Someone Else’s Dog

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It was fairly easy to comment about Gypsy, our sweet but otherwise uncouth concoction of dog breeds, but the newer addition to the family has taken some time to adequately describe her.  That would be Maddie, an Australian Shepherd.

Maddie, of course, didn’t enter the family knowing that she would constantly be compared to Ringo, our previous Aussie.  Other than his house-rattling bark, he was pretty much the perfect dog.  He was a good companion and a protector, also very intelligent, obedient, and a fine Frisbee catcher.  It didn’t hurt that he was a fine looking dog.

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Maddie, then, is also a good looking dog.  She’s not quite as smart, not quite as obedient, and has not managed to pose quite as regally.  In considering the various ways to describe Maddie, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s someone else’s dog.  Someone other than my wife’s, that is.

We adopted Maddie when she was about 6 months old, from a local breeder who had taken her back from her first placement.  All we know is that she was somewhere in Florida, that there were small children in the home, and that she was too much for them to handle.

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Our first clues about her formative months were the toys that had been returned with her.  There were two small chew toys which she has kept a proper respect.  In other words, she’s shredded everything we buy her, but those two seem dear to her.  Unusual.

Secondly, when she sees small children, she’ll pause whatever she’s doing to look, not just to see that there are smaller people about, but checking them out expectantly.  It’s bittersweet, because it’s obvious she’s disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong; she’s very happy here.  She just hasn’t forgotten.

Maddie also had more privileges before she came to us.  Though now a year and a half old, she imagines herself to be that very small puppy that was no doubt embraced by children and adults.  As a result, she still expects to be welcomed into anyone’s lap.  Or chair.  Or couch.  Hey, those aren’t the house rules here, pup.  Worse, she’s attractive, she knows it, and she tries her best to use it any which way she can.

She’s also used to having all of the attention, all of the time.  When I arrive home, there’s always been a dog to greet me and wag a tail. Maddie, though, basically gives me a look that says, “Oh, good. You’re home. You’re late for taking me outside to play Frisbee” as she trots towards the front door, looking back to make sure that I’m following. But Frisbee time isn’t limited to my return home from work.  When her energy is pinging, we refer to it as time to “defuse the bomb.”   It’s easy to gauge when this is.  If using something less literal than “all of the time,” it’s when her ceaseless motion causes us to make eye contact, which is swiftly followed by a few “come hither” steps towards the door.  It’s effective, it’s endearing, and it’s wearing (on us and the lawn.  She’s a good de-thatcher, though). 

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Another clue about her past was the first time I got ice from the fridge when we brought her home.  Then, and ever since, she’ll race to the kitchen, adopt her “Woe is me. Please, sir, some ice” look and wait patiently until I toss her some chips. We’ve since come to an understanding that the number shall be three, no more, no less.

We’ve had her about a year now, and we’ve only learned a few other things that don’t fit neatly into her formative months.

The first is that she enjoys dog training class.  She’s a smart enough dog that gets distracted easily, but she’s obedient, particularly when treats are available.

This hints at another truth about her.  Whereas our prior Aussie sought first to please his masters, Maddie definitely favors pleasing herself first and asking forgiveness later.  Okay, so she needs more obedience training.

The third is that, when we fail to defuse the bomb, she really likes chewing things.  Therefore, we hide our shoes (shoestrings) and are generally mindful of what’s on the floor or on low lying tables.  We also provide her with ample chew toys, from which she specializes in removing the stuffing in a search-and-destroy fixation on the internal squeak bladder. 

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Other than littering a room, we’re fine with that.  What I’m not fine with is chewing on my music CDs.  (To be fair, our cat can be held partially responsible for “assisting” these CDs off of my stereo rack).  Here, she found the interior plastic frame and obviously realized that there would be no squeaky toy inside.

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Below is a Civil Wars (that’s the name of the duo, recommended, by the way) case I got for Christmas.  It’s one of those environmentally friendly paper packaging concepts, which offers a nice “in the round” experience for hearty chewers.  Surprisingly, the disc emerged undamaged.

