July 29, 2006

Two Weeks? Two Weeks?

The Money Pitthe work was finally finished today - more or less.

They got the full patio door in yesterday - remember, Al was only contracted to replace a plane of glass, not the whole door - but couldn't finish framing it off with moldings. So one guy returned this morning (10:30am actually) to wrap it up.

He did a very nice job. I need to paint it, but the door looks great. I just wish I didn't have to scream and yell on the phone for four two weeks to get this work done.

Of course the facia wood outside was never replaced, and with the closing on Monday there is no time to complete this work. Al ran out of time. Luckily, we've only given Al half of what we agreed to in the contract. I can't wait to see how much money he tries to get out of me after this.

The buyers came over for a walk through this afternoon before the close on Monday. They seem like a very nice couple who understand the frustrations we were dealing with. Heather and I explained to them that we had every intention of replacing the wood outside. We just ended up with the ass-tractor from Hell. We told them that we would give them money to have the wood replaced. They seem agreeable to that.

So I think my contractor hell is over for now. The guy who did the work didn't take the old door or fame with him (he told me Al didn't contract him to do that) and my calls to Al today about picking up this construction trash were not returned (not like I expected them to be), so I still have that to deal with. But with about 36 hours to close, I'm not sure what I can do about that. Maybe the answer is in what my real estate agent told me today, "We'll let the lawyers figure that out."

So here are the final two The Money Pit quotes.
Estelle: You think you know somebody after 25 years. And then one day Israeli Intelligence comes to the door.

Anna: "Israeli Intelligence?"

Estelle: Last Tuesday. That's why I've gotta sell the house. It turns out Carlos was Hitler's pool man.

And a personal favorite of my dad's
Estelle: I apologize for not turning the lights on. I'm trying to save every penny I can. The blood sucking lawyers are bleeding me dry!

July 28, 2006

Two Weeks? Two Weeks?

The Money PitHaven't had a chance to talk to Heather, so I don't know if anyone has shown up to work at the house this morning.

Yesterday the tone and inspiration of my daily The Money Pit posts went from funny to maddening. I can't understand how you can tell me that the work will be completed on Thursday, show up for 3 hours and then just leave - having done essentially nothing. Is that how a business is run?

Then I get absolutely no responses from the multiple messages I left on the guy's voicemail system.

I can't even comprehend the depths of this guys ineptitude and jackassery. Right now I almost wish they would screw up in a way that I could nail them to the wall in court.

We will see how things go today. Here is what I hope to be the very last The Money Pit quote:
Max (Alexander Godunov): [to Walter] Do you realize what you've done? You've taken a woman who loves you, one of the great women in the world and thrown her away. I lost her too, but I will get over it because I am shallow and self-centered. But you, you won't, because you are "complex". You will feel terrible anguish for the rest of your life.

[turns to guy painting wall] Smooth strokes. Up and Down. Paint, don't dabble. [snatches cigarette from painters mouth] And don't smoke.

This is turning out to be pretty good day.


Update: Al is dancing close to the lawsuit fire right now. I've had to call him three times this morning before someone showed up at 11:30 to begin work. I actually threatened legal action on the phone.

This is so frickin' unbelievable.

July 27, 2006

She Dances, She Waves

The other day, parents, grandparents, aunts - just about anyone who was interested was invited to come watch the dance class Emma was participating in at the community center. Heather, Ian, Zoe, my mom, and stepfather all got to watch the three-year old girls show off their newly learned dancing skills.

Heather has a pretty good report on what the morning was like. Lots of fun.

Besides some great pictures, Heather was also able to shoot a few short videos using our digital camera. This one in particular is very cute. Watch it and you will understand what I mean.

video of Emma at dance class

Two Weeks? Two Weeks?

The Money PitAs promised, Al and his crew showed up this morning at 8am and got to work.

However, by 11am they had left. They had managed to leave the patio door in worse shape when they found it and no wood was replaced on the outside of the house. They told Heather that they would be back tomorrow to finish the work.

They were there all of 3 frickin' hours and essentially nothing was accomplished.

I am so fuckin' mad I don't even know what to do right now. How many times can I scream into this guy's voicemail system before things stick? He's needs to finish the work.

I actually think I am a danger to others right now, I am so worked up.

So here is today's The Money Pit quote, though I'm not getting nearly the enjoyment out of it that I usually do.
Walter: What's going on?
Curly: You number came up this morning! We work today!

July 26, 2006

Happy 7th Birthday Ian!

I was going to write a birthday message for Ian and reflect on the anniversary of me becoming a dad, but I realized I did that last year. Besides, Heather beat me to it on her blog with a really great post with lots of photos.

So go read what Heather has to say about the joys of being Ian's parents and know that I second those emotions.

Ian, I hope you have a wonderful 7th birthday. Your mom and I love you very much. You are a super guy.

Can You Improve This Smile?

Two Weeks? Two Weeks?

The Money PitAl didn't show yesterday, but he said he would be here at 9am this morning to complete the work. The reports of rain increase my skeptical attitude about this project being wrapped up today, but I will hope.

Here's your The Money Pit quote, a personal favorite:
Walter (Tom Hanks): It's a big house, we'll divide it up! You stay in your half, I'll stay in mine!

Anna (Shelley Long): That is such a dumb idea. Sometimes it amazes me you ever passed the bar.

Walter: I'm sure it does, you've never passed a bar in you life.

Anna: You are so much less attractive when I'm sober.

Walter: Thank goodness it's not that often.

July 25, 2006

Ed Brubaker's Criminal

Two years ago Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips teamed up to start a 24-issue project called Sleeper. Published by DC imprint Wildstorm Comics, it starred Holden Carver as a sleeper agent deep, deep undercover within a super-criminal organization. The series kicked off right after the only man who knew Holden was one of the good guys was shot and landed in a coma. Holden would spend the next twenty four issues trying to get himself out without getting himself killed. Sleeper is the best noir comics I’ve read since Frank Miller’s “Sin City” books.

At the same time Brubaker was writing Sleeper, he and Greg Rucka were co-writing Gotham Central, a gritty look at the cops in Gotham City and how they try to keep order (and respect) when there is a masked vigilante running along the roof tops. It was top notch crime fiction.

