Impromptu Baby Rabbit Rescue

Friday night we had a bit of an adventure.

My daughter called me into the front room because one of our dogs, Dango, had something–Athena thought it was a lizard. Turns out it was a baby…something. It can be hard to tell with the very young unless you are particularly familiar with them. Mammal at least. It didn’t seem to be hurt. Dango had a very “soft mouth”. The critter was active and “squirmy”. Very young. Eyes still closed. I thought maybe a baby squirrel so I take it out figuring to put it up in the maple tree in the back yard presuming that’s where it came from.

When I got out there, and I was trying to put the baby up in the crotch of a limb so that it would be relatively safe from the dogs and so mommy squirrel could find it, I took a closer look and decided it didn’t really look like a squirrel. Rabbit maybe? Anyway, I turned to head back into the house and Dango was over by a spot on the ground in “play bow.” I came over and, lo if there wasn’t another one. I rooted around a bit and find a group of baby animals, five in all. They’re in a shallow pit, about 6″ deep and maybe about 8″ across. I guessed mommy rabbit established a nest here and dropped her kits.

Normally, I’d simply leave them alone. That mommy wasnowhere to be seen didn’t mean anything. As I understand it, rabbits generally leave the nests alone for extended periods, coming back just a couple of times a day. However, enclosed back yard with three dogs? No, that wasn’t going to work. Indeed, I couldn’t, and can’t, figure out how mommy was able to make the nest and drop her kits without at least being chased off by the dogs.

And, frankly, if the dogs hadn’t gotten mommy, it really was just a matter of time. My best thought was to move them to outside the fenced yard and hope that mommy rabbit could find them later. My daughter, however, wanted to take them to an animal rescue so…okay. I asked her to find one and she searched, makes several calls and getting “office is closed” until she found one in Mooresville (about a 45-50 minute drive).

So I sighed. We hopped in the car and headed down there with a box containing five baby bunnies. We handed them over to the person at the wildlife rescue, explaining the situation–leaving them where they were was just really untenable. Dango wasn’t really being predatory, just playing but a 70 lb Aussie playing with a 3 or four ounce (if that) bunny… He’d end up killing it without intending to.

I’m still trying to figure out how they got there in the first place. Right in the middle of the back yard, in a nest that mommy rabbit took some time to make, including using loose fur as insulation. How did the dogs, who have free access to the back yard, not interfere with this operation? It wasn’t tucked in a brush pile of in bushes or otherwise where there might be some shelter/protection from the dogs but right there in the open yard.

Normally I’m all for that whole “circle of life” thing. But here? Given the location nothing would be served by leaving them. No fox or what not is going to miss a meal because these particular prey animals weren’t there. The main threat to them would be our dogs and our dogs are well fed. They don’t need to eat baby bunnies to survive. So if they survive to be released (I figure the odds aren’t good, but we did what we could) they might end up in a foxes or hawks gullet soon after that release. Or they might not. But in the end I didn’t do this for the bunnies.

I did it for my daughter.

“How Would You Feel if…”

So Biden has a meeting with Putin on the subject of cyberattacks:

In a conference afterwards, Biden said the following:

“I looked at him and I said, ‘How would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?’ He said it would matter.”

Seriously? This is an argument that Biden chose to make?

Look, let’s suppose for a moment that Russia really was behind the cyberattacks in question. This assumes facts not in evidence, but let’s presume it for sake of argument.

How would Putin feel if this were done to Russia? Would he feel angry? Probably. Frustrated? Probably, especially if there wasn’t anything he could do about it. What about the Russian people affected by such a cyberattack? They’d be hurt in many ways. Might Putin be saddened by the harm done to the Russian people? Perhaps.

Does Biden think Putin doesn’t know this? He set off an attack against the US (remember, we’re presuming that for sake of argument) and didn’t know it would hurt and anger people? They’d be all happy about it?

Or maybe that it would hurt Americans and anger and frustrate American “leadership” (well, it says “leadership” on the label anyway) is exactly why he would do something like that. He has thought about what it would be like to be on the receiving end. That’s why he would do it in the first place (again, presuming for sake of argument).

