ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

I will gladly address you as an attack helicopter

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The issue of gender - and how many there are - has been gaining notice over the last several years.  Take this Time article or the less respectful "I identify as an attack helicopter" copypasta.

The issue...confuses me.

Not because of the gender thing.  I mean, I know the difference between sex (biology) and gender (identification). And I also know that even the biology bit is really a lot more complicated than we like to pretend that it is.

What confuses me are the problems that people tend to have.

I mean, I had problems when people would say "that squicks me out" about homosexual relationships. My response was typically along the lines of "I don't want to think about most hetero people having sex, so it's all the same to me".

Likewise when we talk about what gender identification someone wants to have. To me, it's so simple that people's issues with it are puzzling.

I approach this the same way I do nicknames or preferred versions of names.

If you care about someone, you'll ask if they prefer (say) Steve or Steven, and then stick with that.  Such a request (and one that's very individual) is seen as no big deal, and if you insist on using the wrong name (or version of a name), you are rightly seen as an inconsiderate ass.

But somehow, the same people who gladly ask which version of "Steven" I prefer will say it's a huge imposition if a person requests to be referred to by a specific pronoun.

Put that way, it's clear that the problem is not about confusion or difficulty.  The "problem" is with the person making the objection, not the person making the request.

Putting it in that context illustrates how deliberate the choice is.  

Related: After watching it again, I continue to highly recommend Southern Comfort (Wikipedia, YouTube) to everyone.  This 2001 documentary is... just freaking amazing.

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Finding the Hidden Sexism In Fluidbonding - a personal adventure

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Warning for the prudish: Some mild but blunt discussion about doing adult things follows.  (Hi to all the perverts who just paid attention!)

I wasn't introduced to the idea of "fluid bonding" until I started running into polyamorous people.

Fluid bonding is one of those things that seems like it should be fairly straightforward: It's when you engage in unprotected sex; that is, your fluids mingle.  Some folks (including myself) also put a bit of significance upon this as a "milestone" in the relationship, in that it implies a level of commitment that is beyond the casual.

As is too frequent, polyfolk think and talk about this concept a lot more than monogamous folks.  The Solopoly blog has a pretty good explainer that's worth reading.

But it also highlights a failing of my own that I had; a hidden pocket of sexism and patriarchy I wasn't consciously aware existed. 

I only really considered it fluid-bonding if there was penetrative sex.

When a girlfriend of mine was also dating a woman, I didn't even stop to think about dental dams or other oral barriers.  It literally did not occur to me.

But when that girlfriend started dating another man, I suddenly stopped and asked if there was protection used during oral sex.  Again, that's something I hadn't ever even thought about asking while she dated a woman.

I could - if I was being a dishonest asshat - hide behind statistics about transmission rates.  But that would be ... well, dishonest.

It was about there being a dick involved.

And that's kind of the point here.  Not that I was jealous about there being another guy, but that even for someone who had spent SO much time examining their own societal sexism a rather large (and potentially risky) pocket of sexism managed to escape notice for so long.

(As an aside, things got sorted out rather quickly with that girlfriend, especially since I realized the bullshit double standard I'd unconsciously imposed.)

I'm not here to judge whatever protective measures you and your partner(s) have agreed upon.  Do what you and your partner(s) are comfortable agreeing to.

But I am here to say that those measures should be consistent across genders and sexual preference.

And that even if you've spent years examining your own biases and prejudices, you're never finished exhuming that crap from your psyche.  Combating the prejudices and biases that society programs you with is not a two-week crash course.

Be aware, and don't be afraid to challenge yourself.

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The simple two-word fix to "You're Mine" in relationships

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An ex of mine would whisper "You're mine." in my ear, and I 'd get pleasurable goosebumps, and whisper it right back.

It was what I wanted, after all. For us to mutually have that same feeling.

It didn't last.

Many posts and articles have pointed out that saying "you're mine" or "you belong to me" is really, really squicky in general. But more than that, it's also a crappy way of loving someone.

When you're saying another belongs to you, it's possessive. Not just in the "owning people" way (which is bad enough) but in a way that undermines all of love's ideals.

Because when you love someone, really, really love someone, it's not about just trying to get a need met. It's not about amassing the best significant other. It's not about you.

