Happy New Year to all my friends on LJ! Saw 2014 in quietly, working on a jigsaw puzzle with my Sweetie and watching the ball drop while digesting a tasty dinner of strip steak and garlic mashed taters and sporadically reading the newest Fables trade paperback. It's been a nice and low-key way to transition into a new year.
The old year has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's seen Diane and me grow closer virtually every day, through times of delight and disappointment -- leading, of course, to the impromptu proposal at Astronomicon last month. On the other hand, this year saw some trying health issues for both Diane and my mother, both of whom spent more time in health facilities than they would have ever liked. Diane's harrowing spring and early summer -- gall issues, sciatica issues, and horrific nausea that turned out apparently to be a reaction to her diabetes medication -- were followed by my mom's ordeal of two stays in two nursing homes for rehabilitation, once for a fracture after a fall, once for a mild heart attack a day after she was released from the first one. But the ordeals are over: Diane has not had to go to an ER for more than three months now, and Mom has been home for more than three weeks -- and her two rehab stays have been funded (one through Medicare, the other through Medicaid), and she has home health aides that come by every day or two to check in on her, so she's still able to live independently, which is highly important to her. Anyway, it seemed at times this year that I was living in hospitals and nursing homes -- at one brief period in late-August, early-September, I was running back and forth between my mom's hospital room and the ER waiting room to see if Diane had been admitted. Figured that if I keep bringing different women in to the hospital, I was going to raise an eyebrow or two. I was buoyed throughout by the Lord on whom I rely and who loves both women with a love beyond even mine, and the support and kind words and gestures of many a friend, whether in meat-space or online. Thanks to everyone!
• The year has seen some weird work circumstances I can't talk about, but I can say that the newspaper I work at remains a viable news source that's still doing some excellent work.
• I was in an auto accident in late August, the first one I'd been in since 1991. This one, in Diane's old van, was minor; nobody was hurt, and the vehicle was able to be driven home (we were only about a mile from Diane's home), and she was able to take the opportunity to finally change vehicles (she never liked that van, anyway). Essentially, we were last in a string of about four vehicles; the one in front turned suddenly, forcing everyone to quickly brake, and I accidentally hit the gas instead. Whoops, sigh. Felt pretty stupid at the time -- and felt bad about it in other ways, since Diane and I had planned to take her kids to the New York State Fair that day. But Diane was very understanding and helped me stop beating myself up.
• Got to see a couple of my favorite acts live this year -- Bruce Cockburn in February (I think) in Auburn, N.Y., and the Lost Dogs at Boulder Coffee Company, a Rochester coffeehouse -- that last one, I was seated about three feet from the stage -- I could've reached out and touched Derri Daugherty, though he probably wouldn't have appreciated it.
• Lost track of the books read this year, though they included The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins, Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, Transition by Iain Banks and Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire (I'm in Chimes at Midnight now), among several others. Liked them all, though Zanzibar was a sloooow slog for the first couple hundred pages before I really started to care about the characters, and I'm not sure I ever really did for Transition.
In 2014, the big plan will be getting married, moving into Diane's home and setting up our new life together as a married couple, with all the logistics that that involves. I also plan to do more "extracurricular" writing, exercise enough to get closer to my target weight, and spend more time with all those I care about. And as always, my ultimate goal is to grow closer to God, to abide more completely in the Vine. At year's end, we'll see how I did.
In the meantime, Happy New Year! May it be filled with joys and challenges, peace and excitement, opportunities to grow in wisdom and faith and enlightenment, and opportunities to just have fun. May you eat lots of tacos, because tacos are yummy. Let's enjoy this shared year's journey, and may its end 365 years hence find you well.
Words: Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire
Sounds & Images: Recently, Heathen by David Bowie and Between Heaven N Hell by REZ, because I'm all schizo, er, eclectic like that. Also highly enjoying the latest Oxford American music issue compilation, like always.
State O'Mind: Content, and pleasantly expectant
Well, I broke my promise not to let another half-year go between posts, but I'll try again.
So ... what's been happening with LDWheeler lately?
Meh, not much, other than, y'know, getting engaged and stuff.
(That sentence would have more Dramatic! Impact! if most of all y'all, other than filkferengi
and a couple others) hadn't already seen it on Facebook.)
Yep, Diane and I are planning to get all nuptialized sometime next spring. We got engaged in a fairly dorky manner -- while leaving a science-fiction convention in Rochester that shared a hotel/convention center with a wedding, Diane caught the bouquet flung by a man in the wedding party who wanted to get rid of it, then she asked me if there was anything appropos to the moment I wanted to do. Since I haz a Sense Of The Moment, I dropped to one knee then and there.
It's a happy capstone to a half-year that's been alternately wonderful and trying. Trying in that this year has seen serious health issues for loved ones -- Diane spent most of the spring and early-mid summer in hospitals dealing with gall and related issues that had laid her quite low, even threatening her life at the worst, but that's largely resolved and she's in good health again. Just in time for my mother's turn in the medical community. In late August, Mom took a fall and fractured her pelvis; after a week's stay in the hospital, she was sent to an area nursing home for rehabilitation for about five or six weeks. When she was finally discharged, she spent one night at home -- then the next morning had a minor heart attack. (Apparently she'd been discharged with a serious infection, which put a strain on her heart.) Again after a week in hospital, she's been in a different nursing home -- much closer to home -- to do physical therapy, occupational therapy and so forth. She's actually healthier now than she's been in a while, and is getting ready for discharge within a week or so.
A trying year, but it's been leavened by the joy that Diane and I have discovered in each other and in the community of friends and family who are so happy for us.
Anyway, I'll try to pop onto LJ a bit more often than has been my practice of late. I still like and value you all.Words:
Between books right now and in that WhatNextWhatNextWhatNext!! stateSounds & Images: 220
by Phil Keaggy State O'Mind:
Content and at peace
It really has
been that long since I've posted to LiveJournal, though I've more or less stayed some degree of current in keeping up with friends' LJs. Life -- including a switch to all late shifts, plus an ongoing serious relationship -- has accounted for much of my time; it's been easier to post quick 'n' pithy observations over on Le Facebook. But I still value LJ as a means for long-form ruminatin', and as the venue where I got to know a number of folks and got to know others better. So: the update.