I see the same thing in certain anti-bullying memes. “The person you called fat is struggling with…” “The person you did this to had that problem.” All this is supposed to make the bullies feel bad and stop bullying. The problem is that bullies. don’t care. Well, they “care” in the sense that such things are exactly why bullies choose their targets in the first place. The person struggling with depression who, therefore, doesn’t engage his or her peers and thus has no circle of friends? Doesn’t matter to the bully. All that matters is that someone is vulnerable and weak and therefore a prime target.

There problems make them hurt more? From the bully’s perspective that’s a plus. They want their target to hurt. Other stuff that increases their pain is just an added bonus. The whole point of an attack is to hurt the other guy. That’s why they call it an “attack” and not a “fluffy bunny.”

Appeal to “feelings” is stupid in schoolyard anti-bullying campaigns. And it’s criminally irresponsible when it comes to international politics.

Musings on Loneliness

Was listening to a song recently with the lyrics “anything is better than being alone.” As someone who was in a very bad relationship for entirely too many years, that line, and variations of it, always makes me cringe (however much I might like the band).

I have been told, and my observations tend to support, that if you aren’t happy alone you won’t be happy in a relationship. On the other hand, loneliness is a thing and it sucks. This would seem to create a contradiction.

So, the question is how to resolve the apparent contradiction. The simplest thing to recognize is that one can be, overall, happy even with things that suck in your life. Just like you don’t have to be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos to be well off, let alone comfortable financially, you life doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy, relatively speaking.

Being happy, relatively speaking, does not however mean that you don’t recognize the suckiness of particular aspects. Consider folk who have lost limbs in war. While some wallow in what they’ve lost and have their misery define what they are, some others go completely the other way. Consider for instance, the case of Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee thanks to an IED in the Middle East:

You think his life wouldn’t be easier/better if he still had arms and legs? Yet, here he is making jokes and giving motivationals to others.

So, clearly the advice to “be happy alone” is not inconsistent with recognizing that being alone is…not great and, yes loneliness sucks.

But the thing to remember is, as Robin Williams said, being alone is not the worst thing. The worst thing is being with people who make you feel alone.

A bad relationship is worse than no relationship at all. And so, you have to be at least comfortable with being alone. If you’re not, you’ll tend to grab onto whatever comes along, anything rather than being alone. This is how you get into relationships with the wrong person, with someone who is outright toxic for you (might be great for someone else, but not for you). Indeed, the person who is afraid of being alone is easily manipulated by the toxic. All they have to do is hold out that lure of your not being alone and they can lead you around however they wish.

And in the end, you realize you are lonelier than you were when you were alone.

So, while loneliness is a thing, and an unpleasant one, the paradox is that you have to become comfortable with it, to make it something you can live with, something that doesn’t render your whole life unhappy, before you have a realistic chance of finding someone to end the loneliness. Without that, you might get lucky. You might stumble into someone who will be a good “fit” and, between you heal the parts of you that need healing.

You might. But the odds aren’t good because if you’re in the “anything is better than being alone” because there are too many “not right” people for every “right” person, and if the “right” person isn’t the first one…well, then it’s too late. You have to be strong enough in yourself to walk away from a relationship as soon as it becomes clear that it’s the wrong one for you.

And that means that you have to understand, way deep down in your gut, that there are worse things than being alone.

Fatphobia? Really?

So there was this:

So let me get this straight. If someone is trying to lose weight (for whatever reasons seem important to them: I won’t judge). They are having success. If I complement them on their success in progress toward achieving their goals that, somehow, makes me a bad person because other people either aren’t working toward that particular goal or have obstacles toward such a goal?

Could this person make a more ridiculous claim?

If a person is making an effort to be what they want to be (In this case, thinner), then recognizing and applauding their progress toward that personal goals is a good thing. It has nothing to do with how “worthy” they were/are. It’s about their success at accomplishing a goal.

Anybody who follows this blog knows I want to figure skate, not just do simple roundy-rounds around the rink. I can’t do that at my former weight of 270. That weight is hard to move through various techniques. More weight is more to move through fast changes of direction. It’s more to lift in jumps. It’s more stress on feet that already have problems. It’s more stress on ankles that are already stressed because I’m balancing on knife blades. (Hello? Have you looked at a pair of ice skates?)

