Are you ready for The Takeover?

The one week of the year that strikes fear into the hearts of seasoned gym-goers.  Makes us actually consider skipping workouts and encasing ourselves in the warm comfort of our beds.

Just to avoid…The January Joiners (JJ’s).  (

They flood into our gyms with no idea what they’re doing.  Wearing leotards on the elliptical (and only leotards.  For real.  This happened.)  Bouncing around like they’re having a seizure (there was one guy who I almost pulled off a machine, ready to grab his tongue with a paper towel.  Then I decided to let him be.  If it really was a seizure, then eventually he’d fall off, which would free up a machine.  Yes, I’m that evil.)  Taking up all the good equipment.  Stealing our elbow room in pilates.

Until all of a sudden it’s two weeks later and, just as suddenly as they appeared…they’re gone.  And we can all breathe again.  (And flap our elbows around like funky chickens as much as we so desire.)  Whew. That was rough.


I’ve been bracing myself for this for months.

Developing exit strategies so that I can leave lab early to beat the crowd.

Practicing my elliptical hoarding skills (i.e. putting a towel over the timer on the machine so that no one knows how long I’ve been on it) and my innocent, oh-so-cute “no, I most certainly have not been on this here machine for more than 30 minutes, and certainly nowhere near 45″ face.

People Life skills.  I’ve got ’em.

Yesterday was my first real chance to follow through.  So I left work at 4:45.  Aimed to be at the gym by 5:15, expecting to already see a line of JJ’s curled around the place waiting for machines.

Only to find that.

I’d been stood up.  The place was empty.  I needed both hands to count the number of free ellipticals, which is normally not true even for a random Friday night at 7pm.  (Not that I know from experience.  I totally have more of a life than that.*)


And apparently this is not just some strange Upper East Side phenomenon.  According to the Twittersphere, gyms are oddly empty around the rest of the country as well.

Which leaves the question.  (cue Paula Cole)  Where have all the JJ’s gone?


Now.  If you are one of the apparently few January Joiners out there, I mean no disrespect.  We are all newbies at the gym at some point and look completely spastic on ellipticals (possibly still to this day).  I promise.

But you have to stick with it. Don’t just be a JJ for two weeks…be one for life.

And at some point, it will stick.  You will actually want to go.  And next year at this time…you might just find yourself developing tactics to hoard your stationary bike for a full hour instead of the thirty minute limit.  No judgment.  At that point, I’ll pat you on the back, teach you the secret handshake, and hereby dub you a GR (gym rat).  Welcome to the club.

No exercise regime is complete without good healthy food, however, so for this week’s Eat.Live.Be. I made this recipe for Vegetable Panang Curry from Bon Appetit’s October issue (our theme this week is magazine inspiration).  While Bon Appetit’s recipes aren’t always health food friendly, they always have a segment of the magazine for Fast.Easy.Fresh recipes that feature quick recipes with seasonally appropriate fruits and vegetables, which are usually relatively good for you.  This curry was one of them.  It’s big on vegetables and big on flavor, two things I love in a dish.

For more Eat.Live.Be. inspiration today, check out Sarah’s, Cate’s, Patsy’s blogs!

Before I let you get onto the recipe, I just want to clarify something.  I feel like I’ve been a bit hard on my parents lately with regards to this whole vegetarian thing and I just want to make it clear that I do NOT judge them (or anyone) for eating meat and I am NOT trying to convince them (or anyone) to stop.  I would just love it if they were a bit more conscientious and respectful of my decision, as I am of theirs, instead of deriding it and referring to it as if it were a disease.  And if they ate more vegetables in general…that would also make me happy.  I wasn’t sure if I was coming off as judgmental or didactic in my last post and that is not my goal at all.


