Thursday
Nov052009

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, everyone! 

I wish I'd thought to do a cool "Remember, remember the 5th of November" theme for my bento today....

clockwise from the right:

  • leftover soup again -- this is the same soup from Monday; still delicious
  • simple fruit salad -- anjou pear, honeycrisp apple, and banana
  • ciabatta pieces for soup dipping on one side, and carrots and cheese sticks on the other side*

*ETA: note to self -- make sure carrots are completely dry before packing next to cheese...slimy cheese = ew

Also, this isn't technically part of my bento since it doesn't fit, but I have a little bonus treat today. Sal began teaching the chocolates and candies portion of his class this week, so he spent some time over the weekend practicing his chocolate tempering. These are chocolates with chocolate ganache centers. You may commence hating me now.

Tuesday
Nov032009

yellow & white

Laptop Lunch today -- I ended up with an inadvertent white/yellow theme today.

clockwise from right:

  • pasta dish Sal made for dinner Sunday night: chicken, shitake mushrooms, brussel sprouts braised in cream, w/a sauce made with the braising liquid
  • dobos torte, which is thin layers of spongecake between layers of chocolate buttercream, iced with more buttercream and then topped with these caramelized sugar wedge cookie-type things that are like creme brulee, but crunchy, not soft; also, small wedges of ciabatta that were the tops of the slices from yesterday that I had to cut off to make them fit in the bento container
  • cheese strips, hard-boiled egg, and the small container inside has macadamia nuts
  • asian pear pieces
  • drink bottle: pomegranate juice
Monday
Nov022009

Let's talk bento!

I started getting interested in bento several years ago when we made the switch to organic/local/non-processed food and fully committed to a more sustainable lifestyle. What originally got me interested was the elimination of packaging and waste, but the more I learned about it, the more fascinated I was.

I've been doing bento-style lunches for work for quite awhile, but I've just been using a conglomeration of containers we already had on hand (mostly Rubbermaid Foodsavers meant for storing leftovers).  Well, I do have a Fit & Fresh, which I love, but it's more for salads or sometimes sandwiches, since it's meant to keep the food cool and the lids aren't tight enough to prevent leaks if you have a soup/stew in it. (The other thing I've noticed is that the bread on sandwiches gets a little dry in it if you make your lunch the night before, which I do.)

I don't do the bento art/decoration thing (though I LOVE looking at  pictures of people who do!) because I'm too lazy, but I do like to have some sense of order or presentation. Presentation is, after all, what makes bento so fun. I realize it seems silly to get this excited about packing a lunch, but that's why bento is the raddest invention of all-time, because it magically turns what could be a rather unappealing assortment of random stuff out of your fridge and cupboards into the highlight of the work day.

Recently, however, I decided to step up my bento game in three ways:

  1. Go ahead and splurge on the two bento systems I've been lusting after for a few years now. The two systems I got are the Ms. Bento and the Laptop Lunch. I originally had the Mr. Bento on my list even though it had the four containers, which is just too much food for me. But then they came out with the Ms. Bento last year, which has three, smaller-portioned containers, so I was really glad to put that on my list instead. And the Laptop Lunches people recently came out with the 2.0 version, which includes space for a small water bottle and an insulated case for the whole system, so I'm glad I waited to get mine. The reason I wanted two systems is that I like the tiffin-style for more liquid types of foods like soups and stews, and the Mr./Ms. Bento systems are particularly designed for keeping foods hot/cold. I frequently take my lunch to a park near the office, and don't want to have to mess around with heating up my food, packing it back up and then going to lunch. (You can put soups/stews in one of the covered containers of the Laptop Lunch, but it won't still be hot when it's time to eat.) The Laptop Lunch is more similar to conventional bento-ware, it lends itself better to things like sandwiches and wraps than the tiffin style does. Plus, I like the pretty colors. :) I figured with the variety and flexibity of the two systems, I'd be more likely to stay with it.
  2. Try to incorporate some new recipes/influences in my evening cooking, the leftovers of which are generally the main part of my bento lunch the next day. Since I'm eating alone on weeknights, it's very easy to do fall into a pattern of cooking something very simple and quick that doesn't really generate leftovers (ex. scrambled egg sandwich, or cheese and crackers). And since we stay away from processed foods, it's a bigger challenge throwing together something for lunch the next day. I've managed it, but as part of my new plan, I've decided I'm going to keep this in mind when I'm ordering groceries, so that I include extra quantities of stuff like carrots and eggs that can round out a bento box nicely.
  3. Start taking pictures of my bento as an incentive to do it every day I'm in the office (M, Tu, Th) and to keep it fun.

