The Road to Hell is Paved Through Routine …



Many people die at 25

but aren’t buried until they are 75″

…………………………………….>>>>>>>>…..Benjamin Franklin

Beautiful girl is a Wind-Up Toy

My life is full of contradictions.

ROUTINE … I hate it and I love it.

Routine is like floating on an air mattress on Okanagan Lake in the summertime. You close your eyes and absorb the sun’s mesmerizing heat, letting the warm lake gods take you in whatever direction they meander.

It’s soothing and its comfortable, and for an hour or two you think you’re living in the hereafter. Then you open your eyes, scream at the scalded red sear you’ve just acquired and say to yourself, “Now what?

For over two decades, I woke up at 5 am on Saturday mornings and drove into the lab to look at culture plates for an hour or two, read the Globe and Mail newspaper, and have a Tim Hortons coffee. It was a comforting and agreeable routine and I found a calm pleasure in its monotony. I’d read the business section of the Globe and if the markets had had a good week, I smiled and dreamed of a fantasy life living in Aruba surrounded by servants.

Then one day the routine stopped when modern technology and centralization intervened and we began sending all of our Microbiology samples to the Kelowna lab for testing. After almost 25 years of doing this every Saturday morning, I still had a job, but my eyes flickered open and I saw the sunburn of the routine and I knew I needed something new and different.

Too much routine kills the creative genius and so I’m trying to avoid its poison.


When we see and experience variety we build new pathways inside our heads that run wildly off in all directions instead of the plain-Jane Yellow Brick Road that follows a straight linear route.

Life is so much simpler when we walk the well-tread path. But the road we can build for ourselves contains all of the brains and heart and courage we need. We can step safely off the Yellow Brick Road and survive.


I accept that some people want to spend their lives in a comforting bubble of routine. We’re all constructed from slightly different sorts of clay. But any clay CAN be molded, even a little.

Routine sucks because, like a medicinal poultice, it sucks and draws away our vigour and true life. Avoid routine and then you unravel mystery, invention, WOW, and all the things that create passion.

Routine puts a clam on that magic. It puts limitations on what you can achieve. Face it.

You choose the world you live in.

Right now you choose.

If I eat the same foods with my mouth or my mind, my taste buds grow accustomed and wilt with apathy and neglect. I need new spices and new combinations of flavours to boost my metabolism.

Path of life

Routine can be disrupted in small ways and still feel close to routine, but you sense your heart beating again and your head is smiling inside:

  • Walk or bike to work. At the very least, drive a different route. Take a detour through a seedy neighbourhood.
  • Travel to a completely different culture. How many of us journey to the Middle East or Africa?
  • Read a book that is completely different from your normal interests. Like romance? Try Paranormal or Scandinavian Mystery.
  • Buy your caffeine fix at a different java bar. Coffee tastes different based on the logo of the paper cup.
  • Go to an exercise class you’ve never tried before. Trapeze class or the Thug Workout might just be your thing.
  • Try eating something new. Ever tried eating insects? Gross, maybe, but you’re never the same person again after the first bite.
  • Grow a moustache. Or get a Brazilian wax. You definitely feel different.

Routine is comfortable. Routine is unremarkable. Routine is bland. Routine resists change even for the better.

You can mark the passage of time and mindlessly blow out the candles on your cake each year … or you can see the fire … feel the heat … and celebrate your birthdays like your life means something to you.

Any change, even a change for the better,

is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”

………………………………..— Arnold Bennett, Novelist
Yummy ...

Yummy …

Stories Your Parents Never Told You … on Becoming an Ewok

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There are stories our mothers and fathers never told us because they hurt too much.

My baby pic

Why didn’t my parents tell me about hairy issues?

I get it.

Honesty from our parents should be a given, but parents want to protect their children from the cuts and scrapes of life and so they shelter us from life’s storms. They tell us to be truthful, then they turn around and say Yes, Santa lives, Virginia“, and we snuggle contentedly in our beds and dream sugar-plum dreams for one more night.

