Saturday, January 02, 2010

Fucked over on New Year's

I don't know Alan at all. I didn't know him when I worked for him, and I just ran into him in Vanc*uver that week, talked with him online a few times, and saw him for coffee in [small town]. So I guess it wasn't wise to plan spending New Year's Eve with him.

When I look back at everything, there was some foreshadowing.

I emailed him on the Tuesday before New Year's Eve, asking if we were still getting together. I didn't hear back from him right away, so I also texted him the same question. By 11pm Wednesday evening, I still hadn't heard from him. I had already booked the rental car and I was going to be leaving in the morning. So I called him long distance on my cell phone, and he said, "Yes, I did get your text/email blah blah blah, but hadn't had time to reply." His response made no sense.

The next day before I left to [his city], Alan had texted AND called me regarding the roads. He said, "I was talking to a friend in [my small town] and she said that there was a snowstorm happening, and that the roads were terrible. I'd rather there was NO Intertextual, than a DEAD Intertextual." (I had thought he was concerned about my driving in those conditions. But now I wonder if he was hoping that I couldn't come, and wouldn't come. And was trying to give me reasons not to come. He even told me that there was a weather and highway alert - which there wasn't.)

When I got to Alan's place (the roads were perfectly clear all the way there), he showed me his condo, and sat around pleasantly chatting for a couple of hours. He kept interjecting, "Tonight, we could stay here and fool around like we talked about, or we could go online and see if anyone's into coming over, or go into the city and go to the baths." I told him that I was looking forward to a quiet evening staying in, and he seemed to agree.

When I went out onto the balcony for a cigarette, I could hear him talking extremely loudly in his bedroom to someone on the telephone (I discovered he talks very loudly when he's high and on the phone). I couldn't hear what was said, but when I came back in, he acted like nothing had happened. This also happened when I went for an extended visit to the washroom. I didn't ask about it, I just assumed that a friend had called him.

He had bought some Tina and I could tell he was already very high when I first arrived. He couldn't hear well (I had to speak very loudly and repeat myself) and he was shaking quite a bit. The baggie he showed me was about $70 worth, which is what I gave him when he was in [my small town]. He was also supposed to pick up one E for me and a V. So if we shared $70 T ($35 for me), and if spent had gotten an E and a V ($30), it would almost work out to my $70 contribution.

I was getting pleasantly high, and he was getting higher. We both were online on our laptops looking at guys on Manhunt and Squirt to see if we could find someone to come over and play with us. I thought this was preferable to going to the bathhouse.

I know that much Tina would normally last me and someone else a good long evening. I kept my eye on how much there was. I went out for a cigarette on the balcony, (heard him on the phone) and when I came back in, and filled the pipe again (about half an hour later), it looked like half of it was missing from the baggy). I didn't want to say, "Ah, did you take half the Tina from the baggy while I was out having a cigarette? I kind of ignored it, and hoped he had just put half of it aside for later, for when either a guy came over to party with us or when we went to the baths. I thought maybe he was concerned that we were smoking it too quickly. That's how I justified it to myself.

He said that he got 2 E, and no V, and he had said, "I got 2 E for myself." Meaning he hadn't gotten me any E or V for me. What I should have said at that point was I was going to keep the Tina to myself, since that's what I paid for, but again I didn't want to appear like a rude guest, who was supposed to be staying the night.

We were online from about 8 to 10 pm. I didn't want to go to the bathhouse, but Alan suggested that if we didn't find someone by 10pm, that we should get ready to go there. He wanted to take two cars, so that in the morning I could just go directly to my sister's house. I didn't feel like driving, and asked him if he could drive us both. He said sure, but that he'd rather drive my rental car.

I used the shower (this was the extended trip to the washroom). Before I went in, I clearly noticed how much Tina was left in the bag. And when I came out, the bag was gone. He said he had put the rest of what was in the baggy on the living room coffee table by my pipe. I went to look, because I wanted another drag before leaving, and I picked up the pipe which was on a plate, and looked all over and couldn't see any baggy. Then I saw a tiny bit of Tina on the table top - I guess he had put the "rest" of the Tina into my pipe. There was too much Tina left to use it as one bowl, I thought. It would have been quite huge. Anyway, we checked to see if there was any on the floor that spilled, there didn't appear to be. He didn't look too hard, because he seemed to know there wasn't any more than the tiny amount that he put in my pipe. So again, more missing Tina.

