Friday, July 27, 2012
Texas longhorn. I didn't see any Ankole Watusis this year (like back in 2007).
Too close to the Texas longhorn. One small flick of the animal's head, and this fellow will go to the hospital! Nevertheless, nothing happened....
I overheard one woman say that she could practically read the thoughts of one longhorn: "He's tired. He just wants to go home."
"Please do not touch. I WILL defend myself." Nevertheless, people were sneaking brief touches of those dangerous, alluring horns.
Llama. One llama owner said llamas really like to roll around in the dirt, and when the owners start cleaning them up for the Fair, they first use a leaf blower to blow away the dust before trying to wash them. She was impressed with the Fair: she had never seen such clean llamas!
Alpacas. I asked a llama owner what the difference was between llamas and alpacas, and she said, apart from the size difference, llamas were much smarter. So, alpacas: dumber than the dumbest llama.
Hiker discovers vast pot farm near Las Vegas
...Officials said the hiker alerted police after he came across four plots of marijuana plants near the 8,400-foot level of the canyon located on State Route 160. Officers from a drug-trafficking task force removed the plants, which could have produced more than 11,000 pounds of marijuana and was worth an estimated $16.5 million, officials said.
Bungee jumping Thursday night, at the California State Fair. Riding along with me in the gondola was Adam Sartain, who played 'The Wizard' in Davis Musical Theatre Company's (DMTC's) 2006 production of "The Wizard Of Oz." One of his best roles ever!
Prior to the jump, Adam entertained me with quotes; specifically, from when the Wizard boards his balloon gondola to return to Kansas from Oz, and says good-bye to the assembled citizens of the Emerald City. Along the lines of: "To confer, converse, and otherwise hob-nob with my brother wizards" - and - "I can't come back, I don't know how it works! Good-bye, folks!" I was laughing so hard I had almost no time at all to dwell upon the specter of imminent death.
First, Timothy Noah:
Right now you're probably wondering: What possessed Mitt Romney to insult the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain--on a foreign trip meant to demonstrate Romney's supposedly superior ability to manage foreign affairs--by criticizing the U.K.'s handling of the Olympic games on the eve of their commencement? This blunder catches Romney in an exquisite trap of his own making. On the one hand, he seems to have genuinely angered David Cameron, a rare European ally in the lonely fight against European-style socialism. On the other hand, Romney's 11th Commandment is: Thou Shalt Not Apologize To Foreign Leaders, especially when on foreign soil. The guy wrote a whole book about it! How could Romney be so stupid as to hoist himself on this petard?And Joan Walsh:
...So how did Romney get himself into this mess? I think that becomes clear when you look at what Romney went on to say to Williams after he noted that the early signs about the London Olympics were discouraging:Because there are three parts that makes Games successful. Number one, of course, are the athletes. That's what overwhelmingly the Games are about. Number two are the volunteers. And they'll have great volunteers here. But number three are the people of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.You've heard this voice before. It is the voice of a comically self-satisfied man basking in the glory of achieving something very few mortals would be capable of--in this case, running a successful Olympic Games. Indeed, Romney would have you believe that he didn't just make the Salt Lake City games a success--he saved the Olympics themselves. He grabbed ahold of an Olympic torch extinguished by international scandal and relit the flame. That is the unembarrassed message of Romney's 2004 book Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games.
...It's also, as I've written before ("No Medal For You,") a pretty weak case. Romney did a perfectly fine job running the Olympics, but so have lots of other people. ... Romney is deeply invested in the idea that it takes superhuman skills to save an Olympic Games from the disaster and international humiliation to which it naturally inclines. The idea that it can be done reasonably well even by a past-its-prime power like Britain is too much for Romney to bear. And I'm afraid he let it show at a very inopportune moment.
