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Andrew O’Hagan wrote a too-hot-to-touch screed titled GHOSTING about Julian Assange in the London Review of Books. It was good. It was insightful. It was anything but boring. More than anything, indirectly, it was story about what makes hacker and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange tick.

O’ Hagen’s story came out a few days ago, made the headline page on digg. The read was long. It sounded genuine, every sentence. O’Hagan is a writer, an accomplished ghost writer. He worked with Julian Assange for one-hundred plus days, before their working relationship fell apart, somewhere around 2011 or 2012. O’Hagan kept his council, until now.

From O’Hagan’s descriptions, Assange sounds autistic or somewhere, therein, but he seems to have more going on than that. He’s like a bit of a mad genius, and an unfortunate who alienates those most necessary to his well-being. Borderline Personality Disorder kept popping into my head, often, as I read the story.

I’ve been on the fence about how I feel about Assange. The release of the mass of the cables without vetting seemed wrong. Yet, after reading about O’Hagan’s experience, I think I better understand why Assange released all of the cables rather than allowing them to be vetted, which might have been the right thing to do, since they might cause as little harm as possible to innocents or those in sensitive postions, who might have their lives taken as a result.

From the many stories about Assange and his disorganization, lack of prioritization, and habits, I’m guessing this person lacks, mentally, any kind of executive function. I believe that he thinks at such an abstract level, and at such a speed that his brain isn’t set up for concreteness of any kind. And, he’s is a hacker who sees with a hacker’s eyes, and he’s probably an obsessive paranoid as extreme hacker’s are apt to be.

So, if Assange feels that the people around him can’t see what he sees, or understand at the depth he does, then he can’t trust them, period, much less with the cables, for they surely wouldn’t handle them as he would, he imagines.

And since he doesn’t seem to have enough executive function to keep up with his socks, then he surely knows that he’s not going to sort through a maze of cables. After all, gettting the cables is what he enjoys, reading others secrets, and feeling the buzz of knowing what not a fraction of the people on earth know, but organizing information is boring. Assange most likely can’t make himself do anything for money or love, that is uninteresting, or he would be wealthy by now.

Andrew O’Hagan wrote strong statements about his time spent with Julian Assange. He wrote like he had things to say that were eating a hole in his insides, trying to get out.

Assange must be ranting by now. Does he have anyone left to rant to? He lives in a world where others have to reflect what he projects, in a world where he has to be paranoid to survive, where a personality quirk drives away those most loved and needed. Maybe it takes someone like Assange to attract followers for a site like WikiLeaks. At any rate it’s a must read, and a read you can stay with to the end.

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Photos by Salty Palette

Put a few things aside in the attic I wanted to keep. It’s like a museum piece, a memorabilia, signifying my digital awakening. Apparently, I’d set it aside amongst all those items I’d purged from the house. At the time it must have seemed important.

The name plate says Commodore 1541. It’s the wildly popular computer system that took the world by storm.  Obsolete Technology  says it was  sold first in January 1982. For purists, mine was made in Japan. It’s medium brown with rainbow bars across the head. It has a door for a large floppy, which I was so proud to own back then. The floppy was loaded with DOS, and if I remember correctly I could swap floppies, and store text or play a game. Found this thing at the old house.

My daughter brought it to me with a handful of books, and some family pictures. She had a car load of her own stuff but she hauled it eight hundred miles, and presented it to me like a long lost trophy. “I knew you’d want this.” It was packaged in a white box with the words Commodore Computer, Single Disk Drive written in large letters on the front.

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I didn’t recognize it at first until I unboxed it. Let me first say that I belong to that inexplicable set of people known as the “cult of unboxers” who like to watch home videos of nerds opening new technology gadgets. So, whether I could place this bit of nerdology or not, it was an unboxing and I was too happily busy to record it.

The box was musty and it’s second unboxing made my head swimmy. I stared at it for a long time like a stranger who after a bit of looking materialized into someone I once knew. And then it clicked, the chunk of metal stored in its original card board sleeve wrapped in Styrofoam, in good shape with the exception of a minor scuff on the top was an old friend.