I said, "There was a lot more Tina than that left when I left to take a shower." He said, no there wasn't, he had emptied the bag into my pipe, and threw the baggie out. Alan said, "I certainly didn't take it, I'm not like that, etc." I tried to let this situation go, but it was still pushing at me, bothering me. I decided to speak to him about it very maturely and calmly and warmly, giving him an opportunity to perhaps "find" the rest of it or give me a scenario where he put some aside for us for later. I sat down next to him to talk to him about this, because he couldn't hear very well, and said, "I know there was more than that left, and in fact I noticed most of the Tina going missing when I went out for a cigarette earlier this evening. I thought you had put some aside for us for later when a guy came over, or for the bathhouse."

He became very angry, telling me to get out of his apartment, he's not a thief, get out, etc. I remained calm, and made a decision that I was going to leave. Alan kept going on, being pissed, but as I started to gather my belongings together I realized this was going to be very awkward to explain to my sister and family. I also didn't have enough money to rent a hotel room or go to the baths on my own (Alan had offered to lend me the money if we were going together).

Alan got his wallet out, and counted out $30 and slammed it down on the kitchen counter in front of me. When he did that, a huge load of Tina fell out of the bills and bounced all over the counter. I looked at him, and said, "So there it is - the rest of the Tina WAS in your wallet." He looked at me like he was going to punch me, and said, "What the fuck, why would I have put the Tina in my wallet, with my bills, that's a stupid place to put it, and no I didn't take the Tina and do that."

I looked at him unbelievingly, wondering how he could deny what we just saw and what happened. Again, I said, "The Tina was tangled in your bills and when you slammed them on the counter, the Tina came out - it's now all over the counter." I started gathering it up, glad it had been found.

He was going on, yelling he's not a liar, that he didn't take it, maybe it was there the whole time, blah blah, and then he stopped talking and just started getting ready. I took stock of the situation and I was very disappointed. I thought that maybe if I calmed down, went easy on him, I could salvage the evening, stay friends with him and give him the opportunity to admit it another time, saying it was the drugs that made him act badly. I have seen people do this on drugs many times, and I know that he doesn't have access to it easily in [his city]. I was also very disappointed that this would end our friendship, because I thought we had some things in common. I thought I'd try to salvage our friendship and the evening.

Basically I ended up saying that perhaps the Tina was already on the counter and I hadn't seen it before, that I was very stoned and perhaps a bit paranoid, or that perhaps it had fallen out earlier from one of the pipes, etc. and that I was sorry to have blamed him. I said I had too many bad experiences in Van*ouver with guys taking drugs, and so on. I actually WAY over did it, apologizing. I told him I like him, thought well of him, and thought we had things in common and it was worth maintaining our friendship. Anyway, Alan seemed relieved, said the situation was behind us, it happens to people on drugs (which was going to be my excuse for him).

I gave him the keys to my rental car, I was all ready to go, and then he said, "Oh you forgot your computer bag." I said, "Did you want to bring that to the baths?" Alan said, "Yes, just in case it isn't busy, we can have another option to look online." I said, "Cool, okay." Then he noticed that I hadn't brought my luggage, and he said, "Oh, let's bring your luggage too, in case we get separated and in the morning you're not stranded looking for me to get your belongings back." I thought that was odd, but agreed. He said we were going to pick up Mike, a young guy he had met early this week, and bring him to the tubs with us. This came out of nowhere, I didn't know about it before, but I thought, alright.

On the way into the city I tried to make him feel relaxed, asked him about himself, tried to get him to open up and show me his authentic self. It kind of happened, but he was guarded. Just as we got into the city he called the young Mike and said he had arrived, and he was going to be there in 2 minutes. He said, "Mike is really hot, a great guy. He's going to be my next boyfriend." Wow, that was news to me. He had been talking about him as though he were a guy he had fucked earlier that week, and he asked me if I wanted to do a threesome with him. I didn't realize it was serious. Young Mike was at a nightclub. Alan parked nearby, and before he got out of the car said, "In case for some reason I don't make it back, here are the keys. You can go to the bath house on your own. I said I couldn't afford to go to the bathhouse, I didn't have any money until Monday. So Alan got out the $30 he had originally put on the counter and said, "That's why I gave you the $30 earlier," and gave it to me.

