Saturday, February 18, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #201

You know, I promised you 'Lost Weekends In Vexillology' last week- I just didn't figure I'd be launching into them so soon. But what better follow-up to my Psephology post on the legislative elections Uttar Pradesh than going back in time- way back in time- to dig into my very own personal collection to take a look once more at the flag of India:
Before we get to the flag, I have to admit that this one is something of a head-scratcher. For as long as I've been keeping track of the flags I've looked at, India has always been on the list. It was an early acquisition for my personal collection and I've always thought I had knocked it off way early on in the process when I was going through some flags in my personal collection, but I could never find the original post. So it's something of a mystery- which, now, happily, we get to resolve.

Well, right away I realized I needed a new picture for this post. The Flag Code of India specifies that the saffron band of the tricolor be on the left when displayed vertically- so I had to fix that. Another fascinating thing I found out: the manufacturing process is regulated very tightly by the Bureau of Indian Standards who certifies every flag. Guess what? My particular flag- not so much. The guidelines cover "sizes, dye color, chromatic values, brightness, thread count and hemp cordage." (Wikipedia) Defects from the guidelines can result in fines or even jail terms... (New Flag Goal: get a BSI Certified flag of India!)

During the struggle for independence from Britain, it was Gandhi who recognized the need for a national flag- the initial design featured a spinning wheel on a red and green  banner (red for Hindus, green for Muslims.) He was aiming to have the flag ready by for the Congress session of 1921, but it didn't get done on time. Which turned out to be a good thing, because it gave Gandhi time to refine his original design, into this:

The white stripe was added to the flag to represent all other religions. Gandhi moved toward a more secular interpretation of the flag's colors by the end of the decade: "stating that red stood for the sacrifices of the people, white for purity, and green for hope." (Wikipedia)  However, another flag was gaining in popularity at the time as well- thanks to an incident in April of 1923 in Nagpur when the Swaraj flag was hoisted and a clash between Congressmen and the police resulted. That flag became the official flag of the Congress Party at it's 1931 meeting and it looks like this:   
                     
You sort of see the path toward the current flag- at least from a design point of view. Gandhi's first 'draft' only had red and green for Hindus and Muslims- adding the white stripe for all other religions established the tricolor as the design. The spinning wheel was retained from the Gandhian flag to the Swaraj flag... the colors shifted slightly with this flag to avoid sectarian overtones. Saffron was chosen for courage and sacrifice, the white for peace and truth and green for faith and chivalry. When it came time for independence in 1947, the spinning wheel was dropped in favor of the Ashoka Chakra, representing the eternal wheel of law. As for the meaning, I'm going to let Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan- who was India's first Vice-President and it's second President speak for himself on this score:
Bhagwa or the saffron color denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the center is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The "Ashoka Chakra" in the center of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnatoin. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of peaceful change.
The flag's name is the Tiranga, or 'tricolor' and was adopted on July 22nd 1947. It was designed by Pingali Venkayya.

And that's the first of our 'Lost Weekends in Vexillology' in the books! I'm going to do some digging to see if I can find an actual BIS certified flag of India somewhere on the interwebs (and more importantly, see how much it costs) to try and get one, because that would be a bad-ass addition to my collection. 

Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Psephology Rocks: Uttar Pradesh and Why You Should Care

psephology
(noun) 1. The study of elections.

Part of the joy of elections and my amateur study of them is stumbling across an election that you didn't even know was going on and realizing that it's kind of a big deal- so imagine my excitement when I realized that legislative elections in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh were underway!

Indian elections are probably my favorite things in the world...  their national elections are the largest exercises in mass democracy anywhere in the world and it takes them about a month to get all the voting done- Uttar Pradesh is it's largest state with a population of just under 200 million and it's legislative election kicked off on February 11th and it's going to last until March 8th. In a word: awesome.