Our parents read the newspapers and watch the TV stories of the terrible things that happen: the school shootings, the terrorist attacks, the derailed trains, but they filter and smooth the harshness of life.

Spine-chilling events occur every minute of every day somewhere, and the best we can do in this life is to make sure we keep ourselves out of the line of fire. But we do this while still trying to lead the most fulfilling lifetime possible, right? It’s kind of contradictory, but really, it makes sense.

We all want to be sheltered from the scary things that go bump in the night, so when we look in our kids’ eyes and they glow with the innocence of believing that everything is blissful and merry, we too immerse ourselves in that soothing spa of naivety.

It feels good. It feels warm. We bask in their sunny simplicity.

It’s the salve that protects and heals us in a world that makes us joyously happy as well as heartwrenchingly sorrowful.

Life is hard to live. And even if Facebook tells us that everyone out there is gloriously happy, don’t believe it. We don’t usually share our anguish and ill thoughts on social media. We all have snippets of misery bound up inside of us.

I’ve had to learn some life lessons the hard way. Maybe that’s the way it should be, but I can’t help thinking just a little forewarning would have been nice.

There are three areas of life my parents never, in the slightest, prepared me to handle or understand:

1. Hairy ears  – It is patently unfair that the hair on my head dwindles as the hair on the rims of my ears and inside my nose grows like a wildfire raging out of control.

Ear HairMy father must have known, yet never explained to me that I was under threat of becoming an Ewok as years passed. Shouldn’t this be common father/son discussion territory right along with “use a condom” and “run if she says she wants 6 kids“?

So here I am taking razors and tweezers to regions of my body that were supposed to be virginally pristine, perpetually clearcut, and looking after themselves. They did their jobs just fine for the first 40+ years, so why change the contract now?

Maybe I’m missing the point and it’s really just divine intervention to ensure that barbers and hairstylists have job security.

My travel agent friend has a fluffy bush growing out of his nose; when I’m sitting across the desk from him do you think I can hear what he’s saying? I can’t see the travel trees for all of the furry forest on display. I’m dying to pull out a pair of little bonsai scissors and try out some topiary design work – give me 10 minutes and he could have a full Disney menagerie hanging from his nostrils for his next ride down Splash Mountain.


2. Growing Nose – I didn’t enter my adult years with a large nose. Alright, it wasn’t tiny or something that you might describe as a cute button like Emma Watson’s or Leonardo DiCaprio’s, but it was fairly narrow and unhumped and well-behaved. Not perfect, but pretty damned good.


My nose is growing the opposite direction that MJ’s took…

Then, as the hair follicles on my head began spitting out their woolly cargo, and the downy fuzz on my ears sprang joyously to life, my nose too decided that it wanted to get in on the action and do its Pinocchio thing. 

Now I don’t have a huge honking proboscis today, but the width has definitely increased and occupies a broader expanse of my face. Dr. Oz acknowledges it occurs, so it must be true. Our noses do keep growing, even if we don’t lie.

The bone tissue stops increasing, but the cartilage keeps adding layers, just like the new 3D printers that are all the rage in the media these days. If the day comes where humans live to 500 years old, we’ll be guessing our neighbour’s age by the length and breadth of his nose, like counting the rings on trees.

When the weight of our snout causes us to tumble over, we’ll know that we’ve reached the maximum lifespan for humans. I’m getting close.


3. Raising Children –  is damned hard work and maybe not for everyone. There is a mass societal deception; we’re inundated by positive messages about the joys of parenting and raising a herd of little Liams and Emmas (2013 Most Popular Baby Names, brought to you by Pampers).

Like the myth of Santa Claus, “Joyful Procreation for Dummies” is another one of those fallacies foisted on us by the ones who know better… actual parents and grandparents.


Of course our parents want us to have kids. What greater joy is there than to see your own children suffering through the same slings and arrows you went through 30 years earlier? It’s called “Don’t get mad, get even.” And Grandparents love their grandkids; as soon as they begin to misbehave, it’s “OK, out to the car Marge, we’re goin’ home.