Panang Vegetable Curry
Serves 4-6, adapted from Bon Appetit October 2011


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp panang curry paste
  • 2 tbsp chopped, peeled ginger
  • 1 14 oz can lite coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 8 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves (I used dried)
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol
  • 1 butternut squash, chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, cored and broken into 1-2-inch florets
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and cut on a diagonal into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup liquid tamarind concentrate or 2 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with 2 tbsp water (I’d halve this or completely omit it)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 12-oz package firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • kosher salt


  1. Heat oil in a large heavy wide pot over medium heat. Add shallots, panang curry paste, and ginger; stir until shallots begin to soften, 2–3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup coconut milk; stir until browned, about 4 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, lime leaves, and chiles; stir to blend, scraping up browned bits.
  2. Add butternut squash to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until squash is almost tender, 15–20 minutes. Stir in cauliflower, carrots, and peppers. Cook until all vegetables are tender, 10–15 minutes.
  3. Stir tamarind concentrate, half of basil, soy sauce, and lime juice into pot; add tofu. Cover and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes, adding more stock if too thick. Season to taste with salt.  Serve, garnished with the basil.

I am submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything.

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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93 Responses to Thai Panang Vegetable Curry…Eat.Live.Be.

  1. Don’t jinx us gym rats! The hoard hasn’t hit my gym either…yet. (Knocking on wood.)

  2. I went to the gym in the middle of the day yesterday and HOLY MOLY it was packed!

  3. Sam says:

    I’ve been avoiding the gym this week for just that reason (I can’t face them!)…I have to work late tonight, but maybe I’ll swing by on Thursday and see if the same is true of my gym…

  4. My gym was packed on Monday but it seemed like everyone just happened to go at the same time because I only saw one new face in my little gym. I’m hoping my early hour trips go back to normal.

    You have never come off to me as judgmental. I like reading your view of eating vegetarian or even just somewhat vegetarian.

  5. Colleen says:

    I haven’t belonged to a gym in two years (too cheap!), and although there are many things about the gym that I miss, the JJ’s are not one of them! I’ll take running outside in the cold Boston winter over fighting JJ’s at the gym any day. Oh, and btw, awesome recipe. Obvi.

  6. Gym. What’s that? There’s never a line at the elliptical in my basement. Seriously. Which should mean that I am on it often, but unfortunately, I always have an excuse. I really do mean to remedy that. Sigh. Anyway, this dish looks amazing, I love those big chunks of tofu. And no, I don’t think you ever sounded judgmental…just humorous. You’ve always been cool about others choices. EVEN when they aren’t as cool about yours. =)

  7. Raina says:

    Funny! We have not had the JJ’s at our gym yet either. I think they might be coming next Your dish looks healthy and delicious. You are definitely on the right track with eating. I wish I could say I was being a good girl in the eating department but that is not the case. I blame my kids…lol

    Happy New Year!

  8. Lora says:

    You are so funny. Thanks for making me laugh this early in the morning. Lovely veg dish as always.

  9. Luckily, the Italians don’t believe in structured, deliberate exercise (they just eat a lot and walk a lot), and thus the single elliptical machine at my gym is always available to me, and no one cares how long I spend on it. I love thai food and this looks amazing!

  10. Amy says:

    “…If it really was a seizure, then eventually he’d fall off, which would free up a machine.” LOL. So really, there wasn’t anyone there? As we ordered more shake mix from Beachbody the other day, I even said to Paul, “I bet their sales sky rocket this first week.” Perhaps not.

    I’m so glad I don’t go to the gym. The privacy and sound protection (from grunting) of my own garage does me quite nicely. I feel for you.

  11. Megan says:

    I think I bookmarked 9 or 10 veggie-laden recipes last night. I’m really trying to add more of them to my diet. I love so many aspects of this dish… minus the curry, so maybe I can adapt it somehow. While I’m not a JJ, I am trying to work out at home more and hoping I can stick with that goal.

  12. Suzi says:

    This is a lovely dish you’ve made, healthy and hearty. Vegetarianism rocks, doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or eats. Do what is right for you.

  13. Ruth Daniels says:

    I used to be a JJ… can’t tell you how many gym memberships I’ve signed up for and hardly used over the years.

    Now I just do my own thing… one of which is use the facilities in our apartment gym. Nothing fancy – some treadmills, a stationary bike, elliptical and a weights machine. But no line ups!