Where did I get this? When did I buy it. I can remember every desktop computer system I’ve ever bought or built, and only two were bought, not counting my laptops. It took me back to when bits were so precious that spaces were counted and sentences shortened to save space on the disk. I’d thrown the large program floppy away, the one that held the operating system. The keyboard is gone, only the fourteen inch floppy drive remains.

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I remember how I felt when I saw this thing that cost a pittance, three-hundred-fifty dollars. Disbelief, joy, hustle, impatience to buy; I was breathless, not an exaggeration. It was actually a portable device, maybe five pounds, it wasn’t a main frame, it didn’t cost in the thousands of dollars. I could afford it.

I could actually own a bona fide computer. The screen might have been green with a block cursor that made a noise when the keys were banged. It didn’t seem like much of a system years later after Windows 3.1 with DOS 7, but then . . oh my!

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The system I remember didn’t have a real mouse, and oh, how I yearned for a mouse. This incredible piece of art came between my leaving and my getting a job, the custody battle, and a whole lot of history in only a few years. This little jewel gave me the first hint of knowledge that later I’d need to make a living.

Did I buy this thing before or after the divorce? That’s important. I have trouble remembering the ’80s. I was writing and fighting for my independence. I’d won a trip to a writer’s conference. Snatches, glimpses, foggy inklings come back to me. It’s a black hole, those memories for good reason.

A memory edges in, furtive, here and there, like a dog that you’ve scolded. It’s not sure whether it’s welcome but it slinks in any way. Forgive me if I don’t get this memory exactly right but there were disruptive changes happening in the computer industry and in my life.

It was 1978, and in a few months I’d get hellacious waves of morning sickness all day long with my third child, now that my two other children were both in school, now that I could take basic classes toward a degree in journalism, and explore computer languages, which were all any one could talk about, I was pregnant.

It’d wouldn’t be easy, but with help I could do it — drive two hours to the closest college to become a journalist. In a little over six-weeks the plans I’d held for ten years, crashed and burned. The brutal commute, morning sickness and a child, I could navigate – the other stuff, well.

Another memory – was it winter 1983? I was sitting with dozen other folks at the local Votech taking a night class in C++ I think it. Mr. Z., a computer programmer, Italian descent, taught a class in code. Again it’s vague. But that cruelly cold night was my introduction to computer systems. Rusty, my computer mate, was a natural at programming. I hung to his coding coattail, as he patiently explained the steps.

The class overflowed with adult students like Randy who worked at a coal mine on shifts that left him on the verge of sleep when he got there. There were maybe a dozen computers stuck so close together that our backs touched if we turned a bit. I finished the class got a certificate.

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Ah, now I remember. Mr. Z. introduced me to my first ever computer, the Commodore 1541 from Japan. He had a small computer supply store. It took 45 minutes to drive there — mountains you know, two lane highways that should have been one lane, they were so narrow, and coal trucks who took the road, slopping pieces of coal at your windshield, daring you to hold your side of the road, and don’t get me started on the logging trucks which didn’t have enough power or speed to travel more than 15 mph loaded. There’s a cliff on one side and a drop off that’ll land a car in the river on the other, and lots of gravel to slide through the hairpin turns.

The Sears electric machine with digital correction was showing it’s age. My Commodore 1541 supplemented my digital word processor from Sears Roebuck & Co. I didn’t have a printer but I had a computer. I could write a journal on it or write drafts for papers. I could get my thoughts down faster, rearrange my ideas, check my spelling with a paper dictionary, then type it out on the Electric. The Commodore improved upon a typewriter as far as I was concerned, but I was a bit-head from the beginning.

The next system I owned was a Windows 3.1, 386 (maybe) that needed DOS to boot. I made a six hour trip to the nearest computer business, and the owner built my first Windows computer. I was divorced, I had custody of my daughter, the last child at home. I had a job in publishing, I had a new love. He asked do I want a diamond ring or a mink coat for my birthday. I said I want a Windows 95 computer and a printer, and of course it had to have a freakn’ mouse. He shipped a never-been-used Windows computer system and printer with a bona fide mouse, and I never looked back. At the time, they were both the love of my life. Since then it’s Linux all the way. Ubuntu lately.


