Monthly Archives: February 2015

BELONG

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“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”
― Rumi

freezing

belong

purple flowers

Why is This Woman Smiling?

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I smile a lot….and why wouldn’t I?   This is what the front of our house looks like this morning!

spring flowers caruthers

I have SO much for which to be thankful!    I also attribute my propensity toward smiling to my habit of thinking positive thoughts. I’m totally in love and have a great life. I have great friends and, in fact, haven’t lost a single one of them in years and years.

I feel good most of the time, do a lot of interesting things and just have a lot to be thankful for and happy about. …but does my smile have anything to do with why I’m happy?  Am I happy BECAUSE I smile?

stacysmiles

A new study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University suggests that customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a French vacation or a child’s hug- improve their mood and withdraw less.

“Employers may believe that simply getting their employees to smile is good for the organization, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said one of the researchers  “Smiling for the sake of smiling can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal, and that’s bad for the organization.  Smiling for a reason is different.”

For the study, which appears in the February issue of the Academy of Management Journal, two researchers studied a group of city bus drivers during a two-week period. They examined the effects of surface acting, or fake smiling, and deep acting, or cultivating positive emotions by recalling pleasant memories or thinking about the current situation in a more favorable way.

The study is one of the first of its kind to examine emotional displays over a period of time while also delving into gender differences, one researcher stated,  “The results were stronger for the women bus drivers.”

“Women were harmed more by surface acting, meaning their mood worsened even more than the men and they withdrew more from work. But they were helped more by deep acting, meaning their mood improved more and they withdrew less.”

While the study didn’t explore the reasons behind these differences, one researcher notes that previous research suggests women are both expected to and do show greater emotional intensity and positive emotional expressiveness than men. Thus, faking a smile while still feeling negative emotion conflicts with this cultural norm and may cause even more harmful feelings in women, he said, while changing internal feelings by deep acting would gel with the norm and may improve mood even more.

But while deep acting seemed to improve mood in the short-term,  that finding comes with a caveat.

“There have been some suggestions that if you do this over a long period that you start to feel inauthentic,”  “Yes, you’re trying to cultivate positive emotions, but at the end of the day you may not feel like yourself anymore….unless your smile is accompanied by positive thoughts.”

Solar Jobs For 50,000 Veterans -Climate Change Addressed

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This man is a GREAT President!

President Obama Delivers Commencement Address At West Point
Over the past five years Republicans have opposed any and every attempt by President Obama to jump start the economy; particularly when it came to creating jobs. He also made, what Americans concerned about anthropogenic (manmade) climate change believed were, modest proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; that is until he called for a thirty percent reduction in carbon emissions earlier this year. Republicans reacted to that news with their typical fossil fuel industry devotion by launching vicious attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency tasked with ensuring power-generating plants’ comply with the new requirements.

Yesterday, in one fell swoop, the President took decisive action to address both job creation for Veterans and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The White House announced that beginning this fall the United States will launch a six-year job training program for America’s Veterans in the growing solar panel installation industry. Since Republicans have relentlessly obstructed jobs programs for America’s Veterans, the President took it upon himself to enact the program at American military bases and provide job training for at least 50,000 veterans. It is training for about 50,000 more Veterans than Republicans have provided despite several proposals and requests by the President to help America’s fighting men and women returning from war.

The Veterans’ job training program is just one of many initiatives the White House said will reduce carbon dioxide emissions contributing to climate change by more than 300-million tons, and save American homeowners and businesses billions upon billions of dollars in energy bills. To create even more jobs, as part of the President’s lone crusade to reduce the damaging effects of climate change, the Agriculture Department will spend nearly $70 million to fund 540 new solar and renewable energy projects that will target rural and farming areas. There is also a new Energy Department proposal for stricter efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners the energy department said will cut emissions more than any other efficiency standard it has issued to date, and help businesses cut their energy costs substantially.

It is true the President’s proposals to create jobs and reduce the effects of climate change are modest compared with his previous requests for Congress to act, but with Republicans opposing any action on jobs, especially for Veterans, or to address climate change, something is better than nothing.  This President has begged, cajoled, and attempted to shame Republicans in Congress to do their jobs for the American people and promote cost-saving clean energy, invest in job-creating infrastructure projects, and support carbon emission reductions to no avail, so Obama exercised his Presidential authority and addressed two issues at once.

