< October 2011 >
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Sat, 22 Oct 2011:

And I'm concerned.

I'm concerned that she does not understand the difference between marriage and love. That she does not understand the difference between love and sacrifice. That she does not understand the difference between loving someone and living with them. That she does not understand that marriage is not the finish line for love. That she does not understand marriage takes more than love.

And the more I think about it - I'm even more concerned.

I'm concerned that her apathy towards her career will be the death of it. That she will end up being a homemaker, after having a gold medal from NLS. That she will end up succumbing to the social pressures of being a Mrs Somebody. That one day somewhere in her middle ages she would regret her simple surrenders. That if she's wilfully ignoring the springboard of opportunity that so many of her peers don't have. That she might be decieving herself into becoming the role model wife and bahu - and fail. That she'll lose something precious and ephemeral - the fire to burn as bright as you can.

And in some way, I'm saddened.

I'm saddened that whenever she explains her idea of relationships it is to suffer for the sake of her partner, to be with him whatever it takes at whatever cost to her potential. That I couldn't pass off my own ephiphany about love and relationships - that it took me further ahead than I could've done on my own. That my efforts to fulfil my dad's hopes for her weren't enough - simple enough as they were, to see her "breaking through the limitations society might impose". That she won't see that in some way or the other, I've been on her side for twenty odd years in the case of Sister vs The World, 1986-present.

I'd don't think I'll ever stop being concerned about her - she's my baby (sister) too.

But in more than one way, I'm happy for her. And proud of her too.

She's marrying someone of her own choice - after six years of knowing each other. And it's happening out of co-operation between both the families. She's doing this completely out of her own volition, dreams and desires - which is what will truly give her the strength to push through when push comes to shove.

Also, she's been known for making me look very stupid - which this blog post might do in a couple of decades.

Marriage has some thorns, but the alternative has no roses.
     -- Vernon K. McLellan

posted at: 23:34 | path: /me | permalink | Tags: , ,

Sun, 10 Apr 2011:

I make it look easy.

I even make looking things easy, look easy. I guess I've had enough practice.

The truth is, most of the things I really want to do are hard. So hard that it hardly seems worth the effort. If I knew what it would take to do them I would've probably never even done it.

The long sleepless nights, the weekends consumed, hobbies neglected. Little sacrifices and the big ones. Perhaps even by someone else. That's what it has taken to make it happen. Every step of the way.

If you knew, you'd probably never attempt them. That is exactly why I can never tell you. That is exactly why you'll never know how hard it was for me. Not that it matters, because here's the kicker, it won't help you.

In some sense, I'm less capable of the impossible once I've proved it is merely difficult. I'm guessing you all think the same. So I deceive you and anyone else who asks. Everything's easy and all you need is a little time & determination. And you're just a few steps away from success, always. There's really nothing to it.

See, *that* was easy.

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough
    -- Albert Einstein.

posted at: 17:34 | path: /me | permalink | Tags: , ,

Thu, 16 Sep 2010:

This sunday, there will only be a finish line. There are no easy ways out of it.

42 long kilometres between me and that line. My tired feet pounding out fifty thousand footsteps to get to that line in the sand.

There's no quitting, there's no giving up, hell ... even death is not an option.

We won he said, and immediately he fell down and died.
        -- "Battle of Marathon", Herodotus.

posted at: 22:40 | path: /me | permalink | Tags: , ,

Tue, 12 Jan 2010:

I run. Out on the road, as each stride drags me ahead, my mind is truly free. Free of this world, free of troubles and free from everything else, but the next footfall. Distances blur out, time stretches out, pain becomes a companion and your body falls into a rhythm which you dare not break.

found somewhere on tumblr, not mine

About three years ago, I started to run. I never really had a reason for it. I ran everywhere and ran back as well, if I could. But then people started to pop up in my life who couldn't keep up. And I stopped ... for a while.

But just like everything important, it came about from a random conversation over coffee. There we were, me & @teemus, sitting in Java city, checking out all the upcoming concerts. Right in the middle of everything from jazz to house, was a bright red poster telling us to run (and eat sunfeast biscuits).

