Archive for 'life intervenes'



What Stace had to say on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Updates, upgrades, and bad things

I’ve been neglecting you, and I’m sorry. I really am. Things have not been great here and I’ve fallen into some lazy habits and been working on a number of other things, and blogging (all social media, really) has fallen by the wayside. I feel awful about neglecting you all like that. But this will be a looong post, and I have something planned for the next week or two here that should be really, really fun, so…

First. Downside 6. You’ve been asking and I’ve been somewhat evasive. There’s been some behind-the-scenes stuff going on with it that I wasn’t/am not really at liberty to discuss. What I can say, with absolute certainty, is that there WILL be a number 6, that I am indeed working on it, that I’m quite excited about it and think it’s going to be great, and that as soon as I have some bits to put up here for you all I will. Look for them in the next month or two (the excerpts, I mean). I have #7 in the late planning stages, too.

I am also hard at work on the second Terrible novella (which will cover the events of UM and CoG), and a new short which will round out the collection of shorts that I’m hoping to get put together by the end of June. (To that end, btw, I have a question: has anyone had any experience with Jutoh? It’s an ebook formatting program. I’d like to try it, but $40 is rather a lot to spend for me, especially on something I’m not sure will work.) My plan–as I think I’ve stated before–is to take the already-published shorts to which I now have rights (that would be RICK THE BRAVE and HOME) then add KEEPING IT CLOSE and another new one.

Then there’s the New Stuff: a stand-alone contemp paranormal romance; a new UF series; and a new UF-type series which I’m going to do in serial form, which I’m really excited about and think will be a ton of fun. Oh, and a different thing I’ve had going for a while, which I am almost done editing.

All of this is being done on the Toshiba Satellite I bought back at the end of March, after being essentially computer-less for over a month. Astute readers may notice that I am now using a Windows machine rather than a Mac. Here’s why (and settle in, because this is long):

On the 15th of February, I–like a dumbass–knocked my Macbook off the kitchen table. Well, technically I didn’t knock it off, I just rested it precariously on something else that was on the table, and it fell to the floor. The hard, linoleum-covered-cement floor. Sigh. Aside from the cracked case and loose screen bezel, I ended up with what’s known as “the gray screen of death,” which basically means “your computer is fucked.”

So we made an appointment at the nearest Apple store, which is about an hour and a half away. They couldn’t fix it because they no longer fix 2007 machines, which is what mine was/is. They didn’t even open it up or anything. The Genius suggested a new hard drive, but gave us nothing in writing to say what kind, and I couldn’t call Apple customer service without paying for the call, which was quite frustrating. I asked about that online and got an email from someone in Apple’s Executive Relations; I’ll call her Lydia. Lydia was happy–sort of–to find out what kind of hard drive I’d need and where I could get one, but Lydia was not remotely interested in anything else, like the casing or screen or any other internal parts, or in telling me what to do should the new hard drive not fix the problem. Lydia also confirmed for me several times that the computer–which she could see on my account–was too old for Apple to fix, and that it was “not possible” for them to do that. Well, okay. I did suspect its age might be a problem, after all. She said she’d research the hard drive thing and get back to me; I said fine.

That’s where it all goes to hell.

We have home contents insurance. Very good home contents insurance, it turns out. The Hubs called them and discovered that, thanks to the awesomeness of them and their policy, they would replace the Macbook with a brand new one if it can’t be repaired to like-new condition. Not like-before-the-accident-my-dumbassery-caused; like brand-new. It doesn’t matter that I accidentally broke it; it’s a no-fault policy. Keep in mind, this is the reason people buy insurance: so that when they fuck up like morons and accidentally destroy valuable items, or a blameless accident happens and a valuable item is destroyed, said item can be replaced without financial hardship. That is the purpose of insurance. That is its entire reason for existence. It is why we all have it, right?

So I, giddy as a wee child at Christmas, contacted Lydia and told her that my insurance would replace the Macbook. She interrupted me and said, in the sort of tone she might use if I’d just informed her that I was mailing her a sack of roaches as a present, “YOUR insurance?”

