Category Archive 'California'
10 Jul 2018

The Caste System of Silicon Valley

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Antonio García Martínez analyses the California dystopia where everyone talks and votes left, but lives in an unequal (and rather squalid) society that makes Norman England look like the land of Equality.

California is the future of the United States, goes the oft-cited cliché. What the US is doing now, Europe will be doing in five years, goes another. Given those truthy maxims, let’s examine the socioeconomics of the “City by the Bay” as a harbinger of what’s to come.

Data shows that technology and services make up a large fraction of citywide employment. It also shows that unemployment and housing prices follow the tech industry’s boom-and-bust cycle. Amid the current boom, a family of four earning $117,400 now qualifies as low-income in San Francisco. Some readers laughed when I wrote in a memoir about working at Facebook that my six-figure compensation made me “barely middle class.” As it turns out, I wasn’t far off. With that credential, consider this rumination on bougie life inside the San Francisco bubble, which seems consistent with the data and the experience of other local techies.

San Francisco residents seem to be divided into four broad classes, or perhaps even castes:

    The Inner Party of venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs who run the tech machine that is the engine of the city’s economy.
    The Outer Party of skilled technicians, operations people, and marketers that keep the trains belonging to the Inner Party running on time. They are paid well, but they’re still essentially living middle-class lives—or what lives the middle class used to have.
    The Service Class in the “gig economy.” In the past, computers filled hard-for-humans gaps in a human value chain. Now humans fill hard-for-software gaps in a software value chain. These are the jobs that AI hasn’t managed to eliminate yet, where humans are expendable cogs in an automated machine: Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, TaskRabbit manual labor, etc.
    Lastly, there’s the Untouchable class of the homeless, drug addicted, and/or criminal. These people live at the ever-growing margins: the tent cities and areas of hopeless urban blight. The Inner Party doesn’t even see them, the Outer Party ignores them, and the Service Class eyes them warily; after all, they could end up there.

Mobility among the castes seems minimal. An Outer Party member could reach the Inner Party by chancing into an early job at a lottery-ticket company (such as Facebook or Google) or by becoming a successful entrepreneur. But that’s rare; most of the Outer Party prefers working for the Inner Party, gradually accumulating equity through stock grants and appreciating real estate.

The Service Class will likely never be able to drive/shop/handyman enough to rise to the Outer Party, at least not without additional training or skills. They’re mostly avoiding the descent to Untouchable status, while dealing with precarious gigs that disappear semi-regularly. Uber, for example, has made no bones about its intent to replace its drivers with robots. Delivery bots have already been deployed on city streets, though they were later restricted.

RTWT

15 Jun 2018

Bring the Grizzly Back to California?

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Jeremy Miller plays with the idea in the Pacific Standard.

University of California–Santa Barbara researcher Peter Alagona has other ideas about what constitutes viable grizzly habitat. Alagona says that the grizzly was also known as the “chaparral bear” because it was found in greatest numbers not in California’s high country but in its Coast Ranges. In his 2013 book After the Grizzly, Alagona paints a vivid picture of these coastal bears: “Grizzlies scavenged the carcasses of beached marine mammals, grazed on perennial grasses and seeds, gathered berries, and foraged for fruits and nuts. They rooted around like pigs in search of roots and bulbs, and after the introduction of European hogs, the bears ate them too. At times and places of abundant food—such as along rivers during steelhead spawning seasons or in oak woodlands during acorn mast years—grizzlies congregated in large numbers. Such a varied and plentiful diet produced some enormous animals.”

In late March of 2017, Alagona and an interdisciplinary team of more than a dozen professors, lecturers, and graduate students made their first foray into the Sedgwick Reserve, a roughly 6,000-acre parcel of open space an hour north of Santa Barbara that is owned and managed by the University of California. The rolling hills were green, and bloomed with a colorful assortment of flowers. To the south, over a series of undulating hillsides, lay the Pacific Ocean. Beyond the property’s northwest boundary lay the former Neverland Ranch, the infamous estate of the late Michael Jackson.