Those two series made me a big fan of Ed Brubaker’s writing. Since Sleeper ended, he left “Gotham Central” (which Rucka ended shortly after Brubaker’s departure) and signed an exclusive deal with Marvel comics. I’m not much of Marvel comic reader. Don’t find many of their heroes very interesting, and they don’t do very man non-superhero books. DC is has the depth and breadth that I’m looking for in a publisher. Even though I really enjoyed Brubaker’s writing, I didn’t follow him over to Marvel. The character and projects he was working on just didn’t interest me. Until now. . . .

Criminal is Brubaker’s new comic series coming out in October. He’s going to be teamed up with Sleeper artist Sean Phillips and they plan to create a crime comic none we ever seen before.
"The main cast of the book, they're criminals. But I wanted to do something different with it here. I wanted to write a book that explored the clichés of the crime genre and turned them inside out. I wanted to have characters totally unlike the ones you're used to seeing in crime stories."

The preview on his site looks great. Definitely sounds like something I can’t pass up. I guess I’m actually going to buying a Marvel comic. Who’d a thunk it?

criminal preview

Two Weeks? Two Weeks?

When I called my father on Friday for advice on how I might deal with my contractor problems, his was response was to start reciting lines from the 1986 Tom Hanks and Shelley Long comedy The Money Pit. I guess it was logical payback for the years of not letting my dad forget the month he spent suffering through the effects of Bell’s palsy.

The Money PitSome dads and sons have certain baseball seasons that bond them together, or a shared love of a hobby. My Dad, Kevin, and I have The Money Pit. Easily the most quoted movie by the three of us, this marginal laugher has been elevated to movie classic in the eyes of McKillip men because of its sheer goofiness and great characters; especially the overacting of Alexander Godunov as the completely self-absorbed Max Beissart.

Now our house isn’t a money pit – actually it has held up quite nicely in the six plus years we have lived here. But in honor of the Brad and Art Shirk, the carpenter and plumber from the movie who embody everything bad about working with a contractor, I will be running quotes from the movie until the work on my house is done.

Today’s offering:
Walter Fielding (Tom Hanks): Just because they showed up to collect the money, is no guarantee that they'll show up to do the work... and if they do... I can't pay for it!

Hell, there are so many good ones, let’s run two:
Max (Alexander Godunov) speaking to members of the orchestra he just finished working through a rehearsal: The union forces me to allow you to go to lunch in spite of the way you've played. Those of you with consciences will not be able to eat. And those who conscience's match your talents; go stuff yourselves I hope you choke!

July 24, 2006

Modern Day Dean Martin

As my brother pointed out in his email:
Peninsula Players annual "Christmas in July" party - $0.00
"Cabaret" chorus girls - $0.00
Being the "tall, cute, funny one" - Priceless

Kevin's Christmas in July

Classic DC Comic Stories to Get Animated

The granddaddy of comic book conventions was held last Thursday through Sunday in San Diego, California. Typically, comic publishers save the really big announcements for new books or project for San Diego. It’s when they can generate the biggest hype and why I looked forward to the convention (even though I have yet to attend).

This year has proven to be the exception. There were no huge announcements, no big book deals, and no startling revelations. From reports I’ve read, the convention was bigger than ever, just not bigger in news.

One exciting development that was announced at the convention that has perked my interest is Warner Brothers Home Video is launching a line of direct-to-DVD animated movies based on DC Comics heroes and stories.

Plans call for the production and distribution of two or three films a year, beginning next year. The first three titles will be "Justice League: New Frontier," "Superman: Doomsday" and "Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.

Those are some pretty cool stories. I loved Darwyn Cooke’s "New Frontier," Superman vs. Doomsday is a compelling – and exciting story, and I just read "The Judas Contract" this spring and really enjoyed it.

dc comic new frontierBruce Timm, one of the masterminds behind the ground breaking Batman: The Animated Series, and the follow-ups Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League, will oversee all of the movies as Executive Producer. The panel members at the convention made it clear that even though Timm will be in charge of the projects, these animated movies will not be animated in the style of Timm’s previous cartoon creations. Instead, the movies will draw there inspiration of art and design from the actual comics the movies will be based on. This means we should get some rollicking interpretations of George Perez’s and Darwyn Cooke’s artwork.

When I originally read “direct-to-DVD” I feared a train wreck like the Superman: Brainiac Attacks movie that Warner Brothers assaulted the public with back in April. Of course, that movie was lacking something that these movies will not – the participation of Bruce Timm’s creative skill at capturing the essence of DC’s characters and bringing them to life through animation. Timm is all the difference that these new projects need to ensure that the animated films are quality pictures.

The Great McKillip Move - Week 17

Like them or not, stereotypes and clichés spring from fact. Repeatable displays of behavior or traits for a given group give birth to these gross simplifications. Positive or negative, whether they actually apply to the majority of the group or not, at the core of a stereotype and a cliché usually is a kernel of fact.

Take the stereotype of the contractor. Someone who shows up, takes some of your money – maybe even does some of the work, and then becomes nearly impossible to get a hold of. And should you actually talk to them, they promise a work completion time that they never meet.

Everyone is aware of this stereotypical experience with a contractor, but I think everyone hopes that they won’t actually experience the stereotype when they go into a contract with one. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for Heather and I. We find ourselves firmly entrenched in a nightmare of a situation with an ass-tractor who seems to respond to calls on Monday, promises work to be completed by the end of the week, and then disappears.

Twice in the last two weeks I have talked to the contractor who is suppose to be handling the work we are doing to the house in accordance with our sales contract, and twice he has promised to complete the work by the end of the week. True, in both weeks he has lost days for working outside because of rain, but there have been plenty of other days when he could have gotten someone over to our house to complete the work.

It’s driving me absolutely insane. I just want the work to be done and I want to hear from this guy. How hard is it to just call us and let us know a status? It’s the basics of project management – letting the project sponsors know what’s going on. Maybe I expect too much in terms of customer service and proper management from a contractor.

The worst part is that I would love to retaliate against this guy – something legal of course – but I want to nail his lazy ass to wall somehow and transfer some of the pain and frustration I’m dealing with right now back at the donkey-fucker. Outside of a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and a lawsuit, I can’t think of much else. And something tells me that a contractor is as used to BBB complaints and lawsuits from irate customers as you and I might be with bad traffic during the work commute. It’s just a hazard of doing the job.