The real truth is, despite the joys of “Mini Me’s” reflecting our vigours and foibles, bringing up children is exhausting: physically, mentally and emotionally. No minute or dollar is your own once a young’un arrives.

They wait at bathroom doors like meowing cats, except they learn how to turn the handle. Privacy, what privacy?

They instinctively know when a few extra dollars linger in your bank account for a special date night out – an instant need for $100 for the school basketball trip arises.

Have kids … please.

But also know that your workplace labours will seem like child’s play in comparison to the rigours of parenthood. The money train is constantly leaving the station, but there are no income arrivals on this trip.

OK, I kinda get this one. If my parents had told me all, I could have missed the super highs that triumph the perils of parenting. Well played Mom and Dad.


So, like a modern-day Scrooge, my rant is now complete.

And you know, for all my complaints, my parents really did prepare me for most of the important things in life eg. SACRIFICE: chocolate truly does taste better after you’ve eaten your liver or spinach; LOGIC: “Because I said so, that’s why“; ANTICIPATION: “Just wait until I tell your father“; and finally, JUSTICE : “One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!

It would make me feel so much better and less lonely if you shared even one area where you wish your parents had shared the truth.

And finally my friends: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

There are some things I just can't tell you ...

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa …

When Harry Met Sally… and Sun Tzu … and Star Wars…


I was statuesque, almost Adonis-like, in Mountain pose –  Tadasana.


Marsha, my yoga instructor for many years now, was sitting on her mat, giggling girlishly at the front of the group because she was struggling to remember the 12 movements needed to go through Sun Salutation. She’s a petite, reddish-blond dynamo who’s been teaching yoga for more than 20 years, so forgetting one of the very basic yoga moves is a bit embarrassing for her.

But she casually shrugs it all off and repeats the movements with us once more, forgetting the cobra move … again! We all break into hysterics with, not at, Marsha.

There is a deep, mild calm that gives Marsha – after years of bending and stretching and OOOM‘ing – her own hazy little aura of relaxed serenity, you might call it a state of ZEN.

According to Wikipedia – and love me or hate me, but I LOVE Wikipedia – zen emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight in the Buddhist teachings.

I interpret zen as finding some calm peace in our own personal piece of mayhem and clamour, turning down the anxious, disturbed, muckraking voices in our heads. Yoga is a tool that insidiously permeates its way into my sensation of zen.

If a devil truly exists, I’m pretty sure she’s (c‘mon, if, as so many claim, God is a woman, surely the devil must be one too!) occupied a small protected corner in the back of my brain, sending out nasty little missives to shoot me down.

We search out a personal state of zen in our own way and pattern of philosophic meldings. Our life doesn’t come to us in neat pre-packaged doctrines as it may have in earlier times.

Each of us forms a philosophy of life as if we’ve wandered the aisles of Walmart. We pick little packages of beliefs and credos, shiny snippets of ideas and ideologies off the shelves.

Some souls absorb a bit of Sun Tzu or religion here, peace and spirituality in nature there, or a pipe of crack cocaine, or maybe, just maybe, for the more contemporary 21st century apprentice like myself, absorb notions from within the setting of a movie. After all, Star Wars has an army of philosophical “May The Force Be With You” adherents.

But me, I’ve taken my guide to life from the philosophical approach through the:

ZEN of When Harry Met Sally


Yes, When Harry Met Sally guides our interpersonal world, thanks to the blended genius of writer Nora Ephron, director Rob Reiner, and actors Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.

The 1989 rom-com movie could have been titled Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and there would be clarity to late 20th – early 21st century North American life. One viewing of the flick and we all nod our heads in understanding of what we’re not understanding.

Men and women want to reach out and get along well with each other, and it’s clear we need each other so badly. But really, down deep, penises and vaginas don’t have the foggiest notion of what makes the other tick.

If you believe that God created the body of Eve from the rib of Adam, well, I’m sure he laughed to himself (sorry, herself) and chose a totally different source of creature for the brain. Women and men love to play and tussle together, but never sit on the same end of the teeter-totter   :

Harry: You know you just get to a certain point where you get tired of the whole thing.

