Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t get days off, but don’t expect some long and poignant post today. Well, maybe you shouldn’t expect that most days. Today is Thanksgiving, a day that people set aside in hopes that it makes them feel grateful for everything that they have for at least one day a year. It’s a day that politics should be left out of. I’m sure Halloween has pretty gruesome history behind it, still going to celebrate that. It’s not about the past; it’s about where we move forward.

I’m thankful for every day. I’m thankful for my beautiful boys. I’m thankful for their successes and their struggles, because both make me a better mother and human. I’m thankful for my supportive family, who’s always there when I need them the most. I’m thankful for my husband, who always lifts me up when it feels like everyone else wants to take me down. I’m thankful that I have a house, food, and loved ones. I have a lot to be thankful of, which I’m very thankful for every day. We don’t need a single day to be grateful. We should be grateful every day.

If you are lucky enough to spend the day with family, remember how lucky you are. If you are working today, putting your life on the line to ensure the safety of others, thank you for your service. We are thinking of you, grateful for your selflessness. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be with family, be with the family you choose. Blood doesn’t mean family. Love does.

Happy Thanksgiving and remember the lessons of today every day of your life. Even in darkness, there is something to be grateful for.

Social Media Help For Esports

Some teams have an awesome team behind their social media accounts. As a Boston Uprising fan, I feel as though they have done an amazing job. The Overwatch/Overwatch League teams (and Blizzard team in general) also have a knack for getting information out and actively engaging with their fans. This is just one of many things that I personally love about Blizzard. The problem is that PR on the social media front tends to be a problem for these teams/stars, especially in the Overwatch League and apparently now their Contenders teams.

You may have heard that there’s a new team in town: the Toronto Defiant. I cried a little on the inside when they had Neko in their video releasing info on 2 of their new players. The reveal was well-produced and the hype around it was perfect. This was social media used in an effective manner to achieve awesome results for the team. Even though this worst kept secret was something some Boston fans were hoping was fake. (Which quickly disappeared when Neko referred to HuK as a lying bastard on the internet, but still some of us clung onto hope that Neko would be our fearless Zen/Ana once again.) The Neko incident of calling HuK out on and it going viral on social media is just one of many ways that the PR team has failed players on the social media front. I could go into real life examples of how social media can give people a negative impression on you without the polish of an experienced professional, but I really don’t like to talk politics on Gaming Day.

Way back when DreamKazper did that terrible thing, I pointed out that this was just one of a few examples back then that you have these kids who are impulsive and inexperienced socially (in most cases) who need help navigating the finer points of engaging fans and social media strategies. As an Uprising fan, I can point to NotE and Gamsu as evidence that when a player uses social media properly can grow a massive following without any drama. Gamsu posts images of the beautiful views when he hikes or hilarious images of him missing his flights. Then there is NotE who goes the puppy route and keeps up this wholesome and goofy image that he has. These are players that have either been coached properly on social media PR or ones who just are personable and relatable people with a talent for social media.

Then you have teams like, I don’t know, the Toronto eSports Club who went full nerd-rage on Twitter. “We were told we couldn’t have our name so we quit Overwatch”. They sounded like petulant children. Does it suck that they had to change their name because of the Toronto Defiant? Absolutely. I don’t think it was right that they had to change their name. Throwing a childish fit on Twitter? Probably not the best way to go about it especially if you want sympathy over the situation. Plus, I mean just flat out quitting the game and bashing how awful it is? That brought up a lot of concerns for Uprising fans (and potentially even their players/staff) of what this meant for them since this seemed like a rash overreaction one the part of their academy team. When HuK comes off as a reasonable party in a situation, then you know you’re wrong. This is another case where someone who shouldn’t have a Twitter account while representing other people makes everyone look bad. (Applies to politics today as well.) In case you’re wondering Toronto eSports doesn’t actually own the academy team, the Uprising do. So, this really means nothing.

These teams and players need better social media coaching. Fissure has an awful reputation due to his social media presence. xQc has a reputation due to his online persona where you either love him or hate him. Social media today can make or break your brand if you let it. In a lot of these cases, they are letting it break them. I’m no expert on social media, but I have done enough where I don’t utterly squash the brand I’m trying to build up. If you don’t have the funds or means to get social media professionals to manage the more difficult people, maybe it’s a good idea to at least train them better in these areas. In most cases, the Overwatch League players are freshly 18 with their own income, living on their own, coming into a massive fan base. It can be easy to get caught up in the fame, not realizing the consequences of your actions in the grand scheme of things.