To recap: He called the state of the games “disconcerting” and told NBC’s Brian Williams, “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out.” He was rebuked by Prime Minister David Cameron and mocked by London Mayor Boris Johnson, in a speech that played hourly on the BBC Thursday. “I hear there’s a guy, there’s a guy called Mitt Romney, who wants to know whether we’re ready. He wants to know whether we’re ready? Are we ready?” And the crowd went wild, screaming “Yeah!” (Later Johnson led the throng in chanting “Yes we can,” coincidentally the 2008 slogan of Romney’s electoral rival, President Obama.)And more pundits at Daily Kos:
Then Romney publicly discussed a briefing by MI6 head John Sawers (looking extremely chastened), when it’s customary to keep such briefings private. He seemed to forget Labor Party leader Ed Miliband’s name when they met. “Like you, Mr. Leader, I look forward to our conversations this morning,” Romney said to Miliband, shaking his hand.
Also on Thursday, unbelievably, our attention was called to an idiotic passage in Romney’s book, “No Apology,” in which he dismissed Britain as “a tiny island nobody wants.” (What kind of person talks like that about another country? I mean, what kind of person who wants to be president talks like that about another country?)
Romney went on:Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth’s land and a quarter of the earth’s population.By the end of the day, when asked by BBCNewsnight whether Romney will carry the Olympic torch, Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson replied, “Certainly not after today.”
...[S]ome conservatives are worried. Charles Krauthammer called Romney’s Olympics remarks “unbelievable” and “incomprehensible.”
I’ve written that Romney’s many gaffes reflect his enormous sense of entitlement and lamentable lack of empathy. Surveying British Olympics logistics, he felt entitled to hold forth on its flaws harshly, because that’s the sort of thing he did at Bain Capital. Perhaps Romney thinks the British should have outsourced the Olympics. Or maybe he sees an opening for a leveraged buyout, to make it more efficient. At any rate, the guy who said, “I like to be able to fire people who provide services to me,” is a guy used to mercilessly appraising a situation and delivering a slashing verdict. He clearly feels he’s entitled to do that anywhere.
...Romney wrapped up his no-good very-bad day at a fundraiser with the banks at the heart of the Libor scandal. Sad to say, it was probably a step up for him, given all the rancor he provoked. Maybe that was the idea: Commit a lot of gaffes to distract the media from your banking fundraiser. Don’t let it turn into a Hamptons soiree kind of thing.
Later on, Romney told donors at a fundraiser (tickets had been slashed from $25,000 to $10,000 during the day) that he was 'looking forward to the bust of Winston Churchill being in the Oval Office again'.National Journal:
The problem with that applause line is that the Jacob Epstein bust was a personal loan from Britain to President George W. Bush made in July 2001 for the duration of his presidency.
When Obama took over from Bush, the loan expired and he apparently showed no interest in extending it. The bust was returned to the Government Art Collection.
The whole issue, which has been used to portray Obama as anti-British, is a sore point for British diplomats, who view it as presumptuous for Romney to assume the bust would be loaned to him.
And then the incorrigible Mayor Boris Johnson turned the day into what one American reporter on the trip aptly described as a 'Cat 4 manurestorm' when he mocked Romney before 60,000 people.
Mitt Romney's clumsy start to his overseas trip is shaping up as a stark contrast to candidate Barack Obama's tour of the Middle East and Europe in July 2008, when he managed to strike perfect pitch at press conferences and in visits with foreign leaders.The Telegraph:
Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
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Looks like that international trip (to show everyone how ready he is for the international stage) is cratering. The spinners are spinning, but there is only so much they can do.
About time the British fought back. Mitt's been a total dick to them for years (from 2007):
The United States is in danger of becoming a "second-tier" nation like Britain and other European countries if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, according to Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential contender [...]
M.V.: OK, why were those 2 homeless guys undressing behind those dumpsters?
A.T.: It's laundry day?
A.S.: Better than in front of the dumpsters.
M.V.: I thought a train was coming, so I dodged down an unfamiliar alley. One fellow was handing the other his shirt. Maybe it is laundry day?
N.B.: Or maybe they were trading clothes?
M.F.: They were hot? Perhaps they were taking an "air bath" like Ben Franklin used to...