For the good part of two weeks, I lived a very disciplined life. Ate right, slept right and spent an hour or more in the gym. Racing each other on the treadmill, steadily upping the distance, speed. Finally one morning, stretching up in Kanteerva stadium, drinking redbull mixed with orange juice, I knew I'd always wanted to run long distance.

10 Km: Ran the Sunfeast 10k. Running slowly became more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. To actually cross the line of discomfort to actually hit the limit of pain was more of a mental barrier than I thought. It was just too easy to just quit, stop by the side and take a breather.

The physical barriers were there. They were definitely a huge challenge all by themselves. But even when I could run 5km without falling over, the urge to give up does not fade. To actually gag and silence that part of your mind which keeps whispering "quit now, there will be cake".

heh, was that too obvious?

It was all in your head.

You could stop anytime you wanted. But it took all my vanity and ego, to keep me running. To see others vanish ahead, lit a fire that would burn me through the miles and miles ahead of me.

faster: The Nike+ Human Race was the next one. The last 400 metres were run at blistering pace with me and @balajijegan running together. Adrenaline pumping through my veins, Nicotine blasting in my headphones and out of breath, I crossed that finish line. 10 Km was turning into a race than a test.

25 km: Finally, it was time to play with the big boys. The Bangalore Ultra was looking like too big a challenge to actually pull off. The track was all ups and downs. I ran the first 18km in complete zen, in under two hours. The safety pins holding my bib to my chest had started to cut into my chest and I had cuts on my chest from the friction. I had to stop after the 20th km to get medical attention. After barely six or seven minutes of standing still, I had cramps.

last mile: The pain was getting to me. 21st to the 23rd was a sheer exercise in masochism, all the way uphill and through slippery mud. After that, it was just a test of sheer willpower. I knew that I would just fall over if I stopped running. Running along on empty, in pain, with my face showing it - you'd wonder why I was doing it. You have to be a runner to know why - there was no way out of that agony other than that finish line. I don't think I left myself any options.

21 more: The next half-marathon had significantly less training behind it. The weeks preceding it was mostly spent on FOSS.in and almost everything going wrong with that conf was my fault. The Times of India midnight marathon was a lot of fun to run, because it was flat, late in the night and I had my personal cheerleader waiting at the finish line. I ran that at my best time, ever.

Running will change your life. I'm running out of reasons to explain why I run, but it's changed my life around and made me a happier person overall.

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching.

posted at: 00:09 | path: /me | permalink | Tags: , ,

Fri, 04 Sep 2009:

Occasionally in life, I have a blinding flash of the obvious. An idea which has been hiding out there in plain sight, just jumps out and catches my attention. I don't even claim to be original about this, but at least I hope that here's the first time you've seen this in writing. Here's one of those ideas I had when I was 14... looking back at the all the years.

The world has a plan for you. The day you were born, you've watched it unroll in front of you. The system tries to coerce you to its plan with its checks, balances, pains and rewards. The system is all around us in our culture, environment and upbringing. It's implemented by the powers that be, to turn you into a well oiled cog in society.

If you're reading this, you've probably already dismissed the plan. You, the individualist, is determined to make your own way in this world. You've already recognized its shortcomings, pitfalls, weaknesses and in fact, you know you're cut out for bigger things. You are the person you are because you chose to branch out from it, rather than conform to any expected norm.

This is not a bad thing in itself. But the powers that be, they fear the change you represent. They will resist you, they will force you into their systems of indoctrination. You will fight, you will fail. As your idealism tends to wear out, as it grinds incessantly against the real world, you become frustrated with your impotence in this world. The rebellion becomes destructive - to yourself and others around. As you're thrown out of society's inner circle labelled as an outsider and a troublemaker, you're reaching an end which you do not deserve.

There are only two basic rules of survival for the individual:

  • Work the system
  • Fuck with the system

It doesn't get any more contradictory than that.

I listened to the world carefully as it whispered its rules in my ear. I didn't agree at first, but I still listened with as much care as I could muster. Because the day I stood up and disagreed with it, I didn't want to disagree because I didn't understand. I wanted to dismiss their plan because I understood and understood all too clearly.

The System is not your friend or your enemy. Being caught in it is like being caught in a raging torrent. You don't escape it by swimming against it, the only way out is downstream. You need to know the currents, the way the water flows to let the stream take you where you want to go.