When Talking to Your Child About Death

The first time I had to discuss a death with my son, it was my aunt who had passed away. He was still young enough where he didn’t exactly comprehend it and it didn’t ultimately have an impact on him. (I want to say he was 3ish at the time?) The second time I had to discuss a death with him, it was my paternal grandfather. This time he was in Kindergarten. Still, he was too young to really understand. I asked him if he wanted to go to school, if he wanted his birth father’s family to take care of him (it was just before his Christmas break started) while I attended the funeral. I missed the wake to take care of my son. I couldn’t miss the funeral.

My son, who even still is a lot older mentally than he should be, decided he wanted to come with because it was the right thing to do. I reluctantly agreed that he could go, thinking that he was too young to be at a place like this. But I figured if he was mature enough to ask and understand what was happening, that he was able to attend. He wanted to come up to the body with me. I held his hand and we prayed together while kneeling in front of my grandfather. We attended the Catholic mass afterwards, where people were crying and remembering my grandfather. I stayed stoic, as I tend to do. Probably why I have the reputation for being “cold”. I stayed stoic until out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my son was trying to be like everyone else. He asked for a tissue, and started dabbing his dry eyes because everyone else was crying. He started forcing sniffling noises while doing it. I didn’t want to laugh during a somber mass, but I chuckled. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he knew the motions that he needed to go through and he just wanted to make sure he was doing it right.

It was a long time later when I had to tell my now older son about a death in the family. This time, it was his biological paternal grandfather, a man he maybe met twice? I remember failing at this opportunity, making a joke because that’s who I am. “Dylan, you know what sucks more than your computer dying?” Yeah, you can finish the joke. I said it. I should be ashamed of myself, I know. But you have to be me and my son to understand. He didn’t react. He didn’t even really know the guy. He was confused as to whether he should go to pay his respects, be alone among a room of people who he didn’t even really know. Ultimately, he decided that it was better for him not to go. He was 15; that was entirely his choice.

My youngest son’s school was doing a project about Veteran’s Day. We decided that it would be cute to write about my maternal grandfather, who served in the Navy and passed away when my oldest son was about 2 or 3 months old. We named our youngest after my grandfather, so we thought it would be cute for our son to learn about him. It was cute until he asked why he didn’t meet my “Grampa”. I calmly explained to him that my grandfather passed away a long time ago. “He’s dead?” I nodded. “Did he die in the war?” I explained that he died of cancer and that cancer sucks. “What happens when you die?”

I stopped. What was my approach here? What do I say to him? Do I say what I believe? That he’s just dead and there’s a body in the ground and that’s really it? I couldn’t do that. I found myself saying the words I’ve learned through all my years of Catechism. “Well, he’s in Heaven watching over us to make sure that we’re okay. He’s protecting us.” My son went on. “What’s Heaven?” I found myself getting wrapped up in a lie that I didn’t believe, as parents often do in so many situations. “Well, it’s where good people go. And your great grandfather was a very good man.” He nodded, asked a few more questions, and that was the end of the conversation. Until he kept bringing it up. “How can he protect us if he’s up in Heaven?”

I wanted to say to  him “Mommy doesn’t believe in God or Heaven or angels, I just lied to you because the truth sucks”. There was no right answer here. I had to keep going with this lie to protect him. Just because I didn’t believe, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to believe if he wants to. It’s a loaded topic dealing with death, especially when discussing it with your kids. I worry about the day when I have to tell them that someone they were close to died because I’m the last person I’d want to tell me if someone passed away. The last. I’ve done it before. I’m not very good at it. I blurt it out without softening the blow. I answer questions honestly. I’m brutal and cold. I admit my faults. I have no idea how I would tell my child that someone they loved died. I could barely make it through a conversation about telling them how someone they didn’t even know died. Did my child need to know that my grandfather died of cancer? Was that too much to put on him? Did I screw up my oldest by telling  him the news through a joke?

