The 500th Bear Feed Post

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Yes Folks – This Is the 500th Bear Feed Post.  For nearly six years, I’ve been cranking out these poorly written, slightly sarcastic, and always self-deprecating mashup of meaningless words for all of you to click, look at, and (on rare occasions) read.  I gave a history of the Bear Feed in the The 495th Bear Feed Post; so I am not going to dwell on that today.  Instead, consider this a ‘Best Of ..” Post.

Over the last month, I took the time to read nearly all 500 posts (because one of us had to).  In doing so, I looked for moments – bits of text that caught my eye – all with the intent of sharing those bits as part of a celebration of the whole.  Turns out, my ego was strong enough that I had some narrowing down to do.  I had pulled from 51 different posts — which while is only 10% of the overall; that’s still an awful lot of things for y’all to read.  So I broke it down further – pulled out what to me is what I like and what I want to remember of the last 499 posts.  So consider this a wander through the words passed down over post after post.

These are my favorite moments.  Whether just linking a post I enjoyed, or giving you the actual text that made it a favorite, it is a favorite of mine.  I the end, the Bunny Count for this post is:

  • 31 Posts Mentioned (all with links for your curiosity)
  • 14 Posts Quoted (random editing applied)
  • 6 mentions of the proper name “Auggie the Doggie”
  • 1 Post that I consider to be my ‘Favorite Post’ <– it’s at the end, so you better be patient

Now, with no further ado, no intention to edit grammar/spelling, and little respect for spoilers …

LET’S GET STARTED:

Sometimes it is just random nonsense that fits the situation, like the time I visited McCarthy, AK (McCarthy, AK – Something Special); Or times I thought I was being funny, but … kinda wasn’t … like in Touching Uranus: The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, or  biological observations in Frickin’ Ray of Sunshine

Stupid sun.
Stupid long days of good weather.
Stupid Vitamin D that makes me feel happier
(finish this one for me Jeremy)

 

I realized that I had commented on things that are more mainstream than I thought.  Stuff like sports.  Like when talking about football in a cross-over reference in There’s No Joy In Mudville, or when I wrote a poem about visiting Fenway Park in Boston in The (Fen)Way to Fight Boredom

I took me out to the ball game, Red Sox at Fenway Park.
I skipped on the peanuts & cracker jack, If they keep serving Goose Island I’ll never come back
It looked, looked looked like a rain out; the Sox didn’t win, that’s a shame
But i had One … Two … Three cups of beer at the old ball game!

Or my Star Wars Experience whether it is being a nerd at JPL in Geek Boy or either time going nuts about the movie whether in A New Hope Awakens Strikes Back or this from the original A New Hope Awakens

You are sitting there … waiting … anticipating. They put up the distributor names, the Lucasfilms thingy, and then black screen with the words:
“Long ago, in a galaxy far far away”
There is silence.
Then …
BLAM!!!!
That One Note!  That One Big Note!  The fanfare that follows is as iconic as icons can be in world in the last 40 years.

 

Of course I posted a lot about Auggie the Doggie.  That included The Little Dude Abides, Pupdate — The Vermin Watcher or from as early as the day I brought him home like in Enter the Puppy

(Auggie) showed his gratitude by:
1) Throwing up on my car seat
2) Pooping on my couch
3) Chewing on my watch
4) Fought the leash
5) He nipped my nose hard enough to break the skin
6) He cried and cried when he first went into the (Auggie) dome
7) Ran nonstop around the room for the last two hours
And it … was … awesome!!!!

And, there were a few cases of sarcasm.  I mean … I already established that I think I am funny.   Usually it was complaining about something like Good Thing It Gets Dark at Night

Here I was thinking I could get through the entire summer where I wouldn’t ever want to complain about the daylight hours, with all that nonsense of getting constant dark; and I thought there wouldn’t be anything to complain about

… well played daylight, well played.

… or the weather Shut Up About the Weather

Now, I get that 99% of you reading this are probably saying “Whoopdie Do, that sounds like a comfortable night out on the town.”
Well, y’all can Whoopdie Do yourself right on off there, because this is hot.

