Saturday, September 6, 2014

Farewell, Lincoln.

I moved to Lincoln in 2008 for college. Somehow, six years have passed since then.

Residents of bigger cities love to brag about their extraordinary places -- the museums, performance halls, architectural masterpieces, and culinary institutions that are known around the world. And extraordinary places are certainly a wonderful thing to have, especially when out-of-town visitors come calling. We all like a little helping of bragging rights.

But after the novelty of extraordinary things wears off, the vast majority of our time is spent in ordinary places. Places like coffee shops, 9-bucks-a-plate restaurants, grocery stores, and neighborhood sidewalks.

Lincoln has a modest handful of extraordinary places. The Capitol Building, most notably. Memorial Stadium, if you’re a native Nebraskan. But Lincoln will likely never have a truckload of things that knock your socks off at first glance. It’s just not that kind of place, and no amount of shiny arenas will change that.

What Lincoln does have is a wonderful richness of ordinary places.

After six years in Lincoln, I’ll miss being able to take a rambling walk to Cultiva on a Fall day, or stopping by Open Harvest to pick up a walnut scone. I’ll miss afternoons spent wandering through the Vietnamese markets on 27th street, searching for a missing ingredient. I’ll miss the chubby koi fish in the Sunken Gardens, and sweltering summer picnics in Pioneers Park. I’ll miss the sheer weirdness of walking through the Near South, with its turn-of-the-century mansions, mid-century apartment monstrosities, and elusive, fluffy cats lurking on furniture-cluttered stoops.

If you’re planning your summer vacation, I can’t say I’d recommend Lincoln. When you've only got a week, you might as well go somewhere big. Somewhere extraordinary.

But if you've got six years to spend somewhere, you could do a lot worse.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Five Articles You Meet In Hell.

1. The Urgent / Meaningless Science Scare.


First Sentence: New research shows that consuming blueberries results in chronic baldness and / or death!

Buried at the Bottom: scientists involved in the research stress that these results are preliminary, and in no way support that thing we said in the first sentence.

Science is complicated, and complicated things are hard to turn into click bait. I understand. But please, stop doing this.

2. The “You Should Make The Same Life Decisions As I Made” Op-Ed.


I... (a) married early (b) married late (c) got pregnant young (d) got pregnant old (e) got a liberal arts degree (f) dropped out of college ... and so should you!

Also, I have two other anecdotes that illustrate why my choices are right for everyone!

Congratulations! You’re about to be reblogged by hundreds of supportive or outraged people. And you’ve managed to do it without injecting anything helpful into the public sphere.

3. The “Cool Church” Story.


Pastor Bob Whatshisface isn’t your ordinary preacherman. He wears jeans, is into coffee and skate culture, and often injects pop culture into his sermons! And he’s attracted a large congregation of young people who enjoy homebrewing and skinny jeans!

What’s next? A CEO who wears casual clothing in a downtown loft where young people work in offices decorated with quirky Japanese toys? Modern life is craaaazzzy!

4. The “Important Trend” Piece.


Five young moms in Brooklyn have started a cat/baby yoga club in which their babies do advanced yoga positions with the help of cats! A sociologist at CUNY says this has something to do with millennials.

A couple of people a friend of your friend knows, deciding to do a thing, does not make that thing a thing. It’s not a thing.

5. The “Twittertroversy” Story.


After the events of Wednesday, at least five people on Twitter said things that were offensive and bad. A spokesman for some organization was very offended by these offensive statements.

“The offensive comments produced by some people on Twitter, and also the comments section of YouTube, were highly offensive, and clearly show that society is super bigoted and terrible. Everyone should get very mad at this.”

Because any statistician worth his salt would tell you that some people saying some words online are always representative of the views held by the population at large. This has lead many experts to predict that the 2016 election will be dominated by the debate over whether a tiger or a lion is “the best animal.”

Search for “Lion vs Tiger” on YouTube for further reading.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let's (Not) Have A National Conversation.

The age of the Internet has given us many things. Cats adorned with hilariously misspelled captions. Videos of large groups of people doing things in places. But for the intelligentsia (Internetelligentsia?), perhaps the most important gift of the Internet has been The Conversation.

The Conversation is the stream of thought that dominates the blogs, magazines, and social media feeds that well-educated peeps with literary leanings go to for their constant word-fix.

