The Third Week of August

The third week of August has long been my salvation. The month in which the air finally has a hint of cold. The week in which Autumn peers through the madness of Summer and whispers “I am coming.” It is both a reminder to secure the firewood and complete the projects that lie strewn about without the threat of rainfall.

This Summer has been a torment. Two Osprey are nesting above the house in one of the tall fir trees and all day long there is a plaintive cry between them. Who would think Osprey could become annoying? AND, they joined by the ceaseless cooing of doves. Doves cooing as torture-that’s a twist. This morning some other as yet unidentified bird joined the choir with a whistle like staccato that hit the ears like drops of water in a prison cell. At least it’s all funny now that I write it, being tormented by nature.  Since I’m unloading, six weeks ago the heat turned my eyes into kaleidoscopes with double vision cluttering my world and flies made to look like jet planes. Relief is on the way.

And so it goes. Soon I will be cursing the incessant rain, but in truth these are small moments offered more for whimsy than formal complaint, this third week of August when the first cool air if Autumn promises a change.

Bye Bye Bud

Selig

 

 

Bud Selig

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball is retiring.  Before he was commissioner he was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.  I’ve never liked Bud, initially because he led a group that deposed his predecessor, Fay Vincent, when they grew weary of a commissioner whose authority could place the interest of the game above their own.  Bud’s commissionership affirmed that in the new order the prime directive of the position was to make money for the owners.

LandisThe first commissioner of baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was hired by the team owners of that era (a flamboyant lot of cheats and scoundrels) to clean up the image of the game following the aftermath of the Black Sox scandal in the 1919 World Series.  That scandal is  often attributed to the eight ball players Landis banned from the game even though they were acquitted in a court of law.  That bit of history is well documented in two fine works, the book 8 Men Out, by Eliot Asinof, and the film of the same name, by John Sayles.  Landis brokered his integrity and credibility into a lifetime appointment that made him baseball’s supreme commander.  In varying degrees all subsequent commissioners had that authority and the game was frequently thought of as something more important than the selfish interests of both its owners and players.

From Wikipedia:  “Kennesaw Mountain Landis was an American jurist who served as a federal judge from 1905 to 1922 and as the first Commissioner of Baseball from 1920 until his death. He is remembered for his handling of the Black Sox scandal, in which he expelled eight members of the Chicago White Sox from organized baseball for conspiring to lose the 1919 World Series and repeatedly refused their reinstatement requests. His firm actions and iron rule over baseball in the near quarter-century of his commissionership are generally credited with restoring public confidence in the game.”

Restoring Public Confidence in the Game

After Landis came a string of men who to some extent followed that mandate, including Happy Chandler, who undid one of Landis’ greatest shortcomings-failing to allow black players into the game, when Landis did not stop the Dodgers from playing Jackie Robinson.  Commissioners occasionally ran afoul of a disgruntled owner when acting in the better interests of the game, but it was the accepted norm until Commissioner Bart Giamatti, a former President of Yale University, died unexpectedly on the job leaving a relative unknown and less powerful Fay Vincent to fill the position.  Seizing on the unexpected opening, a new breed of owners led by Uncle Bud understood it was time to have a Commissioner do their bidding even if it meant sacrificing the notion of upholding the mythical good of the game. Vincent was deposed, and leaving nothing to chance, Bud assumed the position.

Happy Chandler    Gen. Bill Eckert         Ford Frick              Bowie Kuhn

Chandler

Eckert Frick  Kuhn

 

 

 

Peter Ueberroth                          Bart Giamatti           Fay Vincent

Ueberroth

images

Vincent

 

 

 

If I can forgive Bud for his limited view of economics, I cannot forgive him for how he botched the response to the Steroid Era.  Like the owners during the post Black Sox scandal in 1919, modern day owners found themselves at the center of a moral storm that they were in part responsible for.  Their willingness to pay extraordinary sums to players with hyper-inflated statistics encouraged and rewarded the practice of using banned substances.  It is hard to believe that anyone paying those sums did so without knowing the chemical component to those statistical miracles.  Left to others, the steroid inquiry might lead up the food chain to owners so, when Bud had a chance to do something about it, he went all holier than thou and set about “to clean up the game”  restoring confidence as had the owners who hired Landis decades before.

