vesuvias gamerpic xbox

So I got an Xbox 360...

I tend to shy away from consoles (ok not true I owned a chipped Xbox, ps2 and a gamecube... ok so I am a gamming geek... whatever), or rather I really prefer PC gaming mostly because of higher resolution and a better input device. MMORPGs have also pretty much pigeon holed my gaming tastes for the last few years. Well a few weeks ago after receiving a decent return for overpaying on my taxes I made the decision to get an Xbox 360 (Its now high resolution however I pretty much had to such up learning the no keyboard and mouse for my FPS games).

It has since turned out to be the best entertainment bang for buck decision I have made in a while. The 400$ premium seemed really expensive (and it is) but the thought occurred to me that my video card costs that much (when I bought it). I have been no stranger to dropping 1200-1500$ on a mid-high end PC every 2 years for the last decade or so. So in the grand scheme of things the consoles themselves are really very cheap (especially if you consider the 360 has 3 core 3.2 gig processor in it and the equivalent of a NVIDIA 7800... actually ATI made the 360 video card but whatever, still really good hardware).

What really sold me in terms of cost however was gamefly/gameznflix (online video game rentals). After so many years of MMORPGs clearly I am ok with subscription services and these services are a no brainier. Gameznflix gives you 3 games out at a time for 16$ a month, rent as much as you want and the send back/receive another turn around time is about a week. With 360 games being 60$ a pop, this subscription gaming model makes too much freaking sense. What you don’t get is the immediate gratification of actually going to the store getting must have title X on day one. And truth be told that hurts more than it might seem like it would especially for those titles you have been waiting for. However I am older now and in complete control of my gaming impulses (*rolls eyes*).

There are a couple of things that have really set this new generation apart and made the whole experience worthwhile:

Xbox Live Arcade/Marketplace. I really can’t say enough for how well this whole thing just works. Get fun addictive mini-game titles (including old arcade favorites such as gauntlet and robotron), sell them for about 5-10$ a pop distributed online only, have a demo freely available to download for everyone that owns an Xbox, and integrate them tightly with Xbox live so that hi-scores can be sorted by a friends list. Brilliant design and execution (almost too obvious… almost apple like). Currently right now no other console is doing this; it’s very difficult to get this whole arcade experience (with its tight integration with Xbox live) anywhere else. Microsoft really hit gold with this model. They are claiming 30% ish conversion rates for their arcade titles. Meaning that 30% of the people that download an arcade title are paying and converting to the full game. The Live Arcade/Marketplace just works well. And more importantly its fun.

Achievement points have been the icing on the 360 cake for me. Let me just say that achievement points are useless, they are meaningless in function, and bragging about them is childlike. That said, getting them is stupid addictive. Microsoft has mandated that each and every full title on the 360 have 1000 gamer points distributed throughout the game (arcade titles from Marketplace get 200 points). For instance in Call of Duty 2 you get 50 points for completing the training level (give away points for buying the game) and 150 points for completing the whole game. You get a further 200 points for completing the game on hardened and above. There are 10 different acts/segments of the game (each having multiple levels) and for each of those you complete at Veteran difficulty (the highest difficulty... think instant death and much frustration and reloading) you get a further 60 points (totaling 600 for all). So basically to get a full 1000 in Cod2 you need complete the game at Veteran difficulty. Personally I would not have played COD2 on Veteran difficulty had it not been for the Achievement system. I don’t particularly like being frustrated and this really becomes a discussion of game difficulty vs. fun. By playing on Veteran though I was required to improve my games skills. I couldn’t charge machine gun nests, I must at all times keep my head down, and there was no forgiveness. One good shot by the enemy and I was reloading. Fortunately the autosave spots were frequent in the game so I really only had to repeat the really hard parts of the game multiple times which is a great credit toward the excellent game design of that particular game. Once I finally did complete the game on Veteran it was a bit of a gamer badge of honor.