The structure of The Conversation is simple:
  1. Event happens / thing is written. (We’ll call this Item #1).
  2. Witty response / “thinkpiece” on Item #1 is written.
  3. Everyone who deems themselves a “thought leader” is compelled to spend the next week pushing out their incredibly important thoughts about Item #1, regardless of whether or not Item #1 matters to them.
  4. Item #1 is then promptly discarded in favor of a newer Item, but will later be an important bullet point on a list of yearly things that were important during the year.
This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. Literary-types have been engaging in back-and-forth on a variety of topics for centuries. What the Internet has really done is to crank up the speed, and add a heaping measure of absurdity. The absurdity, in most cases, is a direct result of the speed. Because The Conversation picks up momentum so quickly, no one really has time to ponder whether or not it has a speck of importance. And in a world where the barriers between high and low culture have been rent asunder, it’s increasingly common for the stuff of tabloid gossip to become important topics in the pages of The New Yorker.

Thus, when Miley Cyrus does something icky, we must endure “responses” to it from every possible political and cultural angle. Want to learn about the gender politics / racial politics / theology of a mildly-talented singer doing something mildly offensive? Then congratulations: the Internet shall embrace you to its scantily-clad bosom.

Of course, The Conversation can be about many things. It can be about a political “scandal” that many people don’t believe is significant in any way, but who will kindly contribute lengthy pages about what it means that other people consider it significant, and how significant this is. It can be about a crime that is deemed far worse than a hundred identical crimes that occurred on the same day, and is believed to say something about society. (And race. And gender. And man’s relationship with the Divine Unknown.)

It can even be about something that is deep, or troubling, or of great political importance. But that’s not the point; The Conversation’s appeal has little do with the current Item's significance.

People join The Conversation because other people have already joined The Conversation. That’s it. It can be about something of vital importance. It can be about something so idiotic that most people would simply shrug it off. But shrugging off The Conversation is something that simply isn’t done in nicer circles. To be outside The Conversation is to be irrelevant. If you’re a writer who writes on a regular basis, and you refuse to write something about that thing that other people are writing about, it’s like you don’t even exist. You might as well toss your ambitions out the window, and resign yourself to a life of cheap beer, televised sports, and crippling depression.

My suspicion is that many people don’t enjoy staying afloat in the ceaseless tide of The Conversation. Maybe they’re just looking for some way out. Some kind of permission to leave, and explore the world at their own pace.

Very well then:

If you’re someone who writes things, and you’re looking for a way out of this endless cycle of meaningless paragraphs, I’ll offer one. Go forth with my blessing, child. Ignore The Conversation, unless it’s a conversation you actually want to have. Unless it’s a conversation you need to have. If it isn’t worth responding to, don’t respond to it. Don’t be afraid to look for meaning in the quiet nooks that other people are ignoring while they attempt to listen in on what other people are already talking about.

Free thyself, O blogosphere. And ye, O Twitterverse, fly far into lands yet unseen. And this peace I offer even unto the realm of Google +, though I know it not.

Go forth.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Welcoming Our New Algorithmic Overlords.

The Atlantic recently published a great piece on the increasing role of data analytics in human resources. You should read the whole thing.

In summary: American corporations are developing algorithms that can uncannily predict a potential employee’s performance based on data they’ve generated. Think Moneyball, but applied to waiters, programmers, and even corporate management. Old metrics like previous experience and education are starting to give way to fine-grained data analysis that probes into extremely specific factors that can make an individual right for a job. And for employees who are already on the job, additional analytics can provide objective performance metrics in real time. If these practices continue to spread, it could change almost everything about the way companies and their employees interact.

The author of the piece expresses a hopeful view of the data-driven job market. Sure, there’s something unsettling about your future being largely determined by machines, but on the balance, the system will be untainted by human bias.

On its face, this seems like a fair assessment. Many of the things that currently affect the success of job applicants are beyond their control, and at times, utterly discriminatory. Things like age, height, looks, and race are undeniably factors in the world of gut-level hiring decisions. When oh-so-fallible human beings are given the reigns, they tend to pick people who are a lot like themselves, or fit into their mental image of what a certain kind of employee should be.

Maybe it’s time to trust the machine.