As of my last post, I was around one month into a serious relationship. Now, Diane and I are approaching seven months together and continue going strong. I have never met a woman with whom I was so in sync in so many ways: intellectually, spiritually, interest-wise. We have similar off-kilter senses of humor and aghast reactions to grammatical atrocities and Tremendous Geek Tendencies. She's also one of the kindest, most open and accepting people I know. And her kids like me (and I like them), which is not always the case -- particularly considering the circumstances, as they lost their father to a heart attack after years of ill health. Some of you will remember this post from 2007
, in which I held forth on the various attributes I seek in a partner. I've found them all in abundance in Diane. All my friends, from various spheres of my life -- church, work, filk/fandom and so forth -- have been quite accepting and welcoming to her: A particular passel of thanks to the filk community, as they're the ones most likely to be reading this post: When I brought her to OVFF
last year, everyone was kind and made her feel at home -- in her own right, and not just as Dave's Girlfriend. I had no doubt that would be the case, having observed it happen before with, for example, erinwrites
-- still, experiencing it directly has been a Big Delight. (Sadly, she couldn't come with me to FilKONtario this past weekend; she was a mite late in applying for a passport, and even with expediting it had not arrived by this weekend. May be for the best; she was not feeling well this weekend.)
In other news, I remain at the same company work-wise -- enjoying (most aspects of) the job while still keeping my eyes out for something more lucrative in my general field and my general region. (Due to my mother's age and frequent ill health, I want to remain in the Finger Lakes/Rochester area for the time being.) Still a part of the house church. Still doing a bit
of "extracurricular" writing, though I'll keep project details to myself until anything comes of them. Still in an unlikely level of good health. Still have too much beard. And still planning to attend Confluence
and OVFF this year (both with Diane). The parody I hoped to inflict upon hsifyppah
at last year's OVFF should finally be done by Confluence; heh.
And time constraints are, um, constraining, so this is enough for now. I promise not to let another six months -- or even six days -- pass before checking in again. Take care, all.Words: Stand on Zanzibar
by John Brunner. A very
slow slog at first, but it's increasingly captured my interest and now I'm more than 400 pages in. It's very obviously dated in some ways, but in other ways it's both universal and prescient. Heh, Shalamaser and Mr. & Mrs. Everywhere predated both the web and Facebook.Sounds & Images: Ookla the Mok vs. Evil
by Ookla the Mok. Long-awaited, and well worth the weight. Come to the dark side.State O'Mind:
The following is one of the rarest of creatures: A political LJ post from Dave. (For that matter, any LJ post from Dave.) Might not happen again for a couple years.
So I was at the Finger Lakes Grass Roots Festival of Music and Dance in Trumansburg, N.Y., on Friday with my friend D. After a fine and mesmerizing day of zydeco, Americana, sacred-steel, bluegrass and more -- and I would highly recommend, among others, Driftwood, the Campbell Brothers and Keith Secola and His Wild Band of Indians -- we settled into the "Cabaret" building for a couple punk acts. The latter, Atomic Forces, closed out its brief set of inspired noize with some 10 minutes of agitprop from the charismatic lead singer Park Doing about the Citizens United ruling and the undue influence it gives corporations, which already wreak disproportionate influence due to the founders/controlling shareholders' wealth; he specifically referred to the Walton family of Walmart fame. My friend D -- who self-identifies as a conservative albeit with socially liberal stances on issues such as same-sex marriage and the like -- was annoyed at the invective leveled at the wealthy and successful. She asked, Why is it a bad thing for a successful family, like the Walmart people for instance, to make all that money? Why the Walton hate?
Upon thinking about it further, I realize this hits upon one of the main disconnects we see and hear in current U.S. political discourse when issues of economic disparity are raised -- because someone invariably accuses whomever raises the issue of encouraging "class warfare"; of seeking to punish those who've worked hard and become successful (and to automatically suspect base motivations and sinister means on their part); of just plain expressions of envy.
But the thing is -- No. Nobody, other than some hardcore Marxists or whatnot, begrudge successful people the fruits of their success. The Occupy movement, as I understand it, wasn't a protest of the 1 percent's wealth or success ...
... It was a protest of their influence, of their access to policymakers and the leverage their money gives them in seeking to influence policy. People talk about a disaffected and apathetic electorate ... but can you blame the citizenry when most know that, although Joe Public and Joe CEO (and for that matter Joe Hollywood) are all Americans and all theoretically equal in citizenship and in access to their representatives ... Joe Public knows that the people in Congress and the people who aspire to be in Congress and the people in the White House and the people who aspire to be in the White House are far more interested in the views of Joe CEO and Joe Hollywood than those of Joe Public. Both parties court both of the other Joes, and the Republicans have more luck with Joe CEO and the Democrats have more luck with Joe Hollywood, and Joe Public wonders why he even votes. Until and unless he hooks up with other disaffected and discouraged Joe Publics. And this, to me -- in what's assuredly a sweeping and ridiculously oversimplified generalization -- explains the rise of both the Occupy movement and the Tea Party.
So why is such a simple distinction often lost? Why do so many people think that resentment stems from envy of success/wealth rather than the disparity in political access, in the way that, in our current system, money serves as a megaphone or amplifier of one's political voice?
A number of reasons, I think. Partly there's been a failure on a lot of people in Occupy and similar movements to articulate their position well -- many do, of course, but some have given the impression that they just hate the Rich Folk. And partly the mass media these days is, well, pretty pathetic when it comes to explaining anything complex, with context (and I say this as a journalist myself, or at least a proofreader, which is kinda close). And partly because a lot of people on the "other side" deliberately distort that distinction, and make it look like anyone concerned about disparity of access is just a resentful do-nothing communist who hates successful people (or, more alarmist, an army of budding Robespierres who would chop the American aristocracy in their own equivalent of the Reign of Terror. There are people who think the disparity in access to government is the way it should be -- is only fair and just -- as long as their side is the one that's being listened to. Who believe that Money Talks -- and furthermore, that's the way it should be.
Personally, I begrudge nobody their wealth, however much or little it may be, provided it was made honestly and scrupulously. What I do object to is the sense that our government is bought and paid for -- that the only people whose views matter are the wealthy and powerful (Orwellishly termed "job creators" whether or not they've created a single job). In other words, the 1 percent aren't the problem -- the politicians who choose to listen solely to that 1 percent, they're the problem.
