Rants, Raves, & Random Thoughts

Shameless self-promotion of my writing skills or lack there of.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Check Out These Shorts

I would like to take a minute to talk to you about the latest Amazon Short I read last week, The Orffyreus Wheel by David Niall Wilson.

The cost of the story is only 49 cents. Man, you just can’t beat that. I’d pay that much for a story I didn’t like, but as luck would have it, I spent it on one I enjoyed thoroughly. This is part one of the series and it is a must read for anyone who enjoys a good dark thriller.

Heh, I wrote a rather lengthy paragraph, describing the story and my thoughts on it, etc. but you know what? I erased it. For $.49 I think you can afford to form your own opinion. Let me know if you liked it.

While you’re at it, there is another Amazon Short I picked up a while back, but I don’t think I ever posted a review for it. JA Konrath has Four Pack of Jack also for the low low price of 49 cents. They are four stories from his Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series. I also recommend that you pick this one up.

Just think…you can have two great stories and own them both for less than a dollar. Amazon Shorts is a great way for the reader to get a taste of a new (or at least to the particular reader) writer’s style before committing to the thirty dollar hardback. Having said that, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage to pick up books by either of these authors if you find that you enjoy their material.

This concludes today’s pimpage. We now return you to your normally scheduled blog hopping. Have a great day.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Hollywood Rules

I was going to post another review today, but my brain is addled by the plague that has wreaked havoc on my body for the last 72 hours or so. So, here is a laugh or two instead.

1. It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts: your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one, dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessors.

2. Honest and hard-working policemen are traditionally gunned down three days before their retirement.

3. All beds have special L-shaped sheets that reach the armpit level of a woman, but only the waist level of the man lying beside her.

4. At least one of a pair of identical twins is born evil.

5. Most laptop computers are powerful enough to override the communications system of any invading alien society.

6. All grocery bags contain at least one stick of French bread.

7. Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their arch enemies using complicated machinery involving fuses, pulley systems, deadly gasses, lasers, and man-eating sharks, which will allow their captives at least a half-hour to escape.

8. You're very likely to survive any battle in any war unless you make the mistake of showing someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.

9. A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating, but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

10. If a large pane of glass is visible, someone will be thrown through it before long.

11. If staying in a haunted house, women should investigate any strange noises in their most revealing underwear.

12. Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, it is necessary to turn the steering wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments.

13. All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they're going to go off, but luckily you'll always blindly choose to cut the right wire.

14. A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.

15. Police departments give their officers personality tests to make sure they are deliberately assigned a partner who is their total opposite.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saw II Review

I figured that Saw II would be twisted, but I had know idea it would be so…good. For those of you who watched Saw there will be several questions answered and yes a few new ones raised.

“Oh, yes…there will be blood,” Jigsaw informs us. You know what? He’s right. A police detective finds that a serial killer has his son. He has placed the boy into a house full of “tests” with a group of hardcore criminals. Just to make sure there is enough pressure, he has filled the house with a slow acting nerve agent that will kill the occupants if they stay in the house to long. There are anecdotes but the participants have to pass a series of tests designed to make them face their crimes against humanity to find them. Yeah, that sounds like a good time for all concerned.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this one. I thought I had it figured out no less than six times and was wrong to the very end.

Here’s the thing, you expect it to be gory, but what you don’t expect is the way it gets under your skin. It is psychologically disturbing on a level I only wish I could attain in my own creative endeavors. It is a sneaky kind of scary, the kind that you don’t notice while you are watching the movie. No, it waits until you are alone with your thoughts and haunts you mercilessly. Luckily, the effects aren’t lasting. Once you realize what is causing your…discomfort, you can easily (relatively) shrug it off and move on. I haven’t watched a movie that truly got to me since I was a child. I now own this one.

It is a rare event when a sequel meets or exceeds the quality of the original, but I have to say this one fits the bill. I intended to watch them both back to back at some point in the near future.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of horror. Hell, I recommend it to anyone who isn’t, if nothing else just for the experience of it.


