Monday, February 22, 2010

Bob Arvidson, Employee Spotlight

I would like to introduce to you a member of our maintenance staff.  You have probably seen him on the course and you may already know him.  Bob Arvidson is a loyal employee on our team, and an Airforce Veteran for our Country.  He is completing his fifth year with us next month.  He does any and every job that is needed on the golf course.  His hard work and outstanding attitude, has made him a respected employee among our staff.

I want to commend him for recently finding and returning, a member's purse.  He found the purse on the thirteenth hole, and was able to quickly get it back to the owner.  His honesty and integrity was rewarded by the member with some homemade brownies.  Of course, Bob shared the lot with all the employees.  His representation of our crew is first class and always professional.

Bob came from Mammoth Lakes where he resided after his retirement from 33 years at Rockwell International.  His job with Rockwell International was International Procurement. He was required to do a lot of international travel throughout the middle east and eastern countries.  He was a successful employee, making the company millions of dollars per year on computer electronic procurement.

Before Bob started his career with Rockwell Int., he served in the Airforce.  I asked him about his time in the service and he bashfully explained how he received a letter of accommadation.  While he was on the wing of his aircraft, the ground power unit that Bob was using to start his airplane exploded.  The ground power unit  was dangerously close to nearby aircraft, and a pilot strapped into the cockpit.  The driver of the unit ran off, so Bob acted quickly by jumping off of the wing of the plane and climbed into the ground power unit which was engulfed in smoke.  He moved the damaged power unit into a nearby field to keep the pilot and other aircraft safe from harm. His bravery and commitment to helping others is a good description of his gracious personality.

He moved to Payson because, he and his wife of 49 years, were in search of a mountain community with a little less snow than 40' to 50' per year.  He was tired of sometimes spending eight hours, shoveling the snow off his deck.  We are lucky that Bob has picked Payson to live and The Rim Golf Club to work.

Bob does all duties for us.  During the summer months when mowing is in high demand he is mowing rough and fairways.  If you see Bob on the course he will probably be quietly in the background making sure your experience at The Rim is exemplary.

His work has been a big part in making the course better.  I want to thank Bob for his outstanding work at The Rim.

If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to contact me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

Friday, February 19, 2010

Growing Degree Day Usage Explained

Ok, I will explain the process from the beginning. You can skip ahead if you already know the basics.

First off a degree day is a unit you can calculate using a base temperature and a maximum threshold temperature. Some insects or weeds (poa) can have different min and max temps for calculation.

Example would be Masked Chafers have a lower max temp than billbugs. This temperature is important only when the high for the day is greater than the threshold.

These parameters are the limits of that insect or plant’s active development. That is what we are trying to measure so we can anticipate optimum stages to control with either cultural or chemical practices.

Once you have the starting date to begin GDD measurement of the specific insect or plant which is usually March 1st, but can also be January 1st, then you are ready to get started.

The basic way to measure degree days can be calculated as follows:
Take the daily low and the daily high and add them together. Then divide them by 2 to get the average for the day. Take the average and subtract your base temperature. If the number calculated is positive then you have accumulated degree day units. If the number is negative then zero is accumulated. You take this measurement daily starting at your scheduled date March 1 or Jan 1. Each days accumulation is added together to get the overall collected GDD’s.

The number from this calculation is a decent way to figure out your degree days but it is not as accurate as the sine wave method.  The sign wave method takes in account the time during the day that the temperature is within the optimum development temperature. This calculation is done with a complicated formula programmed into a computer.  The website that I have used, with this option accesses a weather station very close if not on your property.

You can make use of the maps and zoom into your property and find a nearby weather station. An ideal situation would be on your property but over a few years of data collection you can get really accurate keeping track of when insects emerge or locating them at the ideal stage of development for control.

I used the internet to look up the insects that we deal with annually. I looked for growing degree day models for each insect and found a lot of info that was useful.

For billbugs we use growing degree days to anticipate spring emergence for contact control and egg hatch for larvae control. We also match this data with pitfall traps and adult count to see if we are on track. Usually you can get pretty close at recognizing a peak in capture numbers and degree day accumulation. That is when we use a contact product to reduce the population heading to mate and lay eggs. I am hoping we can get to a point where this is all that is required and we can accept minor damage from the survivors. We continue to accumulate GDD’s to anticipate the most vulnerable stage at which we can get control with a systemic. I also forecast this number to allow time for the chemical to enter the plant and move through the plant using phloem and xylem, if that is how the chemical works in the plant.