(Parenthetical time: elections in India are pretty much ignored by the US media and that needs to change- a point that John Oliver made on his show a few years back. India is a large and growing economy and it's going to be very important in the 21st Century- so pay attention, damn it. Plus, there's this describing their very first elections, taken from Ramachandra Guha's excellent history of independent India, India After Gandhi: The History of The World's Largest Democracy- appropriately, the title of the chapter covering their first elections is appropriate- it's entitled: 'The Biggest Gamble In History.'
Some numbers will help us understand the scale of Sen's enterprise. At stake were 4,500 seats- about 500 for Parliament and the rest for the provincial assemblies. Some 224,000 polling booths were constructed and equipped with 2 million steel ballot boxes, require 8,200 tons of steel. To type d collate the electoral rolls by constituencies 16,500 clerks were appointed on six-month contracts. About 380,000 reams of paper were used for print the rolls. To supervise the voting, 56,000 presiding officers were chosen. They were aided by 280,000 "lesser" staff members; and 224,000 policemen were put on duty to stop violence and intimidation. 
The elections and the electorate were spread out over an area of more than 1 million square miles. The terrain was huge, diverse, and- for the project at hand- sometimes horrendously difficult. In remote hill villages, bridges had to be specially constructed across rivers; in small islands in the Indian Ocean, naval vessels were used to take the rolls to the booths.
At the time, the size of the Indian electorate was 176 million- 85% of which could not read or write. 389,916 phials indelible ink were used to avoid impersonation. Right now, the size of Uttar Pradesh's population alone is larger than the Indian national electorate in 1952.

Their elections are the largest exercises in mass democracy in human history. Each and every national election in Indian should be a headline grabbing event- and no joke, I would love, love, love to get a grant large enough just to go spend a month there and watch their elections up close. If there's one thing that could prod me into rolling up my sleeves and getting a PhD, it's India and it's democracy- it's Constitution especially bears further study, as Guha's book calls it the most significant political document since the American Constitution.

It's a nation of over a billion people that has a democracy that is vibrant and fascinating and while perhaps, not perfect- it had a brief hiccup in the late 70s during Indira Gandhi's 'Emergency' period- it still stands today. And to me, that's awesome.)

Anyway- so Uttar Pradesh- why should you care? Well, I don't know if it's a bellwether state every time around, but The Economist seems to think that it's going to be a good indication of how the next national election- scheduled in 2019 might go. It's early days yet, but this is what I've dug up: there are some indications of worry for the BJP- but to the benefit of the Samajwadi-Congress alliance, which is bypassing the BSP (lead by former Chief Minister Mayawati- who is one of the most powerful women you've never heard of.) But then again, there's also this report which seems to indicate things are sunny and awesome for the BSP.

Who the hell knows how it's all going to end up? The election is a month long...  so, put a reminder on your Google calendar and when you see that random news article about the final results of the elections in Uttar Pradesh go by, click on it and read it. These elections and this part of the world is important, damn it. We should be paying attention.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wait, What?

So, I randomly saw a news article float by me this weekend about a ruling from the State Supreme Court. The last time I actually dug into a State Supreme Court decision was probably the Varnum decision which legalized marriage equality and usually it's a task I find myself loathe to do. I do it, because I figure if the media's going to spend terrabytes of data covering court decisions, I shouldn't have to take their word for it when I can get the actual decision complete and in full thanks to the magical powers of the internet. The problem I find is that I'm not a lawyer. I don't really speak legalese. I think I can do logic pretty well and have a rudimentary grasp of what the hell they're talking about most of the time, but this decision gave me a headache. A major headache. My brain hurts.

(Before I go further, a mild disclaimer: I'm going to be talking- or typing at least tangentially about my day job. Which doesn't happen on the blog all that often, so buckle up.)

So, let's talk about the Coleman decision, shall we?

Basically, an officer was checking plates for stolen vehicles and ran a plate belonging to a person who he knew had a suspended license. It was dark, so he couldn't tell who was driving the car, so he pulled it over. Instead of the female registered owner with a suspended license, he found a male subject who advised he borrowed the car from his sister and produced an Iowa ID. Officer ran it, found out said subject was barred and he was arrested.

Mr. Coleman (the male subject in question) appealed his conviction and found no joy in two lower courts before the State Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision saying:
"when the reason for a traffic stop is resolved and there is no other basis for reasonable suspicion, article 1, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution requires that the driver must be allowed to go his or her way without further ado."
Wait, What?