My gamertag (Vesuv1as) now reflects my COD2 achievement; anyone in the world can view my gamertag and see that I have a full 1000 of 1000 points for COD2. When I occasionally surf the Xbox boards I can click on peoples gamertags and see a side by side comparison of the achievements they have in each game as compared to mine. This is the penultimate in member measuring for gamers. As meaningless as it is in the grand scheme of things, for those of us that like to compete it has that OCD competitive draw. It’s cool without being intrusive or required. If you don’t want to pay attention to your gamerscore you can basically ignore it as it doesn’t net you anything. And since it can be broken down by game if you only want to pay attention to it for a certain game (compare your achievements in The elder scrolls: Oblivion to that of you buddy) than you have the option of seeing the side by side achievement list for both of you for that game. What Microsoft has done here is tap into that MMORPG addictiveness and leveraged it across all of the games that come out for their console. It’s freaking brilliant. I hope Sony and Nintendo follow suit with similar systems on their respective consoles.

And speaking of buddies and friends online, the 360 has the most collaborative multiplayer experience out there for gaming. Every time you log on to live (you can set your console to autolog you one every time the 360 boots up) you can look at your friends list and see who is online and what they are playing (and in some cases what level they are on, etc). You can send and receive voice emails to your friends and you can manage all of that while playing a game (the UI overlays and won’t stop your current game). You can have full voice chat with your buddy while playing a game even if you aren’t playing the same game online together. On top of the communication benefits you can sort nearly every leaderboard by your buddy list as well as the global Xbox live list. So you can see that your score in Geometry wars (great arcade game) is 40,575 on the worldwide leaderboard but first amongst your friends list. It’s really very cool and makes the whole experience that much more social.

So clearly I am happy. Gaming in High Definition is great (I don't have an HD TV so the 360 is hooked to my 19" LCD monitor with a VGA adapter). Achievement points are giving me incentive to actually complete the games I play and gamefly/gameznflix is giving me the ability to play anything I want for a very reasonable price. The ability to communicate seamlessly with friends and have a bit more of a shared experience with them (lots of titles have online co-op) is absolutely great. This is a great console. They are Microsoft, they have screwed up plenty of things in the past but the 360 experience is truly unique right now and they have done a pretty bang up job of delivering the fun.
Kingpens

Bout time I updated this thing...

It's a good thing my livelihood doesn't depend on my often abandoned blog. Well a brief stint of excessive activity on this thing every few months is better than none at all I suppose.

Well after a year and 3 months of separation from my x-wife I am still NOT divorced. The reasons are many but it basically boils down to money like that’s any surprise. The whole thing is quite annoying to me but I survive. I call her my x though it’s not technically true, however in this shared reality that we all exist in the only entity that really claims otherwise is “the state” and, well, they can go fuck themselves for all the tremendous help they have been.

The kids are doing great. Although I occasionally have to deal with difficult divorce crap like “mommy said you and her got divorced because you played too many video games and didn’t help her out and so she couldn’t live with you anymore”. There are times in your life where your self control is tested, where you have a crystal clear choice of taking the higher ground or slumming with the gutter dwellers. I of course smiled and said “no, mommy and daddy are divorced because we didn’t love each other anymore. When you get married you are supposed to stay married forever but sometimes you can’t. Understand though that it has nothing to do with any of you and we both love you with the type of love that can never ever stop.” I’m no Dr. Phil but I manage. I certainly understand better than my x-wife how to approach the situation when it comes to the kids. But I was a child of divorced parents so I think in some weird way I have a tremendous empathetic advantage. Or she is just a dumbass (the kids don’t read this so I can say that) but it’s probably a bit of both.

Work is going well. I got promoted to management. Then we merged with an equal sized company that does the same thing we did. They decided that the new main office would be in Ohio, and since I passed on an opportunity to move to the new office (I can’t leave the area if joint custody of the kids is going to work) I sort of got demoted. I say sort of because I still do all of the task management for the same folks I did it for before and they pay me the same (I got a bump in pay when I was promoted). All I really did was remove the “manager” moniker from my title. It’s unsettling but it’s just a job and it certainly had nothing to do with me personally (they want all their managers in Ohio).

Hockey is a blast. I am so glad I decided to play. The team I am on won the championship last season. We played in the semi-finals against a team that has turned out to be quite a rival. It was a best of 3 series and they beat us the first game. Both of the last two games went into sudden death overtime and we won both. I tell you what. I know its just “C” level beer league hockey but there is nothing like winning in overtime in the 3rd game of a best of 3 series. It’s a great feeling.