Well, yeah, I said, and quickly explained the whole no-fault-like-new thing and how all I’d need from her was confirmation that the Macbook in question belonged to me, and–

She interrupted me (again; she interrupted me a lot, from the very beginning) to tell me she was not going to do that. When I asked why, she told me it was because of the Data Protection Act. I’m no expert on the Act, but I’m pretty sure that me personally requesting information Apple has on my account is in fact a request that the Data Protection Act legally requires Apple to fulfill. And even if it is not, I was giving my express permission for Apple to share this data with me–for me to pass to my insurer–to confirm my ownership. I honestly can see no reason why Apple couldn’t do this, as it gives away zero confidential information about Apple as a company, and certainly it does not give out any personal information about anyone but myself, and even then it’s hardly the sort of information spies pass around in manila folders; it’s “Macbook serial number WXXXXXXX was registered to Stacia Kane in [month/year].” I have grocery store receipts with more confidential information than that.

So I was beginning to get a very sinking feeling. For whatever reason, Lydia didn’t seem at all pleased and delighted that I could get my Macbook replaced at no cost to me–and at no cost to Apple, either. Win-win, right? But if anything she sounded quite annoyed, rather suspicious, and generally as if she was tired of me wasting her time with my nonsense. “You’ll have to prove ownership yourself,” she told me.

Well, whatever. I could just screen-shot my Apple account, I figured, with the computer listed right there. So I moved on, and told her that what I really needed was written confirmation from Apple that the computer could not be fixed by them. There was a pause, and then she said something about needing to research that and she’d call me the next day. Now I really had a sinking feeling. But hey, she was probably just being cautious or needed to check with a supervisor or something. I told her I’d send her an email with exactly what I needed, so she would have it there in writing, and we terminated the call.

I wrote and sent her the email. It reiterated my request for Apple to confirm the registration of that Macbook to my Apple account/confirm my date of purchase. (I note that in my understanding, putting this request was in writing meant that under the terms of the Data Protection Act it constituted a formal, legal SAR request that this information be provided to me.) I mentioned the Act and stated that I hereby gave permission for her to share that bit of information. But I reiterated that the proof of ownership was not the main part of my request. What I needed was for Apple to simply confirm in writing what they’d already told me more than once: that they could not repair the damage to my Macbook.

It wasn’t about the hard drive alone; our policy covers the entire machine, every curve of plastic, every part, every tiny screw, everything. If any part of it cannot be repaired or replaced to like-new condition, the entire machine qualifies for a brand-new replacement. I explained this to Lydia in the email, because I thought having it in writing might be helpful for her (I also offered to send her pictures of the damage if she wanted to confirm it all herself). I assured her–because she sounded so doubtful and suspicious on the phone–that this was a perfectly straightforward and legitimate insurance claim (I repeated the “no-fault” terms of the policy again as well, in hopes of reassuring her, although I didn’t particularly enjoy feeling like I needed to reassure her that I was not committing fraud) and that we were not asking for her to make any false statements or anything of that nature at all, simply to confirm in writing exactly what she’d already confirmed verbally more than once. No more, no less. I even wrote out a very brief statement for her–which didn’t specify the damage or anything, just that they no longer have the parts or ability to repair 2007 Macbooks–which she could just copy and paste, and pointed out that she could see herself that it was a true and accurate account of what both she and the Genius had told us (which it was). I told her I’d be happy to give her the email address or fax number or whatever of our insurer, if she felt more comfortable sending it directly to them (again, I didn’t like feeling as if I was trying to convince someone that I wasn’t committing fraud, but I was trying my best to be understanding).

And I sent it off, confident that I would soon have a reply from her with the information. Again, why would she not give it to me? Apple had indeed stated more than once that my Macbook could not be repaired, and what company refuses to provide confirmation that an item can or cannot be replaced? What company would refuse to provide a statement of same for a customer’s insurance claim–a claim which has absolutely nothing to do with said company beyond confirming the damage to the item, and does not hold them liable for anything or require them to do anything other than sit back and wait to accept payment for the new item? I could walk into any PC World store with a Windows machine in a similar state, and their service department would write such a statement for me without blinking; surely some random PC World didn’t provide better customer service than Apple. That wasn’t possible.

But it turns out it was. Lydia called me the next day to inform me that no, Apple would absolutely not confirm that my Macbook is registered to me, because of something about the Data Protection Act which I frankly could not follow since she was speaking at a breakneck speed, so couldn’t refute, but oh well. I said, “Okay, so–” and she once again interrupted me to say that Apple also would not confirm that they could not repair my Macbook.