And yet, trusting the machine is hard. Even if dumb ol’ Homo Sapiens are biased and inefficient, there’s something that’s nearly impossible to accept about ceding so much control to a meticulously-researched piece of code. Once you read up on the data, it’s easy to see why computerized hiring could be great for a lot of people, but it almost doesn’t matter. It seems wrong.

This feeling is probably due to the fact that hiring based on impartial data analysis involves a shift in our entire perception of what it means to be human. Even if we don’t have a life that fulfills us, it’s always nice to think that in some sense, we’re free to change, and do whatever we want. The person across from the desk during your job interview may toss your application out because he doesn’t think you have enough hair, but he could also accept you for an equally irrational reason. That human element gives us the hope that there’s always a chance. Even if, in reality, that chance is virtually non-existent. Meanwhile, when an algorithm chews up your personal data and spits out a LOW POTENTIAL message, you don't even have a fool's hope to cling to.

The idea of having your behavior constantly monitored for performance clues is even harder to swallow. As with the previous case, there are plenty of good things advocates can point to. Analytics-enabled employees will always know where they stand, and can be given clear instruction on how to improve. Without hard data, performance reviews can be laden with human error. Bad employees can evade detection, while good employees can be maligned, based on faulty perceptions. The computer, on the other hand, only sees the facts. And once it shares those facts, you can improve! Everything works smoother than a greased wombat.

However, this raises a question: how much are we willing to give up for a fully optimized career? Constant data analysis could result in more productive, happier workers, and more profitable companies. But once again, it also involves completely altering our perception of human life. Once we view ourselves and others as sets of metrics, things start to change. Like pro athletes or Pok√©mon, we'll have to become obsessed with getting our stats up if we want to stay relevant. The fact that personal factors can have a huge impact on our job performance further complicates the picture. It's not a stretch to assume that data-driven optimization at work will require data-driven optimization at home.

(“Sorry kids... you’re really cutting into my weekly numbers.”)

At a certain point, it might be worth considering how much we should really value absolute economic efficiency. If the dreams of data scientists come true, and every company is full of employees who are able to generate the maximum amount of revenue-per-hour, what then? In some ways, people might be happier. In other ways, they might be less happy. And eventually, everyone will have to grapple with the meaning of life in ways that no piece of software can comprehend. Big changes in the future are almost inevitable. Whether those big changes are also big improvements in the long run remains to be seen.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Pope's Words: I Don't Think They Mean What You Think They Mean.

If you want to start thinking critically about the news you consume, there’s one important thing to remember: journalists are biased. Just not in the way you might think.

Yes, journalists tend to identify themselves on the liberal side of the political spectrum. But when it comes to what they actually write, the bias that skews their coverage is a bias toward cohesive narratives. Journalists are storytellers -- their job is based around taking people and events, and fitting them into a narrative structure that’s easy to understand. Often, this is useful. Often, this is necessary. But just as often, it distorts the truth.

In the case of Pope Francis, the distorting effects of a devotion to clear-cut narrative have been on display for the world to see.

Journalists began their coverage of the new papacy with a simple narrative about the Catholic church already fixed in their brain. In short: the Catholic church is locked in a battle between conservatives and liberals, and the primary importance of any new pope is which of these two camps he’ll end up siding with. The first flaw of this narrative is the assumption that all religious conflicts are battles between liberals and conservatives, groups that mirror their counterparts in secular politics. For journalists, this makes sense, because they have a pretty good grasp of politics, and little to no grasp of theology. But while this conservative / liberal divide does exist in a certain form, most of the issues that any given religion deals with don’t fit into this political dichotomy. (See, most of the church schisms and divisions that have taken place over the past few millenia).

Due to this ready-made narrative, journalists have one goal when the Pope opens his mouth: find bits of information they can plug into the story they've already decided to tell. Because Pope Francis is a nice guy, doesn’t look like Emperor Palpatine, and sometimes takes selfies, journalists have largely decided that Pope Francis will tilt the church in a "liberal" direction. When the Pope talks to the public, only things that fit into this story will make the headlines.

Thus, after the Pope gave a complicated and nuanced interview to a Catholic paper, it’s not surprising that American journalists only noticed a few sentences. The sentences that happened to fit into their narrative.

