I Had To Take Cats To The Vet Today

My beautiful wife helpfully recorded my attempts to get them into the pets carriers:

I’m just kidding, of course, but in all seriousness, the man who invents proton packs that can capture and hold cats (or pull them from deep from under furniture) will deserve to win the Nobel Prizes. All of them.

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Layers and Layers of Fact Checkers circa 1962

From John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, p56:

     I had working for me a Filipino man, a hill man, short and dark and silent, of the Maori people perhaps. Once, thinking he must have come from a tribal system which recognizes the unseen as a part of reality, I asked this man if he was not afraid of the haunted place, particularly at night. He said he was not afraid because years before a witch doctor gave him a charm against evil spirits.
     “Let me see that charm,” I asked.
     “It’s words,” he said. “It’s a word charm.”
     “Can you say them to me?”
     “Sure,” he said and he droned, “In nomine Patris et Fillii et Spiritus Sancti.”
     “What does it mean?” I asked.
     “He raised his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a charm against evil spirits so I am not afraid of them.”
     I’ve dredged this conversation out of a strange-sounding Spanish but there is no doubt of his charm, and it worked for him.

Brothers and sisters, we with the modern science of the 21st Century recognize that Maori are not native to the Philippines (they’re native to New Zealand). Perhaps Steinbeck is thinking of the Moro, who are from the Philippines, but they’re Muslim. So I’m not sure whether witch doctors would teach them to say “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Is Steinbeck calling a Catholic priest a witchdoctor, or does he just not know? I don’t know.

The Spanish might have been strange sounding because, if the fellow in question is a hill man from the Philippines, Spanish might be his second language.

I’m having difficulty knowing whether some of the ignorance he displays in this book is for effect or not. I’m leaning toward not.

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Inside a Certain Mindset with John Steinbeck

From Travels with Charley, page 25:

American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash–all of them–surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, id in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index. Driving along I thought how in France or Italy every item of these thrown-out things would have been saved and used for something. This is not said in criticism of one system or the other but I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness–chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk into the sea.

From Travels with Charley, page 27:

There are so many modern designs for easy living. On my boat, I had discovered the aluminum, disposable coooking utensils, frying pans, and deep dishes. You fry a fish and throw the pan overboard. I was well equipped with these things.

In two pages, he goes from lamenting (in the standard lament) consumer packaging and waste to admitting, when confronted with a mess in his trailer of unsecured reusable goods, that he sort of prefers the disposable stuff on his boat.

I am not convinced he’s aware that he’s juxtaposed these things, and I don’t think he’s doing it to admit he’s as guilty as everyone else. Maybe it’s too subtle for me.

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The Wisdom of Victor Frankenstein (I)

As a child, I had not been content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science. With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my extreme youth, and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries of recent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchemists. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different when the masters of the science sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand: but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.

From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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Book Report: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (1962)

Book coverThis book collects a series of essays Lewis wrote for a local periodical. Perhaps essays is the wrong word, as they are letters from a superior demon in Hell’s bureaucracy writing to a nephew who’s a n00b field agent in the temptation service. Screwtape, the author of the letters, offer various advice on how Wormwood, the nephew, should proceed to better tempt the young British man of the World War II era into going to hell. Spoiler alert: It’s not Hitler or anything. Most of the temptations are not those to great crimes but rather to misdemeanors of self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement, and disbelief.

The essays are chock full of good insight into the foibles of human nature, the lies we tell ourselves, and how we relate to one another, particularly the danger of factions in churches and in superiority derived from beliefs (even amongst Christians). The book also explicitly states that congregational churches lend themselves to this easier than parochial churches and why this is more appealing to casual, unreflective believers. Its something that follows, but something I hadn’t thought much about.

The second part of the book, “Screwtape Proposes A Toast”, covers the way modernism and modern education erode the structure of morality and civilization. Given that the book is fifty years old, Lewis saw some of the effects of then-new and partially obscured trends and drives and how they would play out in the future. And so they have. Sadly.

At any rate, even if you’re not a Christian, you can certainly unmask or be reminded of some bad habits you might engage in or some elevated thinking you should probably rein in. At only 172 pages, it’s a pretty easy, engageable read and worth your time.

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Book Report: Dragonslayer by Wayland Drew (1981)

Book coverThis book is the novelization of the 1981 film of the same name. In it, an unauthorized party from a land benighted by a dragon comes to the last remaining sorceror for help. Every six months, the kingdom sacrifices a young woman to the old dragon to keep it from rampaging. At the sorceror’s tower, though, a military group from the kingdom catch up with the unauthorized group and kill the sorceror. The sorceror’s apprentice and undertake the journey and catch up with the aid-seekers in their retreat.