I asked her why, since she’d been able to state that to me several times over the phone and the Genius had stated it in person, she could not put it in writing? Because it’s not Apple’s policy, apparently. It’s not Apple’s policy to provide a written record of their verbal repair estimations or evaluations? It’s not Apple’s policy to back up what they’ve said? It’s not Apple’s policy to help their customers?

Thinking that perhaps she was hinting, or could assist me in another version of my request, I asked her if I could get such a statement from an Apple Genius if I made the trek back to the Apple store. That was up to the individual Genius, she said; they had no obligation to provide any sort of statement or evaluation of damage or estimate. I could try my luck, basically. She made no offer to contact the nearest Apple store and explain my situation or request that they provide assistance to me.

At this point I was fuming. Apple would not repair my Macbook–they flat-out refused–but also would not state that they won’t repair it so I can get a new one from my insurance, because POLICY. What kind of service is that?

I said that what she was basically telling me, then, was that Apple did not care to keep me as a customer or to sell me a new Macbook. She said no, she wouldn’t say that. I said that actually, yes, that was exactly what she was saying, because what this all boiled down to was Apple’s policy being “If you want a new Macbook, you can pay for it yourself; only peons and Poors need insurance.”

I was in tears at that point. I absolutely could not believe that the company I had so much faith in was so coldly refusing to help me in any way, when all I was asking was for them to confirm their verbal statements in writing. That is not, I don’t think, an unreasonable request. It’s one other manufacturers, retailers, and service providers fulfill every minute of every day. I asked why she could not just send me a quick email confirming what she’d told me and she said she could not do that because she is PHONE support (I thought Executive Relations was supposed to be above phone support, with abilities and powers beyond what they have?). I asked who I needed to speak to, then, who were the representatives or people who could write things down (which was honestly one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever had to say to a Customer Service rep), and she said nobody would be able to do this for me. Apparently no one at Apple is allowed to email anything to anyone or write anything at all down, ever. She told me she could send me the link to the page on the Apple site where it says they no longer make parts for or service the 2007 Macbook. I informed her that I can find a link myself, and that if a webpage was likely to be enough to satisfy my insurer I wouldn’t have asked her for a written statement to begin with. And also, that meant that while Apple will happily state publicly and openly online that they wouldn’t fix my Macbook, they absolutely would not take the five seconds to write that down separately for me.

So I asked to speak to someone else; she refused. I told her I wanted to speak to her supervisor or someone above her; she told me no one was above her and that this was “Apple’s final statement,” and this was the end of the matter. So Apple’s final statement, then, was “Sucks to be you!”

I called Apple’s main service line again the next day, thinking that perhaps Lydia just didn’t understand or was misinformed. I was told that once a situation goes to Executive Relations no one else can touch it, and any issues I might have with my Executive Relations rep would be given to her again. So if I had a complaint about Lydia, I’d have to take it up with Lydia. Seems like the way things should work, right? Who better to deal with my complaint about Lydia than Lydia? She’d been so helpful already. What exactly was she going to do for me, aside from talk over and interrupt and make me feel like she’s thinking about all of the better and more important things she could be doing with her time, instead of listening to some spoiled American whine about how her computer is quite literally her livelihood, as if that’s Lydia’s problem or something?

So Lydia called me again, because of course my phone call was instantly reported to her, much in the manner of how a grade-school snitch reports another kid sticking out his tongue at them. She was very displeased with me at that point, which made sense because I wasn’t exactly thrilled with her. I asked again if there was any way to get the four fucking sentences I needed written down, if a Genius could do it, an Apple store manager, an Apple-licensed repair shop. She told me–very hotly–that NO ONE, absolutely no one at any Apple-affiliated place anywhere, would EVER write that down for me. NO ONE EVER.

