Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Stray Thoughts on the Current Debacle in Cleveland

I just can’t bring myself to watch the Republican National Convention.  I just can’t.

Oh, I read about it.  Somehow it all seems less insulting to me as an American, less aggressively psychotic, less like the death knell of a once-proud political party if you can skim lightly over the articles the next day rather than see it unfold live in all its unmedicated glory.  There’s a little distance there that you need to have just to keep the screaming heebie-jeebies away, the deep fear that comes from knowing that this is representative of a far too large portion of the population of the most powerful nation on earth.

Face it – this is one of the Only Two Major Parties we have in this country, and they just officially nominated as their candidate for the highest office in the land a man whose utter lack of principles is perhaps his best quality.  It is better than his inability to comprehend anything that doesn’t directly concern his own ego.  It ranks higher than his eagerness to pander to the worst elements of a society on the verge of self-inflicted breakdown.  It’s far more endearing than the sad realization that behind the bluster and the ego there is essentially nothing – as one of the people who knows him best recently put it, there is no inner Trump: he’s a hollow blowhard all the way through.  And it certainly bodes fairer for the future than the fact that he seems incapable of telling the truth even when it would benefit him to do so.  According to the people who rank such things, he is being truthful less than 10% of the time – a modern record.  Hilary, Bernie, Jeb, Kasich, and most major political figures from either party tend to be truthful around half the time, which may sound bad (it's not anything you'd put up with from a colleague or roommate, for example) but is still 500% better than the guy the GOP thinks should be president.

I’ve seen the chaos that erupted on the floor on the first day.  I note with grim foreboding the fact that you now have one faction of the GOP calling another faction of the GOP fascists to the national media.  As an academic I am deeply puzzled at why Trump’s wife thought she could give Michelle Obama’s speech (with a dash of Rick Astley) and not think people would catch that.  One of the hardest lessons my students learn is that plagiarism is astonishingly easy to spot these days, and the whole function of modern social media is to create pile-ons of astonishing ferocity and pitiless mocking.  You can survive looking bad in the modern political and cultural arena, but you cannot long survive looking ridiculous and incompetent.

If they can bungle what should have been a well-oiled publicity machine that they had months to plan, can any sentient being on the planet think they’re going to do better if entrusted with the messy and demanding prospect of making real-world decisions in actual time?  This is the guy people want with his finger on the nuclear button?  This should have been a completely artificial manufactured PR event, and it has turned into an embarrassment for both the GOP and the nation as a whole.

Yes indeed, this has been exactly the clusterfuck that Democrats had been hoping for and Republican professional operatives had been dreading.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

And yet there he is.

There are times when you think to yourself that perhaps the entire world has indeed lost its mind.  That perhaps humanity really is a weed species that has overstayed its welcome on this green and fertile planet, and if we destroyed ourselves it would not be that bad a thing for everything else.  The trees would thank us, if nothing else.  Maybe the songbirds too.

As a historian, someone who has studied the past, has studied the blood and work and sacrifices that have built human civilization out of the grey mists of the past, this is a saddening thought. 

Yet there is nothing inevitable about the continued existence of the United States of America.  There is nothing inevitable about the continued existence of humanity as a whole.  We have it in our power to make short work of the achievements of past generations.


We also have it on our power not to.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Not-Quite-Right Stuff

It’s getting down toward County Fair season again, which means that everything is moving toward its endgame.  And for the turkeys, this really is the endgame – they will outlive the fair by less than two weeks.  So in the meantime, we treat them well.  They deserve it.

Every morning we head over and take care of the chickens and then let the turkeys out to roam around the grass outside the barn for a while.  They like it out there.  They tend to stick together and are easily herded back in when it’s time to leave so it’s not any big trouble for us.  Mostly they just walk around, chuffing like steam locomotives and occasionally panicking at nothing and flapping their wings to try to take off.  That’s a startling sound the first time you hear it – they have big wings – but it never leads to anything.  Eventually they settle down in a slightly different portion of the grass and go back to chuffing, eating, and occasionally gobbling.  We put them back in their pen when we leave, though the door to the outside fenced-in run is open so they can still go outside if they want.  They always do.

And then in the evening we go back to shut them in for the night, and they get to wander around a bit then too.