My team lost a few members but reformed for the spring/summer season (year round hockey... yeah!!!). We had to supplement nearly half of our team with Beginner Hockey Class Members. The result was that initially we are much worse than we were last season (we are currently 3-4-1). The upside is that we have a ton of potential. We have lots of green skaters but they seem to improve every game. The logo on the side is our new team logo and we call our selves the Kingpens. Our Jerseys are the Sabers 3rd Jersey (Baby shit yellow with blue, white and silver) with our machine gun touting king penguin on the front. It looks rather badass and we even have matching socks. So yes we lose but we lose with style!

Well that’s enough for now. I ended up getting an Xbox 360 so I will probably make a separate post about that soon. We have a game on Monday and that will likely warrant a blogging as well, as we are playing a team that is 8-0.
Kingpens

He shoots and scores for the win in overtime...

We played the Patriots again (best team in the league) and this time we played much better. This time we had a full line to swap and it really helped. We were able to push it the entire time on the ice and swap lines every 2-3 minutes. We even purposely iced the puck once or twice just so we could stop play and swap the line.

The game was actually an interesting hockey game. They scored early off a flubbed easy goalie puck clear (our goalie was pissed about this), it was the kind of cheap goal that even the shooter feels bad about having to actually score with. We recovered and executed well after that. The game basically ended up being a brawl at 2-2 most of the second and third periods.

With around 5 minutes left in the third period we get a 2 on 1 breakaway. The center runs into trouble just pass the blue line and makes a beautiful pass right to the arc of my stick (I am playing right wing). So it's basically me and goalie and I have plenty of time. The goalie was covering the wrong side of the goal when I got the pass. The net is wide open. I make a wrist shot on goal but it's low and slow so the goalie has plenty of time to make the save. All I had to do was lift the puck another 6 inches and it would gone in.

It was a classic easy-mode scoring possibility and I totally choked the wrist shot (which is colossally bad for me as my wrist shots are deadly fast and accurate - its the best part of my game hands down). Frustrating doesn't even begin cover it. I was really pissed off after that as that seemed like our last game winning opportunity.

When the end of the 3rd period ticked away we were still 2-2. The rules of our league settle this with a 5 on 5 shootout. And as we are picking 5 players to go (we have 10 players to pick from) I am pretty sure that I am too weak a skater to be picked. There is something fundamentally wrong with my skating but I am taking a class to hopefully fix this. For now though I am easily the most unstable skater on the team. I have flubbed more than one breakaway and everyone knows it. At this time someone asks "so who wants to go 4th?", I quickly pipe up "I will do it.". There is a hesitant "ok". They know I can't skate well and no one really wants to put me in such a crucial position. But this league is for fun and none of them really wants to come out and say "no your not good enough for this". My confidence in one on one shootouts however is unwavering. I don't think, I KNOW I can beat the goalie. Nearly everytime. I was ready to argue for my spot if someone wanted to say something about it but no one did. Maybe my confidence came across unspoken or something.

The first 3 shooters on both sides failed to score. Then the 4th patriots shooter made an attempt and barely missed. It was my turn. I suck but this I can do. I get a comical "no pressure" from the bench as I skate out. My run was horribly unstable and I nearly feel right before the goal. But I made sharp turn left just before the goal and hyper extended my stick right just enough to make a fast wrist shot that nearly scraped the post on the right hand side as it went in. Their goalie was pissed. The last patriots player missed his shot. So our 5th man didn't have to shot and we won in overtime on my goal. Way cool.
Kingpens

Game Thrusday and my skating is getting better....

Well I can now hockey stop at full speed although my left side stop needs work. This is huge for me as it allows me to redirect my momentuem fairly well. I can also transition from front to backward skating easily. This is another big accomplishment as it really allows me to keep the puck in my forward arc no matter which way my momentuem is taking me.

My backwards skating is still very slow but I can actually skate backwards without falling so thats massive improvement. I most definatly wouldn't put myself on defense as the blue line "offenders" would just skate right past my slow backward skating self. But the improvement is signifigant.

I now am starting to practice some more advanced things, namely crossovers. Being able to crossover skate (crosslegs and uncross them repeatedly as I lean into a turn) will give me the ability to stay at top speed now matter how I am moving toward the puck. My turns will be much much quicker because of it. I have also just started playing with backward crossovers which is doing crossovers while moving backwards. This is really hard right now but I am sure it will come with practice. Being able to do a backwards crossover is basically my milestone for being able to play defense effectivly. Once I can do that I won't fear being beatout while backward skating as much.

