Into Full Dispersion Mode

Kish has been in touch with our neighbors up in Stonington, Maine.  Stonington, as you may recall, is a tiny lobster village located at the far tip of Deer Isle, jutting out into the Penobscot Bay.  It is a remote location, to say the least.

img_8663In their communications, our neighbors have mentioned something interesting:  many of the seasonal property owners are coming up earlier than ever before to open up their Stonington residences.  Normally, only permanent residents would be in Maine during this time of year, in what the locals jokingly call the “mud season.”  Typically, the summer residents wouldn’t show up at their Deer Isle places until late May or the beginning of June, at the earliest — and yet, this year, here they are already, up from New York City and Boston and Washington, D.C.

Can you blame them?  The big East Coast cities are COVID-19 hot spots, where many of the U.S. cases of coronavirus have been identified and there are concerns about how the medical facilities will handle the caseload.  In contrast, one neighbor told Kish that there are no reported COVID-19 cases in Stonington, on Deer Isle, or indeed anywhere in the surrounding county.  (Of course, nobody up there has been tested, either.)  According to recent news reports, there have been 155 cases of coronavirus in all of Maine, with most of those clustered in Cumberland County, where Portland is located, which is about three hours away from Stonington by car.

I would imagine that the dispersion from NYC and Boston to places like Stonington is being seen throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  It’s mind-boggling to think of how difficult it must be for Manhattanites living on a densely populated island to achieve meaningful “social distancing” during this time.  If you’ve got to work remotely, and you’re fortunate enough to have the option of going to a faraway location where you aren’t cheek by jowl with other people as soon as you step out your front door, why not take “social distancing” to the max and head out to the remote, less populated areas and wait until the COVID-19 virus burns itself out?

Many of us wonder whether this coronavirus pandemic will result in lasting changes to American culture and society.  I think that one possible result is that more people will become interested in exploring, life outside the big cities, where there’s some elbow room to be had when the next epidemic hits.  They might just find that they like it.  And with the technological advances that allow people to work remotely, why not go into full dispersion mode?

Facing The Faceless

My recent run of exposure to curious hotel art selections continued this week, during my trip to Washington, D.C.  These pieces were artwork displayed in the interior hallways on my floor of the hotel only a few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol.

What’s the message conveyed by depictions of gangs of silhouetted people moving grimly and silently past government buildings?  Is it that Washington, D.C. is really in the hands of faceless bureaucrats, just as conservatives have long claimed?  Or that, in the political wonderland that is Our Nation’s Capital, you’ll never actually see someone clearly, for who they really are, but only in dim outline?  Or does the artist believe that government buildings, depicted in color and in sunlight, are much more interesting than the people, who are shown only as shadowy forms without any individuality?

Or, perhaps you might initially see the artwork as I did — as suggesting that the people of Washington, D.C. are a bunch of anonymous zombies.

Welcome to Washington, D.C.!  Grab your rollerboard and your shoulder bag and get ready to head out into the Land of the Undead!

Lament Of The “Govsters”

The Washington Post recently published a piece written by a D.C. resident about how Washington, D.C. has now become a “cool” city.  It is one of the finest examples of the “inside the Beltway” mentality ever penned and includes some great passages, like this one:

“Much of Washington in 2018 arguably has more in common with the country’s hippest neighborhoods — Williamsburg in New York, Silver Lake in Los Angeles, the Inner Mission in San Francisco — than it does with the less cool cities of middle America.”

Hey, on behalf of everyone in “middle America,” thanks!  And then there’s this classic:

tmg-facebook_social“Like all hip cities, contemporary Washington combines cool with a distinctive local flavor. New York is where cool meets money, Los Angeles is where cool meets beauty, San Francisco is where cool meets technology — and Washington is where cool meets government. That combination has created a class of people unique in American history. If the late 1990s and 2000s produced the hipster as a new type of cool in some of America’s more stylish cities, the more recent past has produced Washington’s version of it: the govster — a person who is able to enjoy the benefits of living in a cool city while also working for the federal government or somehow exercising influence over the direction of national politics.”

