Monday, November 5, 2012

Sidewalk chatter...

Well, as I was out roaming around town, enjoying some time off and “stay-cationing” it up. I saw something that I wanted to share.

I was out, enjoying one of my favorite day-off treats on Lower Queen Anne, Breakfast at Peso’s.

For those who are familiar with the place, you probably know it’s a popular bar (and a bit of a meat market, at that). But I don’t go there for the eye candy or margaritas, I try to get there before 10 AM.

Not that I am raging alcoholic, but because they serve an amazing breakfast which is pretty much half-off before 11 AM.

It’s an enjoyable dichotomy- raging bar by night, mellow and delicious-food-serving by morning. I am finding in my old(er) age, that bumpin’ clubs are less and less inviting and a chill spot with good food is much more my speed.

So I enjoyed some good food, with a good friend and proceeded to head-out and continue recovering from the overindulgences of the night before.

When we came across a gentleman, who inspired me to pound away at this very keyboard.

It was a very quick interaction, no more than a minute or two. But it was a minute that meant a lot to me. Themes of kindness, patience and the tenacity of the human spirit were all brought front and center.

I spotted the fella crossing the street about a block away from me. He was an older gentleman, who seemed to be dealing with some sort of a muscular disorder: multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. He was doing his damnedest to cross the street as quickly as he could…all the while his body seemed to be fighting his desires with every step.

I saw the fella and honestly, took pity. I am not proud to admit it, but it’s the truth.

Then I thought to myself- How would I do were I placed into his situation? And the answer was not one I liked.

Eventually, the gentleman made it across the street and our paths crossed. When he muttered something our way.

My buddy and I, both still admittedly foggy and hung over, did what most Seattleites would do, kinda nodded towards him and started on our merry way.

Then the gentleman, reiterated his muttering. And the look in his eyes stopped me in my tracks.

He wasn’t crazy. He wasn’t trying to bum money. Turns out, he was just looking for directions to Bartell’s.

I could see in his face, which was slightly contorted from the betrayal of his own muscles, his eyes beamed with an expression that said he just needed a little help with a simple request.

So after the third time of placing his request, I discerned what he was saying and was able to direct him to Bartell’s, which was only 2 blocks away.

I still remember the look in his eyes, it reminded me of seeing recent interviews with Mohammed Ali. There was a brightness, a sharpness and an intensity. You can see that the mind is as sharp as any, even if the body won’t allow them to express the thoughts they want to share.

This gentleman was likely just as quick and rational as anyone I’ve met. And to his credit, he was patient with me. Although he did seem to be a bit frustrated with my inability to comprehend what he was asking, I couldn’t tell if the frustration was directed at me, or the situation.

But, and here comes one of the lessons, he was patient enough to see the interaction through. And I’m glad he was.

He headed on his way, as did my buddy and I.

We got back to the car and circled around the block, catching-up with the gentleman who was now crossing the street near where we’d just been speaking.

It had been a good few minutes since our interaction, and this fella had barely made it a quarter of a block. Yet, there he was plogging along, placing one awkward foot ahead of the others, doggedly trying to speed his way across a very busy intersection.

Again, I pondered how I would do were I placed in his shoes. But this time my answer was a bit different.

This experience had altered my perception. The example of patience and perseverance that this fella exhibited really did a lot to remind me of how indelible and amazing the human spirit can be.

He just needed to get to the store. And he was going to make that happen, even if it meant slowly navigating a busy neighborhood or spelling things out for a couple of hung over yahoos.

Never ceases to amaze how something so little, can lead to such a big realization. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Liking ain't quite Voting...

So I must admit, I am a social network fiend. I love me some Facebook. I am addicted. I check it far more than is healthy and/or reasonable. That said, I think social media is given a bit more credence in society than I think it is due…Let me ‘splain myself.

I enjoy the social media. It’s a great way to keep tabs on those I care about (a group no larger than 25 peeps) and those I kinda like keeping tabs on, but could honestly could do without (the rest of my 200+ "friends" on Facebook).

While I find it pretty cool to see what that guy I used to skip 5th period Spanish with, has been up to. I think my life would probably go on without knowing how delicious this acquaintance from high school found a VooDoo Donut. 
*Way to state the obvious, VooDoo is delish!