He left, and it was about 11:45. Fifteen minutes before midnight. So I sat in the car texting friends Happy New Year messages until 12:15 when I left to the bathhouse.

I think Alan had planned to meet up with the Young Mike all evening, and was just trying to figure out a way to make it downtown so he could join him later, after Mike's New Year's party was over at the nightclub. I think Alan was hoping the roads were too dangerous, so I wouldn't make it into Calgary.

I won't be seeing or speaking to Alan again. All he had to do was tell me he had made other plans for New Year's Eve, and say, "Would I mind if he cancelled?" I would have gladly said, "No," and spent it with my sister. And stealing drugs from me and acting like nothing happened makes it clear to me he has a drug problem - an addiction.

At the baths, I got the last available room, and totally wasn't in the mood to play or have sex, so I relaxed and occasionally took in the steamroom and hot tub. At 7:30am I got up at, went to the steamroom and warmed up, then sat and watched porn in the public area. A shorter guy, cute and around my age kept checking me out, but since I showed no interest, he left. He came by and did this three times. After the third time I decided to take a shower, and get ready to go for 8:30am. He followed me.

In the shower I noticed he had a great cock - quite long and nice and thick, and super hard. We ended up going back to my room, where he fucked me, professionally. I would have gladly paid for a fuck like that! This guy knew how to use what he was given, in just the right ways. I was totally enjoying it, and so was he. Ten minutes before I had to leave, we were done. I had one of the best fucks I'd had in a long time, and I made check-out too.

New Year's Day was turning out to be a lot better than New Year's Eve! Hopefully it's an omen for 2010 for me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Support Grindr X - An old way to rip off unsuspecting gays



I recently signed up to Grindr X. I have the free version of Grindr, and have been using it for quite a while. I've been wanting to purchase the X version for quite some time, because I assumed (wrongly) that it allowed things that the free version doesn't. Things like putting x-rated pictures (X meaning X-rated in my mind) on profiles, and using language not normally allowed on the free version (fuck, cock, blowjobs, etc.). I thought it allowed a place for all of us seeking hook ups, and not just friendship or relationships, a place to hang out and get screwed, blown or whatever our fancy, while wandering around with our iPhones.

I discovered immediately that I was wrong. When I looked more carefully at the specifications, the only difference is that we get 100 more guys on our list. That might be a benefit, except that I live in an area where there aren't 200 gay iPhone users. So I get an additional 100 Grindrs who live too far away from me to hook up with, or even have a relationship/friendship with. Right now I'm in a small town visiting family and friends for the holidays, and I get men showing up who are 140 km away minimum, to 2611.1 km away. What good is that to me, unless I have unlimited airmiles, an unlimited budget or I'm an inflight attendant?

It's the 'Brand Name' that made me assume all of these fabulous benefits of signing up for Grindr X. "X" in the dating world clearly suggests X-rated. Naked pictures of men, cock, asses, chests. Maybe even a couple going at it with each other. I doubt I'm the only person who's been let down and misled by the name. I had hoped I could change my profile to read, "Looking to fuck now" when the urge hit me.

What really irritates me is that Grindr states, "The cost of the download only covers usage for one month. After 30 days you will be asked if you want to continue your subscription to Grindr X for an additional fee. That fee will not exceed the cost of the download. Each subsequent month you will be given the option to renew your subscription - you will never be charged authomatically."

The fact that I'm paying for this version of the application at all is bad enough, but requiring that I pay for it once a month if I wish to continue using it is heresy.

So I don't have to look at advertising with Grindr X - is this really a benefit? I actually really enjoy the advertising on Grindr. It's highly relevant - it often shows apps I am interested in, and it is directed to a gay audience - me. I have clicked on the advertising dozens of times while on the free version of Grindr, and even purchased apps as a result of their advertising. And being very web experienced, like all iPhone users, I can tune out advertising without any effort when I choose to.

Finally, the download link states, "Grindr X - support Grindr." Support Grindr... Why? They are a for-profit company, not a non-profit organization offering important social programs to the GLBT company. In fact, I doubt they would even allow transsexuals to put profiles on the site.