You’ve probably already seen the headlines. The Pope wants to find “new balance” when it comes to social issues! The Pope says the church doesn’t need to talk about abortion and homosexuality “all the time”! In other words: THE POPE IS A LIBERAL AND HE LIKES GAYS AND STUFF.

Which would be fine, if those headlines were an accurate assessment of the Pope’s own words. If you read the full interview, which is incredibly fascinating, you’ll find it isn’t primarily a statement about how the church has become too conservative, and must adopt the cultural values of modernity. Much of the interview centers around the Pope’s influences from Catholic history, and meditations on the nature of Christian spirituality. Translation for journalists: boring religious stuff. He does talk about the way he wants to shift his papacy's focus -- but he doesn’t speak in a way that adheres to liberal / conservative thinking. What the Pope seems to be communicating is that he wants the Catholic church to become more focused on evangelism, which means proclaiming God’s offer of salvation before all else. All the moral teachings of the church on social issues -- which Francis affirms as “clear” -- are important, but they’re useless when they’re not paired with the message of the gospel.

(It’s important to note that if journalists wanted a completely different narrative, they could also back it up with another out-of-context quote from Francis: Pope Francis: Church Teaching on Homosexuality “Clear.”)

For most Christians, this isn’t groundbreaking material, but it's refreshing to hear it expressed in an articulate way. As an evangelical protestant, I was impressed by the Pope’s richly textured expression of faith. It's true that Francis doesn’t go on an angry screed against gays and nonbelievers, but then again, neither do the vast majority of Christian leaders, regardless of how "conservative" they are. The press's breathless reaction to the Pope's interview is reminiscent of the awful coverage of “hip” evangelical churches that largely consists of ignorant statements along the lines of, “Pastor Coolface believes in the bible, but on a recent Sunday, he didn’t even mention gays!” Journalists have a narrative about “conservative” Christianity in their heads -- that all churches care about is gay marriage and abortion -- and they’re not sure what to do when they encounter an authentic statement of faith that defies this narrative.

I don’t expect that coverage of Christianity in general -- and Catholicism specifically -- will improve in the near future. Religion is hard, and journalists have to pump out stories with click-ready headlines as fast as their underpaid fingers can manage. Even if fitting facts into simplified narratives is frustrating to me as a consumer of news, I understand it. And since he’s such a swell guy, I’m sure Pope Francis forgives journalists for it.

But as fellow consumers of news, it’s your responsibility to dig deeper, and question the narratives. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re not.

In other words: Do journalists get caught up in artificial narratives? Is the Pope Catholic? Contrary to what you might have heard recently, the answer to both is yes.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fragments: 2012 - 2013

I don’t post on this blog a lot. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I love writing, and do it often. I just don’t finish what I write. My Google Drive is chock full of large, complicated pieces that I’ve had ideas for, began writing, and then abandoned. Which is a shame, because some of them are fairly promising. Theoretically, I’d like to finish most of these pieces. But, it seems wasteful to just let the words go stale in my digital pantry. So, I’m releasing them. At least, some of them.

What follows are fragments. Bits and pieces of unfinished writing, exploring a whole lot of topics. If anyone is interested in me completing any particular piece, feel free to let me know. Otherwise, I’ll just get to them whenever I get to them. Or, maybe just keep them in the pantry, while I spend my time looking at pictures of cute animals on the Internet.

Part of an in-depth series on the built environment: 
In this great land, there are lots of things we like to question and critique. We are, after all, Americans. If our fries don’t deliver the combination of deep-fried crunch and lightly salted flavor we crave, we shame the local greasy spoon with a one-star rating on Yelp. If a Pakistani has the gall to answer our tech-support questions, we vent our anger on talk radio. But one thing -- an absolutely inescapable and essential part of life -- seems to avoid this treatment on a regular basis. We largely take it for granted, despite the fact that it defines most aspects of our existence.

I’m talking about the built environment. The spaces we live in, work in, and travel through. The physical reality behind almost every experience in our lives. The elevated highways, parking lots, lawns, drive-throughs, elevators, and living rooms that contain us every hour of every day.

The whole kaboodle.

Criticism of “suburbia,” the most dominant form of built environment in America, isn’t new. Academics have generated volumes of detailed criticism of every element of suburban life since the post-war age began. Even a few suburbanites occasionally voice misgivings about their own way of life.

