Thursday, March 31, 2005

It looks like my mom has finally got some pictures uploaded to her online photo album. She's using the same service that I am, but having problems uploading in bulk... which may be a good thing for us all. I have a sneaking suspicion that when she masters it there will be a torrent of grandkid pictures. Of course, that's the whole point, so there's really no reason to fear it... Her album is up at I've got about 5 weeks left here, so I've got to start packing all the crap I've accumulated over the past year and half here. I'm told that it's a common problem for contractors... the amassing of junk that you thought you really needed, and in truth you could have managed just fine without it. And then you've got to figure out what to do with it. My method has been to just put it on the shelf and deal with it later... of course I had to buy shelves, and now I've got to figure out what to do with those too. It's a vicious cycle. Most the stuff I will just pass on to other contractors, and make it their problem. The smarter ones pass on the "free stuff"; the dumber ones think I'm doing them a favor... the REALLY dumb ones buy the stuff from me. hehe More later, gotta run to work! Mike left to go on leave today... he's been here for nearly a year straight without leave, so he was WAY overdue. He was nearly as cynical and jaded as I was when I took my couple of months of last fall. He's got a lot of fun things planned for his trip home, so he should come back his normal and happy self... just in time for me to bounce out of here. Love to all!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Ever have days like this?
Posted by Scott via Hello

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Kuwaiti student driver that failed the roundabout part of the test... I'm sure he still got his license though...
Posted by Scott via Hello
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Actual Conversations...
I've had two bizarre conversations in the past hour that I just have to share: The first one was with one of the gate guards. There were a few cars in front of me, and I got a text message on my cell phone. You're not supposed to use cell phones at a checkpoint, but I had a few seconds so I hurriedly typed a reply. I was putting the phone down as I pulled forward and showed the guard my ID. He asked me if my cell phone had a camera; I smiled because this was the second time I had been able to use the line "No, and my camera doesn't have a cell phone" while pointing to my camera hanging on the passenger seat.
Guard: What do you use the camera for? Me: [pause] Taking pictures? Are there other uses I'm not aware of? Guard: [longer pause] Taking pictures of what? Me: I don't know; if I knew there was going to be a quiz I would have studied. How is this relevant? Guard: Sir, you are not allowed to take photographs at this location. Me: I'm well aware of that, have you seen me using the camera? Guard: I saw you on the phone, which you are also not allowed to be using at the ECP (Entry Control Point). Me: [Looking in the rearview mirror, making sure we're not holding someone up with this highbrow conversation]. And you'll take my word that it doesn't have a camera in it, but you question the camera on the seat next to me? Guard: [smirking] Ok, your point; have a nice day. Me: Thanks! You too!
The next conversation was at the PX. A soldier in the checkout line across from me noticed my Hard Rock Cafe hat from Munich, and asked me if it was nice. I told him it was, and went back to checking out. He asked me if I saw David Hasslhoff while I was there, and I told him that I didn't, and resumed checking out. He then informed me that David Hasselhoff is a big musical star in Europe, but we Americans only know him as a great actor... i swear that's what he said. I asked him, "Great actor?", to which he replied, "oh yeah!". He then went on to tell me that he wasn't a big fan of his music, except for a few songs that had "surprised" him, and that he loved the songs that he did for the movie Eurotrip... and he "REALLY" like the song he did at the end of Baywatch Nights. At this point I'm just wanting to get out of there as fast as I can... so I literally grab my receipt and move as fast as I can while lugging a footlocker and not knocking over anyone... as I'm walking across the parking lot I hear "Have a nice day", but I don't know for sure that it's anyone talking to me. I hear it again, and I turn and sure enough it's the David Hasselhoff fan waving to me... Me: Thanks! You too! Just another day in my life.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Why do I love Mike?