Maybe I’ll take six months to pay him. If he ever shows up to do the work.

Which leads to another problem – we’re only in the house one more week. As Heather and I have been telling Al from the beginning, this work needs to be completed by July 28. Given our contractor’s track record the last three weeks, even if he tells me the work will be completed by Friday I can’t believe him until there is someone with a ladder, wood and a hammer at my house. That means I need to have plenty of back-up plans for taking care of things before the close- which is a week from today. I think I have things worked out, but I need to discuss them with our real estate agent and our attorney.

I hate this fucking contractor.

Other that Al, the ass-boy contractor with half a brain, things are going nicely. Packing has picked up. The basement is nearly cleared up. Heather and I are going through boxes and tape faster than we can stock them. We are afraid of over-buying and getting left with a bunch of boxes we don’t need, so we buy in small spurts. However, sometimes that can cause work to slow down. I think we did a better job of stocking this weekend and should be able to coast through the week rather smoothly.

The utilities have been scheduled for transfer and most other critical address changes are already in place – though there are a few that need to be addressed. Heather is going to cook all the way up until Friday, at which point pots, pans, and all cooking utensils are getting packed up and we either grill, buy our meals, or rely on peanut butter and jelly. The last few weeks Heather has done a spectacular job of using up the food we had in our deep freezer, so there won’t be any crazy Saturday frozen food “fire sale” for us. The freezer has been emptied, defrosted, and cleaned.

Overall I’m feeling good about our readiness for moving next Monday. Yes, there is a considerable amount of packing still to be done, but put stuff into boxes is easy. We’ll get that done. We’ll be ready.

Now I gotta go kick a contractor in the balls.

July 21, 2006

Hello Superman!

I don't know why it was done, but I thought it was funny.

hello superman

In case you were wondering, I found the picture here.

July 19, 2006

Miller to Bring Spirit to Big Screen

Frank MillerI guess all these years while he was producing comics that pushed the boundaries of the form, he really was just waiting to get his chance to direct movies.

The Hollywood Reporter announced today that comic book creator Frank Miller, the artistic force behind Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, has been given the opportunity to bring comic revolutionary Wil Eisner's The Spirit to the silver screen.

From the story in the Hollywood Reporter:
More than four decades after Will Eisner created him, “The Spirit” — one of the most influential comics of all time — is coming to the big screen. The movie will be adapted and directed by Frank Miller, who will be on hand for the public announcement of the project Saturday at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Odd Lot Entertainment’s Deborah Del Prete and Gigi Pritzker will co-finance and produce “The Spirit.” Also producing is Batfilm Prods.’ Michael Uslan. Batfilm co-founder Benjamin Melniker will executive produce. Odd Lot’s Linda McDonough and Batfilm’s FJ DeSanto will co-produce. Uslan said Miller was the ideal choice for the project. “What makes Frank’s involvement with ‘The Spirit’ particularly poignant was his special relationship with Will Eisner, captured last year in the book ‘Eisner-Miller,’ ” he said. “You have two of the medium’s greatest storytellers of sequential art and cinematic comics discussing the compelling and controversial art form.”

The SpiritFrank Miller co-directed last year's Sin City movie with Robert Rodriguez, so I guess he thinks he's ready to tackle a film on his own now. I hope he can handle it.

I have complete confidence that Miller will treat The Spirit with the respect the character deserves and will do everything he can to faithfully capture the tone and energy of Eisner's masterful comic. But it will be Miller's first time running the show all by himself. He's a brilliantly creative man. I love his comics. It will be interesting to see what he sort of film he produces on his own.

A Reason to Watch the Cubs

clemens and madduxAnyone with a marginal interest in Chicago baseball knows that the Cubs are not the team to be watching this season. They are a bona fide disaster. The team on the field this summer in Wrigleyville leaves a lot to be desired - a lot.

However, tonight’s Houston Astros - Chicago Cubs match up does manage to provide some interest. It will feature arguably two of the greatest pitchers in professional baseball in the last twenty-five years. Roger Clemens comes to Wrigley to face Greg Maddux. Between them they hold 11 Cy Young awards and over 660 career wins. Cooperstown already has spots reserved for these guys.

Clemens is off to a slow start after joining the Astros in July and Maddux might finally be showing his age, but you can’t deny the draw of watching two masters of the game duel.

July 18, 2006

They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard

This is beautiful . . .

Macrame Owls

I saw this gallery and thought, "Wait, didn't that hang in our house when I was 7-years old?"

macrame owl

Mom, were you and Dad so hip that not only were you in a Bunco club, but you decorated our house with macrame owls?

July 17, 2006

The Real Danger of High Temperatures

In the Chicagoland area we are in the middle of an oppressive heat-wave. We're gonna hit heat indexes around 105 today. It is nasty hot.

The greatest danger of high heat like this isn't heat stroke, dehydration, or even death. It's running the risk of having to see something like this:

guy with no shirt on riding a bike

The Great McKillip Move - Week 16

The move is so close now you can almost smell it - that or the rank from me as I work up a sweat packing and hauling things around the house. We’ve only got two weeks to go until the move and everyone is starting to get real excited. 14 days and we will have a new place to live with lots of new space. I am psyched.

Over all, Heather and I seem to be getting our plans under control and ready for the move.

Our contractor did show up last week on the day and time he promised. He got half of the work completed before a couple of days of rain prevented them from working outside. He said they would return on Friday or Saturday – but no dice. So now I’ve got to start hounding them again. I shouldn’t have to work so hard to get somebody to come take my money.

We figured out the plan for moving day (thanks to a recommendation from our attorney). We are going to move out in the morning – we got the new owners to agree to extend our “out of the house” time to beyond the 9am close time on Monday. With a close that early in the morning, it is impossible to be out that early in the morning. Luckily the new owners don’t plan on moving in until Tuesday. So we are all square.

As for our move into the new home, Heather and I have decided to do that on Tuesday as well. We are going to pay for one night of storage and have the movers bring everything Tuesday morning. It seems to make the most sense and reduces the stress level for both of us.

moving boxesMore and more stuff has been packed or gotten out of the house. I’ve started using the garage as a storage area for packed boxes and other items ready to move, I made a trip to Goodwill on Saturday to donate a number of items, and the volume of garbage we’ve been placing on the curb for the weekly collection has gotten quite large. Three cans plus some big items that don’t fit in cans. We’re going through garbage stickers like crazy. But it’s getting it out of the house – which makes me happy.