I have no deliusions, I still suck, but I know its only a matter of time and practice. I get more and more at ease with being on skates the more I do it.

Our next game is thursday and I am excited. The team we are playing is about on our level as far as ability. So the game should be exciting. I perform instinctively better under pressure (not really sure why), but there is no pressure in a game where your getting beat badly or a game where your dishing out the bad beating.

I did a puck shoot (thats a session at the rink where they bring out the nets and allow you to shot for about two hours) once on saturday and once yesturday and sunday was practice. That means I have skated for 2 plus hours on the ice everyday for the last 3 days. As you can imagine my ass is a bit sore just from the leg pumping involved.

I might hop on the roller blades if the weather clears up tonight or tommorrow just to work on fundamentals (crossovers, take-offs, backward skating, etc).
  • Current Mood
    energetic energetic
Kingpens

So you understand that it's your ass if we don't meet our date right?

My boss basically told me in not so many words "your ass is on the line". I can't blame him it's how this business works. His ass is on the line so by extension mine is too.

I went in to ask if I could extend the consultant that is on my team till December as we needed the help for our accelerated projects schedule. His reply was "hmmm uhh ohh... ok but only as long as you promise me you will meet your dates." Grrr this is software development I'd have about the same accuracy for predicting dates as I would if I asked a magic 8 ball. I of course responded with the standard "my team will do there work on time but there are many external dependencies that are outside of my realm of control." He of course responded back with a "then I needed you to be the driver in pushing those people to get there work done as well. If you encounter resistance make sure I know about it."

Sigh. so thats it, my ass on the line for these dates. This is the part of software development that I hate. And this is why it's a little different from traditional engineering. Too many external variables. What makes this worse is that I am doing systems software integration work which means that I really am completely at the mercy of my 3rd party co-developers. If they don't provide the XML hooks on time, I'm screwed.

We will hit it I am pretty confident but I certainly wouldn't bet my job on it. But I guess I don't really have the choice do I. I am usually pretty easy to get along with which I guess why my boss wants me in a more aggressive mode for these next 3 months. We can't slip and I need to crack some heads if it looks like we are starting too.

All those years as a developer bitching about middle managers seemed valid right up until I became one.
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    anxious anxious
Kingpens

I really HATE losing...

So I was wrong about my last game we won 7-1 not 6-1 and as for last nights game, well we lost 1-7. So my first ever "ice" hockey game we win 7-1 against the worst team in the league and I follow that up with my second ever ice hockey game where we lose 1-7 against the best team in the league.

I am mad, very mad, they just simply out-played us. They were better. They were organized, fast and kept the puck in our zone (this wins hockey games). They used the boards effectively to get the puck back out when things got hot so that they could setup for more shots on our goal. But they still were able to keep the puck in our zone. After the about mid 2nd period I simply decided not to worry anymore about what was transpiring in front of the goal as it wasn't my problem (I am playing right wing). However that fucking left defense-man WILL not get one more fucking on the boards pass/clear and keep the puck in zone. He's my man I don't care what happens they aren't passing to him and he is not saving a zone clear one more time. This proved a better strategy for me but I am still to weak a skater to be real effective yet.

The worst part is that we CAN beat them, it's not that we have NO chance at all. They are faster and skate a bit better but they are not unbeatable. They had 6 goals in the first period. That means that the last 2 periods of the game we were tied with them 1-1. That says a lot. It's also frustrating.

It's painfully frustrating for me as I know that my biggest impediment is that I cannot shift my body weight rapidly and stay on my feet (for now). This is absolutely 100% a learned muscle memory skill. I will get it but it will take a bit more practice and real ice time (you can't really hockey stop and redirect on roller blades). I am heavy but it is mostly strength in my legs and core (perfect for hockey), I won't topple over I just need to learn how to throw my weight while on skates.

My stick handling is good, I am fast and agressive with the stick. These guys were not stronger than me nor were they more coordinated. I could read them well; I knew where they were going, I knew before he juked left that that is exactly what he was going to do, his midsection telegraphed it for me. I just can't do a damm thing about it and stay on my feet. They knew it too. GRRRRR! This is one of those testosterone things that just drives me to insane rage.

