IT Detox?

orchestration
Here are Catherine and Joe, hard at work, while I just watched in wonderment.

I didn’t expect this trip to be an IT detox trip. Not that it’s a complete removal from anything online by any means but I am learning to live without my phone.

The first few days were already a challenge as the phone had been turned to airplane mode and was only going to be used when wifi was available, or in an emergency. I kept pulling it out of my purse or pocket to look something up, or to text someone, and then realising that I couldn’t do that while I was out and about, and would have to wait until I got home, or got to a café where wifi was available. It wasn’t much of an imposition but it was different to my normal.

Now that the phone is completely dead (the screen got smashed when I fell over and doesn’t light up anymore) we’re just hoping that the emergency doesn’t happen and I’m learning to live without the phone at all.

The phone was my camera, my bible, my note book, my audiobooks, my podcasts, and my calendar. Now I have none of these things in my pocket, and only some of them available on my laptop. It’s an adjustment.

It’s good to have these kinds of challenges every now and then, just to remind us what a sci-fi world we live in, and that life can go on without all the luxuries.

In other news, this morning we met with an (or should I say another?) award winning composer and talked orchestration. Well, they did, I listened and learned. It was fascinating what a difference the correct orchestration can make to a composition.

Then we went out for lunch with another friend, travelled to The Valley to drop off another friend, and took me to my new digs (I’m staying in an airbnb, as planned, for the next few nights). Tonight we had a hang out at a rooftop bar, so I had a nanna nap this afternoon. The pace is getting to me 🙂 No, actually it’s been an amazing visit, I’ve met fantastic people, lots of composers and writers, seen so much of the city, and had quality time with my sister.

And now, to bed.

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What time is it?

Alfredos coffee
Apologies for the fuzzy photo. This is the very hipster coffee place where we started the day today. Good coffee. Yes, they make good coffee here, in places.

Today has been really delightful. We have gone to a very shiny part of town where Catherine had a really encouraging and exciting business meeting. I did some writing. I only felt a little bit like a toddler who sits on an adjoining table and plays with crayons while the parents talk.

Afterwards we walked along Melrose (I know! Melrose!) and looked at all the shiny shops, and saw some shooting taking place. (Movie shooting. It’s all good.) Big trailers and stuff.

Then we came home, and we were just popping out for lunch when the adventure happened.

I tripped.

Big time.

Face plant.

I’ve scraped my hands and my knee, my chin and my lip, and I’ve chipped my tooth.

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So talented to do that in the very city that is concerned more about looks than any other place in the universe.

The homeless people sitting on the pavement just behind us were quite concerned about me.

I have also destroyed my phone.

So it’s been quite the day.

Right now, I’m sitting on the couch watching Catherine record the work of an amazing vocalist. It’s so fun to get an inside look at what happens in the world of making movies. Mostly the music bit but there’s a chance I might even see some filming this week.

After the recording, the plan is to go out for dinner with another friend and then have a quiet evening. It had better be quiet. I’ve had quite enough adventure for today.

Oh, and the time I fell? Truthfully? It was two-thirty. Tooth-hurty. Geddit? Geddit?

Interesting cultural differences

the syrup aisle
So much maple flavoured syrup!

Here’s a fun thing: There’s a shop near me, and when you try to steal stuff by taking it through the door with the ID tags still attached, it doesn’t set off a screaming, beeping alarm. Instead there is a polite voice saying, ‘Excuse me, but we seem to have forgotten to remove one of our ID tags from your purchases. Please bring your purchase to the register so we can remove the tags.’

So polite. Not necessarily a bad thing. It does repeat over and over, but hey. (It wasn’t us with the ID tags still attached, by the way, it just happened while we were there.)

And today, when we were buying groceries, the self checkout asked us to, ‘Please put your item in the bagging area’ with every item. But then, one of the items was a bag of mushrooms. They needed to be weighed and the code put in, so the announcement changed slightly:

‘Please put your “mushrooms” in the bagging area.’

Catherine thought she (the phantom voice) sounded proud to know what was being bagged. But I thought she sounded mighty suspicious of the “mushrooms”.

The picture today is of the maple syrup aisle. I just can’t get over how many bottles of syrup there are. And also how the instant coffee is locked away in a glass cabinet and that you need to call for assistance to purchase it.