So I was a lil off-put by a story I found in a (usually) reputable stalwart of journalism, Time magazine.

The title of the article was “Meet the 22-year-old who defeated Bank of America’s debit fee.”

On the surface, the preface was cool enough. A gal, PO’d with big banks (whom collected government hand-outs) charging fees for a service that was previously free, decided to say ‘Enough is enough,’ and started a social media campaign against Bank of America’s new debit fee.

The story (which you can read here) goes on to talk about how the gal used social media to coalesce a group and create an online presence to illustrate how the majority feels on the matter.

Now I am no mind reader, so I cannot be certain of the assertion to follow, but…

Clicking ‘Like’ or ‘I agree’ does not a wholehearted act of support make.

While a form of democracy, joining an online movement takes no real effort or thought. If something strikes you at the moment, all you need to do is click a mouse and ‘make a statement.’

I think such gestures are hollow. And rather lame.

Submitted for your approval, the case of JR’s fake engagement. -- 

I once left my (unpasscode protected) cell phone unattended at a bar…my bad.

Someone grabbed my phone and updated my Facebook status to: “I love my FiancĂ©!”

Now, I am not currently, nor have I ever been engaged. But I thought it was pretty funny, so much so that I even told the gal I was seeing at the time, that she should like the status, just to make it look believable. 
(Oh what an impairment alcohol is…)

After 30 minutes and double-digit “likes” and/or “Congrats, I am so happy for you” comments, I decided I should put an end to the charade. So I commented, ‘Sorry to disappoint…someone grabbed my phone at the bar. I am not engaged. Yet.’

What blew my mind, and has since shattered my confidence in social media as a voice of the people, were the responses that followed my comment noting that I was not engaged.

At least, 10 more comments and 5 additional likes followed as people didn’t read into what they were liking and just clicked a button.  

Sure, I didn’t help matters by taking steps to make the status look legit. But I think this story illustrates a few things.

First, “Liking” a status is not the same as voting or joining a movement.

Second, the ease with which someone can “like” something devalues the strength of that like. Let me illustrate, think of how much more receiving a text means versus simply getting a “Happy Birthday” comment on your wall on Facebook.

My thought process is like this, “Wow, someone took the time to compose and send me a text, and they may have honestly remembered my birthday.” As opposed to, “Welp, they saw the reminder on the Facebook homepage.”

Third, affecting real change takes action.

I am not devaluing the megaphone power of social media and the internet. But at some point, actors must step away from the keyboard and enter the real world.

While the power of the internet to affect the real world is very strong (see online bullying for example) I worry that people mistake liking a charitable organization with actually volunteering for said organization.

Again, here’s another real world example…

Election season is upon us, and while surfing the Seattle Times web site, I came across a pop-up ad that I really was impressed with- “Getting Married is so Gay. It’s About Time. Redhook supports Marriage Equality November 4th.”

I immediately shared that ad on Facebook and got more likes than usual and even a share. Which is great, as I was able to leverage social media to share a point of view that I agreed with.

However, that ad was in relation to Referendum 74, which is a ballot measure to legalize Gay marriage in Washington State. So although I have shown support for the cause, to make it a reality requires me to step offline and actually vote. Sure, my post on Facebook may influence others to vote…but there are a couple keywords in that last sentence to pay attention to “may influence others”…the only concrete result from my actions on social media would me my voting for that referendum on election day.

All the likes in the world won’t make that referendum law.

And I guess that is the takeaway from this diatribe- Leverage social media and have fun, but don’t forget to take real effective action when necessary.

And be sure to get out and vote on Nov 4th!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ch, cha, Changes...

So since I've cut the cord with my cable company and gone back to using an antenna, I found something I'd come to miss, given the plethora of channels available on cable: Saturday morning cartoons.

I used to watch English Premier League soccer on ESPN, but since that is no longer an option, I've found the broadcast channel RTV to fill my Saturday morning downtime. For those who don't know, RTV stands for Retro Television, and it plays awesome stuff like the original A-Team and the old school He-Man cartoon.

But this is not an ad for RTV, it's about Mr. Magoo.

So there I was, three-quarters of the way through my usual pot of Saturday morning coffee, when I noticed that 'Mr. Magoo' was on. I've been a fan of Mr. Magoo for years. For some reason, my parents bought a collection of the series on VHS that my little brother and I watched a lot. You know, back when movies were recorded on tape.