This marketing tactic that suggests "I will be supporting Grindr by paying for useless new features, because it is equivalent to a non-profit GLBT organization that promotes social causes" is what makes me think it is a clever, but not new way to rip off naive gay men, whose pockets actually have limits.

I put the URL of my blog up on the site, to see just how long they will allow me to advertise my opinions. I'll give it two days. So far, it's been up just one. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chris Pine is sexy, and well hung?






I couldn't help myself, this guy is sexy.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Underwater

In memory of Brian:

something fearless in your eyes
something careless about your smile
something fragile when you hold your breath
and when you move
you move right through me

fingertips so gently on my skin
i'm underwater
i feel the flood begin
fingertips so gently on my skin
you're taking over and over again

shed your armour
spin your web
hypnotise me with the longest stare
make your promise
or maybe it's a threat
'cos when you look
you look right through me

we're flesh and bone
together and alone
and we're looking for a home

silver moonlight fills the sky
calling gently to the evening tide
you're unfolding right before my eyes
and when you move
you move right through me

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Truth Behind Internet Profiles


[Click to see larger version]

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Restaurant Makeover

What never fails to amaze me about HGTV’s Restaurant Makeover is that those who own a restaurant, or pub, or family diner don’t know the basics of how to run a one. I have no intentions of ever owning or operating a restaurant, but even I know that you should use fresh ingredients (no store-bought Caesar salad dressings or frozen lobsters), stick to a food theme (don’t serve hamburgers at a Thai café), or display mass-produced, ugly 3-D caricatures of pigs as your mascot in a barbeque joint. But week after week, such dimwits, whose restaurants are understandably on the verge of going under, appeal to the Restaurant Makeover team to give their babies a new lease on life.



Typically, the show begins with one of their cast of designers and chefs avec attitude, sneering and making catty comments about the restaurant décor and menu away from the owner’s ears. “It’s another one of these,” says the beautiful redhead Meredith Heron to chef David Adjey, while crinkling her pouty mouth and aristocratic nose. When entering Thai Thai café, she adds, “It looks like they threw up condiments all over all the walls,” or something to that effect. Indeed, there are stacks of shelves selling condiments, and the 80s décor is a cross between Mexico and Spain with red and orange colored walls, mosaic tiled floors and a random seating order. She’s right.

When we meet the owners, they’ve got their heartbreaking stories. They haven’t had a vacation in five years, or they may have to send their son who’s studying at University back to Mexico because they can’t afford to pay his tuition anymore [tell him to pay his own way, stupid!], or a single mother who’s spending her five year old daughter’s savings to stop the restaurant from going bankrupt, or all the new trendy pubs on the street are taking the poor shlub’s business away. They’re asked by the Restaurant makeovers to sign checks for $15,000 (which the show will match, dollar-for-dollar). As they put pen to paper, you can see their fear and gut-wrenching nausea, as they put their trust into snotty professionals who haven’t put their soul and sweat into the day-to-day operations of their babies.

They always have their caveats. “You must keep our buffet [aka “market”] for our lunch crowd – they’re what make us stay afloat,” or “Don’t touch my bar, I made it with my own bare hands from the timber of my grandpa’s cabin.” “Whatever you do, don’t change the essence of my restaurant [because after all it’s doing so successfully].” Of course, the makeover team always does anyway.

The owners always tell the chef, “Don’t touch that [dry, frozen] rainbow trout [with the head still on] because our customers love it.” Our customers [alcoholic bar regulars] always come in for the (deep-fried, greasy, overdone) chicken wings, potato skins, and cheese balls.” The chef always changes them.

It never fails that the restaurant cook is one or more of the following:
a. untrained
b. overtrained, but dominated by the bad direction of the owner
c. is of a different ethnic background than the food of the restaurant, so the Thai café ends up serving Chinese food
d. is overly confident and tries to push the makeover chef’s buttons
e. has no personality and barely speaks, so the makeover chef tries to bring them out of themselves.