Mike is my other co-worker here, and I'm sure I've expressed my respect for him in previous posts. He's an intelligent person, and enjoys arguing as much as I do... and he's almost as good as I am at it too... almost. Anyway, after Carl and a fuel truck failed to occupy the same space at the same time, we were issued a replacement vehicle... a Ford Mondeo ... which is like a Ford Tempo, only not as nice. We knew this was just a temporary replacement until they could procure us a new vehicle, and we expressed a desire to get another pickup truck, because of the myriad uses we'd found for our recently deceased one... Eventually, they delivered us a Chevy 1500 Z-71. The list of things wrong with this thing are too numerous to document here (not to mention boring), but when I arrived to work tonight I asked Mike to send another email to our regional staff describing the latest discovered defect. Here's the letter, and the reason I love Mike:
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Maybe it had a cardboard box on it...
Scooter blown up in security scare Fri Mar 18, 2005 12:53 AM GMT LONDON (Reuters) - Heidi Brown was told she could park her new scooter outside the vehicle registration office while she waited to get number plates. To her horror, it was blown up by the army after someone reported that it might be a bomb. Police in Ipswich confirmed on Thursday that a moped had been blown up in a controlled explosion after local business people "raised concerns" that it could be a bomb. "The moped was chained to the perimeter fence outside the building. We weren't able to identify whose vehicle it was because there were no number plates on it," said a spokeswoman for Suffolk police. She said the surrounding office buildings were evacuated and three roads were closed off. The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported the scooter belonged to Brown, a 22-year-old care worker, who said she had been told she could leave it there awaiting inspection.
What this news report doesn't state is that she left it there on a friday night, so it sat there for THREE DAYS. It wasn't until the employess of this Government building came in on Monday morning that they noticed this "suspicous moped" without license plates parked in front of the place where you ummm.. get license plates. Like I said before... the terrorists have won. Now we're blowing up mopeds because "someone reported that it might be a bomb" and "local business people raised concerns". What's the lesson here? Don't chain up your unlicensed moped? Better safe than sorry? People are idiots? Check out all the news Google has on this. In other news (days later), the Terry Schiavo case rages on. I've largely ignored this issue, because I didn't know (or really wanted to know) the particulars of the case... When I read this, I was appropriately irritated:
Talk about a new low Congress and President Bush ignored the Constitution when they whipped up a law that would take a legal dispute out of Florida courts and put it into a federal court, where some people hope it might be settled differently. That seems doubtful; the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to accept the Terri Schiavo case, which suggests it believes Florida's courts have handled it properly. Judges have affirmed repeatedly that Michael Schiavo has the right to have the feeding tube removed from his wife, who has been severely brain-damaged for 15 years. He says she told him she would not want to be kept alive under such conditions. But because she did not put those wishes on paper, her distraught parents are trying to keep her alive. The courts have repeatedly ruled for the husband, not the parents. Needless to say, a decision to turn off the technology that keeps bodies, if not minds, functioning is difficult and wrenching. Yet Americans make those decisions every day on behalf of loved ones, and the legal procedures to guide them are well established. Congress and the president know that. They also know that some of the religious and political organizations that helped elect them are demanding that Florida's laws and precedents be ignored. As a memo circulating among Senate Republicans noted, this is a great political issue. But great politics is different from great government, which is what the Founders tried to give us when they divided power among three branches. They wanted to protect us from unrestrained power. Congress and the president are trying to violate that crucial principle that shields our freedom. So is U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr., who's trying to intimidate the Marine Corps into dropping the prosecution of one of its own for emptying two M-16 magazines into two unarmed Iraqi men and putting a triumphant sign over their bodies. Whether the lieutenant is guilty as charged remains to be seen. But if the Marines believe he should be tried, the Marines' legal system should be allowed to operate without meddling by politicians looking for votes. Or maybe we should abolish all the courts. Kill all the lawyers. Throw out the laws, precedents and intricate rules worked out over centuries. Forget the rights and opinions of minorities. Let Congress and the president decide everything from family disputes to criminal prosecutions, based on polls and how many votes it might get them. There's a name for that form of government. Mob rule. Used without permission. Here's the link to the original article.
Yes, I've still got a story to tell you ... a couple of them actually, but haven't had the time yet. I'll do it soon ... but in the meantime:
On 19 March 2005, Carl was hit by a fuel truck. Fortunately for him, I'm posting this here instead of in a eulogy. The truck, however, didn't do so well...