In some ways, I’ll be continuing this grand tradition of sophisticated suburban criticism*. My thinking on this subject has been shaped by a number of other writers, and I won’t pretend like my ideas emerged from a vacuum. But I think the issues go much deeper than a simple dichotomy between the city and the suburb. Given that the population of almost every metropolitan area in America is overwhelmingly suburban, scoffing at single family homes and wondering why everyone doesn’t want to live in Manhattan is unproductive and silly.

What I’m really attempting to do is to convey two simple ideas: the built environment matters, and it isn’t static. Most of the spaces we inhabit are very new, and the way Americans live and work have been radically transformed in a relatively short period of time. Things can, and will, change again. And because the built environment is such a key part of our lives, the way we organize human existence in the physical realm has moral and spiritual components. This isn’t a subject that should be pushed the periphery. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the question of where we choose to live has massive implications for how we live.

Part of a related essay on the effect the pattern of suburban development has had on our conception of the church:
 For individual congregants, there are certainly benefits to choice and competition. Separating church from any physical community allows modern Christians to select congregations that fit their preferences for worship, theology, preaching, and fellowship. The problem is that this choice inherently subverts our conception of what church is. Choosing a church the way you might choose a grocery store or a dry-cleaner leads to a consumer mentality among churchgoers. Rather than being a people who belong to the church, we are people who go to a church. Young pastors talk in the capitalist language of growth, and even congregations with similar theological persuasions often have no meaningful communion with one another. What was established as a unified body has become something more like the competition between Burger King and McDonalds.

There are no easy answers to the challenges the church will continue to face in the age of urban sprawl. But perhaps the best lesson to learn is that place matters. The physical organization of life in America has been almost entirely transformed in the last century. Changes like this come at a price. But the story is far from over. Unlike many other countries, America is still growing. The form of our cities and towns will likely change, in one direction or another. During the transformation of American in the 20th century, the church was a largely absent player in the conversation. (Although, to be fair, the conversation itself was often absent, outside of left-wing intellectual circles). Recognizing that the form our cities take have implications for our spiritual lives is a good first step to avoiding these mistakes.

Part of an essay on how modern conservatism doesn’t seem that interested in conserving anything in particular: 
Conservatives have long held that many things that are theoretically legal are nonetheless bad, and should be discouraged, and vice-versa  -- albeit not necessarily at the level of government. For example, it isn’t a legal requirement for parents to spend quality time with their children, and pass on their values, but it's a good thing. But in the brave new world of modern conservatism, bad choices are celebrated, and common sense is derided as elitism. Are big boxes stores transforming small towns into homogenous wastelands, and erasing centuries of tradition and history? It’s legal, so it must be awesome!

The problem is that if conservatives wish to shrink government, they must be far more vigilant when it comes to their choices. Federal regulation can be a pain, but most are borne out of neccesity. The EPA didn’t come into existence because some “environmental wackos” wanted to control our lives -- it was created because America was so polluted that a freakin’ river was on fire.

Thoughts on the smartphone wars: 
When Android first came out, it was a laggy, incoherent mess compared to iOS’s sparkly polish. Today, Android is a much smoother experience. Bugs remain, but it’s clear that things are progressing at an exponential clip. In the long run, it’s a pretty safe bet that Android will end up more than a match for iOS’s speed and polish.

That doesn’t mean the iPhone will somehow die out, as rabid fandroids would hope. Apple makes excellent products, and millions will continue to buy them. In the end, both sides bring a lot to the table, and push each other to excellence. The iPhone was an incredibly well-designed product from day one, and it’s perfection continues to inspire other phone makers to reach a higher level of polish. Meanwhile, the sheer diversity of the rapidly innovating Android ecosystem is a huge playground for new features and form factors, giving people choices that open up new possibilities.

And ultimately, these are just phones. They are tools for communication, and not holy relics to be worshipped. If you think the kind of phone you have makes you a better person, get over yourself.

Part of a critique of the “food movement”: 
Ethical considerations should, of course, come into play in practical decisions. In the case of industrial farming, the most common complaints surround the manner in which meat-producing animals are grown. I, like most good white people, have watched Food Inc., and seen all the the terrors of coops practically bursting with obese hens. These are then contrasted with the proud, free-range chickens, which strut their stuff through glorious meadows. They are, we are meant to believe, happy chickens.