I should probably post my recollections of FilKONtario before it recedes into the mists. An excellent con, as always. FKO is, of course, a convention I'm predisposed to find favorable, for a number of reasons. It's the unofficial beginning of my convention season, as I don't currently have the funds to swing GAFilk or Conflikt -- as such, it's a welcome time of decompression and reacquainting with folks I haven't seen for at least six months. And historically, FKO was my first filk con (2000) and the first one where filk took for me, as something that I could see myself participating in (2003 -- wrote my first one, "The Beagle" at that one, though I didn't sing it until Worldcon that year). Though it'd be a fine con even if I weren't predisposed to like it, I'd say.
* My first time seeing/hearing Alexander James Adams live! Either AJA or Heather, for that matter -- and serendipitously, I happen to be in the middle of S.M. Stirling's novels of the Change, which quotes a number of HA/AJA songs. (Heh, and each book's acknowledgements seem to thank one more filker than the one before, as lyrics from Three Weird Sisters and Heather Dale have made their way into the books.) Blown away by his musicianship, as I expected.
* Many other excellent concerts -- Kathy Mar's GOH concert came complete with lyric sheets for everyone to join in, and with a focus on women's songwriting voices (the most powerful one to me: Meg Davis' "Seamus and Ivy" -- whoa, that's one of those songs that punches you in the heart); Paul Estin's set was a hoot, of course; Heather and Ben are always outstanding. I made it to parts of the Saturday concerts between Paul and Kathy, though I've found that on Saturday afternoons at cons I have a hard time sitting in one place throughout -- after a Friday spent sitting in the car and then sitting in open filk. But what I heard of the featured Canadians and the Interfilk guests was outstanding, as well. (I was fortunate enough to share a filkroom for a time Saturday night with Morva and Alan.)
* I was in relatively decent voice during the open filks and consequently confident enough to do probably more than I usually do. (I'm not timid these days; I tend to hang back because of limited repertoire, though I'm working to change that.) I got to witness Kathy's sharp eye and ear for who's been waiting to sing, who's been silent too long, and so forth. My rendition of Bob Franke's "Acid Polka" went over better than it did at OVFF, the first time I tried it (I've got to spring it out at Confluence, if only to torment Pete Grubbs). Had a couple nice moments in which a song I did prompted followers that I really enjoyed hearing: Kathy Sloan followed my "The Beagle" with Blind Lemming Chiffon's "Charles" (at times when Lem and I have been in circles, I've done my song deliberately to prompt his), and Morva and Alan followed my rendition of my favorite Vixy song ("No Hurry") with theirs of my second favorite Vixy song ("Perspephone"). Loved hearing Jodi and Allison trade off the lyrics on music from Dr. Horrible. And the Kira-Randy harmonies just get better and better all the time. And someone -- I forget who, maybe Elliott -- did a medic-themed reimagining of "March of Cambreadth," with the refrain "How many of them can we make live?" I'd love to know whose that was and if the lyrics are available.
* The songwriting contest theme wasn't doing it for me, and the Penguin Contest even less so -- so big kudos to the three who entered that one; a contest entry is successful if it stands alone as a good song outside of the parameters of the contest, and I told Randy Hoffman that his song about an unsinkable iceberg and its tuxedoed waterfowl inhabitants that met its doom at the hands of a liner needs to go on a disc sometime soon. (So should Bill Roper's similar-but-entirely-different Titanic song.) I didn't do the one-shots either; I haven't written anything for a while, and the song I've started inspired by Robert Sawyer's WWW books wasn't coming together over the weekend. May be ready by Concertino or Confluence, though.
* One of these cons where I share a filkroom with Kathy, I'm finally going to join the All-Nighter Sleep-Denier club, but it wasn't happening this time around. (As such I missed Kathy delivering Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" at full volume Saturday night aided by Kira's karaoke track -- but fortunately they replicated it right after the Hall of Fame concert Sunday.) Clearly I'm not getting enough caffeine in my diet. (Er, that was a joke.)
* Much more I could probably say, but that's enough. It's looking about 93-96 percent likely that I can make it to Concertino this year, big yay ... as it moves from "likely" to "definite," I'll scout around for people to beseech for roomshare. I'm quiet and unobtrusive for a Big Burly Guy.
Words: Just finished Stirling's The Scourge of God. On to The Sword of the Lady.
Sounds & Images: In my head, "Dangerous Heroes" by Michael Longcor
State O'Mind: Content
The date doesn't usually occur to me when it rolls around each year -- but it just occurred to me that this day past would have been my father's 91st birthday.
It's been 16 years and some months since his passage, the grieving is over, I'm acclimated to it, etc. And, as you know, I'm a Christian with the hope of resurrection -- I affirm, and I usually believe, that we'll meet again. I can't even say that I think about him every day ...
... But I miss him.
For more than 20 years now, I've called myself a political moderate. It's a term that's not all that helpfully descriptive, bespeaking little than an aversion to extremes in policy and approach. I've also called myself an independent, which suits me better, as an expression that my views can't be pigeonholed and sanded down to fit within the parameters of either of the two major U.S. parties -- that of the factors I bring into play when making an informed investigation and judgment prior to voting, political party affiliation isn't one of them. (Plus, as I posted several years ago, I've also stayed clear of political parties for a faith-based reason, as I've seen too many people of my faith who, from my perspective, seem more aligned to their politics than to the teachings they claim to cherish.) Besides, words like "conservative" and "liberal," as far as I'm concerned, have been leached of all meaning -- they say a lot more about the speaker's own stance than anything else. (My own paper has been called left-wing and right-wing -- at the same time. What does that prove? Absolutely nothing at all.)