 

This is my biggest gripe with Bud.

Instead of turning on his stars, he could have done something better.  He could have cleaned up the game of the harmful steroids while protecting the game itself, a mandate he didn’t seem to favor, and without turning the public against the players who made him and the other owners wealthy.

He could have thanked them for how much they excelled, how much they strove to perform the superhuman deeds we all applauded and paid for.

He could have said that he understood the pressure an athlete faces to perform.

He could have declared an amnesty for all prior use of steroids and established a window of time, say three years, in which all players would be asked to come forth and declare what and when they used.  Those players would be immune from any punishments, suspensions or impacts on their Hall of Fame credentials.

The game would have been clean, sober and revealed of the mysteries surrounding who did what and when.

Then, he could have lowered the boom and said that any player henceforth who either was proven to have used substances and not come clean, or who was caught using now would be suspended from baseball for life.

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION.

But, Bud is not a Nelson Mandela and instead went all Crucible choosing to support an hypocritical witch hunt against players who dared to play the game better by getting stronger.  Bud threw some of the best players of the era like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez to the feeding frenzy.One scandal after another, one revelation after another rocked the game and robbed it both of its stars and its integrity, something it has not fully recovered from yet.  All this in a country that peddles enhancement in everything from our breasts to our penises.

Baseball, under Bud’s leadership, served up a crusade against athletes who got stronger. The American public was more concerned with Barry Bonds than bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “Game of Shadows” was more important than the shame of two of the most ill-conceived wars in American History.

Further, while the bus was rolling over their discarded carcasses, scores of other players watched the big names take the fall while they went undetected.  Sadly, if you think the ones who have been vilified are the only ones who used, you are delusional.  While no one can cite a figure, it is likely there were hundreds of players using some form of banned enhancement.  I keep a personal and list of overachieving players whose anomalous statistics make me suspicious of their achievements, and most of them were not punished.

I had a high school teacher in the less than tolerant early 1970’s who was openly gay in a hostile all boys school environment asked impolitely by one of my classmates if he was a faggot (Sorry, I don’t use euphemisms when recounting real language) boldly replied, “Listen, stop wasting your time trying to figure me out.  If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and looks like a duck:  it’s a duck.” So to all the average players who morphed into Ruthian Popeyes, all I can say is, “quack fucking quack.”  I don’t know how you live with yourselves.  Thank you Bud for that sordid piece of history.

To be clear:  there are players who will be or have already been elected to the Hall of Fame who “used” and didn’t get caught, while the best ones like Bonds, Clemens, and Rodriguez will not get in.  The Baseball Writers, who vote for Hall of Fame membership, men and women who never played the game will uphold their perverted mythical status of the game, while in reality that status didn’t exist before, doesn’t exist now and will not exist in the future.  Like Buck Weaver in Eight Men Out, some of the greatest players of this or any era will find themselves on the outside looking in at a game they played so well.

Exhale…

In the low-level dialogue that constitutes the sports media, Bud is treated fairly well, even given credit for being visionary because of the handful of changes he brought to the game.  These are in no special order,

Realignment and the introduction of playoff wild card teams.

Interleague play.

Additional franchises.

An unbalanced schedule formula that heavily favors intradivisional play (2001)

Home field advantage in the World Series granted to the winner of the All Star Game in the same season (2003)

Stricter Major League Baseball performance-enhancing drug testing policy (2005)

World Baseball Classic (2006)

Instant replay used by umpiring crew to review disputed home run calls (2008). Expanded to all calls (except balls and strikes) starting in 2014.

These things make him visionary?

It seems to me that what Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Raphael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, and the other so-called “cheaters” did along with the hundreds of other baseball players, using or not, that made a hard game seem elegant and simple gave more to the game than what Bud did.

I don’t think I’ll miss Bud but you never know. Just when you think the bar can go no lower… One day Uncle Bud may seem like a hero to us as we stew in our own maudlin juices recounting the fictitious Good Ole Days when the game and all those in it were pure.  One day, we may walk the halls of Cooperstown and see Bud’s plaque on the wall in place of the above mentioned players, and we’ll say, “That was Bud Selig, he introduced video replay twenty-five years after the National Football League did.  He was a genius.”