Wait a second — this writer thinks hipsters are cool, rather than an unending subject of mockery and derision?  And he so aspires to hipster status that he actually wants to give a special, hipster-knockoff name to Washington, D.C. residents?  That’s pretty telling.  And notwithstanding the writer’s claim to cool status, the name “govster” isn’t exactly a cool name, is it?  It’s like the “Family Truckster” vehicle that Clark Griswold drove in the first Vacation movie.  The writer has somehow coined a term that manages to be both clunky and pretentious at the same time, just like a lot of the program ideas and acronyms that the people working in D.C. regularly develop.

But don’t worry — the “govster” who wrote the article is motivated by altruistic purposes. He’s worried that Washington, D.C. may have become too cool for the poor, benighted hayseeds in the flyover country:

“Life in the capital may be good for the govster, but is it good for the country? Cool cities, after all, thrive precisely because they offer what the rest of the country cannot. Yet capitals have different purposes. If the government is to be of the people and for the people, then the capital must be able to relate to the people — and the people to the capital. A dynamic country may need a little cool in its capital; but have things in Washington gone too far? The question is as old as the republic, and arguably more important than ever.”

I have no objection to having a little pride in your city; I fully admit to being a booster of Columbus.  And when Kish and I lived in D.C. we enjoyed it.  But the notion that people in D.C., like the guy who wrote this article, now think that Washington, D.C. is just too cool for the rest of the United States is deeply disturbing.  It’s bad enough that those of us out in the country at large have had to deal with the stupid power games and pointless political machinations of the politicos in D.C.  Now we also have to grapple with the knowledge that the laws, regulations, and other governmental initiatives imposed upon us are being administered by “govsters”:  “a person who is able to enjoy the benefits of living in a cool city while also working for the federal government or somehow exercising influence over the direction of national politics.”

I shudder to think of it.

Spreading Out The Federal Effect

Where are the richest counties in the United States, as measured by median household income?  You might think one of the counties in Silicon Valley, or one of the high-end areas in Connecticut, or around Boston, or the home to bustling computer, software, and internet companies around Seattle . . . but you would be wrong.

According to recently released census data, the top four counties in the United States for median household income are all located in Virginia and Maryland — and all just happen to be suburbs of Washington, D.C.  In each of those counties, the median household income doubles the national average.  Moreover, nine of the top 20 highest household income counties in America are suburbs of our nation’s capital.

washington-capitol-building-money-cash-620x348This shouldn’t really surprise us.  The federal government is by far the biggest spender in the country, and there are lots of people — lobbyists, consultants, media analysts, messaging advisors, and countless others — who make a lot of money advising other people and groups about how to get their share of the money gushing out of the federal spigot.  And because Congress and the vast majority of the federal agencies are headquartered in the D.C. area, of course the money flowing in to try to line groups up for a share of the money flowing out is going to be concentrated in the D.C. area, too.

This is probably one reason why, in this past election, there was a clear disconnect between the political punditry and the rest of the country.  People in D.C. looked around, sipped their $10 caramel lattes after their hot yoga sessions, saw housing values going through the roof, and thought things were going pretty well in the U.S. of A.  They were blissfully unaware of what it was like in the parts of the country between the coasts — and the anger that many people apparently felt for the fat cats in Washington who were gleefully lining their pockets while the rest of the country struggled.

What to do about the income disparity?  How about considering whether some federal departments and agencies should move out of the D.C. metroplex, to be closer to the folks that they are regulating?  Is there any reason, for example, that the Department of Agriculture shouldn’t be headquartered in Iowa or Nebraska, the Department of Energy shouldn’t be headquartered in Texas or Louisiana, and the Department of Labor shouldn’t be headquartered in, say, Cleveland or Chicago?  And why can’t the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Department of Commerce be moved to some other locations away from the D.C. Beltway?

The census data makes clear that the federal government has a significant impact on wealth production.  The U.S. is a big country; why not take steps to spread that income effect around a little?  Maybe doing so would also bring the regulators closer to the people they’re affecting, and at the same time help to minimize the “inside the Beltway” mentality that appears to be an increasing problem in the country.

A Gutless Wonder

Washington, D.C. is all agog about “Congressman X,” the Democratic member of Congress who has anonymously penned a 65-page book called “The Confessions of Congressman X” about how corrupt, cynical, and phony members of Congress are.  One chapter, for example, is entitled “Harry Reid’s a Pompous Ass.”