Today Lauren and I went over to take care of the turkeys and chickens, but this time Lauren wanted to work with Whitney (nee Goober), her Rosecomb Bantam pullet.  Whitney is going to be the showmanship bird this year, so Lauren has to get her used to being handled and exhibited.  Fortunately Whitney is a fairly sedate little thing for something the size of a pigeon, and is generally happy to sit with Lauren out in the grass and go through the showmanship routines.

Until she looks up and sees this:


Scarers on the floor!

The turkeys are amiably curious birds, and they love to be wherever you are.  If you wander off to do something, they will – eventually – turn up by your side, chuffing and milling about.  This isn’t a big deal when you’re human-sized, but when you’re a chicken roughly the size of a turkey’s thigh it can be a bit intimidating.

Feathers were ruffled.

So Lauren moved over to a new portion of the lawn while I distracted the turkeys and got them to wander over by me.  We sat together for a while until Lauren and Whitney had done their bit and then we herded everyone back to their respective spots.

It's a good day for turkeys.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Signs of the Times

So there’s a political sign in my front lawn now.

I knew it was coming.  The candidate is a friend of mine and he had asked me politely if he could put it there to let people know he was running for a local office.  I honestly think he’d do a good job at it if he got elected, so I was happy to let him do so. 

But it’s still kind of an odd feeling.

I’ve always had an interest in politics, as long as I can remember.  Not running for office – not that kind of politics.  My friend with the sign once tried to get me to run for City Council and all I could think of was “why would anybody want to do that?”  So I’ll likely never hold an office.  But I’ve been studying politics for much of my life – how it works, why people think this or that system is a good way to organize the world, that sort of thing.

I have a PhD in American history, a BA in psychology, and three decades’ experience backstage.  It’s not hard to understand why I think it is interesting to see how people think things ought to be run, what they think is happening versus what actually is happening, and the mechanisms they erect to achieve their societal goals.  I’ve been studying those things all my life, officially or otherwise.  When I teach my history classes we always spend a lot of time on ideologies – where they come from, what happens when people try to implement them on the ground, and so on.  You can’t hope to understand the Electoral College, for example, unless you understand what the Founders thought politics ought to look like.

And in this election year it would make sense to pay even more attention than usual.

Except that I am so utterly burned out by the whole tawdry spectacle of modern American politics that I find myself just wanting the whole field of political endeavor to go away.  I want no part of it.

We are in the midst of a full-on frothing assault on American traditions, institutions, and values from the far right wing these days.  The Republican Party has been subverted by the batshit insane and turned into an existential threat to the survival of the American republic – a process that began in the late 1960s, reached a tipping point in the early 1990s, and has gotten progressively and now quite possibly irredeemably worse since 2008 – and every time you think they have reached rock bottom and could not possibly sink any lower they prove you wrong.

Seriously – take a look at the collection of punitively stupid and retrograde hostage demands that they insist is the 2016 platform and tell me that’s not a group well on the way to Fascism but lacking the intellectual heft or consistency to pull it off.  And when your nominee is a guy who went bankrupt four times trying to sell steaks, alcohol, and gambling to the American people – a man who has yet to put forward a single coherent policy but whose fragments constitute a clear and present danger to the Constitution, a document he obviously hasn’t read – an intellectually stunted bully whose first reaction to any tragedy is to make it about himself – well, you’ve pretty much conceded that you’re not a serious political party anymore, haven’t you?

Honestly.  I feel bad for my conservative friends.  Nobody’s representing them anymore, unless you count Barack Obama, who is essentially Eisenhower in civvies.  Welcome to my world, I say.  Nobody’s represented me for decades.

The Democrats have problems, too, of course, but the Republicans are insane.

And yes, the Democrats have problems.  Their nominee is ruthless Machiavellian technocrat whose demonstrated competence in every field she’s attempted has only just barely kept her ahead of the cloud of ethical lapses that follow her around like puppies – lapses that have never amounted to crimes no matter how blown out of proportion her opponents make them but which are tiring nonetheless and which drain the enthusiasm out of her supporters at a time when it is so badly needed.  And the runner up this year was a visionary throwback whose conclusions were sounder than his ideas for implementing them and a substantial portion of whose followers are so mired in their own privilege that they’d rather see the country go to the Republicans than sully themselves by voting for the candidate who beat him fair and square.