… or a post I did on Boston’s Freedom Trail giving out dos and donts as Cynically Freedom Trailed

Don’t be surprised if someone tries to cross a street when the light says not to.  Those people are called “Locals”. They are immune to getting run over, and are deaf to car horns.  As a Tourist, your job is to wait until the light turns green, and then open your map and look lost.

But those are the random moments.

Less random was when I became reminiscent.  I mean, this blog is nothing but a series of 500 stories on different topics, and what’s a story teller if he isn’t going back to the old days.  Whether it was random or on some anniversary, I liked how I caught key times in my life.  Occasionally it would be on something historic – like telling my 9/11 story on Eleven Years Ago, It was a Tuesday …, remembering the Battle of Gettysburg in … little note, nor long remember …Sometimes it was drum corps or marching band related like in Colts 50 Years20 Years Later, and You Can’t Take That Away From Me, or just the act of reminiscing in that activity as in this moment from Best Day of the Year where I describe running into old Drum Corps friends at a World Championship Quarterfinals.

All of this time sharing the moments with good friends, and old friends.  We posted, we texted, we messaged, we hung out, we discussed, we argued, we judged, we complained, we drank beer, we remembered, we shared we reminisced, and we Loved … We LOVED!

I did touch on some of my old work stories, from whenever time I used to work.  Like when I was floored to be treated like an expert by a big burly German guy in a hotel for Fiesta Inn, my first day at JPL for Lost In Space, or the time I went to a Nadcap meeting and had dinner with some Cessna colleagues where we had Another Night at Joe’s:

There is one thing true about us, we were definitely … DEFINITELY getting older.  To steal from a great movie, Waking Ned Devine: “We grew old together, but there were times when we laughed that we grew younger.”
But we were definitely older.

There were times when little things were actually big things.  A few times related to my car, specifically in RAV4 Milestone, more subtle in Chapter Closes With a Whimper.  The changes of attitude in those moments come too, like realizing I fully moved into California in A Return “Home” (Quotation Marks Required). Or when I realized how excited I was to move here in SITREP – Day 6 – And … Done

But the last few days, it felt like I was heading somewhere, and the meaning of what I was doing was changing.  I wasn’t so focused on just arriving at a point and starting a job. I made two trips like this in the last couple of years and it felt just like that.  This time, it was like momentum. Like I couldn’t get to Burbank fast enough, I couldn’t get to California fast enough. I wanted to be here, be ready, and be fired up for the days that came.
This wasn’t nostalgia for what had passed.
This was excitement for what is coming my way.
Like I mentioned yesterday, and probably can’t put any better today … the fact this is ‘Day 6’ seems minor to me right now; because tomorrow is Day 1 … Day 1 of the rest of my life.

Yet many times it was the simple things being simple.  Like the smell of rain on a day that reminded me of The Smell of Alaska – A Two Year Retrospective or a simple walk in London’s Hyde Park in the aptly named  A Walk in the Park, or a vivid memory from almost 20 years ago to the day from Remembering Ohio Sunrises:

This country was healthy farm land, still flat, and mostly treeless.  So as the sun was coming up, with just a hint of orange in the air. A bit of the morning dew turned into a wisps of fog hanging low on the fields.  The angle of the road, allowed for the sun to not hit me directly in the eyes, but wasn’t so out of the way I couldn’t soak in the whole of the start of this day.  In the twenty years since that drive, no memory remains as strong as that sunrise. I have seen hundreds of sunrises since then, some more grand and more beautiful, but none more important.  After a long night of driving, this was the first point that I fully realized that I was nowhere near where I lived. As much as the destination was my goal, the whole desire for this trip was to break free – and that sun rising up that morning told me I had broken free, and the road ahead was all going to be new.

What I really enjoyed was remembering the posts that — in retrospect – gave me a case of ‘the feels’.  That’s where I am really giving you my favorite Bear Feed Moments.

First of all, one that began as a post on another media then turned into something bigger.  I was visiting a plant in Texas for my work in 2016, walking down a hallway, and passed by one of the office worker’s with a wave.  Later that night, that man was killed in an unfortunate accident.  I didn’t want pity or condolences, as I wasn’t close enough to him to deserve that what his friends & family deserved.  Instead, I turned that moment into something retrospective in Hallways:

I want that image to etch in my mind, because I need that reminder. For everyone who lives a long and happy life, there are some that leave us too quickly. As fearless and driven that we could be, it can be taken from us in the simplest of turns. It’s as easy for us to not think of what it means to be mortal – so we need reminder of the opposite. We need to do the opposite.