I have even put a number of items up on Craigslist to see if we can’t get a little money for them. I already sold the table, chairs, and umbrella we had on the deck. I am still looking for someone to buy the couch or old computer we’ve been kicking around in the basement. There’s even an old artificial Christmas tree we want to give away for free. As of yet - no takers. We might just be in the wrong season for someone to be even looking for something like that. If the Craigslist posting don’t move this stuff out of the house, then I’ll just have to donate them. There is no way I am moving these items to our new house.

The one snag seems to be with the buyers. When we agreed to the sale contract I expressed some concern that the buyers were going with a VA loan. At the time I thought I had heard that dealing with someone getting a VA or FHA loan can be a headache for a seller. Sure enough, two weeks ago the buyer’s attorney contacted our attorney asking for an extension on getting their VA loan approval completed. When I asked my attorney if this offered a problem, he said it didn’t. That is was pretty standard. So I said, sure, let the extension go.

Well the new, extended date for load approval was June 14 - last Friday. Guess who still doesn’t have an approved VA loan?

Yep. Our buyers. Seems the VA loan agents are dragging their feet. Not moving the paper work along quickly enough.

Now this is only a headache for me because I don’t want to get to July 31 and have a buyer with no money. That doesn’t help me with the purchase I plan on making in the evening. I know the buyer is probably sweating things too, and that makes me feel a little better, but I would still like to hear that they have their financing squared away.

Heather’s mom, sister, and nieces are in to visit this week, so packing might slow down a bit. But that might not be so bad. It will give us an opportunity to store up our packing energy for the home stretch the following week. It’s then when we will finally get down to the brass tacks of packing and make sure everything goes into a box. Up to this point we’ve been holding back a bit because the kids might still want those toys or we need those pots to cook in. But after next weekend, if it isn’t moving I’m stuffing it in a box.

July 14, 2006

Cartoons and Comic Books

My two favorite things always taste great together. For example:

I might not be sold on the Dungeons & Dragons appearance on DVD, but the announcement of Justice League Unlimited showing up as full season DVD sets this fall certainly grabs my interest.

justice league unlimited screen shotWarner Brothers has already released Justice League season one and season two DVD sets, but I haven’t really pursued them. I really liked the JL show in that first incarnation, but I really felt the show gelled and came into its own when it re-launched under the Justice League Unlimited title and greatly expanded the cast of heroes. The diverse cast allowed the writers to do all sorts of new and interesting stories, and the change in format to self-contained half-hour shows (as opposed to the hour-long two-parters from the original Justice League show) forced the episodes to be refined to the essentials of storytelling. The result: big entertainment bang in every 22-minute show.

The DVD release this October will contain 26 episodes of JLU – essentially the first two seasons of the show. This series will find a place on the shelf next to my Animated Batman and Animated Superman collections. The late fall release makes this a perfect birthday or Christmas gift. Hint-hint!

- - - - - - - - - -

Mike Mignola is a comic creator whose work I enjoy but never seem to get around to reading. Invariably I experience his creations and stories not in their original comic format, but in an adaptation. I thought the Hellboy movie from a few years ago was great, and I have been closely following the development of some Hellboy animated movies slated to start airing on Cartoon Network later this year.

amazing screw-on headOne of Mignola’s other comic creations that I had heard about and wanted to read but haven’t is The Amazing Screw-On Head. The story is pure Mignola – President Lincoln’s top spy is a bodiless head known only as Screw-On Head, who is called into service to save the world from the nefarious plans of Emperor Zombie. It is twisted Lovecraftian horror / humor at its finest.

The Sci-Fi network has developed the comic into an animated series. Our cable network doesn’t carry Sci-Fi anymore, so I haven’t been able to watch the show. However, the Sci-Fi network has posted the entire first episode of The Amazing Screw-On Head on their website for viewing.

I know what I’ll be doing tonight if I can sneak away from Heather, the Packing Taskmaster.

- - - - - - - - - -

This final bit is related to comics and animation, but in a reverse fashion.

As a kid I remember watching a lot of Spiderman and His Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings. When ABC Family channel started airing the shows this spring, Emma and Ian got hooked on the show. I think they enjoyed the simplicity of the stories. (Cartoons from the 80’s didn’t aspire to a whole lot artistically) Emma in particular really loved watching the show and would frequently request to watch it.

videomanOne of the episodes featured a villain called Videoman – probably one of the lamest villains I have ever encountered. Videoman’s lameness is only intensified when you consider the state of technology in the mid-80s. We’re talking Space Invaders and Pac-Man. Not Halo and Warcraft. So the writers envisioning a man turned into a living video game came up with what now seems like the dorkiest villain to ever threaten to destroy a city.

Why talked about Videoman? Because in August Marvel will be publishing a special one-shot comic called Spider-Man Family Featuring Spider-Man’s Amazing Friends to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the cartoon show. (I guess Marvel found a demand for something like this. Who knew?) I had pretty much ignored the solicitation for the comic when it was announcement a few months back, but then someone pointed out that the story starring Spidey, Iceman, and Firestar will feature – wait for it – Videoman!

Now I have to buy it. Videoman in a cheesy 80’s cartoon - lame. Videoman resurrected in a comic commemorating the cheesy cartoon from the 80’s – pop-culture chic.

They kids are gonna love it.

Two-Faced Kitty

Strange but true. A kitten was born with two faces in Grove City, Ohio. Click through to NBC10.com and watch the video.

two-faced kitten

The News In Cleveland

Counting my time in college, I spent a little over nine years living in Cleveland, Ohio. I am glad to be back living in the Chicago area now, but I still harbor an affinity for the Land of the Cleves. I owned my first house there, Ian was born in Cleveland, and I still have some friends living in the Cleveland area. (And don’t tell Heather, but I kinda became a fan of the Cleveland Browns and the Ohio State Buckeyes) Not to mention that is it is home to the best frozen custard place in the entire Midwest.

Because of my history with Cleveland and an ongoing interest in what’s happening there, I’ve long had a news feed from television station WEWS on My Yahoo page. I always scan it in the morning to see what the top stories are. It’s an easy way to keep in touch.