I call my new lunch plan "Bento 2.0, baby!"

So as part of #3 of Bento 2.0, baby!, here's today's bento:

clockwise from the right:

  • leftover soup  Sal made Saturday night -- base made of the last of the tomatoes from the garden combined with chicken stock and cream, with fresh carrots, celery, onion, garlic potatoes from the garden, and chicken (this could've easily been a vegetarian soup with the chicken left out and the chicken stock swapped for vegetable stock -- very yummy and highly recommended)
  • ciabatta, also made by Sal -- one of the (many) nice things about having a Real Live Chef in the house who teaches baking and pastry is that your freezer is always stocked with delicious handmade artisan breads; there were also slices of cheese, which melted from the heat* so you can't see them
  • grapes from the last of the week's Organics 2 U bin (new delivery tonight, woot woot!) and a small bit of lemon cheesecake, another nice thing about having a Real Live Chef in the house who teaches baking and pastry :)

*The nice thing about the Mr./Ms. Bento is that it's designed to keep the bottom container hot, which in turn warms the middle container while the top container is just a little cooler than room temp. I wanted warm bread and softened cheese for my lunch, so I refrigerated the bread and cheese in their container overnight, thinking that by the time I was ready for lunch, the differential between the hot soup container and cold middle container would be just right. Turns out, it ended up quite a bit warmer so the cheese melted together before it cooled. It still made a nice snack with the bread, which was nice and warm, but I think next time, I won't put cheese in that middle container unless I intend for it to be melted.

Saturday
Dec062008

Zombie Shame Parade

So this is the tale of the Zombie Shame Parade Newsletter, and how it came into existence. It was prompted by my allusion to a dark and terrible secret in a comment to Cat and to which she replied OMG SPILL IT EMAIL ME NAO PLZ. It is a series of 8 emails that took place between she and I over the course of 3 days, in which I make an embarrassing confession and hilarity then ensued.

What follows are the aforementioned emails (slightly edited, and with permission from my Parade partner) so that you may henceforth understand the concept of the Zombie Shame Parade Newsletter and its meaning: writings on a fascination with something both inexplicable and soul-destroying in an attempt to understand and quantify it, despite knowing that the attempt and subsequent study of said subject will sacrifice many a brain cell in the process.

(my emails are in purple, hers are in orange...oh, and uh, spoilers all over the damn place)


EMBRACING THE INNER ZOMBIE, A THESIS

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb072008

in which we confirm i am not a luddite

GOD BLESS WIRELESS INTERNET CAFES OMG.

Got home late tonight after an action-packed day of work drama (NO COMMENT), hurried and fed the kitties, heated up a quick dinner and settled in to catch up on what my peeps (all y'all) been gettin' up to in the hiz-ouse (this here internet thingie). I'd no more than gotten changed into my comfy clothes, eaten a few bites of dinner, and read the first few posts on my f-list when the freaking power went out!

Because the whole house is in disorder with furniture everywhere, I acquired a full complement of new bruises and scrapes trying to navigate to candles and matches. I managed to find a phone book (HOLY CRAP I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY STILL MAKE THOSE AND MORE AMAZINGLY THAT WE KEPT ONE BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY AM I EVER GLAD THAT THEY DO AND WE DID), look up the number for PGE's outage reporting thingie, and with the few remaining minutes on my cell phone before the battery crapped out, report my outage. It's affecting a whopping three people on our block -- the neighbors next door and across the street had all the electric bliss they could possibly want and were entirely oblivious to me living in the LITERAL DARK AGES OVER HERE ACROSS THE STREET IN UTTER DARKNESS YOU GUYS SUCK AND I'M NEVER LENDING YOU ANOTHER CUP OF SUGAR THE END.