Known as the California Grizzly Study Group, the team’s fieldwork is focused on gaining a better understanding of how the California grizzly lived in these coastal regions before human interference. As it turns out, reconstructing the way of life of an absent omnivorous animal largely means reconstructing its diet. One common misunderstanding, says Alagona (the group’s head and founding member), is that grizzlies are bloodthirsty predators just waiting for a hiker to snack on. “The California grizzly was an omnivorous opportunist—it ate almost anything and everything that was available,” wrote Tevis and Storer in California Grizzly. “In this respect the big bear was something like the house rat, the domestic pig, and even modern man.” …

We continued upward, to a ridgeline covered in a vibrant green rock called serpentinite. Below us unfolded a pastoral landscape of orchards and vine-stitched hillsides with small towns and farmhouses tucked between. The scenery was of a distinctly Mediterranean cast, which may explain our conversation’s turn toward Europe. There, Alagona noted, European brown bears (European cousins of the American grizzly) have recovered in areas very close to cities, including in Abruzzo National Park, only two hours by car from downtown Rome—closer than we were to downtown Los Angeles.

Demographic shifts and social changes have also played a key role in the brown bear’s resurgence overseas. “One of the reasons you have predators coming back to Europe—wolves, bears, lynx, and wolverines—is partly because Europe has become more urbanized, and parts of the countryside are emptying out,” Alagona said. “You also have a change in thinking and attitudes. People are imagining different futures, which is also vitally important.”

Alagona gestured to the high peaks of the Dick Smith and Sespe wilderness areas, rising to over 7,000 feet. He noted that, even in these wilderness areas—which are small by U.S. standards—one can find more continuous, roadless “wild” land than nearly anywhere in Europe. “When the Europeans look at our situation here, they think we have an ungodly amount of space. They are working in a completely different model,” he said, ticking off the essential differences on his fingers: Lots of people. Smaller land area. No wilderness. More bears.

In the U.S., we tend to operate in an either-or paradigm when it comes to conservation. And this historically has been a key stumbling block for the restoration of many large American mammals, including grizzly bears. Alagona points to the Central Valley, which has been transformed almost entirely into an unbroken industrial-scale agricultural landscape. And then there are the wilderness areas of the Sierra, which are off limits to all development. It is this bifurcation, he says, that has greatly influenced our thinking about what belongs where, what is “wild” and “not wild.” “We tend to think that animals belong in wilderness,” he said.

Europeans, on the other hand, have a less doctrinaire way of categorizing landscapes and, consequently, a more fluid way of looking at what constitutes habitat. “The Europeans are working to create more nature reserves, but they are limited in what they can do,” Alagona said. “And so, by definition, conservation has to occur in these human-dominated landscapes.” …

As Alagona said, it was easier to imagine the risks than the rewards. Any discussion of grizzly reintroduction is moot, he said, until we recognize that a reintroduction of this sort is not really about animal management but people management. “It’s not really clear whether having more bears in the world is actually good for bears, or whether it results in an increase in, say, ‘bear happiness,'” he said. “So if you can’t make that calculation, then you have to start looking at people—notably, what people want and what they are willing to risk or give up to have something else that is of value to them.”

That public reappraisal of the value of wildlife can happen—and sometimes very quickly. “When mountain lions started showing back up in Southern California in the 1980s and ’90s, people also freaked out,” Alagona said. “Now the mountain lion has become the mascot of Los Angeles.” He believes that the same might be true for the California grizzly. “If there was a way to fit these animals in,” he said, “then maybe a lot of other things that seemed impossible are possible.”

The next morning Owen and I rose at sun-up and plodded uptrail, toward the summit of Reyes Peak, which loomed 2,500 feet above. As we climbed the switchbacks, the full dimensions of the landscape became apparent below. Arid hillsides covered in chaparral and veined with arroyos ran in orderly rows toward the misty horizon. Plenty of space for a large omnivorous mammal to roam, it seemed.