What has grabbed my attention lately are the headlines that seem to be consistently displaying as part of the news feed. I understand the old news adage that “if it bleeds, it leads,” but WEWS seems to take things to a new level. Regularly, all five stories that show on the page are about some form of violent crime or disaster. Rarely do I ever see a positive or friendly sounding story.

Take a look at the screen shot I took a few days ago.

screen shot of cleveland news feed
That’s rough stuff. Death, rape, destruction – it’s all there. Only thing miss is massive layoffs. They almost redeem themselves with their choice of leading stories at the bottom of the list, but even when talking about honoring police officers they have to work “shooting rampage” into the title in case you forgot how horrible the world is.

screen shot of cleveland news feed with story highlighted
Are things really that bad in Cleveland? I know the city is going through a bit of a rough path these last five years, but there has to be some good news being generated. Right? Maybe it’s because I’ve subscribed to the wrong Cleveland news feed. Maybe there is a happier one out there.

Ed, you’re still in Cleveland, help me out here.

July 12, 2006

Our Moving Mantra

This quote popped up in my Gmail account today and I thought it succinctly captured how Heather and I felt right now in terms of our moving day preparedness.

"So little done, so much to do."

- Cecil Rhodes

WE HAVE TEETH!

In what seems like a lifetime ago (actually September 2003), early one Sunday morning Ian was playing and ran into the basement door. The collision damaged his front teeth enough that they had to be pulled. I used to have some nice before and after photos, but they don't seem to be online anymore.

chickletsSince then, Ian has had a perpetual Hockey player smile and talked with a bit of a lisp. It's also made eating corn on the cob and other treats a bit of a challenge over the last three years. Heather and I were never too concerned about the teeth situation because whenever he had x-rays at the dentist those two new permanent teeth were sitting their like two perfect little chicklets just waiting to descend.

It's been that waiting part that has been so hard for us.

Ever since Ian turned 6 last year, I have been anxiously waiting for those two front teeth to start coming in. I don't know why age 6 was the magic number for me. I just expected to start seeing some movement when Ian turned 6. Some of his other teeth started falling out then, so I guess I figured stuff was just moving around in his mouth. Those two front teeth would drop any day.

Can You See Them?Well, it's almost taken a year (Ian turns 7 on 7/26), but Heather and I can see those two teeth starting to break through. The left one has certainly cut, the right tooth is almost there. Regardless, any concerns or paranoid thoughts I had about Ian having to be fit for dentures at age 8 have disappeared. The boy will certainly have a full mouth of teeth. Now if they are all straight is another story.

In a few weeks Ian's smile will be restored to the 2003 version - or at least the grill will be. (He has gained a few new teeth since then.) Usually a restoration is undergone to return a house or a car to the beauty it was before. You restore to get something back to a more perfect state. In this humble, unbiased dad's opinion, Ian's smile certainly doesn't need a restoration, but I think we'll welcome those teeth back none the less.

Can You Improve This Smile?

July 11, 2006

Emma the Shutterbug

emma photo essayThe other day Emma got a hold of our digital camera and decided to snap some photos of things she saw and things she wanted pictures of. In all, she took 27 photos before Heather realized what was happening. Some of the photos are too blurry to make anything out, but the ones that are clear provide an interesting glimpse into how an almost four-year old views the world around her.

I pulled 15 of the most interesting photos and put them together as a slideshow at flickr. They are presented in the order that Emma took them.

Enjoy.

D&D on DVD

D&D screen shotIt appears that at next week's San Diego Comic Con BCI is expected to announce that they will be releasing 80's uber-cartoon Dungeons and Dragons on DVD.

BCI has already cashed in hard on 80's cartoon nostalgia with their He-Man and She-Ra DVD compilations - in fact, through a strange twist of eBay fate we ended up with the BCI Best of He-Man DVD package. Now it looks like they will further win the undying devotion of the Children of the 80s by releasing this series on DVD.

I loved watching the Dungeons and Dragons show as a kid. Not surprisingly, I was a big D&D player and this Saturday morning show was just one more way for me to get my D&D fix. Following the adventures of Hank and the rest of the kids every week was great fun.

We ended up with The Best of He-Man almost be accident when Heather won a deal on eBay. Getting to have that small collection of cartoons showed me that just because I’m interested in seeing these shows from my youth again doesn’t necessarily mean I want to own them. Seeing a few old He-Man cartoons was kinda trippy, but I’m really not interested in putting those discs in again after watching them once.

My gut tells me that would be the case with Dungeons and Dragons. I’d love to watch some of the episodes again and see how they have held up over the years, but they probably aren’t something that I would watch repeatedly. Maybe I can rent them when they come out.

The Asshole and the Elevator

The company I work for is actually a division of vastly larger international corporation. When they moved us into new offices in downtown Chicago, they had some of their other companies join us in the space. We still take up 80% of the office, but the parts of the west side of the building have offices for two or three other companies.

Because what we do is so different than what they do and because we so dominate the space here in the office, there isn’t a whole lot of interaction between the different companies. Hell, we even have separate holiday parties. We’re usually cordial to each other. Say “hi” to each other like neighbors in a massive high-rise apartment complex might. But there is very little fraternizing going on. It doesn’t bother me. It just is what it is.

However, there is this one guy who really pisses me off. Let’s call him Mr. Asshole

I get in to the office fairly early in the morning - way before all the other city-dwelling folks do. If I catch my early train, I usually will hit the lobby of the building we work in at roughly the same time as Mr. Asshole. Most of the time he’s walking in ahead of me.

Now, we’ve seen each other plenty of times. Never talked to each other, but we are aware of each other’s existence. He knows, as do I, they we are both going to the same floor – the same office. But has this guy ever held the elevator for me when he gets in the car first?

Nope. Never.

Take today for example. I’m walking not more than five or six feet behind him as we enter the lobby. Usually I don’t press it because I know he’s not going to perform the most common of courtesies of holding the elevator for me. Today though, I was close enough behind him that I kept walking to see what he would do.

He hits the button for the elevator, it opens, and he jumps in - immediately pressing the button. I had to throw my arm in to stop the door. The guy wouldn’t even look me in the face after I entered the car. He knew he had been an asshole, and couldn’t bear to face me.