It is certain the Koch brothers will direct Republicans to launch an opposition campaign against both the Veteran’s job program and clean energy proposals. Through ALEC and the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, there has been a multi-faceted assault on any renewable or clean energy programs across the nation because the Koch’s will not tolerate any energy source that cuts into the oil industry’s profits. In fact, it was reported yesterday that in Texas, the state’s Republican comptroller said it is unfair that the wind energy industry received tax credits to grow the industry. Susan Combs singled out wind energy and said tax credits gave the industry “an unfair market advantage over the other power source.” Translation; the fossil fuel industry will not countenance competition despite its “unfair market advantage” amounting to billions-of-dollars in tax credits, billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies, and freedom to pollute.

What is typically Republican about Combs remarks is the lie that cheaper energy costs and clean energy adversely affects Texas residents’ wallets. What Texas Republicans and the oil industry did not find unfair were tax exemptions covering the “high-cost natural gas drilling” that cut operators tax bills by more than $7 billion according to data from Republican Combs’ own comptroller office. Combs also failed to address the Texas state Legislative Budget Board’s recommendation to overhaul oil industry tax breaks and taxpayer-funded incentives that have “reduced many producers’ tax liabilities to zero.” Interestingly, a partner in an oil industry firm in Austin said that having a zero tax liability was being “misconstrued by the folks that would do harm to the oil and gas industry as a giveaway, but it’s really not.”

President Obama’s one-man action on climate change and a much-needed job training program for over 50,000 Veterans, although modest, is something the Koch-Republicans are not going to allow without a fierce battle.  It is noteworthy that the President’s action will not only help 50,000 Veterans, solar energy installed at military bases and installations will save the Defense Department untold billions of dollars in energy costs now and into the future that one would think budget conscious Republicans would celebrate. However, they have shown that where the fossil fuel industry is concerned, cost savings and budget restraint never enters into their austerity agenda.

 

Republicans have spent over five years demonstrating they are not the least bit interested in providing job training or jobs for any Americans, much less Veterans because they claim it is too costly. Subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives for the oil industry, on the other hand, are a necessary cost in Republicans’ minds. That’s why the President’s idea of a job training program specific to the renewable energy sector is brilliant; if for no other reason than to send Republicans a message that this President is serious about taking care of Veterans, creating jobs, and combatting climate change whether they like it or not.

Fare thee well, Lenny!

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Fare thee well, Lenny!

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who played  Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.  The cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

 

Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1977, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995.

In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

“Star Trek,” which had its premiere on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Mr. Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’ ” — an often earnest, sometimes campy show that employed the distant future (as well as some primitive special effects by today’s standards) to take on social issues of the 1960s.

His stardom would endure. Though the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cultlike following — the conference-holding, costume-wearing Trekkies, or Trekkers (the designation Mr. Nimoy preferred) — coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.

The fans’ devotion only deepened when “Star Trek” was spun off into an animated show, various new series and an uneven parade of movies starring much of the original television cast, including — besides Mr. Nimoy — William Shatner (as Capt. James T. Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (the helmsman, Sulu), James Doohan (the chief engineer, Scott), Nichelle Nichols (the chief communications officer, Uhura) and Walter Koenig (the navigator, Chekov).

When the director J. J. Abrams revived the “Star Trek” film franchise in 2009, with an all-new cast — including Zachary Quinto as Spock — he included a cameo part for Mr. Nimoy, as an older version of the same character. Mr. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 follow-up, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

His zeal to entertain and enlighten reached beyond “Star Trek” and crossed genres. He had a starring role in the dramatic television series “Mission: Impossible” and frequently performed onstage, notably as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” His poetry was voluminous, and he published books of his photography.

He also directed movies, including two from the “Star Trek” franchise, and television shows. And he made records, on which he sang pop songs, as well as original songs about “Star Trek,” and gave spoken-word performances — to the delight of his fans and the bewilderment of critics.

But all that was subsidiary to Mr. Spock, the most complex member of the Enterprise crew: both a colleague and a creature apart, who sometimes struggled with his warring racial halves.

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” episodes, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character — Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster — who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth and compassion, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declared. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. His father worked as a barber.

From the age of 8, Leonard acted in local productions, winning parts at a community college, where he performed through his high school years. In 1949, after taking a summer course at Boston College, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb.”

He continued to be cast in little-known movies, although he did presciently play an alien invader in a cult serial called “Zombies of the Stratosphere,” and in 1961 he had a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” His first starring movie role came in 1952 with “Kid Monk Baroni,” in which he played a disfigured Italian street-gang leader who becomes a boxer.

Mr. Nimoy served in the Army for two years, rising to sergeant and spending 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia, where he presided over shows for the Army’s Special Services branch. He also directed and starred as Stanley in the Atlanta Theater Guild’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” before receiving his final discharge in November 1955.