Well and good -- and I'll probably remain independent, even though that effectively disenfranchises myself come primary time, at least in my state. But as the political dialogue gets louder, coarser, shriller and more ridiculous (with bombastic claims of "war on faith" and the like) ... and as now in the Facebook Era I see how many of my old high school classmates have moved rightward of me (or maybe they always were, and we never talked about politics; or maybe I've moved leftward) ... and as people in various circles in which I move think nothing of, say, unleashing all manner of anti-Obama invective casually, figuring that, well, pretty much everyone in the room must
agree with them ... and as each day brings a statement out of a candidate's mouth more jaw-droppingly outrageous than the day before ... I wonder whether I'm still that moderate. Politically, I don't really know what I am -- kind of a mutt, really.( 10 RANDOM THINGS I THINKCollapse )
So I'm doing some housecleaning and reconfiguring today -- and I've come across an envelope containing a bevy of Fake Fortunes, created by assorted friends and colleagues at The Company (notably Marcy Mahoney, who used to very occasionally post here as hazmatplaytime
a few years back) as something of a send-up of insipid fortune-cookie offerings. A lot of inside jokes, pop-cultural references and general silliness. Plus the "Lucky Numbers" tended to be stuff like "25 & 6 2 4" or the Numbers from Lost
* You will have the honor of seeing the first frog of spring. (There's a story behind this one -- about a dozen years ago, someone, maybe me, took a call from someone from a town about a half-hour's drive away from the office, who excitedly enthused that they just saw the FIRST FROG OF SPRING and thought we should SEND A PHOTOGRAPHER DOWN THERE RIGHT NOW before it hopped away. ... Um, yeah.)
* Dude. You have no idea.
* Beware the soles of your shoes while running. They may trip you. (That ... MIGHT be a reference to something that ... MIGHT have happened to someone ... who MIGHT have been me.)
* Won't you take me to Funkytown?
* He who stands on toilet is high on pot.
* Join me, and we will rule the galaxy as father and son.
* Return me to the cookie, Ledley.
* The thermostat lies. (It did. Still does.)
* This paper is laced with arsenic.
* I'm too sexy for this box of fortunes.
* Bite me.
* He with much tresses,
Beard like a man of old times,
Let us shave him bald.
(It's entirely possible that this haiku may have been about me.)
* Durpitty Durp.
* It wasn't me. It was the one-armed man.
* The rhesus monkey is the noblest of the primates.
* You just don't get it, do you?
* Every rose has its thorn, just like every night has its dawn.
* I like your hat.
* The pink balloon registered under a fake name while waiting for the four horsemen. (This was from a writing exercise in a writers' group Marcy started, using the old Surrealist Games gambit of having people write random subjects, predicates and the like and mashing them together randomly, and letting that serve as the opening sentence for a story to be written in about 20 minutes' time. I'll have to track mine down; I remember being vaguely proud of it.)
* Alpacas should never be confused with howler monkeys.
* It is partly cloudy, AND it is partly sunny. (Aside from its origins in something stupid I said while preparing the paper's weather page, this one is kinda-sorta-if-you-squint profound.)
* Vacuum cleaners suck.
* She who bears the club makes the rules.
* Why you want now? (Actual quote from Chinese-restaurant employee taking a takeout order. Shockingly, that restaurant is no longer in business.)
* Dave, your hair is on fire.
* Look out!!!
So, we appear to be some 26 hours into a new year. Well met, say I. I don't have any momentous departing words for 2011 -- it wasn't particularly momentous either in a positive or a negative sense. Mostly, it was quick -- as in, really quick. Which may be a function of age, or of too-long workdays, or something.
While I appreciate the clean-slate attribute of a new year, arbitrary as the Jan. 1 date may be, I don't do conventional resolutions -- more like basic over-arching goals toward overall improvement in every sphere of my life (spiritual, physical, social, financial, creative, vocational, intellectual, and general attitudinal). Last year I set a basic goal of overall, complete transformation. I realized that's a bit much for a grandiose one-year plan, so I made it into a grandiose three-year plan, which I'm one-third into now. 2011 saw some steps forward on a couple fronts: I'm slowly developing a more focused approach to life; I'm finally on course to be out of dire financial straits; I was able to resume some duties at The Company that I dearly loved and found fulfilling but which had been unceremoniously taken out of my hands in early 2010. This year I'm hoping to kick healthier-living and some dormant creative projects in gear, and maybe being somewhat less reclusive.
As ever, I hope to discover what "transformation" in each sphere entails as I go along, ideally in fellowship with the Author of my being who knows His plans for my welfare, future and hope.
Yeeks, the preceding several paragraphs were mighty hifalutin'. One "resolution" I will make is to spend considerably more time with the people I care about, and if you're reading this post, chances are you're among that subset of the human race. So ... lookin' forward to seeing you sometime soon.
Happy New Year, all. Enjoy writing across that blank slate of 2012 -- may your lives write poetry and comedy and romance and adventure across its pages. May any conflicts and tensions promote the character development. And may it have a happy ending ... one that sets up for the sequel.
Words: Finished Brian Aldiss' What Can Replace A Man short-story collection. I'd read about half of it this summer and then misplaced the book until last week. Good, good (and highly diverse) stuff -- the human condition reshuffled many different ways.
Sounds & Images: Saw The Adventures of Tintin tonight and was quite pleased. I've been a Tintin fan since, yikes, age 7 or 8 or so when I found a few battered volumes (Land of Black Gold was the first I remember seeing, I think) and when The Black Island was serialized in a children's magazine. So I approached the Spielberg-Jackson treatment with the same trepidation one usually does with adaptations of books or comics or such that's important to one. Needn't have worried -- from the wonderful opening-credits sequence, I knew it was in good hands. I hope this catches on well enough for future installments.
State O'Mind: Anticipatory
To all among my LJ friends who celebrate it, I wish a merry Christmas that's both meaningful and happy, filled with the people and things that bring you joy. To my Christian brethren among you, may we be increasingly cognizant of the reality, import and ramifications of the Incarnation of two millenia ago -- and the incarnation of sorts that's taken place in each of us. And to those who don't celebrate, I wish a happy weekend. And for everybody, a happy and healthy 2012, filled with progress in whatever way one defines it.
I thinks that covers everyone. *smiles*
I don't post on here much anymore -- usually only when I have something long-winded to say, or something less-geared to the mass audience of Facebook -- but I value and care for all of you.
Words: The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison & John Tyler by Norma Lois Peterson. Yes, I read this kind of stuff for fun.
Sounds & Images: A mix of a few Christmas-based Pandora stations. It just launched into Sinatra's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
State O'Mind: Appreciative
Heh. I have a number of Pandora "stations" -- a Ryan Bingham station that gives me a lot of Steve Earle, Lucero and Cross Canadian Ragweed (as well as Bingham); a station seeded with a Dave Mason song that gives me a lot of 60s vocal groups; an early-Genesis station that gives me a lot of Yes, King Crimson, etc.
