Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Michael Hicks Self-Publishing Seminar in San Antonio

You can get Season of the Harvest FREE for multiple e-readers.

Friend and fellow author Michael R. Hicks has been on the road traveling with his wife Jan in their RV for the past week or so and recently made a stop in San Antonio where Mike was invited to give a self-publishing seminar at the Forest Hills Branch of the San Antonio Public Library. I met Michael Hicks on Twitter a couple of years ago when he was in the transitioning process from working full-time for the government at the NSA to becoming a full-time writer. For those who don’t know who Michael Hicks is, he is best-selling author of Season of the Harvest and the very popular sci-fi/fantasy In Her Name series. Heck, Amazon even “stole” the cover art from his books to promote the Science Fiction and Fantasy category for the Kindle. Turns out they had the legal right to use his cover art under their publishing terms of service.

Anyway, Mike informed me of his trip to San Antonio a couple of months ago, so I made plans to attend the self-publishing seminar and then have dinner with Mike and Jan afterwards. Mike also happens to be one of my PS3 gaming buddies when we can coordinate our schedules to do so, which is hard to do since I’m typically a night owl and he’s an early bird. When we do manage to hit the Black Ops 2 battlefield it’s like the blind leading the blind. Needless to say, we don’t win very often. :-)

I made it to San Antonio a bit earlier than expected due to the traffic on I-10 being much less congested on a Saturday afternoon than I had expected. So, I breezed through San Antonio fairly quickly. So, with about an hour to spare before the self-publishing seminar I browsed through the aisles in the Forest Hills Branch library, grabbed a book and read while I waited for Mike and Jan to arrive. They weren’t as fortunate as I was coming into San Antonio from San Marcos due to an accident on the loop, but people were just starting to trickle in for the seminar, so it was all good.

Michael Hicks Self-Publishing Seminar (by Jan Hicks)

The seminar itself was very informative. Michael covered everything from writing his first book and sending it out the traditional way, receiving rejection letter after another, throwing that book under a desk for several years and then finally publishing it himself in 2008. He talked about his experience with trial and error and gave some tips regarding writing in general, editing (and pointing out that authors editing their own work is not editing), the importance of an eye-catching professional looking cover, the various options for publishing (and avoiding vanity presses, such as AuthorHouse, at all costs), book reviews, and finally marketing. It was a lot to cover in about ninety minutes, but it was good information nonetheless.

Post-Seminar Dinner at the River Walk

Michael and Jan Hicks San Antonio River WalkAfter a brief Q&A, Mike and I exchanged books (okay, I gave him one and he gave me two), signed them and then synched our GPS units to guide us downtown to the River Walk for lunch. We stashed our vehicles on the fifth floor of the Rivercenter Mall parking garage and searched for the elevator down to the mall. After the elevator door opened and then immediately closed, almost taking my hand with it, we decided we should probably just take the stairs. As soon as we found the exit Mike, Jan and I studied the information map to find our chosen destination for lunch, Boudro’s Texas Bistro. The map wasn’t the most user-friendly guide I had ever seen to say the least. We looked for the big red dot that supposedly indicated where we stood, but instead (after doing a little eavesdropping) someone else pointed at a screw at the bottom of the map that represented us. Mike, the clever guy that he is, pulled out his smart phone and opened up his Google Maps app and activated the pedestrian GPS which pointed us in the right direction.

It was about six-thirty in the evening by the time we found Boudro’s Texas Bistro, but there was a forty-five minute wait and I still had over a two-hour drive back home to think about. So, we backtracked towards another restaurant, passing a Mexican restaurant and a pair of singing mariachis along the way. With no wait time we chose the Republic of Texas restaurant for our post self-publishing seminar meal. I had heard so much about how lean and tasty bison burgers were so I decided to try one along with some sweet potato fries. On the same token Mike had been pressed by someone on Twitter to try fried catfish for the first time and apparently enjoyed the very large portion. This catfish must have been huge! It reminded me of those chicken fried steaks that hang over the side of the plate. He only ate half of it. Mike’s wife ordered the Akaushi Burger which is a beef originally from Japan and only bred in Yoakum, Texas (very near my hometown of Victoria) and guarded by the Texas Rangers (that’s the law enforcement division, not the baseball team). :-)