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The cover looks even more retro now.

There are other things, sure.  She likes to go for long walks in the woods, loves to ride in the car, and likes chasing bubbles or balls.  She’s at my wife’s side every moment possible (excluding the aforementioned bomb defusings). And, recently and for just the first time, she and Gypsy actually played together (nicely).  Gypsy hasn’t exactly been warm to sharing space, food, toys, attention or anything else with the newcomer, but tolerates her politely.

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It’s not uncommon for dogs to have a fondness for cat poo.  Still, given the size of the litter box opening (it has a cover), its proximity to the wall which should only allow a certain nimble overweight cat to enter, and a vacuum cleaner that serves as a dog barrier, her success rate at getting at the goodies makes me wonder why she doesn’t just help herself to the fridge.   Ugh.

Other than those bits of trouble, she’s very soft, smells good (except when helping herself to the litter pan), and, most importantly, doesn’t make me cringe when we have guests over.  Unlike Gypsy.

All in all, Maddie is a pretty terrific dog.  She’s always nearby, interested, anxious for fun, and happy.  She’s our dog now.

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Challenge Nation: Atlanta 2012

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My interest piqued from a substantial discount via Goldstar, it wasn’t too hard to persuade my wife and a college friend to spend a Sunday afternoon solving clues and running, or walking, around downtown Atlanta.
The gist is this: Receive 12 clues that point towards locations in the City or other people with particular requirements, solve 11 of them and have your picture taken showing the solution, then return to the starting point.  It’s a race, but... we only saw a few people actually running.  And, you get a free T-shirt.
We were “prepared” by researching area parks, statues, etc. prior to the race. However, our thoughts primarily revolved around the five preview clues provided those who “Like” Challenge Nation on Facebook, which were released the evening before. We had some initial thoughts around these, but... none of them panned out. Had the full clues been as imaginative as these, the adventure would have been a real test of wits.
1. The opposite refreshment. (See Clue #6)
2. What, no Doric options? (See Clue #8)
3. Uhr (We were expecting a clock face, possibly the Sundial restaurant. Clue #4)
4. 10 out of 15 qualify for this (See Clue #5)
5. Reach out and touch someone (This old AT&T ad roughly relates to finding people who aren’t local – Clues #7 and #9)
These were no help at all for planning purposes, and the official clues were self-supporting.  In other words, these are a tease.  But, it’s all in the spirit of fun.
People gathered early, some in costumes, most not.    There were reportedly 630+ signed up in 165 teams.
The registration process was simple and efficient, as was the checking in at the conclusion.  Der Biergarten, the official starting point, soaked up the revenues from those gathering before and afterwards for food and beverage, the below from approximately 45 minutes prior to the start.
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Here are some hot redneck chicks using their their wiles for a possible win... in the costume contest anyway.
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One person from each team is chosen to stand in a circle, hold the envelope visibly, and count down to the official “Go” before rejoining the team and working on the clues within.
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After opening the envelopes, we spent 10-15 minutes solving as many as we could, and plotted an efficient course on our map.  And, finally, about those clues:
#1.  Unscramble this “POTUS” anagram: MY METRIC JAR.  Locate where the resulting statue stands.  But that’s not your specific target... on the opposite sides of the grounds, take a photo with a flame that nobody’s putting out.
Being from Georgia, it’s not too difficult to unravel Jimmy Carter.  With the help of a smart phone, his statue stood at the State Capital.  On the opposite side of the grounds was a statue to honor WWI vets with the hinted at torch.
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#2: These Atlanta municipal departments field a strength of 1,000 and 1,668 and were founded all of the way back in 1882 and 1873, respectively – and have been keeping you safe ever since.  Pose with any of them, their workplace or vehicles, acting out their jobs in the photo.
Right, easy.  Nancy, you’re under arrest.
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#3. Did you know the International Time Capsule Society” is based right here in Atlanta?  ... There’s one that was buried in 1972 right here in downtown.  In your photo with it, act out any historical scene from that year.
We chose Tricky Dick.  And, no, we didn’t know that there was a time capsule.  The plaque tells the prophecy of John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman, who wrote about coming impact of railroads in the region.
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#4. (Intro about leap year and adding a leap second to the clock two months ago).  Your team should do its best exuberant “leap” photo with this “wealthy” clock that’s got letters where the numerals should be – it was attached to a building that was formerly a department store.  You need to convince at least two strangers or another Challenge team to jump with you.
No problemo.  Anti-gravity engaged.
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#5.  There are a respectable 15 companies based in Georgia in the 2012 Fortune 500, and all but 5 of them call Atlanta proper their corporate home.  Find any of the 10, get within 20 yards of a sign, and act out what you think their main product/service is.
Google to the rescue, Suntrust Bank deemed the most convenient on our map.  Here we are begging for a loan from Mr. 1%, though a pickpocketing scene would have been funnier.  We were not exactly in a hurry, but we were “hurried”  trying to be considerate for other teams as we swapped picture taking duties.  We shouldn’t have been. They walked, too.
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#6. This company is closely associated with Atlanta but its product was actually first bottled in Vicksburg, MS in 1894 – as sales at that time were mostly through a fountain. But, by 1909, there wee a whopping 400 bottling facilities.  Find the first in Atlanta and pose on its steps – but the catch is that you’ve got to do it while enjoying at least one cold bottle of Pepsi.
Well, honestly, the bottle wasn’t cold, and we didn’t drink it as we borrowed it from another team.  Besides, my wife and I prefer Coke products, rightfully so.
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As the front steps do not do it justice, the Dixie Coca-Cola bottling plant, a downtown anachronism, actually looks like this:


