Recent Changes

Thursday
Jun292017

Song is super whiny, but I like it for whatever reason....

Thursday
Jun292017

Maybe a Mongolia trip? 

I want to take a trip somewhere in the next few years, but not to a place that a lot of people have gone.  I know a fair number of people who have been to Europe or China or some parts of Africa.  It’s not that there is anything wrong with going to those places.  In fact, I have a wish to go back to China at some point in my life time.  I want to trek to a new place though that you don’t see a lot of people talk about all that much.

I think Mongolia is that place.  I was doing some research on it, and there is a lot there that is pretty enticing to me really.  Lots of nature, cool history with the Mongols and just a unique culture that we don’t see nearly as much today.  A large portion of their population is still nomads and they the lowest population density per square mile of any independent nation.  They have less people than Iowa does, but occupy the 5th most land mass of any country in the world.

I like the idea of going to a place that is safe, but also not as well traveled.  Of course, they still have a decent number of tourists, but many of those are from China or Russia.  A smaller amount is from Europe, but not a lot of Americans.  They have English speaking guides for a lot of the bigger tour companies around and the prices for tours are not terrible.  I wouldn’t classify them as cheap, exactly, but then again, I was looking at the more 10-day stuff, not the shorter trips.  If I am going to fly all the way to Mongolia, I’m going to make it worth my time.

I was thinking of this, because Jess and I have now been married for four years and next year it will be our 5th year anniversary.  We likely won’t have the money to be able to do something like that, but perhaps we will.  If we do, I want to something cool and unique.  I like the idea of different, because everything we have done up until now for trips has been much more typical.  We have been to Chicago and Vegas as our two major trips.  I love both of those cities, but they are not really unique.

Being married for 4 years has been something.  Not bad, just much different than a lot of people told me it would be when I was getting married.  I feel like we didn’t have much of a honeymoon phase because things didn’t start out very well for us.  We have settled into a much calmer situation at this point, and that’s wonderful.  That’s not how everyone said it would be though, because I think the hope if that you have that honeymoon phrase for at least a while when you get married.  I enjoy the calm, even if I think that most people would find it rather boring.  I find it comforting.

The other things that hasn’t changed for me is my desire to not have kids.  I had everyone tell me forever that as I got older I would want them more.  As I got more settled into my life and being married I would want them more.  I can tell you with confidence that I want the no more now than I did 4 years ago or 8 years ago.  I just don’t think that my attitude would mesh well with having them, nor do I think that I would be that good of a parent anyway.  Not being a good parent is a huge fear of mine and definitely makes it a hard no for having kids.

I have a lot of stuff I have to get done tomorrow, but it’s all kind of piddly stuff.  We must take the Jeep to get looked over before our trip to North Dakota, just to make sure it doesn’t fall apart and all.  I must do a lot of cleaning and laundry.  I’m not really looking forward to that, but I need to get it done, because I am pretty sure I have almost no clothes left at this point.  I somehow managed to run myself out of shirts really fast this time around.  I’m not sure if I just didn’t clean enough last time or what happened.

I’d also like to get a walk, workout and poker in as well.  Those are going to be a bit more on the backburner to make sure I get everything I need to get done for the trip first.  Jess also has some work stuff to get done, so she won’t be helping with the cleaning as much.  It’s not like our house is bad or anything, but it’s just stuff that takes a while, like dishes.  O, how I loathe doing dishes.  They are the bane of my existence.  I think it comes from washing dishes for a job for a few years.  You just learn to hate certain takes when doing them as a job.

How about this, two blogs in two nights.  Don’t see that too much anymore.  Also, both are well over 900 words on top of it all.  That’s pretty strange for me at this point.  It has made me a lot more tired to be writing though, which is kind of what I was hoping for.  Just wanted to dump a little bit out of my mind before I tried to go to sleep.

Wednesday
Jun282017

Well, that ended up being pretty long.

As expected, I have not been as good about doing things after getting back from Chicago as I wanted to be.  I’ve actually been pretty good about doing the big things on my list, but I have been letting the small things fall to the side and I have noticed some big changes in my mood.  They are not good changes either.  I haven’t been sitting outside in the afternoon, or going for walks or really working out.  I’ve been sitting in front of my computer way too much just doing things.  I need to do the small things.