It's about the person you love.

As these similar quotations from Robert Heinlein and H. Jackson Brown put it:
"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."
"Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own."

As a result, I don't say "mine" anymore.

It's a small change, but the more I think about it, the bigger the ramifications, the more important it seems.

It's just a few words, the other side of a verbal coin.

I no longer whisper "You're mine".

I say "I'm yours."

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The day after the trauma is the day before hope

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Holy Saturday is the bleakest day in the Christian calendar, and it is important... even if you're not Christian.

Because it's a powerful story about everyday life.

Friday might be the dramatic day, the day everyone remembers how  one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.  It's the day that everyone focuses on now, but it's not the worst day.

That's when you get the shock and trauma. That's when you hear that someone's died, when your love tells you they don't feel the same way anymore, when you find out something that meant a lot to you was just another day to the other person.

Choose your trauma. There's no ranking system for pain.

That's the day of the shock.

That's Good Friday.

But it isn't the worst day.

The worst day, the bleakest day, is Saturday.

Imagine them for a moment - imagine them as part of a story or historical people, it doesn't matter.  Really imagine them, put yourself in their situation.

You're part of a peaceful resistance movement. Your leader is charismatic and great, and then one day he gets rounded up by the police and publicly executed.  Not only that, but you've suddenly found out that all the people around you, the people that you thought would be on your side, preferred to kill your leader instead of a murderer.

You're in disarray.  Your leadership is denying they were ever part of the movement. And your leader - the person you thought would at least make some change in the situation, or maybe even more - is dead and buried.

And the shock starts to wear off.

What you thought you had - your leader, your movement, your lover, your security, your family, whatever it was that your trauma cleaved from you - is gone and it's going to stay gone forever.

It goes from shock to becoming real.

And you have no idea how the world can keep spinning, how other people can laugh and smile and go about their daily lives, because don't they know?  Don't they REALIZE?

They don't.

But the thing the Gospels teach us, the reason that this story has persisted so long despite its dubious documentation, is not because of some Imaginary Sky Friend.

It is the same message that draws people to the Doctor, that draws people to Luke, that draws people over and over again.

It is that yes, there is a dark night. There is a time when everything is bleak and horrible and awful.

And then... whether in an opened tomb, a glowing regenerating corpse, a shimmering blue apparition, or just in the everyday perseverance of everyday people, there is the hope of something new, something different.

Because without Destruction, there is never anything new.  Never anything better. Without destruction and despair, there is no hope.

Friends, regardless of your faith or fandom or loves, know that Destruction is terrible and awful and horrendous.  That the day after is the day of Despair.

But the day after... the day after is the day of hope and Delight.

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Board Game Review: Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem

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Last weekend I got the chance to play the Sons of Anarchy game again with some friends, and realized that I'd not actually told y'all about how much I like it.
Other people's faces blurred, because ANARCHY.
Okay, so maybe this is what you think of when you think "Sons of Anarchy board game"...
...but you'd be wrong.

http://amzn.to/2nXVTVP
First, you don't need to know anything about the show to enjoy this game. I'm sure that fans of the show will get a kick out of place names and the like, but it's the game itself that I'm a fan of, not the show.

Second, the game is only $15 on Amazon, which for a game of this kind is pretty amazing.  There's two expansions (they usually sell for about $10 each) that are nice, but not necessary if you just want to try the game out (they expand the game from 3-4 to up to 6 players).  There's also an "unleaded" and "high octane" mode; the former has all the gangs being exactly equal, while the latter makes them different, but balanced.
This was my gang
As you go through gameplay, random locations appear that you'll want to use... and you have a lot more potential locations than you'll use in any one game, so replay value is really high.

Not to mention it's kinda cool to move your little biker guys around...
I took over the military surplus!
...and sometimes things can get hotly contested.
Everyone wanted to own the porn studio...
The first time you play - especially if you have more than four players - will probably be around two hours.  After that, the sixty minute play time is pretty accurate (though possibly a tish longer for six players).

While this is a "work replacement" game (where you get to beat up the workers!), it's pretty intuitive to pick up; usually folks have the hang of it before the first full turn is over. 
 