#7. Georgia’s got a great coastline that people sometimes overlook – but your challenge is to find someone from the other edges of America – bordering the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico or Great Lakes.  Take a photo with them making the shape of their state with your team’s arms.
Actually, we half did this, but hands are attached to arms, and it was a shortcut for the State of Texas that our friendly native quickly demonstrated for us.
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It helped that my wife is a natural conversationalist who isn’t shy about asking anything, but in this case where they’re from.  CNN Center seemed a promising target-rich environment, but it was largely vacant.  We hadn’t had any luck while wandering the similarly all but vacant streets.

#8. There are three types of columns in architecture:  Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian. Find either of the two separate bunches of the third type still standing that were saved from demolition as older office buildings they were a part of were replaced by skyscrapers – coincidentally both in 1971 and only a block from each other.  Have your team get structural and pose like the columns in the photo.
Google struck out here on all sorts of variations of Corinthian columns, 1971, preservation, Atlanta, etc.  But, when walking around, just look for another team where you don’t expect them.  They likely found something.
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We’re posed kind of like 3 monkeys with no particular message.

#9.  Did you know you were wearing a clue this whole time?  Find the ten coded digits on your body and ring them up to hear your next Challenge.
Okay... there were 10 letters on the race bibs, of course.  Type the corresponding numbers into your phone and you get:
“Congratulations!  You’ve dialed correctly. Find a German guest who works during the day but not at night.”
What?  We had no idea, but apparently Germans (and others) were in town for some sort of conference.  We never figured out what.  Luckily, the lady from Texas was wondering around with a bona fide German (here pointing to the D for Deutsche on his license), who was happy enough to have his picture taken.  He wasn’t working during this particular day, and we didn’t ask him about his nights. But we were glad to have met him.
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Well, actually, we misheard the clue.  It wasn't a German guest.  It was a German gift.   Doh.  Missed that one, we did.