M.V.: On the return, I didn't go back through the alley, but dodged around a parking lot from where I could still observe. Saw one fellow standing there with his shopping cart. Seemed quiet. I suspect 'laundry day' was the correct explanation. But M.F.'s comment makes me laugh. Were they (Chippendale's) hot? Not. Even. Close.
When I posted this video from two weeks ago on YouTube, it was with a sense of embarrassment. The video wasn't very good, and doesn't do justice to Ms. Veloz and her talents. Nevertheless, I posted it, for the record.
To my surprise, the video was picked up on Twitter, and many of her fans watched it. Strangely, although one person noted the video being off-sync, no one seemed to dislike the video enough to give it a 'thumbs-down'. They just seemed happy to hear news from her summer tour.
And now, I have a number of new YouTube subscribers who don't seem to be human beings at all. They all joined YouTube on April 2nd, and they are each 22 years old. The new subscribers appear to be "bots", and they spend their days indiscriminately watching YouTube videos (with a particular penchant for watching business-marketing schlock that they probably watch a lot of at Guantanamo). The bots really like this video! The viewing statistics are really jumping for this video, and it's among the worst videos I've ever uploaded! What could it mean?
Which reminds me, Carla told me two months ago that these bots really exist. That's how people get such spectacular viewing statistics on YouTube, and it can make a big difference to a singer's career. I smiled at her and didn't believe a word she said. Guess I was wrong!
But what to do with the bots? Do they like to read blogs too? Maybe I've found my true audience?
Mitt Romney left critics of his foreign policy stances a big opening when he fumbled the first full day of his international trip. A group of Democratic foreign policy experts was eager to plow through it Thursday.
“We’ve watched him insult the Brits in telling them that the nation that handled the Battle of Britain and showed resolve throughout very trying times can’t pull together during the Olympics?” Mark Jacobson, a former deputy NATO civilian representative in Afghanistan, told TPM on a conference call sponsored by the progressive Truman National Security Project. “That’s not the right way to start off this trip abroad.”
Jacobson said Romney’s big stumble in England — which resulted in near-uniform harassment from the British press as well as umbrage from British Prime Minister David Cameron — “betrays Romney’s lack of experience” in foreign policy.
“He’s simply not ready for the very delicate diplomatic dance that is necessary when handling our country’s relations abroad,” Jacobson said.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
And so, twenty years later, American politicians find themselves locked in a fantasy world:
A foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign warned against policies that would aid “the Soviet Union” Wednesday, making him at least the third person from Team Romney — including Romney himself — to refer to a country that hasn’t existed since 1991 in the course of attacking President Obama’s foreign policy.
As I get older, and my dance-music-impacted hearing begins its ever-so gradual deterioration, ordinary life is beginning to more-and-more resemble this movie. Half the time, I don't know what the hell is going on. And even if I understand the words, I can't puzzle out the meaning.
It's that damned aspartame, I tell you....
And that's scary....
(h/t Jerry) Things that aren't real, because they disobey numerous Laws of Physics (reference: Robert Greenler's book "Rainbows, Halos, and Glories"), but make nice, sentimental pictures, so we can have a jolly-good time on Facebook, rather than discussing more-important things, like how that alcohol addiction is working out for ya.
Treacle, treacle, treacle.
And talking about alcohol addiction, I was watching "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (1955) on TCM last night. Susan Hayward did an excellent job playing actress Lillian Roth. Yup, as you might have guessed, the alcohol addiction didn't work out real good for Lillian. But had Lillian lived to see Facebook, she doubtlessly would have shared this photo.
Merging an investment bank with a commercial bank required a repeal of Glass-Steagall, the New Deal law that had broken up commercial and investment banks in the first place. So Weill went to work, and a year later Glass-Steagall was gone. Sandy Weill was, in a very real sense, the midwife of repeal, or, as he preferred to call himself at the time, "The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall."
For years Weill has denied that repeal played any role in the 2008 financial crisis. Today, it appears that he's changed his mind:Weill did a 180 on CNBC's Squawk Box this morning, saying that he now believes big banks — like, presumably, Citigroup — should be broken up:What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail.