Or moment I’d rather not give an explanation to in Rutter’s Magnificat:

For some reason, I thought about a friend I really hadn’t thought much about for years; leading me to dig out old pictures, find some old things to make me remember. Being the technical age, I poked around and learned probably more that I wanted from google and I won’t lie .. It made me shed a couple tears for the days long gone by. Not for something bad; but just one of those stories that reminds you that you are alive. It’s not a story I want to blog about, not all are, but I pulled the pup onto my lap while sitting in the park and I told him the whole thing.

It all comes down to this … my favorite post.

That’s right folks. pay attention.

My Favorite Post!

What Eddy Had to Say

This post went up on my birthday, November 5, 2014 – and to put it simply was a pretty low point in my life.  In the months running up to that date, I had found myself in some pretty rough situations, somewhat based on circumstance, but mostly of my own doing.  Simply put, I was pretty wrecked, and if you know me that means I was pretty rough on myself as well.

The post tells the story of what happened the night before.  I had just moved to Boston, living in corporate housing downtown, and as such was relegated to take Auggie out for his business in city streets where we could.  This evening, as we neared the housing entrance after doing our business, Auggie took a liking to a fellow walking along the street. Auggie started wagging his tail, getting all riled up, and even tried to jump up to get pets from the man.  The man, rather than rebuke this, simply stated “Man oh man, what’s it like to be you,” as if my life – in all it’s self inflicted ruin – was something to be in awe of.

This man turned out to be Eddy.

I thought it was just a play on my emotions really.  A guy trying to get a few bucks by making me feel guilty.  So when I pushed it off he followed it up more directly.  He said: “Here you are, a guy who lives here so he does really well for himself.  Yet he isn’t afraid to talk to me.”

Eddy turned out to be a self proclaimed ‘former Fire Fighter, but current homeless hungry black man’.    It wasn’t odd for a homeless man to talk to you, but while most had intent to ask for help, Eddy just wanted to know what my life was like – as if the dream of my life was all he needed.  He asked questions about me, asked about where I lived and what I did.  When I acted modest, he pushed back on those efforts, wouldn’t hear it.

He asked who my sweetheart was, who did I have to go home to.  I told him all I had was the pup.  “Let me guess,” Eddy said, “its because you don’t think you are good enough.  It’s because you don’t think that they would talk to you is it?  Well do this.  Next time you see a pretty girl you think you would like to talk to you go up to her and you say: ‘Eddy said I needed to talk to you’ then you see what happens. Praise Jesus.”

Eddy single handedly pulled back the layers of my life, and poked at the things that I should be thankful for.  Not just that, he gave me blunt, direct statements to make changes.  Actions that seemed so simple in concept, that they shouldn’t work – but usually did.  All the time including him saying “You tell them that “Eddy Said …”.  Probably more pointed to two of the most consistent Bear Feeders I have:

As our conversion continued, he got back to what he thought was the heart of what he thought was the source of it all: “What you need to do is to talk to your parents.  You say to your mom and dad: ‘Eddy Says Congratulations’.  You tell them that.”

I don’t know what happened to Eddy, I never saw him again after that night.  I did end up giving him something, but I told myself it was birthday money from my parents … and they probably would want me to spend it on something that makes me feel happy.

So that’s it.  That’s my favorite post.

And that’s 500 posts.

To any of you who made it this far, thank you … whether this is the first Bear Feed you read, or the 500th, thanks for letting my meaningless words grace your random computer screen.

 

The Reunion Tour

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When your job requires you to travel, you tend to pick-up trends.  Sometimes the trends are obvious — like when I worked in Alaska, all my suppliers were on the North Slope … cause that’s where the work was at (duh!).  Sometimes, it’s the nature of the beast — like when I first got into auditing and a majority of the suppliers that were on our list were in Southern California.  Sometimes, it truly is a trend, bad or good — like ‘My Year of Cleveland’ … five visits, and it snowed every time (including the one in April).  Sometimes it is just dumb luck — like the time I fell onto the one supplier who had a couple of issues, then got selected to be reviewed on a separate program needing a couple more visits … but that was cool, they were in Newcastle, England, so there’s that.

