By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Thu, October 01 2009 - 6:14 pm
November 1, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Whew! Maybe now life can get back to normal.
Yesterday morning we went to a play reading of a play adapted by a neighbor from a story by Tolstoy. It was a full two acts, including stage directions. I loved it and am looking forward to the production!
Then in the afternoon we went grocery shopping, I took a walk downtown to buy more candy and borrow a couple of movies from the library.
And the evening, of course, was Halloween! We just hung out downstairs and gave treats to trick-or-treaters. I especially loved some teenagers with glittery mascara, and a ghost with "blood" gushing through his translucent mask.
A little after eight o'clock I left my daughter with the treat duty and went upstairs to watch Appaloosa. Dang! She got to witness the first Halloween trick-or-treat street theater I have ever heard of!
A college student slit his girlfriend's throat with a fake knife and she fell down dead. My daughter commented to him, "I don't know if I should give candy to a murderer!" but of course she did. The young woman wouldn't get up until my daughter closed the door and went back inside. (Don't worry - the "victim" is not still there. We checked!)
What a wonderful new innovation for Halloween!
(And perfect inspiration for a murder mystery!)
October 30, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Why do truckers wonder why we hate them?
As soon as we entered Tennessee last night, four trucks - two in back and two in front - blocked traffic on Interstate 40 for 10 minutes. They maintained a steady speed - this manuever was intentional. I guess truckers in Tennessee have a lot of political clout and enjoy their power.
I have always tried to give all drivers space when I enter their lane after passing them, but ever since I saw the diagram posted on some highways about the sacred space in front of a truck that you should leave them (for your own safety) I have been especially conscientious about reeaallly giving them SPACE. Heaven forbid that they should suffer at all in their minds for hitting and killing me when it was my fault. My goodness, that would make me feel terrible! (If I were still alive.)
So then why, I am wondering, do they come up right behind me at seventy miles an hour? I mean, within one/half second of hitting me? No way could they avoid crushing me and mine if something happened in front of me and I had to break. (Er, I mean brake.)
How come this space is sacred when I am entering it, and of absolutely no consequence when they are? The police should start arresting tail-gaters. If that isn't reckless endangerment I don't know what is.
We saw a documentary about truck drivers in which they bragged that without them, the U.S. would be paralyzed. Well, sure, after the trucking industry worked as hard as it could to destroy the railroads!
As far as I'm concerned, a truck is a railroad car that has jumped the tracks.
Not all, I am sure, but many truckers are bullies. Everyone hates a bully.
And truckers wonder why we hate them.
October 29, 2009 Nashville, TN
Yesterday morning we were hunting for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Southwestern Arkansas. Well, we found plenty of mud!
Actually, it was a lot of fun. The weather was partly cloudy, it had rained recently (which is supposed to wash away whatever is around the diamonds (in this case some of the stickiest mud I have ever experienced!) and leave the diamonds gleaming on top. Sure.
Considering that the average size of diamond found in the crater is the size of a pinhead, I think renting a sifter for $3.00 is probably a must. (Bring an extra $20 for a refundable deposit.)
Another piece of advice? Bring the highest, most waterproof boots you own if you are going to the crater in non-drought conditions. This is the stickiest mud I have ever experienced. Even stomping my foot down as hard as I could had no effect on the inches of guck on my boots!
Oh, and last but not least - remember to take kids! They really have sharp new eyes and are twice as close to the ground. If you have an "organized group" of fifteen or more you can get through the gate for half price.
According to those in the know, the surface of diamonds is supposed to slough off dirt and mud. (My boots were not diamond-studded, obviously!) So any shiny crystal you come upon that is dirty is not diamond. Hmm... I'm surprised diamonds don't have religious significance considering the "cleanliness is next to Godliness" sentiment held by many.
As we were checking out of our hotel before our hunt (the campground is closed for renovation until next spring) I asked the desk clerk if she had ever been to the Crater of Diamonds.
"No," she responded simply. "I live here."
October 27, 2009 Hope, AR
Tomorrow we are going diamond hunting at Crater of Diamonds State Park here in Arkansas.
But meanwhile, exhausted, we watched Jay Leno on television. He was funny, as always, but I was shocked to see that Dr. Phil is the fastest car racer on Jay's electric car track.
