuds), do not rely on someone else to tell you what is best for your well-being and happiness. By applying this gradual process, you will end up well fed with a great taste in your mouth ready for the next bite, as you sit back and smile, healthy and happy, wanting more out of life.

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Book Review: “What Every Body Is Saying” by Joe Navarro

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Scott Drotar What Every Body Is Saying
Joe Navarro’s, “What Every Body Is Saying,” is the best book I have read on understanding nonverbal communication.

It’s that time again you lucky ducks, Scott Drotar Literary Review Day is here. This week I am going to expose you to a book that I have read several times, and the information that I have gained from its pages has been useful in both my professional and personal life. Research has suggested, and most academics would agree, that at least half of human communication is nonverbal. Even though we may consciously focus almost solely on the words we say and hear, at the same time our subconscious mind is analyzing the person’s hand gestures, body movement, and the rate that they are blinking. All of this nonverbal information is examined along with the verbal components when you are trying to interpret what someone is trying to tell you. Since nonverbal cues are such a large part of effective communication, it is probably beneficial to gain an understanding of how we communicate with our bodies. This is exactly the type of information that is presented in this week’s entry. In former FBI agent, Joe Navarro’s, handbook on body language, “What Every Body Is Saying,” you will find a wealth of valuable knowledge on nonverbal communication.

I have read several books on body language, and “What Every Body Is Saying” is definitely the one that I have found the most useful. One of the biggest reasons this work is better than most others is that it begins with an introduction to the brain and the psychology of body language. It talks about the limbic system and goes over how some nonverbal cues are voluntary, and thusly can be disguised and controlled, and others are involuntary, and are more difficult to hide (making them more trustworthy). For example, you can rehearse hand gestures or head movements to make them seem natural (it is what actors do all the time), but you can’t practice your pupil dilation. Understanding this neurological background gives you a good foundation from which to take in all of the nonverbal cues and their meanings throughout the rest of the book. Navarro breaks the body up into sections, and he discusses some of the most common nonverbal cues for each part. He begins with the feet and legs, the most honest body parts, and works his way up ending with the eyes. In every chapter there is a discussion of how to be more aware of and control your own body language, and also an analysis of how to interpret the nonverbal communication of others. Photographs are used to illustrate different positions and gestures, and there are also numerous anecdotes from his work as a “lie spotter” that show how some of these nonverbal tells would occur in the real world.

His writing style is merely average. I found it to be accessible, but I thought that it sometimes lacked detail and depth, making the specifics of certain gestures difficult to fully grasp. Also, I read the ebook version on my Kindle so this may not be an issue in other versions, but the formatting and layout of the photos illustrating the nonverbal cues was pretty bad. I found myself having to flip multiple pages at times to find the correct pictures, and then flip back to try to find my place again. This got to be a bit irritating, especially since the photos are such an important part of learning information like this. The only other problem I had with this book is that I wish it had covered more gestures and nonverbal cues. I felt like there were several body language behaviors that were not discussed, but I guess at some point you have to say enough is enough. I guess I will just cross my fingers for a sequel.

As a proud “people watcher,” I found the information presented in this book to be extremely useful. Additionally, as a speaker I have to constantly be aware of the message I am sending to my audience through my words, but also through my body language. I also need to be able to accurately measure the mood of my audience to make sure my message is getting through. After reading this text, I have found it much easier to do both of these things, which has greatly improved my ability as a speaker. If you want to learn to communicate more effectively with your boss, your kids, or your spouse, this is a good place to start. You will find that after reading it, you start becoming aware of how much information you can pick up by merely being aware of what their body is saying. That is why this book gets a 4 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.

Roll Models 4 Chair Rating

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Book Review: “Story Theater Method” by Doug Stevenson

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Scott Drotar Story Theater Method
Doug Stevenson’s “Story Theater Method” is a great introduction to developing your storytelling skills.

Up to this point I have not reviewed any works about writing or delivering a speech or presentation, because I felt it was too specific a topic that would only interest a handful of readers. However, after reading this week’s edition of the “Scott Drotar Literary Review,” and thanks to a conversation with my father, I have decided that some, if not most, of the skills I use to get ready for a Roll Models talk are applicable to numerous professions and life in general. Whether it be telling a funny anecdote at a party or giving a board room presentation, you will benefit from having a basic understanding of how to tell a captivating story. To help you along, this week I have reviewed one of the best books I have read on how to become a better storyteller. This week I present Doug Stevenson’s, “Story Theater Method.”