So, problems.

But either of the two Democrats is beyond a doubt preferable to the mess that the GOP brings to the table.  There is no planet on which Donald Trump should be taken seriously as a candidate for anything other than experimental medical treatment.  Yet he won the GOP nomination fair and square.  He’s the guy the Republican base preferred to all of the other possibilities they were offered – the sixteen supposedly qualified people who were steamrolled by the juggernaut of ignorance, nativism, white privilege, blind rage, retrograde theoracy, muddle-headed economics, and simple-minded narcissism that their party spent decades working to perfect.  The GOP is the party of Trump now, and for that alone they should be buried in ignominy and forgotten by humanity.

I’m tired of it.  Truly, deeply tired of it.

But this is what is there, so this is what we deal with.  I will do my part, because to do otherwise is to betray everything that is worthwhile about this country.  I pay attention, and I vote.

If you’re in the area, you should take a look at my friend’s sign and see if you think he’s worth your vote.  I think so.  You may too.  And if you don’t, well, go in peace to vote for whom you will.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Birthday in July

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday.

It wasn’t one of the big ones – the ones that end in zero that the human mind tends to focus on when deciding what constitutes a milestone.  It was what the baseball scorekeepers call a crooked number – something with curves or angles in it (i.e. not a 1) that looks good up on the scoreboard.  Most birthdays are like that.

This is, in some respects, why it was special.

It’s been a long year in many ways, and it is good to be reminded of the things that make life on this planet worthwhile – the people you love and the times you share.  I’m too far away to pop over for cake these days – have been for decades now – and as usual the card and gift that we’re sending will get there at some point that can easily be defined as “not on or before her actual birthday.”  I’ve never been very good at that.  We celebrate when we have time.

And we do celebrate, because we should.

I have been extraordinarily fortunate in the people in my life.  I have two lovely and amazing daughters, and a wife who fills my world with love.  I have more good friends than a person of my social skills could reasonably hope for, in-laws who burn the stereotypes to ashes, and colleagues who make work a good place to be.  And my family is the foundation of my world. 

I have learned a lot from my mom.

I got my love of reading from her.  My mom has never been without a book.  Every room in the house is full of them, and she taught me by example that reading is never a waste of time.  We share books back and forth sometimes even now.  This is, perhaps, one of the most influential things anyone has ever taught me.  I am never without a book either.

I got my appreciation for strong and intelligent women from her.  She has navigated many fields in her life and succeeded in them because of that strength and intelligence.  I wrote my dissertation largely with her in mind as an audience, in part because it takes strength and intelligence to parse out someone else's dissertation, after all.  There are far too many men in this world who find such women threatening and seek to undermine them.  Those men are fools. 

I learned how to take responsibility and to care for others from her as well.  How to welcome people into a home.  How to think.  How to see what is in front of me.  How to do so many things.

And I keep learning.  That’s another lesson.  Always keep learning.  My mom is well past retirement now, and still learning and still teaching by example.

Happy birthday, mom.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

See Saw

I bought a tool last week.

For some people this is a wholly unremarkable event, on par with eating breakfast or getting dressed.  There are people – mostly, though not exclusively, guys – who don’t consider a week complete without the acquisition of some implement of construction, destruction, or alteration.  These are the people who keep the hardware stores in business.

I am not one of those people.

To the best of my knowledge, this may be the first time in my entire life that I have actually gone out and intentionally purchased a tool of any kind without being commanded to do so by someone else.  The hardware stores do not get rich off of my patronage.

At least not for tools. 

I have bought more than my fair city-dwelling share of chicken and turkey food in the last few years.  I’ve bought rabbit pellets and car batteries and various grades of ropes, clips, and fasteners, as well as any number of small mechanical items that my ancestors probably lived just fine without.  But never tools. Not on my own initiative, anyway.

For most of my life I had a fairly limited number of tools. 

One was my Swiss army knife – a necessity backstage and something that can be substituted for almost anything in a pinch, especially the older models that came with a corkscrew.  I put together quite a few things with that, and took apart a few others.  It’s handy that way.  I've had about half a dozen of these things since the first one I bought.  One I carry with me at all times.  The others I have mostly donated to the TSA over the years, though at least one was stolen from a gym locker when I was in 11th grade.  I remember marching up to the assistant principal in high dudgeon demanding satisfaction for my missing knife.  He patiently filled out the forms, and nothing more came of it.  I imagine I'd be arrested on the spot for that today.  Times change.