This was our subsequent Dr. Phil riff:
"I don't like Dr. Phil."
"Maybe he doesn't like you."
"He doesn't know me. Dr. Phil is a pain in the id."
"Dr. Phil gives me an id-ache. And leggo my ego!"
Well, I told you we were tired.
Wish us luck tomorrow in the diamond field. Rain is supposed to weather them out and expose them, so we have a hope of finding one.
At any rate, just looking for them will be a twenty-year-old dream come true!
October 26, 2009 Ozona, TX
Yesterday Texas was like Texas. We left Las Cruces and it was sun, sun, sun the whole way.
Our destination is Georgetown. We originally planned to hit Georgetown last night but the wedding (yes! we were at my son's wedding and it was possibly the best wedding I have ever attended!) ended up with a brunch. Well, hell, we couldn't miss that!
It got dark while we were in Fort Stockton and after that it was a few trucks, some opportunity to actually use the brights, and mysterious red lights that seemed to be in lines that we should be able to approach and pass, but which kept receding like the moon.
Awful smell like sulphur dioxide, but my partner said with inspiration, "Oil! And gas!"
Noisy thunderstorm during the night. Maybe Georgia girls can't take Georgia with them, but I sure seem to bring Indiana with me!
October 22, 2009 Las Cruces, NM
We have been eating out a lot along the road. My partner, who has been a chef, spoke last night at dinner about how the waitstaff of a restaurant gets all the tips here in the U.S.
It is really unfair because the people in the kitchen are slaving away in an often very hot space with no access to customer largesse.
In Europe and many other places in the world, he says, all the tips are pooled and everyone gets a share. It is much more equitable.
Here in Las Cruces it is supposed to go up to the mid-seventies today. Sun and blue skies abound! A good place to eat between Albuquerque and Las Cruces is the Socorro Springs Brewery. It is not cheap but the food is really good.
Socorro is the home of the NM Institute of Mining and Technology, and our very competent waiter looked like an engineering student with straws in his breast pocket instead of pens!
Hmmm... looking at Socorro as a possible place to hang out in the winter, if our pocketbooks can manage a southern clime during the nasty Valparaiso winters!
October 21, 2009 Santa Fe, NM
Riding into Santa Fe on the rain last night was kind of a disappointment. Sure, it can rain around here, but even though you know it can happen doesn't mean you honestly accept the possibility.
We ran into a man who sells The New Mexican newspaper on the corner. He probably used to sell 200 to 300 papers a day; now he sells about 80. "It's okay, though, because I'm on social security."
I asked if it was because of the internet, and he nodded. "I can get the internet on my phone!" He reached into one of his baggy pockets and pulled out a blackberry!
Well, he ran for City Council years ago and wrote a highly articulate letter in the New Mexican about what he would do if elected.
I kept my relatively humble Nokia snugly hidden in my pocket and wished him the best.
Later I got a call on my primitive phone and William, our housesitter told me it was sunny and warm in Valparaiso.
Enjoy, folks! I saw my first snow of the season this morning!
October 20, 2009 Denver, CO
Have to leave Denver today because we don't want to deal with snowstorms predicted for tomorrow. At least today looks good!
Was not able to see a map showing where FDR's tree-planting occurred. I did read a speech given by Lincoln, NE's mayor which mentioned it in close contact with descriptions of Lincoln's aesthetic and green advantages, so maybe the trees were planted in that part of the state.
If I manage to find time to do more digging, I will report back to you. I may try to call the State reference librarian. He/she may have that kind of knowledge just waiting to trip off the tip of his/her tongue! (Ha! Aren't you glad I don't write that way all the time?)
I think the story of the planting of those trees would make a great book! Write it first, and save me the labor!
October 19, 2009 Denver, CO
Great driving all the way from Lincoln, NE to Denver today. At one point near Sterling CO we saw what looked like a bunch of rocks along the road. Big ones scattered along the shoulder of one exit and one side of Interstate 76!
How could those have gotten there? I thought maybe they were rocks that had fallen off a truck. Then at a rest stop we met a man from Toledo, Ohio, who had seen someone stop his pickup truck and start loading these strange objects into the back. Turns out what we saw were probably sugarbeets.