In Spanish, Chorro Grande means “big flow.” But when we arrived at the trail’s namesake spring, it was dry. We plodded up one last steep section, through a stand of tall Ponderosa pines, before reaching the ridgeline. From the dry summit ridge, we could see the expanse of the Coast Range extending below us and, just beyond, the humped masses of the Channel Islands looming offshore. To the south, in the next valley, flowed Sespe Creek, one of the range’s permanent water sources and one of the last undammed waterways in Southern California. Just out of view, beyond the endless furrows of rolling ridgelines, lay the concrete wilderness of Los Angeles.

As I jotted notes, Owen sat on a large rock surveying the terrain through binoculars. “Dad, I can see bears up here,” he said matter-of-factly. I took him literally, and asked with slight concern if he’d spotted a black bear somewhere below us.

“No,” he said, smiling in the full California sun. “I mean someday. I think a grizzly would like it here.”

Grizzly bears and self-entitled hipsters in t shirts and Bermuda shorts sharing the wilderness a hop, skip, and a jump from densely populated suburbs?

Old Ephraim traveling down the arroyos in the dry three-quarters of the year from the Santa Cruz Mountains right into Palo Alto and Atherton?

Big, hungry bears munching cyclists and joggers in the San Gabriels bordering LA?

What the heck!

The tree-hugging California environmental whackos want those bears back, and the bears will want breakfast. I call that a win/win.

HT: The News Junkie.

High time to start working on restoring the extinct sabre-tooth tigers found in those La Brea tar pits to Los Angeles as well!

03 Jun 2018

California Passes Extreme Restrictions on Domestic Water Consumption

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The Blaze reports on some particularly unpleasant insanity upcoming on the Left Coast:

California has become the first state in the nation to pass a controversial new law that places tough limits on home water usage, KOVR-TV reported.

That means the state will have “more focus on flushes and scrutiny over showers,” according to the report.

Starting in 2022, California will limit water to 55 gallons per-person, per-day. By 2030, the amount falls to 50 gallons.

To put this into perspective, just taking one eight-minute shower (17 gallons of water) and doing one load of laundry (up to 40 gallons) is enough to exceed the 55-gallon limit. Taking a bath can use 80 to 100 gallons of water.

Why is the state doing this?

“So that everyone in California is at least integrating efficiency into our preparations for climate change,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.

Some residents said the limits are unrealistic.

“With a child and every day having to wash clothes, that’s — just my opinion — not feasible. But I get it and I understand that we’re trying to preserve, but 55 gallons a day?” Sacramento mom Tanya Allen, who has a 4-year-old daughter, said to KOVR.

Rocka Mitchell and his wife, Ginger, agreed that the water limits would be difficult to meet.

“She likes to bathe three times a day and she does laundry all day,” Rocka Mitchell said of his wife.
How would people achieve this?

Water-efficient fixtures could be used to help homeowners cut back on how much water they use, advocates say.

“I think the average new home is 35 gallons per person per day, so we are not talking emergency conservation here,” Marcus told the TV station.

Greg Bundesen of the Sacramento Suburban Water District said the agency helps residents conserve water by offering toilet rebates, complementary showerheads, and complementary faucets.

RTWT

The idiots ruining life in the Golden State today can only live there themselves because, a few generations back, better, saner, more practical men built dams and channeled water enormous distances to make the desert bloom. Today’s Californians don’t build, they simply ration.

31 May 2018

“This Sand is Your Sand” (Even Though George Over There Pays Taxes On It!)

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Sunbathing on a beach at Bohemian Grove.

Collectivist ideological entitlement hilariously meets Get-Off-My-Lawn entitlement on Northern California’s Russian River in Outside magazine.

For neighbors in Harreld’s quiet river community, 90 minutes northwest of San Francisco, the image of the then 43-year-old starting his day in the sand had become a regular, if provocative, sight. Several times a week, he’d plant himself in a folding chair overlooking a gentle bend in the mellow Russian River. Sometimes a buddy joined him; other times he sat alone. The job was simple: Enjoy the beach. Sip coffee. Maybe spot an otter slithering up the lazy current. Most of all, do these things in clear view of the camera hidden in the trees.