Fight the System head on and you will most certainly fail. It is not fair, but that's how it works out. You need to focus your efforts on what you want to do rather than in wasting it on the system's clampdowns. Don't reject it outright, but instead ride the river - use its power to your advantage. But don't let it change who you are, understand that you are making the system work for you.

But you will need patience. Almost infinite quantities of patience, because the Machine will never move at your pace. The right moves at the right time, holding your breath waiting for the right moment and you can move nearly anywhere you want to get to. Without giving up an inch of your inner self, at complete harmony, but in complete control - in surfer cool fashion, you'll be able to move about.

But how do you not become a drone in the process? Society, as powerful in mainstream life as it may be, is not omnipresent. Sooner or later you'll have people around you who do not belong to it. By reaching out and connecting to such people, you'll build yourself a little sub-culture where you are truly truly free. You'll be able to disconnect from the hum-drum of the rest of the world and truly enjoy human interaction sans rules built by others. And those moments will reasure you that you haven't lost it, yet.

Just like any surfer on a wave, now comes your time to stand up & shine. Once the machinations of society are second nature to you, the threads pulling each human being around you start to pop out of the background noise. Even as a non-conformist, you'll be able to manipulate the world around you to your own ends. As you delve deeper into the systems within systems and wheels within wheels, you'll start to "see the code" to the world.

You'll be surprised about how much of your blatant individualism will be tolerated by the powers that be, if they can't detect a threat from your existence.

Don't be an idiot. Don't complain into the ears of your peers. Don't fight the system and self destruct. Know in your heart that you have something to offer to this world, whether it wants it or not. That is not worth risking for any rebel posturing or meteoric martyrdom.

But in the end, they won't call me a rebel. Because I wasn't ... I was just being myself.

So be you.

Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.
          -- Albert Camus

posted at: 16:03 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: , , ,

Tue, 05 Aug 2008:

Money is what money does.

Living in the suburbs with an economic major for a dad, I was subjected to long drives filled with words like Price, Cost, Wealth and Money. Slightly different, shadow images of the same thing - Value. Transactions, hoards and transformations there-of. But this system of Value, has no absolutes - it's a general theory of economic relativity. The essential backbone of which is the equation of effort to value and in some essence has been as revolutionary to me as Einstein's has been to 19th century physics.

$$$: Money is worth what it buys you. The only reason it exists is because other people accept it and provide you services/goods. That'd be why it is infact called currency, because that is the most important property for money. But the exchange of money look like a zero-sum game - you gain only as much as I give. But transactions of value have to be a non-zero sum game. For a stable economic system, the buyer & seller should both go home with more than what they started with.

!Zero: The nonzero sum aspect of trade, is what set that juggernaut rolling in the first place. But to acquire more value than the other gives up, requires for an inequity of value in exchange of money. What I give up in return for money is more valuable to the person paying for it than what she pays for it. And thus the ship sails into the next port.

The Pin: The pin maker is a skilled man. All day long, he makes pins. It would take you an entire day's work to make a pin. He makes ten pins a day. If he demanded half-a-day's worth to make a pin for you, would you pay? I assume you would, after cribbing a lot about the rising cost of living, how they don't make them like they used to and how your children no longer behave. But you'd pay, take the pin & spend the rest of the day doing something fun.

And here's where the inequity of effort and value kick in. It is an equation, for sure, but one of the multipliers in it is skill at a task. The price you pay is fair for something if it takes more effort to do it yourself - DIY solutions excepted. The foundation is laid for the segregation of society into guilds, based on skill & strata based on the multiplier of effort to value. Productivity is no longer a measure of effort, but a combination of various other things.

The world we see around us is the effect of such a run-away economic chain reaction - where all's fair in the price war. There's nothing you'd buy at a loss, whether you profit in fluid currency is another matter altogether. You're built to be a winner at the game of value, but transmuting it into gold is another skill altogether. But you still got what you paid for.

On the other hand, there's probably one born every minute, who hasn't.