    Wishing you a healthful 2012 – with lots of room at the gym 😉

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Same with my gym!!! I went to a spin class on Jan 2 and I got there super early expecting it to be packed because that’s exactly what happened last year, but it was totally empty.

  15. Kim says:

    We only have one gym in town and it’s hardly ever crowded. I almost feel like it’s a hidden secret or something.

    And, I agree with Heather. Don’t apologize for what you say or how you come across on your blog. There’s nothing wrong with stating your opinion. I’m going to start following the same advice.

    I like the looks of this dish. Would love to be able to find the kaffir leaves and tamarind in my grocery store.

  16. Danielle says:

    I love a good curry -I didnt know you can get dried kaffir lime leaves -Ill need to look for them.

  17. Your post is funny! I wish I was a JJ! But instead I workout to my DVD’s. I only have one gym near me and it’s super nice but expensive! So my goal is to at least pay off one credit card and then join the gym! The Panang Vegetables look great. You know me, I like anything that has butternut squash in it!

  18. yum! this is so healthy and delicious! lucky for me i dont belong to a gym…i like to go freeze outside in the cold for a run 🙂

  19. Jenna says:

    I always get panang curry delivery from our favorite Thai place here in town, but the time may have come to actually make it. Myself. Not being a JJ or a GR, I need those veggies especially!

  20. Mila says:

    Love your story! I cannot stand those JJ’s either! I’ve resorted to some evilness myself 🙂
    Great panang dish!

  21. patsy says:

    Just have to say that if the JJ’s were to read your post, they just might stick to it… very motivating!

  22. Corina says:

    I do love Thai curries so much. This one looks great as usual.

  23. Your last post didn’t come off as judgmental at all. Nothing wrong with what you said and how. When I saw the title I thought you wrote prawn penang curry:) Prawns are considered vegetable by the way, ask your mum if in doubt:)

  24. Beth says:

    No need to apologize for your comments. They always come across as very loving (though sometimes exasperated). I eat meat and I’ve never felt like you were lecturing at all. In fact, I keep coming back for both the healthy recipes and the stories about your family!

  25. Now what does Panang even mean? Ah, I remember those January gym days.

  26. Shannon says:

    delicious! i haven’t been to the gym yet, 5mi of walking monday, swim yesterday, today i’m thinking of braving the cold for a run… we’ll see how long it will last 🙂

  27. Don’t you ever apologize for your posts- I love that your honest and pure about your thoughts! This recipe rocks!

  28. i am actually trying to reduce the amount of meat in my diet and this sounds really tasty! I’m still nervous about tofu though…

  29. Hotly Spiced says:

    What a funny story! Glad to know you’re able to fling yourself around without crashing in to anyone this January. Your curry looks delicious and nutritious. I’m a huge fan of Thai cuisine and cook it often. We can buy Thai basil here that has the most wonderful fragrance and adds something special to a Thai dish.

  30. Geni says:

    I wish I could live at your place for a week as sort of a spa getaway kind of thing so I could have my very own personal chef who cooks like THIS with healthy, local and fresh a major consideration. You are awesome!

  31. Number 1: I could not agree with you more about how my parents treat my vegetarian “disease” it’s…frustrating to say the least.

    My gym has been relatively free of JJs too. It’s been a relief!

    This curry looks fabulous, as always.

    (I guess I got sick of numbering my thoughts after number 1 ha)

  32. beti says:

    I really don’t like tofu but the stew looks fantastic, can I change it for meat? haha I just love meat 🙂

  33. Cara says:

    It’s a good thing I don’t feel well today because my gym is packed full of JJ’s! My cold would be MUCH more comforted by this bowl of curry than heading to the gym. Suddenly I hate what I’m having for dinner 🙁

  34. Amy says:

    Panang curry is one of my favorites. It so tasty and flavorful!

  35. OohLookBel says:

    Haha, even though I’ve been a member of my gym for years, I only ever go more than twice a week in January. Oh well, at least I tried… Love this penang curry, it looks so wholesome that it would make up for any lack of gym-going.