I’ve fallen back into a pattern of taking sleeping pills as well and I am pretty disappointed in myself about that.  I got some, because of doing all the traveling we were doing and fearing not being able to sleep while doing said traveling.  As I guessed sleeping in different places has been hard so I have been taking sleeping pills.  The issue is that I don’t wake up feeling refreshed in the morning and I just end up being lethargic and slow to start the next day.  It lasts for like half the day too.  It’s not good.

I’ve said before that I am making things even more simple in some ways, because I am taking everything down to the basic tenants. I’m taking on less big goals, I’m having less really pie in the sky ideas and overall, I am just trying to do a lot more small things with one big goal in mind.  I really like this right now, because I feel like I am getting more out of my work.  I’m still doing some of the things I set out to do, but just at a less strenuous speed.

One thing that I have done is not write about politics lately, and I can’t tell you how happy that has made me feel.  While I did say my mood has been more of a rollercoaster, I feel more at peace overall.  If I can start doing the little things like I have been in the past, then I think I am going to be really happy.  Not reading about politics except maybe once every 3 or 4 days has just made my mind feel more free and creative to a degree I didn’t think it would.

I’ve gotten more creative writing done in the past week than I had done in the past month before that.  I feel like not reading about politics and just allowing myself to think in that creative space more has allowed me to get back into a groove.  I’ve written a few short stories and then worked on a few older book ideas I had.  I haven’t tried to really tackle my book that is about 95% done, because I haven’t felt good enough yet for it, but I think that getting any writing done is a good sign and will likely result in me getting there soon enough.

I also started watching some anime again.  It’s been pretty enjoyable, because anime has always been something that has captured my imagination.  When I spend less time on pie in the sky goals, I have more time to really just enjoy myself.  I have my main goal I am spending 40 hours a week on (or a bit more) and then I have a lot of hours left that I can tackle in any way that I feel like I should.  Lately, it’s been writing and watching anime.

I’ve been rewatching Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom, because one book idea I have had and worked on a few times has been an action based book.  It’s fun to see those scenes and think how I would write that scene.  A few scenes I have watched a few times and tried to describe everything I see to make it into a story.  I’ve never really heard anyone saying that doing this is useful, but I find it really useful to learn how to write action scenes.  The ones I have written still need a lot of work, but I feel like I am getting them much better than they would be without this exercise.

We leave for North Dakota in like 3 days now (Saturday) and will be gone until Thursday.  I’m not thrilled about going, but I am going to use the time of driving (24 hours in the car) to really work on plans for the upcoming 3 months, 1 year and 3 years.  I’ve done a small 3-year plan before and that didn’t go how I thought, because I didn’t plan for the loan forgiveness aspect of it.  Now that I know what at least the next 2.5 years of my life is going to entail in terms of what I can and can’t do legally, I feel like I can maybe start that plan a little bit more again.

The next 3 months is huge for me, and I am hoping that I can make it worth it.  I’m going to try my hardest to stick to my goals and stick to my plan.  I know things will come up, but I am going to do my best to make sure I keep it within reason.  I’m hoping that if I fail, then when I start working a normal job I can just insert the job into my life and continue all the small things that made me happy.

In the past, that is what has doomed me most.  When I worked for Jeremy Franklin I was working 70 hours a week, so having a life outside of work was so hard.  When I worked at HR Block, I allowed my sadness to control way too much of my mood and just didn’t try to do anything outside of work.  I could have been using my time so much better, but I just didn’t.  I need to have a good foundation setup so that if I must go to work for the next year, I will be able to just hot swap things much easier.

The good thing is I have a list of places I am going to apply to once I know if I need to get a job or not, and I think that I should be able to get hired on at least one of them.  They aren’t great jobs, but they will have a consistent paycheck and that is what I would be going for if I took on one of those jobs.  I would like to make my take home $2,000 a month and just bank money.  I would work for about 6 months in the year when taxes are taken into consideration, so at work, next June around this time I am going to be sitting here planning my next 6-months to a year of not working.  I would be most likely to take a year off at this point, because I could then start a good job if I decided to, because the loan forgiveness would be over.

It’s all stuff I need to put down in much more clear writing though, because I know that just talking about it isn’t going to be enough.  I can imagine what the next three years of my life would be like all I want, but reality is that I won’t see the full scope of it until after I get this stuff down in writing.  I will likely post what my goals and plans are for the future on here, because I might as well and see what people think.  If I am too embarrassed to post what my plans are, then perhaps my plans are not actually as good as I think.