Rating: five stars.



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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My iTunes Top Ten

John Scalzi has a meme posted showing off the top ten most-played tracks from your iPod/iTunes. Below is my stab at it. I’m not tagging anyone with this, but if you want to play along, please let me know or drop your list in my comments. If you don’t have iTunes, perhaps you could modify it by using whatever music software you prefer or for that matter just tell me the top ten songs you listen to most. Thanks for playing…

1. "We Used to Be Friends" by The Dandy Warhols – Wow, this is a fun song have you heard it? Then again, they have several songs out that I really enjoy.

2. "Losing my Favorite Game" by The Cardigans—This is an oldie but a goody. I’m not surprised to see it so high on the list.

3. "Gold Digger" by Kayne West -- this is one actually surprises me. I like the song, but I didn’t realize that I listened to it that much.

4. "Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie – This is another fun song, but oddly enough it reminds me of Sting. Isn’t that strange?

5. "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" by The Arctic Monkeys – This band is awesome. They’re a little dirty, a little raw and a whole lotta of talented.

6. "Denial Twist" by White Stripes – What list would be complete without a little White Stripes in it.

7. "Nth Degree" by Morningwood – Ok, I’m thinking this one should have been higher in my list, but whatever...

8. "When I’m Gone" by No Address – I am sure this one used to be at the top of the list, but I’m glad to see it’s still in here. This song absolutely rocks.

9. "These Things" by She Wants Revenge – Oh my, this band has a dirty mind, but I have to say I like it.

10. "Ugly" by The Exies – This song is sung with so much heart, I can’t help but like it.

Lime also has a music meme going, so please stop by and check hers out as well.

Dar-Wednesday

It’s time for another installment of The Darwin Awards. Yeah, I can see this happening.

(31 May 2005, Seattle, Washington) Strength and endurance are two of the most important characteristics that can be passed on to improve the species, so physical challenges between males are frequent. In this case, two drinking buddies found themselves on an overpass 40 feet above a busy freeway in downtown Seattle at 2:45 a.m. It turned out to be the perfect place to determine who had more strength and endurance. Whoever could dangle from the overpass the longest would win!
Unfortunately, the winner was too tired from his victory to climb back up, despite help from his 31-year-old friend. The unidentified champion fell smack into the front of a semi-truck barreling down the highway at 60 mph and bounced onto the pavement, where he was hit by a car. The car did not stop. Authorities did not identify the winner of the competition.
Reader Comments:
"Remember this when you are doing your pull-ups!"
"Avoid that tired, run-down feeling."
"Feats of strength!"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Groan a little...smile a lot

I was hoping to have time to do a review of Saw II today, but it doesn’t look like I’ll have time. So, instead here are a few things found on bumper stickers for you to enjoy.

Herblock's Law: If it's good, they will stop making it.
History does not repeat itself, historians merely repeat each other.
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
It works better if you plug it in.
It's not hard to meet expenses, they're everywhere.
Jury: Twelve people who determine which client has the better lawyer.
Let not the sands of time get in your lunch.
Reality is the only obstacle to happiness.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Quiz Time

I took this quiz from one of my favorite vampire writers, P N Elrod. Drop by and check out her website. She also has a blog, so give her a nice warm hello; just watch out for her…teeth. :D


You scored as Bobbi Smythe. Step up to center stage and take a bow. You're Bobbi Smythe!

Bobbi Smythe

89%

Gordy Weems

86%

Whitey Kroun

75%

Jack Fleming

68%

Charles Escott

64%

Shoe Coldfield

61%

Which Vampire Files character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Saturday, February 18, 2006

So Much to Do...So Little Time

Where to begin…so much to say and for the first time ever, so little that I think I should actually share. We are sitting under several inches of the powdery white stuff (and no, I’m not talking about Columbia’s chief export). I wished my son was here to enjoy it with me. Truth be told, without him to play in it, there really isn’t that much to be enjoyed with the snow. He is spending four whole days with the other side of his family. It’s awfully quite in this house without the pitter patter of little feet to greet me in the morning.