  36. daphne says:

    ahhaha.. I am proud to say I have been to the gym regularly around 4-5 times a week..of classes. But food and gym is the way to go for health i think 😉 Loving your use of spice to kick things for the new year.

  37. Hahahahaha! That is so funny and so TRUE! I have friends who totally avoid the gym in January, just for that reason!

  38. Hahahahaha! That is so funny and so TRUE! I have friends who totally avoid the gym in January, just for that reason!

  39. Hey Joanne, My gym is empty, too!! I can’t believe it! I LOVE it!

    About the parents’ thing – mine act weird, too. My mo think is changed my diet for a power trip and she retorts in turn.. at least in the summer… Over the holidays, she was such a sweetie and made completely new meals for me. Totally unnecessary but it relieved all our stresses!

  40. Dear Joanne,

    Nothing tops a mood spoiler more than an idiot who’s in a better mood than you are 🙂

    The panang vegetable looks delicious and I have always had this whenever I’m in Thailand. Thankfully, Thai restaurants in Sydney do a fantastic job on this dish. Have a great 2012!

  41. MS2 says:

    Wow! That’s so weird that there aren’t as many JJ’s this year. Maybe more people are catching on and becoming life-long JJ-ers? Or maybe more people have just stopped trying at all?

  42. Norma Chang says:

    That curry dish is just what is needed for this cold January day. Tofu is one of my favorite foods.

  43. Dana says:

    I’ve been thinking about switching yoga studios and I will not attempt it until at least February. I can’t deal with fighting over space to put my mat. Somehow I missed this deliciousness back in October. I’m going to a high school reunion-y type thing tonight at a bad restaurant and all I want to do is make and eat this instead.

  44. Lori says:

    I’m am still laughing at this post. Not only as a gym goer, but as a former gym worker, I hated this week. Not that I don’t like to help, but this week is full of needy people and occupied treadmills. Fortunately for us, unfortunately for them, it passes.

    You are fueling my desire to cook more Thai food in 2012. This looks amazing!

  45. I hate JJ. I managed gyms worked at gyms and been a gym goer since I was 15.I find it suck right until mid Feb though. I wish it was only 2 weeks. your Thai panang sounds delicious, though I’ve never tried it. I can imagine by all the flavorful ingredients it must be amazing.

  46. Yet again, this looks superb! Tofu has been majorly in my rotation recently. So key after the holidays!

  47. Reeni says:

    I straddle a thin line between vegetarian and meat eater, although you wouldn’t know it by reading my blog, I am meatless more than I am meat. And I, for one can attest to the fact that you aren’t holding it against anyone because you still leave comments on my meat posts. I love you dearly for that. And I wish my parents would eat more veggies too! Especially my Dad. Now that I’ve written an entire book – your curry is brimming over with deliciousness! I love coconut curries.

  48. Nicole says:

    I admit it – i hate gym newbies! That recipe looks amazing!!

  49. Pam says:

    You never fail to make me smile.

    Loving this dish… so many great flavors & textures. YUMMO!

  50. Hannah says:

    Ha, you are too funny! Great mental image of this all going down, you described it in such vivid, hilarious detail.

    Panang is one of my favorite curries, by the way, so I’m thrilled you pointed me toward this recipe. 🙂

  51. Michele says:

    As always, it looks delicious! Maybe that’s what I need to do, become a vegetarian. Your dishes always look amazing.

  52. I really enjoy your writing 🙂

    And I like your strategy of covering up the machine to hide how many minutes you been on it…might have to try that!

    Happy New Year, pretty lady!

  53. Wow, looks incredible!!! I’ll give this recipe a go! Also, I’ve seen so many of those jj’s only to see them disappear as well! I’m kinda glad ther are gone! 😉

    Katie (Epicurean Mom)

  54. You are entertaining, to say it mildly. Thanks for making us smile.

  55. Tell me about it Joanne! Yesterday there were so many people in my yoga class I almost turned around and left. And, because there were so many new people, we had a super light class, begginners-style. Oh, the patience…

    Camila Faria

  56. Emily says:

    Love those big chunks of tofu 🙂

  57. Kristen says:

    Don’t worry about me, although I have about 20 pounds that I should be actively working to lose, I will not be a JJ or FJ or MJ or AJ or anyJ… At least not in the foreseeable future. But I would like a helping of that panang. Please.