Tonight I created a Tom Waits station -- and found that the thing about Waits is, "similar arrangements" can lead anywhere. So far it's yielded tracks from Guy Davis, Leonard Cohen, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Lightnin' Hopkins, Morphine, Blind Snooks Eaglin, and John Lee Hooker. I'm expecting some cabaret to show up.
The piano's been drinking. Not me.
So before it all retreats into the mists, I should do Part The Second (and Part The Final) of my OVFF conrep. Having just barely gotten through the Pegasus concert (and my lengthy ruminations on "Wicked Girls") in the last post, I'll just barrel through the high points of the rest of the con from my perspective, halfway-sorta chronologically.
* I parked myself in a doomsday-theme circle for most of Friday late-night and ... theme circles probably shouldn't go on more than three hours. But there were many interpretations of apocalypse and post-apocalypse, even personal apocalypse of nihilistic entropy (as in Randy Hoffman's powerful post-9/11 song "Nothing"). I think I did that circle mostly because I knew I had
an apocalyptic song in my limited repertoire ("Catastrophic Dreaming," my rewrite of "California Dreaming"), plus "Martian Starbucks" about the end of a different
* After Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps' concert, which was characteristically outstanding -- heh, I observed that Ben and I bear a very, very slight resemblance if I were thinner, mysterious and talented (*smiles*) -- mrgoodwraith
, Kira Heston and I hied to an area Italian eatery that was pretty much the ultimate in what Rand Bellavia calls stuff-on-the-wall restaurants. We enjoyed our lunch while speculating as to the stories behind the nuns on bumper cars, for instance. ("Take that
, Sister Mary Angelica! And that and that and that!")
* Was drafted into support roles twice in open filks. Rand enlisted mrgoodwraith
and me as the Wide Flat Earth of Sports color commentators for "Medieval Evil Knievel" in Adam's absence, which seemed to go over well. ("Promotional consideration furnished by the Iron-Fisted Reign of King Pendergast. Long may his cruel and pitiless will be imposed upon us.") And starmalachite
enlisted us both, along with Kira and Sheryl, to hold up the appropriate cat portraits for her rewrite of "Wicked Girls" about the cats that have become part of her and Steve's lives.
* Lots and lots of fine open-filk moments, such as Sassafrass followed filkertom
's spirited (heh) version of his atheist gospel song with "Hearthfire." And Andrew Ross' rewrite (I hesitate to say "parody" when the effect is serious) of "Crazy Man Michael" about seanan_mcguire
's A Local Habitation
. Some wondrous Randy-and-Kira harmonizing -- their voices do some serious magic together. Watching the inevitable reactions when the one or two people in the room who'd never heard it hear "Wreck of the Crash" for the first time. (Not sure who did it; it wasn't Brooke.)
* Didn't go to the mass grouping at the Mongolian BBQ this time around; spent a less-crowded dinner with braider
at a local Subway, mostly for the company and the conversation. (Serendipitously, Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" was playing at one point, which is one song for which I have a slightly infamous parody.) And on the way back, Mary shared the virtues of her latest musical fascination, Enter the Haggis. (I'm liking it. Sadly, I can't get another Saturday off anytime soon so can't get to their Buffalo show.)
* It was good seeing 19 Action News in a full-band setting. Which reminds me; I need to send some Rochester club contacts like I promised the drummer, should they do any mini-tours in west-central New York. I did disillusion him a bit about the travel time: No, Cleveland to Rochester is slightly more
than three hours. Quite a bit, actually.
Ach. So much more Awesome packed into the weekend, but this has already gone on too long. Finances don't allow for any further fannish-type sojourns until FilKONtario, but that always makes FKO even more special; coming on at the onset of spring, it's something of an opening of the season for me. (Of course, there's also tax time, but we won't talk about that.)Words: Perdido Street Station
by China MievilleSounds & Images: Country Music
by Willie Nelson, a find at today's record show hosted by the wondrous Bop Shop -- which I just found out today is losing its lease in Rochester's Village Gate Square. Big Sigh.State O'Mind:
I should probably make the annual The OVFF That Was, Ldwheeler Edition post, since the con's a week gone now. As usual, these are just the scattered highlights that burble to the surface of my brain tonight; as usual, I'll use LJ tags when I know 'em or can easily find 'em ...
... And as usual, a weekend among filkers is among the highlights of the year for me, a weekend of decompression and merriment and music and time spent among friends I hardly see, as we get together to create this strange and diverse stream of the Folk Tradition (meant in its most all-encompassing and general sense). It was just sheer fun. And it's my swansong for fannish events until FKO in the spring, as I can't really swing more than three or four cons a year financially these days, certainly not cons with the associated travel expenses that GaFilk or Conflikt would mean. Sigh. Someday I want to get to GaFilk, and hear Moxie live, and dance with a number of the amazing women among my filk friends. And it Will Happen -- just not this time around.
So: My OVFF weekend, in somewhat chronological order:
* Actually managed to get on the road before 11 a.m., as I'd always threatened but hardly ever accomplished, which means I met my goal of hitting Cleveland before
Friday rush hour and avoiding a 45-minute-or-such delay. This time around, the whole trip contained only five slow-to-crawls due to construction or road-convergence issues, compared to last year's eight or nine. I was making good enough time that, not realizing how close I was to the hotel and that I'd make the Mad Hatter reception, I stopped for a quasi-dinner: I saw a White Castle, and I'd never eaten at one. Always wanted to try it -- and I can now add that to the list of things that, yes, I tried once; and no, I'll probably not do that again.
* Got to the hotel at the same time as my roommates for the weekend, mrgoodwraith
and his Partner in K'Rhyme, Kira Heston. (Here's how awesome and/or insane Kira is: She brought M&M's for our snacking pleasure that she color-coordinated to her outfits for the weekend
PIC: Peter Alway's Lego Filkroom. That's my Bricky Avatar in the back corner with the beard, I think. Really, the whole thing needs to be seen to be believed.( Click here for the remainder of my posty goodness, because I do wax fairly long.Collapse )
So I just overheard colleagues talking about how one of 'em has an "evil laugh."
After a weekend at OVFF, it was all I could do not to pipe in with "Ha ha ha ha DIE."
Perhaps I should have, anyway. Or will before the night's done.