We drop by the casino yesterday before the first flakes fell. When we left, some fourteen hours later, we were faced with a winter wonderland and the snow was still falling. We also left with the single largest one-day winning streak I have ever had on a Black Jack table. Oh my, but that is a fun game when you’re winning.

Well, I’m off to cook the Mrs. some breakfast before we try to decide what else to do with a house we have all to ourselves. Sure is cold outside…

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

1975 vs 2005

I received this in my email yesterday and I enjoyed it so much I thought I would pass it along. Enjoy…


1975: Long hair

2005: Longing for hair



1975: KEG

2005: EKG



1975: Acid rock

2005: Acid reflux



1975: Moving to California because it's cool

2005: Moving to Arizona because it's warm


1975: Trying to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor

2005: Trying NOT to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor



1975: Seeds and stems
2005: Roughage



1975: Hoping for a BMW

2005: Hoping for a BM



1975: Going to a new, hip joint

2005: Receiving a new hip joint



1975: Rolling Stones

2005: Kidney Stones



1975: Being called into the principal's office

2005: Calling the principal's office



1975: Screw the system

2005: Upgrade the system


!
1975: Disco

2005: Costco



1975: Parents begging you to get your hair cut


2005: Children begging you to get their heads shaved



1975: Passing the driver's test

2005: Passing the vision test



1975: Whatever

2005: Depends


Just in case you weren't feeling too old today, this will certainly
change things.. Each year the staff at Beloit College in Wisconsin puts
together a list to give the faculty a sense of the mindset of this
year's incoming freshmen. Here's this year's list:


The people who are starting college this fall across the nation were
born in 1987.

They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up.


Their lifetime has always included AIDS.


Bottle caps have always been screw off and plastic.


The CD was introduced the year they were born.


They have always had an answering machine.


They have always had cable.


They cannot fathom not having a remote control.


Jay Leno has always been on the Tonight! Show.


Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.


They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.


They can't imagine what hard contact lenses are.


They don't know who Mork was or where he was from.


They never heard: "Where's the Beef?", "I'd walk a mile for a Camel",
or "de plane, Boss, de plane".


They do not care who shot J. R. and have no idea who J. R. even is.


McDonald's never came in Styrofoam containers.


They don't have a clue how to use a typewriter.


Do you feel old yet? Pass this on to the other old fogies on your
list. Notice the larger type? That's for those of you who have trouble
reading...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dar-Wednesday

Yes, it’s time for another installment of The Darwin Awards. Look ma…no brains!