So if I'm getting this right. (Which, as I mentioned above, is a questionable assertion on my part.) The officer had probable cause to pull the car over because he was checking for the registered owner who was suspended. When he didn't find the registered owner, that (according to the State Supreme Court) should have been the end of that. Probable cause done. Traffic stop over.

For my sins, I slogged through this decision. Twice. And there's a lot I don't understand- the whole issue of issue preservation and error preservation seems to be a bridge too far with the legalese. (The dissent seems willing to dismiss Coleman's claim solely on this basis- he didn't ask for protections under the state constitution in his original claim, so why are the majority giving it to him?) It seems like a reasonable point to make, except neither Wikipedia nor Mr. Google seemed to be able to give me a simple dictionary definition on what the hell both the majority or the dissent seem to be getting at with the whole discussion... so I did what normal people do when confronted with technobabble and jargon they don't understand. I smiled, I nodded and I kept reading.

Color me surprised: I had no idea that traffic stops were so complicated from a legal point of view- I counted twenty-three cases cited by the majority in their argument. From my point of view, they're pretty ubiquitous. (I don't want to say 'routine' because from an officer's point of view, there's no such thing as a routine traffic stop.) Given the blizzard of case law they assembled, you're left the impression that a decision like this was coming- Mr. Coleman's case just happened to be Iowa's turn on this particular carousel.

Then, you get to the dissent. The dissent comes across as the more focused argument in many ways- sticking with the Rodriguez case cited from the Supreme Court and the Jackson case from the Iowa State Supreme Court. The resulting argument is cleaner and much less convoluted. If it were possible for me to view this from a purely objective position, free from any internal biases I might have, I could see the logic in what the dissenters are saying.

It's the intricacies of what makes this fascinating to read. No one is objecting to the stop- despite the majority's suggestion of racial profiling, no one is asserting that race played a part in the stop- except obliquely. At issue is whether or not asking for identification after the original reason for the stop has been resolved constitutes an unlawful extension of the stop and therefore a 4th Amendment violation. (I think?) You get the idea though- we're getting right down into the nitty gritty of this traffic stop. My original thought about all this was that if the impetus for the officer's actions was checking for stolen vehicles/wanted people by running plates, then surely upon finding someone who is not the registered owner behind the wheel, it would be reasonable for him to verify that person's identity. But that original impetus of the officer's actions has no bearing on the probable cause for the stop- so that was the end of my Matlock impression.

Given the fact that cases are cited in the decision that plainly show that states have a compelling interest in maintaining safe highways combined with the fact that the dissent points out that Iowa Code requires motorists to have a valid license and produce it upon demand of a peace officer makes this decision something of a head-scratcher. Plus, it raises all kind of safety issues. So if an officer makes a stop to check for a registered owner and find someone not the registered owner behind the wheel, then oh well. Bye now!

There's a lot about this I don't get- and I didn't hear anything about an appeal, which I'm guessing will probably happen at some point. In the meantime, I'm going to file this post under: "I Should Have Gone To Law School" and wait for the next interesting decision to be handed down.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Oh, What The Hell. Let's Abolish The State Senate!

You ever notice how politicians that talk about shrinking the size of state government or reducing the costs associated with state government never actually shrink state government? Yeah, me too. Do they, to paraphrase Grover Norquist, want government 'small enough so they can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub' or do they want lean and efficient government that actually works?

This is a growing problem for Conservatives. Their base hears all this talk about reducing the size of government, but government never actually shrinks. It just changes its priorities a little bit. It's the reason why Republicans are balking at repealing Obamacare- people are showing up at their townhalls and they're pissed off and they're scared because oh wait, despite the many flaws in the bill- and there are many, it actually does help some people. Thus, Republicans are confronting the uncomfortable truth:  voters actually do want some government. And they want it to do some things. All of which makes what happened in Des Moines last week all the more interesting, because it's obvious that State Republicans are convinced that voters want a state government small enough to drown in a bathtub which makes the changes to collective bargaining for public sector employees in the state are an obvious, immense risk for the State Republicans- because, after all, what if they're wrong?