All these interesting cultural differences.

Today also we’ve been to Hollywood proper, with all the stars on the footpath, and people dressed in costume, and famous theatres and waxworks museums and stuff, and Scientology people accosting you on every corner. We just walked past all this on our way to the subway after going to an amazing Mexican restaurant for lunch, but it was an experience anyway.

New blue, nice blue, nice new blue shoes. And a party.

turtles

Part 1:

I am sitting in the apartment listening to Catherine talk to a director about a movie. Some of the conversation I can keep up with (and even contribute to a little) but some of it is in another language.

Today has been delightful (again). We had a slow morning rise, and then went for a walk around the shady parts of Griffith Park. Shady as in there were trees giving us shade from the blazing sun (yay, we got summer today) and we didn’t go to the bare hillside where we would have baked. It was really beautiful. We saw a snake, and some turtles, and some little fishes.

Then we did a little shopping, I bought some new blue shoes, we got groceries. Then after lunch I worked in a café until it closed, and then moved to another café to keep working while Catherine worked at home.

It’s been restful, warm, and productive. And now it’s just about time to party.

****

Part 2:

The party was fun. We were at the Netflix building, which is walking distance from Catherine’s house. We were given popcorn and water and we watched episode 7 of Godless which was a western thing. Lots of shooting. Lots and lots and lots of shooting. And really amazing scenery, which a friend told me afterwards was totally wrong, ‘you don’t get a nice valley like that unless you go 100 miles up into the mountains.’

After the viewing, the composer came out and answered questions. He was hilarious. He kept saying things like, ‘oh yes, this guy, my orchestrator, he doesn’t suck’ and ‘the cellist, just forget it.’ Which were both really high compliments.

He also told us that you can sleep for 20 minutes, wake up for 10 minutes, and then work for four hours and you can do that for, I think he said five weeks, if you’re really under pressure and need to get work done. Not what I’m planning to do.

And then there was the party part where I met heaps of Catherine’s friends. I managed to drop the finger food on the floor but not get it all down my front, so I think that’s a win. Had fun chats about D and D, books and movies, music, all that stuff. And afterwards we found a bar called Know Where and had a bit more chatting before coming home and dropping into bed.

I am obviously writing this the morning after, but I couldn’t have written anything that made sense last night. It was so cool to be part of something like that and to see a window into the film world here.

I’m caffeinated now, and I’ve had a nice plain breakfast, and I’m almost ready to see what today holds. So far, it has held sunshine and a hummingbird.

If you wave I might see you

The ocean

You know those ‘days off’ that are so full that you need a day off to recover? That was today.

We went to church (amazing pipe organ, beautiful choral music, awesome stained glass), then we came home and got dressed more warmly (I was promised summer), and then went to an amazing Jewish deli for lunch (good sandwiches, huge pickles), then walked (through a cool marketplace thing) to LACMA (a museum, we just walked around the grounds but it was still amazing), then went to see a movie with a friend (Incredibles 2, good fun), then ate dinner (quesadillas and tacos), then came home.

I saw the Pacific Ocean from the other side, and sang about the Santa Monica Boulevard. I saw lots of things, actually. I have some processing to do. My brain is very full.

Tomorrow I need to work, and Catherine also needs to work. I think we might find it more restful than our day off. Then, in the evening, I will be experiencing the real show time Hollywood-ness of L.A. I hope that I have enough energy to tell you about it afterwards.

Being looked after

There has been a few God things this trip already. Call them coincidences if you like. I’ll allow that.

The first of these amazing happenings started its story a couple of years ago. Caleb just happened to have the same profile picture as a guy called Jake. Jake reached out and they became friends. Then Jake decided to attend university in Tasmania. Caleb picked him up from the airport and they’ve had some classes together. It’s been cool.

Well, Jake decided to go home early. And in an amazing coincidence we were booked on the same flight. That meant that we could take him to the airport in Tasmania and in even more of a coincidence, my destination in LA is on the way to his destination. So he (or the friend who picked him up) could easily drop me off.