(14 October 2004, Missouri) When Peter and Jesse wanted to see what their new ride could do, like many young men, they got more than they bargained for. It was all fun and games until the vehicle stalled. In most cases this wouldn't be a serious problem -- but Peter and Jesse stalled at 41,000 feet.
You see, they weren't pushing the old man's car to the limit. They were flying a 50-passenger jet, a Bombardier CRJ200. Fortunately, there were no passengers aboard to share the fatal consequences.
Jesse, 31, was captain of Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701, and Peter, 23, was the co-pilot. They were transporting an empty plane from Little Rock, Arkansas to Minneapolis, where it was needed for a morning flight. They decided to see what that baby could do. Their fun began while ascending, as they pulled 1.8 G's in a maneuver that activated an automatic stall avoidance system.
Then they decided to "forty-one it," take the jet to 41,000 feet--eight miles--the maximum altitude the plane was designed to fly. The thrust of the engines pressed them into their seats with 2.3 times the force of gravity as they soared ever higher, laughing and cursing in a friendly manner, ignoring the overheating engines, and the stick shaker that warned they were operating outside of safe aerodynamic parameters.
At this point, Air Traffic Control contacted the pilots to find out what they were up to. A female controller's voice crackled over the radio: "3701, are you an RJ-200?"
"That's affirmative."
"I've never seen you guys up at 41 there."
The boys laughed. "Yeah, we're actually a, there's ah, we don't have any passengers on board, so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here."
Little did they know that their fun was doomed when they set the auto-pilot for the impressive climb. They had specified the [I]rate[/I] of climb rather than the [I]speed[/I] of the climb. The higher the plane soared, the slower it flew. The plane was in danger of stalling when it reached 41,000 feet, as the autopilot vainly tried to maintain altitude by pointing the nose up.
"Dude, it's losing it," said one of the pilots.
"Yeah," said the other.
Our two flying aces could have saved themselves at that point. An automatic override began to pitch the nose down to gain speed and prevent a stall. Unfortunately, Jesse and Peter chose to overrule the override. Oops. The plane stalled.
"We don't have any engines," said one.
"You gotta be kidding me," said the other.
Jesse and Peter still might have saved themselves. They were within gliding range of five suitable airports. Unfortunately, they did not reveal the full extent of thier difficulties to the controller. They said that they had lost only one of the two engines. They glided for 14 full minutes, losing altitude all the way. As they drifted closer and closer to the ground at high speed, still unable to get the engines restarted, they finally asked for assistance: "We need direct to any airport. We have a double engine failure."
Unfortunately, it was too late. "We're going to hit houses, dude," one of pilots said, as they desperately tried to reach an airport in Jefferson City. They missed the houses and the runway, crashing two and a half miles from the airport. Both men died in the crash.
"It's beyond belief that a professional air crew would act in that manner," said a former manager of Pinnacle's training program for the Bombardier CRJ200.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Saturday with the Goodman Clan

Well, it had to happen sooner or later…my son’s basketball team lost yesterday. It was 14-16. They tried their hardest though. One of our kids caught a rebound with 6 seconds left to go. He drove down the court with several people counting down the seconds. The coach yelled “shoot it!” right before the buzzer went off. The ball hit the backboard, bounced to the rim, rolled in a half arc around the rim, and…fell out. I know they were disappointed but it was a lot more exciting than watching them stomp all over a team like the one they won 20-2.

We met a group of friends out for dinner last night. We went to Shogun Steakhouse. Have any of you ever been to one of these restaurants? They are Japanese Steakhouses that are as entertaining as they are delicious. We had nine people in our party, which just so happens to be the number of chairs they put around each grill. While the chef prepares the meal before your very eyes, he twirls his utensils, throws food in the air and splits them before the hit the grill, and makes marvelous shows of fire and smoke (he built an onion volcano that sputtered to life and poured smoke before he diced it into the rest of the mix). Anyhoo, it was a great experience shared with great people.

Today, I plan to do absolutely nothing and I’m sure it will be everything I knew it could be. Well, almost nothing…I have manicotti (the Mrs. says she prefers mine to any restaurant she has ever ate at) I need to make today, but other than that, it will be a day of relaxing, reading and perhaps a late afternoon movie.

Have a great Sunday.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Something to See

David Niall Wilson is nothing short of a master of the written word. Check out his other website to check out his impressive list of works. His new book, Deep Blue , is already on my wishlist. Stupid OCD won’t let me start it until I have finished the other two books in my queue, but here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about it:

In this engrossing, poetic novel of spiritual evil and the possibility of salvation from Wilson (This Is My Blood), a burned-out musician, Brandt, is playing in an obscure band when he hears a homeless black man, Wally, play the purest blues on the harmonica he has ever heard, music that encapsulates all the pain of the world. Brandt begs Wally to teach him how to play the same way. He disregards Wally's warning that he would have to take the pain into himself, and then play to purge it lest it consume him. Brandt's performance that evening changes the lives of his fellow band members. Together they discover that they can play not to wake the dead but to settle restlessly roaming spirits. Opposing them is a sinister figure masquerading as a man of God, who wishes the pain to go on and on. As Brandt and the other band members slowly and convincingly come to realize that a larger world surrounds them, Wilson demonstrates that a horror novel doesn't need gallons of blood to succeed, that spiritual terror can be even more effective. FYI: Wilson is a past president of the Horror Writers Association and an ordained minister.