I enjoyed the nearly blind, yet well intentioned fuddy-duddy and the shenanigans he would get himself into. But, I also remember was his trusty sidekick, Charley.

It's Charley that really spurred this most recent rant.

See, Charley was Mr. Magoo's houseboy. Charley also happened to be Chinese, and being that the cartoons hey-day was the 1950's, Charley was one horribly stereotyped caricature. Charley sported slanted eyes and spoke with an accent saying things like “Mister Magloo,” or referring to himself as “Cholley.” *The Wikipedia link above has a more in-depth description of the Charley character, if you are interested.

But, even with the over-the-top racism, I still remember Charley as Mr. Magoo's intelligent sidekick. Think 'Kato' from the Green Hornet.

So I was a bit lost as I recently watched Mr. Magoo and heard Charley's voice for the first time in years...he had a Brooklyn accent. He still looked the “it's the 50's and we'll be racist if we want” part, but gone was the over-the-top ESL accent.

I was none-too-pleased.

Especially in light of the recent hub-bub over the removal of racially charged language from some of Mark Twain's most famous works.

The thing about it is that it happened. Charley's character was totally and utterly racist. A fact that was only reinforced by the fact that the re-runs of the Mr. Magoo cartoon were changed. But that doesn't change the fact that these shows were initially written, recorded and aired in an offensive way.

The same goes for Twain's works. The books represent a time when slavery/racism where not only rampant, they were for the most part, accepted. This simply was how America was for a long time. Changing some terms in a book doesn't change history, but I fear what revising history in this way, does for the future.

Much like Holocaust museums and memorials encourage to “Forgive, but never forget.” I think the same rationale should be applied to this move towards revisionist history that is taking place before our very eyes.

Now I am not a minority. But that is not to say that I have never been on the receiving end of racial slurs or poorly treated because of what I looked like. I have.

But I have never experienced the downside of institutionalized racism which the above examples illustrate. So while I understand the powerful demeaning nature of the N-word, I will not venture to state how an African American should feel about the changes to the Twain literature.

But while I refuse to utter the term myself, I think it is important to remember what gave the term such power. There is a history there that many would like to forget, as opposed to address and deal with. Dr. Cornel West recently described the changes to Twain's work as nothing more than a futile attempt to “deodorize the funk of the text.”

Continuing with that analogy, you can wash the socks as much as you want, but until you clean the feet, the core issue remains, and needs to be dealt with.

Should we move-on at some point? Yes, I hope we can.

But don't confuse simply sweeping issues under the carpet with growth. And to be clear, giving a stereotyped caricature a different accent and finding-and-replacing the N-word in literature is not growth.

No sum-up here. Just my usual call to be diligent and aware of the world around you.

Hopefully, we can all get to a point where this discussion no longer stirs such emotion. But until that is the case, we all need to be willing to acknowledge an address that this issue is alive and relevant.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years 2011

So I usually take time on New Year's Day to talk about the past year, marking the highs and lows. Then dictating what I hope to accomplish in the coming year.

And while I am all for listing your hopes/goals on paper, I am not going to do that.

Instead, I am gonna be honest. You may have seen my previous post about how I love snow and the holidays...In short, I love what they represent: family, friendship and fun.

With that in mind, I always find New Year's Day a bit depressing. It's definitely bittersweet, as it marks the culmination (read: end) of my absolute favorite time of year.

While there will be parties and dinners with family and friends throughout the year, they just doesn't have the same emotional heft that sitting around the table at Thanksgiving carries with it. There is just a lil something in the air, where even perfect strangers will buy a coffee for the person behind them, “Just Because.”

And yes, I know people do good deeds year round, but I think folks are more attuned/open to doing such things during the holidays. I love the refocus on 'what's really important' that the holidays bring as the year draws to a close. But even as exhibited in New Years Resolutions, the move away from others and family, starts on January 1st as people begin looking at themselves and what they want for themselves.

I think that as the world continues to become more (seemingly) connected, folks are finding themselves more and more isolated. The holidays encourage actual face-to-face interaction. Hugs and laughter seem to happen ad nausem. Think about the good-byes after Christmas dinner versus those at a 4th of July Family Reunion and you'll get my point.

