Archive for February, 2008

Fashion drawings

I have been making clothes for the upcoming vacation. 

Much of my sewing is of the “By Guess and By God” sort.   I know how to make a tiered broomstick skirt that flows well.   I can put pockets in such skirts.    I have figured out how to make an amazing skirt out of old silk neckties, too.

Every once in a while, I am reduced to using a pattern to make something.   Anyone who has done any sewing will know what I am talking about when I state that you really have no idea what the garment is going to actually look like based on the drawing that the fasion designer has made of the concept.

Don’t even go into the realms of the Vogue pattern unless you have figure like the models in Vogue.   Even if Vogue says the pattern is designed to fit a woman with a 39″ bustline, that is absolutely not true and if you cut the piece out of silk first without trying it on muslin you are going to have a whole lot of very ruined silk, and a dress that might fit if you bind your breasts to your chest firmly.   Oh, don’t get me started.   My wedding dress was a Vogue pattern, but by the time I made it I was wise to them and did not ruin my silk.

But to return to the present rant.  Not surprisingly, a person who is drawing a garment can make the fabric flow any way they want.   The pleats are always perfect, the fabric falls in beautiful folds away from the flared seams.   The stripes always match (of course).   In fact, in some drawings the fabric patterns match across seam lines in ways that are actually impossible to have in real life unless you make your garment out of plain white fabric and paint it after it is finished.

I understand all this, having been sewing since I was 10 years old, which makes it darn near half a century now.  

But I still have a pet peeve.   Why can’t the designers draw their garments based on models that have at least some basis in reality?    I append for your delectation an actual drawing from an actual pattern which I used to make a skirt similar to the one pictured.


My problem is, this skirt is graceful enough when constructed.   But it does not hang the way the designer thinks it will.  

And of course, it doesn’t look anything like the picture when hanging on my rather dumpily average body.   Unlike the girl in the painting, I actually have hips that the skirt must fall over, and a butt too.   The presence of those items tends to disrupt the flow of the fabric.

Also.   If I was proportioned like that girl, I would have legs that are approximately a foot longer than they are, and distance from my waist to my head would be cut back by that same foot.   I already have a very short waist as it is, much to my distress.  To make matters worse, if I was proportioned like that girl and I was still my five and half foot tall self, I would have a 17 inch waist.  Last time I had a 17 inch waist was when I was in about 4th grade and before I achieved puberty.

Quick, bring me my corset!  Oh, never mind. 

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Henitsirk tagged for a meme, and so I join the game forthwith.

1. Where/how did you meet?  The short answer is, we met in San Francisco and were introduced by my sister.  But, it is an extremely long story, told at length elsewhere.   A few days after that post, there was additional information offered, part 1 and part 2.  

2. How long have you known each other?   We have known each other since April 1, 1982.  That would be 26 years now.   Almost one half of my life.   How amazing.

3. How long after you met did you start dating?  We never actually “dated” per se.  If you read the long version, you will understand that shortly after we met we moved into an apartment together.   Not long after that event, we became lovers.   Then we became best friends, and finally got married.

4. How long did you date before getting engaged?   We lived together for three years before we got engaged.

5. How long was your engagement?  We decided to make our commitment public during the Memorial day weekend, and set the date for August.   I guess that means we were engaged three months.

6. How long have you been married?  Twenty three years at our next anniversary.

7. What is your anniversary?   August 10.   We chose that date because it was one week before Jim’s folks were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.   Jim’s siblings were planning to travel quite a distance for that party, and we figured that it would be nicer to them if they could attend both events with one trip.

8. How many people came to your wedding reception?  About 35.

9. What kind of cake did you serve?  We had a wonderful carrot cake from Just Desserts.   We ordered it plain, and when I went to pick it up, I let it slip that it was our wedding cake.  The bakers were quite upset that we had not allowed them to decorate it. 

10. Where was your wedding?  We were married under the ash tree that stood next to the fuchsia garden in Jim’s parent’s back yard.