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Page screwed up?
A couple people were saying the page was screwed up for them... I created a new banner/logo for the top, and it was unforgiving for monitors at lower resolution. Make sure you're using 1024x768 at a minimum, or else you're missing other stuff on the 'net too... More later.. got a great story for you!
Monday, March 14, 2005

I have a funny feeling that this comic is a fairly accurate prophetic vision of my future... anyone want to bet me? So, I've been found this great software for organizing photos, especially if you want to share pictures via email or on a weblog. I've taken over 2000 pictures, and have done a very poor job of organizing them. I know, you're all just shocked. The software is Picasa; it's created by Google, and it's free. Those are both very good things. Also, the software interfaces with an application called Hello, which is an messenger application that allows users to easily share pictures. I've used several different graphics programs, but none of them are as user-friendly as Picasa. It does a great job of finding all the pictures on your computer, and organizing them in a timeline, and allowing you to label pictures for easy recall. You can also create photo CD's, screensavers, collages, posters, prints... and the list goes on. If you're a camera-happy person ... like a new Grandma tends to be ... Speaking of which, apparently I'm an uncle now! My brother, Shawn and his wife, Diana has a baby girl on Saturday. Her name is Kiera, and she weighed just under 4 lbs, and measured 17 1/2" long! I'm sure we'll start getting some pictures soon, and I'll pass them on. Well, need to go. Carl (my digital crack dealer) just showed up for work with two more episodes... I'm having serious withdrawl symptoms, and I need a fix. Love to all!
Saturday, March 12, 2005

What a cutie... Posted by Hello

Just a couple pictures I found using some new software... I'll tell you more about it later! Posted by Hello

Battlestar Galactica is digital crack...
... and Carl Goldsmith is my dealer. Carl is one of my co-workers here, and he's a newsgroup whore... and I mean that with the utmost respect. Newsgroups (for those of you that aren't Internet experts) are online message boards, arranged by subject. These are also used for file sharing; long before software programs like Napster allowed people to share files directly from their own computes, newsgroups were doing the same job. For years now, they've been used to upload file segments of movies and software, and then other programs assemble these segments into something useable. It's one of the 'net's oldest uses, and I'm amazed that the RIAA hasn't gone after the servers that host these newsgroups and the software that facilitates it... but I'm also extremely glad, because otherwise I wouldn't be enjoying BG right now. Carl has managed to procure the first 6 episodes so far, with 3 more on the way. I have no idea what episode is on SciFi channel right now, because I have refused to risk going to any of the fansites and ruin the surprise. This show is incredible! Every episode I'm more hooked on it. The special effects are top-notch, the storyline is amazing, and the performances by the actors are simply fantastic. That's a lot of superlatives in a sentence, I know... and I haven't ranted about a television show like this since Firefly. Don't get me wrong... Firefly is still my all-time favorite, but BG is a close second. If you get a chance, and haven't seen any of the episodes, I highly recommend it. The storyline is fairly complex, and bears little resemblence to the original; so you might want to make sure you catch the mini-series first. This really isn't something you can just pickup and catch on right away. Fortunately, the do a very good "re-cap" sequence at the beginning, but it assumes you know a lot of the story already. Ok, that's all I've got for you right now. Between working, sleeping, and studying (and lately watching BG), I haven't had much time for picture taking, but I'm getting down to my SIX WEEK mark, and need to start getting all my "tourist trips" out of the way. Oh, and speaking of being a tourist, I'm officialy NOT ... that's right, as of 2 days ago I'm an official Kuwaiti resident... only took them a year and a half to get it done, and just under 2 months left before I leave... typical Kuwaiti dealings... Love to all!
Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Movies of 2004
I work with a lot of great people; not just the people with my company, but the people that work at our site. One of those guys is Maj Faris Williams. (He's reading this right now, and if he knew how many people read this 'blog, he'd be blushing) Anyway, he sent me and several other people we work with a list of The Movies of 2004, and wanted to know what we had seen, and what our favorites were. He's a bigger moviephile than me, as is evident by the fact that he's seen 113 of the 263 movies on the list, and I've only seen 60. But the whole reason why this is a post, and not just a private email (other than the opportunity to publicly humiliate Faris), is that I noticed a "trend" for my movie picks. This won't surprise anyone that knows me, because it's well-known that I like "bad" movies. One of my favorite movies of all time is Hudson Hawk, so that should tell you something... Anyway, I reduced the list first to what I'd seen, then gave them a quick rating of 1 (didn't like it, wouldn't watch again) to 5. Bearing in mind that I will enjoy a "2" movie ... whereas Faris is more of a movie snob, and if it's not at LEAST a 3.5, he refuses to allow it to be shown in his presence ever again. So, here's my list: 5 Shrek 2 5 Spider-Man 2 5 Napoleon Dynamite 5 Eurotrip 4 I, Robot 4 The Bourne Supremacy 4 50 First Dates 4 Hero 4 DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story 4 Kill Bill Vol. 2 4 Mean Girls 4 Man on Fire 4 Hidalgo 4 Hellboy 4 The Butterfly Effect 4 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 4 Team America: World Police 4 Wimbledon 4 Jersey Girl 4 Garden State 4 Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! 4 I Heart Huckabees 4 Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut 3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 3 The Day After Tomorrow 3 Shark Tale 3 The Polar Express 3 The Terminal 3 The Aviator 3 Resident Evil: Apocalypse 3 The Chronicles of Riddick 3 Blade: Trinity 3 Closer 3 Dawn of the Dead 3 13 Going on 30 3 Miracle 3 The Punisher 3 Alfie 3 Shaun of the Dead 3 Super Size Me 3 Touching the Void 2 Troy 2 Van Helsing 2 Alien vs. Predator 2 Starsky and Hutch 2 The Forgotten 2 Home on the Range 2 Secret Window 2 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2 Taking Lives 2 Walking Tall 2 Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman 2 The Girl Next Door 2 Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London 2 Vanity Fair 1 The Village 1 Fahrenheit 9/11 1 King Arthur 1 Garfield: The Movie 1 Torque 1 Thunderbirds Notice that there are a LOT of 2's, 3's, and 4's, but only a few 1's and 5's. I don't know if that's normal or not, but it seems about right for me. Looking at the list now, I think I was maybe a little too generous with the 2's... there are a few that I doubt I would ever take the time to watch again... One more dig at Faris: HE HATED "What Dreams May Come" with Robin Williams ... definitely in my top 100 movies of all time. Guess I'll need to get to work on that list. Love to all!
Saturday, March 05, 2005

The "Boghole"
I've told a few of you ... a VERY SELECT few of you ... of my experiences with the local bathrooms. If you're not among the select few, don't feel bad. It's just not a topic that needs to be discussed at great lengths...
But I was doing some random web-browsing, and I found an interesting post on one of the 'blogs that has linked to mine in the past, and it's funny enough to justify sharing with you. Actually it's a link to another 'blog, but the comments are hysterical, especially when I found out they were called "Turkish toilets".. because the first (and LAST... AND ONLY!) time I used one was when I was in Turkey. So yes, this post is about a toilet. it's official, I'm running out of things to write about.

Interesting website, reading ... oh... and THE TERRORISTS WIN!!!