Cutworms are a little different. We use light traps to observe peak flight. Once we have collected a peak in capture numbers then we begin our degree day count to anticipate the proper instar stage to get the greatest efficacy from our chemicals or my goal is to begin using nematodes. Once you get the hang of anticipating these insects with great accuracy then we can think about using biological control that may only be in the soil for days or weeks rather than getting a synthetic chemical with long residual.

Above, I mentioned trapping. I use pitfall traps for billbugs and a light trap for Masked Chafers and Cutworms.

Pitfall traps are placed a couple paces from the native areas, parallel to the maintained turf edge, and located in severely damaged areas in the previous years or a south facing slope because it will warm up the quickest in the spring. I also slightly angle the pipe downhill so there is a slight elevation change to drain water and make it an easy trip for the billbugs to follow to the collection can. I use an eight foot section of 2” pvc with a slit cut down the middle about a ¾ of an inch wide. The action threshold is a judgment made by you. If you collect 5 or 50 it is up to you to determine what is too many. I have also collected cutworms in these traps. We were surprised to find them.

We have also set up a light trap. I had a horrible time last year trying to keep it running through the summer with the battery dying at night. This year I have a better plan and will have more consistent results. I ordered this trap from You have your choice between a 12volt or 110volt ballast. I was told that if you can locate it in the middle of your course and in a fairly open area so they don’t have to go through a lot of tree cover to get there. For this reason I went with a 12volt system but I am now thinking about finding a fairly central clock and using the 110volt plug at the bottom for more consistent use.

The trap works well at collecting a ton of insects so I placed a pest strip at the bottom to kill the insects once trapped so they don’t beat themselves up beyond recognition. I use the wings to look for obvious cutworm characteristics. The few days I could get a full night of operation, the trap worked very well. I had to ultimately result to old school curative applications. My goal is to get to where I can apply a contact surrounding the greens and never see them on the green. As we know cutworms lay there eggs on the leaves of the plant. We mow greens daily making it very difficult for survival on the greens surface but the surrounds are a different story and if you spread your green clippings you are also spreading the eggs. Once they hatch they make there way to the green. I have noticed as well that they also favor areas with nearby lighting.

As for Masked Chafer’s the same rule applies. Once peak flight is observed degree day count is collected and then chemical control can be predicted. Again, common sense is used to understand that south facing slopes are usually the worst. Mapping is also very helpful, if you are getting some damage in areas you did not spray. They have some prediction models that you can use to anticipate peak flight but if you have the light trap it seems more accurate and then you can make your own model specific to your course.

The moral of the story is degree day models are just that, a model. They are mostly accurate because growing degree days are calculated according to climate. So, across the country a billbug in Ohio and one here in Arizona may develop at different calendar dates but same degree day counts. It gets you away from the adopted method of following a date, set 30 years ago by some guy spraying mercury based chemistry, to spray April 1st every year. What if you warm up early or get a cold snap. You could potential miss the entire control window or just get horrible results.

If you have any question, please feel free to call me.
Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Spring IPM

The winter months are slipping away quickly and we are only two weeks from begining our IPM program.  Starting March 1st we begin our degree day counting.  Degree day modeling is the backbone of our integrated plant management program.  Trapping has also become a good method for us to compare to the degree day models.

Two years ago, we began to create our IPM program to fight back from the loss in 2007.  We began trapping Billbugs to help understand our population and started tracking growing degree days and used degree day models to help anticipate insect development.  We have had significant success from our program over the past two season on insect and disease control.

If we can take a second to reflect, the golf course three years ago had reduced playing conditions.  Rough was pocketed and thin throughout.  Bunker faces were in need of sod work and tee surrounds, were nearly gone.  Insect management was a large part of restoring the rough around the greens and the south facing slopes.  Our disease and insect management has done a great job protecting the fairways and ensuring course quality year round.

This year will be a successful year in pest management.