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NANOWRIMO DAY 4

Put the Kettle on

Never start anything on a Monday. Began with good intentions. Put the kettle on, sat down to write, got distracted cause the Internet bill was four days late. Forgot the water. Put the kettle on, the kettle boiled empty, lights flashed all over the Cuisinart. Impending meltdown.

Paid the Comcast bill over the phone. Bill paying they make easy. Service is good unless you ask a question. They don’t like that sort of stuff. Sat in the sun on the patio tweezing hairs from my big toes. Everyone needs vitamin D. Washed my face with the all purpose handmade foamy soap that smells like lemon grass, massaged in cream on my face and neck.

Sighed deeply. Intention to write on a Monday morning is a serious way for me to get nothing done.

I Did What?

Read two percent in the Amazon book on Africa. Downloaded it for inspiration [procrastination]. It has some good pages and some okay. I’d like it if it had a bit more complexity. Style is lacking. I like style in prose. [insert profanity] WTF am I saying?

The non-African author wrote better than respectable prose, shared the inner workings of his Hippocampus, finished, published, and got money for those three-hundred pages, sacrificed a year of his life, most likely, and it’s not so bad a book that I don’t learn something every few pages; it just that it simply shuts down my hippocampus  [similar to G-spot]  the opposite of which, when I find a damn good book to read, bonfires are set off in my neurons.

This morning I said bonfires be-damned I’m gonna fill up that spot in my hippocampus with writing; the little sea horse in the brain, the one that London cabbies grow larger by taking different routes for faster and faster ways through a hulking metropolis pulsating with tiger passengers who are already late before they flop on the back seat.

Fire in the Mind

I’m gonna build a cache full of writing, irrelevant, mundane, serviceable-if-it must be cache. I’m gonna fill it with words that taste like milk chocolate. Oh no I didn’t! There I go again, playing in the word patch instead writing. [yet another form of procrastination]

That African book mightn’t held my interest if it had helped me build a cache of tiny words with bite: tart, sweet, gingery words that rich up sentences, or a sublime sentence structure that makes the heart palpably happier.

The born elsewhere, African author/teacher touts intimacy in his preface; instead his sentences are impersonal, he stands at the back of the room mouthing words from where it’s emotionally safe to write. But then maybe he’s only a surface, he can’t write any deeper, like a John Irving character, scratch his surface and there’s another surface under that. Or maybe he was afraid he might say what he really felt. I get that.

Not that I’m not learning from his deep knowledge of the continent of Africa, but the plebeian prose hurts my stomach. I crave “fire in the mind” prose, convoluted thinking parsed like a knitting needle picking at yarn, subtle colors woven through textury yarn sheered from a genuine ruminant.

But who takes time to knit brilliant socks in brilliantly subtle colors, easier to buy a consistent thread woven by questionable laborers. I like a good pair of socks. Socks can be functional, full of perfectly recurring patterns that don’t challenge my beliefs, my favored reading threads, though, better not be.

Dear Mr. Grisholm It’s Not You It’s Me. Seriously, it’s me.

Yeah, ya know, I’ll read the Africa book in short visitations – piecemeal – like the latest John Grisholm, who I’d like a word with about our reading relationship. Dear Mr. Grisholm it’s not you it’s me. Seriously, it’s me. Your 1980 setting for your latest book is an echolocation of a distant last century that I barely believe I lived in and a small community mindset that drives me nuts. That said, had I written your book, and not you written it, I would be so proud, to know that a lot of people do love your latest book, and read it breathless to the end.

But, I don’t want to revisit that time with its racist worries about how mixed race in Mississippi reacts to scandalous money. The personal genome challenges the concept of race in this century. Whatever skin color, we are all junk yard dogs, a hardy breed. Race discrimination conversation is updated, now, and very much alive. So, Mr. Grisholm, forgive me if I don’t want to revisit last century; the eighties were not my best decade.

Since it seems I’m not writing a novel this morning or maybe any morning, here’s my pared down goal: write a thousand words for thirty days, design an eBook, plunk it down for sale on Google Books and Amazon clouds. I am rusty at design but my skills are serviceable enough to publish on Google Books and Amazon. Decide at the end of thirty days whether to publish a 30K non-fiction novelette or write a 60K book in two months.