Sally: What “whole thing”?

Harry: The whole life-of-a-single-guy thing. You meet someone, you have the safe lunch, you decide you like each other enough to move on to dinner. You go dancing, you do the white-man’s over-bite, go back to her place, you have sex and the minute you’re finished you know what goes through your mind? How long do I have to lie here and hold her before I can get up and go home. Is thirty seconds enough?

Sally: That’s what you’re thinking? Is that true?

Harry: Sure! All men think that. How long do you want to be held afterwards? All night, right? See there’s your problem, somewhere between thirty seconds and all night is your problem.

Sally: I don’t have a problem!

Harry: Yeah you do.  

Stomach knots

When I feel tense or agitated, I inhale a huge relaxing belly breath and run through a scene or two from When Harry Met Sally, and natural calm is restored. Whose stomach can remain tied up in knots when contemplating the totally knotted diatribe of Billy Crystal on whether men and women can just be friends – it’s therapeutic comic relief :

No, no, no, I never said that…

Yes, that’s right, they can’t be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can… This is an amendment to the earlier rule.

If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted…

That doesn’t work either, because what happens then is, the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it?

And when you say “No, no, no it’s not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,” the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it.

Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.

See, I’m writing this out and I’m smiling inside, any knots are gone, gone, gone. Just like Marsha, I’m finding my deeper calm.

I use yoga practice to find my zen so that I’m not bent out of shape by the differences in philosophies I’m surrounded by. Learning not to judge is high on my Mazlow’s hierarchy of self-actualization. Wars are started by ignorance and misunderstanding and rushing to judgment.

Acceptance is the final mature step, isn’t it? Like Harry says at the end of the movie:

I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

The Zen of When Harry Met Sally means:

Acceptance … Namaste my friend.

I'll Have What She's Having

A NOVEL Experience … 8 Reasons I Now Love November!

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And on December 1st he rested. Sorta…


I don’t usually like November a whole lot. OK, actually, I normally loath November.

Why the hate?

  • November begins with eating up all of the candy and chocolate that isn’t dished out to the ghosts and goblins on the last night of October, so you can just add 3 pounds automatically on November 1.
  • One week into the month, at least where I live here on Canada’s west coast, you adjust your clocks so that it’s dark at 4:30 p.m. – the old summer bedtime that used to feel early at 10 o’clock, now insistently calls out at 6 p.m.
  • The red liquid in the thermometer begins to sink and shrink just like me when I jump into icy cold water, and then the colour-frosted leaves drop off of all the trees that were blooming and leafing out just a few weeks ago, or so it seems.
  • I think I may have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but I’m not sure. I just don’t find the same level of energy and joie de vivre for most things as the days grow shorter.  I prefer summer SEX (*Seasonal Energy eXtremes), that July/August climax of my energy cycle when all things seem possible.
  • The scents of summer, the bright blue smell of lavender and sugary sweet rose essence have been taken off on a northern breeze like a perfumed letter to our friends in the southern climes.

In years past, I’ve thought of re-writing that Boomtown Rats song “I Don’t Like Mondays” as “I Don’t Like Novembers”. So you can imagine how, when I tuck myself into bed on the night of October 31, I begin to shiver and shake in dread anticipation of the dark, heavy, long month ahead.  Usually...

But this November was different.

November was a busy month.

November was a great month.

November might become my favourite month if it can keep this up.

Even the things that would normally seem – at least on the surface – bad,  have a positive underlying message.

This was my November 2013…

1. NANOWRIMO – You’ve dreamed of writing your own novel? ME TOO!


NaNoWriMo is just a quirky contraction for something with the longer moniker of National Novel Writing Month. Anyone can participate.

It’s an online novel writing challenge – 30 days of November dedicated to starting (and maybe finishing) your own novel. There are no prizes (unless you think a WINNER certificate at the end qualifies as a prize) or publishing contracts offered.

