Lighter Than Air

Suddenly everything is puffy and floating.

The world’s largest airship arrived in Minnesota yesterday. The zeppelin Eureka, owned by a company called Airship Ventures in California and bearing the Farmers Insurance logo as a convenient bill-paying strategy, is parked, fittingly, at Flying Cloud Airport.

It will float around our area through the weekend, selling insurance and slow rides to paying customers at $375 a pop.

Sorry. Probably shouldn’t say “pop” around an airship.

Not to worry. This zeppelin’s skin is made from the same high tech fabric we use in space suits, and it gets its lift from non-flammable helium, so there should be no “Oh the humanity” moment for this dirigible.

At the same time the Eureka was slputtering towards its mooring mast, the air-supported roof of the Metrodome was rising back into position, buoyed by positive air pressure from inside and returning that familiar spongy pincushion profile to the south side of Minneapolis’ downtown. Fans raised the roof in about 45 minutes yesterday, so that fans will be able to raise the roof when the Vikings return in August.

And well above the Metrodome roof and the Farmers’ Zeppelin in the airless confines of near Earth orbit, spacewalker Mike Fossum of the shuttle Atlantis spent some time yesterday moving what looks to be your grandma’s old kitchen range out to the space station’s equivalent of the garage, using only his fingertips and the power of the name “Canada”. Too bad Farmers’ didn’t get in on that sponsorship action.

This was the last scheduled spacewalk of the shuttle program. I guess it’ll be a while before we get to go outside again. The next time we decide to make a space suit, we can get all the fabric we need by cannibalizing the remains of the Farmers’ airship.

Time to come in, kids!

Tell us a story that involves something inflatable.

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104 thoughts on “Lighter Than Air”

  1. Rise and Inflate Baboons!

    This one has me stumped. Aside from the usual swimming inflatables, and air mattresses that go flat in the night during rocky camping trips, I can think of little here.

    But then having my feet securely planted on planet earth is my specialty!

    The on-line bloggy charades from yesterday was BRILLIANT Linda and Plain Jane. At our Baboon Awards in February or March 2012–competing with the Oscars of course–you both get a Blevins statue for such creativity!

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    1. I was laughing out loud in my darkened living room….the windows were open and if the neighbors were within earshot they’ve probably concluded that I’ve lost my mind.

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    2. Oh, you guys! :) Maybe we should do a quick round at BBC on Sunday, see if we can get the ground rules…

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  2. Good morning to all,

    Not too long ago we had two of those lighter than air decorative ballons that you sometimes find conected to floral displays. I let them float up into a corner of the room where they stayed for a while. Whe they lost some of their gas they started moving around the house. Apparently a little air movement would cause them to move to a different position. After a while they didn’t have enough gas to stay near the ceiling and would be found hiding behind a chair of something. This happen over a few weeks and they were kind of like pets. Finally they lost all their gas and were given a burial in the waste paper basket.

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    1. My prior basset hound was afraid of those kinds of balloons – would bark at them and snarl. Would skirt around the edges of a room that had one in it, avoiding the strange intruder…

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      1. Our terrier was terrified of a rubber chicken that would squeak when squeezed and would twitch and jerk as it refilled with air. She tried to bite me when I went near it, I think to protect me. I put it in on a blanket on her dog bed and she removed it by pulling the entire blanket off the bed. She refused to touch the chicken. When I put it in a closet she sat on guard duty by the closet door until I removed it from the house entirely.

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  3. Funny. I have an inflatable story like Jacque said and one like Jim said. I’ll do the Jacque one.

    Right after graduating from college I took a BWCA trip with the guy who roomed with me in my freshman year, Jack. We went into the canoe country via Lac la Croix and set up camp on river system with several lakes on it just east of Lac la Croix. The outfitter had sent us out with two air mattresses. We never came up with a name for the good one, but the one Jack tried the first night became infamous as “Leaky.” It lost air at a rapid rate, and of course we didn’t have a patch kit. Jack got up several times in the night to pump up old Leaky, and by morning he wasn’t in a pretty mood. After that, we took turns with Leaky.

