Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Act Of God Destroys Blogger’s Spirit :: Rest Of Summer Cancelled

Yesterday morning at approximately 7.25, I was awoken by a ratty-looking man with a beard and – for reasons I’ve still yet to work out – two policemen.

I opened the door to the flat in my sleep-clothes: a pair of sweaty underpants and an oversized grey hoodie – one that was way too big for me even at Christmas, when I was four stones heavier – and I looked down at these three men, gathered as they were one floor below me by the open garden gate.

After the customary, and to my mind slightly offensive, double-take, the ratty one said: ‘There he is. Bag in your drain, mate.’

As you might suspect, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. My first thought, on seeing the police, was that someone had been broken into. Or stabbed. But why then would a strange, wiry man with a snout be telling me to bag in my drain. And what on earth could that possibly mean? Was he insulting me?

‘Wake up, mate!’ he shouted, smiling, and both policemen chortled into their attack-proof vests. ‘A plastic bag got caught in your drain out back. Flooded the shop downstairs.’ I still wasn’t quite getting it. I wondered if maybe I was dreaming. ‘Go and check your back room, mate.’

Leaving the front door open, I wandered to my bedroom feeling slightly shell-shocked...

I should explain: Keith’s flat is over a shop. The two bedrooms – mine and his – look out over the roof of the shop, which slopes back from the street down toward our bedroom windows. Beneath our windows are two small drains which take care of any excess rainwater. Sometime on Monday night / Tuesday morning, one of the drains had become partially blocked with rotting leaves and other ghastly ichbar, whilst the other had become completely covered over with a rogue carrier bag.

I pushed open the door to my bedroom and my face fell. Literally slipped off my head and fell at my feet in a horrified pile. I had to pick it up and plaster it back in place before I could even begin to decide whether or not I could actually believe my eyes.

Apparently it had rained rather heavily in the night.

Annoyingly, after my recent conversation about deskplace posture with Dr Lovely, I had just invested in a new monitor and keyboard, both of which I had plugged into my trusty Toshiba laptop and arranged in an ergonomically sound configuration on my desk.

I walked slowly toward my computer, as if approaching the charred body of what may or may not be an elderly relative. Halfway across the room, my feet began to squelch on the sodden carpet.

Keith incidentally, was not at home. He was staying over at Tilly’s house on the fashionable side of town. I - as I am wont to do when I am home alone – had been sleeping on the sofabed in the living room. I’d had a bit of a film night. Just me, a large packet of Revels (I know, I know) and a couple of DVDs. What DVDs were they? you ask. I’ll tell you. One was The Libertine. (A few good scenes but mostly rather dull – it seems the Earl of Rochester was the Sebastian Horsley of his day. Actually nowhere near that dull, but that same sense of ‘egotism as raison d’etre’. Yawn.) The other was Lars and the Real Girl. (Quirky and charming at first but after an hour I just wanted to slap Lars and set his stupid doll on fire. Towards the end of the film, I was actually praying for it to end.)

The thing is, ordinarily I would have had my laptop in there with me, but because of my back and the wise words of Dr Lovely, I’ve been trying to restrict laptop use to my desk.

My poor desk. Jesus. It looked like a desk on the Titanic.

My window had been open an inch or two, which obviously hadn’t helped stem the tide.

My laptop was also open, sitting there on the desk like a raped clam. It was drenched. Wetter than an excited mermaid. I cried out. A curse word. In agony. Then I quickly unplugged everything – two lots of four-socket extension leads were sitting in a centimetre of water – and I returned to the front door.

The police were now next door talking to the little old lady, whose flat had also suffered a soaking. Meanwhile, the ratty guy – who was annoyingly chipper, I must say – was on his way out of the front gate. He smiled at me as he left and said, if I remember correctly, ‘Don’t let any more plastic bags on the roof’. I bristled at this, angry at the implication that I could have in some way averted this catastrophe. ‘Nothing to do with me, mate’ I responded, but he’d already gone.

I closed the front door and returned to the scene of the crime. (It certainly felt like a crime.)

When I unplugged the various leads from my laptop, picked it up and held it on its side, a pint of water poured out onto the floor. I didn’t know what to do. It was like it was bleeding.