The deal is that you write 50,000 words between November 1 and 30 and submit your work for an official word count and if they agree that you’ve reached the goal of 50,000 words, you are declared a certified and sanctioned winner.

This year’s event started with 311,312 participants of which 41,000 (41,001 if you include me) actually completed the 50,000 word goal.

And it WAS a challenge.

Plunking myself down each day and writing close to 2,000 words was a major commitment of time and mental energy, but I viewed it as a way to work on my promise to myself of 10,000 hours of writing practice. Of course, normal time-sucking life stuff had to be maintained throughout.

Was my writing good? Hell NO!

Some days the inspired muse was breathing inside me and the metaphors and idea flow poured out like hot butter over steamy theatre popcorn (can you tell I went to the movies last night?); other days (honestly, I’ll say most) were just plain hard mental work and discipline to hang in and continue on despite shitty thoughts and disappointing concepts that were pure cliche.

The Temper of the Times is my story of an adult man who testifies against the accused rapist of his boyhood sweetheart. Years later, he is sent to jail himself after killing the paroled rapist in self-defense, while his former girlfriend is torn between her defender and her frustrated Peruvian-born husband-physician whom she brought to live in her west coast community.

Great novelists out there, I bow before you in praise of your abilities.

I’ve got a ton of editing to complete what I’ve started, but I would do it again (just not tomorrow, OK?) in a flash.

Intrigued at the thought? Try it yourself next year, you can do it!

2. BOOT CAMP Class – a friend Cara (from a bicycle Spin Class at one gym) talked us into participating in one of her own Boot Camp-style classes at another gym. I’ve done a few boot camp classes before, but Cara’s immense energy and fun commentary was needed to survive the full hour of physical torture.

All class long I thought to myself, “NEVER again“, and then 5 minutes after the class ends, I’m asking Cara when the next class is scheduled.

Intense exercise is exhausting but invigorating and I love that it challenges (just like NaNoWriMo) me to push towards a level that I don’t believe I’m capable of achieving.

3. JACK FROST Statue – there are those fantastic opportunities that arise occasionally that transport us to places we never dreamed we would ever go. Like taking a side journey down an alley in a foreign country and discovering the best noodles, guinea pig pizza, or pastry you’ve ever tasted.

Out of nowhere, my friend Jennifer asked, “What would you think about volunteering as a human “statue” for the local Christmas Festival of Lights event?”. I’ve seen and been intrigued by these living sculptures in places like Barcelona and Cusco, Peru in my journeys, but never considered trying to actually be a statue myself.

And now I have, festooned as JACK FROST. The name alone should have tipped me off about standing static in Canadian winter!

It was chilly perched there, unmoving for 2 hours on a cool, crisp winter evening. My blue-lipsticked lips magically transformed into a more natural, organic blue with each passing moment.

How cool is it to stand there while people talk about you, right in front of you, as if you weren’t there? Tons of kids, “Mommy, the statue just blinked!!”, “Daddy, I think the statue winked at me!”, “Is that a REAL statue?”…Teenagers, “Bet I can make the statue laugh!” (NOT!)


I’m trying out life as an albino…

Plus, my donation box took in $105 for the SPCA and Summerland Ornamental Gardens.

4. LOST 8 POUNDS – You’ve heard of the Freshman 15, yes? New university students living in residence typically gain 15 pounds in their first year away from home.

Well, I’ve invented the 2013 – 13. 

FACT – I’ve gained 13 pounds since the beginning of 2013. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.

I can exercise the hind end off a donkey, but my self-discipline normally screeches to a halt at the feeding trough. And generally, my ability to eat outpaces my running distance on the treadmill or the rivers of sweat at BOOT CAMP class.

However, this November something changed inside me that brought an inexplicable wellspring of eating self-discipline that has seen the poundage plummet. I shed 8 pounds despite – or perhaps because of – spending inordinate hours with my ass in this novel-writing chair.

I wish I always felt this superpower of eating self-discipline, but if past experience is any guide, it’s a temporary strength that I can merely desperately cling to for the ride and hope it lasts long enough to make it to the full 13 pounds or even 20.