 

Unfolded Fortune Cookies

Les and Ken brought us a bag of unfortunate fortune cookies last week. A large bag of cookies that didn’t make it to restaurant tables because they didn’t get folded, but rather were flattened circles, though still tasty.  We took them to a dinner party and I wrote these fortunes to go with them.  I spent five minutes on this and if you get too serious about their meaning I will hunt you down and make you eat an entire bowl of Chinese mustard!

Do you seek beauty? Look into the eyes of children instead of mirrors.                        Lucky # 4567898924   Learn Spanish: Suerte=Lucky

Age, not an enemy, rather a friend all know.                                                                  Lucky #678407 Learn Russian: Nyet=No

Wisdom: better fed with silence than words.                                                                 Lucky #768734209 Learn Greek: Ichthys=Fish

Spare others from your passionate kindness.                                                              Lucky #733333334 Learn English: Republican=Angry White Man

See the people in front of you? Beware the cliff that follows.                                          Lucky #1674342 Learn Hungarian: Yanopote Keevanuk=Greetings.

Music is better than an eager surgeon.                                                                         Lucky #42 Learn Japanese: Tako=Octopus

You are not losing hair but finding skin.                                                                        Lucky #3.14   Learn Serbian: Xzlzxzlz=Shush

Fate will embrace you better than lust.                                                                          Lucky #999999999999   Learn Tagalog: Chow chow=chow chow

An afternoon nap is more refreshing than coffee.                                                            Lucky #11-45-78-908 Learn Spanish: Adelante=forward

Hatred: the flower from the seed of fear.                                                                      Lucky #911 Learn Arabic: Salaam=Peace

Righteousness: the pleasure of fools.                                                                           Lucky #1 Learn Yiddish: Shmendrick=fool

Me: the first word of many misdeeds.                                                                           Lucky #1345624960549 Learn Chinook Jargon: Klahowa=Hi

Clandestine food is consumed with relish. So are hot dogs.                                          Lucky #109086848 Learn Bantu: Lion=Run

 

Arapaima and Sadness: Fish Posting

  1. Arapaima gigas:  Arapaima Fish

Ara3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The arapaima, pirarucu, or paiche is a genus of bonytongue native to the Amazon and Essequibo basins in South America. They are the largest freshwater fish of South America, and among the largest fresh water fish anywhere.

 

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Ruby called this morning to wish me a happy birthday.   She also asked me about a fish she bought for dinner two days ago at Whole Foods in Dallas:  Paiche.  It always surprises me when a fish, especially one that is sold in mainstream markets, is unfamiliar so  I Google’d it.  I discovered that Paiche is better known as Arapaima, an Amazon River staple and one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. It is long, stout and tapered like many other river behemoths. The fishing of Arapaima is said to be tightly controlled because overfishing has brought it nearly to extinction.

This is the sadness, the moment any fish makes its way to the hungry world’s dinner table, that creature is already close to over-fished. Human efficiency at harvesting wild resources is devastating.  Nearly every native and wold stock of fish that we eat is endangered.  I asked Ruby if Whole Foods said whether the Paiche is wild or farmed and she thought wild but according to Wikipedia, Arapaima is not commercially fished but is aqua-cultured.

Ironically, if aqua-cultured, Paiche would be safe to eat without fear of endangering it, although most aqua-cultured creatures retain little of the taste, vitality, or soul of their wild counterpart:  like strawberries from California or French cherries.  But I wont go into that now.

No matter its place on our table or in the wild the beautiful Arapaima is a creature worthy of a moments admiration.

Arapima2

The Machines Are Winning continued…

As you may know, I think that the line between human and machine grows smaller every day.  In fact, I’m not sure that some of us are not already machines.  This article from the Guardian Website Today, June 9th, 2014 is worthy of a read.