Since my laptop battery was about half out and the aforementioned cell phone was nearly out, and a way awesome 1909 Craftsman Bungalow is kind of scary in the complete and total darkness when you're all alone and have an inherent fear of the dark and you have a rather, um, active imagination (shut up)...I tore through the house in a panic positive something moved in the shadows calmly and quietly changed out of my clothes that make me look like a homeless person around-the-house clothes into something that's acceptable in public my work clothes, gathered up my laptop and cell phone (and charger) and headed to Anna Banana's (Ladybug closes at 7) where I would be safe from the horde of ax murderers lurking in every room of my house could surf the interwebz among my hipster neighbors. CLEARLY I WILL NEVER MAKE IT AS A MOUNTAIN WOMAN LIVING OFF THE LAND AND SURVIVING BY MY WITS.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that the nice PGE repair people can return the miracle of electricity to my little street and take a moment to warm yourself in the glow of cheap and abundant electricity that you don't even have to think about it just comes like magic every time you flip a switch or plug something in a wall.

Wednesday
Nov012006

up next: locusts

I'm fairly certain the Apocalypse is nigh.

Monday, when we were leaving for work, we noticed the street in front of our house (running under the Subaru) was wet. Not standing water, but like when a hose runs over a little bit. Didn't really think anything of it until we got home and noticed that the same spot was still there. We go up to our water meter box thingie (in the sidewalk strip) and there's water pooled a little bit in the rocks around it. Sal lifts the cover and the meter is submerged in water. Great.

It wasn't like a major leak or anything, but obviously, Something Was Not Right. We called the City but they couldn't come out until yesterday, and they determine that the leak was on our side of the meter, not theirs, so it was up to us to fix it. I call a plumbing company we use at work, they're great and are willing to give me our work discount, but they can't come out until today. And they didn't know what time today, which necessitated me working from home so I could be here. Hooray for telecommuting, at least.

Well, they came around 1:30 and have determined that we need to have a new main line run from our meter to our house. The leak is somewhere behind the big foundation wall in front of our house (our worst suspicion) and to repair it would involve tearing down that wall, digging down to freaking China, and having a structural engineer oversee rebuilding the wall, not to mention having to replace the sidewalk. In other words, it was cheaper to replace the entire line (they can just bore alongside the old one and without having to dig anything up, thank goodness) than to try to find the link and repair it.  The good news is that they'll be able to start and finish it tomorrow. The bad news is that Sal and I are going to have to sell a kidney. It's probably my turn, since he sold one of his for the last major financial disaster.

So I stay home today and just because today couldn't possibly be any worse, I woke up this morning to a house with no heat. In fact, that's why I woke up AT FIVE AM A FULL HOUR EARLIER THAN MY USUAL TIME BECAUSE THE ICE ON MY PILLOW WASN'T VERY CONDUCIVE TO SLEEP AND MY NOSE WAS DEVELOPING FROSTBITE AND I THINK I SAW A DUSTBUNNY ICE CUBE. Something's wrong with the thermostat, although I gave up trying to figure out exactly what around 11:30 and have since been working from the dining room table with a space heater and blanket wrapped around me all day. As of right now, it's slightly warmer outside our house than inside. Sal's going to try to get that fixed tonight so hopefully we won't freeze to death. But if you read about a couple of Hall-sicles in the news, you'll know what happened.

And finally, my cable modem was down not once but THREE SEPARATE GODDAMN TIMES today, although I was able to get that working again AFTER MUCH SCREAMING AND HURLING ABOUT OF THINGS. Poor Sally, who had to listen to me have a breakdown over the phone and who cut his day short at work to try to save me from our house, which is trying to kill me. But, BUT! I have been working diligently on my work stuff.  DEAR EMPLOYERS NEVER FEAR I HAVE BEEN A PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEE DESPITE ALL THE DRAMA THAT IS MY LIFE AT THE MOMENT AND SERIOUSLY YOU SHOULD TOTALLY BE GLAD I'M SO DEDICATED BECAUSE OMG WOE KTHXBYE.

I fully expect the Four Horseman to show up for dinner.

Thursday
Aug102006

in which i give the f word a workout

And so anyway, Target.com is the Evil Dead and I hate them.

I'm actually still pretty fucking livid, but I've calmed down enough to at least tell all you kind and lovely people why exactly I was all **FLAIL** last night and came close to CAPS LOCKing myself into an anneurism.