He also shows a flair for the lighter side. In preparation for the Winter Games, his piece A Bearer of Bad Shoes is a must. This short story is just great…plain and simple.

Stop by and let him know what you think.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

What I did on Friday Night...

I went to my OSFW meeting last night. It was a grand time. I heard several wonderful short stories. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, but this guy had me in stitches. Brad Sinor and his wife Sue read a collaboration that—you know what, I don’t think I’m aloud to go into any details of their stories, so let’s just say that it was both funny and zombie-licious. Paul Batteiger spun a tale that has the potential to be huge. I can’t wait to read the story in its entirety. Warren Brown read a story that struck a particular chord with me, as he reflected some of my (I thought) personal views on religion and zealots.

MT Reiten was up to his usual standards of hilarity. He was the kind young gentleman that introduced me to the group. Richard Cox had a few good words of encouragement for me as I begin the query process for The Dance. All and all, the evening was wonderful.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Game

I stole this from Snavy.
It looks like a lot of fun, so please play along...

Okay, here's how it works. The person above you in the comment section makes a wish ("I wish I had a banana!"), and then the person below grants your wish, and then wishes something else, but here's the fun part: Your wish is messed up!

Example:

Joe Blow----I wish I had a banana.
Donny Brasco----Granted, but the banana tastes bad. I wish I had a ticket to a concert.
Sly----Granted, but it's a Barney concert. I wish....

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dar-Wednesday

Yes, it’s time for another installment of The Darwin Awards. All I can say is…wow!

(7 September 1990, Sydney, Australia) Men seem to have an affinity for large trucks. What else can explain the actions of a 34-year-old thief who decided to take possession of the engine of an old Bedford tip-truck?
The truck was parked outside a glass recycling company in Alexandria. It generally takes three men to lift an engine block of this size, but our enterprising pilferer decided that the best way to remove the engine was from below, rather than the conventional out-the-top-with-a-crane technique.
He crawled under the cab and began to loosen the bolts.
Suddenly the engine block broke loose and landed on his face, killing him instantly. Police ascertained that he had at least one accomplice, judging by the pool of vomit found under a nearby bush.
An employee discovered his body early the next morning. The manager said that the truck was about to be scrapped. "If he had come and asked me for it, I would have given it to him."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Super Sunday

Ah, the Super Bowl Sunday. It is a time of camaraderie, gambling, heavy drinking, cheering and just an all around good time. Ok, I might be pointing out a few extremities, but you have to admit, whether you are a football fan or not, there is a certain draw to this time-honored event. Whether they are just tuning in for the commercials or they actually care about the game, tens of millions of viewers watch the big game.


As I am sure most of you know, The Steelers put it to The Seahawks last night. It wasn’t a great game, but it was a great time.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Laugh 'til it Hurts

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll finally understand the dynamic relationship between Doc and Marty McFly. You must see Brokeback to the Future .


And in other news, my son’s team won again yesterday. It wasn’t quite the trouncing the handed out last week, but they played really well. I’m proud of the whole lot of ‘em.

And in still other news, my wife is hands down, the hottest woman I know. I would tell you why I felt the need to announce that, but what fun would that be?

I hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Which Evil Criminal are You?

In honor of the work I’ve done on Jerry (my seriously deranged antagonist in The Dance, I have decided to take this quiz. So--which evil criminal are you?

I scored the following:

Congratulations, you're Pinochet!
You ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, and are responsible for the abduction, torture, disappearance, and execution of thousands upon thousands of political opponents. When you first took power in 1973, you embarked upon a programme delightfully named the Caravan of Death, which extracted prisoners from the country's jails and executed them. Victims were sodomised, blinded, starved and electrocuted, amongst other things, hundreds and hundreds of times in just the two years between 1988 and 1990.
You also were allied with Britain in the Falklands war during the 1980s; Margaret Thatcher, then the Prime Minister of Britain, has said that it owes you a great debt.
I am Pinochet.
Which Evil Criminal are You?
A Rum and Monkey crime.