I’m a mom trying to figure out this hard stuff just like everyone else. My way probably sucks and I don’t know how to fix it but it surprisingly has worked up until this point. I’m numb to the death thing and admittedly that has hardened me. My first thought it never “oh that sucks”, it’s always “okay, what needs to be done next.” I hope that I figure this out because as you can see, my gut instincts are not great here.

The Ugly Side of Freelancing

There are so many positives to freelancing from sites like Upwork (full disclosure, this is where I freelance from). You can earn some money on the side to earn an income. If you’re really lucky, like I have been a few times, you can find clients that will pay you as much as a part-time job. The plus side is that you don’t have to worry about daycare. They market to this group of people. The ones that need extra money to help make ends meet. Some sites, including soon Upwork, charge for the services of finding a job. Though I may consider ending this relationship, should they also take a cut of my earnings in addition to helping me find work. Because that’s double dipping and I’m not sure that I’m okay with this.

The main reason why this is a problem is because you’re essentially paying someone to not do anything but process payments. You’re paying someone for work, only so that the clients can not pay you without any repercussions. There are no payment protections for freelancers, unless you get the coveted hourly paying job. In those cases, you can sometimes get protections so long as you are logging the hours and not putting them in manually. These are sites that are meant to benefit the organization that connects the freelancers and their clients. These are meant to benefit the clients. They are the ones who get to literally pay pennies for work, while expecting $15 an hour worth of work. You can’t have it both ways. Or you can, because who’s going to stop you? This is a system that isn’t a level playing field where both parties gain a benefit.

For instance, I have a client that pays about $2 per 500 words. It’s ghostwriting so not only do I get paid only $2 per 500 words, I also don’t get credit for the work to build up a portfolio to show my experience. I get emails sometimes at 7 or 8 at night, expecting the work to be done that day. Sometimes I have to write 4000 words in only a few hours because that’s when I have to go to bed. Or I don’t get full instructions or any instruction then I have to rewrite something that if they had offered instructions, I would have given them exactly what they wanted. Best part of this gig? Sometimes I go 3 or 4 months without getting paid. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Because there are more clients like that than not.

That isn’t to say my entire experience on this site is terrible. I have found some amazing clients on this site, one of whom I still work with and is easily one of the best clients ever. Another one paid very well and was also very generous, but they didn’t need freelancers anymore. But the bad experiences make me hesitant to find more clients, despite the fact that it would be extremely helpful if I could find something great again. The main point is that there aren’t enough protections for freelancers when they do get stuck in terrible contracts. If they just leave, they get a bad review that hurts their rankings. Considering I’m a Top Tier freelancer, that would hurt my amazing rating on the site. But that doesn’t help the fact that sometimes clients just don’t feel like paying so they don’t. Which is insane when you think about it. Because you know that some clients are getting paid $15-$20 an article, paying you only $1-$2 per article, while they earn the “big money”. It’s essentially a pyramid scam that you think will work out for you.

With the high amount of the workforce that is currently freelancing, you would think that something would change. But there is no regulation, likely because it would be a logistical nightmare to try. Instead, I get to make myself feel better about the ugly side of this industry that could have so much promise for people like me who need to be at home with their kids. Those who may not have any marketable skills outside of the arts, also like me. Freelancing sites need to do better about protecting their freelancers and making sure that they get the money that they earned, without feeling defeated.

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Watching Things Grow

I’m a creator. I like putting my time and effort into things and watching them grow or taking the shape of something that I envisioned. I like to sculpt and the challenge of working towards a design in my mind. I like to draw, watching these images in my head get translated in a mediocre way on paper. I like to write and watch that writing turn into a complete work. I especially like it when my hard work gets noticed, even accomplish a specific deadline or goal with it. I particularly love the reactions I receive. Maybe this is why I enjoy parenting.

It’s always great to see what your hard work and determination can accomplish. I love the thrill of seeing your hard work pay off, especially when you get the exact outcome that you were hoping for. That’s one of the best things about being an artist. You agonize over every detail, just hoping that you will get a product that you will be proud of even if you had to make a few pivots along the way. That’s the great thing about art though. You take it where it leads you, throwing away whatever plan you may have had.

I can’t wait to share some upcoming good news with you guys on new projects and the like. But for now, I can hold my head up high knowing that maybe I am on the right path after all.