That’s when the second God thing happened. I was buzzing my sister’s apartment (and the buzzer apparently doesn’t work) and the guys who dropped me off were double-parked outside and waiting for me to get in. And I had a backup plan here, just letting you know. But no plan at all was needed because one of Catherine’s neighbours took one look at me and let me into the complex. She didn’t speak a lot of English but she said, ‘Sister? Yes, sister. Same face.” Which was hilarious. So, on the basis of a very strong family resemblance I was up and knocking on my sister’s door in no time and giving her a huge hug.

So it’s been a very promising start.  The hug was followed up with three hours sleep, a nice walk around the neighbourhood, and a beautiful lunch together on a rooftop restaurant. I’ve taken some touristy photos and enjoyed the warmth.

I’m looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!

All up in the air

view from the plane

I write this from the air over Tasmania. I’m on a flight to Sydney, then from there to LA. I can hardly believe it myself.

It’s about 15 hours since I finished my last day of work at the university. My final PhD student handed in his thesis. I handed in my keys. I am actually done, and moving on to my new life.

Starting with, a brief interlude in LA.

I am going to visit my sister, meet as many of her friends as possible, see the places she hangs out, and then she’ll be coming back with me to Tassie so that she can visit all of us. We haven’t hung out together for three years. It’s going to be a really wonderful time.

The plan is to give you all a little blog update every day of my LA visit. I don’t know whether it’s going to work but I think it will be fun if it does. Notice the lack of commitment in that sentence. I’m not up to committing to a challenge right now. I’ve been awake since 3am. I’m not thinking clearly. But I’m hopeful.

The coast of Tasmania is disappearing below the wing of the aircraft. I’m in a window seat with a row of seats all to myself. I would love it if that happened for the long haul flight too but I reckon that will be too much to ask.

My poor little brain is going overtime trying to process the changes that are happening right now. I had a really big, ‘What on earth am I doing? Am I totally crazy?’ moment as I handed in my keys yesterday and left work for the final time. But when I got home I opened a bottle of bubbly and had a quiet moment of celebration with Moz. And this morning, I’m just trying to process the fact that I’m flying to America. Maybe I’ll catch up with myself in a few weeks. We shall see.

The sun has just popped over the horizon. I’m about to be served a coffee. I’m going to keep this short and sign off, and maybe give you a few more thoughts from the other plane before I put this online.

Now I’m in the air over the ocean. You know, it’s really amazing that we can fly in these metaltubes. I was reminded of this as we drove in the bus from the domestic to the international terminal in Sydney. In front of me was a little boy, about two years old I reckon. He was so excited.

He’d give a big gasp and say ‘plane!’ and then another gasp and then ‘plane!’ and as we got to the international terminal and the planes were bigger and closer he couldn’t even get the word out. It was just gasp after gasp. I was hoping he wouldn’t hyperventilate. It was the cutest, and absolutely hilarious. (Though one of my friends who works in baggage handling is pretty much the same when it comes to planes I think. He loves his job. Which is wonderful.)

I love to fly. It’s fun. I like the food, the choice of movies, the little hot towelettes you get to refresh yourself, the blankets and the pillows.

I don’t like not being able to lie down to sleep, the fact that I’m sitting right in front of the toilets, and the constant noise. But you know, soon I’m going to be so tired that none of that will matter. I hope.

Catch you on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s all happening now!

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Life is a funny thing. It runs along, and runs along, and we all make it through each day, and then suddenly big changes happen. And even though they may be long anticipated, there always seems to be a surprise when they finally come to pass.

I made a decision last June that I would leave my position in the university. It was a firm decision, though I didn’t know what I was leaving to go to, apart from doing more writing, of course.

Anyway, it was a decision, and it was firm, I was going to work until the end of my two contracts and then that would be it.

My first contract, the teaching contract, finished in December. I shed many tears after my last class, and then found that I didn’t miss the teaching nearly as much as I thought I would.

Then I fell into the new routine of two days at university per week, working on papers and helping my remaining PhD student to get his thesis together. It all got very comfortable. I started my new editing business and I collected a nice number of customers. I had a new direction to head in. I launched my books. Life was going along well.

But, as it turns out, it’s was going along well towards the edge of a cliff.

Next week is my last week at university. Next week this chapter in my life comes to an end. And I think that it doesn’t matter how much you prepare yourself for this kind of thing, when it happens, it’s a shock.