    It was pretty frustrating. You would pump up Leaky as tight as you could, then crawl in your bag on the mattress that made a loud hissing sound as it deflated. Then you would lie there desperately trying to fall asleep before you hit the rocks. Of course, the harder you tried to fall asleep the more awake you got, and very soon it would be time to get up and pump Leaky again.

    Oh, the humanity!

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  4. Don colman was one of my dads buddies. Don was a mans man but also a ladies man. At age 60 he developed prostate issues. He had a new young wife and the concerns about his ability to to perform his husbandly duties was in question. The doctor who did the surgery installed a pump apparatus that allowed him to achieve a full erection when duty called. The guys in the group thougt this was a heck of a deal. The golf stag was coming up and my uncle paul asked don if he could be persuaded to ride as a passanger bn my uncle Pauls car for the week. don said sure bur was curious as to why. Uncle paul told him the rear tires on his car were a little worn and in case he had a blow out it would be handy to have don along. Uncle Pauls jack had proven difficult to operate last one he needed it and he thought don could simply lay beneath car and opperate his hand pump in case of emergency.

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  5. Ha! The first thing that comes to my mind are car tires. I’ve had my share of flat tires during my driving career, two stand out. The first one happened on my way home from Little Grassy Lake in Southern Illinois where I had gone to cool off on a 95ยบ F day. All I had on was a small bikini and no sandals to shield my feet from the burning pavement. There I was on the side of the road trying to get the flat tire off VW Beetle. The tar on the road was so hot, that no sooner had I hoisted the car up with the VW’s small jack, than one side of the jack sunk into the tar and the whole thing collapsed. Now I was really stuck. I must have looked sufficiently helpless and desperate when a car full of young college men stopped and offered their assistance. Their car was a big old American model with a more substantial jack, and with it they managed to get me on my way again. Isn’t chivalry grand?

    The second incident happened a few years later on another very hot summer day in downtown St. Paul. I was on my way home from work, and that day I happened to be wearing a red dress with a very short skirt. This time, there were cars that actually circled the block a few times, honking their horns as they drove by, letting me know they were appreciating the spectacle. No one stopped to help, and since I had never actually changed a flat tire by myself, it took me a good half hour to get the job done. That’s when I swore off miniskirts.

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    1. Be a trend setter. The boys these days find it fashionable to show the top 3 or 4 inches of their underwear maybe ladies could show the bottom 3 or 4 inches

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    2. It would seem to me PJ that you have drawn a strange conclusion from your experiences. With a bikini, you stopped traffic and got help from several young men “with a more substantial jack” (which is a line I’m not going to parse). With a miniskirt you only got some hooting and tooting. The obvious lesson is that the less fabric you wear, the more help you get.

      Somewhere I read an analysis of Sharon Stone’s movies. If you plot them out on a graph line defined by how much flesh she exposes, it exactly coincides with a graph line measuring box office results.

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      1. tim and Steve, at my current age and weight I’m afraid I’d stop traffic for all the wrong reasons if I were to expose more skin. And Steve, I’ll just ignore your parsing comment. Snort!

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    3. The best part of our new digs is that right out my office/art room window is an entrance to the building, one used more by the college-age crowd than us old folks who tend to rent the garage our use the entrance by the elevator. It is a sociological study.
      I really cannot tell many of them apart, by dress, walk, hair style, etc. they are interchangeable. I do want to take them all over to the mall and teach them how to buy clothes that fit. Everything is too small and tight/skimpy or so big it is falling off. I see the tops of lots of underwear, both male and female.

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      1. Maybe I should tell you my plain Jane story. The summer before I started at SIU, I was working as a waitress at The College Inn, a small steakhouse. The film “Rosemary’s Baby” had just been released and was showing at the local cinema. It was a daily occurrence that someone would tell me that I looked a lot like Mia Farrow who was starring in that film. Except for the same short hairdo, I couldn’t see the similarity, but I was certainly flattered at the comparison. Then one day a fellow came in to have dinner. I noticed that he kept looking at me throughout his meal, but he didn’t say anything until he had finished eating. That’s when he said: “I know you must have been told 1000 times before that you look a lot like Mia Farrow, but I really know what I’m talking about. I’ve just come back from California where I happened to be staying in the same hotel as her. You’re a lot taller than she is, and she has more freckles than you do, but without make-up on, she’s a real plain Jane too!”