Well, of course he is.  In fact, so is every member of Congress.  And, for that matter, so is “Congressman X.”

5_122016_xman8201_c0-562-850-1057_s885x516Here’s what I want to know:  why doesn’t Congressman X confess for the record?  Why doesn’t he have the guts to identify himself and express those opinions for attribution?

In my view, the sad tale of “Congressman X” is the problem, writ large, with our “public servants” right now.  They’re gutless.  They’re so chickenshit, one and all, irrespective of party, that they gladly prostitute themselves for lobbyists and spend all of their time fundraising so they can be returned to the Washington merry-go-round next term.  And when “Congressman X” nears the end of his “service,” he writes an anonymous tell-all book so he can make even more money from his period of “public service.”  It’s tawdry and appalling — but it’s so Washington, D.C.

No one has the fortitude or the principles to stand up and be counted.  And that’s why we have a dysfunctional government in which the legislative branch — which the Founders designed to be the most powerful of the coordinate branches of government — has steadily yielded power to the executive branch and the judiciary, to the point where we now have a federal government that is largely governed by executive decree rather than legislation considered, drafted, and debated by the “people’s representatives.”

So I say that “Congressman X” can bite me.  A pox on his house, and a pox on all of their houses.  Won’t anyone in D.C. stand up and be counted for a change?

 

Mother Nature And The Storm

We think we’re pretty advanced, scientifically and technologically, but Mother Nature can still throw us a hard slider every now and then.

Consider the blizzard that is battering that East Coast this morning.  New York City might get as much as 16 inches of snowfall, Philadelphia is canceling public transit, thousands of flights at the Charlotte and Raleigh airports were canceled, and motorists have been stranded on snow-covered roadways.  (Surprisingly, the storm bypassed those of us in the upper Midwest, which is the normal habitat of appalling winter storms.)

Storm RdpAnd Washington, D.C. — well, let’s just say that the Nation’s Capital freaks out when even a tiny bit of snow is forecast, so a big storm causes runs on stores, gas tank topping, and other over-the-top, panicky behavior.  That’s the way it was 30 years ago when Kish and I lived there, and according to news reports that’s the way it still is today, too.  It doesn’t exactly give you much confidence about how the citizens of D.C. would react in a real crisis.  The frightened, frantic crowd scenes when Godzilla appears above the Tokyo skyline probably would be an accurate depiction.

The storm also reminds us of our interconnectedness.  With some of the nation’s busiest airports affected, good luck traveling by air today.  Airlines are estimating that more than 7,500 flights will be scrubbed, which is like dropping a paralysis bomb into the nation’s transportation grid.  Even if you’re on a flight that is leaving from an unaffected city, you might learn that the earlier leg of the flight was coming in from, say, Philadelphia.  And trying to get anywhere by roadway if you’re in the snow-battered regions is foolhardy unless the trip is essential.  If there’s one thing I learned living in D.C., when the snow does fall in Washington it’s wise to not get into your car, because people who live in places where snow is rare just don’t know how to drive in it.  Why expose yourself to the possibility that the person trying to navigate a multi-ton missile on icy, snow-covered roadways doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing?

From the news stories, it looks like Mother Nature won this round.

Dealing With The Dreaded “Airline Call”

Yesterday, as a meeting in Washington, D.C. was winding down, the sinister travel dominoes started falling.  First, lawyers from New York City got the message that their impending flight was canceled, and they had to start scrambling to make alternative arrangements. The first flicker of doubt about my flight zigzagged through my mind, but I quickly suppressed it and rationalized that it was because of bad weather in the NYC area.

IMG_1132Then, a few minutes later, those of us from Columbus got the dreaded “airline call.”  The dismal robotic recorded voice advised that our flight back also had been canceled outright — no initial delay, and therefore no ray of hope that the flight might actually leave at some point.

The message gave some gibberish explanation about “air traffic congestion” in the system, which undoubtedly is a daily condition in the busy air traffic corridor above the east coast of the United States — and said we would be rebooked.  Then another member of our party got the message that the rebooking was for a flight this morning, which meant that we faced the unhappy choice between an unplanned, no-clean-clothes overnight in D.C. — assuming you could even find a decent hotel room at the last minute in a city that seemed packed with visitors — or renting a car and driving home.