Sounds & Images: In my head, the obvious selection by Seanan McGuire
State O'Mind: Carniverous
Forgive me, all y'all -- it's been nearly two months since my last confession, er, post. But I have a night off before leaving for OVFF in the morning -- these days I always schedule myself a buffer day before any weekend away, because there are usually 4,593 errands to do at the last minute, plus I'm Gettin' Old -- so I might do a quick catchin'-up rundown. This one probably will live up to my LJ's subtitle, "The World's Most Boring Blog."
* Two weeks ago, I went to my 20-year college reunion at Houghton. Not too many there from the class of '91 -- most folks in my age cohort have school-age kids (many of middle- or high-school age), and October's not an optimum time for a long weekend. But it was much fun. Being in that atmosphere, around current students, usually sparks ruminations about the passage of time. Not so much the Yeeks, We're All Old kind, but more, the recollection of how long four years seemed when I was in college; and how quickly four years blinks by in my current life. I tend to think it's because, by and large, back then the years were divided into sectors (semesters) with an intense focus; the semester and its tasks and people were my whole life. And each semester, each month, each week, each day could be significantly different from the one before and the one after. And a day
was divided into so many different segments -- classes of an hour or hour and a half, labs or workshops of a couple hours, a study session here, a meal there, a workout here, a wings run there, maybe a zip out to the Big City on a weekend (which, where we were, would have been ... Olean). Whereas in my current life, my work rhythms -- and most of my life rhythms -- haven't changed much from week to week, month to month. (Though there have been some notable changes lately.) The other thing is, of course, we were all younger and had more energy and could pack more into a day. Wasn't really going anywhere with this line of thought; just ruminatin'.
* Got to see They Might Be Giants with Jonathan Coulton a couple months ago at Harro East Ballroom in Rochester with a few friends. I like TMBG, but my friends were all Major Fans, especially vernicus
-- they were much fun, and I heartily joined in the "APES" chant as much as anyone else, but I was more there for Coulton, who delivered. He had a band with him; I haven't heard him in that framework; but then the only time I'd seen him live before was when he made it to Confluence back in '96.
* Workwise, a few weeks back I began editing and writing for a two-page arts-and-entertainment spread in the Sunday edition of our paper -- replacing a couple of canned specialty pages that had little reader interest. I'm liking this quite a bit -- my nearly two years of editing the Thursday A&E/coming-events section in 2008-10 were, I think, the pinnacle of my career thus far; and I was quite depressed for several months after I was pulled from it in a newsroom restructuring. I continued to contribute to the Thursday section, but it really wasn't the same: It wasn't something over which I had ownership, something in which I was invested. So this is my return to spearheading an A&E section that's essentially my vision from start to finish, and which allows for longer-form pieces than the Thursday section allows. (And Sundays -- being a tetch more leisurely -- are a better fit for my writing style. I've done some pieces I'm fairly proud of, including an introduction of the new Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra director; an overview of the area gay/lesbian fim festival (ImageOut); and an interview with Derek Trucks in preparation for the Trucks Tedeschi Band's Rochester concert this Saturday (which is where I would be if I weren't at OVFF). My other duties haven't been diminished, but I'm doing work I'm passionate about again, which raises my energy level for everything else.
* Finally read Moby-Dick
, and ... meh. I expected to, and wanted to, like it more than I did, but can't really analyze why. Anyone else have that experience with the White Whale?
* Made it to the Canandaigua Comic Con last week. Major find -- other than a lot of discounted back issues of Adventure
, as I'm a sucker for Paul Levitz writing the Legion
characters -- was Chris Watkins' collection of his Odori Park
webcomic strips about a young, dual-ethnic couple. It's a Much Fun slice-o'-life strip. Here's the website
; it started recently enough that a tour through the archives shouldn't take that long. (As opposed to when I discovered Questionable Content
about 700 strips in.
I needs to get to bed, since I want to get out on the road by 9:30ish -- want to make the Pegasus nominees concert at the very least. Got to almost
the whole thing last year -- would've made it had I not hit about 23 different construction work zones throughout Ohio.
A heads-up to the filkers and filk-friendly folks among my f-list: In the comments of my previous post
is looking for "modern" (meaning the last dozen years or so, I take it) filk recommendations for her daughter, who came across her old Julia Ecklar and Echo's Children discs and loved 'em. I gave about half a dozen recommendations, but feel free to chime in yourselves.
Yeeks, I appear not to have posted for two months, since before the Faux End of Days. Little time lately for Lengthy Ruminations. I am, however, currently on vacation -- first full week I've taken off since 2009; last year I took mostly long weekends for conventions and such. And since it's Way Too Hot to do much outdoors right now, maybe it's time to reintroduce myself to LJ.
Haven't done too much this week thus far -- though had my birthday dinner last night (actual b-day isn't until Saturday) and plan a trip to Confluence
this weekend -- but I think I really needed this week. For the past eight months or so, I've been working largely a nights-and-weekends shift, not by choice, and it's only been over the past couple months that I've been able to establish a rhythm that keeps the schedule from weighting me down, and establish time for myself. Added to that, 2010 was a largely disappointing year, in which I met very few of my personal goals and was shifted away from my Dream Job at The Company (though I have been able to retain elements of said Dream Job). I think I needed this week to detox a bit and decompress and just kinda be
for a bit. I've also gotten a bit of significant
housecleaning done yesterday and today as opposed to the dribs and drabs I do while getting ready for work or getting ready for bed.
But that's not to say that life is all Shades Of Gray, because I'm basically happy. And so -- although I do have one or two Major Posts about Big Issues Of The Day (as well as my Abuse of Capital Letters), they will wait. This post is Post #1 of 100 Things That Make Me Smile.
Some are recent events, some are longtime mainstays. They're persons, places, things and concepts. Animals, vegetables, minerals; solids, liquids and gases. It's mostly an exercise in, Dang it, you've got a ton to be thankful for, LDW.
So here goes:( 100 THINGS THAT MAKE LDWHEELER SMILE, PART THE FIRSTCollapse )
So. I take it all y'all have heard about the End Of Days.