He then returned to California, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cabdriver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He achieved wide visibility in the late 1950s and early 1960s on television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason.” Then came “Star Trek.”

Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin, an affiliate of Antioch College in Ohio, in 1978. Antioch College later awarded Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate.

Mr. Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek movies, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), which he helped write. In 1991, the same year that he resurrected Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Mr. Nimoy was also the executive producer and a writer of the movie “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

He then directed the hugely successful comedy “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), a far cry from his science-fiction work, and appeared in made-for-television movies. He received an Emmy nomination for the 1982 movie “A Woman Called Golda,” in which he portrayed the husband of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, who was played by Ingrid Bergman. It was the fourth Emmy nomination of his career — the other three were for his “Star Trek” work — although he never won.

Mr. Nimoy’s marriage to the actress Sandi Zober ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Adam and Julie Nimoy; a stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck; and six grandchildren; one great-grandchild, and an older brother, Melvin.

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1995 to 2003, Mr. Nimoy narrated the “Ancient Mysteries” series on the History Channel. He also appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for Priceline.com. He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Mr. Nimoy was an active supporter of the arts as well. The Thalia, a venerable movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, now a multi-use hall that is part of Symphony Space, was renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in 2002.

He also found his voice as a writer. Besides his autobiographies, he published “A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life” in 2002. Typical of Mr. Nimoy’s simple free verse are these lines: “In my heart/Is the seed of the tree/Which will be me.”

In later years, he rediscovered his Jewish heritage, and in 1991 he produced and starred in “Never Forget,” a television movie based on the story of a Holocaust survivor who sued a neo-Nazi organization of Holocaust deniers.

In 2002, having illustrated his books of poetry with his photographs, Mr. Nimoy published “Shekhina,” a book devoted to photography with a Jewish theme, that of the feminine aspect of God. His black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women struck some Orthodox Jewish leaders as heretical, but Mr. Nimoy asserted that his work was consistent with the teaching of the kabbalah.

His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea: He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.

“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing, he discovered. “Given the choice,” he wrote, “if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”

The De-Flowering of Flower Mound

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I cannot imagine, in my worst nightmare, subjecting a child to the kind of racism and general First World redneckery inherent in living in Flower Mound, Texas.

 

Protected: Regret is usually a waste of time. As is gloating; A precautionary tale for the clueless…

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Day #25 – Reflection

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Original photography by Stacy Alexander, ©2015 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Protected: Happy 11th Month, Harrison!

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Intimate Spaces: The Archaeology of Pockets

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This is a fascinating and fabulous read! Because Abe Lincoln was one of my relatives, I was very interested in this, but the whole piece is great. I encourage you to read it.

Archaeology and Material Culture

tlc0070 The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in April, 1865 (Library of Congress).

On April 14, 1865 Abraham Lincoln went to the theatre for the evening, a night that would end in his murder and death the following morning.  Lincoln’s pockets contained a handful of prosaic and idiosyncratic things:  two pairs of eye glasses, a lens polisher, a pocket knife, a watch fob, a handkerchief, and a brown leather wallet containing a Confederate banknote and nine newspaper clippings.   The things in Lincoln’s pockets were perhaps a chance assemblage, like the $62.00 and a plane ticket in Kurt Cobain’s pocket when he died in April, 1994.  Those scatters of things in Lincoln and Cobain’s pockets occupied perhaps the most intimate of all clothing spaces that we generally reserve for our most essential and meaningful things.  We tend to see pockets as harboring a special…

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Reno? Tahoe? I Dunno!

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Reno?  Tahoe? I Dunno!

I recently mentioned the fact that I would be moving to Reno and said I would update as soon as I knew more, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about that this morning while I wait to hear from my editor.

First….a little background….and the clarification that I won’t be moving there full time.  Read on.

Back in the 70’s, my husband, John, took a break from teaching at Penn State.  He lived out of town and the commute was long.  He sort of spontaneously decided to quit and try a second career.  (I love it when people do that.)    At that time, he had no experience, whatsoever, but had faith in his own intelligence, and a love of vintage architecture, so he decided to open his own contracting business.  Subsequently, over the next ten years, he undertook dozens of Pittsburgh historical restorations, and even renovated Gertrude Stein’s birthplace.

steins house

Birthplace of Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Plaque at 850 Beech Ave., North Side, Pittsburgh
“Allegheny West. Birthplace of Gertrude Stein. In this house on February 3, 1874, Gertrude Stein was born to Daniel and Amelia Stein. Author, poet, feminist, playwright, and catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. ‘In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.’ Allegheny West Historic District.”