And then go on to fight the dragon and win, eventually, of course.

The book has an interesting element in it: the rise of Christianity in Europe replacing the old magic systems. The book takes place in an unidentified region in Europe at the rise of European civilization, and the town nearest the dragon’s lair has a new Christian missionary in town who converts people as the dragon’s menace continues. The sorceror’s apprentice doesn’t decide to go onto becoming a sorceror–after the death of his master, there’s no one to teach him and he prefers the world rather than the books–so the book muses on the transition between the old ways and the new. It’s a pretty even-handed treatment of it; in the 21st century, there’d be a lot more handwringing about the loss of magic for the fairy tale lies of the church than you get from a book based on a film in 1981.

It’s a good enough read, once it gets going. It’s a slow starter, and of all genres in the world, fantasy is the one whose audience will allow slow, wordy starts. Which this one has.

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Book Report: Sunset Woodworking Projects (1968)

Book coverThis book isn’t your father’s book of woodworking projects; this is your grandfather’s book of woodworking projects. And as we bemoan the tailing off of American education, how schools have made successive generations of American students less educated, we can also bemoan how Americans have gotten less industrious with their hands. Otherwise the whole Maker movement wouldn’t be a hipster movement. It would be what people did on the weekends. Or how people made do with what they had, perhaps.

I digress.

The introduction for this book says it’s for beginning and intermediate woodworkers. As such, it takes until page 19 before you’re building a complete set of drawers from scratch (no store-bought drawer runners, you weakling!). If you open up a 21st century woodworking magazine, you get a complete step-by-step guide that includes images and photographs of how to assemble things each step. In this book, you get a couple paragraphs of copy that includes a description of why you should build the thing and how to build the thing. Then you get a diagram of the cuts and how they fit together. Sometimes, like in this project for building a children’s desk, you also get a pattern for cutting:

Boy, howdy, I am so below woodworking beginner that I can’t even.

At any rate, the book has over 75 different projects of varying degrees of difficulty. There are a number of workbench/table hinged to the wall/stool/bench/toolbox kinds of projects that are pretty standard for this sort of book. There are some simpler things for children, rocking horses, little toys, and the like. Then there are the “what kind of intermediate woodworker can do this?” projects including the aforementioned set of drawers, other furniture, and a foosball table. The things within are all very 1968, but you might get some ideas to try (with things done a little differently in the 21st century).

I picked the book up to browse through just to see if I get any ideas for projects I might try. Someday. And I might. Someday. But not until I master the basics of cleaning my workbench area in the garage.

Another feature of this book’s era is that it mentions on many occasions that you can use power tools if you have them. But the assumption is that power tools are optional. Which matches my workshop, such as it is.

At any rate, I have a large number of Sunset books on my shelves in the garage (even more in 2015 than in 2010). Strangely, I didn’t flip through those before putting them out there. But I bought this book later, so it was on my to-read shelves, so I flipped through this one. Worth my couple of minutes, and definitely more manly than another book on beading.

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Also Spotted At The Thrift Store

Available currently at the DAV Thrift Store:

What looks to be a complete or nearly complete set of Star Trek, the uncut editions, from Paramount as well as the movies.

I couldn’t help but wonder if they were Phil Farrand’s.

You might be wondering, gentle reader, if I was tempted to buy the set. Although books like Farrand’s make me want to own the whole set and to watch them in order, this particular collection is one episode per videocassette, and, as the image indicates, takes up a lot of space (no pun intended). As such, I’d only buy this set if I could also use it as some sort of visual design or decorating element, such as making a wall of Star Trek where I could fit the individual cassettes into frames facing out with little cutouts for popping them out to watch. And, really, I’d have nowhere to put it.

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The Wisdom of Carl Jung (II)

As I read The Undiscovered Self, I’m posting seemingly relevant quotations as I go along because some of them shed some light on the world today.

The first paragraphs of “Religion as the Counterbalance to Mass-Mindedness” states:

In order to free the fiction of the Sovereign State–in other words, the whims of those who manipulate it–from every wholesome restriction, all socio-political movements tending in this direction invariably try to cut the ground from under religions. For, in order to turn the individual into a function of the State, his dependence upon anything beside the State must be taken from him. But religion means dependence on and submission to irrational facts of experience. These do not refer directly to social and physical conditions; they concern far more the individual’s psychic attitude.