I have some other things to write about, but this post is already longer than I was planning on.  I don’t think I have written anything this long in months for a blog post on here.  Maybe I really am tapping back into that creative mindset that had left me for a long time.

Tuesday
Jun202017

I'm a rational man

Tuesday
Jun202017

I'm finally acting like an adult, or something.

So over the past couple of weeks i have been doing a ton of thinking and this past weekend in Chicago cemeneted a few things in my mind that i had already pretty much accepted.  Here are a few of the things that I have decided needs to be said and put out there.  It's a pretty siesmic shift in some ways from my previous thinking, but at the same time it just takes some ideas that I have had for a long time and better puts them into something that makes sense.

A) I'm good at writing, but I don't want to do it for a long-term living. I don't mind it as a side thing or temporary thing until the loan forgiveness is over, but it's not a long-term love. Unless I'm writing novels.

I will admit that I have a talent for writing.  I could refine it and make it significantly more impressive, but even without doing that I still have some talent for it.  I don’t like writing articles and stuff though as often as I would need to make it a career.  It’s a fun thing I like to do, but the writing short articles for the sake of writing articles gives me no pleasure.  Just pumping out things to get it out there is not fun.  What makes it even less inviting is how things in that sphere are going in terms of interaction with the audience.  No matter who you write for, or what you write about you are getting more and more pushback from all side about how biased you are, or how stupid you are or whatever else someone can find to complain about.  It’s not enjoyable.

Novels are something I still have a major interest in writing, but that’s not going to be a full-time job.  OS it’s something I can continue doing while also doing other things, which I will get more to in a while.  I am still going to write my self-improvement articles, because I feel like those are fun and can at least help someone.  I will be writing other things too, just because I want to keep getting better.  It’s not going to be like it was earlier though, because my happiness is worth more. 

B) I don't like writing about politics.

I don’t like writing about politics.  I know politics.  I understand how they impact everything and that I should care, but fact is, I hate doing it.  The discourse around politics now is so disheartening that I just can’t deal with it.  If you are centrist, you get even more crap from both sides.  I don’t mind getting constructive criticism, but that is completely out the window. The less I read politics, the happier of a person I am.  So, I am just going to stop and not read about it.  I’m not going to be sad that I know less than most people.  It’s not like what most people know is all that correct or important anyway.

C) I'm going to end up a teacher or Network Admin/tech support.

I’ve realized that working online is just not going to be something I end up doing, at least not in a non-traditional sense.  I could end up at one of these jobs in an online capacity, but I am not going to be some work from home wizard that makes a ton of money hawking online ad things, or something who cobbles together a living room a whole bunch of different sources in some delicate balance.  Teaching online is something that very realistically could happen tough.  As could being a network admin from a remote location.  I’m just not interested in working that hard to drum up business.  I’ve been doing a ton of research into things, and the amount of work people must put in from working from home in a non-traditional capacity is so freaking much.  Good for them, but it’s just not for me.  I want someone who oversees paying me and giving me projects that I work on, not to be someone who must chase down leads in a fruitless hope of securing a job.

The two jobs I listed are going to require going back to school, but I am fine with that.  Both are going to be about 2 year things I would have to do to get a degree in and then I could decide what to do from there.  The only thing that is making me wonder about doing network administration stuff is the pay scale.  Even starting out I make more than I would as a teacher on the top end.  I would have less time off, because of not as many holidays, less vacation and stuff like that, but getting paid 2 or 3 times as much would also allow me to get as much money as fast as I can to make a lot of things in the future a possibility.  Not that I think that is the most important, but it’s something I should consider.  I will know by October 5th which one I would like to pursue the most.  It’s going to be one of my major goals.

D) I'm giving myself until October 5th to do some not typical as a means for money. If it doesn't work then I will do normal thing to make my 15k a year.

Making 15k a year from online means should be something I could end up doing, but I am only giving myself until October 5th to do it.  That gives me about 90 days from when I get back from North Dakota to really hammer everything down and get a better idea.  I’m going to really focus on making money, figuring out what direction my life should go and putting myself in a position to be successful in the future.  If I’m going to not have to work in a call center to pay for college over the next two years, I have until October 5th to make that a reality.  Otherwise, off to the call center it is to make my 15k a year, which will then go into paying for my schooling. 