This will end up driving me to obsessively get better. We have 10 days before our next game. I plan to spend sometime in every single one of them practicing at the very least on roller blades. Ice time is limited to when they offer public skate times or puck shot times. Actually that's probably a good thing or else I would likely spend way too much money practicing on the ice (since you have to actually pay for ice time).

This is one of those parts of my personality I try very hard to hide from my friends. I try very very hard not to get beyond casually competitive with them. I loathe losing. I try to maintain emotional control but the best I can do in one these instances is redirect that energy/emotion into some obsessive training plan.

Just you fucking wait Patriots, in January when we face you in the playoffs I WILL fucking OWN you!!!!!
  • Current Mood
    Motivated
Kingpens

Great Game...

We won 6-1, I scored the first goal and I ended the night with 2 goals and an assist or two. I led the team in goals for the game. With various comments from team members "wait a minute you've never played ice hockey before?". Well technically yeah this is my very first official "ice" hockey game. My stick handling and shooting are great, I am very aggressive, I fight hard and I am very quck with my stick (no comments from the peanut gallery). I just can't skate worth a damm.

I fell... a lot. A lot more than anyone else out there. At first I thought this was odd as certianly there must be someone else with about the same amount of skating experience as I have. But I then noticed something. When others are about to fall they concentrate on staying on thier feet no matter where the puck is. I on the other hand don't really care if I fall so my concentration is on the puck and how I am going to get it and get it to a teammate before I actually hit the ground and sometimes after I hit the ground. I even took a shot on goal from my knees last night.

The Hattrick was oh so close. In the last 45 seconds of the game I took 3 shots on goal that were wide by about 6 inches to a foot. The goalie had left me a nice gapping hole on the inside as well so it would have gone in if the shot were on target. Also not once but twice I bunggled a break away by falling (one even spawned by my own intercept).

I am happy with the result, I did well (for a first game) but I am no where near my potential yet. It's all about skating and ice time for me though. So yet another frustrating test of patience for me to endure. I want to skate well NOW dammit!!!

Good lord this heavy charging skating pounds the glutes into hamburger. I am so sore. Hockey is tough especailly when you have to stay out there. We had 2 spare offense and one spare defense man. So 10 minutes of straight ice time wasn't out of the ordinary. I was under the mistaken impresion that I was in decent shape. I apprently need more cardio.

I can't wait till monday, apprently we play the best team in the league then (they've played togeather for like 5 years). We however may be severly undermanned, which mean I will be super sore on tuesday. Fun stuff!!!
  • Current Mood
    sore sore
Kingpens

First game tonight...

So my first official game is tonight. I'm not nervous but I am a bit concerned, I just don't want to look like a fool for my lack of perfect skating. Once I hit the ice it won't matter anymore to me though. It will be about nothing more than the puck, where it is and where it needs to be (or not be).

As it turns out I won't have a jersey. This initially pissed me off. The league coordinator said they were short of the ones in my teams color but on order. The rest of the team will have one so I will look out of place. The coordinator said that I should try to find something in a yellow color if I could but otherwise as long as it wasn't blue (the team we are playing tonight is blue) it would be fine for this first game.

I have called all over town and can't seem to locate any place with yellow hockey jerseys. I stopped by play-it-again and the hockey shop and neither had yellow jerseys. How annoying. However this morning I remembered something. When I played street hockey in college we had jerseys made up for out team and as fate would have it I still have that old jersey. Also it's yellow!! I checked it this morning and it will stretch enough to fit over my pads. I could actually where it, it has "the horsemen" (old team name) on the front but my name and a number 4 on the back. Obviously "the horsemen" would be out of place and I think someone else has the number 4 but I can use tape to turn the 4 into 41 for this first game.

I just find it strange how some things just fall into place. I started this whole hockey thing based off of times I had in that old jersey. I kept that jersey around all these years for a reason (it means a lot to me). I actually remember having an argument with ruth over throwing it away (I had to pull it out of the trash). I stopped playing hockey just before I met her and now that she is out of my life I am picking it back up. It's quite fitting that I would be forced to wear that same jersey in this first game. It's coincidentally bizarre in a very profound way, it's difficult to explain to anyone who is not me.
  • Current Mood
    excited excited
Kingpens

Sunday Bloody, Sunday!!!