Okay … to be fair … where I am going with this is a little more forced by my own hand than normal.

2018 is turning into the ‘The Reunion Tour’.  Partially by my own hand, partially by work need, and partially by other means I seem to be hitting all the old stomping grounds of yesteryear.

For instance:

In January, I made an icy snowy visit to Prairie du Chien, WI – the town I was born and raised in.  I was in the area for work, made a run up there intending to give a chat to my old high school, then got snowed out.  Now granted, I visit there every year for Thanksgiving, but this was a non-normal trip.  As a result … Stop 1

In March, I made the well blogged about first ever return to Anchorage, AK – my home for most of 2012-2014.  That was strictly for fun … and beer … and the sweet sweet swag Laura Sherman gave me.    With that … Stop 2

Last week, I was in none other than Wichita, KS – where I lived for 11-1/2 years from 2001-2012.  I’d been back before, even showed the pup my old house on one drive through.  This time was for work (and coffee … and whiskey), which is surprising to know that space stuff is made in Wichitawesome… at Stop 3.

The rest are in the works.

Next week, I get a day and a half in Boston, where I lived 2014-2016.  I’ve been back a couple of times for work, but this is the first time I am really in the city.  Get this … I’m visiting MIT … so I can say “listen here nerds” to actually top level nerds.  That looks good to be Stop 4.

In a couple of weeks, I am scheduled to be in Iowa, flying through Dubuque where I was a part of a drum corps for three years.  Again, work, and an excuse to hit up a drum corps show, but still … Stop 5.

There is a chance I will be in Milwaukee in late July.  Sadly, we lost my Aunt Sue earlier this year.  To say goodbye, there is a memorial at her son’s place in the Milwaukee area.  I lived in Milwaukee for five beer soaked years from 1996-2000.  While I visited back in 2003, I haven’t since … not even breathed the air there.  So, part of me is wondering what it would be like these days … and part of me wonders where I will find the time/money to go.  Yet if I can make it … Stop 6.

That isn’t everywhere I lived.  I could say that there was those two years marching corps out of New Jersey.  I did live in Watertown, WI for one really boring summer/fall.  Arguably every time I grab coffee and/or a movie in Burbank that could count as one.  Yet I am okay if they don’t.

Honestly … that only leaves one place off the reunion tour … Houghton, Michigan where I spent 5-1/2 years getting my 4 year degree from Michigan Tech.  I graduated on November 18, 1995 — drove out of town on November 19, 1995, and have never returned.  Sure, it would be interesting to see the old Alma Mater, but it’s still a good 8 hour drive from civilization to get there.  It takes a lot of time, and lots of good reason to return.  But the way this year has gone … who knows, I could get a call from them saying “you’re a former 2.73 GPA student who was crazy/drunk enough to play in the pep band almost got kicked out four times yet some how got a job at a NASA center, would you like to come up here and inspire other idoits as well?”   You know if they did … I would jump on it in a second.  (That’s right MTU … I am dropping a subtle hint .. you know you want me, don’t you).

Maybe this reunion tour is just a trend.  Maybe it’s just coincidence.  Maybe I’m just now ready to go back to places I once called home.  Maybe since I do work for a NASA center, I like feeling important to old friends.  Or maybe I just like getting sweet sweet Laura Sherman-esq swag.

Regardless of why – it’s the year of the Reunion Tour, and I should just embrace it.

Footnote:  if you are counting at home, this is Bear Feed Post #499 … watch for the big milestone this weekend

JPL Done Got Exploreded

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I told someone on Saturday:
“This Monday will be the best day of work I have all year, I’ll be all jazzed up to be a JPL Employee because I get why we do what we do.  Tuesday will be a whole different story, but Monday will be fantastic!”

This weekend, Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) held our annual open-ish house.  While free to the public, it is a limited release ticketed program that allows nearly 30,000 people onto our campus to look around, see some exhibits, and learn a few things on what JPL is currently working on.  A couple hundred of us JPLers staff the program as volunteers – something that I did for the second time since starting here.  While the days are long, hot, and tiring, it’s also the best way to recharge the excitement for what we do around here.