But I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer. I love the optimism that the New Year brings. I love the 2nd Chance that it encourages. But I just miss the warmth that the passing season inspires.

So I'll just say to all of you. Remember who and what is important as you are lazing away an afternoon at the beach in August. Remember the smiles shared and the stories told around the holiday dinner table.

As for me, I definitely have some resolutions:
- Travel somewhere that isn't on the West Coast.
- Hit the gym a few times a week.
- Step forward in my career.
- Write a little more and read a few books.
- But most importantly, I want to put my words into actions and make more of an effort to actually see those who are important to me. And if nothing else, let those I can't see, know where they stand.

So I thank all of you for reading this and wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous 2011.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving goodness.

*Please note, the first four paragraphs were drafted before Snowpocalypse 2010...

Well, like it or not the Holiday season is upon us.

The glut of parties that occur on Halloween mark the beginning of the celebration season for me.

I am not sure what the difference is from a barbecue beer in August and sipping Witch's Brew at a Halloween party is. But it sure seems there is a general hankering for hanging-out come the official arrival of fall that Halloween represents.

Yet there are still the Bah Humbuggers...

It blows my mind that people view this time of year with disdain. Refrains of, “Is it really already Thanksgiving?” or “I can't believe they are already playing Christmas music,” ring throughout my office.

I am just not one of those people. I love the holidays, I love snow, I love the smell of pine in the living room and mulling spices wafting about the kitchen.

Given the recent blast of actual winter weather, this holiday disdain seems to have been transferred to snow. Which, given the traffic snarling nature of snow/ice here in Seattle, I can understand. However, I do not agree with the sentiment. Honestly, what's a few hours of PTO to have a carefree “snow day” that harkens back to your elementary school days?

I recently posted the following question on my Facebook page after seeing a rash of snow-hating posts: So are my friends really to that age? The "F this Damn Snow" age? I mean really? This stuff is AWESOME!

How many chances do you get to be a kid again? How many times do you see perfect strangers sledding together down a hill while sharing a lil “winter warmer”? How often do folks offer rides to perfect strangers as they trudge through the snow in sub-20-degree temperatures?

I have witnessed and/or been a party to all of the experiences listed above.

There is just a special sense in the air that seems to be more prevalent around the holidays. Perhaps it's the shorter days and colder nights. But there seems to be a greater sense of or longing for community during the winter.

Whether it be folks helping push a stranded car or a stranger buying a shot for a guy sitting by himself at the end of the bar. There is just a lightheartedness that is elicited by the holidays.

Just look at the pure joy on a toddlers face the first time they frolic in the snow. They don't care how cold it is, or how bad the traffic on the 405 is. They just know that the world is a quieter, gentler, more fun place.

Having been a “city boy” my entire life, I have always been enchanted by how quiet the world is when blanketed in snow. Especially when accompanied by wind, the only things audible are the slight crunch of snow beneath your feet and whistle of wind past your ears.

But I can see how snow, much like the holidays can become a burden when balanced with a full-time job, family & kids. I, luckily only have one of the three, and my job is pretty understanding.

But anything worth having, is worth working for. Right?

And really, aren't the holidays about others?

So I say, kick back and enjoy it. There's no sense in freaking-out about the holidays. They are gonna come and they are gonna go.

What is important aren't the gifts that are exchanged or even that the turkey was roasted to a perfect golden brown.

It's more about the stories created and traditions extended with good people, be they family or friend.

Keep that in mind, as you jockey for position while in-line at the store. Or as you freak-out in the kitchen while a roomful of probably oblivious guests relax and have another beer/glass of wine.

Just have a good time and relax. No one wants to be in a Norman Rockwell painting...that's too much stress. Give me a David Horsey cartoon any day.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 Election Endorsements

Here are my endorsements for the 2010 Mid-Term Election. I have included my endorsements and those of the two major news reporting agencies in Seattle.

If you agree with my opinions, great! Go Vote!

If you don’t agree with my opinions, OK. But still, Go Vote!