I shook it gently till it had more or less stopped dripping. Then I dried it as best I could with a towel and took it into the living room, placing it open and upside down – like an open book, spine up - in a brief patch of mocking sunlight. Then I did the same with the keyboard, my old PC, a pile of books and magazines, DVDs and CDs, a bunch of various lovely bits of stationery and all of my bedding and mattress.

Then I wiped down the walls and covered the floor with more towels. I then stamped on the towels like I was pressing grapes and as soon as they became soaked, I chucked them in the empty bath and replaced them with more.

Leaving the bathroom I caught sight of myself in the mirror. The first thing I noticed, apart from the look of panic still smeared across my face, was that hanging out of the flap of my boxer shorts was the fat end of a crispy piece of kitchen roll. Ah. That may have had something to do with the sniggering and double-taking. My face fell on the floor again.

I pulled the kitchen roll from my pants, wandered back into my bedroom and threw it into the bin. Then I realised that there was a length of toilet roll in there too. Ah yes. I remembered I'd had a bit of a restive night. Lots of tossing and turning.

When I tried to pull the toilet paper out however, I realised that some of it was stuck to my Johnson. So I pulled off my pants and threw them in the wash basket. Then I stood there, picking at the scraps of bogroll that were clinging fast to the end of my old chap. It was then that I noticed a shadow had fallen across the room. I looked up and saw the ratty guy on the roof outside my window. He was crouching down scraping some bits of rubbish and old leaves into the offending plastic bag. He was looking directly at me. I just stared, till eventually he gave me a thumbs-up and moved on down the roof, chortling as he went.

I continued staring long after he’d gone.

My humiliation was complete.

Not only had this gurning ratman observed me at my embarrassing worst, but also, and worse still, I had realised that the plastic bag which had been the major cause of the flooding and had resulted in God knows how much damage to Keith’s flat, the little old lady next door’s flat, and the shop downstairs, did in fact belong to me. In fact, it was the Curry’s bag I’d brought the new keyboard home in at the weekend.

I was mortified.

I figured out what must have happened, all the while trying to convince myself that it wasn’t really my fault.

When my window is closed, it rattles something awful. Every time a car passes outside, every time someone sighs upstairs, rattle rattle rattle. It is incredibly irritating. Thankfully, silencing it is merely a matter of wedging something between the two sections. Usually I wedge a tissue in there as there’s always plenty of them lying around. On Saturday however, I used a folded-up carrier bag. On Sunday I was sweaty so I opened the window. The bag, I now realise, must at that stage have fallen out onto the roof and floated about pretentiously, as if it were in a film, just biding its sweet time. Then, sometime in the very dead of Monday night, it struck, causing absolute maximum havoc.

So, it could I suppose be argued - at a push - that the flooding, and the damage, was actually my fault.

Jesus, I hope the landlord isn’t reading this. He might be jolly angry.

Speaking of angry, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t looked in at Keith’s room yet. He might be angry too. Actually, if his room was in anything like the state mine was, he might be furious.

So I stopped staring out at the empty roof and I pulled on a clean pair of undies. (I make it a rule never to go into another man’s bedroom with my balls bared.) Then, tentatively, I turned the handle on Keith’s bedroom door, and I peeped in.


It was fine. (If it hadn't been, there is no way I would have admitted to owning that bastard bag.) I walked over to his window and peered through. The roof on his side of the flat is a good foot higher than on my side. I don’t know why. And I don’t care. I was just very relieved. As I crept out of his room – I have no idea why I was creeping; I think I felt guilty – I noticed a pair of handcuffs attached to his bedstead. I giggled like a four-year-old and ran back to the mess of my life.

To his credit, Keith was not that angry, even though the flat currently stinks of stagnant rainwater and what smells like mouldy cheese. ‘It’s not my flat,’ he says. ‘Otherwise I’d break both your arms.’

Thanks, Keith.

I have found someone to have a look at my laptop but their prognosis is not good. The first thing they told me is that I have to let it dry for ten days. After that, they said there is every chance it will never work again and everything on it will be lost. The very fact that it was so utterly saturated apparently bodes horribly unwell.