During this time, he was also a theatre critic and was writing and pursuing other scholarly interests.   (How many contractors do you know that have PhD’s?!)   As I look through the photographs of the beautiful and innovative work that he did, and the love and care that he put into each job, I am so proud of him.

Before we even met, he and I both did our own historical renovations in Houston. I guess mine was a renovation.  His was a restoration.  We lived a mere two blocks away from one another.  Both of us were working on our houses in the historical Heights district, and neither of us was aware of the others existence until much later.

This was John’s beautiful house:

john's house houston

And this was my much-more modest little cottage.  It still looks very much the way it did when I renovated it.  When I bought it, it had peeling white paint, no trees, the ugliest roof you’ve ever seen, and looked pretty hopeless.  I think it  transformed into a rather cozy little place. Don’t you?  Very modest, but full of charm.  I have so many happy memories of living there.  Sometimes, I regret having sold it.:

columbia house

So….as most of you know, my husband  now lives and works in the SF Bay area most of the time, but comes home when he can.   We  both adore Portland and don’t want to leave here, but we do want to build an affordable little get-away somewhere, because we do enjoy traveling, and we’ve had such good times in the Reno/Tahoe area…so we are now looking for property upon which to build in a rural area there, and are currently negotiating with someone there that does have what appears to be the perfect plot.  The location is great for us, because it is somewhat a midpoint between San Francisco and Portland where we can meet one another and write or work on art and simply commune with nature.

We’ve only discovered the wonders of container homes recently, and are amazed by how beautiful they are and how environmentally friendly and economically they can be built, so this is our plan.  Take a look at this video and see the innovative design possibilities.  We plan to build with either 3 or 4 containers, when the time comes.  Aren’t these great?!

Wish us luck!

Day #24 – 12 o’Clock

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Original photography by Stacy Alexander, ©2015 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Portland Has the Music

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Portland Has the Music

Good morning, and sincere wishes for a happy Monday!    I have so much to feel happy about….and I do!   I’m sending love and warmth to those chilly souls that are iced in and not fortunate enough to be experiencing the springlike bliss that we have here in Portland….and I’m not trying to rub it in, truly.  My friend, Vickie, who is snowed-in on the East Coast swears she is going to smack the next person she hears say that they enjoy having four seasons.  ha!  I am very appreciative of how lucky I am to be here right now.  Very thankful.

Today’s post is about music.

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”  Plato

B.B. King, Jewel, Tracy Chapman and countless other entertainers began their careers as buskers (street performers). Here in Portland street performers are the norm.  This is especially true in my own neighborhood.  A guitarist that stands outside of the ice cream parlor down the street told me that he makes around $80K every summer standing in that one popular spot playing the blues, and I believed him. There is always a line in front of this shop and his guitar case is always brimming with cash.  The city is quite supportive of musicians.

Portland has a thriving musical culture to maintain its distinctive beat.  All of the music here is a direct reflection of the city’s never-ending support for the arts.   It is a Portland-specific spontaneous way of life. We have ALL kinds of musicians here, and yes, a lot of places do, but the attitude toward music here is different.    For example, no one here thought this was even weird:

On Saturday night, I took Ingrid for a long walk down Division Street where she thoroughly enjoyed all the free musical entertainment, as you can see in this video:

Over the last couple of weeks, I organized a group consisting of 32 musicians for Sunday afternoon jams and a potluck.  A different person will host each week, and we will meet in various combinations, with guitars and other acoustic instruments to raise our voices to the sky and sing to our hearts’ content.  It will be especially nice on those balmy Portland summer evenings. Four of us are meeting independently and are working on this  Lake Street Dive version of this song now.  Admittedly, my guitar playing is a lot worse than my voice at this point in time, so I’m just singing and not playing an instrument:

These types of gatherings were a huge part of my life when I was younger and an active musician.   I look forward to these jams tremendously.  I love the open, accepting attitude of the culture here.  Some people in the group are very accomplished. Others?  Not at all.   However, the group will accommodate everyone, including those folks that just want to come, sit in and sing along.  It is all about the camaraderie and fellowship.  Portland is just that kind of city.   Music is everywhere!

Have a great week, everyone.  If you’re among my cold friends on the East Coast, please know that I am sending musical love, warmth and smiles directly to your heart. Have faith.  Spring will be there soon.

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 stacy smiles feb 2015A line from my songwriting course this week says, “Words have meanings, music doesn’t. Music is all about motion, and motion creates e-motion.”  Hold THAT close to your heart….and move with it. 🙂

PS – I’m not in total agreement with the above-quote.  To me, music DOES have meanings…but I think I “get” this in context.