I-1082: Privatization of workman’s compensation insurance
Vote- YES.
Washington is one of only a handful of states with a government monopoly on workman’s compensation insurance coverage. While I agree that government should step-in to provide such coverage when none exists, I do not agree with government freezing-out private competition. It’s time for Washington to modernize and move forward by providing those who are providing jobs some choice in their workman’s compensation insurance provider. The current Department of Labor and Industry is pretty broken-down and offers mediocre service at rather high prices, privatization just seems like a win-win here. Allow the State to focus on governing and not on insuring.

Seattle Times: Yes.
Seattle PI: No.

I-1098: Installation of a State Income Tax
Vote- YES.
Most folks hear “State Income Tax” and run for the hills. I was one of those people. However, I am also one who believes that those who have benefitted from living in the State of Washington should pay their part. This initiative places an income tax on those with an “adjusted gross income” of over $200,000 (individual) and $400,000 (joint). To quote Chris Rock (talking about having to pay alimony in a stand-up routine)- “If I’m making $500,000 a year and the wife wants half, I ain’t stavin, but if I am making $35,000 a year…” That sentiment rings true here for taxes. Forget regressive sales taxes that penalize all and disproportionately take a greater percentage of income from the less-wealthy and tax those who A) can afford it and B) are making money living in the very system that allowed them to succeed.

Seattle Times: No.
Seattle PI: Yes.

I-1100 & I-1105: Liquor Privatization
Vote- NO.
I realize this endorsement flies in the face of my I-1098 argument, but they are different beasts altogether. First and foremost disclosure: I was once employed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board as a liquor store clerk. That being said, loyalty to a former employer has little to do with my decision. Mostly, I like having the state in control of hard liquor. Having worked for the board I know that the clerks are paid well and offered a good benefit package which creates an appreciation for the job that creates a diligence in distribution of liquor that makes me feel safer. I have little faith in some 18-year-old gas station attendant to keep from selling hard liquor to those who shouldn’t have it. Just look at the CWU situation, it was the kids who mixed hard liquor with the malt beverages who got themselves sick, do we really need to make it easier for situations like that to occur? I think the cost of state administration is well worth the safety/oversight provided. And if you REALLY NEED liquor on a Sunday or at every corner store…I don’t think state initiatives are your biggest worry. Simply put, state liquor stores are not that great of an inconvenience and are money fairly well spent, keep them around.

Seattle Times: Yes.
Seattle PI: No.

I-1107: Candy Tax
Vote- NO.
Tax the vices! That has long been a mantra of mine, even before I was of voting age. I have no problem taxing things like alcohol and tobacco, and many folks agree with that sentiment. Candy should be on that list of vices, as it’s an indulgence. Which in and of itself, is just fine, but when done to excess can cause health problems…the same can be said of alcohol and tobacco. Since these overindulgences can cause harm, either financial or physical, to other citizens (be it drunk driving or increased healthcare costs) such actions/products should be taxed. Not as a deterrent, but as a measure to recoup some the expenses associated with the harms these overindulgences can incur. Leave the tax in place.

Seattle Times: No.
Seattle PI: No Endorsement.

Prop 1: King County Sales Tax Increase
Vote- NO.
“Just a lil bit more,” then a few years later, “Just a lil bit more.” Such has been the pitch from King County for years, and years, and years. I remember a sales tax in the 6-7% range back when I was in high school, and now we are looking at a double-digit sales tax rate? Where will it end? Enough is enough. I am normally the bloodiest of bleeding-heart tax-and-spend liberals, but it’s time to say, “No.” It’s time for the county to become fiscally responsible and work with revenue the voters of King County have already granted them in previous sales tax hikes. The economy is too weak and the tax too regressive to be viewed as a viable fix. Look to the long-term instead of reverting to the equivalent of an irresponsible teenager asking the parents for lunch money because they already spent their allowance for the month.

Seattle Times: Yes.
Seattle PI: No.

State Senator
I don’t trust Dino Rossi. I view him in the same light as Tim Eyman, someone who seems to love the political spotlight, yet offers nothing of substance to actually benefit the voters they are asking the support of. Meanwhile Patty Murray has been a steadfast and active representative of Washington State in the “other” Washington. Murray was instrumental in returning the Air Force Tanker contract to Boeing when it had all but been given to a non-domestic company in Airbus. The bulk of this endorsement is based-on a simple dislike/distrust of Rossi, but when you begin to review Murray’s track record, the Senior Senator deserves the job.