Mariachis and a Very Energetic Waiter

We had a great time socializing while eating our dinner outside on the River Walk, but we could have done without the pushy mariachis who wanted to serenade us when we were browsing the menu. After a couple of “No thank you” responses they finally disappeared into the crowd in search of other patrons to bother—I mean entertain. While the mariachis were kind of an annoyance, it wasn’t too big of a deal to me since I’m used to them. Our waiter, on the other hand, was a different story altogether. He was probably the highlight of the evening! We all agreed we wanted what he was having. I have never had such a high-strung waiter in my life. This guy was so hyper and full of energy that he could probably benefit from laying off the caffeine a bit. As Mike pointed out he must have been pumped full of Red Bull or something. The waiter did give us good service and the food was great too!

After dinner we hiked around the River Walk for about another half hour  or so. We made a quick stop in one of the gift shops so Mike could grab a t-shirt; he’s buying one in each city he is making a stop at during his summer RV trip. No gifts for the two monster cats waiting for him at the RV park in San Marcos though, but they probably ended up eating the leftover catfish and burger.

Vehicle Hunting and Surviving the Man-Eating Elevator

Back inside the Rivercenter Mall (and back in air conditioning) we hunted for the elevators to the parking garage. It took a few minutes but we eventually found what we thought was the correct one. We had to pay our parking fees first using the little kiosk before venturing off to our vehicles. I hesitated before stepping inside the elevator after the first experience I had earlier in the evening, but this one played nice and didn’t try to eat me. After a short ride to Level E the doors opened . . . to the roof of another parking garage. D’OH! Wrong elevator! The kicker is you have 30 minutes from the time you pay your parking fee on the kiosk to the time you actually leave the parking garage. So, time was of the essence. Fortunately, we found the correct elevator and our cars were still parked safely where we hid them. The Rivercenter Mall gods hadn’t zapped them yet.

All-in-all, my trip to San Antonio and time spent with Michael Hicks and his wife was relatively flawless and very enjoyable. It’s always nice to be able to physically meet friends you have communicated with over the past couple of years via social media. It’s a day and age we live in now where friendships can be built online and carried over into the real world. This brings me to a point I would like to make. As much as we enjoy chatting it up on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or whatever favorite social media site you hang out at, there’s nothing like hanging out with your friends in person. So, step away from the computer, smart phone or tablet every once in a while and go spend some face-to-face time with friends and family.

A Few More Pics From My Day Trip to San Antonio

Below are a few more pictures from my trip to San Antonio. Jan Hicks took the photo of the star, which was a decoration on the table at Republic of Texas Restaurant on the River Walk. She also took the photo of Mike and me. The only good photo I managed to take with my phone was the one with the Tower of the Americas in the background.

Killing Time Before the Game

With an hour to spare before the game started Jon, his coworker, and I roamed around the Toyota Center for a while. First we visited the cheerleaders (I never knew hockey games had cheerleaders) who were passing out complimentary magnets with the Houston Aeros season schedule. Yeah, the large free magnets were the sole reason for visiting those cheerleaders. ;-)

Our next stop (after looking over our shoulders a couple of times and almost running into other fans) was the souvenir booth. We spent a few minutes browsing through the selection of Houston Aeros branded pennants, bumper stickers, hockey pucks and sticks, key rings, caps and shirts. Jon bought a cap to warm his head after standing in the rain, while Ken (his nameless co-worker up until now) bought a cap, hockey puck and a couple of other souvenirs. I decided to wait until after the game to purchase a hockey puck. I was going to buy a Houston Aeros cap, but after seeing the $24 price tag, I reconsidered.

We took one lap around the Toyota Center, which is lined with the entire selection of Toyota vehicles, and then stopped at a concession stand to get a drink before finding our seats. We each bought a 20 oz soda at only $4.75 each. I didn’t even bother looking at the prices of the food, although I heard that a bag of peanuts was $4.50. Needless to say I didn’t buy any peanuts, hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn or cotton candy while at the game. I made my 20 oz. Root Beer last the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Finding Our Seats

With about fifteen minutes to game time, we found the tunnel for section 113. I showed the tickets to the Toyota Center staff member at the end of the small tunnel, who then directed us to our seats. Our seats were on Row 14 just behind the goal. While the large protective net just slightly obstructed the view it was barely even noticeable when watching the game.