The bulk that goes with that weight, particularly the roll of fat around my middle and the fat clinging to internal organs, interferes with bending the ways I need to bend. And that I’ve put some of the weight back on during the COVIDiousy is concerning. Techniques I need to continue to move ahead in free skating, things like “sit spins” and “shoot the duck” I can’t do because my protruding gut just gets in the way. I try to bend for it and I can’t breath because compression of my stomach pushes it up into my lungs. Oh, and doing those techniques which require balancing on one sharply bent leg? Yeah, that’s a lot harder to do when you’re carrying more pounds (or kg for you metric folk).

That weight is an obstacle to my goals. I need to shed the weight if I want to accomplish my personal goal. Doesn’t mean that folk with other goals are less worthy. They just have other goals. And that’s fine.

And if someone is working toward their goals and making progress toward them, then good for them. That’s a laudable goal, worthy of being commented on.

And does this prohibition on complementing people for something becoming a “phobia” for people who don’t have that something extend elsewhere? Can I not complement someone on their haircut because it’s a long-hair-phobia or or bald-phobia?

From yet another direction, people like what they like and are attracted to what they’re attracted to. I like vanilla. Does that mean I’m “phobic” about chocolate? I like bacon. Phobic about chicken? Same thing about factors involving personal appearance. People are allowed to like what they like. That doesn’t make them “phobic” about people who don’t fit that ideal. The great thing, though, is that there are a lot of people out there and if one person doesn’t like you, somebody else can. The most unlikely people find friendship and even love.

But some people take it as a personal affront if there’s anyone, anyone at all, who doesn’t like them, who doesn’t approve of each and every aspect of their being. And that’s a ridiculous position to take. Nobody and nothing is going to be universally loved. Nobody and nothing has ever existed, exists now, or will ever exist, that someone isn’t going to find some fault with. Expecting otherwise is just a way of guaranteeing failure.

Far better to be happy with yourself. And if there are things about yourself that are you aren’t happy about (most of us who aren’t complete narcissists do), then make the steps that seem appropriate to you to change them. And if you get some honest appreciation from others either for the characteristics you have or the progress you’re making for the characteristics you’re trying for, then take pleasure in that. Don’t try to browbeat or shame others into claiming an appreciation for things that they don’t particularly care for, for things that aren’t to their taste. You might get them to mouth the words, but they’ll never mean them and you’ll know they don’t mean them. And that will end up just making you feel worse, which will lead you to push for even more empty appreciation and approval, which you will know is insincere, leading to yet more disappointment, which leads to more efforts to force approval… A never ending cycle which no amount of forced approval and appreciation can ever break.

The “break” has to come from yourself.

Goth on Ice: Captain’s Log

There is a thing in physical exercise called “overtraining.” Basically, when you exercise hard, your body needs recovery time before the next big, heavy session. If you don’t give it adequate recovery time instead of improving, your performance starts to fall off. Thus, more is not always better.

I’d been noticing that with some of my own practices. Several days of skating and then I’d just find it harder to complete the target time on the ice I’d start reaching a point where I’m getting winded and, more importantly, my balance and coordination start to go “off”. I get clumsy, start stumbling and…well, I have to stop before I become a danger to self and others.

So, while ice time is king when it comes to making progress–the more time you can spend skating and practicing, the faster you make progress–there is a limit to that. If you don’t get adequate recovery time between sessions, progress falls off.

There are several things you can do to work around that. First and foremost, of course, is when things start falling off, take a day or two off. On the off days you can do a different kind of exercise, but as far as the normal exercise is concerned it needs to be “rest”.

There are things that are supposed to accelerate the recovery period somewhat. Back when I was serious about bicycling (training for competition, back when I was in my 20’s), sauna, hot baths, and massage were recommended. However, the amount one is able to cut recovery time with those is limited at best. The claim I saw in the sports magazines of the day was something like about a 2:1 advantage. That is, one hour of sauna or hot bath counts as 2 hours of recovery. So if your body needs 36 hours of “recovery time” before hitting those muscles that way again, an hour in the sauna reduces that to 35 hours.

As you can see, that’s not really all that helpful. Maybe at the very high end, where every little bit counts, but for most of us? If you like saunas or hot baths, then take them. But don’t expect to be able to exercise hard every day as a result.