#10.  Wow, so many choices: Take a photo with any ONE of the following: a clown, a live horse, a person wearing overalls, a license plate that includes a Y or X, or a Segway transporter.
Lame.
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#11: You’ll have to surround yourself with dihydrogen monoxide for this one, so please be very careful! Find the symbol originally created by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1912.  Though they don’t officially stand for any particular continent as is widely believed, have your team strike an exuberant photo in the middle of the one that stands for the Americas.  Be sure it’s actually operating in the photo.
This was obvious due to Atlanta hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics.  Google confirmed that the corresponding red circle represented (not officially) the Americas.  Choices:  You could figure out the orientation of the rings to make certain that you were standing in the correct Olympic ring (as the fountain in Centennial Olympic Park is not colored) or you could trust that the other team in front of you chose correctly.  Right.  We trusted Google, but the team before us, and likely the many before them, had chosen correctly.
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#12.  Football is back and the late-Summer doldrums in the professional sports world are over!  Celebrate by finding any non-Georgia located college sports fan wearing a hat, jersey, shirt, etc. and take a photo with them mimicking the sport their gear is from.  No throwing a hat on someone in a sports store allowed, or fellow contestants.
This turned out to be kind of tricky.  There weren’t that many people roaming the city, but we found this little FSU soccer fan near the finish area, who, being a soccer fan,  struck a Tae-kwon-do pose.  Hmm.
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We completed 11 of the 12 clues, or, at least 10.5, in 2 hours 19 mins.  I haven’t heard the official winning time, but I’m sure we just missed being in the Top 5.  Hey, we walked, and it was uphill the entire 3 miles or so.  Offically, 73rd of 150 teams.

Overall, it was a fun day, and a beautiful day for being outside and doing something different.  We were more than a little disappointed with the challenge of solving the clues, having read some pretty challenging ones from other contestants in Los Angeles the prior year. 
I’d do it again!

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Gwinnett County Fair

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My photography group made a trip to the fair, which was somewhat nostalgic as I hadn’t been to one in over 25 years.  It turns out that they’re still popular.

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Right, and speaking of food, we stopped at Local Republic on the way, a Gastropub in Lawrenceville.  Pretty awesome.  I had a Monday Night Brewing beer and (sword)fish tacos.  If it were only more convenient to where we live...

I was expecting “Carnie” faces hosting the rides and vendors – those wizened, tattooed, possibly misshapen stereotypes you would see on TV.  Not so much.

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Not busy?  Dial a customer!  Well, dial someone.

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It seemed we weren’t the only ones who ate before we arrived.  These Phat pizza guys were busy though.

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Had I stayed longer, I might have tried to dunk the teaser.  He had a very annoying laugh.

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Is anyone out there?

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Actually, had I not been full, I would have been all over a foot-long corndog.  The kids below happened to be almost in focus as I was playing with apertures to capture a blur.  They look all business.

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Take us to the Mothership!

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I like how this one actually brightened the trees behind the swings.

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I was really pleased with this Ferris Wheel shot.

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This is what happens when your aperture is open and you play with the zoom.

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And here’s two without as much trickery.  I don’t have an explanation as to why it looks like it’s about to topple.  Just perspective, I guess.

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Okay, those were with the “good” camera.  (Nikon).  There was also time to play with the iPhone.

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The best camera is the one you have with you.  Pretty cool Apps help. 

Now, in all honesty, I paid $5 admission, and otherwise didn’t spend a dime.  For 75 cents, I really should have checked out the Mermaid.  C’mon... stop taking pictures and see what you’re looking at...

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Yeah, it was a fun night.

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Unseen Underground Walking Tour

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Four years ago?  Roughly, I saw the following description of “Things to Do” in Atlanta.

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That’s pretty strong press.  But, the key sentence is “tours happen intermittently throughout the year.”  Nary a mention was breathed by the captioned website whenever I remembered to check.  That is, until this Spring, when I found out a tour had been scheduled and that I was welcome to join...  join the waiting list, that is, as it was already full.

Fast forward half a year, add the power of Facebook, and an uncapped invitation, the tour finally arrived today.  Limiting his “intermittent” tours to 24, with 100 or more inquiries each year, the math was not adding up.  As he put it, “I nurture demand very carefully,” this being his sixth year on a strictly volunteer effort on his part.

Where does one meet for such a thing?  Adjacent to Underground Atlanta, of course, under a viaduct.