11. What did you serve for the meal?  I just happen to still have the hand written (by me) menu produced for the occasion.   Let me just add here that everything on the menu was cooked by Jim and me, except for the chocolate dipped strawberries, which were made by my best girlfriend Gail.  A funny little story after the event:   We hired a brass quintet from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (where I was going to school) to play at our wedding and dinner.    Since Jim and I did not have a receiving line, we served the lime soup to each guest as a way of greeting them all.   Also, we were muched involved in the serving of the dinner, since we cooked it.   The following Monday, at the Conservatory, one of the trumpet players from the quintet came up to me and said, “That was the best food I have ever had at a wedding.   You know, Ellie, I have played a lot of wedding gigs over the years, but this is the first time I have ever seen the bride waitressing!”


12. How many people were in your bridal party?  The bride and groom, and our two witnesses, his brother and my sister.

13. Are you still friends with them?  Yep.

14. Did your spouse cry during the wedding ceremony?  No he did not, although there was a tear on his cheek as we had our picture taken following the “Big Kiss.”   I, however, was blubbering away during the readings and fearing that I would not be able to speak at all when it came my time to make my vows.   My wonderful mate noticed this, and, noticing an extremely tall (about 5 feet) wild lettuce plant volunteering in the background of the fuchsia garden, leaned down and whispered in my delicate, shell-like ear, “Look at that weed.”   I did, and the humor of it all wiped all tears away like magic.

15. Most special moment of your wedding day?  When he held me in his arms after we had gotten home, drunk champagne, opened our gifts and consummated our marriage, and said, “Now it is legal!”   (In the State of California, your marriage is not considered legal until consummated.   Until then, you can have it annulled.)

16. Any funny moments?  Lots.   The funniest was when Jim’s big brother directed his children to sit out in the hinterlands of the wedding feast.   They were quite upset until they realized that that corner was where Jim and I proposed to sit, since we were busy serving and overseeing the food, and our wedding silver (gift of my parents) was over there.   So not only did they get to sit at the “head table” with us, they got to use our particular sterling silver to eat with.   Their triumph over their father was quite humorous.

17. Any big disasters?  Not a single one.

18. Where did you honeymoon?  No honeymoon.

19. For how long?  I said, no honeymoon.

20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change?  I would make it possible for Jim’s brother who was in the Air Force and stationed in Germany at the time to be there.

21. What side of the bed do you sleep on?  The right side as I face the bed.  That would be on the west.

22. What size is your bed? Queen. 

23. Greatest strength as a couple?  We see each other as partners for life in everything.   We nurture each other.   We each do the work that is necessary at the time, undefined by traditional roles.  We communicate well.

24. Greatest challenge as a couple?  To keep the lines of communication open at all times.

25. Who literally pays the bills? I do.  If it was left up to Jim, we wouldn’t have nearly the sterling credit rating we have now.

26. What is your song?  “Love Will Keep Us Alive” by the Eagles.

27. What did you dance your first dance to?  What?   There was no “first dance” in the traditional sense.  

28. Describe your wedding dress.  How about a picture, it is worth a thousand words.  By the way, I made it myself.  It is 100% silk jacquard, matches the inner color of my eyes perfectly, and I can still wear it.  (Ha!)


29. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding?  See above photo.  The corsages for the women were the roses.   The men wore leis made of white carnations.  Jim refused a boutonniere because it was not appropriate for his uniform.   The tables at the wedding had long arrangements of mixed spring flowers.

30. Are your wedding bands engraved?  No.   Jim’s got destroyed when he got it caught in the baler and luckily did not have his finger removed during the event.   We have given it to a jeweller friend to repair but she has had it for four years and I haven’t heard from her in a very long time.   I don’t know if we’ll ever get it back.   I almost never wear mine since it interferes with doing massage and I rarely take it off the ring guard to wear it.   When I do wear a ring, I prefer the ring that Jim gave me for Christmas about 8 years ago that has a beautiful triangular emerald set off by three tiny diamonds.   I think that if you need to wear a ring to remind you that you are committed to your life together, you probably don’t have much of a relationship.

So, there you have it.   The wedding meme.   Thanks for tagging me, Henitsirk!  Anyone who reads this, feel free to jump on the bandwagon if you are so moved.

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Nine Lives — One down, ? to go

It has been a harrowing five days, people.