E) I want to live on another city eventually.

Going to Chicago this weekend really impressed upon me how much I want to live in another city.  I want to live somewhere that is really cool and different.  Downtown Chicago would be a dream, but is probably a bit too expensive to be realistic.  It’s possible though.  Austin is another place I would strongly consider.  There might be some other cities, and I want to spend the next couple of vacations trying out new cities to see which ones really fit what I like and which ones are just not going to be realistic to move to.  Kansas City is a great city and all, but I don’t want to spend forever in one place, likely not even in two or three more places.  I want to move and experience new things.

F) I need to pet bunny more.

I need to pet the bunny more.  I have been really bad about creating dumb reasons to not pay as much attention as I need to.  It’s not fair to him, but I find myself doing it at an alarmingly stupid rate.  So, it’s going to be something that I make sure I get a lot better at over the next few months, because he deserves to get more attention.  He’s been acting too sad lately, and I know some of that is not petting him enough.  Some of it might also be that he might need a friend, but that is something Jess and I will have to tackle at some point in the future.

G) I want to make enough money we could retire early if we want to make that a priority. 

I’ve been spending so much time reading about early retirement, saving money, minimalism and the like that I realize how important it is for me to at least have it be an option if Jess and I chose to make it something we care about.  What is more likely is that we travel even more than we do now and see a lot of new things.  I want whatever we decide our priorities to be for those to be options though.  That’s why I realized that this will end with me likely being a teacher or working as a network administrator.  I’m just going to need to do that to make sure that we can have the life we want to have.  It’s a dream of mine, but it’s a dream I think is easily attainable.  If I find a job that I get $40,000 a year or up to $60,000 that puts us well over $100,000 combined and we don’t plan on having kids, so that’s more than enough for two people to live from.  Combine this with me having zero student loans and it really makes things a lot easier.  I think we can do whatever we want, within reason, if I point my mind in a different direction, which I am ready to do.

Sunday
Jun112017

Not writing lately, because I have been working hard.

For once I haven’t been writing, because I have been doing pretty well with all my goals and haven’t really had the time to write, or at least haven’t made the time to do it.  That’s a pretty stark change from where I am most of the time when it comes to not writing.  I’m also kind of close to actually getting a sleeping schedule as well, which is pretty cool.  It still isn’t perfect, but I am doing loads better than I was even a week ago.

I started doing the Insanity workout and that has been kicking my butt lately.  I did it with Quinn on Saturday and decided that I was just going to start doing it, because why not?  It’s going to get me in great shape, especially with my cardio.  It’s not as much strength building as I would like, but it should help me feel stronger overall and hopefully increase my endurance.  I’ve kind of accepted that gaining muscle mass is not something I will really be able to do anyway.  SO just fully committing to a hardcore cardio with a slight bit of strength routine isn’t a bad idea.

I am also combining with taking cold showers after I get done.  I’m hoping that doing both of these things will really increase my discipline, and I can say that it has been helping some.  It’s still fairly new, as I only have been doing both for four days so far.  I have noticed my mind in a better place, and while I have had the desire to skip one of the days of either, I have managed to keep it going.  Tomorrow is going to be a huge test, because it is Pure Cardio and it will probably be pure hell.  The thought of not having a warm shower afterwards makes me sad, but the benefits are worth it.

I’ve also been walking in the morning and sitting out in the sun for 15-20 minutes during the afternoon in between sessions of doing other work.  It’s been really good to get outside and really do everything I can to feel better and improve my life.  I’m in a good spot right now.  I’m doing what I want to be doing and doing what I need to be doing to help myself make strides on my goals and dreams.

We head to Chicago in a few days and will get back next Monday.  That Tuesday onward is going to be a huge test for how far I have come.  In the past a trip like this upcoming one would throw me off for a few days, minimum, but I’m hoping that I can get right back to what I need to on Tuesday.  I’m hoping to mitigate some of my problems getting back into the routine by doing my workouts while also in Chicago.  Also, Tuesdays are my rest day from insanity, so that should help a little bit as well.