A couple of weeks ago the chemistry department held a prize giving event, and as part of that I was thanked for my teaching and given a beautiful pearl pendant necklace. Yesterday we had a proper farewell lunch (shared with a beloved colleague who is also leaving) with gifts of flowers and wine and chocolate, and a HUGE cake. Next week, on my very last day at the uni, there will be another lunch from another part of the department to say goodbye.

It’s long anticipated, but it also feels like it has come up quickly. I have been preparing for this time for the last year, but at the same time there will be major adjustments to make. I’m ready to leave academic life, but at the same time, academia was a dream that I invested so much in and giving up that dream is still hard. I’m looking forward to leaving, but I will miss the camaraderie, the friends and colleagues, and probably even the work. And no matter how much we all say we’ll stay in touch, the fact is that things will change.

I won’t have much time to dwell on it though. I formally finish work on Friday the 15th and at 7am on Saturday the 16th I will be in a plane heading to LA. Not because I want to see LA, as such, but to visit my beloved sister, the wonderful Catherine Joy (of Catherine Joy Music – check her out on Facebook). That also has been long planned and long anticipated but to actually have it happening now feels … well it feels big. Especially getting up at 3am or whatever on Saturday. I don’t want to think about that part of it.

So yes, life is changing for me. In a big way. I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of the new life with you all, and I hope you enjoy hearing about my new small adventures.

I’m hoping that my life can become the quiet life that I long for.

I tell you one thing, I feel so very blessed, so incredibly privileged to be able to even attempt this change. I know that this jump into the unknown is only possible for me because I was born in this country, I was born white, the government loaned me the money for my university studies and paid me to undertake them, and many other blessings through the years that are in no way dependent on what I’ve done. I am so grateful.

So I hope to help others with the privilege I’ve been given. And to make good use of the time I have in the years ahead. Here’s to new (quiet) adventures!

The Big Wet

Hobart Rivulet
Hobart Rivulet taken by my friend Katie

It rained and it rained and it rained. Piglet told himself that never in all his life, and he was goodness knows how old – three was it, or four? – Never had he seen so much rain.

– A.A.Milne, Winnie the Pooh.

I am writing to you today from my place of warmth and comfort after the big storm that Hobart had last night. I should be writing my novel but my head is full of the storm. So the novel can come later.

I enjoy thunder storms. I love the noise and the lightning and the sound of rain on the roof. I also love my sleep, so I enjoyed the first part of the storm last night but I was tucked up in bed and cosy when the real storm hit and I missed the lightning striking every six seconds and the hail and the change in wind direction. I know about this because my son was up and watching it all and he informed us about it this morning.

I also missed the really heavy rain. I thought I’d seen the heavy rain, and I had, but the really heavy rain came down after I was asleep and formed a torrent down the side of our house and along our garden path and the water crept into our bedroom from under the house and from the garden.

There was a torrent pouring down our driveway to the units below and two garage doors have been pushed in and all the garden from unit number 4 is now in the driveway of unit number 6. And the bath in number 6 is full of water that came in through the garage.

I get excited by these events. I’m loving all the stories, all the pictures, all the videos all over Facebook and Twitter. I’m excited by the updates from emergency services with the Auslan interpreter.

And then, as it all calms down, I realise what a job of mopping up there is to do. Not just in my house (where I’m wussing out and letting Moz do most of the heavy lifting) but in our street where there are rocks all over the road and a pile up of mud and clay on the corner, in our little town where the local supermarket, pharmacy, newsagent etc. are all under water, as is our church building, and in our city where the rivulet went on a rampage and cars were carried along and where the university law library has been flooded so badly that books are strewn all over the oval from the water.

I don’t know how many weeks and months it takes to recover from something like this.

On the bright side, there were no reported injuries as of 11am today. There were no deaths that I know of. There’s a car accident now, but most people are being sensible and staying out of the danger zones.

But this will be a time when we see just how much of a community we are. Just how much we all pull together and look after each other. I hope that we do. I need to get off my butt and go and help someone else out – not least my husband who is wringing out wet towels as we speak.

I hope you stay warm and dry today, and even if you don’t live in Tassie, that you are able to reach out to others and build community where you are.

Critter stories

pretty flowers
I didn’t take any rat, millipede, or spider photos, and the geckos ran away too quickly too. So I thought I’d post a flower picture instead.