PS: this entry initially was penned in my notebook, when people protested about Apple dropping the iPhone price

The use of money is all the advantage there is to having money.
                -- B. Franklin

posted at: 09:12 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,

Sun, 02 Dec 2007:

Run away I did. Not from myself, nor my troubles.
But run away I did - from whom I'd have hurt.
Run away I did, for their pain I cannot borrow or share their sorrow.
Run away I did, if only to come back. Come back stronger.

Run away, I did. But no longer.

Life only demands from you the strength you possess.
Only one feat is possible -- not to have run away.
                -- Dag Hammarskjold

posted at: 15:15 | path: /me | permalink | Tags: , ,

Sun, 12 Nov 2006:

When Douglas Adams wrote about immortality, he talked about the impossibility of boring yourself to death on sunday afternoons. He wasn't kidding. Right now, I've hit the lowest spot I've hit ever since I left college. Even during the blindingly bright (and hot) summer days in Hyderabad, toiling away at a job I didn't like, did I feel so hopeless and lost.

Personally, financially, career-wise, health-wise or any other way that is obvious to me now, I've never had such a dark time before. I've come to terms to personal failure the moment I stepped out of childhood, the last year has taught me to deal with fall of those giants on whose proverbial shoulders I've stood. But these last few days have taught me that I have nothing left to rely upon - no anchor to hold me steady through the tumultous times ahead. Got nothing to hold on to, nothing left to aspire to, nothing to work with - I got nothing.

All I seem to have retained is my perspicacity.

The fates owes me big, she owes me a big one. Or maybe I should just give up like my old man and go down with captain & all. Quitting is easy ... just stop trying.

There are worse things in life than death.

posted at: 13:13 | path: /rants | permalink | Tags: ,

Tue, 26 Sep 2006:

Jargon is the refuge of the elitist, but I will stoop to it - to hide behind a word, my ideas. Performance Inversion is that dark fate that awaits a "Can Do" person in the hands of an unscrupulous [1] taskmaster. Something dark and deadly which destroys your work ethic and pushes you ever closer to a burn out, while still under-utilizing your real talents. In relatively mild quantities, the problem solves itself, thanks to that great human ability to forget. But for some more unfortunate souls, it throws them into a bottomless pit of effort, in a spiral of work and more work.

Performance: You are stepping into an existing team, filling someone else's boots. Invariably, your first few weeks will be typical bootcamp. You are pushed to deliver and most of us, do deliver in that initial phase putting in extra effort in return for the manager's confidence. But having gained the confidence and trust, the work cycle settles down into a more sustainable load, by mutual consent from both parties.

Distribution: Not everybody in the team works at the same levels of productivity. There are a few who have bursts of extreme results, while some of the more settled folks deliver a constant, steady stream of work. Most managers would like a decent mixture, so they have enough afterburner fuel in the former while the latter keeps chugging. Work comes in and the work load sort of averages out for everyone, a few extra bits given & taken, in general everyone ending up with their fair share - no more, no less.

"Can Do" XPloited: The former category of "in reserve" people are those who are more commonly known as "Can Do" people. Nobody sane (or at least has heard of "Mythical Man Month") will dare to plan for these people to work at full throttle. But a few still break this cardinal principle to keep the wolf off the door, for a few months more. After all, what good are developer resources, if not for working.

'Tis an act of betrayal, worthy of Macbeth and more. But unlike the lady of the play, the blood seems to wash right off the hands - maybe she should've tried the sweat and tears of engineers, instead of perfumes from arabia. Anyway, if someone had yelled out "abort mission!" at that point, I'd shake them by the hand and buy them lunch. For otherwise they have to be eternal optimists who never learn (incompetent) or of the feudal weasel family, whose concern for the serfs is legendary - either way, let them expense lunch.

Blame Spread Thick: Having been told to do the impossible, the developer has a faint idea that he/she is going to be pushed to the very limits of his/her ability. In some sense, the "Can Do" people enjoy that experience. But then something goes wrong, some dependency fails to deliver, the whole plan's a pile of toilet paper as far as the project's concerned. And a landslide of backlogs land on the developer's shoulder and the difficult task becomes mission impossible (where work should've been a walk in the park instead). To compound insult to injury, he/she is called in by senior management to explain the delays. Watching the man responsible for the mess (in your opinion) sit on the other side of the table with a reproachful look, doubting your commitment, is too much for anyone with a straight backbone to bear.