Another was my crescent wrench – also useful backstage.  I actually got that backstage, come to think of it.  There were about eight or nine student drama groups where I went to college and one of them spent some money on 8” adjustable crescent wrenches which the lighting designer handed out to those who had served well.  I still have it, complete with the tie-line that kept it from falling on the heads of troublesome actors from the catwalk. 

There was, in addition, a small box of tools that the firehouse gave out as a door prize one Christmas back when I was in eighth grade or so.  They’re adorable, really – a tiny little hammer, a screwdriver handle that can be fitted with everything from a Philips-head to an awl, a box cutter, and so on.  They came in a little leatherette box about the size of a carton of cigarettes and you could stuff the whole thing in a desk drawer, where they sat for decades.

I have also acquired a complete set of Allen wrenches from IKEA, because that’s how it is to set up a household in 21st-century America.

And that was it.

Then I got married.  Kim is the tool person in our house.  She likes tools, enjoys household projects, and generally sees hardware stores as desirable places to be (in stark contrast with myself – I tend to see them as punishment for some mid-range sin I have committed and only wish I could remember better).  I may be the only husband in America who gave his wife a power tool for her birthday and didn’t spend the night on the couch.

But we had a friend who is a tree guy come over last month to get rid of the brush pile behind our garage, after two decades of accumulation, and when the tree branch fell down a couple of weeks ago it just didn’t seem right to start a new brush pile.  Nor do we have any decent handsaws.  We do have a couple of power saws that are a crashing nuisance to set up as far as I am concerned and which I avoid if at all possible.  But the handsaws we had were mostly good for exercise and, really – this was a single tree branch about as thick as a historian’s forearm.   Hauling out the power tools seemed kind of overkill.

So I went to the local Giant Hardware Store and bought a saw.

It is a nice saw.  It cuts things when you use it, which is what a saw should do. 

And now we no longer have a tree branch.  We have firewood.

I will never be a construction guy.  But now I have a saw.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Sporting Summer

This has been a great summer for sports.

The Copa America finished last night with a rousing final, the kind of game that has everything – brilliant play, incomprehensible refereeing, stupid fouls, elegant tactics, and just when you thought you were going to get a satisfying end to the game you were granted a ringside seat for the absolute farce of deciding a championship on penalty kicks.  Seriously – it’s like flipping a coin to decide the Republican nomination for president, which, admittedly would have worked better than the tragic opera that they got this year so perhaps that wasn’t the best analogy to make my point after all.

I enjoyed watching the various games as much as I could in and around the demands on my world.  The US didn’t do too badly, coming in fourth – only the second time in a hundred years that they’ve managed to get to the semi-finals.  Hey – we can run with the Medium Dogs now.  The US did a good job against the second-tier teams, but then ran into Argentina and pretty much what you expected to happen when the #31 team in the world faced the #1 team in the world is what actually happened.

The Copa games were generally more entertaining than the UEFA Cup games.

The European games have been slow tactical matches with not much in the way of scoring or even bright play, while the Copa games were fast, physical, and at one point I watched Chile beat Mexico by a touchdown.  That doesn’t happen often at this level of soccer.

But I’ve enjoyed the UEFA games also. 

England has gone out of Europe in the more usual way now, defeated by Iceland today – a nation roughly the size of Leicester.  Germany is beginning to look like the team that won the World Cup last time around.  Wales is still hanging around – it amazes me that the UK gets to field four different teams, though this may become significantly less amazing in the very near future, sadly enough.  Hungary did a nice job there for a while, and even Albania got a win in the group stage.  You have to appreciate that.

So it’s been a good sports summer as far as I am concerned.  And there’s still more UEFA Cup to go.  Plus, if everyone doesn’t pull out because of fears of Zika virus or get banned for persistent flagrant doping like the entire Russian track and field program, and if there is some kind of construction-based miracle that allows the facilities to be completed sometime before 2028 despite rampant corruption, extreme cost-overruns, and general unsavoryness above and beyond the usual sleazeball aspects of anything connected with the IOC, there will be an Olympics this summer as well.  I like the Olympics.  It’s a festival of weird sports, and that has to count for something in this buttoned up world.