For only four bucks more than Battleship (yes, really) you can get Sons of Anarchy, a game that's a lot more fun and has a hell of a lot more replay value.

Oh - and I highly recommend playing DOROTHY or Sleep Machine as a suitable soundtrack.  

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What Can We Do To Change the Passitivity Problem?

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Monday I talked about how women are told to always agree with men. Yesterday I told you about a time I screwed up when communicating with a woman and how I made it right.  And let me tell you right now, despite dating guides that literally tell women to lie and pretend to be someone else, that is horribly toxic to a relationship.

This question is still mostly unanswered, though: What the hell are we going to do about it?

It's easy to say "Women should be expected to speak up."  I think it's important for women to speak up as much as they can (and go past their comfort zone in doing so), but that's passing the buck. This is a patriarchy, and so if we want it to change (and if you don't, are you sure this is the blog for you?), those with power - men - are the ones who have to act in ways to recognize that power differential and negate it.

I mentioned one thing that I did yesterday:
I praised all the things she said she was shamed for (and honestly so), and took responsibility for all the craptastic jerks she's encountered in the past. I lauded her forthrightness and honesty, even if it made me uncomfortable.
This is extremely powerful, though it takes time, honesty, and commitment. A woman I dated for a while flinched when I asked her why she was taking one route instead of another. I wasn't the person who created that conditioning, but I sure as hell was the person who was there then. So I made a point of encouraging her to speak up. When we broke up, she told me pretty honestly how she felt - and a bit more later. While I wasn't glad that we broke up, I was glad that she'd felt comfortable enough to make her needs and wants known - and when I was unable to meet them, to stand by what she truly needed and wanted.

Likewise, with my amour, I do my best to recognize the times that she challenges my opinions or ideas... even if it means that I'm uncomfortable (or hurt) in the process.  Yes, it has happened.  Yes, it sucked.  But at the same time, I was thrilled that she felt able to tell me her truth.

While this is especially effective with those you have a strong emotional relationship with, it's possible to do with those you work with. Encourage women to speak up, and then listen to what they're saying, and act on it.

Further, recognize that women in our society are trained to be passive. Double check when a woman you interact with suggests something in a passive way.  For an example, if she says "Would you like pizza for dinner?", make sure she doesn't actually mean "I would like pizza for dinner, and I hope you're not going to object?"

But here's the problem: my perspective is limited. While I'm working to dismantle this power differential, I'm still on one side of it.  Women: Wherever you see this post, please comment with the suggestions that would best help YOU be able to say what you actually want and need - or that men can do to show that we are serious about wanting to hear it.

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An example of gender, power, and privilege that happened to me, and how I tried to make it right

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This conversation really happened to me on a dating site, to me.  I've changed some details, of course.

I'm sharing it partially because my amour says it shows exactly who I am, but also because it really demonstrates what I was talking about yesterday, and how the damage that our society does in communicating between people of different genders.  And it also - though my amour didn't comment on it - illustrates where I screwed up and let my privilege show.

While browsing, I saw a dating profile that looked compatible, and where we had enough things in common that they seemed like a cool person that I'd want to talk to.  (I've started more than a few friendships on dating sites.)  Unfortunately, the last line of their profile was "nobody over forty".  So I sent this message:

Damn, that's a pity - missed that age cutoff by a year or two. Though I've noticed my own age range has been SIGNIFICANTLY broadened since I started doing this a few years ago, I totally get what you're saying. I wouldn't be UPSET if you made an exception, but I'm mostly sending this as a virtual handwave to a fellow [person with the same interest].

Note the last line there.  Sure, I would've been glad if she'd said "Ooh, I'll make an exception for you," but my last line was utterly serious.  I was trying to be friendly... but I didn't come across that way.  More than likely, that was because my privilege was showing, and I messaged her even though she'd said "nobody over forty".