  58. Mary says:

    The curry sounds lovely. I love those big pieces of tofu and know I would enjoy this. Maybe you’ll get lucky and the gym will remain deserted :-). Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  59. Katerina says:

    Well Joanne I have no such problem since I never visit any gym lol. I am as lazy as a donkey. I know I have to exercise, I know it is good for my metabolism which from a porsche has become a mini cooper. I know all this I just cannot make myself start doing it. Anyway, the Thai curry looks very promising and tasty. Don’t blame your parents, they only mean well. It is very difficult for a parent to accept that his/her child is completely different from him/her. Believe me I would find it very difficult too. This doesn’t mean that they do not have strong feelings for you, on the contrary! Take care my friend and do whatever makes you really happy, eventually they will understand that!

  60. Erica says:

    My husband became I vegetarian 3 years ago and I am a meat lover! I respect him for his decision and I am very proud of him! I love all your vegetarian recipes and I am printing them for my husband…Thanks for sharing!

  61. katiez says:

    So…. where are they? I wish I had a gym to join. I do miss that about the US. I haven’t been in a gym since we left. For the record, I do have my own equipment… Still…
    Great dish – I still have butternut in the cellar.

  62. They are all at my gym!! Every year I complain to MG about the JJ’s – their stupid new outfits, their lost little faces, the way they spend fifteen minutes on a machine doing NOTHING WITH IT while they yap on their phones about how this year they’re “really gonna do it!” I can’t go any further with this. I promised to try and be one with my higher power now that I stopped drinking!

  63. Claudia says:

    Curries are lovely in cooler weather, with the taste and scent of warmer places. But then, I love them at any time.

  64. JJs do exist! Haha.
    I don’t frequent the gym for my exercise (just go there for the raquetball) since I usually go jogging/play tennis, but I cam imagine the packed gyms. Especially when there are deals to entice people, new years resolutions and all that.

  65. I love veggie curry! love love love it! Your recipe looks fab 🙂

  66. tigerfish says:

    My parents can’t do without meat too (sad to say). Once in a while, I do remind them to have more veggies. Whenever I visit them, I keep insisting that I WANT to eat veggies but the portions I see on the dinner table is kinda disappointing. Sigh…

  67. teresa says:

    my thoughts exactly! i’m a 2011 resolutioner myself, so i get excited when i see the newbies coming in, knowing that it will hopefully change a few of their lives. however, our gym has been depressingly ghost town, especially considering how early we still are in the month.

    diet and exercise definitely go hand in hand. this dish looks like a total winner!

  68. Carolyn Jung says:

    My gym was like that, too. Last year, it was crazy busy at this time. But this year, it’s about what it is normally the rest of the year. Hmmm, you think the folks who make resolutions to work out more actually didn’t make them this year? Too funny. Maybe they’re too busy eating this curry to get on the elliptical. More machines for you then. 😉

  69. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, I just love vegetable curry. This does look excellent. Blessings for a beautiful day, Catherine xo

  70. Oh,I am so happy I have equipment at home and don’t have to face JJ or the wait. Beautiful veggie curry!

  71. Johanna GGG says:

    ooh a good vegie curry is a beautiful thing – wish I could say the same for the gym – I did have a period when I loved it – not as a JJ but when it worked in my lunchtimes at a job many years ago but then I moved to a different gym and never had the desire again

  72. polwig says:

    Luckly I now live in a warmer climate so I can be outside running most of the year. I just joined a gym from groupon for 2 months, can we say perfect, now I need to find my leotard, he he

  73. Nicole, RD says:

    I’ve been avoiding the gym and retreating to the basement. I’ll brave the gym next week, but no sooner!

    This looks delicious! After having kaffir leaves in Thailand, I’ve been hooked!