The first thing I noticed when we found our seats was that the seats at the Toyota Center weren’t very comfortable, to say the least. They were hard plastic folding seats and weren’t very big. However, once my gluteus maximus adjusted to the hard plastic, it wasn’t so bad… or I simply just lost complete feeling in the caboose region and didn’t even realize it. I’m leaning towards the latter. The space between the rows of seats was also worse than a movie theater. Pardon me, coming through.

Here’s my view while the teams practiced before the game:

Introducing the Western Conference Champions

At about 5 p.m., the lights dimmed and spot lights scanned the audience while loud upbeat music played through the arena speakers. A few minutes later the announcer welcomed everyone to the opening season Houston Aeros hockey game and gave a few ground rules of conduct. Shortly thereafter, most of the lights went dark. A single spot light beamed from above and illuminated one corner of the hockey rink. With pure excitement in his voice the announcer introduced the 2010-2011 Western Conference Champions. The crowd went wild as members of the Houston Aeros skated onto the ice. It gave me goose bumps. The official head count for the night was 9,117, but it seemed like a lot more (I found out later that this was the second largest Houston Aeros opening crowd ever at the Toyota Center). The experience of hearing thousands of fans cheering in an enclosed arena was amazing. The last time I had an experience like that was when I watched the Houston Astros play the Atlanta Braves at the Astrodome. I was about 13 or 14 years old at the time. On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 I felt like a kid again.

I didn’t know a thing about any of the players that were announced one by one, but that didn’t diminish the feeling of excitement that radiated through me as I awaited the start of the first period. I know very little about hockey, but I have enjoyed watching a few Dallas Stars games on television at home, but seeing a hockey game in person is such a different and rewarding experience.  And this wasn’t even an NHL event.

Game Time: A Sloppy Start

After pregame ceremonies, including a school choir singing the Star Spangled Banner, the Houston Aeros and Chicago Wolves assumed their positions to start the first game of the Houston season. Chicago had just lost 3-2 against San Antonio on Saturday and now faced the 2010-2011 Western Conference Champions.

As I watched both teams whack the hockey puck around (and pound each other against the walls) I have to admit I started to lose interest. Several minutes of the 20-minute period went by and no score. I enjoyed watching a few good hits and one scuffle that was broken up by the refs, which was disappointing because the actual game was actually getting a bit dull.

I expected more from a championship caliber team, but during the first period The Houston Aeros played some sloppy hockey. They kept getting called on fouls and weren’t even getting close to making goals. I was beginning to wonder if the home team was going to impress this newcomer to hockey or suffer a loss from the apparent underdog.

The first period ended with zero points on either side.

Fan Participation = Entertainment

The Houston Aeros failed to impress during the first period of my first AHL hockey game, but they got me hooting and hollering during the second period. This time I was having a lot fun. The game got a lot more intense with the Houston Aeros scoring early to take the lead resulting in thousands of fans leaping to their feet, cheering, clapping, screaming and ringing their cowbells. Yes. Cowbells. That was a first for me… and to tell the truth all of those cowbells ringing around me ended up giving me a headache by the end of the night. It was worth it, though.

As unpleasant as the cowbells were, the fan participation was entertainment in itself. The event coordinators created fan participation by encouraging fist pumping, dancing, and singing YMCA (to name a few things) and rewarded them with video on the jumbo screens underneath the scoreboard. The reaction of some of the fans when they saw themselves on the screen was priceless. Superman even graced our presence; he was seated just a couple of rows and few seats over from where I sat.

Fan chants were among some of the most enjoyable part of the whole hockey experience, too. At first I had a hard time figuring out what the chant was, but after carefully listening to the chants (and seeing a couple of fans holding signs), I understood. After a member of the Chicago Wolves fouled and served a two-minute penalty, the Houston Aeros enjoyed a Power Play, which basically meant they enjoyed having one more player than the opposing team for a couple of minutes of play. After announcing the foul, the announcer yelled that the Houston Aeros had a power play, which was accompanied by cheering fans, music, and lots of flashy graphics around the arena. On the other hand, when Houston got nailed with a foul and the opposing team was awarded with a Power Play, the announcer simply stated that the Wolves had a Power Play. Then the fans would chant, “And they still suck!”