(I have to agree with this piece in The Huffington Post, btw... this was not, 'Iowa Nice' at all. This was not even sensible politics. This was union busting, plain and simple- and to be honest, if I was a teacher's union, I'd be lawyering up and suing to get my right to strike back- because these changes stop short of repealing Chapter 20. So they'll reduce any meaningful seat at the table for teachers to nothing, but still keep it illegal for them to strike. But sure, tell me again how this was the fiscally responsible thing to do... this wasn't political at all.)

Thanks to multiple editorials in the Des Moines Register, steps are being taken to end access to cheap health care on the part of state legislators. That's good- but my next question is, why do part-time, citizen legislators need health insurance at all? Why should I have to pay for that? Don't they have jobs they do the rest of the year to give them benefits? (Do you know of any other part-time gig in the state that gets health insurance benefits? Unless you're working for a tech company that believes in things like yoga breaks, free shoes and meditation rooms- probably not.)

But then I thought to myself, why stop there? States are supposed to be laboratories of democracy after all. I think we're on the hook for a Republican form of government, but really, we can do whatever we want- that's what the whole 'we the people' thing is about, right? And that's when it hit me: the problem Iowa faces isn't that it has too many teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters or other public sector employees. It just has too many politicians! So if we're serious about controlling the cost of state government, what better way to do that than by abolishing the state senate.

"Aw, come on- stop with the crazy talk already," I hear you saying. But stay with me on this. Unicameralism isn't a totally alien concept in the United States- our next door neighbors in Nebraska do just fine with one chamber and- it's even better than that- their chamber is officially non-partisan! We could do away with all these labels and partisan rancor and elect a group of citizen legislators who are tasked with doing what's best for the people of Iowa- and, for sure, they wouldn't need things like per diems or health insurance, because, you know, they're citizen legislators. They have lives and jobs to go back to when they're not in session.

"But Nebraska has like no people in it!" Well, while that's true- we're getting closer to Nebraska with every passing census. We're at 3.1 million, they're at 1.8 million. At a certain point over the next couple of decades, we'll probably be pretty close in size. So the population can't be an issue.

"One chamber is just weird!" But I thought this was about controlling costs- think of the money the state will save! There's probably a little more to it than this, but, going with what I found on Ballotpedia, we've got 50 state senators all earning $25,000 a year for four years. That's $1,250,000 on salary alone in one year- we could save the state up to $5,000,000 over the course of a full four year term. And it gets better from there: you could save money on staff salaries, office space- we could turn their half of the Capitol building into something fun, that makes money- like a roller rink, or laser tag.

There's an emerging dilemma for Republicans nationwide- and of all the candidates in the 2016 race, only Carly Fiorina got close to breaking into the other half of the equation- she was the only candidate that talking about improving government and not just eliminating it. They can be the party that wants to drown the government rat or they can be the party that deliver smart, efficient and more importantly, good government to the voters. I think a lot of times, voters themselves are hamstrung by a certain lack of imagination when it comes to government. We, after all, are the people- our government can look however we want it too- and while the idea of switching to a unicameral legislature might seem a little extreme to a lot of people here in Iowa, I would argue if the State Republicans want to drown the government rat, they should roll up their sleeves and get on with it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: true sacrifice starts at the top. By all means, drown the rat- but keep in mind that as you get older and as your kids get older, you're going to need people like qualified nurses and your kids are going to need qualified teachers and when all is said and done, ten, twenty years down the road when Iowa's population has cratered even more and young people continue to flee the state at the earliest opportunity- because after all, why stay in a state that's not willing to invest in you- then abolishing the state senate might not seem like that crazy a notion after all.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Netflix & Chill #5: Mr. Holmes

Watched On: Amazon Prime
Released: 2015
Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney
Prime Rating: 4 out 5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Pick: Mine 

Oh, Mr. Holmes...  I'm honestly not sure how to feel about this movie. On the hand, it's a fascinating concept with an excellent cast. On the other hand, I don't think it quite really lived up to it's potential. Basically, in 1947,  Sherlock Holmes is 93, retired, living in the country in Sussex on a farmhouse where he keeps bees. He lives with his housekeeper Mrs. Munro and her son Roger.