I’ve been told JPL has done an open house for almost two decades.  Up until two or three years ago, it was literally an open house – allowing as many people who wanted to come for a visit come on up and take a look around.  After all the successes with our Mars Missions, people just kept coming and coming and coming until safety became an issue.  Once it was estimated that they had nearly 100,000 attendees attempt to do the open house … attempt as many had to be turned away either at the gate or miles away where the lines of cars were causing back-ups on the freeway.  Now, to get a ticket, you have to request them on-line & choose a specific time & day for arrival.  This year, the 30,000 tickets went in approximately 16 minutes.

It’s popular because it’s great access to the key areas of JPL – including the mission control center, the JPL Von Karmen auditorium and museum, and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF) or High Bay where the next great Mars Rover is under construction as we speak.  Yet there are dozens of exhibits showing off the different parts of our facility, including the missions on the horizon & missions already launched.  I worked a couple different exhibits tied to the directorate (Office of Safety & Mission Success) I am in.  One was for the Environmental Affairs group — where we did animal selfies with cutouts of the different animals roaming around the lab.  The other showed off the dangers of electrostatic discharge by running electrostatic machines intended to shock little kids and burn paper.

The real interest to me is begin able to interact with the folks visiting the lab.  Granted part of that means you make up things.  I mean, I’m a quality engineer.  If someone asked me how long it takes to fly from here to Jupiter, I would pull out my phone and google the answer … literally, what they could do themselves.  Someone asks me a smarter question … well, I come across sounding like a hillbilly trying to conjugate a verb: “I done don’t knows whats gots under them there astrodiodal thinger.  Maybes they gots ice cream.”

Like I said, it’s really hard to get tickets – so folks have to be pretty committed to get here for this event.  Everyone of them (that is over the age of childish fits of childhood) are ecstatic to be there and dig everything we have to show.  A rare few show up in costume, but most bring mad t-shirt skills.  They itch to learn what is being worked on, what we specifically are working on, and what it’s like to be at a NASA facility.  While we get some goofy questions (like:  “Is there a moon around Jupiter where diamonds are raining out of the sky?” or “How come you all don’t have hover boards to get around the lab?”) – so many people are genuinely interested and/or jealous that we work there that it rubs off on you.  After two days of meeting so many nerds / geeks / fanboys; you realize just how cool it is to be working  here.

So yeah, today was a great day of work.

Tomorrow – there’s at least two meetings I’m not looking forward to.

 

Footnote:  if you are counting at home, this is Bear Feed Post #498 … the big milestone is coming soon.

Wichitawesome!

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It turns out that sometimes Wichita can be green!

I know … right?  Who knew?

I spent 11 years living in Wichita, and if there was one color I would use to describe that city, green wouldn’t be it.  Brown.  Tan.  Beige.  Coffee.  Taupe.  Burnt Umber.  Desert sand.  Dull chestnut.  Dull dirt color.  Dead grass amber.  Dried out ground covered in dust.  Dark brown.  Light brown.  Another version of brown that isn’t called Brown.  Yeah … of all the colors of the rainbow, when I think of Wichita – Green is not what I think of.  In that short short period of time in early June when the rains are feeding plants & letting things grown – the city turns green.  Then by a little later in early June, it gets insanely hot and everything dies … including all hope.  A green Wichita, with all it’s trees full and gardens in bloom is kinda awesome; or as Jimmy Kimmel show once said, it’s Wichitawesome!

This week, I spent a few days in my old home on a business trip.  This isn’t the first time I visited Wichita since I left in 2012 – but it was my first visit as part of my current job, and it’s been about two years since the last time I rolled through town.  Helped by a little longer visit than normal, and that I was more in support than leading a trip, I was able to take it generally easy on this visit and have a look around.

I’m actually getting pretty good at this whole “visiting a place where you used to live” thing – and this appears to become the year of such things.  The well publicized return to Anchorage a couple months ago happened around the time when this visit hit the radar.  Plus i will have a need to return to Boston … and even Milwaukee is on radar for a family thing.  As it happens, I usually come into this trips with a small agenda of things I want to hit again.  Usually it’s food related  … like had to do Hog Wild (don’t be late, they close at 8) … but it is also driving around and seeing what has changed.  Wichita, for the most part, hadn’t changed much since 2012.  Sure, there were some changes, but in 6 years you sometimes expect an overhaul of things.  The biggest seemed to be that whoever owns my old house let it overgrow pretty good – and now it’s nestled in a jungle on Crestway.  There’s nothing wrong with that though.