Seattle Times: Murray.
Seattle PI: Murray.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Next Generation.

So while on a recent trip to the only other town I've called home, I was reminded, oddly enough, of the security guard in my building.

I took a day-trip to Bellingham, WA, as some college friends were playing in a soccer tournament. So I decided to head-up and do what I've always done: sit on the sideline and mooch some beer while getting sunburned.

The soccer tournament has become an annual pilgrimage for me and my fellow Western Washington University Alums to get together and relive the old my case, the good old days.

It is a great time and a fun way to reconnect where we all met and recount the old times while catching-up on the new.

But back to the security guard.

He is an older fella. Approaching/past retirement age, by my estimation. And he, like most folks in my building, pretty much kept to himself offering nothing more than the slightest nod of acknowledgment as I entered/left the elevator. I can't say that I blame him, security guards have the worst job on the planet, they are basically like the police- deemed a necessary evil by most and never there when they should be...except this poor old fella doesn't get a gun, or even a stick! Which may explain his standoffish nature.

However, my perception of this fellow changed a few months back. See, my building requires a magnetic key to enter the front door. A magnetic key that (apparently) requires a battery to operate. Well, one dark and stormy night (it really was), as I was stumbling home, intoxicated, I went to scan my key at the door and “Voila!” – Nada.


As I stood outside, drunk and poorly dressed for a night spent sleeping on the street corner, I began to ponder which corner of the entryway offered the most protection from the wind. After what felt like forever and just as my hope of another alternative began to fade, I looked in the front door and there he was, the security guard.

I beat on the door like a crazy person and flailed my arms about pointing to my key as I tried to pantomime “Technology has let me down again. Batteries suck. And I am cold and drunk, please don't make me sleep on the street, sir. I really do live here! Really!”

Either I am the best pantomime in the history of all mankind or the standoffish security guard has a heart. I'm voting for the latter.

Needless to say, I was able to get into my building and -Gasp- the security guard talked to me!

As it turns-out he, like most folks, is a heck of a nice guy. I came to find out that he lives far away from downtown Seattle as it was “way too pricey for a guy like him.”

So what does a soccer tournament in Bellingham have to do with a security guard who saved my drunk ass?

Glad you asked.

The soccer tournament reminded me of college. The security guard reminded me of my Dad.

I've never held education in a very high regard. School/college was just something that I did. It was not an option.

Until I finished at Western and entered the workforce, it never really dawned on me that folks didn't go to college or that getting a degree was that big of a deal.

But as I sat there at my old haunt, The Beaver Inn in Bellingham, surveying the day-time crowd of 'townies' as we referred to them in college (while looking down our noses a bit) I realized, these 'townies' were more of a reflection of my family than the people I was sitting with.

So does that mean that I look down my nose at my family?

Honestly, I probably have in the past, but as I look at the security guard, working into retirement doing what he has to do to get by, I come to appreciate the work ethic and nobility of the Workaday Average Joe, like my Dad. (I realize like I sound like a pompous above-the-fray a-hole in that last sentence, but it's the realization I had.) *By the way, Thank you Mom and Dad, I couldn't have done anything without you.

It's an interesting dichotomy, being the first generation to get a degree. In theory, the degree will better your station in life. Yet as a result of that education, you begin to see the world differently than those who put you in the position to make that jump.

Now let me say this, having a degree does not make you smarter/better than anyone simply means you were willing to jump through hoops and could afford to do so. I know plenty of very intelligent people who do not have degrees, they just simply weren't dealt the same cards that I was...and many of those folks are no worse for the wear for it.

So how does one rectify the situation?

My Mom, is still Mom. Pops is still my Pops. And I still have my degree and will forever be a lil different than them for it.

Does getting a degree in your early-to mid-20's trump the life experience of those who have been working since high school?

Hell No.

Am I impressed by someone who had the intelligence and tenacity to get an advanced degree?

Heck yeah.
*I know, I just talked down the importance of a degree a couple of paragraphs ago. But they don't just give college diplomas away, there is some work involved.

So I guess I am still trying to figure it all out.

I'll get back to ya when I have it all dialed-in.

Don't hold your breath, my four-year degree took me five and a half years to complete...