We are going to North Dakota at the beginning of July and then my mother is coming to visit right after that.  After that we don’t have anything planned, and judging by our finances, using that time to save money and really focus on my goals and making money is going to be important and easily done.  Jess has to work Labor Day, so we also won’t be heading back to Burlington any time after that either.  Three solid months of no interruptions is going to be huge for me.    By the end of September, I should know pretty well if I am going to be looking for another job at a call center, or can do something with writing, poker, teaching or whatever I am really working towards. 

If September 30th rolls around and I am not making any significant money from things, then I am going to be looking for a job.  It will have to be somewhat temporary, because I can only make a certain amount each year, but I should be able to keep a job from when I get one at the end of this year until about June of next year.  We will see what that leaves open for me and what I end up deciding to do with that.  It will be a very important few months, because I will either be chasing my dreams or right back at a call center for 8-10 months.

It’s only been 7 months since I have started the loan forgiveness and I haven’t felt great during the whole thing.  I’ve made a lot of progress since moving, but I am still not even close to what I would ideally like to be at.  I don’t feel like I know any more about what I want to do with my life.  I don’t feel like things are in a better place than they would be if I was just allowed to keep working normally.  Maybe they are.  Maybe I would be in an even worse place mentally if I was working at a call center of some kind.  The first 4 to 5 months though of the loan forgiveness were really, really tough.  It’s taken some time to get past that.

I think the hardest thing is seeing all my friends and wife doing what they want and being really good at it.  I am friends with very motivated and dedicated people.  They have goals and then they crush them, especially when it comes to being productive members of society.  They know what they want and go get it.  I know a lot of people in this world are not like that.  Many are stuck with jobs they hate, but my friends are not in that group.  So, it’s tough to be where I am sometimes, because I look at those around me, those I would like to be more like, and I am just floating along.

I’ve always done that though.  I love surrounding myself with highly functioning and highly achieving people.  In school, I hung around the honors students even though I was in average classes.  In college, I didn’t talk to many people, but those I did were doing a ton outside of also doing well at school.  Now that I am an adult I have friends who are all doing what they love and doing it well.  It’s a double-edged sword, because it can motivate you to do better, but it can also crush you when you are lost at sea.  It’s hard.

I think that is it for now.  Tomorrow is going to be a good day, and I need to get to sleep to make sure I can make the most out of it.

Monday
Jun052017

Traveling and learning

Been at Quinn’s house for the past few days now.  Jess and I drove up on Friday and we are leaving some time today.  It’s been a nice trip though.  I hadn’t seen him in like 10 years and I was a bit worried that things might be a bit awkward, especially since he has a girlfriend and a 4-year-old kid.  They weren’t though and I think everyone meshed really well, which is much better than I could have predicted. 

Not being able to sleep really sucks though, because I have gotten 5 or less hours of not great sleep each night.  Not only is the air mattress not all that comfortable, but also 4-year olds can be rather loud, especially when they don’t have a way to entertain themselves…. That they think is good enough.  I mean, I think that this particular child would be loud no matter what, but that’s beside the point.  Surprisingly, things have actually been okay tough with that little sleep.  Glad that my body and mind can still do pretty well with that amount of sleep.

This has cemented in my mind that I don’t want kids.  Their kid is more than fine.  I think she is probably like a pretty average child, but I just don’t want to deal with it day in and day out.  I want to be able to escape if I want to or not have to deal with their moods.  When they are this young too, reasoning with them is really hard and that just makes everything even harder.  Good on those who have kids and do a good job raising them, but that’s just not me, and I know for sure I don’t want that to be me.

Being here has been a bit of a blast from the past.  Quinn has obviously changed in the past decade, but also there is much of him that is the same.  Same humor type, some of the same small personality quirks and just a few other things that reminds me of what I was like 10-12 years ago.  I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but more just a fact.  It’s nice though, because it has reminded me of a time that I was much less stressed and kind of just enjoyed things more.  I’m not sure how to recreate that in my life overall, but I really need to try some different things to see what I can find.

I need to earn some more two players card games as well, because I really like playing card games.  We have been playing a ton of different card games, board games and video games the entire time, and I would have to say the card games are my favorite.  Not just normal playing card games, but also some other specialized deck games as well.  There is something about the logic behind how card games normally work that makes the most sense in my head.  There is just something about how they work that I really like and connect with.