This really wasn’t much of a choice.  We quickly selected the latter option — when you’re expecting to get home, you really want to get home, no matter how difficult the journey might be, and some of us also had can’t-miss appointments early today — and then we faced another decision:  should we try to rent a car at the airport, or from one of the tiny downtown rental car outlets?  We chose the latter option, reasoning that if our flight was cancelled due to “congestion” the airport car rental counters probably were scenes of chaos.  The risk of the hotel rental outlets, of course, is that they don’t actually have a car available, no matter what the on-line website is telling you.

It was a close call, but cars somehow were found, and we headed out, conveniently leaving in the heart of the D.C. rush hour traffic/I-495/I-270 commuter snarl.  Hours later, as the clock ticked down to the midnight hour, we rolled into Columbus — about four hours after our designated plane flight arrival time.

We made it, and we gratefully acknowledge the utility of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System.

What If They Gave A Hotel And Nobody Came?

IMG_6246I was in Washington, D.C. recently and saw this sign in front of the Old Post Office, advertising it as a new “TRUMP” property — in this case, the Trump International Hotel.

The Old Post Office is a beautiful building, and I have no doubt that it will make a magnificent hotel, but . . . the Trump International Hotel?  Doesn’t that seem just a tad inconsistent with The Donald’s recent political speechifying?

How many international visitors are really going to feel welcome at a Trump hotel and are going to be eager to stay there?

Walking To The Grocer’s

When Kish and I lived in Washington, D.C. years ago, we walked to the Safeway on Capitol Hill and, later, the Safeway in the Watergate in Foggy Bottom.  Like many other D.C. residents, we had a stand-up metal cart that, when folded out, could comfortably fit two full paper bags of goods, and that was how we carted our food back home.

When we moved to the suburbs of Columbus we kept that cart for a while but never used it, and finally we gave it away to the Salvation Army.  The suburbs are made for cars, not carts, and as the boys grew up, and showed the appetites that boys always have, we needed far more than two bags of groceries, anyway.

Now that we’re back to just the two of us, the idea of walking to the grocer’s, just as we did in our pre-kid days, is appealing — and I wish we still had that cart.  We’ve got a Giant Eagle in one direction and a Kroger in another; both are about 10 blocks away.  Yesterday afternoon I walked to the Kroger to shop.  It reminded me of some of the benefits of walking to the grocer’s.

For one thing, it encourages discipline.  You need to carry home everything you buy using your own muscle power, not horsepower.  This tends to encourage making thoughtful lists and avoiding impulse purchases.  At several points yesterday I weighed whether to buy something, took a look into my basket, and voted no because it probably would put me over the two-bag carrying limit.  You also tend to avoid the heavy and ungainly giant-size options.  The inevitable result is less food around the house at any given point in time . . . and less food going bad.  And, of course, you also get the exercise of walking to the store in the first place, and then the combination walking-carrying exercise on the way back.

My walk to the grocer’s yesterday felt good, and it brought back some memories, too.

Sled Away, Kids!

Sometimes government regulations make you shake your head in wonder.  So it is with the ban on sledding on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

People can freely walk on the grounds of the Capitol, so security can’t be the reason for banning sledding.  Instead, Capitol Police justified the ban by citing statistics that there are more than 20,000 sledding injuries in America each year — a rationale which would justify banning sledding everywhere.  Do the Capitol Police really think we’ll buy the notion that they did some analysis of sledding injuries before deciding to impose a silly ban on an age-old winter activity?  I suspect that the real reason for the sledding ban is that some crusty old members of Congress didn’t like the sound and commotion of kids having fun on one of the rare days when the District of Columbia gets enough snow to make sledding feasible and told the Police to do whatever they needed to stop it.

I’m glad that parents and kids went sledding in defiance of the idiotic ban, which should never have been imposed in the first place and is just another example of unnecessary government overreach.  The Capitol is our building; our elected representatives just work there.  So long as security isn’t impaired, we should be permitted to use the grounds for leisure activities like sledding or playing frisbee.  And parents — not the Capitol Police —  should making the decisions about the safety of their kids’ activities.

So sled away, kids!  And learn that sometimes you need to stand up — or sled down — for your rights.