So I asked her, then, if there was anything else Apple was willing to do for me, to show me that they actually gave a shit about my business and wanted me to spend my money on a new Macbook. Anything at all. Now, I didn’t start the whole mess expecting to be offered anything; I started it knowing that the damage to my laptop was all my fault and that the laptop was old, and all I was hoping for was an estimate for repairs. But it seemed to me (and still does) that when a company is refusing a customer request as simple and basic as “Write down what you told me, please,” and they know that said refusal is causing that customer serious difficulty, and they know the customer is very seriously considering giving up on their company altogether (I told Lydia several times that this was really making me rethink dealing with the company at all), I’d think they’d consider some way of making up for the loss. Certainly in the 6+ years or so I spent working as a customer service rep (mostly in banking, for one of the world’s largest credit card banks), that was standard practice. You can’t help them, they’re upset, you try to do something to make them happy. It’s pretty basic. I did stuff like that every day, as did all of my co-workers.

I literally begged her to give me a reason, any reason, why I should buy a new Macbook instead of a Windows machine. Any reason at all; was there honestly nothing she could do for me? Ten percent off AppleCare, a fucking $5 iTunes credit? I hear stories all the time about Apple going above and beyond, and there I was just asking for some confirmation that my business matters. No, she said. There is nothing Apple will do for me (I believe her exact words, said in a tone of surprised disdain, were, “We’re not going to do anything for you,” actually). She wouldn’t even say the words, “Your business matters; you are important to Apple,” when I asked her she could even tell me that.

The next week, the hubs went back to the Apple store. The manager was happy to give him a work estimate/order thingie that said “We cannot repair this Macbook.” Shockingly, this happened even though Lydia had informed me with such confidence that NO ONE EVER ANYWHERE at Apple would EVER do this for me.

And about a week after that we got a check from our insurance company, and I decided that given how very, very little of a fuck Apple gave about its customers and how it was willing to do absolutely nothing–beyond feeding me misinformation and making an already upsetting and difficult process even harder–to help me, and how if I ever had another problem with a new Macbook the odds were extremely high that Apple would once again tell me to go fuck myself, I was not going to buy a new Macbook. Especially not since I would have had to provide the deductible myself, and money is so extremely tight for us. I was not about to struggle to scrounge up that cash on something when if there was ever a problem I’d be left in the lurch, especially since there was no way we could scrape together enough to pay for AppleCare, too.

So I used it to get a Toshiba Satellite, and pay for data recovery/installation (from the Mac’s hard drive) and warranty and data back-up, and for Word. (Which we had trouble installing; funnily enough, the Microsoft rep we called was friendly and awesome and spent a good half-hour with us getting it all set up.)

It’s okay. It’s not a bad computer. It’s not like the little Mac I loved. It’s less convenient and I still loathe several things about Windows machines in general. I’m not crazy about Windows 8. I set it to open directly to the background screen instead of that awful Windows 8 menu thingy with all the blocks.

I lost all of my cool installed fonts and all of the cool fonts that came with Word for Mac. I lost all of my bookmarked sites, going back almost five years–tons of research and recipes. I lost a bunch of music. I lost a few programs I used all the time and I lost several capabilities I liked a lot, and I don’t like Chrome for Windows as much as I liked Chrome for Mac, which was awesome. None of that is good; it’s very depressing, in fact. But at least I didn’t lose any documents or any pictures of my little ones, which was/is what really matters–along with knowing that if I have a problem I won’t have a customer service rep who seems to think I’m trying to defraud everyone tell me that’s just too damn bad.

So there you go. That’s part of the reason, at least, why I’m behind on things. And I know I have several other things to tell you about, but this is very long already so I will end it there.

Again, though…I’ll be back again in the next few days, and I have something that will hopefully provide us all some fun and amusement coming up this week or next. Something from the vault, to show you all.

I miss you all terribly, and hope you forgive me for being so absent.

What Stace had to say on Friday, December 13th, 2013
KEEPING IT CLOSE Part IV

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

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Chapter Three

The four Cepts she’d taken as soon as she got off the Church grounds were starting to cool her still-boiling blood when she walked into Trickster’s bar—surprisingly crowded given that it was only past eight—twenty minutes or so later. Funny. The Church wasn’t the only place where her relationship with Terrible was now public information; everyone in Downside knew now, too.

So the people she worked with had started worrying and avoiding her and thinking something was wrong with her, and the people in Downside…well, they avoided her, but they’d always done that to some extent. People were scared of witches; they tended to think she had a lot more power than she actually did. She didn’t exactly go out of her way to correct them, either.