What had looked like a big mound of stones or gravel near the rest stop were sugar beets!
At dinner my sister said my mother had to buy cane sugar instead of sugar beet sugar because of her allergies. Now, she says, you don't see sugar beet sugar in the stores anymore. Too labor intensive, my brother-in-law says, although now with immigrant labor they are coming back some.
Well, for goodness sake. I guess since I bought no refined sugar at all for thirty years, I didn't notice beet sugar disappear from the shelves! But it may come back, so if you have allergies, beware!
Having said that, I will add my own caveat. I think all refined sugar exacerbates allergies.
The truth? Who knows?
October 18, 2009 Lincoln, NE
I was looking forward to this drive from Valparaiso to Denver in late October instead of December for the Fall color. Well, there is a lot more green! And, admittedly, some reds and bronzes and russets and yellow.
Sunny day, gorgeous weather. We landed at the same Best Western in Lincoln, Nebraska we stayed in a couple of years ago. When I saw the plate of cookies on the check-in desk I remembered why I had such fond memories of it!
That and the jacuzzi (not as hot as I remembered it, but still a luxury.) The price was about $70.
When we were reading about the Dust Bowl for the book club, we read about FDR having a corps (Youth Conservation Corps?) plant a windbreak of trees (10 rows a mile apart) from the Canadian border to the South to try to hold down the soil.
I'm going to try to find out where that was, and see if we can find any traces of the windbreak now (almost 100 years later!) I read it was comprised of willows, cottonwoods, Russian olives and osage oranges among other species. A project for tomorrow.
Meanwhile there is new flock of windmills in western Iowa (if you can't beat the wind, use it!) My partner thinks they are a beautiful sight, and I kind of like them myself, but I don't know what the locals think. They are definitely not for the birds, I hear. I wonder if they help keep birds from corn seedlings? Biggest scarecrows ever!
Time to turn in. Tomorrow I may be writing from Denver. What would the pioneers think? They'd think we are softies, for sure!
October 17, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Every day I lose something. Just temporarily, usually, but every day!
I don't know where the name Lulu (or the somewhat suspiciously informal adjective "lulu" came from, but if it is related to "lose" - that's me!
Not only am I a lulu, but I am a lulu of a lulu, and that's no lullabye!
October 16, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
The other day I bought a doggie toy at the dollar store. It is shaped like a hairy multicolored doughnut and I don't have a dog.
Why would I buy an odd thing like that?
Because its little squeegie-toy noise sounded the most to me like the chirp of our obnoxious little zebra finch.
My idea was squeaking it from the next room to give the possibly lonely little finchy hope for a mate in the future - which will, ultimately, be fulfilled. (Mate as in "friend," not lover - who can tell the sex of a zebra finch?)
My mate has different ideas about the purpose of the doggie-toy. He goes right up to the cage and makes an ungodly noise with it. I guess he's trying to prove he's the alpha-finch. I guess it is supposed to subdue the little genuine article, who is entirely too vociferous.
But his performance gave me other ideas. Has anyone seen Stephen Fry's friend get humped on the head by the green parrot-like bird? (I think it is on Utube. Take the time to look - it is hilarious.)
Well, now when my partner "bullies" his zebra finch, he runs the risk of having me turn my hands into wings and thrash them around his head from the back.
I'm only answering his call to mate!
(At least I don't leave claw marks on his neck.)
How we entertain ourselves on a cold day in a small Midwestern city.
October 15, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
I saw instructions on teeth flossing the other day. It said to use 18 inches of floss. I use more like three feet. I try to avoid raking what was between two molars into my incisors. That means a new bit of floss for each space.
Sound silly? Why? I had a friend once who got an infection from what she later called the "false economy" of using too little floss and dragging a gob of dreck around her mouth.
I remember another old friend who said he got athlete's foot on his balls (and I don't mean on his tennis balls or the balls of his feet!) because he used to start washing at his feet and work his way up.
My advice for cleaning anything - start at the top and work down! That is the way gravity is taking everything anyway, including nasty microbes. Might as well get them started in the right direction from the beginning, so they can gather momentum and get off sparkling clean you!