I thought I’d share with you a few critter stories from our week in Vanuatu.

Let’s start with the spiders (and spider-like insects).

You know the meme that says ‘when I walk through a spiderweb I turn into a ninja’? Well, you couldn’t do that where we were staying, you’d be in permanent ninja mode. Every walk from our room to the bathroom, dining room, kitchen, to the truck to go out, every walk included walking through a web of some sort. I never found a spider crawling on me, but I did find one crawling on someone else. As I brushed it off (a big deal for this arachnophobe) she said, ‘I don’t have a problem with any of these spiders, they are not poisonous.’ Which is a totally sensible attitude. My problem with spiders, however, isn’t their poison, it’s their spider-likeness. What part of irrational fear don’t you understand?

I’m not as phobic as I used to be, and that was a good thing because there were about 17 daddy long legs in my shower cubical, and a similar number in the toilet stall. And there was no point in moving them out as the place was open to the air and they’d just move back in again. There was also a little jumping spider on the toilet wall. They were quite cute, actually, but then there was always the chance they’d jump on you. And then there was the spider I decided not to worry about even though he was reasonably close to my knee. I thought he was dead, you see, but then he moved and I realised he was just digesting his food.

Moz told me his toilet spider story on the plane on the way home. He said that before sitting he would check under the seat to make sure there wasn’t anything there. I hadn’t done that, but I could see when he said it that it was a really good idea and I wished I had. Anyway, he had checked one time and found nothing, but when he flushed the loo a large yellow orb-weaver spider appeared from under the ledge of the toilet. He saw it swimming in the bowl and then scuttling back up the side to the top again. I was nearly sick at that news.

There was only once that I saw a big spider on the toilet wall. I don’t know what he was but he was big enough for me to avoid that room for as long as possible. I think he made another appearance right up in the cone roof of the dining room. Moz looked up and moved his chair back just in case the spider should fall because it would have fallen directly on him. Another spider that lived around the dining room was a wolf spider. He would show up just outside the door in the evenings.

The dining room was full of interesting critters.

Earwigs would catch a lift in on the plates we had washed the night before and had left out to air dry. A big black cockroach was scuttling along the floor one night, we all just let him cruise by.  You don’t feel like squashing bugs so much when you’ve taken your shoes off at the door to keep the floor clean. There were smaller bugs in the teabag box, we think they were a type of cockroach too. And obviously all the flying insects including a few quite beautiful butterflies that made their way in and couldn’t make their way out again.

Our dining sessions weren’t just interrupted by insects. The cat, Snow, enjoyed people’s company and would spend each meal time looking for a lap to sit on. She was supposed to be an outside cat but she loved people too much and would work her way in through the ill-fitting dining room door.

One breakfast she was prowling around while we were eating and we heard an almighty bang as a fold up table that had been stacked against the wall came crashing down. It got everyone’s attention and by the time I saw what was going on, there was Snow with a rat in her mouth. We were thrilled, of course, but I think Snow was a little confused because we all congratulated her but at the same time shooed her out of the room to play with her new toy elsewhere. She left a little present of rat bones on the mat outside the door later for us, as cats do.

That wasn’t the only rat to make an appearance in the dining room.

To understand this story I need to describe the room. It’s an octagonal room with a tiled floor and a cone-shaped roof. When the room was being built they realised they needed to line the ceiling with something, and as a stop-gap used calico fabric. It gives the place a tent-like feel.

We were sitting eating breakfast when Roger (our host) looked up at the ceiling, and wondered to himself where the drips that just fell on his shirt were coming from. The roof had leaked before but not usually in the spot where he was sitting. And then he realised that it wasn’t raining so the roof couldn’t be leaking at all. And then he saw the imprint of little feet on the calico as a rat finished toiletting and walked away. The children fell about laughing. In fact, we all giggled over that one for a long time. But I’m not sure how I would have reacted if it had been my shirt that had got wet.

Speaking of animals in the ceiling, one appeared to me when I had a shower once.