As the movie opens Holmes is coming back from Japan, where he had gone to obtain the prickly ash plant, which, when converted into a jelly, he hopes he will improve his failing memory so he can recall the details of his final case- the real details, since he was somewhat unhappy with Dr. Watson's fictionalization of it, The Adventure of the Dove Grey Glove. He can't quite remember what happened with the case, but he knows that whatever happened, it caused him to retire from the detective business and move to the country.

The prickly ash begins to kick in and  Holmes begins piecing his last case together. Just after the end of the First World War and the departure of Doctor Watson from Baker Street, he is approached by a man named Thomas Kelmot who is struggling to understand why his wife Ann has changed so drastically after two miscarriages Holmes follows her through London and eventually deduces that Ann is buying two headstones for her lost children, one for herself and some poison she can commit suicide with. Confronted with that fact, she pours the poison out in front of Holmes and after asking if they could share the burden of loneliness together- Holmes declines and she leaves.

Another flashback emerges- this time of his recent trip to Japan, where he meets an admirer, Mr. Umezaki, who helps him find a prickly ash plant at Hiroshima. His father had abandoned him and his mother years ago- apparently writing a letter saying he was so impressed with the legendary Mr. Holmes that he had decided to stay in England forever. Holmes tells Umezaki that he had never met his father and his father probably wanted a new life for himself in England, which disappoints Umezaki.

Woven in between these flashbacks, we see Holmes' health beginning to deteriorate more and Mrs. Munro is starting consider other options for herself and her son- eventually accepting a job offer at a hotel in Portsmouth and planning to leave and take Roger with her. Roger, for his part is dissatisfied with his mother's lack of education and working class status and wants more for himself and this causes a great deal of tension between mother and son- which is exacerbated when they find Roger unconscious near the house a victim of multiple stings and he is rushed to the hospital.

Holmes stops a distraught Mrs. Munro from destroying the bees, realizing that Roger had discovered the wasps' nest that was killing the bees and, having attempted to drown it, was a victim of a wasp attack and not the bees. We also find out that after Mrs. Kelmot leaves, Holmes discovered that she had killed herself anyway by standing in front of a train. And Mr. Umezaki's father, it turned out, had gone to work for MI-6 in secret and had served the British Empire honorably for many years- which Holmes remembers and send in a letter to Mr. Umezaki.

As Roger recovers, Holmes reveals to Mrs. Munro that he his deeding her the house and the grounds after his death, encouraging her to stay instead of pursuing another job in Portsmouth. As the movie ends, Holmes is seen placing stones in a ring to remember to loved ones he has lost over the years.

I really really wanted to like this movie. I really did. The idea of Sherlock Holmes as a real person/detective- divorced from the fictionalized version and somewhat irritated by the attention is a fascinating idea. The idea of an old Holmes trying to piece together one last case before he dies? Equally awesome potential. But for whatever reason, this just didn't quite come together for me. Don't get me wrong: it's a good movie- Ian McKellen is excellent in whatever he does and his portrayal of both the aging Holmes and the Holmes of thirty years prior seen in the flashbacks is excellent. Laura Linney plays the part of Mrs. Munro well, but her working class accent seemed... inconsistent, which is surprising, but it bothered me. I wasn't really sure what she was going for with it.

Overall: I felt like I was expecting more than I got out of this movie, but maybe that was the point. Maybe aiming for 'the man beyond the myth' like the posters said produces something less dramatic and more mundane.  Me: *** out of 5, The Missus: needed sleep, which meant she probably made the better choice here.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

This Week in Vexillology #200: The Complete Archive

So, This Week In Vexillology began on October 9th, 2012 on a previous blog iteration of mine, Churchill's Cigar... this first list represent the my archives for that blog and lasts up until about May of 2014.