Houston Aeros Play Like Champions

The Houston Aeros played like champions during the second period of the game. Not only did they play more effectively as a team, but one of their players Casey Wellman scored twice, once after deflecting a slap shot and then what seemed like only a minute or so later scored again. Unfortunately, both of these scores were made at the goal on the other side of the rink, so I didn’t get to enjoy seeing the actual score very well, except when the replay was displayed on the jumbo screen.

By the end of the period, Houston claimed another goal to make it 3-0. Each time Houston scored the fans got involved in the game with another chant. After the announcer gave specifics and stats about the recent goal, the fans chanted, “One, two, three! He shoots! He scores! Hey, goalie! You suck!” Hearing thousands of fans chant that was priceless. I couldn’t help but laugh every time they chanted that and the chant when the opposing team had a Power Play.

Needless to say, the second period was a heck of a lot more enjoyable than the first. During the ten-minute intermission between the second and third periods, I took a break to stretch my legs and answer a call to nature… and to get feeling back in the gluteus maximus region. Seriously, those hard plastic seats are a literal pain in the butt!

Anyway, the last period of the game wasn’t quite as exciting as the second, but this time the Houston Aeros’ goal was on our side of the rink. Four minutes and thirteen seconds into the third period, the Chicago Wolves scored their first goal. As a matter of fact they played some very aggressive hockey during the last period and put the Houston Aeros in defensive mode for the majority of the period, but with about eight minutes left in the game, Matt “Hack” Hackett scored with one hell of a shot to make it 4-1 Houston. This time I got a clear view of the goal.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Now what would a good hockey game be without seeing opponents duke it out on the ice?  This game was no exception and had its share of fighting. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get my iPhone out in time to catch any of the action to share with my readers. There were three fights in all. The first fight occured early in the game, which was more of a shoving match than anything since the refs wouldn’t allow them to just duke it out. The next two fights occurred during the second period if I remember correctly, which made that period the most memorable one for many reasons. Technically the Houston Aeros could have been scored 5-0 in the second period: 3 goals and 2 TKOs. One fight in particular lasted a good minute or so. I remember seeing a hard hit, helmets flying and sliding across the ice, and then two hockey players pounding at each other like students fighting in the parking lot after school. This time the refs let them duke it out. The end result was a Chicago Wolf laying on his back with a Houston Aero attempting to continue punching him. At that point the refs intervened, the two fighters served their penalties, and the game resumed.

One kid that sat directly behind me was having the time of his life. He obviously didn’t really care about the game itself; all he wanted to see was the Sunday night fights at the Toyota Center. Every time there was a hard hit, the kid would yell, “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” It was a little annoying at first, but ended up becoming quite amusing. I have a 35-second video on my iPhone where I filmed just a small clip of hockey action that included a pretty hard hit… and the little kid yelling, “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” I’m sure he’s also the scout at school that scans the playground for the elementary school fights at the sandbox. Here’s the clip (at the hockey game, not the sandbox):

Traveling Nightmare Ends with a Great Game of Hockey

While the trip up to Houston was a nightmare, the end result was a great game of hockey and spending some quality time with a friend of mine from out of state. The Houston Aeros won their opening day game 4-1 against the Chicago Wolves, my gluteus maximus survived the plastic seats from hell, and I eventually made it back home alive with a souvenir hockey puck (and an oversized magnet). I’ll spare you the details about my experience with road blocks and a confused GPS when trying to leave downtown Houston. I eventually made it back to the hotel to drop off Jon and his coworker Ken and then headed back home at around 8:30 p.m.

My road trip on Sunday started at 9:30 a.m. with heavy rain and a stubborn GPS and ended at 10:55 p.m. with pleasantly dry roads and great memories when I finally pulled into my driveway at home. I can still hear those cowbells ringing in my ears, but I wouldn’t trade that day in Houston for anything. I had a great time.

In closing, watching a hockey game on TV may be enjoyable if you’re a hardcore hockey fan, but even if you’re not a hardcore fan, do yourself a favor… go see a hockey game in person. You’ll enjoy it!

Road Closed: GPS to the Rescue!