Her response was... well, here it is (again, lightly edited):

Funny, online dating has made me pull my age standards closer to my own because so many dudes in your age range are entitled **** heads who don't respect me due to my age, my proclivity for many partners, my feminism, the way I talk, whatever bullshit they decide makes me less than their morally and intellectually superior selves.
I guess she expected me to be angry or upset in response. I don't know.  But after a moment of bruised ego-ness, I realized she was... well, right.  And if you're like me, and want to change the culture, you take responsibility for that change.  So here was my reply (again, lightly edited):
Totally understandable, and sadly, a reflection of the role the patriarchy in our lives. For what it's worth, I apologize for the entitled **** heads (e.g like, all men) and hope that you are actualizing the HELL out of however many partners you want to have, your feminism, the way you talk, and all that stuff that makes you a special and unique person instead of some cookie cutter idiot idea of what a person of your gender is supposed to be. You go, girl, and there's not a hint of sarcasm in any of this! You have just made my day. :) I am pleased to have made your acquaintance.

And because I realized that I'd screwed up, I haven't contacted her since.

I'm not posting this here for kudos, or to shame the woman who has had to endure so many awful experiences that led to her reaction.  Remember, I was in the wrong for contacting her in the first place, no matter how friendly I was.
 Because I knew I was wrong - and because so many others had clearly wronged her in the past - I praised all the things she said she was shamed for (and honestly so), and took responsibility for all the craptastic jerks she's encountered in the past. I lauded her forthrightness and honesty, even if it made me uncomfortable.

Women do not exist to make men comfortable.  It is not the responsibility of a woman to make a random man feel okay.

But to battle the existing gendered power differential, it is the responsibility of men to encourage and support women who speak freely, honestly, and openly.

Especially when it makes men - any man - uncomfortable.

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Highlighting the issues that happen in all relationships

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Everyone can learn a lot from polyamorous folks.

It's not that polyamorous relationships are more "evolved" or "better"; it's that relationships are relationships, and that good skills that are great in any relationship like compersion or deliberateness go from being "a good idea" to things that are absolutely required.

It also means that problems that sometimes get glossed over in monogamous relationships can become unignorable.  For example, this cartoon from the excellent Kimchi Cuddles:

While the comic - and the situation it presents - is particular to polyamoury, the underlying principle is really common when it comes to needs and boundaries.  It's something that gets glossed over a lot in relationships. This is apparent with a small change:

Too often, when people - women. it's women - express their needs and boundaries they're told they're selfish.  Women are taught both implicitly and explicitly to give in.

As a man, it's horrifying to think of the times (and entire relationships) where we've done this kind of minimizing.  It doesn't matter if we meant to or not - though fuck you if you meant to - we did do it.

The question is:  Are you going to do something to change it now?

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A song to share.

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Sometimes you stumble across a song and get bowled over.  A song that is beautiful and heartbreaking and still somehow courageous. It doesn't happen very often in a world where we just try to be distracted so much of the time.

So I thought I'd share this one that I just ran across now.  Because hope is the thing with feathers.

It's Saturday Smile, by Gin Wigmore (Lyrics at Google Play).

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COLUMBUS AREA: Irish Traditional Music, Free, 1pm on 8 April 2017!

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Trellis - a Columbus, Ohio based Irish traditional music band whose lead singer just happens to be a friend of mine - is having their first concert THIS SATURDAY at 1:30 pm.  While I can't be there due to a prior engagement, I sure wish I could be.  I caught them last year at the Celtic Festival; my video of that follows their announcement (please note that the potato quality and vertical filming are my sins, not theirs).
 
From the event page:

Trellis needs to get videos of us playing a concert as a three-piece band, so we are hosting this FREE, open-to-the-public one-hour concert in the Friends Theater, which is in the basement of the main branch of the Upper Arlington Public Library on Tremont Rd.

Trellis plays traditional Irish songs and tunes, accompanied by fiddle, bouzouki and tenor banjo. Come join us after lunch on Saturday, April 8.

You can hear samples of our music on the Trellis Facebook page.

We hope to see you there! Bring friends, and hands to clap, and maybe even voices with which to sing.

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The Armed Forces Are Not A Football Team - A Guest Post

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The following is written by my friend Jennifer B, whom I served beside during my time in the Army, reposted with her permission.  All words following this sentence are hers.

The United States Armed Forces are not a football team. "We" are not going "to go to Syria and kick some ass." "We" are going to be watching it on the news while we stuff food in our faces in our nice, insulated homes whilst sitting on nice, fluffy couches. "We" will shake our heads, cheer at victories, and maybe even shed a tear or two...but only if the war doesn't drag on too long, because then we will lose interest...and it will probably never touch most of us in any significant way (exceptions being for actual military personnel, deployed military contractors, and their family members).