Ha, ha, I just thought of that analogy for political parties. One of the noblest, wisest, most honest Republicans is going to have to step forward in order to save the party. With enough virtuous leadership at the top, maybe it can scrub itself down and get rid of the messy masses below!
Oops, just remembered you have to start at root of the tooth while flossing. Maybe when you are showing your teeth, they better be clean from the bottom up!
Hmm... what does that say about the aggressive branch of the GOP? (I almost wrote GOB. Ha!)
October 14, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
I'm kind of glad I don't have insurance. I don't pay, I don't have to fill out forms, and I don't have to deal with the enemy.
Maybe we should try boycotting insurance companies. Sure, it's a slight risk, I guess. But remember - when we buy insurance, we are betting against ourselves.
Of course, I am not serious about boycotting insurance companies. Not, however, because I think we shouldn't do it. I think we should.
No, I'm not serious because I think Americans are too afraid to go without insurance.
How did we come to this? Why are we so afraid?
And why is having insurance in the U.S.A considered to be so responsible at the same time so many Americans are so completely irresponsible in their dental hygiene, eating and exercise habits?
That is not even mentioning our alcohol and cigarette consumption!
Our values are backwards.
Think preventive health - not dependency on the Almighty HMO!
October 13, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Yesterday I was at the gym and happened to look over at the mirror and see myself.
Hmm... my central portion looks more... substantial than it did a couple of months ago.
Well, I have been working out, but not that much longer or harder, I don't believe, than when I started eight months ago.
Cold weather comes and I start eating more - naturally!
But have I gained that much fat? I don't like to think so.
Personally I lay the blame for my rotund stomach at the nimble feet of TV comedians. We watch about a couple hours a day of belly-laugh inducing behavior on the part of those nuts!
That alone will tell you that I do not seriously propose to turn off my TV set for a significant portion of time.
These guys are giving my abs the six-pack look!
October 12, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
I watch TV for twenty years every twenty years or so.
Maybe it's time to turn the TV off again. The likes of Liz Cheney (who is a doublethink spectre out of 1984) Rush Limbaugh (who now aspires to one of the ultimate stupid status symbols of the U.S.A. - owning a football team (ha, ha of a U.S. city full of white pasty pastry-eating people like Rush (no offense to those citizens who don't fit the dough-boy mold) and Glenn Beck - can't we sue these folks for slander of the American people?
Isn't misrepresentation of pending legislation some sort of tort (No, Rush, tort not torte!) against us all?
I admit folks of this ilk are kind of fun to laugh at, but on the other hand it is stressful listening to them, even second-hand via MSNBC.
I can't afford to get sick because I don't have any health insurance.
These people make me sick.
Therefore, maybe it's time to turn off the TV for another twenty years.
October 11, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Just read Animal Farm by George Orwell again and I was astounded.
The hopefuls of the Republican Party must read this right along with Machiavelli's The Prince!
Vilification of well-meaning and creative members of society - does that sound like anything we have witnessed lately?
Chanting to disrupt meetings and "spontaneous demonstrations" - do those sound like tactics we have experienced this summer?
I'm beginning to think that there are books we should reread every year.
We should all read Animal Farm every year, for sure. It's short enough!
Look at all the silly cosy mysteries I have found time to read!
(For more on George Orwell's Animal Farm, see today's comments in For Book Butterflies Glen - on my menu to the left.)
October 10, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Yay, Alan Grayson! Tell it like it is! Give the Republicans some of their own medicine! Except in the case of your speech, it is a big dose of the truth.
Some people say Obama should be doing the kind of thing you are doing.
I don't think so.
He doesn't succeed (along with a huge number of other people) in bringing home the 1916 Olympics: it's all his fault, according to his detractors.
He wins the Nobel Peace Prize: he doesn't deserve it, say the same voices.
Obama didn't become President by being a rock'em knock'em type. If he had been at all bombastic he would not have won the nomination. His substance is wrapped in a package of polish and consideration, as of necessity the persona of the first black President would have to be.
If he can't win with his "critics" when he wins the Nobel Peace Prize, he can't win with them, period.
Taking a hard line with Congress would not get him anywhere.