In this handbook on improving your presentation skills through storytelling, Doug covers every aspect of crafting, preparing, and delivering a story that will capture the attention of your audience. He walks you through the entire process from picking a message, coming up with the right story for that message, developing that story with humor, dialogue, and such, and then cultivating your presentation skills to best deliver your story. He teaches you all of these skills from the perspective of an actor on a stage, which I found to be very effective and different from most books on this topic. I also really liked that he focuses on short, simple stories with a single message, instead of developing these long, complicated talks with lots of fancy rhetorical components. You will be able to develop and deliver a memorable story with a message that sticks once you learn to apply the techniques in this book. He also tries to give a diverse set of examples of different professions that have used his method with success.

I found the author’s writing style to be very accessible and effective in conveying his point. The examples he uses are very informative, and he doesn’t reuse them throughout the book, so you end up with lots of good examples to refer to. The only thing that would have improved it, and I read the ebook version, would have been supplemental links to audio or video of him presenting his stories. It’s one thing to read about it, but quite another to see or hear it. At that point it is not just a book any more though, so I can hardly hold that against the quality of this work.

I learned a great deal from Stevenson’s “Story Theater Method.” If you have a job where getting in front of a group of people and speaking is a large or important component, then you need to read this book. When surveyed, Fortune 500 CEOs rated communication and presentation skills as hands down the most important thing they look for in promoting and hiring employees. Growing your abilities as a presenter is fast becoming a necessary part of climbing the corporate ladder. Don’t wait until you have to give a big presentation to the board to learn these critical skills, when you could learn them now and get a leg up on your competition by reading this book. The results you will receive are what gets this work a 5 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.

Roll Models 5 Chair Rating

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Honorary Roll Model: Danielle Sheypuk

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Scott Drotar Danielle Sheypuk
A Super Roll Model

The powers that be, and by that I mean me, have decided that it is time to name another Honorary Roll Model. After much deliberation and combing through numerous candidates who meet the criteria, I have reached a decision as to whom will receive this special title. This phenomenal woman has had her story told by numerous press and media sources, including ABC News, MSNBC, the Huffington Post, Yahoo, and the New York Daily News. She constantly advocates for disabled people and their rights, and she looks damn good doing it. The second Honorary Roll Model is Dr. Danielle Sheypuk.

Scott Drotar Danielle Sheypuk
“And I do my little turn on the catwalk, oh the catwalk”

As you will see, Danielle and I have a lot in common, which may contribute to why I find her so inspiring. She is a 35 year old clinical psychologist living in New York City. She has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and has spent her life in a wheelchair. Her psychology practice focuses on counseling disabled people in the areas of dating, relationships, and sexuality. I can speak from experience that this is a much needed service, since these are complex and confusing topics for everyone, and when you add the complications of having a disability into the mix they become even more difficult to understand. She even provides her counseling via Skype, and if you are interested in her services, you can find out more information on her website. As awesome and commendable as her professional work is, what she has done to improve the image the public has of the disabled is even more impressive.

Danielle is in high demand as a representative and spokeswoman for the disabled. As Ms. Wheelchair New York 2012, she got her first chance to show that you can be disabled and beautiful. She was always interested in fashion, but her foray into the fashion industry really took off at a cerebral palsy luncheon event in 2013. It was at this event, as she was

Scott Drotar Danielle Sheypuk
Danielle may be disabled, but she can still work the camera.

dressed to kill in some Louboutin booties, that she met well known fashion designer and fast friend Carrie Hammer, who dubbed her “Carrie Bradshaw in a wheelchair.” When Hammer came up with the idea of doing a fashion show using “role models, not runway models,” she immediately thought of Danielle. As a result, during this year’s New York Fashion Week Sheypuk became the first model in a wheelchair to “walk the runway.” Even though she couldn’t strut down the catwalk like the other models, she still commanded the stage. In talking about how she went about modeling for the show, she said, “My wheelchair is just a part of my body – an extension of me – and I’m the main focus, not the chair.” Her modeling career will continue this spring when she is featured in the Raw Beauty Project. This is a collection of images showing the world that you can be disabled and still be beautiful, glamorous, and sexy.