The difference, as she made her way through the tight-packed crowd of people waiting for a beer at the bar or making out or getting ready to do either of those things, was that it wasn’t just fear in their eyes anymore, or even the bland acceptance she got from people who’d seen her around enough to get over being afraid. What she got now was deference, even more than when it was just common knowledge that Downside’s Churchwitch worked for Bump. People got out of her way with cast-down eyes; when she passed she felt those same eyes follow her. Vendors in the Market tried to offer her discounts or free stuff in respectful, hopeful voices. Restaurants served her better food.

They’d been afraid of her before because of her abilities, but they were more afraid of Terrible. Way, way more afraid. With good reason, too; he took his job as Bump’s chief enforcer very seriously, and he was very good at it.

That probably shouldn’t have made her as proud as it did, but whatever. Maybe she was a “bad guy,” too. She certainly couldn’t argue if somebody wanted to call her that, no matter how much she would have liked to. She had too many crimes under her belt at that point, too much damage done.

The red-gelled blacklights that always made the interior of Trickster’s look like some sort of hazardous materials alarm had just gone off inside also made it harder to see at first. Her eyes had finally adjusted by the time she got past the bar, and she started hunting for him. He’d probably be against the back wall, where he usually was, keeping an eye on things. Giving Trickster’s what their protection money paid for, at least in part. Being visible.

White-hot joy burst in her chest when she saw him over the heads of the crowd. It felt like days since she’d seen him, like weeks, instead of just that morning. Yeah, he’d been asleep when she left, but still. She had seen him for an hour or so the day before, and the day before that.

It wasn’t actual time making her feel like it had been years since she’d gotten to talk to him; it was the sense that when he wasn’t around the minutes crawled. She’d always thought that was sappy bullshit, lies made up by bad songwriters to make normal people feel both inferior and desperate, but it wasn’t.

A cloud of kesh smoke wafted through the stale-beer-and-sweat scented air; almost unconsciously she sucked it in as she passed through it. He hadn’t seen her yet. He was looking down at someone or something she couldn’t see.

Someone. A girl. Probably a little younger than Chess, and a hell of a lot more scantily clad, with light brown hair curling over her blue halter top and almost to her bare waist. She was smiling up at him, and as she talked with bright animation her hand snaked out to touch his arm. What the fuck? Who the hell did she think she was? She ought to watch herself, with that flirty look and—Chess caught herself. What the fuck, indeed. So some girl was trying to flirt with Terrible. So what? As if he’d even care, or respond.

But that…that jealousy, that sudden red-hot explosion of Back Off He’s Mine in her head, shocked her. That had never happened to her before; well, she’d never had anyone for it to happen to her for. Not like that. Why would she be jealous because some guy she didn’t want to see again hooked up with someone else the next night?

She wasn’t. She never had been. So her response to seeing that girl was…interesting. Not good, but interesting.

The girl drifted away, dropping one last smile like a lacy handkerchief. Terrible looked up; his eyes found Chess’s. Those glowing red lights washed over his face, mellowing the few bruises and scratches still fading from his skin. Just looking at him made her rage disappear, melted it in a sweet sticky flood. When they’d first met—when they’d first met, and for a couple of years afterward—she’d thought he was ugly, with his nose crooked from multiple breaks, his heavy brow and jaw, his scars and hard deep-set eyes, predator’s eyes old before their time. His massive frame, the threat implied in his every movement…there was a reason nobody had ever called him anything but Terrible, and she’d thought that was exactly what he was.

She’d been insane and stupid. Every scar and crag told a story, and all those stories added up to the most amazing person she’d ever met, the one she was so fucking lucky to be with.

“Hey, Chess,” he said—the way he always did—when she got close enough to hear. “You right?”

“Yeah, right up. You?” It was so hard to get close to him and not grab him, slide her hands all over his chest and press her head against it. But she didn’t. Yes, public knowledge, blah blah blah, but that didn’t mean they had to put on some kind of free show—and the news was still fresh enough that people were watching.

He did kiss her, though, a brief kiss that nonetheless managed to make her entire body vibrate. He probably didn’t have much time—she knew he didn’t, he’d said in his text that he didn’t—but maybe he had enough to run home for a few minutes? She just wanted to be alone with him, to be close to him, to let him chase away all the shit she’d picked up at Dana’s and the depression over her lousy new case.