Go for it, Grayson! Who knows, maybe your voice will be the one that catches the attention of the American public for the passage of the Health Care bill!
October 9, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Why all the surprise at Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize?
Here is a President who has given the world more hope for peace that we have had for a long time. (Yep, I mean "we" - citizens of the world! (Denizens, for those legalistic purists out there.)
Here is a black man who has managed to come to terms with this society.
Here is a human being who has managed to find peace within himself!
These seem like very big peace accomplishments to me!
If he can do that enough to successfully become President (and I don't believe a man or woman internally divided can do it) he has a better chance at negotiating peace with the rest of the world, I think.
The only thing that concerns me is that he might become too invested in the idea of himself as peacemaker to successfully negotiate the ins and outs of world politics.
Nah, the world can't have too much peace for me!
I don't think the military and his position at the head of the armed forces will allow him to forget his responsibilities vis a vis our national security.
If anything, I bet a President needs an occasional nudge in the direction of peace to withstand military gamesmanship!
October 8, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Lillian Hellman's father told her, "Give the poor everything they ask for." Imagine how hardworking and reluctant to ask for favors, the poor he knew must have been, for him to give her that instruction!
Her father might have been generous, but if someone is desperate enough to ask for a handout, there might be some risk in refusing.
I guess Hellman must have been one of the accessible rich. Those were the good old days. (Oh, I know better than that. They were just different old days.)
Now, though, how do we reach the rich?
They are listed in Forbes Magazine, but are they really all that accessible?
I'm talking about the really rich, the rich who make my family, middle class people in the wealthiest country (still?) in the world look poor.
I'd like to say to them, would you please pay off my children's school debts? Little enough to ask for, it seems to me, but it would be a great boon to at least one of my offspring! ("Children" is hardly the word for them, anymore.)
Okay, I will ask.
Any of you on the list - yes, you! The one who is reading this! Would you give my daughter a break?
And I'll ask all of you in the top 5% of the income level of the country, would you please find it in your hearts to support a public health option? Would you try to convince your friends to do it, even though it might mean an increase in taxes for you?
We "the poor" would really appreciate it!
October 7, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
I think it is funny that many people are able to believe that the world is coming to an end on some particular day (say January 1) next year because it is God's will, but aren't able to believe that if we don't control certain of our behavior and environmentally bad habits, the world will become uninhabitable for humans in a century or two.
In the same way, people believe that God can "take us" at any moment, but don't want to acknowledge that their long-term habits could be the cause of their eventual demise.
The only way I can interpret this perception of mine, is that people don't want to have to change.
I have seen people (including me) helplessly thrashing against their fate as if there were nothing at all they could do to change it.
Sometimes I think that is because the kind of mundane work and mundane changes they have to make are just too much of a drag.
Or maybe it is because they do not believe these changes will make a difference. They don't realize how lots of good (or alas, bad!) little things can add up to create noticeable changes in them or the world and people around them.
Not like waiting for God to rescue you! Or, alternatively, take you in death!
That requires no energy at all!
October 6, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
As one who used to watch Survivor, The Amazing Race, and a couple of other reality shows, at least through one episode, I admit to some surprise that they are still going strong.
Lots of new viewers, I guess.
One thing that amazes me about reality TV is how involved the contestants get in the outcome, especially outcomes that involve their personal lives.
How can middle-aged women get so emotionally involved in a guy they never met before the show that they cry on TV because he chooses someone else?
I think I tend to get too involved in the little picture myself - one reason I would never go on reality TV!
It provides a cautionary tale about life, though.
How small are we allowing our own worlds to get?
October 5, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Is a blandishment something offered by a bland dish?
What would it be? A vanilla custard, or maybe flan?
Is this related to a blondishment? When you hear about a blandishment, do you imagine a blonde?
Is a blandishment implied to be something easy to turn down, as opposed to, say, a spicydishmint?
If a blandishment is alluring and not easily refused, how about a blandishmont? Or blandishmonts? Those sound like they might be more abundant offerings!
Abundance reminds me of cornucopias. A horn of abundance, or an abundance of horns?
Did you know that the word "affair" has a different origin than the word "fair"?