It all makes for entertaining drama. But my favorite moment is when they introduce the tradesmen: the carpenters, electricians, and painters. The project manager [Igor?] is particularly hot. He’s got a thick Russian accent with a little boy’s face, and a man’s body. He’s always goofing around, pulling faces, making jokes at the expense of the pretensions of the designer. In every episode, there’s a confrontation between him and the designer du jour, wherein he or she tries to assert their authority over the blue collar yokel. He’s so utterly heterosexual he is excellent bait for the gay male designers, who try desperately to get a reaction out of him. “I love you, Igor, you’re such a sweetheart,” they lisp when he agrees to redo the flooring they put up on the wall horizontally, instead of vertically. “Don’t call me sweetheart,” Igor says thickly, pulling a displeased look.


Robin DeGroot, a talented, platinum blond manboy aggressively flirts with him, trying to give Igor a peck on the cheek or wrap his arms around his hunky chest in a ‘friendly’ and team-building hug.

Restaurant Makeover’s token lesbian, Executive Chef Lynn Crawford [that’s an assumption on my part, the lesbian part that is] has forbade Robin to use the word “sexy” when describing his newest design concept. Especially when he’s designing a café that caters to the high school kids across the street.

Cut to scenes of the deconstruction team joyfully swinging mallets to bring down walls, ceilings and bars. Drilling away ceramic flooring. Smashing mirror tiles. They’re like a bunch of teenager gangsters, drunk on testosterone, intent on destruction. You see Igor being rolled up in the middle of a carpet being ripped out, and he’s giggling. [He’s so cute.] Or having the male equivalent of a hissy-fit when he discovers he needs to reroute the plumbing, or re-jig the wiring. “You expect me to do all that in five days?” he says, in angry bewilderment. He looks so put out – his face turns red, he scowls, but eventually gives in to the domineering designer. The viewer is then treated to bent over butt shots from below, while he’s hanging off a ladder sorting twisted wiring. I’m still waiting for the episode where they feature Igor shirtless [hint, hint].

The Restaurant Makeover team then brings in the owners to see the disaster they’ve created. They’re usually led into the restaurant blindfolded, and you can see the designer salivating in expectation of their horrified reactions. Once unblinded, the owners never disappoint, either by being silent with shock, becoming visibly anxious or even breaking down in tears. After a few moments, the designer gently pushes them out, and tells them not to return until “the reveal.”

In about 20 per cent of the episodes, the owner, who’s always an obsessive control freak, breaks the rules and keeps showing up at the renovation site, sometimes stalking the restaurant to see how progress is going. It’s up to the designer, rolling their eyes, to play patient mother while tactfully setting boundaries with their rebellious child.

The show goes on. Things go smoothly, then something goes wrong. Some unexpected budget-fucking problem occurs; the designer finds a solution. Often the blue-collar team works into the wee morning hours to finish the restaurant for the reveal; even the designer ends up painting walls and ruining their manicures. Occasionally the electrician hires an outside contractor to help him without the approval of the designer, or sometimes a plumber, at $500 extra per day. The $3,000 order of wallpaper is missing; so after the designer screams at and blames the supplier, Igor finds it in the back room. The Carrera marble bar counter arrives broken, but the stone tile flooring works just as well. The custom chairs the designer “must have” are way over budget; after a visit to the supplier’s shop and some pleading, they get them at half price. The custom ordered piece never fits; the construction crew always gets the wrong plans; the lighting never arrives on time. But you always know…there’s going to be a happy ending.

There are as few plot twists in the kitchen. The restaurant’s cook prepares three entrees from the existing menu for the makeover chef, who invariably hates two [or more] out of three. Sometimes they refuse to eat them, especially when it’s frozen, pre-packaged and deep-fried. The cook never seems to use local, fresh ingredients; the chef must inspire them by taking them to a local market. Half of their existing menu is crossed out with a permanent black marker by the chef, because one must stick to a food theme and offer something fresh and new. Don’t use dried herbs. Use fresh oil if you’re going to deep fry. Stop poking the steak as it’s grilling. Then, after your food and technique has been trashed, get a good night’s sleep and meet the next day, when the chef will show you how it’s done.