His hand came to rest on the back of her neck, sliding under her hair to touch her bare skin. Another little vibration, a shiver that her insides all participated in. “Aye,” he said. “Busy, though.”

“Who was that?” She tipped her head in the direction the girl had gone, irritated with herself for asking but unable to not ask.

“Chloe. Been helping, dig, knows she some people. Got a brother works the corner, too.” His thumb rubbed the sensitive spot where her head met the side of her neck, slow little circles. “What you been doing?”

Finding out my co-workers think you beat me up, she thought, but she didn’t say it. “New case.”

He looked at her more closely, those dark eyes—black in the red light—searching hers. Looking through hers. Nothing could hide from those eyes. “Ain’t a good one?”

“I doubt it.”

The question passed across his face, but he didn’t ask it. She was glad, too. She didn’t want to talk about Elder Griffin. She didn’t want to talk about anything, actually, especially not because his thumb kept moving and it was like he’d found a nerve that ran straight down through her stomach to all points below. “Better though, aye? Be a challenge or whatany. So you ain’t all bored up by easy shit.”

The first real smile she’d managed all day felt good. Almost as good as his leg against hers when she shifted closer to him. Definitely not as good as his warm skin, though, when she slipped her left hand around to his back, and up under the t-shirt he wore beneath a black bowling shirt. “Yeah. Why have things been so dull around here lately? It’s been like three weeks since the last time we almost died. You really need to get something moving.”

His head dipped forward in acknowledgment. “Be this dame I’m living with, guessing. Keepin me busy.”

“Oh?” She hooked two of her fingers just inside the waist of his jeans, slid them back and forth. His body didn’t move, but even in the fluorescent red glow of the room she saw his eyes change, saw sparks go off deep inside them. “She sounds lame.”

“Naw,” he said. “Only she ain’t should keep doin that with she fingers, lessin she got plans for more.”

Oh, she had plans. She’d had plans ever since she walked in—hell, she’d had plans since she’d left that morning.

Months before, she’d learned the not-as-disturbing-as-it-should-have-been Truth that when faced with an essentially unlimited supply of drugs, she didn’t stockpile or regulate very well. She just took more. Living with him was pretty much the same thing. He was always there, in his bed—their bed—right next to her, a big strong sexy temptation, and she couldn’t seem to set him aside for later. She just wanted.

Like she did at that moment. And if he was going to make threats like that… She ran her hand around to his front and stopped just before the thin line of hair on his stomach started, very close to where she knew he wanted her to go. So close, in fact, that she could tell just how much he did. “Looks like I’m not the only one with plans for more.”

“Ain’t know what you talkin on.” But his grip on her neck tightened and shifted, tilting her chin up as he leaned toward her, and his other hand squeezed her hip to pull her closer.

Discordant guitar notes jangled loud over the speakers, startling her; the first band was starting to set up. She hadn’t even noticed them moving around, or the way the crowd had shifted to the side to let them pass. Actually, she’d pretty much forgotten that anyone else was around at all, much less a room packed full of Downsiders on their way to whatever kind of stupor they liked best.

Shit. That meant it was getting closer to nine, and he’d have to get to work soon. Her heart sank. Not all the way—not only was she feeling more cheerful than she had all day thanks to him, but her Cepts had really hit so she didn’t think her heart could sink all the way if it tried, and fuck wasn’t that nice—but a sink just the same. Getting to see him and touch him and feel whatever googly lovesick warmth was all well and good, but if googly lovesick warmth was all she wanted she’d get a fucking puppy.

Apparently she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. If time was running short, Terrible seemed determined to make the most of it; he finished the movement he’d started before the noise distracted them, and his mouth met hers hard enough to let her know he wasn’t about to let her just leave.

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Now. Normally I would say “more tomorrow!” but…unfortunately, I won’t be able to post the next section tomorrow. I’ll be away most of the day (and tonight), and by the time I’m able to get to it, honestly, it might as well wait until Sunday. So Sunday it is, and I’ll post an extra-long section then to make up for the delay. I’m sorry, guys; I hadn’t planned for there to be a break at all, but life has intervened.

So I really hope that’s okay, and I hope you’ll all be here Sunday–or Monday, of course, because I’m sure you guys have busy weekends ahead, too–for more.