 Computer simulating 13-year-old boy becomes first to pass Turing test

‘Eugene Goostman’ fools 33% of interrogators into thinking it is human, in what is seen as a milestone in artificial intelligence

• In ‘his own’ words: how Eugene fooled the Turing judges
• What is the Turing test? And are we all doomed now?

theguardian.com,
turing test

Codebreaker Alan Turing devised a test in 1950, saying that if a machine was indistinguishable from a human, then it was ‘thinking’. Photograph: Sherborne School/AFP/Getty Images

A “super computer” has duped humans into thinking it was a 13-year-old boy to become the first machine to pass the Turing test, experts have said. Five machines were tested at the Royal Society in central London to see if they could fool people into thinking they were humans during text-based conversations.

The test was devised in 1950 by computer science pioneer and second world war codebreaker Alan Turing, who said that if a machine was indistinguishable from a human, then it was “thinking”.

No computer had ever previously passed the Turing test, which requires 30% of human interrogators to be duped during a series of five-minute keyboard conversations, organisers from the University of Reading said.

But “Eugene Goostman”, a computer programme developed to simulate a 13-year-old boy, managed to convince 33% of the judges that it was human, the university said.

Professor Kevin Warwick, from the University of Reading, said: “In the field of artificial intelligence, there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing test. It is fitting that such an important landmark has been reached at the Royal Society in London, the home of British science and the scene of many great advances in human understanding over the centuries. This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting.”

The successful machine was created by Russian-born Vladimir Veselov, who lives in the United States, and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko, who lives in Russia.

Veselov said: “It’s a remarkable achievement for us and we hope it boosts interest in artificial intelligence and chatbots.”

Warwick said there had been previous claims that the test was passed in similar competitions around the world. “A true Turing test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations,” he said. “We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing’s test was passed for the first time.”

Warwick said having a computer with such artificial intelligence had “implications for society” and would serve as a “wake-up call to cybercrime”.

The event on Saturday was poignant as it took place on the 60th anniversary of the death of Turing, who laid the foundations of modern computing. During the second world war, his critical work at Britain’s codebreaking centre at Bletchley Park helped shorten the conflict and save many thousands of lives.

Instead of being hailed a hero, Turing was persecuted for his homosexuality. After his conviction in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old Manchester man, he was chemically castrated. Two years later, he died from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide, though there have been suggestions that his death was an accident.

Last December, after a long campaign, Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon.

In 2011, at the Techniche festival in Guwahati, India, an application called Cleverbot took part in a Turing-type test and was perceived to be human by 59.3% of its interlocutors (compared with a score of 63.3% human for the average human participant). However, because the programme draws on a database of real conversations, many disputed whether it was in fact exhibiting true “intelligence”.

Addiction, Not Me! Everyone!

Most of my friends are addicted to something. Most of my friends are capable, normal human beings except for the few who aren’t. Chew on that, or not.

I don’t like alcohol so it isn’t an issue in my life. But shit, most everybody else does and they drink it like addicts no matter what they think. The whole wine thing is lost on me, though occasionally I have a glass. If I have a second one I am silly for a while then wake up the next morning with a broken two by four in my head. Some of my friends think I am noble and disciplined because I don’t drink. I tell them if alcohol tasted like chocolate milk I would be doomed. Truthfully, people who drink find it annoying to have someone around who doesn’t. I don’t blame them.

I’m happy for people who are happy to drink. My Dad got to almost ninety-three with his good friend, Scotch on the Rocks there every step of the way (And cigarettes too, though he quit those after thirty years) He was happier than I am. My friends who drink seem happier than I am except for the ones who aren’t. Chew on that, or not.

I don’t smoke pot but I wish I did, because when I was a kid and smoked pot there was a lot of laughter and music sounded great. I can sing every note of the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. I especially like the bass lines in Suite Judy Blue Eyes, and the claps.