But it is possible to have an attitude to the external conditions of life only when there is a point of reference outside them. The religions give, or claim to give, such a standpoint, thereby enabling the individual to exercise his judgment and his power of decision. They build up a reserve, as it were, against the obvious and inevitable force of circumstances to which everyone is exposed who lives only in the outer world and has no other ground under his feet except the pavement. If statistical reality is the only reality, then it is the sole authority. There is then only one condition, and since no contrary condition exists, judgment and decision are not only superfluous but impossible. Then the individual is bound to be a function of statistics and hence a function of the State or whatever the abstract principle of order may be called. [Emphasis in original.]

Unfortunately, I’m only intermittently reading this book. I should switch a primary focus to it presently.

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New Thrift Store Record Finds

Perhaps I should start a new series called Good Record Hunting to account for my trips to thrift stores looking for LPs (and, in my defense, a cheap television to hook up old computers).

Yesterday, I visited the DAV Thrift Store and briefly browsed its LPs, but they were poorly arranged for browsing and cost $2.48 each. I also visited the Salvation Army thrift store next door. There were fewer, they were easier to browse, and they only cost $1 each, so I got:

This group includes:

  • The Opera Society’s small disc version of Rigoletto’s Verdi. Or Verdi’s Rigoletto. Sometimes, with these modern things, it’s hard to tell which is the band name and which is the song.
  • Keely Smith, Be My Love.
  • Perry Como, In Italy. To be honest, I didn’t look close to see if he sings any Verdi.
  • Dean Martin, Everybody Loves Somebody (The Hit Version).
  • Perry Como, Just For You, a Sylvania-branded record.
  • The Czechoslovakian Philharmonic Orchestra doing some Mahler.

It’s funny when you go to thrift stores and book sales, you seem to find more LPs than cassettes. I don’t know if this is only a perception thing because they’re bigger than tapes, but it’s probably because the LP sale prominence lasted for decades and audio cassettes only sold for, what, twenty years, mostly in parallel with LPs and then CDs. Also, they’re small and easy to throw out and LPs are big enough to think they’re worth something.

Also, I don’t think I’ll start a whole new category of posts, as I don’t imagine I’ll do this that often. Although it might prove to be more often than I go to book sales these days.

Also, please note I use Discogs for my record research (and I poach images of the LPs from them). It’s a cool site. If you dig records, you should check it out.

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Book Report: Warriors: The Rise of Scourge by “Erin Hunter” (2008)

Book coverThis book hits the trifecta of twee: It’s young adult fiction told in manga style featuring street gangs of cats. It’s hard for me to admit I read it, but I did.

Apparently, the Warriors series of books/trilogies is a going thing, with a house name (“Erin Hunter”), a collection of authors doing the actual writing. And in this case, illustration. They’ve hit the New York Times best seller list on occasion, although probably not the adult section that people pay attention to. The series is sort of a Game of Thrones of feline gang wars between different clans of cats and myriad personalities.

This particular volume, a stand alone in a universe rife with multi-parters, deals with the rise of an undersized cat named Tiny. Unloved by his litter mates, he runs away to the city and ends up becoming Scourge, the leader of the BloodClan. He’s the villain in other books, so this is sort of the The Phantom Menace/Attack of the Clones/Revenge of the Sith that describes his rise. And it’s not wholly unsympathetic.

So it’s not really manga; it’s a kid’s book comicked up in the manga style. But it’s about cats. Gangs of cats.

Sigh. I’m really trying to be classically educated here, but sometimes my garage sale purchases lead me down the path of modern American literature.

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The Wisdom of Carl Jung (I)

Whether or not you buy into the Jungian psychology and collective unconscious (and I don’t, but I do delve into individual unconscious sometimes when reading Jung), the fellow had some interesting ideas and thoughts that remain relevant in the modern world.

From “The Plight of the Individual in Modern Society“:

What will become of our civilization, and of man himself, if the hydrogen bombs begin to go off, or if the spiritual and moral darkness of the State absolutism should spread over Europe?

We have no reason to take this threat lightly. Everywhere in the West there are subversive minorities who, sheltered by our humanitarianism and our sense of justice, hold the incendiary torches ready, with nothing to stop the spread of their ideas except the critical reason of a single, fairly inelligent, mentally stable stratum of the population. One should not, however, overestimate the thickness of this stratum. It varies from country to country in accordance with national temperament. Also, it is regionally dependent on public education and is subject to the influence of acutely disturbing factors of a political and economic nature. Taking plebiscites as a criterion, one could on an optimistic estimate put its upper limit at about 40 per cent of the electorate. A rather more pessimistic view would not be unjustified either, since the gift of reason and critical reflection is not one of man’s outstanding peculiarities, and even where it exists it proves to be wavering and inconstant, the more so, as a rule, the bigger the political groups are. The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual, and this necessarily leads to doctrinarie and authoritarian tyranny if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a fit of weakness.