Okay, so we busted our asses for the better part of the spring and well into June working on our yard, trying to get it to a point that we could enjoy it this summer for the first time since we moved in. I don't have the pictures up on the website yet (surprise), but the house looks like a million bucks and the yard has been entiredly redone. No plantings -- that'll have to wait until next year -- but everything's been shaped, cleaned out, and barkdusted within an inch of its life.

During all of this, we were on a quest for a patio table and four chairs that A) we liked, B) could afford, and C) were comfortable.  We trekked all over Portland, to Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, and various indoor/outdoor furniture stores (even though those were all out of our price range).  When we couldn't find anything that met all three criteria, I started looking online, even though I don't usually buy anything big like that on the internet, especially when we need to be able to sit in it.  But Target.com, as it turned out, had a million more sets online than on the floors of their stores, and we ended up finding a great set. So we ordered it.  On June 26th.  That's going to be important later.

I get an email a couple of days later that both shipments will be delayed -- the table until July 10th, the chairs until July 17th.  So much for our two dinner parties over the 4th, but eh, whaddya gonna do? On the 14th, the freight company calls to say they have our table, can they deliver it on Monday? And I'm all, um, can't you just deliver it today? Apparently, no, because that would require efficiency and competence. Fine. I say yeah, Monday's fine. She tells me we have to be here, which means we have to take a day off work, until the lady finally says we can leave a note saying that it's okay to just leave this TWO HUNDRED POUND PACKAGE on our front step to absolve them of any liability in case someone just randomly, you know, decides to give themselves a hernia hauling the damn box down our front steps.  Again, whatever, liability, I get it. As soon as I get off the phone, I walk over to the door and tape a big note in black sharpie on our front door. Because it was windy, I taped it on the inside of the door, where it was plainly visible through the glass. Okay, so blonde moment, I should've figured out on my own they would need to take it with them. Mea culpa.  Monday (the 17th), we get home, no table. Another voicemail that we get when it's too late to call them, which means I have to call them the next day for delivery the day after that. Fuckity fuck fuck. Finally, finally, the goddamn thing arrives, we unpack it, put it together.

To save ourselves all this misery for the chair delivery, we put the note out pre-emptively and call the freight company to tell them to skip calling to make the appointment, we've left a note so just bring the chairs when they get here so we can shave a couple of MONTHS off their little delivery process. They say they can't do that, they'll still need to call when it arrives, yada yada. Of course they do.

So finally, on the 20th, the chairs arrive. Two of them are broken. BROKEN, people! THE GODDAMN CHAIRS WE'VE BEEN WAITING ON FOR ALMOST A MONTH ARE BROKEN NECESSITATING YET ANOTHER DELAY AND A  CALL TO SOME CALL CENTER WHERE I GET TO BE ON HOLD FOR THIRTY SIX CONSECUTIVE HOURS JUST SO I CAN TELL THEM THEY SUCK AND I HOPE THEY DIE THE END.

Well, I didn't tell them that, I was very polite, if irate, and the young man who helped me was actually quite helpful. And I didn't even have to sit on hold that long, either. Whoop-de-freakin-do. Anyway, he orders another set of chairs to be delivered, tells me to hang on to the broken ones in case the next shipment has any damage so we can cull out four intact chairs, if need be. Sal had already repacked them by this point so we decided to just leave them all packed up instead of getting out the two useable ones. So we now have this big hulking box taking up space in our living room, no chairs on our back patio area, and two more dinner parties. Good times.

They send an email on the 24th that the chairs have shipped and will arrive, and I quote, "within 3 to 5 business days". Now, being generous and giving them five days, and not counting the 24th, that means we should get a call from the shipping company no later than the 31st, right? Of course not. Sal calls them on the 1st, they say hmm, sorry, the chairs are in Ft. Worth, should be here by Thursday (the 3rd). Thursday arrives, no fucking chairs, no fucking voicemail. He calls them again, they say, hmm, still sitting in FUCKING FORT WORTH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

I call Target AGAIN. Still polite, somewhat more irate, I tell them to figure out what the hell the problem is, straighten it out, and get them on the next slow moving oxcart to Portland and that they're going to credit me the shipping charges because I could've DRIVEN there and back for the money they're charging me and had my chairs before I was fifty. They agree to credit the shipping, follow up on the problem, and expedite the shipping so the chairs will arrive in Portland on Monday (the 7th). Which they do. And Sal, calling to verify that they've arrived, learns that they won't actually deliver them to us until Wednesday (yesterday) because they're not going to have a truck in our area until then. DEAR FREIGHT COMPANY I HATE YOU KTHXBYE.