If you have any questions about how we monitor insects or scout for disease please contact me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

Monday, February 15, 2010

Using pH to Check For a Leak??

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Recently back from the Golf Industry Show, the first order of business was to look at a leaking valve or what I thought was a leaking valve.  You will have to read on to understand the desperate measures. 

Before I left for the show, there was casual water spread across the 18th approach.  It was just after the major cleanup that took place shortly after the storm.  We had water coming from the cap of a valve box, across the 18th approach. 

When I came back the valve was still full of water.  Lane and I got right into digging the valve up to inspect the saddle that fed the lateral.  As we were digging, I was sure that water was coming up from the valve or saddle area.  Lane insisted it was ground water from the storm but I wanted to make sure since I was more than half way.  I kept digging until the mainline and saddle were exposed.  I siphoned the water from the hole. I cleaned and inspected all around the junction point.  I could not find any problems.

I sent Lane to open the closed valves and charge the section we had isolated.  Once the water filled the pipes nothing had changed.  The valve box would fill up with water at the same rate with or without isolation.  This got me confused.  I thought about our situation for a while and then it hit me.  Why not check the pH of the water in the hole and compare it with the pH from the water in the irrigation line.

With others questioning my sanity I filled the little tube full of the water from the hole.  I filled the other tube from a nearby quick coupler.  I added the testing solution to each tube and then sat back and observed.  Wouldn't you know it.  Our irrigation water was pH 7.6, the water in the hole came out to be a pH less than 6.5.  It actually worked!  It was a simple science experiment that helped save our backs. 

Even though we did not find any cracks or breaks, it was worth checking to rule out any possibilities of failure.  I was surprised when the pH readings were on opposite sides of the spectrum.  You learn something new everyday. 

Justin C Ruiz, CGCS

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spring Aerification

Spring is the time for us as Turfgrass Managers, to start thinking of the new season that will be upon us in just a few short months. It is an important time to prepare the turf for the stresses of the summer heat, and relentless pest pressure. To prepare the turf, we use a combination of cultural practices including the most important one, core aerification.

The turf grows in a unique environment, getting nutrients and life support from the soil. An ideal soil system is 50% insoluble material, while the other 50% is made up of 25% water, and 25% oxygen. If you noticed, I mentioned “ideal.” Over the winter months the soil has become saturated with water, and since the insoluble material cannot be displaced, oxygen is pushed from the soil system, leaving the turf in a less than desirable situation.

With that being said, as turf managers, we make the decision to core aerify the turf. The goal is to balance the soil’s three part system, while also removing unwanted thatch, created by the natural attrition of the shoots, roots, and stems. The process also enhances nutrient uptake, while beginning the root driving process. We remove about 10% of the turf’s surface. To offset thatch buildup, removal of 20% of the surface per year is recommended by the USGA. That gives us the reasoning behind the need of twice per year. Click here for the recommendations of the USGA.

Core aerification is a disruptive process. Playing conditions will be affected for up to four weeks, depending upon weather. An application of fertilizer, one week before aerification day, will get the plant growing rapidly. Expect reduced green speeds coming into aerification. The day of aerification, after we have filled the holes completely with sand, we will apply another application of fertilizer. The purpose of increased fertility during this process is to speed up the healing process and give the plant the nutrition it needs to grow roots.

During the spring, we will aerify greens, tees, fairways, and approaches. The tees that were damaged by the dethatching process last fall will be addressed at this time. After we pull plugs on the damaged tee surfaces, we will spread an 80/20 mixture of Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass. This mixture approximately matches the mixture growing on the course today. Depending on weather, the tees will need an extra cycle or two of irrigation to promote germination. We will also move the tee markers accordingly, to eliminate traffic on these selected tees, while they germinate and fill in.

I have been asked many times over the winter if skipping the aerification process last fall will cause problems. My answer to that question has been, skipping the process once, will not cause major problems, because of our use of the hydroject, and planet air. If the process is skipped repeatedly, then problems begin to occur that are not easily corrected. My analogy to help understand this answer is; if you are healthy and you eat French-fries once, it will not majorly affect you. If you begin eating French-fries at every meal, then you are looking at combating major health issues, even after you get back to your healthy diet.