He wrote this circa 1957; in the 21st century, one is forgiven if one were to think the much thinner stratum of reasonable people exists in spite of public education and not because of it.

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Daddy Humor, Footnoted

Playing outside, my son came to the back door and knocked. I opened the door and said, “Are you selling encyclopedias? Great! I’ve got a report due on the exploration of space!”


The child, born twenty years after the commercial, didn’t get it.

But my humor is not for his amusement; it is for mine.

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Brian’s Gym Trick of the Day

Whenever I’m doing sets at the gym, lifting tiny amounts of weight with great difficulty, I find myself counting the reps. I marvel at things like the number 3 and 4 and pause for a long while to reflect upon their essential nature in the cosmos, and I stop pushing or pulling because, man, those numbers are big and meaningful.

That is, when I count by ones, my effort tends to dwindle when I get to certain numbers in the set, and I stop a little earlier than I can.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve tried something different. Instead of counting by ones, I start counting my sets using multiples of another number. I start counting by fives, or I start counting by sixes. So I do 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36….

Doing it this way engages my brain as I go along, so I don’t get to about the sixth rep and think, Man, this bar is heavy. Instead, I’m worrying about remembering the next number in the sequence. Which leads me to get more reps in.

On the plus side, I get to tell people I only did 56 or 81 reps in the last set. Also, if I get to the multiple of 12 in a set, Mrs. Perkins will give me a gold star. On the other hand, once I get really good at my multiplication tables, the trick will lose its efficacy. Or I’ll start having to work with larger numbers until I memorize enough multiplication to get a job as a mentalist at the county fair.

And I can’t stop saying bro, bro.

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Book Report: The Nitpickers Guide For Classic Trekkers by Phil Farrand (1994)

Book coverI’ve been working on this book for a number of months as a fill-in book when I sat down and had only a couple of minutes to read, so I needed something quick with short, discrete chapters.

This book is an episode guide of the original Star Trek television series. It follows up the author’s earlier work of similar nature for the Star Trek: The Next Generation series; given that the other was still on television at the time, this would have made the earlier work about the later program more relevant in the marketplace, and its success must have guaranteed at least this reviewed volume. At any rate, each episode listing includes a brief recap of the plot, a detailed list of cuts made when the episode was put into syndication, production goofs, places where the episode went against other episodes, a couple of trivia questions, some places where props are reused, and finally a list of the stills that displayed over the closing credits. Other additional chapters cover the movies, and the action is broken up with some musings on Star Trek and society as well as enumeration of Star Trek tropes.

The fellow watched both the uncut versions (as sold by Paramount in the 1990s) along with syndicated versions recorded off of television to get his cuts section and to get into the nitty gritty of the program. It seems like a whole lot of work to produce an encyclopedia of trivia.

Which I read, albeit slowly, in dribs and drabs. It, like other Star Trek titles, makes me want to watch the original series again. Perhaps when I find it inexpensively at a garage sale. Or, given that I found season 1 of The Next Generation a couple years ago and have yet to watch it, perhaps it will be some years after I find it inexpensively. But probably soon after I read a book like this.

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Down the Slippery Slope

The critics predicted it: Gay marriage becomes the law of the land, and people would start buying albums of show tunes.

Although, in my defense in this case, it was a collection of Pat Suzuki singing show tunes:

If Mark Steyn can listen to show tunes, I can, too.

At any rate, the acquisition stems from a recent trip to the local thrift store. I was looking for a cheap television set to hook a couple of old computers. I didn’t find any, but I did find the shelf with the crates of LPs on them. Ha, just kidding! I knew where it was all the time, and I went right to it after realizing that thrift stores generally don’t have old televisions any more.