By this point, I'll believe that the chairs are actually going to be here when they say they will.  But yesterday, we get home, the big hulking box is waiting for us. We start unpacking the box and get the chairs in place so we can maybe have dinner on our back patio FOR THE FIRST TIME ALL GODDAMN SUMMER NOW THAT IT'S AUGUST THANK YOU NOT AT ALL. At least we'll get to use them a little bit.

Out of the two boxes of eight total chairs? FIVE of them were broken.

Yeah, I'll let that sink in for a moment.

I call Target. I'm now livid. Still polite, though. The girl tells me that they're not supposed to do second replacements, but she can see if her supervisor will let her make an exception if we want. You better hope so, kid, because I am this close to crawling through the receiver and beating you senseless with it. The supervisor grants the exception, but the girl tells me it's going to take three to four WEEKS to ship, which means we'll get them sometime around Thanksgiving based on their previous history, and I'm just going to go ahead and say what the fuck ever to that.

By that point, I was all, YOU KNOW WHAT I DON'T WANT ANY REMINDERS OF THIS ENTIRE CLUSTERFUCK SO TAKE YOUR BLOODY CHAIRS BACK YOU SADISTIC BASTARDS AND IF I COULD I'D MAKE YOU TAKE THE TABLE BACK TOO BECAUSE IT'S ONLY GOING TO REMIND ME OF THE SUMMER I WASTED WAITING FOR YOU CAVALCADE OF IDIOTS TO SCRATCH YOUR WATCHES AND WIND YOUR BUTTS.

She said she'd credit our account (oh how to thank them for their kindness)  and make arrangements for the BOXES OF BROKEN CHAIRS to be picked up.  In the meantime, we now have two boxes the size of a small country taking up space in our house, which we have no room for, no chairs, and another dinner party next weekend in which we'll have to come up with some creative seating solutions. We're going to take another stab at trying to buy some chairs locally, but most everyone's already packed up their summer inventory and I'm not very hopeful at this point. Oh, and those two boxes full of BROKEN CHAIRS? Yeah, they'll pick them up in one to two weeks.

Clearly, we're being punished by karma for continuing to shop at Target after they announced their crazy wingnuttery policy of allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions because perfectly legal medications that let a woman control her own body make the baby Jesus cry. If we'd done as we should've then, this whole stroke-inducing nightmare could've been avoided.
Monday
Sep012003

st. johns cuts the cheese

It all began about the time it started getting warm enough to enjoy lunch at the pub on their outdoor patio. It was a mysterious ghost, appearing suddenly out of nowhere, an ethereal beast that drove men to their knees, weeping.

The beast? An outrageously heinous odor, the kind of funk that makes you hold your breath until you must simply inhale deeply or choose asphyxiation, so you choose to take a breath, thinking it can't be as bad as it seemed the first time and then you get another whiff and you realize that yes, yes it can. The smell of a thousand baby diapers in the midday sun. The smell of a dumpster full of rotting food shut into a dark cabinet without any ventilation. The smell of hundreds of square miles of manure compost piles.

It was the stuff of which nightmares are made, the kind of thing secret government labs spend years perfecting as a classified weapon guaranteed to engineer a quick surrender from the enemy. It was an odor of biblical proportions.

We thought at first that maybe it was just our neighborhood, that maybe something was rotting on the waterfront and was just wafting up the hillside. But as I said, we got up to the pub that day and the smell was as bad there as anywhere. So bad, in fact, that on the first 80 degree day of the year (in April), the St. Johns Pub patio was deserted. Deserted. No, you don't understand. This is the land of people who live in perpetual gray. When the sun is out, every living soul is out, too. And inside, everyone was wondering what the hell was that smell?

This continued off and on all summer. We thought we'd maybe get used to it, maybe we'd slowly acclimate and it wouldn't be so sharp, cloying, and terrifically nauseating. We went to a high school, after all, that was just across the road from a stockyard. For three years. In windy Wyoming.