The man who’d hung the camera believed that Harreld was trespassing. Harreld believed he was reclaiming land that belonged to the people. On a literal level, that’s all the two were fighting about: just 20 feet of gravelly beach.

But at the heart of the fight swirled bigger and fundamentally contradictory ideas. Remarkably basic questions about America itself were woven through their dispute. There would be no bloodshed—the same could not be said elsewhere—but the level of fury would nevertheless become shocking for the once friendly neighbors.

Harreld and his wife, Judith, live in a one-story home a short stroll from the river, with sunflowers and a tomato garden out front. …

On this June day, as he walked down the dirt path to the beach for morning sentry duty, he was pursuing his newest hobby: being the Rosa Parks of obscure riparian law.

Fifty yards or so above this quiet stretch of the river is a vacation home owned by Mark O’Flynn, a lawyer from San Francisco. Nearly four years ago, O’Flynn posted his first NO TRESPASSING sign. Like many property owners, he had come to equate public access with broken glass, poop in the bushes, and bad music blaring from drunk strangers’ speakers.

The problem, as Harreld saw it: the sign stood in flagrant violation of federal law. As he would explain to anyone who’d listen, the beach was subject to a public easement below a line called the ordinary high-water mark—a calculation roughly analogous to the average high tide. In 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed in Montana v. United States that this easement trumps private ownership in navigable rivers.

Navigability, in turn, is established by proving that the river has qualified as a “highway of commerce,” used by ferries carrying tourists, say, or loggers floating felled trees downstream, both of which happened on the Russian River.

In other words, Harreld believed, that gravelly beach was everyone’s to enjoy, regardless of what signs were posted.

Harreld had known O’Flynn socially. His house is a minute’s walk away, and Harreld and his wife had been over for dinner. When he saw the sign, he e-mailed Mark to ask if it was his. Indeed, Mark replied.

There would be no more neighborly meals. Over the years that followed, a full-on cold war blossomed. Someone would run a shin-high line of wire across the path. One of Harreld’s allies would remove it. O’Flynn would hang cameras in the trees. Someone would paint over the latest NO TRESPASSING sign.

And now, on this Thursday morning in 2015, Harreld and some friends approached the beach only to find the path blocked by “cut bamboo, tree branches and matts of algae,” according to the June 18 entry in a detailed journal he’s been keeping since the conflict started. The next day, the group began removing the makeshift barricade, and O’Flynn ran out of his house.

What ensued borders on slapstick, with O’Flynn, according to Harreld, “pulling the bamboo out of my hands, then dashing over to pull some out of my friend’s hands, then dashing back to me.” (I don’t have O’Flynn’s account; he won’t discuss the dispute in detail.) Soon two sheriff’s deputies arrived, but they declined to take action.

Perhaps at this point you’re marveling at the amount of free time that middle-aged white men have. I marveled, too. But as I got deeper into the dispute, I came to see that this picayune squabble wasn’t all that it seemed. Behind the folly of turf wars and the arcana of river law, a larger conflict was playing out, one rooted in a profound disagreement over how we think about nature and how we divide it.

RTWT

Personally, I find it easy to detest both sides: the city jerks who purchase a quarter acre in the country, and then right up go the No Trespassing signs! are just about as objectionable as the ideologically-driven busy-bodies patting themselves on the back for pushing their way onto people’s backyards to prove a petty legal point and to assert a collective right over private property.

18 May 2018

“Will These Bastards Ever Stop? Is There Anything They Won’t Tax?”

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18 May 2018

“We’re From the Government. We’re Here to Help.”

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Doesn’t reading this San Diego Union-Tribune story make you happy you don’t live in San Diego County?

Around San Diego County, a hot, salty, buttered controversy has popped up.

Should hardware stores offer free bags of freshly popped popcorn?

While that may look like a warm, welcoming treat, free popcorn is a threat to public health — or so argue county officials. Last month, health inspectors raided La Jolla’s Meanley & Son Hardware, warning that its old-fashioned red popcorn machine is a germy outlaw.