Crosbystillsandnash

“It’s getting to the point, where I’m no fun anymore…”

The first time I had an opiate was ten hours after I broke my back and finally got to the hospital, where I had tried to convince my stupid doctor’s office that I needed to be because I fell and broke my back (Rough sentence that one.) They kept saying it was probably nothing. That’s another story.  Eight hours later when things really blew up after the endorphins wore off, we called 9-11 and they hauled me to the hospital where the x-ray confirmed what I had said all along and the doctor said, “I’m going to give you a little shot of something for the pain,” then he shot a needle of Demerol in my ass and I finally understood why people get addicted to opiates.  gluteus

demerolNot only did the pain from my broken back go way, but every pain I’d ever had floated off. Not the best six hours of my life, those have all been without drugs, but shit, a holiday for sure. After the Demerol wore off I didn’t use the pain pills they gave me. Didn’t need them, didn’t want them.

One more story about “Not being an addict.” I had neck surgery in 2006 to fuse three of my cervical vertebrae. On the way out of the surgery they handed Nancy a prescription for Oxycontin. I was pretty out of it from the surgery but asked what that was for. They said for pain. I said, “Keep it, I’ll take aspirin.” They said, “No, you can’t have aspirin it will interfere with your healing.” So we filled the prescription for eighty, count ’em, eighty Oxycontin pills, and the big dose ones to boot.

oxycontin

Sure enough the pain was pretty bad and I took one or two a day for three days then stopped. I didn’t like the way they made my mind go soft, and having my mind go soft never feels good to me.  I have an active mind and am thankful for it except when I meditate to shut it off.

“Your mind is like a wild elephant…”

Three months after the surgery I got a headache from holy hell from the neck shit and took one of the pills for it. Forty minutes later I was even willing to forgive the devil himself, Rush Limbaugh, for his pill addiction, because while it wasn’t as good as the shot of Demerol, when Oxycontin isn’t working to kill serious pain it gives you a very nice feeling. After two hours I announced to Nancy that I might just have another headache tomorrow. She had no idea what I meant.

rush

This is what I meant. From the first second that the Oxycontin kicked in, I knew the only thing greater than the feeling it offered was the power of my rational mind.  Battle on!

A few days later I saw a Doc for a follow-up about the surgery and I mentioned my concerns about the addictive quality of the pills. This is what he said, “Those things aren’t addictive unless you take too many of them.” (How about that for reason?)  I’m not sure what planet he lived on because I knew they were addictive right away. When you’re thinking ahead to your next headache you kind of get the idea.

This is how I handled the situation. Over the next two years I used one pill about every two weeks for a petite vacance.  I described it as a trip to the Oracle because while under the influence I would enjoy the suspension of any barriers I might normally have about my feelings or thoughts. oracle1I loved it and doled them out until they were gone two years later.  Nancy asked me once when they were gone if I wanted more. “Sure, I want more, but if I got more that would make me an addict and I am not going to let any drug own my being.

This logic reminds me of one of the vignettes in the film Coffee and Cigarettes by Jim Jarmusch, when Tom Waits says to Iggy Pop, “It’s okay to have one (a cigarette) because I’ve quit.”  waits(Great film)

A few years ago I was seeing yet another new Doc. This one was a rare, at least for me, good one. There I am filling out the intake questionnaire and honestly checked the use of the Oxycontin years before.  Seeing the checked box, she asked how much I used and I told her the same story I’ve written here. She laughed and told me that there are people who’s weekly use was greater than what I did in two years and that I wasn’t even on the radar screen for drug use.

Full disclosure, I was also addicted to pasta about twenty years ago. That went away when I learned how to regulate my blood sugar.

Which leads me to coffee, coffee1my all time favorite drug. Lucky me, coffee is legal, tasty, socially acceptable, at times even thought of as health food. And, coffee is cheap, unless you have to drink the kind that runs through a civet cat in Bali, and man what it does to my mind! The only problem is I can’t drink it for more than a few days or my C10H12N2O levels (Serotonin) go bonkers and I get depressed. Dang!

My father the scientist once said, “Coffee seems contra-indicated for you.” How’s that for a dose of rational mind? I’ve gone years without it then start again for a few days then stop again. I get a lot done when I drink it although getting to sleep sixteen hours later (!) is a problem. Of late I have about one to two cups per week. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you probably know when.  Like now…

As for the grand scheme of addiction, I’m not sure I have much to say about it. There is a whole profession that deals with that.  addiction2I just know a lot of people like beer more than water and most people I know are addicted to something. I’d go so far to say that addiction IS the normal state human beings, but if the Oxycontin of your life is winning the tug of war;  get some help.