When I spoke to my instructor about it, she acknowledged that it is an issue. You need to be aware and know when to take a break. She recommended keeping a training log with notes about what you worked on, and how it went to help recognize when you are having a fall off and when you need to take that break. And use the break time to do something else–off ice training that works things differently is beneficial here.

And so, I started one. The first entry was for yesterday, after the practice session and class. (They have classes back to back–first the younger kids and the lower “basic skills” levels, then the higher basic skills/free skate classes and the adults. And there’s a section of ice set off so that while one set of classes is running, those in the other set can practice.) Here is my first entry (slightly expanded because “verbal shorthand” that makes sense to me would be gibberish to someone else).

Training Log Sun June 6, 2021

Practice Session:

Arrived late (misjudged drive time to the rink). Mostly just warmup. Worked hockey stop. They’re getting better. Hockey stop to the left is still weaker than to the right.

2 foot spins are up to about 4 turns when they go well, and most of the time they do. Still not entirely consistent. Trying to go from two-foot to one-foot I’m able to get 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn.

Class:

Forward crossovers. Tips from the coach–hold the extensions with both legs, leg straight with toe pointed. Practice holding the edges for a beat or two as an exercise.

Backward crossovers. I’m still “flicking” the back leg in the cross and bringing it back inside. Need to work on a longer, push with that leg. Tip: Hold the back leg out and glide on the inside edge of the front leg so I’m not in such a hurry to bring the back leg back inside.

Inside three-turn. I’m still getting my weight too far forward on the skating foot, causing the toe-picks to scrape. Need to remember to keep my eyes up. I have a tendency to look down which throws off my balance. Also have a tendency to lean out of curve as I make the turn, this gets me off a good edge leading to the skate skittering sideways. The coach had me doing a bit of reaching into the circle with my lead hand just before and as I was making the turn. That suggests a bit of “pre-rotation” of the upper body might help.

Backward stroking. I’d been doing that all wrong. I’d been doing it basically into a one-foot glide in a straight line. The instructor showed it instead as a push and glide onto an inside edge, so instead of a mostly straight line down the ice, it’s a series of graceful swooping curves. Definitely need to practice this more. (Note as I’m writing this up: this actually sounds a lot like backward inside edges on a line, which is a Free-skate 2 technique.)

That was my notes for Sunday’s class. In the meantime I’ve done further work on my two-foot spins:

And further work on spirals and lunges:

They’re a bit less clumsy than they were, but I’m still not getting the extension I really need to get. That’s a matter of stretching to build flexibility as much as anything else, which would make for some good off-ice exercises to do in the “off” days.

Goth on Ice: I Feel Pretty

Okay, not really. (I own a mirror; I know what I look like.) The title is a reference to the two new techniques my coach started this last class: Spirals and lunges.

Spirals and lunges are techniques where the point isn’t intricate footwork like in twizzles. They’re not about the speed and rotation of spins. They’re not about the athleticism of triple and quad jumps. No, they’re about grace and elegance, about looking good on the ice.

Coach Julia has an instruction video for spirals. One of the keys is getting sufficient flexibility, particularly extension in the quadriceps, to produce be able to get the free leg up high.

One “trick” my own instructor gave me was that this is one of the very few techniques where you should lock the knee of the skating leg. Doing so helps keep your weight on the back part of the blade preventing catching toe picks and making a very painful faceplant.

And here’s Coach Julia’s tutorial on forward lunges.

Let’s just say that I’ve got a long way to go yet.

Kia Troubles

Wondering if anybody can offer suggestions.

I recently did the timing belt on my 2009 Kia Spectra. And while doing that, I replaced the accessory belts since they had to come off anyway to The timing belt went fine, but since then I’ve had consistent problems with the AC compressor drive belt. First problem was the tensioner pulley fell off the car. Not sure how that happened. I torqued it to spec. Car is a salvage title (“Rebuilt”) and had clearly been hit on that side so maybe it was just faulty. In any case, losing the AC belt took out the belt that drives the water pump and alternator. And since the power steering is driven by a belt off the water pump, that pretty much took out everything.

Replaced the alternator belt while I went out looking for a replacement for the AC belt tensioner and idler pulley.