This stop is just the beginning of our really busy month.  We are going to be traveling or having visitors for 18 days between now and July 9th.  That’s just an impressive amount of things to do.  I don’t think Jess and I have been this busy with so many outside things ever.  There is something about traveling and visitors that definitely more tiring than work.  More rewarding many of the time, but they are still tiring.

I think that is going to be all for now.  I have been writing this while waiting for people to wake up.  I hope that people will be waking up soon and I don’t want to get distracted from this post.

Sunday
May282017

It was a good flow day

Despite not sleeping well last night and getting up early, today was a really focused and good day.  I could have done better, we always can, but I was happy with my 6 hours of writing that I got done today.  It was by far the most productive writing day that I have had in a long time, and it was mostly on articles and other writing projects that will actually be useful for me.  I did do 30 minutes of creative writing, but it was less than spectacular, so I just decided to stop and move on from that.  No sense trying to force it out, when the rest is going well.

I’m not sure how much longer I am going to keep writing political things.  I’m not enjoying them as much as I am a few other things I am working on.  On Wednesday, I have a post I am really excited for about self-improvement.  That’s one of the things I am most looking forward to posting.  It still has some revisions to go through, but I think it’s going to be helpful to some people, or at least I hope.  I feel like I have a little bit of different things to say than other people on self-improvement.  Hopefully someone appreciates that little bit different.

I think why I am so excited about it is because that I feel like I am adding to the world, and not taking away from it.  It feels like with my political writing I am taking too much away from the world and just putting more negativity in it.  I’m not sure that’s an accurate statement at all, but it’s a feeling I can’t shake.  I think for now I will keep writing it, because I feel like it’s helping me become a better writer overall, it’s just taking its toll on my mentally.  I also think that reading the news, especially right now, is less than great.  If the self-improvement post really takes off, then I might consider more heavily writing those.

I made a new schedule for myself were I am focusing a lot more each day on a certain task.  I am writing more hours in a day, instead of trying to write a little bit each day.  I find this pretty helpful, because I feel like I get into the writing mindset a lot easier and just kind of stick there.  I was having issues with getting into writing, and then needing to quit write when I was really getting things going.  I am hoping that I can keep this kind of speed up, but we will see.  Tomorrow is going to be another writing day.  So, it’s going to be a test to see if I can be writing 12+ hours in two days.  This might not sound like a lot, but it’s hard to keep concentrated for that long.

I think that’s going to be it for now.  No other thoughts really on my mind, and I am tired.  I think that I will write more in here tomorrow though, because I had some stuff on my mind earlier today, but we will see if it just passes.

Wednesday
May242017

Struggling to write anything creative...

I’ve been doing really well on the writing front.  I’ve not suffered from any long bouts of writer’s block and I feel like my writing is getting better with each passing article.  That being said, I am finding it hard to write this blog, because the change in styles is so different that I can’t really think about the best way to write thing.  I’ve noticed this problem when I try to work on that book I keep trying to finish.  What I have been writing lacks creative in a sense, and now that I try to incorporate it again to my writing I struggle.

I think as I get better at writing and can shift easier it will be better, but right now, I don’t think I have that kind of talent built up.  I wonder if other people struggle with the same problems when they try to write creatively, but have a job where they need to either write about facts or technical things.  It’s such a hard thing to just make my mind let goo and really flow.  I think what I need to do is set up better times where I am just thinking about my political writing and times where I am just thinking creatively.  Have them be even more separate.

The good thing about having this problem is that it means I have gotten a lot done lately.  I’ve been writing a lot, as evidenced by all the posts, but I have also been playing poker, listening to podcasts, reading, cleaning and doing a bit more.  I’m basically doing everything I want to be doing, except for working out.  I’m not sure why I haven’t started doing that yet, but I just haven’t felt the desire to really pick up the weights and getting on that.  It’s a pretty bad excuse, but I just haven’t been able to make myself do it.

I’ve been trying to write this for far too long now. I just can’t get my mind in that place where I need it to be to write this successfully.  I will give it another try in a few days.  Tomorrow I am taking an off day, and maybe that will allow me to flow creatively a bit better.  Than hitting the grind really hard from Thursday – Wednesday next week, since we are going up to Cedar Rapids next weekend and I want to make sure everything is squared away before that.

Wednesday
May242017

Listened to this a lot in the past few days.