In the meantime, our servicemembers will be fighting, bleeding, being blown apart and dying (not to mention all the soldiers from the other side and plenty of civilians too). People you don't know and never will know. People who are willing to put their asses on the line and do things you'd never dream of doing. And quite honestly, they deserve better than to be viewed like a football team, and offered empty platitudes when they return home.

War is no joke, and it should always be a last resort. Our military is currently engaged in two fronts, and doesn't need to be in a third. There are plenty of other nations/coalitions of nations who have the capability to intervene in Syria.

We cannot be everybody's saviors.

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An Easter Film Recommendation: The Miracle Maker

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It's hard to get across the basic tenets of a religion quickly, especially when you're talking to children. But it's also an important thing to do.  It's fairly easy if you're a part of that faith community, but much more difficult when you're not part of that faith community.

And even then it can still be tricky - for example, as a kid I thought Christian Scientists used the scientific method (yeah, no, that's not what it means at all).

But if there's a better crash course in the New Testament than The Miracle Maker, I'm not aware of it.

This claymation (yes, claymation!) film with an all-star cast (Ralph Fiennes and William Hurt!) does a number of things quite remarkably well.  First, the visuals are striking and arresting. It uses animation for flashbacks (and Mary's hallucinations), and the claymation is well done and impressive.  It also depicts Jesus and the others as Middle Eastern people, something that is (sadly) rare.

It also does another thing that many Easter-themed films omit - it actually continues through Pentecost, covering most of Acts.

Which also brings up the other thing it does remarkably well - present a coherent (and child-accessible) narrative that weaves together pretty much all four books of the Gospel.  It does this with one of the few narrative liberties it takes from the source material, by elevating the role of Jairus' daughter (itself a synthesis created by linking three accounts in the Gospels) to a named point-of-view role. This is a well-designed conceit, as it not only takes advantage of the ways the Gospels almost mirror each other, but provides a character that is accessible to children, sympathetic to adults, and does not require altering the narrative of the Gospel any further.

Unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, there's no critique explicit or implied of Christianity. And that's okay; that's a conversation to have with your kids (again, whether you're Christian or not).  And The Miracle Maker does a wonderful job of providing the material succinctly and quickly to have that conversation.  As a prior Sunday School teacher (yes, I really was) I highly recommend this film, and as a current agnostic, I also highly recommend this film for conveying the core story of Christianity so that your kids know what the heck they're talking about and are better equipped to address it critically.


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An Easter Film Recommendation: Jesus Christ Superstar

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It's the time of year when various types of Christianity celebrate Easter, and it's time for a film recommendation.

It might seem superfluous, but I always recommend the 1973 film production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I'm surprised how many people haven't seen this film (or a stage production of the work). I'm further surprised by how many people think it's a simple saccharine "Yay Jesus!" production. That isn't the case at all. Not only are the performances top-notch, but the work itself has a few things that are important for examining modern-day Christianity.

The first (though implied) is the concept of Judas as being necessary for the whole thing to work, Without Judas' betrayal, the whole thing kind of falls apart.  This is a relatively modern point of view, and is still revolutionary for many people.

Second - and explicit - is how insane the whole thing is.  As Judas points out, "Now why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?"  This is a central mystery (in the religious sense) and no clear answer is ever given. By making this explicit, it highlights the necessity for faith and the ineffableness of God's plan.

Third - also explicit, but most important for me - is that Jesus is portrayed as a person.  For the sacrifice of Jesus to be meaningful, the incarnation of Jesus (argue among yourselves whether fully human, fully divine, or both) had to be ignorant of the whole Divine plan. In fact, Jesus had to - just as much as anyone today - be running on faith and not Divine knowledge.  Otherwise the sacrifice of Jesus is a charade.  If you watch nothing else of the film, watch Ted Neeley's performance of Gethsemane.  It is so strikingly human and full of doubt, defiance, questioning, and obedience that it gives me chills every single time.


Ted Neeley - Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say) (Jesus Christ Superstar Soundtrack) from Cineritüel on Vimeo.