I believe I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Mike was not feeling well and he made a trip to the vet.   He got a dose of antibiotic, and it seemed to perk him up a bit.

Well, the perking up wore off.   He stopped eating.   Fortunately, he was a rather fat cat, so he was able to subsist on his reserves for a while.   But I was concerned, especially when he added drinking to the things he was uninterested in.  

Finally, I went off to consult with my vet.   We decided that probably it wouldn’t hurt to clean his teeth and in the process give him a fairly thorough looking over.   So, I made an appointment, and off he went on Thursday morning to have his teeth cleaned.

This involved sedation, since no one in their right mind would try to fool around in  Mike’s mouth for long without it, especially not if they didn’t have his well armed front and back feet confined in some sort of kitty straight jacket.   He wasn’t so weak that he could not make himself very hard to examine, which was one of the reasons that I thought it would be okay to get those teeth cleaned.  

Dirty teeth can cause all sorts of problems.   The procedure completed, I went to pick the kitty boy up, and found that he was not quite ready for me.   The vet had decided that blood tests were in order, since the cat had no abcesses in his mouth, no decaying teeth, no observable problems with his throat.   All good news, but not helpful in determining why he had decided to stop eating.

Well, the tests indicated that he might be suffering from an inflammation of the liver, which is something that can cause anorexia in cats.    Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.   So my vet, who is a rather old fellow of the old vet school, sent him home with some oral antibiotic and some vitamin B12 to inject, and told me to wait and see what happened.

What happened is that it took Mike almost 24 hours to finally emerge from the sedation.   This struck me as a not good sign; he has always been supersensitive to those drugs but even for Mike that was a long time for staggering around, calling and vomiting.  I was almost sure that he was going to die Thursday night.

But in the morning he finally had his coordination back.    However, he was still uninterested in eating or drinking.

Now, I was very concerned about the fact that he had not been drinking.  It is pretty hard to flush your system if there is no water to flush with.   But I dutifully adminstered the oral antibiotic in the morning.   He slept.   Gave him the second dose in the evening.   More sleeping, no eating, no drinking.  

The following morning, he was lethargic, gummy eyed.   I considered giving him more antibiotic, but I balked at the idea.   In my opinion, all the antibiotic he had the day before was probably still in his system, since there was no flushing going on at all.   Not only that, but a lot of the original sedative was probably still in there too.    I started to get very, very worried.

Now it was Saturday, my regular veterinarian unavailable.   I was also losing faith in him as a source of good advice.   I called a wonderful woman who happens to be one of my massage clients, who is also a vet.   I discussed the situation with her, and she ratified my decision to not give him more drugs.    She had me come to her place where she provided me with electrolyte solution and trained me how to adminster it under the skin.   All day Saturday and Sunday, I provided Mike with fluid replacement therapy, 100 ml at a time.   Once the bubble of liquid had been absorbed, I would give him more.   I felt like some sort of vile torturer, poking holes in his neck to adminster the fluid every hour for a while. 

Saturday evening, he finally urinated.   It was dark, very concentrated, and copious.   All night Saturday, he produced urine.   His eyes cleared up, his skin stopped looking yellow.   Eventually his urine cleared.

He looks a lot better today, but he still is not eating.   He isn’t thirsty either, which isn’t surprising just yet since he probably still has plenty of fluids in his system.

I’m so worried.    I’m not really ready to say goodbye to this particular feline friend.   But I may have to.  I know, he’s just a cat.   But he is a very particular friend of mine.   I love him.  

I hate this.

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I believe that I reported previously that we had successfully concluded the eviction and exclusion of our rather smelly downstairs neighbors, the skunks.   If you are interested, you can read all about our trials and tribulations here, here, and here.    As you can surmise from the fact that there are no less than THREE posts on this subject, this has been an ongoing exercise in futility around The Havens.

What we have around here are Striped skunks, who rejoice in the curiously repetitive scientific name Mephitis mephitis.  For some reason, this made me curious about the word “mephitis”, and I looked it up.  It means a noxious gas rising from the earth, and is apparently derived from “Mefitis,” the Goddess of such emanations.   I imagine the concept was born somewhere that was blessed with volcanic vents.   