I had gone to shower in the middle of the day when I wouldn’t be getting in anyone’s way. There were two showers shared among nine of us ladies and even though the water was cold, it was refreshing, and a shower was one of my favourite times of the day. This time, as I shampooed my hair, I felt eyes upon me. I looked up and there was Snow sticking her face through a hole in the ceiling. She apparently often crept up to the roof to sun herself during the day and she wanted to say hello. She was a friendly cat.

The larger black cat wasn’t quite so friendly but we saw him jump down from our roof on more than one occasion, and after hearing a rat scrabbling around we thought he was doing a fine job of keeping the population down and he could keep visiting.

There were two kittens as well, Pickles and Ginger.

They were inside cats in the family house. The children loved them. But one morning the family turned up very late for breakfast. In fact, I’d assumed they were eating at home and I’d cleared everything away. But they turned up eventually, late because Pickles had got himself caught in a glue trap used for the rats. They had cut the trap off and doused the poor animal in turpentine to try to get rid of the glue. They weren’t sure if he’d pull through. Later that day he made an appearance in our worship and prayer time, all wrapped up in a towel and looking very sorry for himself. But a couple of days later when I saw him he looked fit and healthy and was trying to escape the house, so I think he’s made of sterner stuff and he’ll pull through.

Their dog, Nacho, is getting on in years but he still does a good job of guarding the place. The biggest issue with Nacho was that he kept eating the bunch of bananas that we were leaving outside to ripen. He also wanted to eat all the food for the ducks. You’d take out a plate of scraps after dinner and the ducks would come crowding around, and then run away with fear as Nacho rounded the corner to take his share. You’d have to do a bit of fielding and defence to let the ducks get at the food while keeping Nacho away.

Of course, millipedes were everywhere.

A bit fatter and juicier than the ones we have at home but basically the same harmless crawlers chugging their way into every room. But in Vanuatu the millipedes were a reminder that centipedes were always a risk. Not that centipedes will kill you but the bite is mighty painful. We heard two centipede stories: one guy was walking down the road and saw a centipede crawling its way in the same direction. He wanted to kill it but he only had a knife the size of a paring knife and you don’t want to get too close to these things. He picked up a stone instead and bashed the thing on the head. Well, the centipede didn’t like that – it reared up, pushing half its body up into the air and looking around. And then, apparently, it dashed off the road at great speed into the bush. I think the guy was glad it decided to run away instead of running towards him and biting!

The other story had happened very close to our room in the last couple of weeks. The family had found a centipede that looked different to any one they’d seen before. It had two tails. But then they realised that what they were seeing was one centipede eating another. The person telling me this tale said that we should be happy because now, instead of two centipedes near where we were, there were none, because they killed the victor of that particular fight. I wasn’t really encouraged but I didn’t see any centipedes in our visit so that was good.

One afternoon as I was inside our room working I heard a droning sound that I thought was someone cutting grass next door. It wasn’t though, it was about four wasps fighting each other for what I thought was the chance to build their mud nest next to the circuit breaker on the wall outside. They went at it for a couple of hours and there was a definite winner. But by that evening everyone had gone away and no nest had been built.

There were nicer tropical critters too.

The critters I liked best were the geckos that blew kisses to each other all through the night. I mean, if you have to have insect eating animals, why not geckos? Why spiders? Anyway the geckos were super cute and there were heaps of them, especially if we left our balcony light on and attracted the mosquitos.

And the fish, of course. We went snorkelling and saw fish of every size and shape and hue, and sea cucumbers, and coral. All totally gorgeous. We even saw a bait ball underneath a jetty. Moz played with it a bit, trying to touch the fish, but they always moved out of the way like one organism and he only managed to brush the side of one fish.

And one last story, going out with a bang.

On the very final night, when I thought that Vanuatu had served up all it was going to, and that there wasn’t time for another adventure between bedtime and 4.30am the next morning when we left to board the plane, I walked out of our room to head to the toilet before bed and then I walked straight back in again. On our front steps was a snake, a large one, probably a metre long. The snake wasn’t poisonous, not like here in Australia, but I still didn’t feel like stepping over him. Moz threw a shoe at him and he didn’t move at all. So I skipped the toilet stop and we let him be. He wasn’t there in the morning.

We only stayed a week in Vanuatu and I’ve built up 2000 words worth of critter stories. I guess you get used to it over time but this western wuss has experienced enough to keep her going for a while. At least until we go back to visit next time.