2010 Aerification dates
  • April 12th, 2010 Green Aerification
  • April 26th, 2010 Fairway Aerification
  • August 23rd, 2010 Fairway Aerification
  • September 20th, 2010 Green Aerification
If you have any questions, pleas feel free to contact me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Golf Industry Show, 2010

It was a great week in San Diego at the Golf Industry Show.  I have gone to the conference and show for a number of years now and I have always went for the great education opportunities offered.  This year with the new schedule coupled with the innovative superintendent presentation, I was unable to take as many classes as I usually do. 

The two days set aside for the trade show gave me more time to roam the floor and talk to the vendors and view the newest technology offered in our industry.  I was able to look at new products for controling fungi on the course.  I was able to learn about interesting products like fully biodegradeable grease and hydraulic fluid.  Products that can reduce our carbon footprint.

The theme of the show was sustainable golf course management.  That has been coined as the catch phrase for 2010.  I think the industry has gone the right direction in pushing environmental awareness. For our work that had been done on water conservation, I was invited to the Environmental Leaders in Golf award breakfast, where I was lucky enough to meet the leaders in conservation.  I was able to ask questions on how they have successfully conserved resources at their facilities. 

The innovative superintendent session was also a great place to learn real life issues that superintendents were dealing with and the solutions that they had come up with.  Being a presenter myself I was able to connect with these superintendents and get an understanding of their issues and how they dealt with them.

Overall the show was a week of filling my motivation bucket.  It is nice to be surrounded for a week, by superintendents that share the drive for conditioning, and the passion of being better at what they do.  When you can be in the company of people that share your passion for a week, it does nothing but stoke the fire that burns in my belly, to solve more problems, and top the previous year's accomplishments, with even better feats. 

If you have any question about my trip to the GCSAA Golf Industry Show please feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

Monday, February 8, 2010

Golf Irrigation Auditors Class, GIS 2010

I am in San Diego enjoying the opportunity to enhance my skills as a golf course superintendent.  Today I finished the first day of the Golf Irrigation Auditors class.  It is a one and a half day class that focuses on taking a more scientific look at your irrigation system and logically make it more efficient.

Water is a hot topic for The Rim Golf Club.  We have had several years where the course suffered from a lack of attention to the irrigation system.  Water became the limiting factor when fine tuning the presentation and playability of the golf course.  Three years ago, when I was employed the course was very wet.  The course was over watered in the spring leading to drastic conservation efforts in the hottest months of the year.  The range and rough became victim to the water reductions.  Since 2006 the water usage has reduced and the course has improved. Click here to read a previous blog post explaining this in detail, or read the case study on the Environmental Institute for Golf Web Page.

The amount of work during the 2007 season that was put into the irrigation system came with huge benefits.  This class is just an extension to help us dig deeper into the programming and equipment efficiency with mathematics.  I learned the math in college but was never able to get an opportunity to apply it before it became a distant memory.  This is the next step that will help us make the irrigation system apply water more efficiently and possibly increase playability, while reducing water usage.

The Golf Industry Show has always been a great educational learning experience that keeps superintendents up to date on leading edge knowledge.  I would compare it to the conferences that doctors go to where they can learn about the newest technology and procedures to help them be better at their job.  I have yet to walk away from a golf industry show where I have not learned anything.  Staying on the leading edge is a must in our industry.  Turf maintenance has evolved over time and requires superintendents to evolve with it. 

If you have any questions about the show, Golf Irrigation Auditors Class, or any general questions please feel free to contact me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

Friday, February 5, 2010

Spring is Around the Corner

The Rim Golf Club Maintenance Department is now thinking of spring.  It won't be long before the weather gets warmer and the grass begins it spring green up.  The recent weather forecast of snow possibilities makes spring feel like a far away thought. 

The upcoming months are important for our team to ensure a healthy stand of turf going into the stress of summer.  To acheive our goals, common cultural practice must take place. Spring aerification, water management, nutrition and grooming/vertical mowing are some of the practices that are important.