I find it interesting that our little common striped skunk is named after a goddess in charge of noxious smells that come from the earth.   Apparently, none of her other characteristics, such as eating Japanese beetle grubs, cleaning up detritis and carrion, eating moles, voles and mice, are worthy of being named.   Only her characteristic odor bears noting.

Somehow it just doesn’t seem fair.   

Well, we rejoiced in our successful eviction procedures for approximately twelve whole hours.  Oh, maybe it was longer than that, maybe it was a whole day.   I don’t remember.   Anyway, not long after my last post, while I was still laboring under the delusion that all was back to unpopulated normal under the house, we were sitting in our media room watching a movie, when added to the electronic sound effects of the war going on on screen were some rather emphatic crashings from the crawl space access.   Within seconds, this was punctuated by the subtle aura of skunk rising from below our feet.

Needless to say, Jim rushed right out and opened up the crawl space access to allow the skunk we had unwittingly trapped under the house to leave.  

We consulted with each other about what to do.   Eventually, we decided that the proper way to deal with this problem would be to leave the access open early in the evening, and close it up at bedtime.   The hope here was that the skunk would emerge on fine nights to go get water and food, and would still be out and about when we closed the door behind her.   Eventually, we would hit on the right combination of opening and shutting, and successfully exclude her from the space beneath the house.

If you went and read my previous posts, you will no longer be sanguine about our success in this.   Skunks are persistent, wily, and strong.   After a few days of this ritual behavior, we began to think that we might have succeeded in getting her to move on.    But then, a couple of nights ago, Jim said to me apropos of nothing in particular, “I think that we are too late,   I think I hear small critters complaining under the house.”

“Oh, great!”  I replied, as soon as I figured out what he was referring to.   “I thought skunks were only supposed to be having sex now, and the babies were go show up in April.”  He directed me to the area behind the refrigerator, where there is a hole drilled through the floor for the water line for our non-existent (but potential) automatic ice maker.  I listened hard, but did not hear anything except the refrigerator.    “Maybe you are just hearing the coolant liquid in the refrigerator,” I suggested hopefully.

We really were rather interested in what was going on under the house, however, and thought it wise to make an excursion under there in an attempt to ascertain the truth.  So, the morning following that short conversation,  Jim donned his “crawling under the house with the spiders and mud” coveralls, boots, hat, gloves, got a flashlight, and went off to reconnoiter.   He returned, covered with mud and insulation fibers, and reported that he had not been able to see anything in the areas that he could actually get to.

However, there is the area under the utility room and utility room bathroom, where exists the aforementioned cozy den completely equipped with a nice heater in the form of a thermostatically controlled heat tape wrapped around the water pipes that go through there.   This area of the crawl space is separated from the rest of it by a dry-stacked foundation of cement block.   By the time you get to that part, the “crawl” space is only about 10 inches high, and Jim was not able to get his head through the 12 inch wide hole in the cripple foundation that allows ventilation to occur back there.   So he could not get a visual.   However, he reported that he did not notice any heavy odor of skunk, either.

So, we thought probably we might be hearing mice in the attic, the wind in our brains, whatever.  We hoped that was what was going on, anyway.

All hopes were dashed last night, when Jim said to me, “Ellie, come in here, and be quiet,” from over by the washing machine.   There on that wall is an old propane fired wall heater which we no longer use.  It has a hole drilled in the floor to allow the old propane line to serve it,which also (incidentally) allows access for the dog- and cat- food stealing mice.   Through that hole, and amplified by the metal heat exchange vanes of the heater, we could clearly hear the vociferous complaints of a litter of small mammals whose mother had just got up and dropped them summarily off her teats.   I have heard litters of kittens making the same sorts of complaints numerous times.   Gradually, just as with a litter of kittens, the complaints subsided as the younguns settled down to sleep in a kitten pile.

This morning, I checked the crawl space access hole.  Limned in the sand we sprinkled as a tell-tale at the entrance of the crawl space, I found the prints of the mama skunk.  She went out, she came  home.   Apparently, it had not taken her all that long to figure out our schedule of opening and closing the crawl space, and had adjusted her comings and goings to accommodate our peculiarities.  (Perhaps her presence under the house accounts for the distinct lack of mice in the house lately.  “Oh look!” I can hear her exclaiming to the rental agent.   “Not only a heated den, but one provided with a larder as well.  How convenient!”)