Character Shows: But you still eat crow, swallow the remnants of your self-respect and buckle down. You work insane hours, on weekends, skip meals, eat junk food and work work work. By an amazing coincidence, you manage to drag the entire module back on schedule, mainly by doing the dependencies yourself and doing QA's job when you're done coding. Having got your workload to a manageable level, you wait for the release, the associated kudos and a general pat in the back.

Inversion: And when you think it can't get any worse, it does. So the boss shows up at your cube, and says "Ummm,yeah ... $_nameless_ is quite behind schedule. You're the only one ahead of your tasks, so I'm moving a bit of work off to you". Not only are you not getting credit for finishing your work, but you are getting more work just because you keep doing it. All this while, $_nameless_ has been shirking work, lazing about in the food court and generally enjoying life. So, faced with the basic injustice of the situation and remembering the last lecture about "communication", you walk back up to your boss's office and enunciate - "No, I'm not doing that". Boss takes offense to your "Not my job" reply and lectures for half-hour on team work and "one for all, all for one" philosophy.

Final Straw: For an external observer (such as middle management), in a matter of months, you've gone from being a "Can Do" whiz kid to becoming a whiner who says "No" to work. They just can't comprehend why or how of the scenario and decide to take strong steps to discourage this behavior. In response to your glowing achievements on your self appraisal, they write out a "negative attitude to work" and give you an average hike. Your complaints to HR fall on deaf ears, used to listening to employees bitching about pay, quote salary parity to ignore you. Of course, the boss probably got a good hike for managing with (*sic*) employees like you. The inversion discontent spiral is now complete.

In a few short steps, one person has gone from being an excellent employee to someone who's polishing up their resumes. But the really sad part is that as long as the real offender is not punished, this developer is only one among a long line of people whose work ethic will be destroyed totally by mismanagement. There are a few other branches and variants to the above scenario, some worse, some better, but they all end up in the same gutter anyway.

All this only goes on to prove why I think of management as a dark art of sorts. It requires a lot of finesse and panache to pull it off, rather than mere authority behind you. You can't convert any average joe from a tech lead into a manager, at least not into a good one. There is a certain Je ne sais quoi which sets apart the good ones from the average ones. So if you have a good manager, you don't know what you're missing

And for the record - I only observe, I don't interfere.

[1] - Hanlon's Razor:
                Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny.
               -- Frank Hubbard

posted at: 17:42 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,

Mon, 04 Sep 2006:

One of the rarest of the rare species that inhabit cubicles is that creature of myth and legend - the Team Player. Often naturalists hiding behind indoor plants near the watering holes of employees claim to have encountered the creature in the wild. But they are probably mistaken or lying, because it is widely accepted that no fossil evidence has been found past the piled carcasses of the Y2K mass extinction event. Ever since the job atmosphere has lost its ozone layer of job security, most of these magnificient creatures have succumbed to cancerous career growths or perished in hibernation between jobs.

Jokes aside, I'm here to debunk the myth of the team player. To study and expose the nature, being, migration patterns and if time permits, the mating habits of the common team player which is endemic to air conditioned cubicles of software companies.

For a borrowed concept from professional sports, the team player label has undergone a sea change before it has been used to describe a software engineer. Rather than deride the noble concept, which embiggens the smallest man, the target is the namesake euphemism which has replaced it in corporate vocabulary.

Managing a software project is no walk in the park and if Mythical Man Month is any indication, is often contrary to conventional wisdom. Essentially, most of the problems stem from one single assumption - that software is an industrial product. Building software is unlike any other industrial process and is more of a research & development activity than an assembly line of coders assembling components. Allowances have to be made for dead end attempts, work done to maintain status quo (aka Backward Compat), regressions and other anomalies.

Programmers, by definition, are only human. And humans have good days, off days and then those days when it doesn't pay to get out of bed. The productivity of a programmer is bursty and unpredictable. But predicting that is exactly what all the money in management is all about - creating schedules, timelines, plans and bullet points. And they'd rather have their task made easier.