Maybe what was most noticeable was something that was kinda funny.  Wichita has been looking for an identity (in part because a late night talk show once made fun of them for being ‘Wichitawesome’).  During this visit I kept noticing a flag around certain buildings with swatches of  red & white blocked with a blue symbol.  It seemed like right under my consciousness everywhere I looked in the town.  I felt it was either some new unifying symbol for some organization … or the logo for a new donut stand.  By the last night I had to ask what that flag was … turns out Wichita has it’s own flag.  So … that’s new.

Honestly, what wasn’t new and what was probably the best part of the trip, is that I can still meet up with some great friends.  Some I talk to pretty regularly, and catching up in person is almost as easy as if I never left.  This time, though, I got to spend time with people I haven’t seen since I lived there.  One in particular (yeah, I am calling you out K-Ram) .. didn’t even know I moved out of Alaska.  On Wednesday night in particular, we spent hours catching up, telling stories we told a hundred times, and doing our best not to do something that would create a new story.  Sure the talk now turned more to things like what it’s like getting old, but it wasn’t so different than the past either.  Like — if there is such a thing that is ‘Wichitawesome’ it is just that I can come back and catch-up and laugh like no years passed at all.

So, yeah, all that really changed is that everything is green; but that’s what Wichitawesome is about sometimes.

 

Footnote:  if you are counting at home, this is Bear Feed Post #497 … the big milestone is coming soon.

June Gloom

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Just our luck, June 1st and no June Gloom.  As the calendar flips over to a new month, you would think we could celebrate with the weather trend that borrows it’s name.  Especially since we have gone most of the last two weeks deep within it too.

June Gloom is the depressing weather condition that is pretty common in Southern California coastal areas this time of year.  Notorious for the month of June, it’s something that comes up in early summer months — getting the other names like the “May Grey”, “No Sky July”, or my favorite “Fogust”.   What we are talking about is basically a thick low level cloud coverage.  Some days it can get low enough to be considered fog, some days it turns into rain.  Some days it burns off by the afternoon.  Some days it sneaks back near sundown.  Some days it never goes away.

The weather that causes June Gloom is essentially the battle between the warm air of summer up against the cooler ocean waters fed by the California currents.  It’s helped by the higher moisture in the air typical for this time of the year, as the Santa Ana winds running in from the desert hasn’t started.  Over night, the cool air and moisture forms off shore, and as the night moves into day, the marine layer moves on land.  A heavier marine layer, or lower atmospheric pressures, can allow the layer to overcome the hills and mountains around Southern California, and is the difference between it covering just the beach areas or rolling all the way into the Inland Empire.  They say it’s not uncommon for someone driving from the San Fernando Valley over the 405 at Sepulvada Pass, and descend into the dank gloom of Los Angeles (and depending on your opinion of the valley or LA, it could be symbolic or ironic).

As much as you might think that June Gloom leads to sucky world around me, I kinda like … mostly.  Don’t get me wrong, there is some downsides to it.  Making outdoor plans is unpredictable as you can’t always predict if the grey will burn off or turn into drizzle.  Also, it really messes with Auggie the Doggie — he has turned full California and refuses to ‘do his business’ anywhere that grass could make his precious precious paws wet.  My mornings, however, are fabulous.

Between me and the ocean is the Vedugo Mountains.    To reach me, the marine layer has to go over that mountain.  It does, routinely, but that’s the cool part.  The clouds crest over the top, and curl, roll, or lay on the higher elevations.  The dewy air up there helps turn that mountainside green & rich.  On my slower mornings, it’s nice to sit out on my porch with a cup of coffee and watch the mountain & gloom.  Even on faster paced mornings, it’s good to look up at see what that haze can do to change the beauty of the day.

So yeah, welcome to the gloomy days of June.  It maybe the worst weather of the year around here, but it’s well worth the gloom.