#1: Uganda
#2: Angola
#3: Kazakhstan
#4: Mongolia
#5: PRC/Taiwan
#6: Bhutan
#7: Brazil
#8: Seychelles
#9: British Columbia
#10: Central African Republic
#11: Grenada
#12: Fiji
#13: Australia
#14: St. Kitts and Nevis
#15: Spain
#16: Vatican City
#17: Portugal
#18: Wales
#19: Cuba
#20: Ireland
#21: Cyprus
#22: Israel
#23: Albania
#24: Djibouti
#25: New Zealand
#26: Bosnia and Herzegovinia
#27: Mexico
#28: Greece
#29: Denmark
#30: South Africa
#31: Italy
#32: Botswana
Flag Day Special Edition
#33: Russia
#34: Tajikistan
#35: Nicaragua
#36: Maryland
#37: Croatia
#38: Guyana
#39: Ecuador
#40: Malaysia
#41: Palau
#42: Romania
#43: Burma
#44: Brunei
#45: Canada
#46: Bolivia
#47: United Kingdom
#48: Turkey
#49: Nepal
#50: The Netherlands
#51: Chile
Special #SideProject
#52: Sierra Leone
#53: Sweden
#54: Jamaica
#55: Tanzania
#56: Macedonia
#57: Kyrgyzstan
#58: Catalonia
#59: Nagorno-Karabakh
#60: Kurdistan
#61: State of Jefferson
#62: Zimbabwe
#63: Zambia
#64: The Gambia
#65: Peru
#66: Krasnodar Krai
#67: Tuva
#68: Chuvashia
#69: Adygea
#70: Finland
#71: Estonia
#72: Latvia
#73: Lithuania
#74: Ukraine
#75: Iraq
#76: Micronesia
#77: Kiribati
#78: England
#79: Morocco
#80: Arizona

May 10th of 2014, I began a year and half long stay on Wordpress at The Daily Quixotry, which no longer exists- it's vanished into the ether of cyberspace- the current blog, Lit City Blues began in January of 2016- it's archive is below:

#147: Haiti
#148: Nauru
#149: Czech Republic
#150: Serbia
#151: Montenegro
#152: Kosovo
#153: Moldova
#154: Transnistria
#155: Dominican Republic
#156: TED Talks on Vexillology
#157: Slovenia
#158: Slovakia
#159: Poland/Monaco/Indonesia
#160: Liechtenstein
#161: Austria
#162: Papua New Guinea
#163: Vanuatu
#164: Solomon Islands
#165: Tonga
#166: Tuvalu
#167: Nauru, again
#168: East Timor
#169: Trinidad and Tobago
#170: Saint Lucia
Flag Day Weekend Trifecta
#171: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
4th of July Special
#172: Barbados
#173: Dominica
#174: Uzbekistan
#175: Azerbaijan
#176: Olympic Flag
#177: NATO Flag
#178: United Nations
#179: Armenia
#180: Bangladesh
#181: Laos 
#182: Thailand
#183: Cambodia
#184: Vietnam
#185: Singapore
#186: the Philippines
#187: California
#188: The Pine Tree Flag
#189: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
#190: NW Province, Sri Lanka
#191: Guam
#192: Eastern Province, Sri Lanka
#193: Michigan
#194: Central Province, Sri Lanka
#195: Prince Edward Island
#196: The Queen's Personal Barbidian Flag
#197: End of The Brown Flag Challenge
#198: Micronations
#199: A Modest Proposal, Nebraska

So here we are at #200. I've got some lost Weeks In Vexillology to bring back, but I also want to get serious about trying my hand at flag design, expanding my collection and maybe joining an organization or two. Without meaning to, I think I've become a flag guy- so I think I'm going to embrace it, run with it and try and take #TWIV to the next level. Here's to 200 more!

Friday, February 10, 2017

February On Medium

So this month's short fiction on Medium is 'The Bridge':


This is my inspiration for the story... the Missus and I had an adventure day with the kids a few months back and drove up to Sutliff Bridge- it was an absolutely beautiful fall day and the story just flowed from there. I love Sutliff... it's all isolated and quiet and tucked away into the northwestern corner of the county. It made for a perfect setting...

I also remember reading a short story in high school, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge... that also seemed to be rolling around in my brain when I wrote this. So, I hope it helped me write a decent story.  Here's the official link:


Happy reading! And, as always, comments, questions and feedback are always welcome!