I hope she found plenty to eat, on the nasty sleety night she discovered upon emerging.   What I don’t need is a litter of dead starved babies decomposing under the house in an inaccessible spot.  The floor in the utility room is just fine and does not need to be replaced at present.

I guess that during our fine and warm Christmas season, the skunks got all lovey-dovey and decided it was the right time to procreate.   These babies are two months earlier than expected.   If the weather remains foul, I am going to give her nice cat food to eat, in the interest of maintaining the health of all concerned, even though I don’t really subscribe to the idea that it is a good idea to feed wild mammals.  

And it is nasty out there.   It has been sleeting off and on all morning, complete with thunder and lightning.    The temperature is hovering in the low 20s F (that would be around -6C).   The world is covered in a layer of ice about 2 inches thick.   At least it was cold enough that the precipitation fell in little pellets of ice rather than in freezing rain.

Anyway, at least for the present, I guess the downstairs neighbor stays.    I am a lot of things, but a baby killer isn’t one of them.  Skunks have their place in the world, and I’m hoping we can peacefully (and relatively odorlessly) coexist until the babies are old enough to leave the nest and forage for themselves.  

The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends the installation of a one way door to a crawl space when you are trying to exclude a whole family of skunks.   I suppose we will be forced to employ something of the sort when the time comes.   They also have a nice, simple, odor eliminating treatment published on their site as well.  

Somehow, I get the feeling that we are not alone in our experience!

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It occurs to me as I am reviewing my weekend that I have had an extremely intense relationship going on with fabric for quite some time.

I know that I have been talking about sewing  quite a bit lately, evidence of an ongoing relationship with fabric.   My latest project has been a skirt made of silk neckties.

We were reading some of the activities planned for our trans-Atlantic crossing, and a Novelty Tie Contest is being planned.    We thought it might be fun to participate.  As we were shopping around on eBay for a suitably funky, colorful, vintage, or ugly tie for Jim, I was suddenly reminded of a skirt I made back in 1980 out of silk ties.

I’ll tell you, that skirt was a fabulous thing. The person who contributed the ties had a collection with wonderful fabrics and colors that I arranged into a veritable rainbow of a skirt.   I used to tell people that this was the only proper way to wear ties.   After all, a person has to be just a little bit nuts to voluntarily put a noose around his own neck, no matter how elegant or beautiful it is.   When I wasn’t telling them that, I would slyly inform them that it was my trophy skirt, and add (with a rather wicked smile) that there weren’t nearly enough ties in it.  (!)  That skirt had the most wonderful flow and drape, and I eventually wore it out.

Anyway, nostalgia for that skirt made me want another.  I had a short email conversation with one of the proprietors of an on-line emporium, and he sent me a selection of ties so I could create another garment.  Those ties arrived in Saturday’s mail, so I took them apart and pressed them and then put them together into a skirt.   This project took up most of Saturday and Sunday, with suitable breaks for nourishment of body, soul and relationship.  (Oh yes, and bird counting.   I did participate in the Backyard Bird Count.  No wonder the sunflower and niger seeds are disappearing at such a great rate.  There are dozens of birds out there freeloading off of us.)

The picture below is of the narrow ends of the ties spread out in a display on my ironing board.   These are the remnants of the skirt making, and are laid out in the order that they are sewn into the new skirt.   As I spent hours focused on the ties while sewing them together, I got a new appreciation for the amazing work of art that creating a beautiful necktie truly is.  

I mean, take a close look at the red tie with the blue boxes that is just left of center.    Narrow in on the jacquard weave that makes the background of the tie, and meditate for just a moment on how the fabric designer coordinated his geometric print with the idea of the boxes in the jacquard.


Okay, so maybe I have been looking at fabrics just a little too closely for the last couple of days.   Its just that my life seems to be one big piece of fabric after another.    In addition to sewing several skirts, I make my massage table up an average of four times a day, which requires spreading sheets over it.   I also have to launder those sheets, and fold them and put them away afterwards.