Overwatch League Season 2: Stage 2, Week 2

Was that a Boston choke or an outright failure? Should the Outlaws have stayed DPS or did they make the right call in swapping to GOATs? Who was the victor of the Battle for LA? The holiday today made today’s blog late, but better late than never. Maybe.

The most exciting news of the week had to be the fact that Valiant finally got their first win. It was exciting to see Custa free from the bench and for the first time all season, the team looked good together. That was, until they didn’t when it was time for the Battle for LA. That’s always an exciting match and unfortunately this time it wasn’t as exciting as normal. The Gladiators won, but the Valiant still looks a lot more confident than they did last stage. They can only go up from here though. There was some spice leading up to the game and afterwards, but that was all in good fun. Maybe. Or the Overwatch League finally got the heated rivalry that they were looking for without having to force the NY vs. Boston agenda.

Speaking of Boston, this week they only had 1 game. A game that they should have easily won. Only, they didn’t. Fortunately, us fans didn’t have to have a heart attack waiting for a reverse sweep. Unfortunately, we still went to a Map 5 where we didn’t do well at all. What happened? First of all, they just didn’t look like the same strong team that they had when the stage began. They didn’t flex too much. They didn’t change things when things were obviously not working for them. And it didn’t work for them. It was a bit rough to watch, but at least rCk was solid. Though, Dallas had NotE flexing a lot more than Boston normally would have and wouldn’t you know: NotE isn’t a D.Va one trick. I miss him even more now.

Lastly, there was the Outlaws vs. Monte vs. Everyone else in a disagreement about whether or not Outlaws should have stuck to the DPS or if going GOATS was what caused them the game. My take? If they had out-GOATed the Titans and won, this would have been an entirely different conversation. It’s always easy to say what a team should have done, but there are so many factors that play into it that you can never really know.

Next week, I hope Boston gets their stuff back together. They have some tough opponents this week in the Spitfire and the Titans, so they don’t really have the time to act like fools this week. Maybe they can do what they did last year and topple the Titans as they did NYXL later on in the stage. I would love to be their first loss, though I’m willing to bet that Boston just doesn’t do anything different and expect a good outcome. Which won’t work for them this week.

Sorry, But I’m Not Really Sorry

Whenever someone stops by and sees my house, looking like a bomb went off in it, I instantly apologize. Instead of saying “yeah, it’s called my children/husband/dogs, and honestly I was too tired to deal with it”, I apologize and just say that I wasn’t feeling well. Sure, it’s a half truth. The real truth: I’m not sorry. I’m not really even embarrassed. I honestly, don’t really care. Some days, you are going to come into my house that looks professionally cleaned. But most days, you’re going to find a disaster. And honestly, if you have a problem with it then that’s more on you than me. If that dictates how you view me as a friend or a mom, than I’d rather you not come over anyways.

It’s the normal thing to do right? To apologize for a mess? To apologize for anything? I know people can tell I’m not really sorry when I’m really not, but I say it anyways. Because honestly, I don’t think that they care if I mean it. I think they just want me to say the words. I’ll concede that. It’s what we’re trained to do. But I’m not sorry. I really don’t even care.

Mom’s have a lot to do. Stay at home moms, moms who stay home and work from home, moms who go out to work. It doesn’t matter. We all deal with the same struggles of having a list longer than there are hours in the day. We’re on the clock 24/7. I get up at 5:30am, and sometimes don’t get to sleep until 1 or 2 am. That’s not counting the 10000 times that I wake up in the middle of the night for anxiety/kids/dogs/general body not cooperating things. I have my to-do list. I’m not special or a supermom. I’m just a barely average mom. Maybe even a mediocre one.

Stop apologizing for not meeting other people’s standards. You’ll feel much better about yourself if you don’t. Own your mess. You are your own person and if they have a problem with that, they know where the door is. It’s that thing hidden behind the mass amount of recycling that has amassed in your dining room that they barely made it through when they entered in the house.

More Props to the Teachers

When I was growing up, I could tell you all of the teachers that had a massive impact on my life. These are teachers that have my complete gratitude and admiration for everything that they did to help me succeed, even when I didn’t particularly care if I did or not. I remember them. I even hear their words in my head today, decades later, as an adult when I start doubting myself. They may not have known the massive impact that they had (have) on my life, but I know. A good teacher is someone that students will remember for a long time.