He can’t say that he didn’t know I was there. It was raining this morning and my shoes were squeaking as I was following him to the elevator. And even if the persistent squeak-squeak-squeak didn’t alert him to my presence behind him, at the end of the bank of elevators is a monstrous floor to ceiling mirror that no one walking down the hall can ignore. The mirror clearly shows you who, if anyone, is walking behind you. It’s unavoidable. Everybody looks at it while they are walking to the elevator.

Simply put, the guy knew I was there and didn’t hold the elevator. The guy is just a flat out asshole. It pisses me off that I have to deal with such stupid little games with a grown man in the morning.

July 10, 2006

The Great McKillip Move - Week 15

The old saying goes, “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” What if it doesn’t kill you, but leaves you so beaten and battered that you can’t get up in the morning? Is there any benefit in what you are doing?

We are at three weeks and counting until the date we close on the house we are selling and close on the house we are buying. Both are schedule to happen the same day (July 31), just hours apart. The plan is to move on that day – out of the old and into the new - as well.

That’s the plan, at least.

Depending on the hour of the day you ask me, everything is going well or things are falling apart.

As part of our sale contract, we are being asked to fix some issues with our current home. Putting in a radon gas reduction system was one of those fixes. It went in last Thursday without a hitch. Some of the other work involves replacing some of the wood on the outside of the house, repairing the seal on half of the glass sliding door, and fixing an auxiliary sump pump that broke about a week before the home inspection (Timing! Timing!). For that we went with a general contractor to handle all of the work instead of contracting each piece individually.

Heather and I are starting to get a little worried about the contractor we selected and whether we shouldn’t have gone with separate companies for the separate jobs. We obtained a number of estimates, and the company we went with was the most professional of the groups we dealt with. He was always on time for appointments and delivery of estimates. He provided a full written estimate. He returned call promptly.

After agreeing to work with them and putting a deposit down, things haven’t gone as smoothly. The contractor can’t seem to get the guy who is suppose to work on the patio window to come to our house and it took a stern phone call from me on Friday to finally get a verbal commitment to when work would begin. It made me feel a little bit better to have the contractor say people would show up Monday to start work, but until I hear from Heather that there are guys replacing word on the outside of our house I’ll still have a knot in my stomach.

Should we have gone with someone else? Should I have schedule the work all individually? These are the questions haunting me now. And they will continue to haunt me until I start seeing some results.

frustrationThe other knot in my stomach is from planning the physical move. We are tentatively (still looking for this to be finalized as well) schedule to close on the old house at 9am and close on our new house at 3pm – both the same day. Technically, by contract, we are to be out of our old house at 9am Monday morning on July 31. This might not be such a struggle if it wasn’t so early on a Monday. Put it on any other day of the week and we could have the movers load things up the day before, pay a night’s storage, and then have them drop things off at the new place once we close there. In order to do that now we would have to pay time and half for movers to work on a Sunday.

Another option would be to have them load things up on Saturday, store two nights, and then unload on Monday afternoon. That’s not as painful, but we still have to pay for two nights of storage and we would have an empty house all weekend. Where would we sleep?

The third option, which we are trying to make work, is get the buyers of our home give us extra time to get out of the house Monday morning. One of the moving companies we got an estimate from says they can begin work at 7:30am, so we would be out not too long after 9am. Problem is we haven’t talked to them about that yet. We plan to go through agent today to see if they will agree to this.

The other half of this plan is seeing if the sellers of the house we are buying would let us move in early. We don’t close in the afternoon until 3pm. That is a long time to have a truck of our stuff sitting around.

In any case, Heather and I are looking at a quickly dwindling three-week time period and we just can’t seem to get comfortable with the situation of things. We’ll get good news, or good estimates and things will be feeling fine and in control. But then we have to spend time tracking down the contractor or see the pile of crap in the living room and feel like we are climbing an impossible mountain. I just keep telling myself that while it will probably get more painful before it gets better, we do know that it will be over in three weeks. One way or another the move will happen. We’ll get out of the house we are in and into a new, larger home, and the pain and frustration of late June and July will behind us.

July 09, 2006

The Shadow - Returns

Back when I took the job at Apartments.com and Heather and I moved back to Chicago, there used to be a number of websites that you could download electronic versions of old pulp magazines. Some were just in text format. Some were done up real nice in Adobe PDF format with original artwork. The most popular of these were The Shadow and Doc Savage.

the shadowBecause I was interested in reading these precursors to Batman and Superman, I started downloading some of The Shadow's and Doc Savage's stories to read on the train. While they were a bit campy and spoke to the time they were written in (early 1930's), I enjoyed them a great deal. I especially liked reading the tales of The Shadow, the crime-fighting persona of Lamont Cranston, who used a network of spies, some mystic powers, and two .45's to strike terror into the hearts of evil men.

About two to three years ago, Conde Nast, the massive publisher of just about everything started cracking down on the sites hosting electronic versions of Doc Savage and The Shadow. Seems that Conde Nast still owned the publishing rights to these pulps and didn't want them to be just given away for free. So poof, just as quickly as the Shadow would disappear from a darkened room, his stories disappeared from the Web.

Now, however, it has become obvious why Conde Nast was hunting down the free versions of the stories. They have agreed to license the rights for re-printing these tales to Anthony Tollin and Nostalgia Ventures, Inc. Together the two will be publishing Doc Savage and The Shadow stories in a double-novel format. One book will contain two Doc Savage or two The Shadow stories. And not only will you get two stories in one book, but Tollin will be have the original covers and interior art reproduced in these books.

According to Tollin, the first book is already at the printer and will be ready mid-July at some select stores. The paperbacks will retail for around $12.95 – not bad for two whole stories.

I think this is gonna be great. While I enjoyed getting the classic original pulp stories for free, I was often frustrated with the inconsistencies in formatting and delivery method. There have been plenty of modern comic book adaptations of The Shadow, but what I have read never quite seem to live up to the original pulps. I've enjoyed the comics, but they're just not the same as the original pulp stories. Now I’ll be able to pick up and collect some classic Shadow and Doc Savage stories with professional production values in basic book form.

July 08, 2006

I Picked the Wrong Profession

Instead of bumbling around in website development all these years, I should have become an actor like my kid brother. Then I'd get to spend the summer in Door County, Wisconsin and wake up every morning to views like this.

view from the swing
Oh, and did I mention he gets to have someone prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for him everyday. This is where he taks his meals.

lunchtime
That kid has got it so good.