Also, I understand that Cleveland won a championship in something not long ago.  Is that allowed?  Did anyone else hear of this?  I may have hallucinated it.

Way back in the prehistoric days of the internet, circa 1998, ESPN ran a 20-part series on “The Most Sports-Cursed Cities in America.”  Being from Philadelphia, I figured we had that one in the bag but we came in second.  Second!  Who, I wondered, was doing worse then us?

Well, Cleveland, of course.

Okay, I said.  I’ll give you that one.

So it’s nice that they won something.  I hope it was in a sport that people in Cleveland like.

I will stick with my soccer for now.  It seems to have become my sport these days.  Baseball I can only watch when I’m actually in the stands.  American football has become too much like cockfighting for me to enjoy the way I used to, though I still watch it.  Curling I can never find on television.  Hockey still gives soccer a run for my attention, but in the grand American scheme of things I’m not sure that’s any help.  I am what I am.

The first time I ever went to a professional soccer game I must have been about ten or so.  This was during one of several attempts to bring league soccer to the United States, back in the mid-1970s – an attempt that was met with colossal indifference by most Americans and eventual failure on the part of the league or leagues involved.

I suppose I should have seen that coming even at the time.

The Philadelphia Atoms played from 1974 to 1977, after which a new team called the Fury played from 1978 to 1980 (thank you, internet sources).  I can’t even recall which team we saw, though I am pretty sure it was the Atoms since I think the draw that night was the Brazilian player Pele, who played for the New York team and retired in 1977, an old man cashing in on Americans in the twilight of his career, and good for him. 

I do remember that we would get in free if we gave them an empty can of Doctor Pepper.  So on the way down to Veterans Stadium – my dad, a West Philadelphia native, would never take the highways down to the stadium but would instead wiggle his way along the side streets of West Philly past many a little grocery happy to sell us a sixpack of whatever we wanted – we bought some and sat there in the parking lot drinking warm Doctor Pepper to empty the cans.

Why it didn’t occur to any of us to just dump the stuff in the sewer I don’t know.

But we made it to the stadium, presented our cans, received a hands-width-sized imitation soccer ball as a door prize, and trotted down to our seats.

There must have been two hundred people in that stadium.  We could have had an entire section of seats to ourselves if we had wanted.  Yeah, it wasn’t a surprise when they folded.

I don’t remember the game much.  If the article I found on the Atoms and Fury is correct they probably lost – the Atoms stopped being talented in 1975 and the Fury never started. 

We never went back.

I didn’t really become a soccer fan until a few years ago.  I enjoyed the US Women’s Team in the 90s, and I have fond memories of being in a bar in Iowa City during the Men’s World Cup in 1994 when Brazil beat Italy despite my friend’s constant shouting of “I-TAL-IA!  I-TAL-IA!” to a room full of Brazilians.  But somewhere around 2010 I started watching it regularly, and now it’s my go to sporting event.  I even bought a Philadelphia Union t-shirt when I was back there last month.  I hope they last longer and have more success than the Atoms or Fury. 

There’s been a lot of good soccer this summer.

It’s been a good summer that way.

Friday, June 24, 2016

News and Updates

1. So apparently 52% of the voters of Britain have decided to slit their own throats in the name of nationalistic fervor.  I confess I did not particularly see that one coming, though I suppose I shouldn’t have been as surprised by it as I was, given that this has been a popular choice in this country for years now even if it does manifest rather differently here.  People are people, and Stupid is both easy and satisfying in a world where so little else is.  From what I hear a good proportion of the Leave voters either now regret what they did, had no idea what they were doing (Google reports a massive upsurge in searches for “what is the EU?” in the wake of the vote), or both, and a petition is already up and running to have a revote.  The fun part is that the vote was nonbinding, which means Parliament now has a choice.  It can follow the express wishes of the electorate and do something blisteringly dunderheaded that will cripple the British economy and destroy what small hopes the younger generation of Britons had for economic advancement even as it leads to the rapid dissolution of the United Kingdom into three, possibly four different pieces (if you think Scotland is going to stay, for example, think again), or they can do the politically and economically smart thing and ignore the referendum, which means flying directly in the face of an engaged and angry electorate, something that requires courage, foresight, and a willingness to sacrifice one’s personal interests for the good of the whole.  Maybe British politicians are better at that than Americans, but I doubt it.  Gonna be an interesting summer.

2. Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic the presidential election has descended from comedy to farce as The Donald consistently finds new ways to announce to the world that he is not fit to have conversations with grown-ups and that anyone who supports him must be a blithering idiot.  Seriously – Hillary Clinton must be thanking whatever deity she believes in that the Republican Party has lost all shred of decency, common sense, and self-preservation to provide her with an opponent tailor-made for destruction even by someone a third of the American population hates with the pure fire of a thousand petulant and juvenile suns.  Of course, this is the United States and the problem with democracy, as my high school friend Larry often said, is that most people are idiots.  So the Sturmtrumper still has a chance.  Gonna be a really interesting summer.

3. Closer to home, our summer is going to be mostly about keeping our heads above the incoming tide of all the things we need to do.  It’s nice to go on vacation, but once you get past fourth grade they don’t forgive you all the things you miss and you still have to get them done, just in half the time.

4. My summer class seems to be going well, at least for the students who turn in work.  There are fewer and fewer of them in recent years, strangely enough.  I don’t know why.  It’s bad enough in my regular classes, but online classes work differently from face to face classes and keeping up with the workload is essential as there are few opportunities to make it up if you miss a deadline.  This is especially true in a summer class, where fifteen weeks’ worth of material gets crammed into eight weeks of overlapping deadlines.  Really, really interesting summer.

5. It is, in fact, officially summer now – a few days past the summer solstice, even – and I have had enough of this weather.  It can’t be autumn soon enough.

6. Lauren now has half of her braces, which for those of you in Britain who were drawn here by my incisive commentary on Brexit (see how he writes that with a straight face?  who says blogging is easy?) does not mean that only half of her trousers are at the right height and yes I know enough when addressing Britons to say trousers rather than pants as otherwise they will just start giggling uncontrollably and the point is lost.  No, on this side of the pond braces mean those metal attachments that orthodontists put on your teeth to straighten them out over the course of a couple of years and a few mortgage payments.  She went in on Thursday to get the top teeth done, and the bottom teeth will follow in September.  Right now she is doing well though eating a steady diet of Soft Things because that much invasion of one’s mouth does rather hurt.  A lot.  Seriously – interesting summer.

7.  Did you know that braces are now considered fashion statements?  Seriously – you can get your rubber bands and plastic inserts in all sorts of colors and even change them whenever you have an appointment.  The orthodontist specifically mentioned girls who match their prom dress to their braces or guys who insist on getting Green Bay Packers colors, although in Wisconsin it would be perfectly acceptable and indeed unremarkable for girls to have Packers colors as well.  Not sure about guys with prom dresses, though.  That's still a bit beyond most people's pale here, though maybe it's just me being old and uninformed.  Well, if you’re going to have braces, flaunt them, I say.  There is no point to going through all that pain and hassle just to hide them.

8. We saw Finding Dory this past weekend, and it was a great deal of fun.  Pixar has a long and nearly unblemished (*coughCars2cough*) streak of really lovely films, and this was no exception.  Lauren in particular was very taken with the Baby Dory.  Me?  I spent the entire film thinking that it would take about 30 minutes of rewrite to turn it into Memento (even though I couldn’t think of the film’s name until I got home).  There’s just something about a protagonist who can’t remember more than 30 seconds into their own past that lends itself to existential horror, and the contrast between that and the bright colors and cheery narrative of the film was both amusing and rather unsettling.

9. The turkeys are now big enough that we can let them wander around the yard a bit while we get them situated for the night.  They bob and weave and do their little trilling noises while they explore (“Hey – there’s GRASS over here!  Is there grass over there? REALLY?  Hey – there’s grass over here TOO!”) and eventually we herd them back into their pen for the night where they are safe from raccoons and other predators behind a protective layer of chicken wire.  The chickens are also doing well, though they rarely get to go outside.  They have big pens, though, so they’re happy.  At least we think they’re happy.  Hard to tell with chickens.

10. I counted last week – I’ve been to 32 different US states.  I am not sure how that happened.