October 4, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
When I was a little kid, I don't remember Fall being precipitous. There was long summer, then there was Indian summer (an expression politically incorrect now, but never replaced by another one as far as I know) then there was glorious autumn. Winter came slowly and silently, on little wolf paws.
Hell, when I was a little kid, I didn't care. Winter was my favorite season!
This year, I see it very differently. There never really was a summer (don't get me wrong, I loved that non-summer!) Fall is here, and the crisp air makes me almost not mind.
But I'm older now, and time passes more quickly. The month of October seems too short to glory in the way I used to glory in it. No, instead of a long stroll through increasingly beautiful fall foliage which only after weeks begins to turn dead and brown, I have the sensation of embarking downward on an increasingly slippery slope which can only end in a rude fall into icy water.
I know what is to come. I know that the winter will last at least four times as long as the month of glorious trees, temperatures, and skies.
And I know, except for rare moments of incredible beauty now and then,
I won't like it.
October 3, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
My partner kind of jumped on me for jumping on Dave Letterman. "What about Polanski?", he asked. "We've been hearing about him for weeks, and you haven't said "Boo!" about him. What he did was far worse."
Well, actually, we've been hearing about Polanski for years. This is what I have to say about Polanski. For two million dollars, I'll make a very artful film featuring him in which I don 4-inch stiletto heels for the first time in my life and grind one into the floor, being sure to catch up Polanski's balls on the way down. I know that sounds awful, but it will be ART! And don't worry, I'll ply him with Quaaludes and champagne first, so it won't hurt too much!
I don't care if his victim forgives him. She has done her time for his crime, now it's his turn to do his.
Besides, possibly more to the point, how many victims have there been since? How many will there be? Has anyone investigated that?
Oh, lighten up. I'm not really serious about that film. It's all just a dark, cruel, sadistic fantasy. Nothing like real life! Geez, you'd think I was trying to blackmail him or something.
October 2, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Letterman's dilemma: fascinating subject.
His treatment of it? Very clever. Very smart.
Or was it?
He confessed on national TV to having sex with several of the employees that work on his show.
This was an abuse of power.
I admit I don't know any of the details. I don't know if any of the women consciously felt coerced and figured they better do what he wanted.
I don't know if any of them suffered any psychological damage from the affairs, or if they incurred any financial losses through visits to psychiatrists.
But I have worked for an attorney who has handled some sexual harassment cases and what Letterman did was an unethical abuse of power. Any supervisor or boss who behaves like that is subject to firing.
Letterman also could be subject to lawsuits instigated by the women, with expensive legal costs and possibly very expensive settlements.
He might end up wishing he had paid a cheap two million dollars to get his blackmailer off his back.
But even if all goes well for him from now on, the fact remains that he abused his power.
For some reason I never liked Letterman. I knew it might be irrational. Maybe it was because of what my college contemporaries would have called his "shit-eating grin."
Now I have a rational reason to dislike him, and his cutesy hang-dog, "I've been a bad boy, but aren't I cute and adorable anyway?" act makes me dislike him even more.
No, I'm not a sexual prude. But there were several million women out in the world a highly successful man like Letterman could have had sex with. Why didn't he have affairs with them?
Well, of course, maybe he did!
Sorry, Conan, that I had such self-righteous prurient interest in David's sins that I skipped your monologue for the fake confession!
October 1, 2009 Valparaiso, IN
Got an interesting piece of junk mail from Blue Cross/Blue Shield the other day, giving me the offer to apply for "affordable health insurance" with them. As I recall, that was the company that insured my dad's family (including me) decades ago.
I kind of had warm and cosy feelings for them, so I went to them for insurance five years ago.
Their response to my application? They called me uninsurable, even though my insurance policy with them would have cost literally four hundred dollars a month ($360 of which would have been paid by the State of Oregon.)
I am currently five years older, so I wonder what "affordable" would mean to them now.
$500 a month, maybe? That would be almost my entire social security check!
My health insurance is preventive care in the form of diet and exercise. My mother pays for some of my medical bills, which so far have cost far less than the cost of health insurance!
Blue Cross and Blue Shield, you have the wrong symbols to appeal to me!
I am no longer a Christian and most certainly no medieval Crusader!
I am true blue, and may I turn literally blue before I ever buy insurance from you!
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