I found another photo website that I am trying out. It has a very slick interface, but is still in beta, and limited space and bandwidth, so I'm not really ready to spend any money on it. I uploaded a few pictures, and I just got a notification that another user has added me as a "contact". It has a bit of a "community" feel, which I'm not sure I like yet. Check it out and let me know what you think. Mike (my co-worker) and I made a realization the other day... and I am taking it to it's inevitable conclusion: the terrorists have won. Our realization was that with all of the resources available to the anti-terrorist forces of the world, the terrorists have a limitless supply of the most effective weapon ever devised: Cardboard. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you obviously haven't spent any time on a military base recently. I don't know if things are as bad back in the States, but a cardboard box ("suspicious package") found by the side of the road here warrants shutting down the entire base for hours. Which makes this even MORE ridiculous is the amount of garbage that regularly blows around here. Pretty much anything that could be IMAGINED to be an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) mobilizes the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team. Their methods include dogs, portable x-ray machines, robots, and LONG STICKS. (ok, I made the last one up ... but I'm sure they have one, and I'd bet it's got a ridiculously over-thought acronym; like ERD (Extended Reaching Device or EPPD (Extended Poking/Prodding Device)). Sorry, getting a little off-track here. Here's the process. Some eagle-eyed patrol spots a bit of trash on the ground. They make some calls on the radio, using several important sounding acronyms, and several important people make several important decisions: close the base, send out the EOD, notify all the other bases (so they can close too), then wait for the inevitable report that they were unable to determine the exact composition of the "suspicious package", so they blew it up. Seriously, that's pretty much how things happen (minus my creative license) at least twice a week here. And as far as I know... there's NEVER been any evidence that the "suspicious packages" have been anything OTHER than just junk. Maybe it was something useful to someone before it fell off a truck somewhere, but after it's been detonated, there has never been any indication that it was an act of terrorism. Just random garbage. Thus, my conclusion that we've already lost the War Against Terrorism. If all the terrorists have to do is scatter cardboard boxes around various "key" installations to bring them to a grinding halt, why would they even bother packing anything less innocuous? We have millions and millions of dollars invested in equipment and personnel; they have WMD (Weapons of Mass Delay) that cost them $0.08 a pound to produce. I only wish I were kidding about this. Speaking of rampant idiocy (and we were, trust me), has anyone else seen this? I was having very similiar thoughts during the whole "US is STINGY" media-slam. i didn't know the specifics though... now I'm REALLY pissed. Yes, it's VERY long, but it's very well-written.
BUT KEEP AN OPEN MIND There are over six billion people living on our planet. Of that six billion, almost two billion are Muslims. That's roughly a third of the total population of the earth. The earthquake that triggered the killer tsunami was centered just off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country. It was also the most severely devastated by the wave. Nearly 100,000 of the victims of the December 26 catastrophe were Indonesian Muslims. The vast majority of the victims were either Muslims, Buddhists or Hindu. Got all that? Good. Now, to the United Nations. The United Nations consists of 186 countries. The most powerful voting bloc is the fifty-seven Islamic countries that generally vote with one voice, especially when the United States or Israel are voting the other way. The United Nations' head of humanitarian relief, Jan Egeland, criticized the West for being stingy. He didn't specifically mention America, but he cited the exact percentage of the US GDP that is budgeted for foreign aid, so there is little doubt of who the 'stingy West' was, at least in Egeland's mind. Egeland slammed the United States for not raising taxes so that America could give a greater percentage of its GDP to the UN to distribute as part of the UN's foreign aid package. Editorials in the Washington Post, the New York Times and other liberal newspapers echoed Egeland's charge, with the New York Times calling America's $350 million in direct government aid 'miserly'. The United States makes up some six percent of the world's total population, but we pay a quarter of the United Nation's total budget. The United States pays forty percent of the world's total disaster relief aid, and sixty percent of the world's total food donations. The $2.4 billion (that's BILLION) dollars Washington spent in emergency aid in 2003 represented 40 percent of the total amount of emergency assistance from all bilateral donors provided that year. Evidently, that isn't enough. It didn't take long for these same liberal elitists to turn Mother Nature into an American right-wing hater of Islam. Not only had America's imperialistic self-enrichment policies created the natural disaster, but also cold-hearted Muslim hating President Bush wouldn't leave his ranch in Texas... which by the way, is his home -- not a vacation destination -- and only offered a 'stingy' initial monetary donation. While these elitist journalist were assailing President Bush and expounding the mantra that America should be giving more money to the devastated region in a token gesture that would 'show Islam that America didn't hate Muslims', UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was still on his vacation skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He returned to New York four days later. The wave struck on Sunday, and it took only until Monday before the US announced its $350 million in initial aid, sent the USS Abraham Lincoln into the region, including helicopters, and C-130 transport planes, sent hundreds of tons of pre-packaged emergency aid supplies, and deployed some 14,000 American troops to help with the recovery and cleanup. In Indonesia, U.S. helicopters flew at least 30 sorties, delivering 60,000 pounds of water and supplies, from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln along a 120-mile stretch of Sumatra island's ravaged coastline. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the richest nations in the Islamic world, donated a paltry $10 million each. The United Arab Emirates donated some $20 million to relieve the suffering of their Islamic 'brothers'. Egypt's contribution at the time of this writing is $104,000.00. (Note: Egypt gets $2 BILLION in US foreign aid annually) And did anybody notice that the majority of the private donations came from those evil corporate types the left so loves to loathe? Pfizer donated $10 million in cash and $25 million in drugs. (That is more than oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined) General Motors pledged $2 million in cash, agreed to match employee donations dollar for dollar, and is sending vehicles to transport food and medical supplies to the region. Other corporate donors include Nike Inc., American Express, General Electric, First Data Corp., Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Exxon-Mobil, Citigroup, Marriott International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. On the other hand, where are all the Hollywood liberals? Activist actors such as Ben Affleck, Susan Sarandon, Al Franken, Tim Robbins, Martin Sheen, and Barbra Streisand have not been heard from. And where is George Soros, the world richest left wing liberal? Actress Sandra Bullock donated one million dollars, but Bullock is neither an activist nor a liberal. (She also donated one million dollars following September 11.) Super-rich liberals like Bono and Bruce Springsteen are promising to hold another "aid concert" to collect money (not theirs) for the victims. America, as noted at the outset, represents six percent of the global population. But in any catastrophe, it gets one hundred percent of the blame. The UN's nose is out of joint because the Bush administration refuses to funnel its aid through the UN's various aid agencies. Kofi Annan wants to use the catastrophe to shore up the UN's sagging image in the wake of the Oil-For-Food thefts from Iraq. The United States wants to ensure the aid doesn't end up lining the pockets of UN officials. So the US is 'too stingy' and gets another black eye. Where is the rest of the Islamic world? There are fifty-seven Islamic nations, and the world's biggest Islamic nation is the one that took the hardest hit. But it is the United States -- the world's largest donor nation -- that is grabbing all the headlines for being "stingy". To put things in perspective, I saw a news photo yesterday of one of the Indonesian victims. He was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the face of Osama bin Laden.
Interesting, hmm? Ok, I've uploaded some of the pictures I've taken recently. Haven't organized them at all, but they're in the Kuwait Album. Love to all!
Thursday, March 03, 2005

Just another day?
The days seem to run together after awhile; working long (and strange) hours, changing sleep times, depending on what I want to try to do during my downtime... Today was no exception, but I got to do a couple of things out of the ordinary. One of Shelley's co-workers has a husband on his way to Iraq, and he is in Kuwait for a couple of days. When I was home in the fall I talked to him a little bit about working overseas, and despite all my warnings, he did it anyway. Some people just never listen... hehe Anyway, we finally managed to get together today, and I took him and a couple of his fellow workers on the "500 fils" tour of Kuwait, giving them my limited knowledge and understanding of the local culture. I can tell that they weren't impressed... However, the highlight of this tour was we went up into the Kuwait Towers. I've posted several pictures of them, but have never managed to take the time to actually go up. Here they are from the outside: And this is from the top of the tallest one, looking down at the smallest one: For the record, there are three towers. The tallest one has an observation sphere in the top, and a couple of restaurants in the middle. The second tallest tower has a single sphere, and holds a million gallons of water. The smallest one has no sphere, but has two bathrooms at the base... seriously. I got a couple of good shots in this area few weeks ago, but here was a hair (!) inside the camera... looks to be an eyelash. I haven't taken the time to touch the photos up yet... but not all the shots were ruined. There's a fishing pier down by Chili's (yes... they have a Chili's) on the beach: ... and here's the pier from the towers... ... also, down at the same beach: When I first saw this sign, I thought it said "Grilling is Propheted" ... like it was some kind of Divine BBQ site or something... I'll get all the photos uploaded and into an album, but wanted to give you a glimpse of my recent events... Mobile PC Magazine just released "The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time" list... very interesting stuff! That's all from now! Love to all! (In case you didn't know, or don't recognize me... I'm not the short one...)