So it is obvious that a steady, yet low, throughput would be considered more suitable to the management principles adopted from the industrial revolution, rather than the odd week of lucidity separated by a fortnight of stupor. The brilliant programmer who works in bursts falls out of favour, while the predictable programmer is pushed forward. The moral of the Tortoise and the Hare is vindicated in this modern race, where the hare is caught napping, though the jury is still out on whether 'twas the management's inaction which let the hare sleep.

The team player has come to be a euphemism for such a slow and steady worker - predictable and absolutely devoid of hidden reserves & surprises. Someone who would rather move with the team rather than run ahead and look back at others. To make no exceptions and just keep on working, despite lack of motivation or support from above is the clinching quality of the newly defined team player.

To put it more bluntly, being a team player (in context) is not for the benefit of the team of peers, but functions primarily as yet another variable removed from the game of uncertainity that is management. The ease of control is why this group is encouraged to form and survive, even re-evolve in new circumstances. By whom ? Take a guess. And where the species is missing, others are dressed up in the robes of team play-dom, under the flag with the device SCRUM.

The moment the system favours such team-players over strong contributors, the team will quickly lose its edge and motivation. The balance has to be maintained to ensure that the average output of the whole group exceeds the sum of the parts.

Finally, all the above discussions treat team players from the cynical point of view. But just because you are not a team player in the eyes of your management does not make you not-a-team-player in the eyes of your peers. As long as you can have fun, while working with them, help those who struggle and in general, not let your ego rule your decisions, you'll be one of the team - truly.

Otherwise, you're just a team player.

Captain, a starship also runs on loyalty to one man.
And nothing can replace it or him.
                         -- Spock, "The Ultimate Computer"

posted at: 01:46 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,

Mon, 08 May 2006:

This one's for all the times I saw an eskimo on a sled with the banner North Pole or Bust in Miami. Actually that was just a cartoon - but that's the point. Ever wonder why it's funny ? Actually I have a pageful below that will do nothing explain it. But I think you'll understand why I hold back no smiles. This is actually a page from my life, carefully bookmarked (disclaimer: some names changed for more hilarity).

The problem with opportunities is that when they do knock, they're likely to press alarm bells rather than door bells. As articulated so clearly by Wally - there are no problems, only issues, challenges and opportunities. So, what does that have to do with my life ? Well, I was the neighborhood Wally when I used to work in Initech.

I used to show up at work a bit after nine. Yes, 9 AM and that's late by Initech standards. I'd walk upto to my desk with a cup of coffee as if I just nipped downstairs for a coffee. I never carried a bag and hardly ever an umbrella. I'd imagine somebody would be hard pressed to figure out whether I just walked in to work or whether I'm relaxing after my early morning bit of work. My job involved taking a mobile phone, flashing the latest build and literally key mash my way into the bugzilla records. I was a QE and they were wasting a really quality engineer by making him poke a few buttons. The managers knew it, but were really powerless to pull in a kid out of college into writing embedded software (*oooh*).

So the problems started in the April of 2004, when 25-odd people from the 34 member development team gave in their resignations. What I was doing at the moment was having an argument with my technical manager about my leave, without knowing about all the hush hush resignations. I basically had put in more than a month's salary into my round-trip (non-refundable) plane tickets to Trivandrum and wouldn't stand to any level of bullying about the leave which I'd applied for two months ago. So I left office to spend an enjoyable week at home.

I returned to a chaotic office. Almost every good developer in the team is on notice. At that point hardly anyone cares about the project to waste their time on it. Here's where the management decisions kick in with true force :- We need to hire more people. Since they've already sold the IP for the project, management is now being paid for time rather than code output - there's no motivation to hire excellent developers. Solution, throw the bunch of freshers who've been sitting around on to the code. The more time they take to do things, the more money the account pays. And I was one among them.

That, my friends, is how I became a developer in profession. The loss of a significant amount of technical talent in one place, means a significant opportunity to people sitting in the benches elsewhere. That might sound too simplified, but there are two unspoken assumptions. The new guys on the bench have to be really good and the management has to have enough confidence in them (or shouldn't care which way) to throw these kids at the hardcore work. On a normal day, that'd be a big risk - but during these few desperate hours, this could be the last gambit.

It might just be my big empty head, but I keep hearing echoes.

The solution of problems is the most characteristic and peculiar sort of voluntary thinking.
                -- William James

posted at: 08:46 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,