It was about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon when we left Outback Steakhouse. It was still raining and we decided to head over to the Toyota Center, even though the game wasn’t going to start until 5 p.m. The doors were scheduled to open at 4 p.m. Considering the rain and potential traffic we would face if we waited to drive downtown later, arriving early seemed like the sane choice.

My trusty GPS unit navigated with voice directions as we travelled down the interstate to downtown Houston, switching lanes and highways as necessary. The rain wasn’t bad, neither was the traffic. I also observed that the roads in Houston appeared to be draining quite nicely. Not sixty seconds after I said that, I saw a feeder road flooded to my right. The rainwater was draining nicely, all right… right onto the feeder roads. I corrected myself and stated that the rain on the interstate was draining well. And, you guessed it, as soon as I said that a truck in front of me hit a large puddle of water that splashed onto my windshield, completely blinding me for about two seconds. It’s a good thing we were traveling straight. Otherwise, I’d be writing about how I repainted the highway concrete barrier with the left side of my car.

It took us about thirty minutes to reach downtown Houston. Other than getting blinded briefly from water that didn’t drain off the highway, so far the trip to downtown Houston was uneventful. My GPS unit announced that my exit was coming up on the left. We were making good time, and then I saw the orange cones and road sign ahead that indicated that our exit ramp was closed! Ugh! So, I took the next exit. After listening to my GPS tell me that it was recalculating my route to the Toyota Center and taking a couple of turns, it eventually directed me to make a U-turn towards downtown (legally, of course).

In Search of the Perfect Parking Spot

This was my first time driving in downtown Houston and solely depended on the outdated maps on my GPS unit to lead me to the Toyota Center, making sure I didn’t end up driving the wrong way on a one-way street (we only have two one-way streets where I live). To make matters worse, I needed to answer a nature call. We found the Toyota Center relatively easily, but we still needed to find a place to park. We arrived about an hour before the doors were going to open, so the paid parking lots were empty. However, none of them were manned. The one directly across from the entrance of the Toyota Center had one of those ticket machines that took bills. I waited patiently for a lady to get her parking pass. Two poles kept people from driving right up to the machine like an ATM, so the lady had to stand out in the rain while she attempted to insert her money into the machine. The machine just wouldn’t take her money. I and my bladder started to get impatient. So, I looked over to my right where I saw three open parking spots on the street. I remembered my friend mentioning that someone had told him that you didn’t have to feed the parking meters on the weekends. I drove around the block and found the perfect parking spot on the street catty-corner from the Toyota Center. The best case scenario was parking on the street so close to the arena would help us from having to deal with traffic after the hockey game.

In Search of a Restroom!

We walked in the rain as I struggled to get my stubborn umbrella open, which didn’t budge until we made it to the building. A lot of good that did me! We joined a small group of people taking refuge under an awning in front of one of the entrances to the building. We chatted with the other people there for a few minutes and then I asked if any of them knew where I could find a restroom. There was no way I was going to be able to wait forty-five minutes for the doors to open. Otherwise the rain getting me wet was going to be the least of my problems. One of the guys directed me to the Four Seasons Hotel a couple of blocks away. I thanked him, opened my umbrella, and started my hike to the hotel. As soon as I crossed the street, I noticed a Porta-Potty, which in normal circumstances I would avoid, but this was an emergency. Crap! It was padlocked! So, I continued my journey, which took longer than expected, because the entrance to the hotel was on the other side of the block it stood on. Nonetheless, I completed my mission and thirty minutes later I was back at the Toyota Center waiting with my friends for the doors to open. Here’s a view from where we stood while we waited:

The Doors Finally Open

Finally, at 4 p.m., the Toyota Center staff unlocked the doors to the entrance and started allowing people inside the arena. As soon as we made it inside, my party and I headed to the box office to claim our reserved tickets… and then my friend’s coworker immediately headed to the restroom. I guess he didn’t want to walk to the Four Seasons Hotel.

In my next post, I’ll conclude the apparent three-part blog post of my experience attending my first American Hockey League game, which is actually only the third time in my life attending a professional sports event. Feel free to share comments about my misadventures or to share similar experiences with attending a sports event for the first time. Cheers!