Spring aerification opens up the soil for the turf's first big breath of the season.  The soil profile is made up of three different parts; soil (decomposed granite{fairways}, sand {greens}), water and oxygen.  A healthy soil is 50 percent soil and 50 percent water and oxygen, preferrabley equal amounts water and oxygen.  The wet winter has changed this ideal balance with excess water in the profile.  Since soil cannot be reduced in the system oxygen must go.  With that being said, pulling cores and introducing the system with much needed oxygen is key to building a healthy stand of turf for the stressfull months during the season.

That brings me to water management.  Spring can be tricky with weather being unpredictable.  We can have warm spells for a few days straight followed by cooler weather. This increases the importance of weather prediction and the ability of being one step ahead of Mother Nature.  Our goal is to anticipate the weather and apply water accordingly.  Unpredictability can make for an interesting spring.  To help combat the spring roller coaster I have gathered the water usage data from the previous years and averaged the monthly usage to create a guideline or budget to stay on track with our water usage.  Of course, weather will be the defining factor in our actual water needs. With a guidline in place we can monitor our usage closely and better prepare ourselves for the critical months of June, July and August.  

When the soil temperatures begin to rise the grass begins to green up.  Our late fall application of fertilizer was done for the sole purpose of giving the plant available nutrition during this period.  Once the grass begins to green up the roots will be looking for nutrients to support the production of new leaves.  Our late fall application was a blend of organic (slow release) and synthetic (quick release fertilizer). The quick release helped retain some of the color through the winter months while the slow release remains in the soil profile until the temperatures rise starting the breakdown process from various bacteria converting the nitrogen into plant available nitrogen.  We have plenty of light, water and oxygen, food is the limiting factor.

Vertical mowing and grooming is the process of cutting the lateral growth of the plant.  The greens consist of Bentgrass.   Bentgrass uses stolons (above ground stems) to fill in thin areas.  As they move along the surface they shoot roots out creating another source for nutrient harvesting.  If we cut these stolons it forces the cut section to grow and start a new plant.  This helps thicken the turf as well as making room for the new leaves that are making their spring appearance.  Consistent grooming results in healthy upright turf that produces smooth playing surfaces.   

The Spring season is not far away.  Cultural practice planning is important to build a healthy stand of turf that can withstand the stressful conditions of Summer.  Our plan is to have another successful year keeping the course playable and prepared for what Mother Nature will bring.

If you have any questions about our Spring program or just have questions please contact me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Winter Course Clean Up

The winter months have given us a chance to do much needed clean up on the course.  Since the temperatures have dropped and the grass has had little growth in the last few weeks, we are able to focus more on trimming and thinning than mowing.

Removing Cattails out of the water feature on 7,8,9 was our first winter effort.  We are also going to try to get the Cattails out of #10 lake before they get out of hand.  Cattails may look natural at first along a lake or in a creek, but soon they take over the entire creek or boundary of a lake.  The creek can become obstructed from view of our members.  This overgrowth can compromise the lake's liner and make the water around the Cattails become stagnate which aids the bloom of algae.

Fire wise is of course our main focus this winter.  The surrounding lots on the course have done a great job thinning the vegetation on their property and we are making a strong effort to thin out the golf course native areas.  We have finished the fifth hole and the next area on the schedule is the 11th hole.  I know I have lost a few golf balls on the 11th hole in the dense manzanita on the left and right of that hole. 

We are nearly finished with the landscaped areas around the proshop, resturant, bathrooms and select tee and greenside areas.  We have been trimming back the ornamental grasses and woody ornamentals to get them ready for the spring season.  These annual trimming excercises will keep the plant healthy and give it the ability to show its true colors come spring and summer.

Lane and I are trying to accomplish some small projects this winter aside from the major clean up that is taking place.  We have worked on the drive off after the bridge on seven by installing large flat sided rocks to level the area travelled.  We are also taking a look at the walking trails from tee to fairway and green to tee that have been eroding over time.  We plan to try to make all the paths passable with pull carts if possible.  We are also looking at the drive offs from the fairways to the cart path.  Some have become incredibly bumpy and we are working at getting those more smooth if possible.

Overall this winter has been productive.  Even with a reduced staff we have been getting a lot of work done.  Last year we had more staff but be pulled in many different directions we tried to get too many projects done all at once and spread the crew too thin.  This year I have been keeping the crew on a better schedule to finish a project before another starts.  We will keep you, the members posted on our progress and we will try to get as much as we can before mowing consumes our daily tasks.