David Adjey, the craggy, but handsome blue-eyed chef, has a unique process. He makes up new entrees on the fly, much to the chagrin of the owners and cooks. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s going to make in advance. After shopping at a local market, he brings the goods back to the kitchen, and throws together some masterpiece that the cook or owner always loves. In a unique episode, the cameraman goes looking for him, because he hasn’t shown up to the restaurant on time. You see the cameraman sneaking into his Toronto studio apartment, complete with brick walls, open living plan, and copper cookware hanging decoratively from a rack in his stainless steel kitchen. The cameraman finds him still in bed sleeping, shirtless, and alone. I suddenly feel sad for him: he’s in his late forties and single without children, living like a young bachelor in a small trendy condo, hung over from a night of drinking. He no longer has the aura of being a famous and successful chef. Then the camera pans out to discover he’s actually been up all night studying Thai cookbooks, pouring over techniques and flavors. I suddenly admire him again. He’s dedicated to his art.


The most huggable chef on the show award goes to Massimo Capra. He looks like a living cartoon of an Italian chef, with his balding head, handlebar moustache that curls up at the ends, and happy Buddha belly. Massimo speaks in a soothing, uplifting Italian accent, and clearly loves his career, and tries to make everyone fall in love with him and food. And everyone does.

Finally, the reveal. After last minute touches such as fresh flowers and hanging new artwork, the least important part of the shows occurs in the last eight minutes. The makeover team shows off their work to the restaurant owners who invariably ooh and awe over their amazing work. Friends and customers come through the door and always say, “Oh my god,” or “Am I in the right place?” Food is served, everyone loves it, and the owner[s] glow with joy and appreciation. At the ending credits, some restaurant critic is quoted, by writing something to the effect of, “A fresh look and taste to an old neighborhood favorite, Restaurant Makeover dishes out a five-star facelift.”

My only complaint is that the blue-collar team aren’t invited to the reveal. Poor Igor is once again ignored, never sharing in the glory. Always the underdog. But the irony is, it’s not the designers or chefs or the makeover that’s the star of the show. It’s Igor. Now if only the producers would make him work with his shirt off.

Update: Executive Chef Lynn Crawford is NOT a lesbian. Sorry girls.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Professorial Knowledge or Sound Bytes?

Attempting to teach ten years of theory in one 14 week semester introductory course, is futile. Isn't it? One is reduced to summarizing the entire career of a brilliant researcher with...'sound bytes.' 20 years knowledge + experience = 10 minutes lecture time. Usually accompanied by an online video which is 6 minutes in length. When you're attempting to deliver about 50 summaries of theoretical concepts in 14 weeks, you have no choice but to present ridiculously dumbed-down versions that are scintillating within three bullet marks. The Powerpoint presentations must be interesting enough to be memorable and convey the basic concepts.

I thought this teaching dilemma might be a symptom of today's technology/internet-based, ADD/ADHD affected pupil who's watched too much MTV, and is familiar with an equally frenzied teaching styles. Long gone are chalkboards - today's classrooms have dry eraser markers and video projectors connected to several media, including the Internet, video tape and DVD players. Students want to be entertained, not informed. Professors have blogs or class web sites, Web CT is used to deliver class knowledge, present projects and grades. 'Forgetabout' (use a NY accent) true education - it's all about the student. They now have online evaluations for professors, both internally at the university, and externally - in the form of www.ratemyprofessors.com. Careers die and fluorish based on these less than scientific methods of evaluation. If you get a hot tamale, you're more likely to receive tenure. One stupid student's complaint can finish you.

When I think back to my own education as an undergraduate, I realize - nothing's really changed. In art history, we were introduced to entire artist careers within the blink of a slide. Or three. We were given 'sound bytes' by the professor, just as we are today. Art history lectures tend to be introductory courses, so they fall into a different category than 'research' classes.

In most forums today, teaching is about delivering 'sound bytes.' It's up to the students to fill in the blanks. Fortunately, most professors realize this, and offer additional research articles and links regarding the topic (not that introductory students tend to read these.) But, I still pine for the days when professors were allowed to be wholly subjective - they deliver research from their own area of interest, and then try to inspire their students to investigate a similar tangent.

Such professors were hired based upon their own research merits - they have specific knowledge that needs to be imparted. The professors photocopy (not find links on the internet, or provide Google PDFs) articles. They show their own work.

This is the method in which I was taught. I had brilliant professors, with great careers, who shared with us their personal knowledge and direction. It didn't mean that I had to follow in their direction - it meant that I could fashion a direction of my own, based upon my personal subjective directions. It didn't mean they had to present to me 'sound bytes' - they truly offered a professorial direction, one that was based on personal experience.