Sounds so doable when the prose is from stream of consciousness and not “fire in the mind.” Decide whether to publish on WordPress  [rewrite, second draft country] first or wait for the big book to come out. In reality only a half-dozen readers will catch it on WordPress. If I publish it on Google Books maybe a dozen more might read it. I think I’m safe to publish what amounts to dumping my plebeian output on the Internet. Anonymity in the midst of the crowd is my preferred outcome. I can live with that. Whisper so I can’t be heard at the front of the room.

Found Essay

The “found essay” worked for me yesterday. “Write it Slant” writing book suggests that the writer find an object from the past and free associate. It’s a technique that rated over one thousand words in a not so bad memory of my Commodore 1541. At least, the quantity of words is going up steeply from nothing to 4000 words by dropping the quality or the “fire in the mind” essaying. But if I forget to pay attention, to hide my most inner thoughts, the strangest thoughts sneak into a harmless essay about my first computer.

Before writing a few paragraphs the helplessness and hopelessness of my marriage bled through a story on code and computer classes. It’s hard not to write about him, he’s entwined in every struggle I made to become a person in my own right. Computers were entwined with writing, he was entwined with stopping me from finishing what I started, becoming a journalist.

He stood over me when I typed the title “Tracking Snow,” the name of a short story that I  didn’t grow to a full book. He screamed and I typed, he jerked the cord from the wall, and enunciated each syllable, “I’ll grind you to dust, WHORE if you don’t stop.” And as I those words sneak into my story, I’m right back there, my heart beating faster, like an Iraq veteran it never wholly leaves me.

Oops! Uh mm, have to whip that 1980 history out of my essay. Getting into Grisholm story telling. It is me not you Mr. Grisholm who doesn’t want to read about the eighties. Human dignity is important to me, and you serve it well when you write. I don’t want to look back at the eighties lest I turn into a pillar of salt, and no longer write. The wounds of marriage are fresh. The African book hovers above the surface denying the individual African mind for the universal African, for which there is none. My brain in marriage felt like Africa, the gold and minerals taken, the humanity denied.

There I stand beside the author who tried to stand at the front of the room and be heard but didn’t have the courage. I see that filling a page with one thousand words encourages that which is below the surface to come up. Not sure I like that but I made a promise to write one-thousand words and that I’m going to do. I’m going to publish these words whether they sound odd or not because who will read them? It is illogical to think writing practice could upturn the customary routine of a life. There! I’ve written my quota. It’s somewhat readable. I swear Mr. Grisholm it is me not you.

Psychopathy

KEVIN EAGAN

On Saying Goodbye to My Books.

via On Saying Goodbye to My Books.

In three weeks, I move across the country to a house near Kissimmee, Florida. My wife and I are starting over, and for the first time in my life, I’m not holding on to anything except the essentials for work and life. We’re hoping to take only what can fit in two cars

Phishing for poetry

So, I was half-asleep and clicked a phishing email, and, there inside the source code, at the very bottom where I almost missed it, was the first line of a poem that Anvari attributes to John Muir, American Naturalist. I liked it so much that I added the quote as my tagline. Below is a few more lines to make the thought complete.
 

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Photo by Saltypalette

As goatherd learns his trade by goat, so writer learns his trade by wrote.

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.

I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of the flood, storm, and avalanche.

I’ll acquaint myself with glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near to the

heart of the world as I can.

Benefits of abstract engineering

“Want to study photography? Grab a camera and go take some pictures. Want to be a writer? Start a blog. Want to be a civil engineer?” The following quote from Engineering Revision describes how to begin.

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To be a successful software engineer (or indeed, any engineer), one first needs to be utterly and completely broken by failure. One must be so humiliated by a complex system that they give up and realize that the only chance of moving forward comes from being a supplicant to the complexity, by approaching it with humility and caution, not with hubris. You have to listen to the system, coax it into behaving. Commanding it does not work.

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BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.