My laptop is three and a half years old and it has so much totally irreplaceable stuff on it that I still feel physically ill at the thought. As well as the photographs, some of which I will one day miss, there is writing. Lots of writing. This is what upsets me. There was a lot of stuff that could one day have been useful. Loads of notes I’d made, blog posts I’d half written – the survey results, stuff about my parents, stuff about my childhood… shit. Loads of stuff. Nearly four years of stuff. Even longer actually as I’d written up a few older notebooks which I then tore up and tossed away.

I’m gutted.

I actually feel literally gutted. But obviously I’m not. I’m merely metaphorically gutted.

I mean, I know no one’s actually died or anything, and there are probably some amongst you who will be thinking ‘Jesus, get over it’, and in time I’m sure I will, but for now I’m utterly devastated and I really need to go and stand in a corner and think about what I’ve done.


I’ve decided I’m going offline for a couple of weeks. Just till September, by which time I’ll hopefully have sorted out my old laptop or got hold of a new one. Hopefully this will also give me time to sort out my body a bit. I’ve had my blood test and I’ve got the ultrasound arranged for Thursday. I’m also going to get my bleeding anus checked out.

So, one way or the other, I’ll be back in September, ready for yet another fresh start.

In the meantime, please leave your commiserations in the comments. Plus, any thoughts on repairing severely water-damaged laptops – or at least getting the information off of the hard drive. And if you have any heart at all, please don’t mention the words a) insurance, or b) back-up, else, I swear, I will throw an enormous tantrum right in your horrible superior face.

Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Watch out for plastic bags.

PS. Here is a lovely picture of a rainbow over Peckham that I took on Sunday night. I remember thinking, ‘Awww. We might moan about the rain, but if it can do this, then it can’t be all bad.’ Oh, the irony.

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Lauren said...

Bete, I hope this teaches you never to buy or use plastic bags again. Shame on you!! Well, at least that plastic bag didn't kill some poor animal.

As for your computer, sorry mate. That's rotten luck - and also, the only reason I can accept your leave of absence.

But, get yourself a brand spankin' new laptop that runs faster and better, and by all means - back up next time? If it makes you feel better, I don't back up either...

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I still haven't recovered from the trauma of drowning my PC in a cup of tea. I wish I could tell you it all got restored happily but that would be a lie.
If it is any consolation though I have found through bitter experience that mobiles only die fully after you have dropped them down the loo for the third time. Here's hoping laptops are similarly blessed.
Bendy Girl x

Larry Teabag said...

You poor bastard.

I'm no expert, but my guess is that your laptop will never recover. However I think there is some hope of recovering the data from the hard-drive.

There are specialist data-recover companies who'll give it a good go. Needless to say, you may have to chuck a bit of cash at the problem. You may have to act fast too.

You could try these people for example. (Just found googling, not a recommendation.) I notice their advice doesn't exactly tally with what you were told.

A key piece of advice seems to be:
Do not turn on the computer.

Good luck with it.

mike said...

I once dropped my iPod into a clean, wee-free toilet. Despite only being submerged for seconds, it never worked again. When Googling for "iPod toilet", I discovered that only around 25% of iPods recover from the trauma.

However, I once accidentally immersed my mobile into a merrily flowing communal urinal trough, and it STILL WORKED!

I can only conclude that urine has special restorative powers.

If only you had taken a late night piss into your gutter! Damn!

(P.S. This is awful (if also quite funny) and I fully sympathise.)

Anonymous said...

fuck. you are experiencing grief. no different than losing a friend, loved one... except it's part of you that is gone.

but, larry the teabagger is right - small glimmer of hope to rescue the drive. quick is better, specialists a must (not a friend of a guy who kinda pulled some pictures off a hard drive that had fallen out of another friends car), and don't turn it on...

good luck...

Alison Eales said...

Oh goodness, what an awful day. Well, we will miss you while you are offline, but I hope all this medical business sorts itself out.

Please promise to come back!

Also, I once spilt a glass of water over my old laptop. Once it dried out it worked again. But I'd listen to your other commenters... don't turn it on!

Alex B said...

Dunno if this helps, but I've experienced a Powerbook drenched in Ovaltine recovering completely. You did exactly the right thing tipping it up and getting it to dry out. If you can get the keyboard off that'll help even more. Let it dry completely and you have a chance that it'll power up. I'd suggest maybe getting a harddrive caddy for the drive so you don't have to power up the whole thing. Good luck!

catherine said...