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      1. OT, but related to legislative egos. My wife manages a social services unit in our county. Several of the people in her unit are being laid off and some are being moved to other units. She might have to take emplyees from other units that know nothing about the work in her unit. She will have to tell some of the people that her unit serves that services are no longer available. Apparently this is what some legislators want, no help for needy people and if they get their way some of the laid off people will not get their jobs back. From my experience there are not enough services for people and we need more not less. Most of the public doesn’t even know what county human services do and apprently doesn’t care about these services and it is easy for legislators, who also probably know very little about these service, to cut them. Some of these services are actually required under the law, but that is mostly being ignored

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  6. I am afraid of heights – kind of. Technically I should say I’m afraid of OPEN heights. For the most part, if I’m enclosed (plane, the Arch in St. Louis) I do OK, however, I try to avoid standing right next to windows in very very tall buildings. When I am high up in an unenclosed space, I don’t do well. I don’t like the rotunda at the capital, I don’t care for the escalators at the Mall of American and the top of the Empire State Buildling was a nightmare for me. Bungy jumping, hot air balloons, skydiving — these things have never been in my playbook.

    15 years ago, I scored the trip of a lifetime – an industry fam trip to Kenza and Tanzania. This is a trip in which travel industry folks gets treated to the kind of trip that they usually only plan, ostensibly so that they will be able to sell the destination more easily/convincingly. As I was getting my shots and working out babysitting, I found out that one of the optional activities while in Kenya was a hot air balloon trip. It suddenly struck me that turning down a hot air balloon ride in Africa might be one of those things that I regretted not doing… one of those bucket kinds of things. So I convinced my boss that it should be included on my expense report and despite some very weird dreams before I left, off I went.

    We started out in the dark, arriving at the launch site while the balloon was still lying flat on the ground like a multi-colored pancake. As it filled and rose into the air, I started to panic and if I had not been surrounded by my peers in the travel industry, I might have bailed. We were pretty well packed into the basket and the lift-off was amazing – very quiet and gentle. One minute we were on the ground, the next minute we were not. The sun was up by now and we glided over the savannah, the only noise (besides our oohs and aahs) was the noise of the heaters, occasionally blowing more hot air up into the balloon. I had been expecting it to be windy, but the reality was that since we were moving with the wind, we didn’t feel it. It was a wonderful experience and the most amazing thing was that I forgot to be scared!

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    1. That must have been an amazing experience. When I left the law firm, the lawyers gave a hot air balloon ride over the St. Croix. LOVED it.

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      1. My Dad took a hot air balloon ride for his 70th birthday. He loved it.
        They go over our farm once in a while and if they’re low and looking for a landing place it will scare the beef cows. It didn’t bother the milk cows curiously, but the beef cows would get all excited.
        I’ve had them land here twice.

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      1. I just bought a copy of “Paperbag Princess” for my Godchild based on your description. Any other recommendations for two little Chinese girls 11 and 8 years old?

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      2. The book Three Strong Women, about a young woman, her mother, and her grandmother who train a sumo wrestler is a great book for girls that age.

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    2. I used to walk regularly in River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. I was often alone out there. One day I was walking alone, lost in thought, singing to myself, on a trail that was in a relatively open area. The warm sun was shining and there was very little wind. It was a lovely September day and I was soaking it in. Suddenly, there was an enormous hissing sound from someplace directly above my head. I nearly fell to the ground from the sudden instinctive fear! My head yanked up and a hot air balloon was directly above me – only about 20 feet above my head. They were inflating the balloon to get elevation, I’m sure without consideration of the solitary walker immediately below them. Yikes!

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      1. Anna, I love The PAper Bag Princess. Whenever there is a book drive for kids in shelters,Headstart, etc I contribute a copy. Seems like a good role model!

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  7. My largest cat resembles a blimp. Does he count as an inflatable? My husband wonders if any of you have an opinion about which inflatable object make the best fart noises as the air is being released.

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      1. I’m remembering a Gary Larson cartoon of a delivery room. The doctor has bungled the umbilical chord knot, and the baby is now zooming around the room as it deflates.