“They explained we didn’t have the proper permits,” said Bob Meanley, whose shop had handed out 30 to 40 bags every day for about 25 years.

To comply with the 1984 California Uniform Retail Food Facility Law, Meanley & Son would need to install a three-basin sink to clean and sterilize the popcorn popper. Also required: regular inspections, just like a restaurant.

Meanley declined and instead rolled the offending machine into storage. Thus ended a tradition he had started 25 years ago.

“I hate to take away something that our customers really like,” said Meanley, whose grandparents founded the hardware store in 1948. …

The county Department of Environmental Health, for its part, has a long tradition of cracking down on these scofflaws. Three years ago, inspectors cited Encinitas’ Crown Ace Hardware and San Carlos True Value Hardware.

“The Health Department came in,” said San Carlos True Value manager Danielle Matheny, “and told us if we wanted to continue giving away free popcorn and coffee we’d have to install a bigger vent system, a bigger and better sink in the break room — a lot of rules and restrictions they put on us.”

In both Encinitas and San Carlos, the stores dropped the practice. Inspectors so far have ignored Payton’s, but El-Hajj figures it’s just a matter of time.

“I feel sad,” she said, “that some of the old traditions we have become so regulated.”

RTWT

02 Mar 2018

Would You Pay $2 Million for this House?

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Somebody did in Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley).

27 Feb 2018

William McKinley: Controversial Again!

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Up in marijuana-smoke-shrouded Humboldt County, California, Jeffrey Lebowski’s peers have decided that a statue of William McKinley, a president most Americans have basically forgotten, has got to go. The charges against McKinley evidently pertain to the United States’ acquisition of certain Spanish colonies, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, after the war with Spain.

SFGate:

A bronze statue of President William McKinley has held court over the picturesque town square of Arcata, Calif. for more than a century. It will soon be torn down.

The 8 1/2-foot monument and a nearby plaque have long been a point of contention among Arcata residents, some of whom say McKinley’s expansionist policies were racist toward indigenous people. During his presidential tenure at the turn of the 20th century, McKinley annexed tribal lands in the western U.S. and Hawaii in the name of Manifest Destiny.

In a 4-1 vote on Wednesday, Arcata City Council decided to tear down the McKinley statue and place it into storage. The only dissenting vote came from councilmember Michael Winkler, who proposed letting the public decide via ballot measure.

A 1963 plaque that denotes the historic status of a town square structure, the Jacoby Building, will also be removed. The plaque includes offensive wording referring to a “time of Indian troubles.” It will be replaced with a new marker designating the historical significance of the building – known locally as the Jacoby Storehouse – and the region’s indigenous history.

Many of those in attendance spoke during the public comment portion of the gathering or sent letters to City Council voicing their thoughts on the issue. Some applauded the push to remove the statue, citing McKinley’s imperialist legacy and lack of ties to the city.

“The statue doesn’t symbolize what we want in our living room, the center of our plaza, to symbolize,” said councilmember Susan Ornelas, per the North Coast Journal.

RTWT

08 Jan 2018

And He Was Right!

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06 Jan 2018

Yale Obviously Blew It

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John Caldwell Calhoun, Y’ 1804, 1782-1850.

When the Salovey Administration cravenly surrendered to the snowflakes and renamed Calhoun College. After all, as (Dartmouth man) John Hinderaker notes, even hyper-progressive California is these days drawing upon John C. Calhoun’s theories of Concurrent Majorities and States’ Rights.

Who ever thought that John C. Calhoun would emerge as a key political thinker of the 21st Century? I certainly didn’t, but that is exactly what has happened.

RTWT

03 Jan 2018

Bay Area Hazy

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12 Nov 2017

California: Doing Less Well Than Mexico

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Fifth Generation Californian Steve Baldwin says good-bye to the Golden State, refuting in the process all the liberal boasting about California’s prosperity under Leftism.