We are not given the visceral relief of Easter itself; within the film, everything ends on Good Friday, driving home the limitations of human understanding and the terror and doubt that come when faith is tested.

While this isn't the most kid-friendly movie - the catchy early songs belie the pain of the later ones - its occasionally surreal rendering, great music, wonderful performances, and haunting performance during the end credits make it a powerful testament to the universality of doubt and the power of faith.

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Congress Killed Your Privacy, What Next? - Bonus Step: Selective VPN routing from your router

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When you're setting up your VPN connection, the most comprehensive way is to do it through your router. 

The problem is that if you want to reach anything inside your LAN from the internet - say, SSH, a webserver at your personal domain name, a file server, MPD streaming radio, whatever.

You could use iptables.  Here's a nice example page that covers most scenarios that you need, though it's written for Tomato routers. 

Instead, I'm going to use policy based routing with DD-WRT (How to supercharge your router with DD-WRT).  The same should apply to any other router that can handle both OpenVPN and policy based routing.

This is definitely in "advanced user" territory, though I'm going to do my best to make this as simple as possible. 

As I previously mentioned, I use Private Internet Access. If you use another VPN, they should have a setup guide for your router.  Here's PIA's guide for DD-WRT.  The key part is assigning static IP addresses for your servers (something you've probably already done if you have a home server!) and telling the router to route EVERYTHING ELSE across the VPN.

What you'll want to find is the section in your router's OpenVPN setup labeled "Policy Based Routing".


As you can see, there's a range of IP addresses in there.  In my case, 192.168.1.104 (not really) is where my server lives.  So I went to http://www.ipaddressguide.com/cidr and put in the IP ranges of everything else that my router assigns as IP addresses in there.  From that point, it was a simple cut-and-paste, reboot of the router, and then only the server was available directly from the internet without going across the VPN tunnel.

This is useful, because my server is already pretty hardened against attack.  And because I have Apache2 running on that server (something you can do with the inexpensive CHIP or Raspberry Pi) that gives you a lot of flexibility.

That's via Apache2's proxy capabilities.  When you enable mod_proxy in Apache, you can use it to forward ports and all sorts of stuff.  For example, this guy used Apache to proxy his SSH requests.

Let's say you have Icecast running on 192.168.1.123, with port 8000, but your home server is a different machine (192.168.1.101, for example) at http://example.com .   You set up the policy based routing above to route everything except 192.168.1.101 over the VPN.  Then, in proxy.conf on 192.168.1.101, you put these lines:

#MyIceCastProxy
ProxyPass /icecast http://192.168.1.123:8000/mpd.mp3
ProxyPassReverse /icecast http://192.168.1.123:8000/mpd.mp3

This actually makes it easier for you, because now you can reach your IceCast stream at http://example.com/icecast with no port number.  Additionally, it means that you're providing an extra layer of protection for your LAN from the wider internet.

If you have to deal with iptables - for example, if your router's firmware doesn't support it, or if you just want to, give it a try.  Here's a few guides I referred to but couldn't get to work:

https://www.dd-wrt.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=1000964&sid=7159499f6f7dd2c03ad86c81ab6caed9

https://charleswilkinson.co.uk/2016/05/14/selective-routing-using-ddwrt-and-openvpn/

https://superuser.com/questions/753736/accessing-a-webserver-hosted-behind-vpn-with-closed-ports-remotely

Finally, speed.  You will experience slowdown with speed when using a VPN. It's partially the encryption, though OpenVPN is usually the best protocol.  You may need to tweak your MTU, which server you connect through, or even what ports to optimize your speed.

Additionally, your router might be struggling with the computational requirements of the encryption for a VPN.  In such a case, you might be better off having the individual machines run the VPN separately.  That turned out to be the case for me (after all the researching and work I'd done).  Luckily, PIA allows 5 devices simultaneously, so there's no need for me to buy a new router yet.

Here's some comparison speeds to keep in mind (and switching to TCP instead of UDP made no difference):

Type: Ping | Download / Upload
Regular: 32 | 23.83 / 2.36
VPN on PC: 47 | 22.43 / 2.21
VPN on Router: 35 | 5.82 / 2.28

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