But we that smell defied the laws of physics, nature, and (we would later learn) the state. We never got used to it. And judging from the way all of our neighbors went scurrying inside whenever it came through town, no one else did, either. It was like Godzilla or Mothra, this thing, terrorizing an entire community while it laid low the unsuspecting fools caught unaware.

And then, we received the following letter from Metro. [My comments are in bold.]

This is not a joke.

August 20, 2003

     

Dear St. Johns neighbor:

This is to notify you that trucks should soon begin hauling compost containing lentil beans [I had to re-read it, too] away from the American Compost and Recycling facility at 9707 N. Columbia Blvd. in St. Johns. Metro is requiring this action as a solution to foul odors [I think they meant to say "diabolical"] coming from the facility's composting operations. Metro has directed the company to remove the material by August 28 -- before the start of school and the Labor Day weekend. The work is likely to cause additional odors temporarily, but once completed, should end the unpleasant smells that have occurred periodically [read: pretty much every nice day you might want to spend outdoors enjoying the lovely weather] this summer.

Background

In April, American Compost and Recycling received more than 3,500 tons of lentils. [3,500 tons?!? were they feeding the entire continent of South America?] The lentils -- a kind of bean commonly used in cooking [hahaha I love this...THANKS FOR THE BIOLOGY LESSON MR. BUREAUCRAT GUY] -- were being transported from Oregon and Washington farms to markets in South America [I guess they were feeding the entire continent of South America] when they slipped off a barge into the Columbia River. [have these people never heard of bungee cords?] American Compost and Recycling is licensed by Metro to accept only yard debris and clean wood for processing into compost. Metro initially fined the company $28,000 for accepting the lentils. The company was then allowed to try to manage the lentils on-site as part of its composting operation. However, Metro contends that the company has been unable to meet the odor- and nuisance-related standards [this has to win some kind of understatement of the year award] as it has tried to compost the spoiled lentils, and additional enforcement actions and fines have been levied. Now, Metro is requiring removal of the material to solve the odor problems.

After the lentil-containing piles are removed as directed by Metro, the odors should be eliminated. However, odors are likely to increase temporarily as the facility operator digs into the piles in the process of moving the material. [um...eww] Odors occur as a natural biological reaction when organic matter decomposes. [hee hee, another biology lesson courtesy of Metro] You may wish to shut your windows and doors during the times the odor is most noticeable. [boy, I sure wish you folks had been around to give us such helpful advice four months ago...closing the windows? what a radical concept, thank you!] Metro also is directing the facility to spray an odor neutralizer on the piles as they are moved, [too bad this didn't occur to them during that grueling 6 day heat wave of 100° temps] and to transport the material through non-residential neighborhoods at non-peak commuter hours. [who gives a crap about the commuters? they're just passing through, they're not the ones who have to suffer through the smell.... I say screw the commuters!]

As you may know, Metro regulates private solid waste processing and disposal facilities in the area. This is part of a broader responsibility for reducing and managing the region's solid waste in an effective, economical, and environmentally sound manner. Working with other governments and the private sector, Metro strives to achieve the highest standards for the operation of facilities within the Metro region's solid waste management system. This means ensuring solid waste facilities -- including the one operated by American Compost and Recycling -- protect the environment, and the health and safety of the regions residents. Metro is committed to taking action equal to these principles. [To be fair, they really were trying to solve the problem and this was kind of an odd situation. Plus, it's hard to fault the company trying to compost those lentils instead of letting them rot at the bottom of the Columbia River.]

Metro will continue to monitor the situation at American Compost and Recycling. [glad to know your crack team of odor detectives is on the case] If the problem continues, Metro may take additional enforcement action, including additional fines and the potential closure of the facility. [yikes, that seems a tad draconian...now I feel bad] If you have any questions or would like a fact sheet about this issue, please call Metro Recycling Information at (503) 234-3000. If you would like to contact American Compost and Recycling directly, [to scream at them for stinking up the joint instead of bitching at us about the smell] you may call (503) 286-0886.

    Respectfully,

    Michael Hoglund [<-- seriously? because that's...just too easy]

    Director, Solid Waste and Recycling Department

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