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And from there, we began a two hour walking tour through the byways, across railroad tracks, alongside or above where tracks used to run, winding ultimately to the World Congress Center and back.  The irony is that none of the tour was underground, though much of it was not at street level.

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Jeff Morrison is a local architect who, due to his interest in urban planning, railroads, and an adventurous spirit, explored downtown Atlanta during his lunch break in search of what remained of its railroad beginnings.  He added that his first tour was more like a joke when taking some coworkers, but people have been asking for the tour ever since.

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The history of Atlanta begins with the arrival of the railroads.  Paraphrasing Jeff’s comments, the State of Georgia decided roughly 4 years after the invention of the steam locomotive to bring railroads into central Georgia.  The route began in Chattanooga, crossed through the mountains and over the Chattahoochee River, ending at Mile Post 0, a marker that remains positioned within the building below, a location chosen for no other reason than it was a suitable place located centrally in the State.  There was no town when this marker was first located.  The State understood that other railways would naturally seek to join the ending of their line, and guessed correctly.  This was around 1847.

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Without taking too much from his tour, I’ll comment on a few facets.

City name:  A main rail area required significant labor to construct, and the camp formed by John Thrasher, later a Georgia Statesman, soon became known as Thrasherville.  But this did not last.  It later became known as Marthasville, Martha being the daughter of Georgia’s governor.  It was known as Terminus by the railroad companies.  But no one is certain where the name Atlanta originated.  The main point is that the terminus brought not only the activity of switchyards to the area, but the ability of people to live away from waterways and participate in commerce.

Atlanta’s nightmarish street patterns: Land lots were given to settlers for free by the State, in 200 acre blocks.  However, no one knew where their lot would be located.  Each property owner could determine how roads, etc., would be fashioned on their property.  So, at the terminus, ultimately to become downtown Atlanta, it’s obvious that the local owners did not stress coordinating their ideas.

9 - Atlanta Street Grid 1853
A wider area map further exemplifies this.
10B - Vincent Map 1853

Peachtree Street:  It’s a joke amongst locals and visitors when trying to find the “right” road named Peachtree. 

There was an Indian trading post town located where Peachtree Creek entered the Chattahoochee known as Standing Peachtree.  Later, the military would occupy the location as Peachtree Fort, which would be connected with Fort Daniel, about 40 miles away, by a trail known as Peachtree Road.

Convoluted Topography:  The railroads took the more desirable flat areas, and as the town emerged around them, a problem began to emerge about how locals would cross the tracks.  Answer:  Bridges and viaducts.  Much of the tour involved a discussion of what is and what was, things built below and even things that existed above.  Today, it all looks like poor planning, but it’s actually a very remarkable testament to man’s ability to shape his environment to suit his purposes.  The following picture serves as a nice summary.

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Cars below, trains in the middle, and International Boulevard surface street at the top.  Much goes on “under ground,” but that is from street levels which are frequently built up throughout the downtown area.

Passenger Trains:  There used to be around 200 passenger trains arriving in Atlanta daily, now reduced to two.  Passenger trains were never particularly profitable, but carrying the mail added significant revenue to make them worthwhile.  Post offices were often located adjacent to train stations, and the mail was sorted during the trip on a mail car.  As highways developed and trucks took over...

Jeff offers a variety of historical photos to review during the tour.  Aside from comparisons, Jeff also commented upon how few of the historic railroad icons remain today.

The home of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, 1947.

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It was only occupied for a couple years before they merged with the Atlanta Journal.  The building has been vacant since, but located conveniently adjacent to the tour.  Today:

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The newspaper building is labeled in the below map.

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Today, all but a couple tracks have been removed.  The small two story building in the middle of the building was the switch building, one of the few historical railroad buildings remaining.

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I counted about 90 attending, but I heard another count at 108.  The group got stretched due at a few stairwells, but all were able to gather around and listen at the stopping points.

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All in all, it was an enjoyable hike and an informative trip.  Kudos to Jeff for his passion and willingness to share.

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If you’re interested in a future tour, add “Unseen Underground Walking Tour” on Facebook.

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