It was during this period that an extravagant, history-loving lawyer named Robert Dover convened the “Olympick” festival in the green hillsides of the Cotswolds. At the time, in the 1620s, Puritans were attacking England’s traditional rural festivals for promoting gambling, drinking, and lewd behavior. Dover’s Olympicks were an act of defiance against this dour movement, and as an annual event, it lured thousands of spectators of all social classes to sit on muddy hillsides near the village of Chipping Campden. A motley range of sports was on the schedule, including hammer throwing, bear baiting, shin kicking, and the brutally violent “fighting with cudgels,” which left the contestants bloody and toothless (an accidental echo of the goriest of the ancient Greek body contact sports, the pankration).
The entire festival was marked by heavy imbibing of ale and a genial air of license, though Dover also included a “Homeric harpist” in an attempt to lift the tone and thus attract the gentry. One English poet in 1636 hailed Dover as a “Hero of this our Age.” But the exuberant festival could not last. The Cotswold games were canceled in 1642 due to nearby fighting during the civil war. Dover died heartbroken eight years later.
"Meditations on gun control:
I have never understood how it was possible for a thinking, rational being to support gun control.
Whole bunch of folks who ought to know better are using the excuse of the murders at Virginia Tech to call for the banning of guns. Some folks calling for only some guns to be banned, others going whole hog and wanting everything banned.
Let me ask y'all a question.
You want to ban guns. In 1919, the Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution were passed banning alcohol -- much like you want to ban guns now, they banned booze then.
How'd that work out?
Would you call Prohibition a success?
What makes you think the banning of guns would be any different?
You want to ban the possession of guns. Well, the possession of cocaine is banned. How's that ban on cocaine working? Has the cocaine problem gotten better or worse?
What makes you think the banning of guns will be any different? Honestly?
You want to ban the manufacture and transportation of guns. You know, the manufacture and transportation of methamphetamine is banned.
Do I have to ask?
What makes you think the banning of guns will have a different result?
Ban guns. Give them an allure. Tell people they can't own guns, and turn guns into Forbidden Fruit; give guns that irresistible Edgy Outlaw Aura. Make guns the Ultimate Bad Boy accessory.
In the deep, dark recesses of your mind you think we have a gun problem now?
Weed, coke, crack, ice, meth, acid, PCP, XTC, oxy, smack -- it's all banned. And there you sit, forked tongue firmly behind your teeth, piously telling everyone that things will get better once you ban guns.
Ban guns. Go ahead. If an illiterate Afghani blacksmith with hand tools, a charcoal fire, and a donkey can turn out a full-auto copy of an AK-47 in a week, how long do you think it will take Joe Texan with a metal shop in his garage to do the same?
Because, you know, the methamphetamine ban has worked so well.
Of course, I'm sure that no other government would dabble in illegal arms, just like no government ever cut themselves in for a share of the profits from the (banned) heroin trade, or the (banned) cocaine trade.
You can take this one to the bank: just as soon as you get your idiotic gun ban passed, the second thing I am going to do (right after throwing my badge on the Sheriff's desk) is use my First Amendment right and post complete specifications for Sten guns, Ingrams, KG-99's and every other stamped sheet metal firearm on the Internet.
Then, I'll go back and post the complete specs for every firearm in my library on the Internet -- First Amendment Freedom of Speech and all that.
I'm wondering: how long do you think it'll take for the number of gun-bootlegging millionaires to match the number of booze-bootlegging fortunes created by Prohibition?
Yo, Teddy Kennedy, you being the expert on family fortunes created by Prohibition, you want to weigh in?
I wonder how long it will take for the number of gun traficante millionaires to match the number of cocaine traficante millionaires?
And I wonder how long it will take -- after you pass your silly-arsed gun ban -- for my children to be able to buy a Sten gun on any street corner for 20 dollars -- just like they can buy crack, meth, smack or whatever on any street corner for 20 dollars. They're all banned, right?
Go. Take your plates and go sit at the kiddies table. When you bloody well grow up and can think logically -- instead of emoting and fee-ee-eeling your way through problems -- then you can eat at the Grown-Ups table.