I know I’ll run faster in any half marathons I take in next year if I can keep the weight train chugging downhill.

5. ANXIETY ATTACK – somewhere around midnight one night in the middle of the month I awoke with my heart pounding rapidly and a slight shortness of breath.

The sensation reminded me of feelings I had 25 years ago before I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

I tried to stay calm but it did frighten me. I don’t have to tell you the thoughts that run through your mind at midnight when your heart is racing. “I’m either having a heart attack or an anxiety attack”, I said to myself. No chest discomfort or pain in my arm. Then the sensation subsided. Weird. Then the roller coaster took off again a few minutes later as my pulse rate raced higher and then subsided.

An occasional reminder of our mortality is a valuable wake-up call for us to reflect on what is important to us. The takeaway here? … as a first step, time to go and get my thyroid levels checked out – apparently you’re not supposed to hold the thyroid-replacement medicine bottle to your lips and shake until your mouth is full.

6. MARKET VALUE – I try to maintain an even disposition when it comes to my stock market investments. I’ve been buying and selling blue chip shares in great companies for so many years now that I know a big updraft in Apple, Microsoft, or McDonalds, even Tims, is often followed by a mighty tumble at a later date. This is a part of the nature of investments that I accept.

No over-the-top celebrations on the winning days, no despairing depressions on the losers.

But November was one of those strange and heady months where share prices rose, then rose, then rose some more. A 2% monthly increase overall doesn’t sound like much, does it? But if you extrapolate that 2% and figure that a 24% annual return is well above my target goal of 15% annual return, I’m a contented November investor. So go and upsize your Big Mac with an iPad and make me a happy December guy too!


Lots of dips and valleys, but I like the overall trend…

7. BOOKS TO READ – The positive upside to the shorter light days of November is reading by the woodstove, absorbed in a great story on my KOBO.

I was deadset against e-readers: “How can anything take the place of a real book, the feel, the smell?”, I thought to myself. Then I had my own and found how convenient and relatively inexpensive it is to acquire a substantial library. A library you can carry in your pocket and read anywhere and at any time. The look and feel of a beautiful, well-made hardcover book is hard to beat, but my KOBO has made a great case for the convenience and lower book purchase costs… and even borrowing library books … Vive la KOBO!

8. ABOUT TIME – sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impression on us.

I love movies. I love going to the theatre to watch movies – and yes – the popcorn does have something to do with it.

Most films come with either a lot of hype, hugely positive, or hugely negative. Recently, both GRAVITY and THE HUNGER GAMES were released to massive advertising and build-up. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed each of them although I don’t think you can hide George Clooney behind a spacesuit…he’s so …George Clooney’ish. Despite my constant amazement of what filmmakers can achieve, for me, the popcorn edged out the films themselves in the end.

But then along comes a little British time-travel-cum-romantic comedy called About Time and I’m bowled over by the sensitive characterization and the subtle acting skills (Ah hell, Rachel McAdam is just too damn charmingly gorgeous to ignore, I admit it) that draw me in and leave me spellbound. It’s a little like a quiet sleeper film from last year called Quartet (a group of old musicians living together in a retirement home) that charmed the pants off me.

About Time 2

ABOUT TIME … riding off into the sunset…


So welcome to December.

December is similar to November but it has an abundance of occasions baked in that set it apart from old staid November: Christmas, Hannakuh, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Winter Solstice.

December 1st comes along like a timid March lamb and it picks up momentum and steam before it’s rushed out like a roaring, ferocious lion at midnight on December 31st. You barely catch your breath and another year jumps out at you.

Let me finish here by apologizing to you.

Normally, my blog posts run about 1,000 words in length. Today, thanks to November’s 2,000 words-per-day clip of NaNoWriMo, my writer’s diarrhea has spun out deliriously of control and here you are paying the price with this extra long post. Bear with me, OK? I’ll use December to whip myself back into a state of compact wordsmithing as per the great bard:

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.