Danielle’s work to show the public that being in a wheelchair and having a body that is different does not mean that you cannot be fashionable, sexy, or attractive is something that will do a lot to alter how people view disabilities. She has said, “Fashion is about dressing the body you have. It’s about knowing what to accentuate.” Danielle has definitely mastered how to do this, and in doing so has finally given young, disabled individuals a Roll Model to follow. I do not know what inspirational and amazing things Danielle will do next, but I do know that she will look good doing it. It is because of all of this that I am proud to announce Danielle Sheypuk as an Honorary Roll Model.

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Turn That Frown Upside Down – The Smile

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As a psychologist, coach, human being, and grade A people watcher, I have devoted a lot of time observing and educating myself on body language. I offer several workshops and talks through Roll Models that cover the topic of body language/nonverbal communication from numerous angles, so today I am going to focus on one specific body language cue. It is one of the most powerful, often used, and one of my favorite nonverbal signals. This post goes to the smile.Roll Models Smile

Smiling is one of very few body language cues that is nearly universal. No matter what age, gender, or culture you belong, you smile to show the emotion of happiness. Populations completely separate from modern societal norms even recognize this signal. Infants learn to smile very early also. Not only do we smile when we feel happy, but by smiling, we can actually create feelings of happiness in ourselves and others (Try it! Just sit and smile and see how you feel.). Additionally, when a stranger smiles at us on the street or in the hotel lobby, we almost instinctively smile back.

Smiling involves two distinct muscle groups. The first, most obvious group are the muscles around the mouth, the zygomaticus major, that pull the corners of the mouth up and back. The second muscle group are the muscles around the outside of the eyes that narrow the eyes slightly, the orbicularis oculi, that cause the “crow’s feet” wrinkles most women loathe. This second set of muscles are nearly impossible to contract voluntarily, and that is why when we fake a smile it often looks a little off, since only half of the true action is being performed. As an interesting historical note, much of the physiology of the smile was learned by a French scientist, Guillaume Duchenne, who used heads that had been freshly guillotine for his studies. Gruesome, but a little cool too, right?

Now that you know how we smile, I will give you a few reasons why you should smile. As I already mentioned, smiling creates feelings of happiness in you by causing the brain to produce more neurochemicals such as epinephrine and oxytocin. If you need more motivation than feeling happier, you will also be perceived by others as warmer, more attractive, and trustworthy (this is called a “halo effect”). It has also been shown that people can tell whether someone is smiling while talking on the phone, which means it also must positively influence vocal intonation and/or word choice. All in all, some pretty good support for those smilers among us.

I make it a point to remind myself to smile anytime I catch myself in a neutral facial expression. Not a full on “cheeser” grin, but a subtle “Buddha smile”. Not only does it cost me nothing, but it usually makes me feel happier, more positive, and approachable. I challenge all of you fellow Roll Models to try this for a few days and let me know what happens. 🙂

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Book Review: “The Tell: The Little Truths That Reveal Big Things About Who We Are” by Matthew Hertenstein

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Before I get going on the book review, I should give you some background information. First off, I am an avid reader. My Kindle is definitely on my list of “Scott Drotar’s 3 favorite things”, and I have probably funded an entire Amazon drone with my ebook habit. I guess even though I am no longer in school, I will always be a student at heart. I typically have between 4 and 6 books that I am currently reading, all on different topics. I very rarely read fiction, instead I read on various topics in psychology, communication, sociology, technology, or anything else that grabs my interest. As a way for you to learn more about the topics I speak and consult on through Roll Models, I will periodically post my thoughts on books I read. In addition to giving my opinion, I will also give a rating of 1 to 5 “handi-capable signs” on the Roll Models Review Scale. Here is the first installment.
“The Tell” was an interesting, insightful read that kept me wanting to read more. The author does a fantastic job discussing what are very complex psychological phenomena in a way that is accessible to almost any reader. While specific studies and findings are frequently cited, they are broken down in a manner that creates a story for the reader. The topics covered are diverse, ranging from detecting autism to the truth about “gaydar” to assessing your arguments with your spouse. Regardless of the topic though, the information was insightful and entertaining. An added bonus was that each chapter ends with 3 take home or interesting discussion points that help summarize what you read. The only negative about the book was that a few of the chapters felt a little long and repetitive. Overall though, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in human behavior, psychology, or anyone who wants interesting conversation starters for parties. “The Tell” gets 4 out of 5.

4 Chair Rating

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