But, to be honest, those free-range chickens don’t really seem any happier than other chickens. They just seem like... chickens. Chickens who will be killed once they become delicious enough.

(Sidenote: chickens are mean, and I don’t really like them on a personal level. So, I guess that’s probably why I wrote this whole thing. Just a personal chicken vendetta).

The big problem with the fight between locavores and big ag is the either/or assumptions. Big farms aren’t very nice to animals, and grow too much corn, therefore, everyone should buy kale from some bearded guy who lives 30 miles away. What if, for example, big farms still raised lots of chickens in big barns, but gave them a little more space? Or if we subsidized corn less, and encouraged more diverse, healthy crops, taking into account their effects on long-term soil quality? What if instead of getting rid of big farms, food activists focused on making big farms better? Like it or not, little farms aren’t that efficient, and most people dont want to be farmers. Big farms will continue to produce most of our food. Making the perfect the enemy of the good isn’t a recipe for positive changes in agriculture.

Part of a complicated foreign policy piece: 
More than any other president in recent history, Obama seems to lack any sort of clearly articulated vision for America’s role in the world. On the balance, this is probably a good thing. I’d much rather have a lack of vision than a destructive one. But unfortunately, Obama seems to be bent on continuing the worst of the Bush years (rampantly overrunning the sovereignty of other nations to fight an objective-less war against shadowy terrorist organizations), without any sort of comprehensive rationale behind it.

All of this brings us to a single question. It’s a question that our leaders don’t seem interested in answering. But it deserves to be considered.

(It’s also kind of a long question. Deal.)

What is America’s obligation to the citizens of other states, specifically regarding violations of what we believe to be human rights and the resolution of violent conflict? Here’s the crux of the issue: the world is a big, messy place. America is one medium-sized (but powerful) slice of it. Bad things are happening all over the place, all the time. There are tyrants, and terrorists, and warlords. Our response to these issues has been all over the map. We’ve tried to establish democracies, while simultaneously partnering with dictators. We’ve allied ourselves with terrorists when it suited our interests, and then declared war on them later. We’ve insisted on staying out of foreign conflicts, but then mourned when we failed to prevent genocide. We support international justice for war criminals, unless they happen to be American. We’re damned when we do, and damned when we don’t.

Part of a bulleted list of things I like about living in Lincoln, Nebraska: 
- It’s cheap. This is actually kind of a big deal. If you’re a poor kid who is in college, or just got out of college, you can afford your own place. Elsewhere in the United States, living in your mom’s basement is basically your only option until you start making a six-figure income. That would suck.

- It’s safe. Even if you live in a sub-$400 apartment in a sketchy neighborhood, you will likely not be murdered. I’ve never been crime-ed in any way. Crime-ed is totally a word.

- The people are pretty okay. Generally, I reject the whole “people are friendly” description people tack onto cities they like, as there are friendly people and jerks everywhere. But, there are good people here, and I know some of them.

- It isn’t too big for its britches. Neighboring Omaha exists under the delusion that it is the Next Big Thing in the midwest. Unfortunately, every other similarly-sized city in America believes it also the Next Big Thing. Eventually, they will probably battle to the death, before realizing that they are still medium-sized cities whose importance will always be regional, rather than national. Lincoln, as a whole, seems to be more content to be Lincoln. Anyway. Moving on.

- It’s kind of cool. No, really. Local coffee shops are abundant, the music scene is diverse, and if getting drunk on the cheap is your thing, Lincoln is your place. The fact that Lincoln is a college town keeps it from being too conservative, and the fact that Lincoln is in Nebraska keeps it from being too liberal. It’s the perfect balance between redneck and pretentious.

So, there you have it. Many written things. All of them unfinished. Perhaps someday, I’ll develop the attention span to finish stuff.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How To Understand Every Internet Discussion About Health Or Food


“I did some research on (common activity and/or food) and found (some shocking discovery about how this thing is secretly killing everyone)! People need to educate themselves!”


I did a Google search, clicked on the top results, and did not weigh the information I found against opposing viewpoints, or research the credentials of the information sources. I am now an expert on this topic!