Found one on Amazon that included the axle and tension adjuster screw. It’s an almost but not quite correct match. The incorrect aspect is that there’s not quite sufficient space between the hex head on the adjuster screw and the flange that serves as the bearing surface to fit into the slot on the mounting bracket on the engine. Some work chucking the screw into a drill and spinning it with a file on the underside of the hex head (not a load-bearing component) took off about 50 mils (one and a quarter mm to you metric folk) and that was enough to let it fit.

The problem is that the AC drive belt tends to walk off the pulley–outboard so that it starts to collide with the belt driving the alternator and water pump, taking it out and…suddenly we’ve got our fingers crossed that the battery will last long enough to get home and hauling the steering wheel around by main force because no power steering.

I’ve tried various tension levels in the idler pulley. Doesn’t help. Tried replacing the pulley with one specific to the Kia thinking maybe there’s some subtle difference in dimensions between this one and the “correct” one. Nope. Same problem there.

I’ve been through four AC belts and three power steering belts (currently have the old one on) trying to solve this problem. The only parts I’ve touched in this subsytem are the harmonic balancer (which drives the belt), the tensioner, and the belt itself. The belt driving the water pump and alternator is fine, which suggests the problem is not with the harmonic balancer. That leaves the tensioner or something else just chose this moment to let go.

Any suggestions?

Update:

On the way home from the ice rink today, there was a brief “growling” sound from the front of my car, the steering in my car suddenly got heavy, and then the electrical fault warning light went off. By that combination I knew that I’d lost the alternator belt.

I promptly drove to the nearest auto parts store (wasn’t going to chance trying to get home on just the battery). Bought not one but two alternator belts (one to get home on and one in case I damaged the first on the way. Also a 12 mm combination wrench because of course I didn’t have my tool kit with me. (Need to get a halfway decent tool set to leave in the car.) Replaced the alternator belt in the parking lot of O’Reilly Auto Parts. Old one didn’t break exactly but had walked off the pulleys and basically shredded lengthwise. Part of it, about half the normal width, was still present stuck between the pulleys.

Now normally this would be just further aggravation but, as it happens, this may be the clue I needed to figure out the problem with the AC belt. You see, the AC belt had been walking off its pulley with disturbing regularity. Normally, that would mean something out of alignment but the only component that could be out of alignment that I’d messed with at all was the harmonic balancer (had to take it off as part of the timing belt change). However, the alternator belt, also run off the balancer, hadn’t before this been giving me any trouble so I didn’t think the balancer could be the problem. Now I’m wondering if maybe the extra length and more “open” routing of the alternator and water pump belt might have made it more tolerant of a misalignment. In any case, losing both alternator and AC belt is a strong indicator that the problem lays with the harmonic balancer.

So right now I’m waiting for the engine to cool down before getting under the car and checking. Since the alternator pulley is on the front of the harmonic balancer, I can check it against water pump and alternator with a straight edge. Can’t do that with the AC.

Happy (or not, as you prefer) World Goth Day: An Annual Event

Normally I do these in the evening, but for today I’ll post early.

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For those unfamiliar, here’s a brief history of Goths, the Gothic subculture and why “Goth”  even though they, we, were nowhere about when Rome was being sacked. (I’ve got an alibi!)

And some pictures of Goths, being Goth (what can I say, I like couples):

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goth couple 32
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goth couple 4

If this interests you, Toxic Tears has some tips on getting started:

Socialism Means Central Control of the Means of Production: A Blast from the Recent Past.

You know, I keep running into people, even nominally right-leaning people, who are apologists for Socialism. No, the problem isn’t that it wasn’t “done right.” The problem is built into the very foundations of the concept.

Let us be clear on one thing. “Socialism” whatever form it takes: International, National, “Democratic”, “Market” (whatever that’s supposed to mean, but it was apparently a thing back in the 1940’s), whatever, cannot escape from the definition of socialism itself: an economic system where the economy is centrally planned and where the means of production are owned or controlled by the state. “Control” is the key element that makes it socialism. That is the core element of ownership. If one remains an owner “on paper” but the decisions about use are dictated by the state then it’s socialism. Because the real ownership is by those who make the decisions, whatever some piece of paper says about ownership.