  74. Deborah says:

    Oh, how I miss the gym. But I do have to say I used to avoid the gym those first two weeks of the year. Then I would resume my normal workouts when things calmed down! This looks delicious!

  75. Marcia says:

    Okay, you crack me up Joanne.

    Firstly, I love Panang curry. Just love it. Will have to bookmark this recipe. My very good friend Foong is from Malaysia. Yum.

    Second. JJ = funny! I have to say that I haven’t noticed a change at my gym. I usually go Tues/Thurs at 5:40 am. Lately, I haven’t been sleeping well, so I was actually outside on Tuesday at 5:25 am waiting for the doors to open, and there was quite the line (of me, and a bunch of old people. It’s the Y.).

    One of the old guys made a comment about it being January, but truthfully, I recognized all of the folks as regulars. The spin class had three empty bikes. Last year, at 24 hour fitness, there was no January rush – there was a mid-February rush, that lasted about 3 weeks. Weird.

    The gym is a funny place. Couple of the old guys were in the Navy, and one of them was a Captain (they always call him Captain). I’ve never piped up “hey, I was a Navy Nuke!” But one of these days I will.

  76. Chris says:

    I am going to get you a WWJJD bracelet, ha ha ha.

    And for the record, I thought I looked absolutely just fine in that leotard, thank you very much. Even if my leg hairs did poke out through the leggings.

    Your parents should extend tolerance of your vegetarianism. If they need an example, have them look at your tolerance of my meat laden blog and mine of your meat free blog. We’re like ebony and ivory, we should write a song about it. Oh? Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder did? Never mind then.

  77. I haven’t even had breakfast yet, and already I am dreaming about making this for dinner. I’m not a huge fan for tofu I have to admit, but I’m thinking I could sub that out with some chickpeas instead. Can’t wait to try it.
    Sue xo

  78. Kerstin says:

    What a delightful curry – looks so tasty and satisfying!

    My pet peeve is when newbies are unsafe in the weight room. Please don’t squeeze right next to me when I’m doing bench presses, thank you!

  79. This recipe looks like a keep–I love Panang curries. 😉

  80. Erica says:

    So glad to hear that I’m not the only one who gets irritated by the January Joiners! Today I cursed a girl under my breath when she stole my treadmill. I wanted to throw the sign-up book at her! 🙂 Loving the look of this recipe too. I’m always looking for new ways to cook with tofu!

  81. Ooo this sounds so good with the kaffir lime leaves and tamarind! I have some dried lime leaves but wish the fresh ones were easier to find. On the one hand I hate that 30 minute time limit at gyms but also if they didn’t have it I guess I wouldn’t always get to use the machines.

  82. Hola Joanne! I plan to make this for dinner tonight but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find the curry paste or keffir leaves at my grocery store. Do you have any ideas as far as what to use as an alternative to these? It kinda sucks sometimes living in such a small town because we don’t normally get these fancy-pants ingredients 🙂

    • Joanne says:

      Hey! Really any thai curry paste will do, and just add some lime juice in place of the kaffir leaves. It won’t taste EXACTLY the same, but it will still be tasty!

    • How funny! I didn’t get a chance to read your reply until this morning, but I ended up using the exact same substitutions that you suggested anyways. We’re like on the same wave length 🙂 Anyway, thanks for getting back to me and thank you again for the awesome recipe. It came out so freaking delicious! Definitely one I’ll be making again.. and again.. and again

  83. They look too tasty. Thanks for sharing the recipe here. It is too cool and interesting.
    Keep posting.

  84. […] Thai Panang Vegetable Curry recipe by Joanne Eats Well With Others […]

  85. Cat says:

    If I am omitting tofu from the recipe (don’t digest soy very well) do you suggest to add less soy sauce/tamarind concentrate? Or I can just add more veggies I suppose 🙂

  86. Sarah says:

    Doesn’t the curry paste have shrimp- then how can this be a vegetarian recipe?

    • joanne says:

      Many curry pastes do have shrimp or fish oil in them, so if you’re vegetarian you have to check the ingredient list. I always buy ones without any fish/shellfish products in them.

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