With all of my youngest child’s issues, I worried so much about him. I worried that teachers would see an IEP/504 and judge him before they get the chance to meet him. There’s a lot of clinical terms and concepts that they use to describe my sweet boy, but not a lot of them discuss the things that I think truly matter. Where they see “fidgety, inability to focus”, I see a child who’s focused on the things that matter to him. When they see “can’t control his actions”, I see a child who just gets so caught up in everything. I was always worried that things like his speech (now his writing issues) would mask how smart he was. That the teachers would dismiss him based on these perceived educational flaws and not focus on the bright and curious child that he is. Is he a handful sometimes? Oh, absolutely yes. But that kid is sharp and determined.

His first teacher was the one who actually helped write his IEP back in his first year of Preschool. She didn’t judge him. She figured out a way to teach to him. She remarked on how smart he was and encouraged other ways to work with him. His second teacher under the IEP, was the exact same. They were both sad to see him move on because he was a “smart and lovable little boy”. They got it. In Kindergarten, he still had some struggles with his anxiety issues but he seemed to be thriving. He was bullied, but the teachers seemed to take care of it anytime that I mentioned an issue. They were good to him.

This year was his biggest challenge yet, but I was fortunate to get a teacher that didn’t judge him on any shortcomings. She adjusted. She didn’t email me to tell me what to do or to berate me because she couldn’t control my child. She asked about what she could do to help him. We brainstormed ideas on how to approach him at school. She never once told me to change my style of parenting or what we did at home. She helped him get the help that he needed even before there was a 504 in place. And boy did she fight to make sure he got the help that he needed. Because, she took the time to get to know my son. She believed that this issue would prevent him from expressing what he knows, and that he was way too bright to be held back by this. She wanted to help.

Teachers want to help their students succeed. There may be some bad apples, but overall I have yet to meet a teacher that wasn’t willing to help my son out. They work tirelessly for our children and I think that they deserve the world for the things that they do for our children. I thank every teacher that has impacted my life and I know that anyone else who had that 1 teacher does too. Amazing teachers have an impact, not just for that year, but for the rest of their student’s life.

Overwatch League, Season 2: Stage 2, Week 1

Overwatch League was back last week, finally filling that void that was created during the break. While I was excited to get back to watching one of my favorite competitions, I was anxious as a Boston fan since the loss of NotE right before the stage was set to begin. I wasn’t over it before the Boston Uprising had their first match against the reign. And I’m not going to lie, I’m still not over it. But I’m okay with it. Because holy crap did something happen to the Uprising during this first week back. Here is a brief recap of this week in the Overwatch League and a discussion of the Uprising.

The games weren’t really too exciting outside of the Uprising matches, not just because that’s my favorite team but because there were no shocking wins. Of course NYXL was going to slaughter the Fusion, especially after their loss in to them in the Grand Finals playoffs. NYXL reasserted their dominance and effectively put Philadelphia in their place with a 4-0 win. The only thing remotely shocking was the fact that they tied a map with Shanghai. Some people may also be shocked that Fissure finally lost to a team that traded him away, but that was a close enough match where it was just going to go either way.

One awesome thing to note is the way that Paris broke through the bunker comp (basically, a comp with Bastion being protected with Baptiste/Orisa combo) on Hanamura. People finally got to see some big brain Symmetra play as they carefully ported around the line of site of Bastion, essentially rendering him useless. Then they set up turrets on the first point, blocking entry from the defense, and easily rolling that point. Then they ported to the flank side during the Hunters respawn to capitalize on the momentum. The Hunters were on the high ground and by the time they realized what was going on, they were destroyed. It was amazing to watch that and the fact that they fell for the same exact play the second go around.

Then there was the Uprising match. I didn’t go into high hopes. The only way that this new lineup was going to work is if they finally started to be a little flexible. Use the fact that rCk can flex to Sombra. Maybe even get our stellar dps to actually play dps. I didn’t want to just see GOATS for the sake of seeing GOATS because the Uprising can’t be flexible. But then, a freaking miracle happened… they were flexible! Colourhex was able to pop off as Widow, which made me so happy to not see him as Zarya. (I really…. really hate his Zarya play.) But then, even his Zarya wasn’t as terrible as normal. And blasé? I still stand by his play deserved the Player of the Match or at least the Uprising MVP of the day. Was there a character that he wasn’t stellar on? Then rCk, a player that I really didn’t want to like. He may not have been as great of a D.Va as NotE, but he made some solid D.Va plays including the one(s) that gave us the win on Watchpoint Gibraltar and put us in the tiebreaker match against the Atlanta Reign. The Uprising went on to reverse sweep in their 1st match of the stage, finally bringing joy back to a fan base that was lost without our fan favorite. No surprise, the newcomer got the Player of the Match. Patriot fans were also amused at how again they came back against an Atlanta team.