[L]iberals like to claim California socialism is working by pointing to the much heralded statistic that “California’s economy is the 6th largest in the world” as calculated by the state’s Department of Finance. Indeed, California’s $2.62 trillion economy is larger than that of France, Canada, Brazil, Russia, and Italy. However, that GDP stat does not factor in California’s cost of living, which is 36.2% higher than the national cost of living. As Carson Bruno writes in Real Clear Markets, “using the cost of living adjusted data from the International Monetary Fund and adjusting California’s GDP data provides a better snapshot of California’s economic standing in the world. Doing so shows that California is actually the 12th largest economy — a drop of 6 spots — and actually puts the state below Mexico.”

Moreover, as Bruno points out, Silicon Valley “accounted for 50% of California’s private industry real GDP growth.” In other words, without a few dozen mega profitable high-tech Silicon Valley firms such as Apple, Google, and Facebook, California’s GDP would be significantly smaller.

However, as economic blogger Richard Rider points out, the aggregate GDP statistic is really not a good indicator of a state’s economic health, especially since one industry appears to be propping up the “6th largest economy” myth. California has over 39 million people, more than any other state, so a far more accurate assessment of its economy, Rider writes, would be per capita GDP as compared to the rest of the country. After adjusting the GDP figures to account for the cost of living (COL), the Golden State ends up with a paltry 37th place ranking within the U.S.A., with a $45,696 per capital GDP. Even rustbelt states, such as Michigan and Ohio, have a higher adjusted per capita GDP. Despite Silicon Valley’s high-tech giants, California barely squeezes past impoverished New Mexico. Rider also reports that when one looks at per capita GDP stats for the rest of the world, California ranks 19th, but those stats don’t factor in the COL data; if they did, California would be even further down the rankings internationally.

One should not also assume that high-tech companies are a permanent feature of California’s economy. Already, the extremely high cost of living in Silicon Valley has, since 2016, caused more Silicon Valley employees to leave the state than it has attracted. With a few high-tech companies having left California for other states such as Virginia, Texas and North Carolina, it’s only a matter of time before this turns into a flood.

But it’s not just Silicon Valley employees fleeing California; it’s productive — and job-creating — citizens from all over the state. As Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox wrote in the Mercury News last April, “the largest group of outmigrants tends to be middle-aged people making between $100,000 and $200,000 annually.”

Indeed, California has done everything possible to make it difficult for businesses and employers to produce goods and services. California now has the highest state income tax rate and the highest state sales tax rate in the country. Our gas tax rate is fourth-highest, but if you add in the 10-12 cent “cap and trade” cost per gallon, we have the highest gas tax in the country. Based on 2014 numbers, California’s single-family residence property tax is the eighth highest in the country with the median homeowner property tax bill 93% higher than the average property tax bill for the other 49 states. As for the state’s corporate income tax rate, it is also eighth in the country. And let’s not forget our small business tax, a minimum of $800, even if no profit is earned.

Overall, the Tax Foundation ranks California as fifth worse in overall tax burden, but the state is especially hostile to its high earners who start businesses and create most of the jobs. Indeed, the top 1% pays 50% of all state income taxes. Moreover, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council ranked California as having the worst anti-business climate in the country; the American Tort Reform Foundation ranks the state as the “worst state judicial hellhole” in the U.S. and the national Chamber of Commerce rates California as having the fourth-worst business climate.

If California is such a prosperous state as liberals claim, why does it have the highest poverty rate in the nation? According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate is 23.4%, which is 17% higher than second place Nevada. Indeed, while California has 12% of the nation’s population, it is home to 33% of the nation’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) welfare recipients, more than the next seven states combined.

What’s clear is that the producers are leaving the state and the takers are coming in. Many of the takers are illegal aliens, now estimated to number over 2.6 million. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that California spends $22 billion on government services for illegal aliens, including welfare, education, Medicaid, and criminal justice system costs. Liberals claim they more than make that up with taxes paid, but that’s simply not true. It’s not even close. FAIR estimates illegal aliens in California contribute only $1.21 billion in tax revenue, which means they cost California $20.6 billion, or at least $1,800 per household.

RTWT

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