As for my future, I’m sticking with the Joe.  And likely with the publication of this piece, I can forever put aside any notions I’ve had of running for Congress.

Coffee Daze #2

More on environmental degradation.  People will not go away.  Rich people will soon be living in domes, controlled environments that shield them from a decaying environment.

BiosphereBiosphere2There is so much energy that even if the Earth’s atmosphere becomes untenable, controlled environments for the elite are possible, which leads back to Dr. Strangelove, when the addled Dr. lays out his plan for a post nuclear world–“Cattle will be raised and slaughtered.” Every time I see pictures of Dubai, I think this is already happening.

 

“Have you ever been outside?”

“No, but I have a friend who went there.”

 

 

Poor people will live, well, pretty much as we do now.

Look at Chinese cities, look at any industrial city anywhere in the world. chinasmog2chinasmog1

Look at the food we eat. I was in Costco yesterday and almost could not bear to look at what every one is buying under the label of food.

food2food1

We are living in the post apocalyptic world and this is before the long term effects from “Energy” drinks takes its toll. energydrinks

Coffee Daze #1

Coffee days are intense.  My brain fires and moves at light speed like electrons through a circuit board.

coffeeToday,  thinking about the grand cultural myths and paradigms in my lifetime, especially Nuclear holocaust & Environmental holocaust.  Fifty-eight years of the world is going to end in a huge nuclear fireball or in a slow inexorable decline into depleted oxygen, intense heat, melting ice and starvation.  nuke apocalypseicemeltoff True: we did come very close to blowing up the world a few times:  but we didn’t.  The primary reason we didn’t is that nobody except Jack Ripper and Buck Turgison (Dr. Strangelove reference…coffee!) wanted it to happen.

jackripper

buckturgison

I don’t think the world is going to burn up, though there is a lot of evidence that supports that it is changing rapidly and we better do something about it soon.  Saving the Planet is a ridiculous concept, as if the planet cares one wit about humans.  I read the Gaia Hypothesis.  That was science, not woo woo.

gaiaThe planet will be fine even if humans perish.

Environmentalism (careful coffee boy, you are one) and the new Eco-religion is often wielded as a righteous club by those who are the worst contributors to the problem against those who are new to the world of burning fossil fuels.

I think it is ridiculous to walk around waiting for the world to end and promulgating the sentiment that we’re about to perish.  What an absurd path to walk.

Better to get involved in making a real change, and I don’t mean paper, plastic, or Prius.  Coal fired energy plants are what is heating up the Earth and releasing all the greenhouse gases, so how about doing something about that and quit walking around like Chicken Little saying, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” (Sorry, coffee can occasionally be disdainful and intolerant).

coaluse I love being alive.  I hope you do too.  Living fully is better than waiting for the planet to die.

 

Goodbye Walport!

tsunamiWhen I go to the coast I keep my eyes open and scan routes to the high ground. Some of my family and friends find this amusing, maybe think it’s a little joke. It’s not. I grew up around water, have spent my life around water and have worked around and on the ocean. I love the ocean more than anything.

Part of that love comes from respect and knowing that waves can be powerful. I worked in the Bering Sea in harsh conditions including fifty foot waves that towered over ships on which I worked. I have experienced “sneaker” waves on the West side of Vancouver Island that can snatch you from the shore and take you for a swim that you don’t want. I have stood on a trail into the Kalalau Valley on Kauai and seen a sign indicating the high point of the largest wave to hit Kauai in recorded history, and looking down I thought, “Oh my God!”

tsunami2Thanks to Nancy who dug this out from the internet, you can appreciate a look at an animation of the recent tidal wave triggered by an offshore earthquake in Chile.  And the next time you’re at the coast, scope out your evacuation routs before you start digging clams or harvesting mussels.

tsunami3 (They should be running in the other direction.  Fast!)

Lovely

Likely most of you have already seen this. But if not, have a look. It is touching.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/tatia-pileva-first-kiss-strangers_n_4940669.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share