The second match was against the Toronto Defiant, a team that I really wanted to beat after what happened last time they faced off with Neko’s “tactical crouching”. Again, Boston looked shaky, but once again after the half, they came back looking like an entirely different team. Once again they pulled off the reverse sweep, making them the first team to win 3 reverse sweeps in a row. Boston is all about breaking records, if nothing else. I’d prefer not going through the heart attack every match though. HuK may have proved that he has Belichik’s eye for talent, and us fans were wrong.

The casters admitted defeat. They learned a lesson that they should have learned last year when the team that they predicted would finish in 12th actually finished in 3rd: Don’t count Boston out. They will surprise you. They feed off of the underdog energy. Plus, us Boston fans can tell you something else about our teams: they have always been second half teams. I just hope next week we can win without the anxiety of a reverse sweep.

Overwatch League: What was Boston Uprising Thinking?

I know. Today would be a post about parenting or current events and not gaming. However, on Tuesday a bombshell was dropped on the #RiseUp Nation that made (from what I could tell) most of us not want to #RiseUp. I scoured social media, procrastinating from work. (Isn’t that what it’s there for?) Then, I saw it. NotE, our beloved D.Va player and a “Goodbye” post from HuK. I immediately checked the calendar. It surely was still April Fool’s Day. Nope. It wasn’t. But wait, maybe the post was posted on April Fool’s Day and I just saw it. Nope. It was real. My heart dropped.

I immediately texted my husband. “Noooooo”, followed by every crying emoji I could find along with the link to the Tweet. No response. About an hour later, he called to let me know that he was coming home from work. The first thing that I said was “AMG, did you see my texts?!” No, he was busy in meetings. “Good thing you are driving, because you’re going to want to be sitting down for this….” Needless to say, he was just as upset as I was about the whole thing and we ended up eating our sadness in some General Tso’s chicken (spicy) and fried rice.

A while back, there were rumors of a trade that would upset the Boston Uprising fan base and shake them to the core. The rumor was a Fusions trade to Valiant. That wasn’t going to be earth-shattering. (A Rein joke, in case you’re wondering.) This must have been that trade because not only are Uprising fans shaken up, they are questioning their loyalty to the team. I get that. I’m a hometown fan, supporting my local teams through whatever. But you’re rooting for people, players that you have grown to be excited to see play. And Boston just keeps getting rid of them. Who are we supposed to be loyal to if you trade the players away like nothing? The only remaining player from the original roster is Kellex. Are we to expect our players getting traded every season? Why would we buy a player jersey if you’re just going to get rid of them? What’s the plan here?

Did we pick up a good player? Yes. Did we pick up a good D.Va player to replace NotE? There’s no way that rCk is better than NotE as D.Va, though I hope I can eat those words later. He’s a flex DPS, not a flex Tank. NotE, when you saw quick flashes of him on other characters, was good. We, as fans, have no way of telling if he was a flexible player because Boston seems to not ever let their players flex. Dallas fans think that they got robbed; Boston fans think that they got robbed. Are there any winners here?

Let’s put it in terms that football fans can understand, appropriate since this is one of the few pro sports I actually enjoy and Uprising is own by Robert Kraft. Take Edelman. He’s a great player. He’s got heart. In fact, you could argue he’s really the heart and morale of the team as far as fans are concerned. But he’s not the best player on paper. Now, imagine if they traded him off for an Odell Beckham. A better player on paper, but will he offer the same heart and morale that Edelman did? That’s what happened here.

I hope they have a plan because myself and other fans don’t see it yet. Much like I still don’t see Colourhex on Zarya over Axxiom. I do wish that NotE kills it out there and shows Boston what they are missing by losing him. The match today will certainly be interesting…