        Or let’s put it this way: if that was not once a Gary Larson cartoon, I am one sick puppy to have thought of it :)

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      2. Keep in mind that the original sick puppy was clearly Gary Larson for thinking it up in the first place.

        I’ve actually met Gary Larson — when he came to sign books at the bookstore. He wasn’t ANYTHING like I expected; kind of quiet and shy. No wackiness or zaniness. If he hadn’t drawn little cartoons on people’s books as he was signing, I might have thought he was an imposter!

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    1. Rocket balloons cannot be beat for the farting noise…and they’re fun (they’re long balloons intended to be “shot off” – just be careful that you shoot them where they won’t get caught on a roof…). Get a pack that comes with a pump – they’re a bear to blow up on your own.

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      1. I’ll second this. We used some of these balloons in a show once strictly for the sound effect and the balloon flying around the stage — or into the audience. In the dictionary under the word ‘Fun’ there’s a picture of these.

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  8. I have a story involving my best friend, a basketball, a clipboard and a place called ‘Loving Fun Lingerie’. Use your imagination.

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    1. Hm! Not going anywhere fast with that one. Can’t figure out what to do with the clipboard. Why don’t you fill in the details, Ben?

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  9. When I was about seven or eight, I went with some neighborhood kids to a circus. It was a fairly big deal, because in my day kids weren’t usually the center of attention and didn’t have all these activities and entertainments planned for them and blah blah blah, so in my childhood there was one trip to Disneyland and one trip to the circus and maybe two department store Santas and that was about it.

    At the circus all the kids were allowed to buy one thing to take home. I chose a balloon. There were no mylars in those days, so it was just your basic latex balloon, but it had real helium in it, unlike the ones we had at birthday parties which were just inflated with lung power.

    One of the neighbor kids – her name was Betsy – bought a fancy baton with glitter on the ends. The glitter was made up of rather large square pieces of something shiny, and the glitter pieces had sharp corners that made the baton sort of weapon-like. On the way home in the car, I was squeezed in the back seat with Betsy and she kept batting at my balloon with her baton till it broke. Then she told me you should never spend money on balloons because they just break.

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      1. On any other day I might be conciliatory and point out that I do know and get along with several people of the Republican persuasion. Not feeling very charitable today though. There’s not a lot of incentive to keep reaching across party lines when you’re always getting whacked with a baton. Ask the governor.

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      2. I’m a little uncomfortable with the tenor of this conversation. Perhaps Mn of Sudbury is of the Republican persuasion, and I certainly have come to appreciate her contributions to the blog. Granted, I don’t have many Republican friends, we just don’t have a lot of common ground, so we’re always focusing on our differences. In my dotage I’m trying to find whatever common ground we may have, perhaps we can build from there with some mutual respect. There, I’ve done it again. It’s too easy to preach to the choir.

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      3. PJ/M – I’m a “freethinker”, as the old saying goes about religious affiliation :) I evaluate each by their (its?) own merits.
        Re: the Mashable.com link – I was just stirring the pot. I thought the rest of the article, despite my out-of-context quote, was rather interesting. That is, if you like articles about search-engine optimization.

        I have never voted in my life. Malaysia still does not allow absentee voting outside of students and government employees. I did however sign a protest petition. You would think getting 5000 electronic signatures from an estimated million overseas Malaysians would be chump change. We’re still at 600+, including duplicates.

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  10. When I was four, I developed intestinal problems. My early childhood memories are all about being made to consume prune juice, mineral oil and then sitting on a “potty seat” for hours. I was ultimately shipped off to a major children’s hospital in Des Moines where I could be studied by specialists. In those days, the 31 mile distance between Ames and Des Moines was a big deal, and I didn’t see my parents very often during the weeks I was hospitalized.

    One day a kid in our ward had a helium balloon. He showed us all what happened when we swallowed helium. Of course, we all had to try it. After the helium was gone and the laughter died down, the room cleared out and everything became quiet. That’s when the kid in the next bed told me I was going to die. He was older than I, and he obviously knew more. “That stuff is poison,” he told me. “It makes you talk funny for a while, and then you die.”