July 07, 2006

Books to Read Aloud

books to read aloud coverHow cool is this? Jackie Wilson, Britain’s Children’s Laureate, has put together a guidebook listing some of the best children's literature for parents / grandparents / whoever to read aloud with kids.

Is that not just the coolest idea? I would love to get a hold of this catalog and flip through it to get some ideas for other books to share with Ian, Emma and Zoe. Heather and I read to them every night, but we both are looking for something different to read them.

Unfortunately, from what this article says, it seems like Great Books to Read Aloud is currently only available in the United Kingdom. In fact, it sounds like a lot bookstores are buying the guidebook and then just giving them away for free. They treat it like a loss-leader, figuring parents will get great ideas for books and end up purchasing them to share with their children. Smashing idea.

I Saw Pirates of the Caribbean

No, not the sequel that opens today. The first one.

It took three years, but Heather and I finally saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl this past weekend.

pirates of the caribbean curse of the black pearlLike most of the movies that come out and end up on my “Movies I Wanna Watch List”, it’s been a struggle to finally get a viewing. Ultimately I just went ahead and purchased the DVD. Not something I usually do. Typically before I buy the DVD of a movie I want to see it first. However, Target was selling it for $10. So I took a leap of faith that I would enjoy the movie as much as I was lead to believe after everything I had heard and read about the movie three years ago. Lucky the film delivered for me.

While The Curse of the Black Pearl was considerably longer than I expected and did suffer with a bit too many plot twists for its own good, ultimately the film provided a fun, entertaining movie viewing experience that I really enjoyed. The Curse of the Black Pearl proved to be exactly the sort of film that I love owning on DVD.

While I am a big fan of all films, especially the classic movies of the 40’s and 50’s, the majority of my DVD collection is made up of movies people might refer to as popcorn flicks. The Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones movies, and the Batman movies are just a few examples. Some are better movies than others, but they all have something in common. They are flat out fun to watch. The films typically rely more heavily on plot and action than they do on character development; making them perfect for just diving into whenever you need to escape into a movie.

While the movies might not do a lot (if any) character development, there is something special or unique about the characters. It's what keeps me coming back and watching the flick over and over. Sure action and suspense can be fun, but it loses its alure if the characters are nothing but a bunch of cardboard props. The story might rely heavily on established genres, but the characters can't be cookie-cutters. This is the case in The Curse of the Black Pearl.

At the very basic level it’s a pirate movie and a ghost story. You know from the beginning where things are going to go, and even when things look bad for the heroes you know something is going to work out for them. What makes the film memorable is the characters. Geoffrey Rush plays Barbossa as ruthless as they come, but he is also able to make you see how the curse pains and wears Barbossa down. Rush gives the villian a little bit of real depth. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are mostly there for eye-candy, but don’t walk through the movie either. The characters are central to the movie and the two actors at least make Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Kinightly) seem like real people.

What I particularly enjoyed was what Jack Davenport and Jonathan Pryce brought to their supporting roles as Norrington (Davenport) and Governor Weatherby Swann (Pryce). Either character could have easily been played as buffoonish cartoons, Norrington the navel officer too full of himself to notice the world around him or the Governor as bumbling politician or oppressive father. Instead the actors give them a sense of humanity and realness that is refreshing.

jack sparrowOf course Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is the real star of the show. Watching him strut, fight, and lie his way through this adventure is the main reason why I will watch this movie over and over. Sparrow is a complete original. Unlike any character I have encountered before. I loved him.

So I took a gamble on buying a movie before watching it and it paid off. That I am glad for, but don’t plan to make it a general practice. Dead Man’s Chest opens today. What I’ve read of the reviews is that the sequel follows closely to the formula of the first – right down to another two and half hour running time. Given my enjoyment of the first, I certainly will want to see the second. Hopefully I won’t have to wait three years to do so (especially considering that the third and final movie will debut in 2007), but I also don’t plan on buying before watching. I don’t want to press my luck.

July 06, 2006

The Science of Siblings

Time magazine has a fascinating cover story this week. The story reports on how siblings may have a larger impact on the type of person you grow up to be than any other factor influencing your development. (Don’t know what this means for sibling-less people – haven’t gotten that far into the article)

I’ve started reading the story online at Time.com, but haven’t made it all the way through. What I have read is very interesting. So much so that I think I might pick up the issue at the newsstand so I can read it offline.

In particular, I want to really study the article so I can contemplate what the story has to say about a siblings influence on a person’s growth with my experiences with my younger brother and sister. Birth order and its reported influence on personality has always fascinated me. I am constantly evaluating people I meet to figure out where they sit in birth order based on their personality. Considering sibling relationships will be another fun variable to throw into my little qausi-sociological investigations.

However, a stat the article quoted early on jumped out at me immediately; probably because I am the father to three children under the age of 7.
Laurie Kramer, professor of applied family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has found that, on average, sibs between 3 and 7 years old engage in some kind of conflict 3.5 times an hour. Kids in the 2-to-4 age group top out at 6.3--or more than one clash every 10 minutes, according to a Canadian study. "Getting along with a sister or brother," Kramer says dryly, "can be a frustrating experience."
I’m sure Heather could have told them that with out any fancy studies by doctors with lots of letters at the end of their names. Ian, Emma and Zoe do look out for each other, help each other, and do seem to honestly enjoy each other’s company. But that ideal sibling togetherness isn’t without its share of conflict and rage.

July 05, 2006

Comic Book Stuff

legion of super heroesAccording to what I've read on the web, the KidsWB will be doing a special airing of the new Legion of Super Heroes show on Saturday, July 15th. I plan on trying to watch it.

What can I say? I'm a DC Comics slut.

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Also, it was recently announced that Marv Wolfman will be taking over the writing chores on Nightwing starting with issue #125.

nightwingThis is fantastic news. Right now having anyone other than Bruce Jones write the book is going to be an upgrade. That's not to say Marv Wolfman is just anyone. Marv is an accomplished writer who's biggest comic book success came in the mid-80's on The New Teen Titans and the mammoth Crisis on Infinite Earths DC super event. He hasn't written many comics since then, but has still kept busy writing for television and animation.

Now if they can only get a regular respectable artist, DC might be able to woo me back to Nightwing. Supposedly Dan Jurgens is going to draw a story arc - which is good, but that's only one story arc. I want a regular, reliable, talented artist on Nightwing. I want to see the type of top notch combo like Robin is getting right now.