Sounds like a hell of a guy, but he didn’t have the charisma that Jerry had. So come on, which one are you?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rambles and Rumbles

Holy smokes, but I’ve been busy of late. Not only has my workload increased at the day job, but I have polished away on The Dance, getting it in good shape for queries. I still have comments from to beta readers out, so I haven’t finalized the entire book, but I have buffed the living dickens out of the first three chapters. As slow as things seem to move in this business, I will be shocked if I am asked for a full manuscript before I get my suggested revisions back. I still have a pretty lengthy synopsis, 1900 words for the detailed one, but I think the 1200 word one I boiled it down to is still pretty heavy. I have a 205 word one that I am using in my query, but (and I’m sure that most of you feel the same way) I just don’t think it captures what the book is really all about. I modified the one that I posted on here back in December. It is now a 370 word cast of characters, geared toward letting the characters tell the reader about their role in the novel. I think it comes closer to capturing the true feel of the book than the shorter one, but then--yeah, nothing short of reading it will really give that feeling.

Looking back over that last paragraph, perhaps I should include Rambling in the title of this blog. Oh, well.

On top of working on The Dance, I worked diligently on turning the first novel I ever wrote into something worth reading. The pruning shears ran wild. Man, but I sucked as a writer when I first started this gig. By the time I weeded out everything that wasn’t relevant it was smaller than the novella I have coming out this year. Wow, do I give up on it again? Look for ways to fill in the holes without it coming off as filler? No, I did what any sensible writer would do, I fell back on a comment from a dear friend who talked me out of scrapping this book in the first place. When she read it, she said it gave the impression of being a giant prologue for the rest of the series. Guess what--she was right. I broke out the shears one more time and low and behold, I found that with a little love and care, I could combine the first two books and maybe, just maybe, come out with a book worth reading. I am still quite a ways from finishing, but damn--I like the way it is shaping up.

Remember, keep your comments coming, I am actually one of those people who listen to advice. Who would have thunk? Alas, that’s all the time I have for now. These pages won’t type themselves. Although, wouldn’t it be cool if they could. Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Dar-Wednesday

Yes, it’s time for another installment of The Darwin Awards. Enjoy…

(30 November 2004, Washington) Twenty-four year old Philip was found dead in the bedroom of his trailer home, with burnt remains of a Lava Lamp strewn over his kitchen. Puzzled investigators eventually pieced together a likely scenario for Philip's last moments.
Lava lamps are a mesmerizing distraction. Philip couldn't wait to fire up his new Lava Lamp. He plugged it in and waited for the pretty globs to begin their surreal dance. But after several frustrating minutes, nothing happened. Then a bright idea hit him: "Why not accelerate this painfully slow process?" He took the lamp to the kitchen, placed it on the stove, and turned up the heat.
In short order, the wax melted and began its sinuous dance. But the liquid was designed to be warmed by a 40-watt bulb. It was over-heated. Entranced by the display, Philip forgot that "heat expands". Whereas there was no room for expansion in the glass bottle, the Lava Lamp resorted to a violent explosion to relieve the pressure.*
One thick shard of glass blew straight through Philips's chest and into his heart. Philip stumbled into his bedroom, uttering "Aeternum vale!" (latin: farewell forever) as he collapsed and died.
Police found no evidence of alcohol or drug use, so it is safely presumed that Philip was in full possession of his senses when he went out with a bang.
[sidebar]The secret to the Lava Lamp is simple: A light bulb heats a bottle of colored wax and liquid. The wax is denser than the liquid at room temperature, and sits at the bottom. A 40-watt bulb heats the wax, and the wax expands and rises in an undulating blob. At the top, the wax cools and begins to sink.
* Why the instructions warn NEVER to place the lamp directly on a heat source, such as a stove.

Dar-Wednesday

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