Well this sunday was brutal. It started saturday actually. You see I get a cheat day once a week. This means I can eat pretty unconstrained for a day. Generally I am still pretty disciplined about this but this Saturday I wasn't. I was tired and carb starved but regardless of the excuses I ate horriably on Saturday. Just as an example the night ended with a Texas hold'em game at a neighbors house which meant munchies, light beer and cookies and this just before bed at midnight *gasp* (health nut sacrilige). All in all it wasn't 5 trips to the desert buffet bad but it wasn't great. I did happen to get in about 2 hours of DDR on Saturday to help burn what I was consuming though.

So I wake up Sunday feeling guilty for over-doing it a bit. I don't generally get discouraged about it but I do believe in "paying" for it. And pay for it I did. It started with 45 minutes of biking around the neighborhood. This was my morning cardio so it was fasted (I didn't eat anything before hand). After a good breakfast I proceeded to do some DDR for about 2 and half hours. I then took a shower ate lunch cleaned up my hockey equipment and headed off to hockey practice. Hockey practice was about an hour but I stayed for an extra half hour afterwards to work on my skating (I am getting a lot better). After Hockey I headed to my Aunt's house so I could help her clean up her house so that she can sell it. I ended up disassembling an entertainment center and then using a dolly to get it down 3 flights of stairs. I then moved more boxes of junk than one person should be allowed to have and her 28 inch TV down those same 3 flights of stairs. We then drove to my place and unloaded it all (she is moving into one of my spare bedrooms temporarily). So to sum up: 45 minutes cardio, 2.5 hours DDR, 1.5 hours hockey and 2 hours moving. Yeah that was kinda brutal.

I finished up around 8:30pm. The soreness kicked in around 9, which is rare for me (I do so much weight training and cardio that I just don't get sore anymore). I took a long hot shower and went to bed straight away. I had absolutly NO trouble sleeping. In fact I was pretty sure that I was only asleep for about 5 minutes when I woke up this morning, even though a good 7+ hours had passed.

I feel great this morning however, not all that sore either. I basically told my body:

"Look, cut it out with the cravings I know when EXACTLY to feed you. Oh and when I do feed you carbs you best convert it to evergy straight away, no FAT, you here me? Fuck with me and I will DDR your ass till you can't lift your feet. I am not messing around you dig? Now that we understand each other how about some chicken and broccli? If your real good I think there is a peanut butter cookie left in the cookie jar!"
  • Current Mood
    energetic energetic
Kingpens

Hockey Rulez...

Practice this sunday went pretty good. Dave actually showed up too. I haven't seen him in a while so it was great catching up some. He seemed to have the same nagging desire to do this that I do.

Let me take this time to point out something. Have you ever seen an out of shape professional hockey player? Course you haven't. Want to know why especially if they are doing line changes every 2 minutes? Because 2 minutes of hard charging hockey will absolutly floor you, you need to experience this for yourself to get a good appreciation of what I am saying. Trust me though, hockey isn't for the faint of heart. My coach mentioned that the top tier atheletes, in the best of shape, are useful for an absolute maximum of 3-4 minutes on the ice. Cadio conditioning counts in hockey!

I sometimes forget how far I have come physically in the last 8 months. There were about 3 new guys at class including dave. One guy was about 50+ and fairly out of shape but looked like he had at least done this before (when he was younger). He wasn't on the ice for more than 5 minutes before he fell and litterally broke his arm (ambulance carried him out). This really sucks actually because I hate seeing people have it falsly reiterated to themselves that they can't do something. I likely won't see him back (even after he heals) and that bugs me.

Anyway this guy fell once and broke his arm. I fall literally somewhere between 10 and 20 times every practice (I try really hard to do stuff I have no business doing). It occured to me that being in much better shape has probably done wonders in terms of protecting me from injury.

Dave was exhausted at the end of practice. He even had to stop a few times during pactice to catch his breath. By comparison I probably could have gone another half hour or so after practice was over (admittedly though I was tired at that point). I didn't have the heart to tell him that practice is usually far worse in terms of endurance. I haven't really been in this good shape since I was actually in the army (and passing my PT test.. which was about 7-8 years ago). Feels great to not be contrained from doing something you love because you are just too out of shape to do it. This is the type of vindication for my efforts that I need to remember when I get up for my 5 am cardio tommorrow morning.

On that note I think I will go DDR for a bit... :)