July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

american flagWe'll be celebrating by going to the parade in the morning, followed by some down time at home relaxing before heading over to my Dad's house for dinner and some fireworks.

I hope eveyone has a relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

independence day

July 03, 2006

The Great McKillip Move - Week 14

It’s all about getting the house ready for the new owners and getting our stuff ready to move out. That’s what Week 14 has in store for us.

Saturday my father was kind enough to come over to help Heather and I get the basement ready for the workers to install the radon gas vent system this coming Thursday. Everything had to come out of the crawl space and the basement floors had to be clear two feet from the walls. Getting our basement to meet that requirement meant moving a lot of things. A LOT of things.

My Dad was a good sport about the heavy lifting and all the up-and-down stairs work we had to do. By the end of the afternoon we had moved a ton of things – literally – and had gotten things in near perfect shape for the radon people. All I have left to do is move a few boxes and clear things in the garage - about an hour’s worth of time. If I hadn’t had my Dad’s help, I probably would have been working on clearing things up for four days. It would have dominated my entire Fourth of July holiday. My Dad is great.

The upside of getting things up is that it is forcing Heather and I to take a hard look at what we had stored in the basement and whether or not we want to move that stuff to the new house. Heather has done the most cleaning so far. Not only has she shed a good number of items that we won’t have to pay to move, it’s provided her with a little walk down memory lane and some great blogging material.

Once the radon vent system has been installed and we regain our basement, we’ll go into full-blown packing mode. Ever night we will be working on getting things cleared out or packed up so that we can move out at the end of the month. Seeing all the crap we have while going through the basement on Saturday kinda made me think that packing this house up is an impossible task, but as my Dad mentioned to me, at least Heather and I were getting a good idea of the real job ahead us now – at the beginning of July – and not at the end of July when the crunch would really be on.

And just to show you how great of a Dad I’ve got. Not only does he help move a ton of his son’s crap out of the basement, dispense good advice, but he’s comfortable dressing up like a pirate and eating McDonald’s with his grandkids. That's cool.

McPirates

Damn British

u.s. and british flagsThe company I work for is closed today and tomorrow for the Independence Day holiday. I thought getting two days off for the Fourth of July seemed like a bit much, but I wasn't complaining when they were handing them out.

That is, however, until 8:15 this morning. Seeing how we not only build websites but host them for law firms, we always have a Project Manager who is available outside of normal business hours in case something goes wrong. Currently I am that Project Manager on call. Each PM takes a three-month turn maning the number, and for the most part nothing happens. In fact for the last three months my phone hasn't rang once with a message from the emergency hotline.

Until this morning.

My phone went off at 8:15 am and I just knew it was going to be something from work. (I won't talk about how technically I should have cycled off hot line duty at the end of June.) Sure enough, an international firm was having a problem with one section of their site. As the client stressed to me over the phone - "in London they don't have time off for the Fourth of July." This needed to be fixed this morning.

It took about an hour, but everything got cleared up. None the less, I couldn't help but be a little irked that it was the British ruining my extended Fourth of July weekend.

July 02, 2006

Robin Revisted

In the wake of DC Comics’ Infinite Crisis event I decided to pick up three titles as they started fresh under the “One Year Later’ banner. Senior VP – Executive Editor Dan Didio wanted to give the creative teams working on the titles some breathing room following the Universe altering events of Infinite Crisis so all regular titles were flung a year into the future.

One of those titles was Nightwing. I have already talked about my extreme disappointment in how the new writer and artist are handling one of my favorite characters. Poor creative teams drove me away from the title five years ago, and within three issues this new creative team forced me to drop the title again. While I’m disappointed in how DC is handling Nightwing’s solo title, I’m glad to be freeing up some money that I can put to other books. Fortunately, the other two books that I chose to add to my pull list impress me a lot more that Nightwing.

blue beetle #4Blue Beetle is a completely new book, staring an all-new Blue Beetle character. It has been enjoyable so far. Not a blockbuster of title, but it has kept my interest for the first four issues. With Blue Beetle I’m taking my usual evaluation approach for a new monthly title. Read it for six months and then take a hard look at the book. Am I getting what I think is a fair entertainment value for what I’m paying for the title each month? Do I care about the characters and the stories? Do I look forward to getting the book each month? If there are emphatic answers in the positive to those questions, then I take the book of the introductory probationary status and throw it into the mix. Then during my twice-year audit of titles on my pull list the book has to prove itself against everything else that I’m currently buying. If it continues to prove itself, it earns the right to stay on my monthly pull list.

Robin is the other book I added to my list at the same time as Nightwing and Blue Beetle. I had read and collected Robin’s solo book since it debuted back in the early 90’s. I dropped the title the same time I punted on Nightwing five years ago. Not because I was upset with the creative talent, but mainly out of a cost-savings measure. Even though I still enjoyed Robin, I had to cut costs. So when I was evaluating titles to add, and saw who was taking over Robin I jumped at the chance to start reading the title again.

robin #148New writer Adam Beecher and artist Freddie E. Williams II have quickly cemented Robin as one of my favorite titles. Unless they manage to drive things horribly off the tracks in the next 2 months, there won’t be a 6-month review of Robin. This title is firmly on my buy pile for the foreseeable future.

Beecher has demonstrated a strong command of Tim Drake’s (Robin’s) character and voice, and has immediately put the Boy Wonder in a story that firmly re-establishes Robin as the premiere teen hero in the DC Universe and why he is a worthy partner for Batman. The first story arc has been a fantastic balance of plot, action, and character. I have really enjoyed it and am very glad that I chose to pick this title up again.

And it’s not just the writing that I am enjoying. Williams’ art is a perfect fit for Beecher’s story and the character. I first encountered Freddie E. Williams’ artwork when he took over illustration chores on the Mister Miracle four-issue mini-series Grant Morrison was writing. I instantly took a liking to Williams’ clean lines and fluid motion, and hoped to see more of his art in the future. Luckily, the editors at DC saw the value in William’s comic talents and teamed him with Beecher on Robin.

Strong writing and excellent artwork starring a compelling lead character make Robin a complete comic experience month in and month out. I’m glad I decided to pick the title up again and look forward to reading it.