Don't forget your binkies, you complete and utter oiks.
These are interesting arguments, and I don't buy them at all.
I think it's interesting that gun ownership is compared to vices. Not the most sterling recommendation. I also find it interesting that the Second Amendment is interpreted by some as overriding my interest in Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness. I want to live a life free from coercion and threats, and if that desire can't be squared with the Second Amendment (as it certainly wasn't in Aurora), then the Second Amendment will just have to go.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Joe wanted to see this movie. I was a little apprehensive:
SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. -- ... Cochise County sheriff's officials say 27-year-old Michael William Borboa entered a Cinemark theater in Sierra Vista on Friday carrying a backpack. Witnesses say he appeared to be drunk and was acting strangely during a showing of the same movie that was on screen when the Colorado shooting occurred.
Someone confronted the man. According to the sheriff's office, that caused "mass hysteria," and about 50 people fled the theater.
So, I kept my eyes on the exits at the 5:20 p.m. showing at the IMAX Theater.
I couldn't quite make out what was going on in the movie. Too much smash-boom-crash. It didn't help that the chief villain had a mouth full of what may as well have been marbles. Meanwhile, Joe didn't feel like he missed anything, even though he dozed sporadically through the movie. Smash-boom-crash was the whole point of the movie, as far as Joe was concerned.
One thing I was interested in was the movie's political leanings. Was it left-wing (Rush Limbaugh says the name 'Bane' is meant to impugn conservatives), or was it right-wing (Occupy-type protesters get maligned by the movie)? In the end, it's more right-wing than left-wing (since Cat Woman reconsiders her Robin Hood ideals during the final struggles), but in truth there is just too much smash-boom-crash to make it much of a political movie at all.
Andrew O'Hehir thinks the movie's a great fascist spectacle:
Let’s back up for a minute and observe that all this stuff — the French Revolution and the Middle Eastern pit-prison and the vision of America’s greatest city capitulating to the ugliest kind of anarchy and terror — happens in a Batman movie. There are all kinds of valid reasons not to like “The Dark Knight Rises,” which absolutely does not offer the summery, pure-popcorn pleasure of something like Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers.” It’s loud and bombastic and exceptionally long — 164 minutes from opening to closing credits — and brutal in several senses of the word, taking sadistic pleasure in both its scenes of violence and its Camus-meets-Nietzsche existential nihilism. It has no villain with even half the charisma of Heath Ledger’s now-legendary Joker, since Tom Hardy’s monstrous, ‘roided-out Bane remains figuratively and literally a masked figure, behind his Hannibal Lecter-as-Darth Vader faceplate.
As I’ve suggested, I think it’s a trap to read too much into this movie by way of political commentary, but whatever you come away with, it won’t be uplifting. The Gotham status quo is a cynical regime based on “useful lies,” false heroes and systemic inequality — straight out of the playbook of neocon founding father Leo Strauss — that corrupts even decent men like Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon. But the so-called revolution that overthrows it, overseen by the forbidding mercenary Bane (who is himself just the mouthpiece for a sinister hidden agenda, or several at once), is an Orwellian nightmare of atavism, unreason and anarchy.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the “Dark Knight” universe is fascistic (and I’m not name-calling or claiming that Nolan has Nazi sympathies). It’s simply a fact. Nolan’s screenplay (co-written with his brother, Jonathan Nolan, and based on a story developed with David S. Goyer) simply pushes the Batman legend to its logical extreme, as a vision of human history understood as a struggle between superior individual wills, a tale of symbolic heroism and sacrifice set against the hopeless corruption of society. Maybe it’s an oversimplification to say that that’s the purest form of the ideology that was bequeathed from Richard Wagner to Nietzsche to Adolf Hitler, but not by much. Whether you think Nolan is endorsing or condemning that idea, or straddling the fence with a smirk on his face, is very much up to you.
But if “The Dark Knight Rises” is a fascist film, it’s a great fascist film, and arguably the biggest, darkest, most thrilling and disturbing and utterly balls-out spectacle ever created for the screen.