Looking For The Political “Glue Guys”

Sociological theory holds that every successful organization needs “glue guys.”  Coaches of sports teams agree.

“Glue guys” are the people who do the little things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, or the balance sheet, but that are crucial to moving the overall endeavor in the right direction.  On a basketball team they take the charge, dive for the loose ball, and cheer like crazy for the team when they are on the bench.  In an office, they might bring in a dozen doughnuts for no reason, take the new guy in accounting to lunch during his first week, or try to smooth ruffled feelings so a minor incident doesn’t become a major blow-up.

The “glue guys” typically aren’t perceived as superstars, and often their contribution is just assumed.  But if the “glue guys” leave, suddenly the office or the the offense doesn’t run quite so well, the prima donnas start battling for attention, and bad feelings start to grow.  Before you know it, people are hogging the ball and communicating with each other through passive-aggressive notes stuck to the front of the office microwave.

When I reflect on our dysfunctional political environment, I wonder if the real problem is that we lacki those political “glue guys” — the Senators and Representatives who, in the past, could swallow their pride, work with people in the other party, keep their word, and forge a fair compromise that would allow the necessary work to get done.  Now, it seems, everyone acts like a superstar — they raise huge amounts of money, they send countless overwrought e-mails soliciting even more cash by presenting opposing views in the most dangerous possible light, and when the party talking points get circulated they dutifully go on MSNBC or Fox shows and say pointed, terrible things about the other side.  How many of these preening politicos would take a charge or dive for a loose ball to try to, say, develop a rational approach to immigration issues?

I think we need more of the “glue guys” in Washington, D.C.  The question is, how do we accomplish that in our modern polarized, money-saturated, poll-driven political system?

Lifestyles Of The Kids Of The Rich And Famous

Some stories are reporting on how much Chelsea Clinton has been paid for her gig with NBC News.  Politico reported that she was paid $600,000 annually when she accepted a special correspondent role in November 2011, and her contract was later changed to a month-to-month term to allow her and the network to cut ties quickly if Hillary Clinton runs for President.  Another website calculated how much she had been paid for each minute she’s been on the air, and it’s a big number.  For its part, NBC isn’t commenting.

If you were Chelsea Clinton, would you take such a deal?  Of course you would!  If the reported numbers are even close to accurate, it’s just too much money to turn down.  You’d rationalize it as a chance to make your voice heard and offer your unique perspective, and maybe you’d feel you were even owed it because you’ve had to endure the spotlight.  Why not make your family more comfortable?  And if you’re even remotely considering a political career at some point in your future, why not add to your potential campaign nest egg, and try to increase your public visibility and Q rating at the same time?

Did NBC News get the raw end of the deal?  I doubt it.  I’m guessing they weren’t hiring Chelsea Clinton because she was likely to become the most hard-charging journalist in the NBC News stable or even the most deft reporter of feel-good features.  Instead, they likely thought that hiring her would be seen by the vast network of Clinton supporters as doing a favor for a valued friend — and that perception could pay huge dividends in countless ways, whether it’s obtaining access to political or cultural figures or helping to get an important legislative initiative across the finish line on Capitol Hill.

It’s the way the game is played these days in Washington, D.C., where current and former politicians routinely become millionaires and members of their families benefit, too.  Whether they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches, or are offered sweetheart investment opportunities by admiring allies, or become expensive talking heads on the news networks, the class of former politicians often seem to be awash in cash.  Is it any wonder that so many hard-working Americans, who cannot imagine what it would be like to make $600,000 a year for an occasional TV appearance, consider Washington, D.C. to be such a despicable and fundamentally corrupt place?

All Aboard The Acela Express

IMG_1839On Thursday I needed to get from Washington, D.C. to New York City. Rather than taking a plane, I decided to try the Amtrak Acela Express.

I’ve never taken a train trip in the United States. I’ve ridden trains in Europe, but there is no American passenger train station in Columbus. I figured it was about time I tried an Amtrak train. After all, as an American taxpayer, I’ve been subsidizing Amtrak for decades. The Acela Express is supposed to be one of the few Amtrak routes where ticket revenue actually covers is operating costs (some people dispute this), although capital costs of the route remain subsidized by the federal government. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to see what my tax dollars have produced?