    My problem was that this happened on a Sunday, the very day on which my parents came to visit. They soon showed up with candy and comic books, smiling broadly. That visit was agony. Of course, I couldn’t tell them that I was about to die and we would never see each other again. I had to lie there in my bed and make happy conversation to hide my terrible secret. After an eternity, Mom and Dad left for home. It was just a stroke of luck that caused my mother to turn to wave goodbye as they were going out the door. She was shocked to see her son with his face just flowing with tears. Mom and Dad ran back and soon were able to tell me that helium balloons are not lethal after all.

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      1. The experience gave me a heightened sense of how we need to be kind to our fellow men and not say untrue, hurtful things. And a sense I’d love to meet that kid today and tie a little knot in the oxygen line of his respirator!

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    1. MIA is pretty friendly for walkers and such – along with a decent elevator to get you from floor to floor (actually there are two), it has a lot of benches for sitting, which may also be useful.

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  11. The only stories I have about things that are inflatable are about the egos of former coworkers. (One described himself as “Best by Test.” Test was in reference to fishing line.) There was also a supervisor with obvious narcissistic personality disorder. He needed daily, sometimes hourly, verbal positive reinforcement (inflation). It was exhausting to work for him.

    Would it be appropriate for me to tell those stories? I’m kinda thinking “No,” because they are tacky and not completely positive. I will say that knowing those people has made me quieter and more thoughtful – a better listener. I can be impetuous and say things that I later regret. Because of those egos, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and listen more. And that has been good for me.

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    1. I heard of narcissistic personality disorder for the first time on Sunday and the second time today.

      I’m kind of an inflated version of the me I was when I thought of myself as an overweight teenager and young adult. What I’d give to be “fat” like that again!

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  12. Kinda surprised that the only advertising seen (in this photo of the space station anyway) is “Canada”?

    I do a Lazy Man’s Snorkel by carrying one of them inflatable children’s pool rings with me on vacation (my current one is bright yellow on one side, with a garish pattern of red dolphins on the transparent side). Packs flat unlike a life-jacket and doesn’t smell bad like an inner tube. When you get tired you can plunk your butt in the doughnut hole and bob in the waves.

    Love the word “dirigible” yet somehow after reading all the books I never thought of Dirigible Plums as floaters until the most recent Harry Potter movie…

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  13. All I can think of that hasn’t been mentioned is a book from kindergarten teaching days:
    There’s a children’s picture book (and it’s been filmed a couple of times) called The Red Balloon:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/0385003439/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_images_all

    An errant balloon with magical qualities becomes the companion of a young Parisian boy in this timeless fable by Albert Lamorisse, who relies much more on pictures than words to tell his affecting story. (Jeff T. Dick – Library Journal)
    The St. Paul children’s book store is named after it, I believe.

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    1. The movie is even better. I still love it even though when I worked in the school library I ran the projector and showed it over 89 bazillion times. The ending makes Le balon rouge worthwhile!

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      1. I was so excited once when I found a copy of the movie to show at home. My son was about ten at the time and thought it was the lamest thing he had ever seen. He had loved the Babar books when he was small and I thought that he would see the charm of the movie but he just couldn’t.

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      2. I can see why a kid wouldn’t enjoy it. Not enough action and very subtle. I can remember as a kid of maybe 13 seeing Disney’s “The Living Desert.” I had expected a cartoon with a lot of action and was deeply disappointed. In retrospect “The Living Desert” appeals much more to me than those action packed cartoons. Change of perspective, I guess.

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  14. Krista,
    You should feel lighter than air. With a budget solution in sight you will soon be able to hang out with your fishies again!

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  15. Have a super weekend, friends of the Trail! I’ll be at my cabin. And in view of the heat predicted, I will probably have bare feet in the big lake. Enjoy the weekend, and don’t put no beans up your nose.

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    1. The husband and I will be keeping Steve company at his roost on the shores of the inland sea. We’re looking forward to kayaking on Lake Superior; one thing to cross off our Bucket list! Also seeing a show at the Big Top Chautauqua. We’ll likely be out of touch till we return on Monday. Have a great BBC, hope to join by the next meeting if you’ll let me.

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  16. Off to the midnight Harry potter with the munchkins
    Great people watching at mall of America
    20 theaters worth of midnight movie watchers many in Harry potter costumes.

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