Now, this is the important part. Tattoo it on your eyelids, add it as the welcome screen on your computer, whatever it takes to get you to learn it and remember it deep down in your gut:

YOU are a “means of production.” And that means that you need to be “controlled/owned” by the state. You. Not just your neighbor. Not just “the wealthy”, the “1%”, “cishet white males”, or whatever other group you want to bring down. You.

In socialism, the state decides what use you will be put to. Not you, yourself, not the nice party leader in your neighborhood, some bureaucrat a thousand miles away who doesn’t know the first thing about you personally except as a number in his spreadsheet…and cares even less.

Totalitarianism isn’t the result of socialism gone wrong. It’s the very core of socialism, following from the simple fact that the most important means of production, the most important capital, that needs to be centrally controlled by the very definition of socialism, is human capital.

And human capital means you.

It’s slavery. That the slaves–you and me–are owned and controlled by some vague collective (really someone who claims to be acting on behalf of that collective) instead of individual slave-owners does not change its essential nature. All the promises in the world about “fairness” and “equality” do not change that. Slavery that’s equal is still slavery.

A socialist society is a slave society. The only difference between it and other slave societies is that no one (except possibly a few nomenklatura–the handful claiming to act on behalf of the collected and being able to enforce their dictates) is free.

To advocate for socialism is to advocate for ones own slavery. (No, you won’t be part of that nomenklatura.) Well, if you want to make yourself a slave, that’s on you.

The problem is, you want me enslaved right alongside you.

Social What? A Blast from the Past

As I have mentioned before, I was the guy who always got bullied growing up.  Late developing physically making me the “runt” all the time.  Slower, weaker, and less coordinated than my classmates.  “Odd” interests (space, science fiction, science in general).  Oh, and poverty.  Can’t forget poverty.  All of those added up to the “weird kid” that everyone picked on.

Take all that.  Add in a bit of “face blindness” (faces, unless I know them really well, tend to look alike to me; take two faces and let me compare feature by feature and I can differentiate them so long as I have both in front of me, but try to recognize someone, particularly in a crowd?  Not happening).  And still more there’s the weird way my mind can be “wired” so it’s a recipe for never learning to read “social cues.”

I don’t get social cues.  And, as a result, I have major, major social anxiety issues.

So when this picture popped up on my social media feed, I got it, totally:

flirt back.jpg

As what I said above suggests, I have no idea what “flirting” looks like on the receiving end.  Part of that is that, in addition to the above reasons, because I’m a big ugly, relatively “low status” by most markers (neither of remarkable physical attractiveness, nor with any significant wealth, nor fame, nor power/influence) guy so I don’t get flirted with much.  Even if I did I wouldn’t recognize it.  So, maybe I do get flirted with but just don’t recognize it.

If I did recognize it, I have no idea how to flirt back.  So, if someone were to flirt with me, getting no response, they probably wouldn’t do it twice.

And that’s just talking about casual flirtation.  If I wanted to go beyond flirtation to a relationship or even a dalliance?  Troubles just begin there.

What I said up above about not getting social cues?  That applies here.  Even if by some miracle I recognized “flirting”, I have no idea what “signals” suggest that moving beyond casual flirtation would be welcome.

And if, somehow I managed to recognize those signals (perhaps if said signals were applied with a baseball bat–see Neil Gaiman’s bit on “how to seduce a writer”–more on that in a bit), I have no idea how to actually take whatever steps I need to take to move things in that direction. (I don’t know and would be deathly afraid of crossing some line that I don’t get because I. don’t. get. social. cues.)

There’s also a problem with that “signals applied with a baseball bat”.  You see, sometimes in the past young women (this was mostly when I was in school) would do just that.  And in every case but three, they were doing it as part of a “set up” in which I ended up as the butt of some rather cruel joke–making me think I had a chance only to jerk the rug out from under me in a very public and messy fashion, leaving me humiliated.  Each of those three exceptions, well, they turned out badly for other reasons.

Did I mention social anxiety?  That’s a large part of it right there.

When people trying to be helpful say “you just…” every word after “just” turns into the adults talking in the old Peanuts’ cartoons.  “wah wah wah wah wah.” Okay, not that bad.  I mean, the words sound like English but they don’t combine into anything that makes sense to me.

So, yeah, Goku.  I get it.  More than you know, I get it.