If you have any questions please contact me.
Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS

Golf Course Industry Show

The Golf Industry Show happens once a year.  It rotates between three cities. New Orleans, San Diego and Orlando.  The Show consists of continuing education classes that help superintendents, assistants and in some cases greens chairmen keep abreast on new technology and way to better manage your golf course.  I have been lucky enough to go to the Show for the past 7 years as a golfcourse superintendent and I went once as a student from Oregon State. 

I have always made it a point to fit in as much education as possible.  I use the day of the trade show to not only get an idea of the new equipment available, but meet as many people as I can.  Networking as everyone knows can be a great way to get new ideas or brainstorm about current issues at your course.

I am a guest speaker for the innovative superintendent session for the work that we have done to save water over the past three years. The bulk of our water management savings came the first season I was here when we adjusted many heads and did massive re-programing of the central control computer to be more accurate in water application.

Last year I was a guest speaker for the same session.  I spoke on the creation of our IPM program and the usage of growing degree days to predict and anticipate insect developement.  There are not many courses in the nation that use this type of method when controlling pests.  Over the last three years we have had great success with the program.

Next week the GCSAA Conference and Show will be held in San Diego.  After the trip I will make sure to write an update on what I learned in San Diego.  My goal is to save even more water this year by using new techniques learned by this trip.

If anyone would like to learn more about the GCSAA Show or just have comments please feel free to contact me.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS

January 2010 Monthly Report

Monthly Greens Committee Report
Presented to The Rim Greens Committee
Golf Course Superintendent
Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS
January 2010

Course Condition

Yet again, the golf course was covered with snow from the recent storm that hit The Rim. We had nearly a foot of snow cover the golf course, with a total of 11 inches of precipitation for the week. That is nearly the total amount of rain recorded in 2009.

Projects Completed

This month we completed trimming the plants and bushes around the pro shop, spa, and course bathrooms. We also finished work on #7 drive off, after the bridge. There was a large bump at the cart path’s edge.

Projects in Process

Projects that we are working on right now are as follows:

We are spending all of our time doing course clean up. Large amounts of rain we had last week carried a lot of debris and rock onto the course. We had a couple drains get plugged and we worked on getting those to drain, so the potential of water damage to the turf would be reduced.

We lost a couple of trees on the course. One tree was down on the left side of 16. The other tree was on the left side of 9. The trees were both in the native areas, bordering the holes. Read more.

We are also working on trimming and thinning the bushes on both sides of whole #11. Before the storm hit, the crew finished the pro shop trimming and began to trim #11. Our goal is to get this hole completed during the winter months.


This month we faced quite a bit of an elk problem. We had chronic problems with the gates on the west side of the fence. The Elk seemed to figure out that the gates were our weakest link. They began just walking up to the gates and pushing through them. With Lane’s re-design of the gates we have yet to have a problem. Click here to see Lane’s solution to our gate problems.

Projects Planned

Future winter projects that we are looking at are as follows:

- Storm Cleanup.

- #11 Fire-wise.

- Walk path and drive off repair.

Divot and Ball Mark Repair Party

The divot and ball mark party, held earlier this month, was a huge success. A big thanks goes to the Paczkowski’s for letting us all meet at their house after our repair party. Read the article in Golf Course Industry Magazine.

Side Notes
Last report, I mentioned that I would be on the cover of Golf Course Industry magazine. Well, here is the magazine in digital format.

I am also getting ready for the Golf Industry Show. I will be going to a water auditing class to hone my skills on irrigation system management, view the latest technology for golf course equipment, and do a presentation to 500+ people on our efforts for water conservation (similar to the case study in last month’s report).

During the month of August The Rim Golf Club will be featured on the Environmental Institute for Golf website. Next month Arizona Golfer News (the paper in the lobby of the pro shop) will feature an article about the work done at The Rim Golf Club.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Dan or me.

Justin C. Ruiz, CGCS                                           Dan Devere, CGCS                          

928.951.3421                                                        928.951.3272

The Rim Golf Club is a Great Place to Live and Play.

GCSAA TV Video Contest Entry

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