It'd be kind of surprising if you hadn't. As fringe apocalyptic predictions go, the 89-year-old religious-broadcaster Harold Camping's calculation of a May 21 Rapture has had a surprisingly high profile, when compared to similar past predictions, like Camping's own earlier 1994 prediction and Edgar Whisenant's Eighties tome deliniating 88 reasons why the Rapture would occure in 1988 (and his sequel the following year listing, you guessed it, 89
reasons ...). It's a function of the big publicity push Camping's followers have undertaken to get the word out (and a function of the presence of the Internet. of course, in which it doesn't take long at all for an idea to go viral). And in a way, that speaks well of those who believe this stuff -- that they care enough to get the word out.
At any rate, as the Fateful Day approaches, the jokes and analyses and mockery have ratcheted up. Tonight as I perused the day's posts among my Facebook friends, it seemed that at least one of every three was a snarky Rapture post. And y'know, I've done plenty of snark myself about it, probably more snark than a Christian like myself should employ against another beliver ... but it deserves
snark. Because it takes a ton of hubris to declare certain knowledge of a date for which Jesus himself said no one knows the day or the hour -- in one of the gospel writers' accounts, he indicated that he himself
(at least as a human) wasn't privy to the Father's exact plan. And self-appointed prophets like Camping do, in my estimation, some very real harm: They risk eroding their followers' genuine faith by equating their own dubious teachings with the promises of God, and therefore raise the question of whether God can be trusted. And -- I again refer to my Facebook newspage here -- they run the risk of making the concept
of Christ's return something laughable, something of mockery. I realize that most people understand that Camping's teachings are pretty far afield from what most Christians believe, even what most evangelicals, even fundamentalists
believe ... even hardcore dispensationalists like Tim LaHaye have denounced them. But I just have a sinking feeling that come Sunday, we're going to have A. a lot of disillusioned folks trying to pick up their lives again; and B. a lot of people across the world who'll find it that much easier to discount ideas posited and presented about Jesus because, well, remember that last nut.
Though really, if I'm honest, that's not the real
reason I'm uneasy about the Faux End Of Days.( What's the real reason? Click here for all too many paragraphs on the topic.Collapse )
So ... not that I have any intention of leaving LJ or anything, but this week of hack-attacks have made me a little antsy about content security. Thinking of getting a Dreamwidth account and backing my journal up there, just in case, and see that it requires an invite code. So, users of Dreamwidth among my FL: Have any of ye a code to spare?
I thank you. A grateful cosmos thanks you, though that's possible an overstatement.Words: Bob Dylan in America
by the historian Sean Wilentz -- which is as much a gamboling through various and assorted threads of American cultural history as it is about Dylan. Example: Wilentz undertakes a multi-page examination of the history of the shaped-note sacred-music tradition because Dylan did one Sacred Harp song on a covers album in the early 1990s. Attn, Rand B., if you're reading this: I think you'd like this one. You too, normaltrouble
.Sounds & Images:
I've had Wild Mercy's "Doomsday Blues" in my head ever since Monday.State O'Mind:
Before too much time passes, I should post something of a FilKONtario conrep, or at least my highlights. And there were many highlights, because FKO was, as is customary, fabulous; big kudos to the concom.
FKO remains something of a home convention to me -- as I told a few people over the weekend, "for those values of 'home' that involve driving four hours" -- for more reasons than just the geographical: It was at FKO, back in 2003, that I kinda fell in love with filk and began to consider it as something that I could actively participate in rather than just enjoy as a listener (though that's fine, too) as I had the past decade hanging out at the occasional Philcon or Eeriecon with mrgoodwraith
and Ookla. It's also the con with which I associate many of the people who have come to strongly represent filk to me: Urban Tapestry, of course; janeg
, who were always encouraging in my more timid days; Barry and Sally, whose speeches as the 2003 HOF induction struck a chord and presented filk as not just a fun hobby but something of a cultural paradigm shift, and have informed how I look at creative pursuits in general ever sense. And various people I first met or became aware of at an FKO, like peteralway
. So yup, a hotel in the middle of miles of nondescript suburbia, for one weekend a year, is home. ( Musings past; the conrep follows:Collapse )
Yeeks, it's been a while. Longer, con-rep-type post will ensue later, but this one's just a note to FKO-type peoples that I've returned safely and without incident. Unless you count being one of the people randomly selected for a vehicle check at the border. Heh, at least he was straightforward about it: "It's the end of my shift; I gotta do ya." (A paraphrase.) They found no contraband, which is good, because I had none. The only dangerous substance I brought across the border was the Urban Tapestry mockumentary. :-)
Carried over from pastorlenny
Leave a ONE WORD comment that you think best describes me. It can only be one word. No more than one word. Then copy & paste this post to your own journal so I can leave a word about you.Words: Moby-Dick
by Herman Melville. May actually finish it this time. State O'Mind:
Considering it's well into February, it's probably well past time to post my annual Rundown of Books Read the Previous Year. (Then again, last year I didn't do the post until Feb. 14, so I'm ahead of the game.)
A bit of a sparse list for 2010, as it was a crazy-busy year, with my job duties changing about three or four times. Plus, this list doesn't account for magazine/newspaper/periodical articles; blogs and other online content I follow; semi-regular biblical readings and occasional supplemental material; comics (though I've listed graphic novels and collections); and such like thus. But here, in no particular order, are ( THE BOOKS OF 2010.Collapse )
Saw a troupe from Second City tonight at Geva doing a night of Rochester-themed comedy sketches. (They do this in many cities -- they send a couple of writers to immerse themselves in the culture of a city, then return to Chicago and write the show, which is also sprinkled with improv bits.) A nice show -- stronger in the second half; in the first, the non-city-centric bits were actually stronger. I appreciate that they didn't just stick to the obvious bits of Rochesteriana -- I don't think I heard the term "fast ferry" uttered once, f'rinstance. Some nice tweaks at Bob Duffy, Buffalo, Genesee Cream Ale, Sam Patch and that culinary staple (and cardiovascular nightmare) the Garbage Plate.
Favorite lines of dialogue, appreciated by one who's had a few greasy late-night meals at Gitsis on Monroe Ave.:
YOUNG WOMAN (to mother and grandma, sounding distinctly unimpressed): Well, thank you for my birthday dinner. At Gitsis.
GRANDMA: I haven't been mugged my last seven times eating there!
YOUNG WOMAN: And thank you for my gift certificate -- my $10 gift certificate. Also to Gitsis.
GRANDMA: That's three meals if you don't tip!
... It gains a lot in the delivery.