At any rate, check out what I have in a sort-of Johnsonesque roundup:

This includes:

  • Quincy Jones Explores The Music of Henry Mancini.
  • Boots Randolph Yakety Sax. My children will never equate this song with sophisticated British comedy that our fathers all enjoyed.
  • Boots Randolph More Yakety Sax.
  • Boots Randolph Boots with Strings.
  • Boots Randolph Sunday Sax. I figure, if I buy one from a new artist, I should buy all that I find. Just in case I like the artist.
  • Claudine Longet Claudine.
  • Claudine Longet The Look of Love. Claudine Longet, at first blush, seems a little soft and breathy for LPs. I tend to put on a record and listen to it from the next room, so stronger voices tend to sound better. Longet, like Erin Bode, might be better for CDs and closer listening. Longet appears on A&M records, Herb Alpert’s label. I’m enjoying exploring its catalog as I gather records.
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass The Beat of the Brass. I bought this one, a title I already owned, because the cover is in better condition. If I put the better record in the better cover, is that like mixing serial numbers on a collectible car or gun?
  • Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme We Got Us. I will buy Steve and Eydie albums because of Eydie; I left a couple of Steve Lawrence solo works in the bins.
  • Benny Goodman and His Orchestra Let’s Dance Again. Pete Fountains is leading me to appreciate the clarinet. How many people in the 21st century would say Pete Fountains led them to give Benny Goodman an audience? Very few. Or one.
  • The Isley Brothers Do Their Thing. Not to be confused with “It’s Your Thing” which the Isley Brothers do. The Isley Brothers do all things.
  • Olivia Newton-John Making a Good Thing Better. Because as of this spring, I’m apparently a collector of Olivia Newton-John albums.
  • Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars I Love Jazz!.
  • Perry Como Season’s Greetings from Perry Como. Because I’ve recently started finding Perry Como albums in the wild (after I said one rarely does), I’ve started buying them.
  • Dean Martin Winter Romance. This is the other Christmas album, the one with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on it. (The non-other album, of course, is The Dean Martin Christmas Album.)
  • Bennett & Basie Strike Up The Band.
  • Tennessee Ernie Ford Sixteen Tons.
  • Harry James and His Big Band Mr. Trumpet. I’ve never heard of Harry James before, but apparently he played for Benny Goodman before starting his own band at 23. I’ll look for more of his work in the future.
  • The McGuire Sisters May You Always.
  • Eydie Gorme Vamps the Roaring 20s.
  • Natalie Cole Unpredictable. When I first say it, I thought the word was Unforgettable, and I was confused as to why the song was not actually on the album. Danged cursive.
  • Pat Suzuki The Many Sides of Pat Suzuki.
  • Pat Suzuki Broadway ’59. Again, when I see multiple discs from an artist I don’t know, I’ll tend to buy them all in case I like the artist. This turned out well, as Suzuki has a strong voice and belts out some songs. These two discs represent half her catalog, which is a shame.

It was a fruitful trip, except for the no televisions. I think I’ll use the search-for-televisions thing to hit one or more other local thrift stores and see what other LPs I can gather, at least until my beautiful wife becomes my beautiful-when-she’s-angry wife.

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Book Report: Oleanna by David Mamet (1992)

Book coverThis is a brutal little play. That came out in 1992. Bear that in mind, and even if you don’t, I’ll repeat it: 1992.

The play is a short three act play with only two characters. In Act One, Carol, a student, comes to professor John’s office. She’s failing his class in education and wants help; he’s about to get tenure and about to buy a house with his wife. John’s book, which he teaches, talks about how higher education is a hazing process and might not be necessary, really. She doesn’t get it, really, and he wanders a bit afield in his musings. In Act Two, John has been denied tenure because Carol has filed a report accusing him of making improper advances in their previous meeting. He’s sought to meet with her to clear the air. He explains about wanting tenure even though he’s an iconoclast in Educational education. In Act Three, Carol has become even more militant and throws around a lot of the boilerplate feminist terms; in this third meeting, John has been thrown out by his wife and stands accused of raping Carol. At the end, he beats her and curses her.

The play’s a little ambiguous in whether John really was moving the conversation in the direction of impropriety in Act One, but he’s crazy stressed out about the whole thing, and the purchase of the house and whatnot. Circumstances do seem to set him up, and Carol makes the allegations she does by cherry-picking his words and turning them. I don’t know what to make of the beating, though. Self-fulfilling prophecy in her accusations (although it is simple battery, not rape)? Or does the stress reveal John’s true patriarchic inclinations?

At any rate, remember, this is 1992. Twenty-three years ago, Mamet had a play on the road and in New York (and an eventual film) dealing with political correctness and its corrosive effects. That’s the era when Charlie Sykes was writing The Hollow Men and ProfScam about this very thing. I read both in college, actually. So this is something from when I would have been in school, and it dovetails with what we see now.

And Mamet was writing about it back then. Fascinating.

An okay read, though. Not as good as Glengarry Glen Ross, but what is?

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