AMC's meth-lab saga Breaking Bad- an Albuquerque-based series the Washington Post's Hank Stuever says "comes from such a dark hole of the American cultural psyche that you sometimes have to wonder how it ever made it on TV" - is now fodder for the city's tourism bureau.
"When Breaking Bad began airing five seasons ago, we were less than thrilled by the subject matter, which is based on a fictional character and story," says Dale Lockett, head of the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau.
But given its popularity, "people are traveling to our city to see the locations featured in the show and then spending time at our attractions, restaurants and hotels," he adds. "This unexpected new visitor market is definitely a pleasant surprise, and we will soon be marketing it more aggressively" - including a self-guided tour that links Breaking Bad filming locations (an Octopus Car Wash, among them) with nearby museums and other, more conventional draws.
One local tour operator, the ABQ Trolley Co., added a three-hour, $60 per person Breaking Bad tour timed to this month's season premiere - and promptly sold out all seven scheduled departures.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Ms. Kaderi was one of nearly two dozen who were injured on Thursday, the first night of Mr. Robbins’s “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, which included a fire walk as a signature experience. She said she did not seek medical attention, but many of those hurt reported second- or third-degree burns, Capt. Reggie Williams of the San Jose Fire Department told The Associated Press.And yet, most were OK:
About 6,000 people reportedly participated in the firewalk. Why were most of them not injured?
Because coal isn’t a very good conductor of heat. In other words, though coal can get very hot—usually between 1,000 F and 2,000 F—it can’t transmit the heat to other materials very efficiently. When flesh comes into contact with a heated material that’s a good conductor of heat, such as metal, it usually results in a burn because the metal heats up the flesh quickly. But coal—and especially the ash coating a burning coal—doesn’t conduct heat very well.
...That said, there are dangers associated with firewalking: If you stand on a hot coal for too long instead of moving quickly or if there are any bits of metal, wood, or sap (which are better thermal conductors than coal) in the fire, you could get burned. ... The scope of Robbins’ firewalk in San Jose—6,000 people sharing a dozen 10-foot-long lanes of coals—might have made it more likely for firewalkers to get held up on the coals, increasing their chance of being injured. (Most traditional firewalking rituals involve only one dozen to two dozen people on a single lane of coals.)
...Many firewalking proponents claim that successful firewalking is the result of either a heightened psychological state or supernatural protection. ... But physicists and anthropologists who have participated in firewalks deny that any particular state of mind is required for successful firewalking, so long as the coals are properly prepared and you don’t stay in the fire too long.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
I was on top of a ladder, 12 feet above the ground, using Kilz to prepare the eaves for painting after the light was installed, when Joe caught my attention. Joe pointed at a homeless man going through the recycle bins in the alley and said: "Is that the guy?" (Referring to the homeless guy who punched me in the face last week.)
Indeed, that was the guy!
Joe asked: "Do you want me to drop him?" I shook my head no, but Joe decided to talk with him anyway. Afterwards, Joe returned.
"What did you say? What did he say?" I asked. "The guy's afraid," Joe said. "He tried pulling some of that 'Indian crap' on me, but he's no Indian: some kind of Peckerwood, or Mexican, or something. But one thing I know - the guy's a punk." (Presumably the fellow tried to ingratiate himself with Native-American Joe, but Joe wasn't playing along - 'Peckerwood' likely referring to Southern Scots-Irish).
Apparently what Joe said to the fellow (in reference to me) was: "I'm this guy's partner. You hit my partner, and I'll hit you, until you stop moving."
Joe then had a second thought, and drove off down the alley, where he had a second conversation with the fellow. My understanding of Joe's message was: "Don't take dumps on this guy's property. He's worked hard for what he has." Joe waved off the fellow's protests that those weren't his turds. (Which is exactly the message I wanted to convey: namely, I don't care whose turds they belong to; he's going to take the blame for every one of them).
So, whatever else might happen, at least we have a clear understanding of where we stand.
And the security light works too. Needs some weatherproofing, but it's functioning, at last.