Technosociofile's Favorite Books

Technosociofile’s Favorite

Favorite Book List

  1. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter (Oct 27, 2009)

  2. Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran (Jan 29, 2013)

  3. Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves by George M. Church and Ed Regis (Oct 2, 2012)

  4. We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson

  5. Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty (Jul 3, 2012)

  6. Black Irish: A Novel by Stephan Talty (Feb 26, 2013)

  7. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan (Sep 13, 2011)

  8. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson (Oct 2, 2012)

  9. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Oct 24, 2011)

  10. Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will by Dale J. Stephens (Mar 5, 2013)

  11. The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service by Gordon Corera (Jan 9, 2013)

  12. The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick by Benoit Mandelbrot (Oct 30, 2012)

  13. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick, Steve Wozniak and William L. Simon (Aug 15, 2011)

  14. Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire by Bruce Nussbaum (Mar 5, 2013)

  15. Machinima: The Art and Practice of Virtual Filmmaking by Phylis Johnson and Donald Pettit (Mar 7, 2012)

  16. Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution by Rebecca Stott (Mar 19, 2013)

  17. Ignorance: How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein (Sep 25, 2012)

  18. Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks (Apr 26, 2012)

  19. Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Vintage) by George Dyson (Dec 11, 2012)

  20. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition by Steven Levy (May 27, 2010)

  21. Phantom by Jo Nesbo (Oct 2, 2012) – Deckle Edge

  22. Adrenaline (Sam Capra) by Jeff Abbott (Jul 1, 2011)

  23. The Psychology of Dexter (Psychology of Popular Culture) by Bella DePaulo PhD (Sep 7, 2010)

  24. The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World by James Shreeve (Jun 28, 2005)

  25. Biopunk: Solving Biotech’s Biggest Problems in Kitchens and Garages by Marcus Wohlsen (Jul 31, 2012)

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.

Technosociofile

Subspecies of nerd primarily interested in digital technology and the social implications and applications in a wired world. (Abbreviated TSF) A technosciofile may fall on a spectrum anywhere from “techie” to “socio.” May have issues with authority.

Type of benign hacktivist. Not exactly white-hat but not exactly malicious either. Some may seek notoriety.

“Just because you steal Wifi to watch Colbert, it doesn’t make you a technosciofile.”

“You may be a technosociofile if… you’re fascinated by Anonymous and paranoid about the FBI.”

RDIO APP

TV is last century. It might hang around like radio. I cut the cord long ago. Ah, forgot about RDIO! compliments of Nick Bilton’s tweet for his Bits column, Test Run: Rdio vs. Spotify in the New York Times. Installed the PC and the Android app yesterday. It will clean the air pollution. TV pollutes the air. RDIO masks the sound, blunts it. New music.

The Writing desk

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My white cup has black tea in the bottom. I’m at my desk, I can hear them. I know her, Isabella, our cat, and I know him, and I know Sunday mornings in the in-the-routine way that peaceful households are alike. She’s wrapping herself around his legs; he’s pattering to her, something inconsequential. The artist among us is still dreaming in abstracts.

My tax stuff sits in sight. Speakers lay sideways, collapsed on the desk entwined like a set of crossed fingers. Dvendra Banhart song plays on RDIO. A twenty-two inch monitor, a purple, half-inch storage cylinder for my tooth cap that came off w/ a caramel hard candy, a clotted canister coated with lotion, a bottle of bilberry sups to forestall the loss-of-light cones in my green eyes, hard bound notebooks to scratch notes in from books I read, short story ideas, and tasks to complete, mundane everyday stuff done over and over.

DVDs in a stack, spring water in plastic at hand on my right like a flask protecting me from thirst on a prolonged journey, the bottle beading drops of dew on mom’s oak desk, her long gone DNA captured in hand-applied varnish. My feet crossed at the ankles resting beside my laptop that’s switched on less and less since owning a tablet. A black HP keyboard w/ the stuck shift key damaged when it took a tumble when I got my toe tangled in the cord.

All the clutter I collect around me claims me. I have to see this stuff. It comforts me. I don’t want matching objects. I prefer asymmetry to balance. I prefer intermittent chaos to stagnation. I prefer change. Change is lop-sided. Even change doesn’t stay that way. It gets more symmetrical as stability rolls in.