And yup, "I'll Be Geneseeing You" was the title, named for the river that bisects the city as it flows toward and into Lake Ontario. Also gives the name to a nearby county, hundreds of streets, multiple beers, etc. etc.
I hadn't realized just how many comedic actors are Second City alumni until I scanned the program -- I knew about Fey and Colbert, and Candy, Ackroyd, Farley and the Belushis before them, but ... Peter Boyle! Joan Rivers! Alan Arkin! Gilda Radner!
I plan on keeping my eye out for each of these troupe members to see what lies ahead for 'em. One of them, Tawny Newsome, is apparently in a band with Jon Langford (alt-country and punk musician -- maybe best known for The Mekons -- visual artist and spoken-word performer).
Never actually been to Chicago itself -- I have been deep in the burbs before, last year at Duckon; and someday I'd like to see the city itself. Heh -- it's like how I go to Mississaugua every year for FKO but haven't really been in Toronto proper since 2003. Well, there was the time five or so years ago when I missed my turn, then missed another turn and got hopelessly lost and drove into the city. Amyway, Chicago. Someday.
Words: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
Sounds & Images: Easy by Kelly Willis
State O'Mind: Content
Adjacent colleague (to office tech guru): "Dan, the copier is giving a funky error message."
Me: Must resist urge to break into Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Fax Machine.
State O'Mind I feel GOOD!
So I'm going to put my scattered reflections on the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (and the murders of six others) in Tucson behind a cut, not because they're Oh So Controversial, but because they contain spoilers for Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
, one of my all-time favorite novels, which I recommend to just about anyone. So if you have never read Brothers
and think that someday, sometime, there's a chance you might want to, bypass this post. Or better yet, go read the book and come back. It's only about 1,500 pages.( HERE BE POLITICAL OBSERVATIONS, DOSTOEVESKY SPOILERS AND DAVE'S USUAL MUDDLEDNESS IN TIMES OF NATIONAL TRAGEDYCollapse )
So, since we're now into the second week of 2011, it may be time to make my New Year's post. Which will include a statement of anti-procrastination resolve. Or should, anyway.
2010, like 2009 before it, was mostly ... quick
. A function of age, I suppose; since as you age, a year represents much less of a fraction of one's life lived to that point. And also a function of being too busy to catch much of a breath in 2011. Aside from quick, it was neither here nor there for me; it just was. I've called years good or bad before, but it strikes me that such is giving circumstances too much power to cloud one's overall state of mind. There are circumstances, good and ill; and there are our responses to them, good and ill -- and the latter is a main deciding factor in how we frame our life situation and, put most simply, how we feel
. Sorta, anyway -- but I wouldn't go too far with that line of thinking; it's a bit too power-o'-positive thinkin' for my tastes, and it minimizes the reality that sometimes people go through horrific periods of hell on earth, and saying "Change your reality by thinking positive" is glib and offensive and unhelpful and useless (and it's nowhere that simple, anyway, even if it weren't all those things). I just read a post from a friend who's watching her mother recede into the mists of dementia. And that's horrible, that's bad, that sucks
. Objectively, and subjectively.
I guess it's more that our life story is made up about equal measure of the circumstances that befall us -- over which we have limited control -- and our reactions, over which he have more (though not total) control; and each affects the other.
Four a.m. ramblin' (lack of) logic at work here.
Just my lead-in to say this wasn't the best of years, though it wasn't the worst. I had some disappointments this year, but no devastating horrors. (Mostly, it involved being pulled off my Dream Job of the previous 21 months, early in the year, and trying to recalibrate from there.) Sometimes I responded well to challenges, and sometimes I responded poorly, and sometimes I barely responded at all.
Philosophical flights aside, the nuts and bolts of 2010 involved a lot of work-related transitions -- I think my slate of duties morphed at least four times this year, most recently about a month ago -- and some increased awareness of mortality, as more and more people of my acquaintance make their passages beyond. (Nobody I knew particularly well, other than a lady in my church who died after several months dealing with pancreatic cancer -- and approaching it with the strong faith in Christ and giving attitude with which she lived her life.) Didn't lose weight in 2010, but I don't think I gained any either. Didn't do much if any prose writing, but I did
write a song and sing it on a real stage in front of real people. Didn't keep my beloved A&E-editor job, but still got to do a fair bit of writing in that field throughout the year (including interviews with people ranging from choreographer Garth Fagan to Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson to Neil Innes of the Rutles and Monty Python's orbit, plus lots of lovals). And I got to continue being a daily presence in my mom's life, running her errands and relating to her as friends as she continues aging (84 this past Monday) but stays resilient, tough and sharp. And I read some good books (*) and attended some good concerts and plays and made it to some fabulous SF and filk conventions and had some good meals and, thoughout the year, enjoyed the company of many good friends. And, as haltingly and circuitously as always, continued coming to know the Lord to whom I've offered my allegiance and my love.
So it was a good year, and a bad year, and a quick year, and a long year; and it had tragedies, and it had triumphs, and I suppose that's as it should be.
To those of you who've known more tragedy than triumph this past year, you have my empathy, support and prayers, should you wish them.
And many hearty congratulations to those among you who've had big milestones of happiness and/or accomplishment in 2010: hsifyppah
and Joe for welcoming Gregory into the world Dec. 27; seanan_mcguire
for being awarded the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer at the Worldcon and for her increasing presence on finer bookshelves across this fine globe; to braider
for buying a home (and already, just weeks in, making some wonderful memories in it, from her reports); to lemmozine
upon his retirement; and to others whose milestones I'm blankin' on.
As for 2011: I'm aiming to pray more and play more, read more and dance more, write more and, yes, work more (though with grace and humor), think more and feel more, eat better (not more, 'cause c'mon), sing more and walk more and talk more and listen more. And love more.
Those are good goals, I think. On with 'em.
(*) The traditional Books What I Read post will follow in a day or two, for fans of such things.Pages: What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
by Daniel Walker HoweSounds & Images:
Calexico's cover of Tom T. Hall's "Tulsa Telephone Book"State O'Mind:
Reflective, and anticipatory
For those who celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas to you all. In particular to my Christian brethren among you, may the truth and import of the Incarnation be present with you amid the hectic nature of the next couple days (and for that matter, the hectic nature of our lives).
And to everybody, much happiness. May the next year be better for everyone. Much better.