Sometimes I visualize the sheets on their travels through the house.   What would it look like if they floated through the air unaccompanied?    There would be phantom phalanxes of sheets flying from my cabinet onto the massage table.  During the hour of the massage, you would see them flipping around,  up and back to reveal an arm here, a leg there.   Slipping back down to cover the person, then floating up and back as the person leaves the table, dropping to the table in a crumpled mass.    Suddenly they would fly out of the room into the hamperin the hall.    Later the hamper lid opens and a mass of sheets floats down the hall, through the kitchen and into the laundry area, where they deposit themselves into the washing machine.   A couple of hours of tossing and turning later, they fall to rest in the bottom of the dryer, only to waft themselves into the living room where they flap wildly as they become subdued into neat packets, whereon they march back down the hall and come to rest in neat piles, back in the cabinet.    A constant, daily parade of fabric through my house.

As I take the sheets out of the dryer and clean the lint screen, I often look at the mass of soft fibers in my hand.    Suddenly I realize why my sheets progressively get thinner and thinner as they go through their daily travels up and down the hall.   I notice this gradual accumulation of thinness during the ministrations of the folding process.   Every time they get washed and dried, a little bit of their fiber comes loose and gets deposited in the lint screen.   

Eventually, the sheet will disappear into thin air one day.   Imagine the day I open the dryer to find nothing in there, just the last deposit of lint in the lint trap, a few threads tangled up in the bottom of the dryer.   

And where does that lint go?   Is it another cycle for us to study?   There are so many cycles in the world:   bicycles, unicycles, tricycles, the cycle of the year, hormonal cycles.    I have studied the water cycle, the Krebs cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle.   Why not the lint cycle?

Where does that fiber in my lint trap come from?   From what field of cotton, hemp, flax, bamboo?   From the back of what animal was it clipped?   Or what oil field was it pumped from,  if it is polyester or nylon (not much danger of THAT in this house!)   And when I am done with it in the form of sheets and socks and pants and shirts, where does it go?   Does it go into the trash, and from there to a landfill?   Or does it go into my compost bucket, to live for a while in my mulch pile.    There a carolina wren may appropriate it for a soft lining for her nest.   Or a mouse may take it home for some nice bedding.   Squirrels, finches, pack rats, voles, blue birds, cardinals — they all love the bits of fiber and lint they find around my back door.

Sometimes I get fascinated by the fiber of the earth as I gaze into the incredible architecture of some rock that a person has picked up because they heard it say it wanted to meet me.    One of my clients brought me one of those the other day.   Her husband, a long haul trucker, saw it someplace.   He can’t remember where he picked it up, but he knew it had to come live in my labyrinth.    What an amazing rock it is, too, although I have no idea what kind of rock it is.   I just love the veins and colors and crystals in it.



I had a troll visit The Havens this week.   A person claiming to be a contractor read my post on wheelbarrows and left a rather snarky comment accusing me of being the kind of customer he hates, nothing but a nit picker.   After all, I got a brand new wheelbarrow out of the deal, what was my problem?   He warned me that contractors talk to each other, and if I am not careful I will not be able to get reasonable estimates for future work.  

I wonder if he thought two grand was a reasonable estimate for the water line work that was done here.   I didn’t think it was reasonable, but I needed to have my water line replaced.   I don’t know how long it takes him to put $2000 in his savings account, but that represents no small amount of hours of my life and I expect to get good value for my 66 life hours.    

I don’t suppose he is the sort of contractor who uses his customer’s tools and wrecks them, and then replaces the ruined high quality item with a piece of cheap crap.    At least I hope he isn’t.   I don’t think he read the other posts, or he would have known that my contractor friends thought the blundering plumbers needed to do a better job, it wasn’t just me nit picking.  Perhaps he would have been more charitable.   Maybe he just had a really rough week with a truly nitk-picking person.

I thought about replying to him, defending myself, justifying myself.  Then I realized I didn’t have to, that it’s okay.   After all was said and done, it was a very pleasant moment when I exercised my power as the owner and operator of this space and spammed that comment.   

I sort of feel like my mom.  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. 

Now, I need to retrieve my bedding off the clothesline where I left it to air in the chilly, breezy morning sun.  Take care now, hear?

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