Much Needed Heavy Rain on the Wrong Day

I woke up early Sunday morning to a loud boom of thunder and much needed rain pouring down in South Texas. While I was grateful to see this heavy rain (something we haven’t seen in South Texas in a long time), I had plans to travel to Houston to hang out with a friend of mine from Iowa who was temporarily working near Houston. We also had plans to attend a hockey game at the Toyota Center that afternoon. This would be my first time attending an American Hockey League game, so I didn’t want to let a little rain get in the way. While traveling in rain was not something I particularly wanted to do, my friend was only going to have Sunday off (he had just worked 90 hours in one week) and probably wouldn’t get another day off before having to head back to Iowa. So, after eating breakfast, I grabbed my umbrella and portable GPS unit, and then quickly got in my car.

The heavy rain had already passed through town, so after plugging in the address to the hotel that my friend was staying at just north of Houston, I started my three-hour long journey. The first forty-five minutes of travel in the rain wasn’t too bad, but then I apparently caught up with the very heavy rain in between two towns. The rain was so bad I couldn’t see ten feet in front of my car. This road trip was going swell. Through the heavy rain I spotted a vehicle with bright flashing yellow lights, which turned out to be the end of a caravan of trucks shipping concrete highway barriers. The only thing I could see clearly was the flashing hazard lights on the vehicle in front of me as I traveled on the highway at a cruising speed of about 45 miles per hour. After driving several miles like this, using the flashing yellow lights as a guide (and praying I didn’t follow those lights into a ditch), I decided to leave the highway and take a detour through a small town to relieve a bit of the stress that I was dealing with driving in the thunder storm.

Fighting With My GPS

At a red light the cradle holding my GPS unit lost suction from the windshield it was affixed to. I rolled my eyes as the GPS unit dropped onto my dash. Just great! This is the last thing I needed to happen while driving through Houston. I pulled over and parked my car onto a vacant lot, where a gas station apparently used to occupy, and reaffixed my GPS unit to the windshield. As the heavy rain dissipated to a light rain, I continued my travels. It wasn’t too long before I caught up to the storm that obviously traveled in the same direction I was. While I dealt with the heavy rain, the GPS unit fell off the window again. Argh! I didn’t need the damn thing right now anyway. I know how to get to Houston. So, I just grabbed the GPS unit and tossed it onto the front passenger seat and continued my exciting trip to Houston.

I eventually made it through the sudden Texas monsoon and enjoyed rain free travel about forty-five minutes into my trip. I needed to a answer a nature call and I was getting close to the next city, so I took a short pit stop at a gas station. By the time I got back into my car the rain had started up again. Wow! That storm was really moving fast! While the rain pounded my car, I pondered the situation with my GPS unit before getting on the road again. The GPS unit is one of those units that has voice navigation, so I didn’t necessarily need to see the actual screen, so I just set the unit in front my gear shift where I could just glance at the screen if I needed to. It was good enough. I made a mental note to get a better GPS cradle.

Torrential Rain in North Houston

I only drove about ten minutes before the rain stopped again. I sighed a breath of relief as I entered Houston with no rain, but it was too good to be true. In North Houston I drove into another storm just as bad if not worse than the one I hit earlier. Driving in Houston was challenging enough since I’ve only dared to drive there a few times in my life, but each prior time I didn’t have to deal with torrential rain. Even with the heavy rain, a few idiots on the road still drove like… well, idiots. The sane people were driving about 35 to 45 miles per hour in the heavy rain, while the complete morons were flying by at over 70 miles per hour and cutting through traffic. It’s amazing I didn’t see any accidents while driving through Houston. The only good thing about this whole experience was the fact that traffic was relatively light for the fourth largest city in the United States. Without my GPS unit and the excellent signs and road markings, there’s no telling where I would have ended up.

I eventually made it to my destination safely and in one piece around one o’clock in the afternoon. My friend waited patiently in the hotel lobby north of Houston. We had lunch with one of his coworkers at The Outback after the rain let up a bit and enjoyed some socializing and catching up while savoring the freshly cooked steaks and baked potatoes. After lunch, it was time to make the trip to the Toyota Center in downtown Houston. I found the Toyota Center on my GPS, selected it, and hit GO.

With my seatbelt fastened and my GPS set, it was time for more exciting driving to downtown Houston and attending the opening day Houston Aeros AHL hockey game. But that, my friends, is another story.