IMG_1842I liked taking the train, and I’d take it again. The Acela Express leaves from Union Station in D.C., has stops in Baltimore, Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia, and Newark, then arrives in Penn Station about 2 hours and 50 minutes after you’ve left the Nation’s Capital. Total travel time is about what you’d have by air, factoring in the time needed to get to the airport and go through security, and you end up in the middle of Manhattan rather than at LaGuardia. The cost of my first-class Acela ticket was about the same as the cost of a flight, too.

The first-class car was clean and spacious, and the train was sold out. Most of the first-class passengers were taking advantage of the free wireless that was afforded and the free beverages; my traveling companion and I each had a glass of decent red wine. Our car was quiet and spacious. The train rocks a bit, but you can stretch your legs and walk to the cafe car if you want, or just watch the scenery roll by. As an added bonus, I saw a U.S. Senator on the trip — New Jersey’s Bob Menendez.

A New York attorney I know said the Acela Express advertises itself as the “civilized” travel alternative. That’s not inaccurate. Thanks, fellow taxpayers, for a pleasant journey!

Giving $21 To A Homeless Man

Washington, D.C. seems to have a disproportionately large number of homeless people, and they are a very visible part of the community.

When Kish and I lived here in the early ’80s, a “deinstitutionalization” program had just gone into effect, and many apparently disturbed people who had been let out of the local asylum were living rough on the streets. They tended to cluster in doorways or on the steam grates above the D.C. subway lines. Many of them were scary — tormented by inner demons, raving angrily to themselves, and occasionally lashing out at passersby. D.C. residents looked for them and gave them wide berth; tourist families often didn’t.

Last night I walked to dinner in downtown D.C., and the homeless people are still here, tucked into their preferred cubbyholes and campsites, carrying their pieces of cardboard and their threadbare blankets. On the way back one African-American man played the angry black man card to get our attention, saying something like “Hey, get out of my way.” When we stopped, startled, he laughed and apologized, then told his story in rapid-fire fashion.

Homeless people often talk very fast, because they know from experience that people typically won’t spend much time with them. This time, though, we listened, and his story went like this. “I’m not begging,” he said. “I recently got out of prison and I have no where to go. I spent what money I had to buy shoe shine materials. I need exactly $21 to pay for a room tonight, or I will have to sleep outside. Can I shine your shoes?”

The man was coherent and made eye contact, and I believed his story. It was too cold for an outdoor shoe shine, though — and, I realized, therefore also too cold for a fellow human being to sleep outside. So I gave him the $21 he wanted, and my friend made a contribution, too. The man took the money and said thank you, and we walked away.

Thinking about that brief encounter this morning, I don’t regret giving the man the $21. He may have been a masterful con artist, and I recognize that many homeless advocates say you should not give money to the homeless because they will just use it to feed alcohol or drug habits. In this case, though, my instincts said the man was genuine, and I felt that I could help him.

In the cold light of morning, I don’t regret giving this man $21, and I hope that he used it to get that warm room on a cold night.

Don’t Mess With The Lincoln Memorial

In a world of senseless violence, ethnic wars, random kidnappings, and suicide bombings, why get angry about some green paint splashed on a statue — particularly when the paint can be cleaned and the statue returned to its former glory?

But the vandalism at the Lincoln Memorial does make me angry.  I hope they catch the twisted person who did this, and I hope they make him pay.

The Lincoln Memorial, like the rest of the National Mall, says a lot about America.  Lincoln was one of our greatest Presidents, and one of our greatest Americans, period.  His story tells a lot about this country, and his perseverance through the awful bloodshed of the Civil War does, too.  Most Americans have seen the Lincoln Memorial, on fifth grade trips to the Nation’s Capital or on family visits there, and it is an awesome temple to the American Idea — noble and grand, humbling and moving, with Lincoln’s careful words carved on the walls and his craggy, wise head looking down upon us.  We leave the Lincoln Memorial, and we feel good.

So why in the world would some idiot splash paint on Lincoln’s statue?

And while we are figuring out the answer to that question, let’s also answer this question:  how could the vandal do this and get away?  I hate to suggest even more surveillance cameras in this country, but the Lincoln Memorial needs to be protected.  Now that this pointless act has occurred, we don’t want to give terrorists any ideas.