I'm in agony with you at the thought of losing your writing and photographs. My fingers are crossed that there's a happy ending to all this and that all that stuff can be extracted from the drive and delivered into your hands, safe and sound and completely intact.

All kinds of awful stuff seems to be happening to you all at once. I'll spare you the old adage I'm thinking of (I'm sure you've picked up on it now anyway), but let's just say you'll be due for a nice stretch of peaceful, happy uneventfulness when this has all blown over. Which it will, damnit.

I'm looking forward to your return :)

Je ne regrette rien said...

horrifying, really. don't accept the first diagnosis, just as in medical attention, there are computer technicians and then computer geniuses and gurus. keep looking until you find the latter, at least to try and back up your drive to your new computer and retain your writing or whatever else can be salvaged.

*lights match ... waves it ... keep hope alive*

martin said...

That was one of the best posts I have ever read. I was pissing myself one minute then sad the next. Come back soon, and good luck with all the tests and of course your anus........

Selena said...

I can't say that I'm not sad about you taking a break, because reading your blog brings unexpected happiness to my day, and you may call me selfish, but I am riling against having that taken away.

So, I kind of want to tell you to buck up and stop crying- but then I think about how I felt when my PC got a virus and had to be wiped clean, and I understand. Not quite as bad as when people's memories burn up in a fire (let's keep it in perspective), but bad enough.

However, it's also kind of many of the things we hold onto (whether they be knick knacks in the closet or microsoft word files stored in our labtops) put unecessary weight on our lives, burdens that we don't realize we've placed upon ourselves...

So, who knows, perhaps you will find a silver lining in this, "Act of God?"

Perhaps, the plastic bag that danced it's way into the drain pipe, will turn out to be your very own rainbow over Peckham, sent to you by a benevolent force- to remind you that there is so much beauty in the world and in you too. (even if it's in a costly and annoying way)

Today could be the first day of the rest of your life...

Good luck! I hope everything works out for you (and your anus).

I will keep my fingers crossed that you do start to post again come September.

Cat said...

Poo, don't go, I've only just started reading you.

In fact, I broke the laptop of my own beast yesterday by pouring what appears to have been most of a bottle of wine over it. He was a bit peeved although only a few of the buttons stopped working.

Although it may have no beneficial effect whatsoever, keeping your machine in the warm dry atmosphere of somewhere like an airing cupboard for a few weeks might do the job. It might also be possible to mount the drive somewhere and get it read even if the laptop has met its maker. Fingers crossed for you.

And for me, as it happens.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you're having a crap time but even more sorry that you're not going to be writing anything to keep me amused for a couple of weeks. Am I going to have to find solace at the bottom of *another* bottle of wine?
Hurry back :o)

Eloise said...

I am so sorry! I was completely gutted and heartbroken and lost when my laptop died even though I got almost everything back in the end. It didn't help that I felt kind of ashamed for feeling that way - yes, there are much worse things but fuck it is awful. And I'm still not all that good about backup (i.e. very bad), so yeah, I think the smug and sensible are in a minority. I hope so anyway.

I just found your blog and had to read it all. I think you're amazing and your candour and courage in changing your life are an inspiration, and you're very funny. I believe in honesty and openness but I could never expose myself warts and all that way.

Good luck with getting your data back, and I'll be looking forward to your return too x

Claire said...

Win a laptop - I got two reputable emails today with links to competitions:


bob said...

My laptop was once unceremoniously baptized by a rather large glass of shiraz. I still blame the cats. After it dried out it pretty much died for a few days but then slowly partially resurrected itself.

The keyboard got fried, but the hard drive still chugged on ... so I plugged in a peripheral keyboard and then transferred everything to a new computer.

There is hope (albeit fleeting).

Anonymous said...

my hubby, who is a computer person, says it's perfectly possible to recover lost data from water damaged laptops. His instructions are: 'Take out the laptop's hard drive, let it dry out. Buy an external USB hard drive caddy for a 2.5 inch hard drive, as available on Ebay for about 15 quid,or most online computer shops, such as Maplin, for about 30. You'll need a caddy which fits either an S80A or an 80A (IDE) drive - have a look at the drive to work out which yours is.
Stick the hard drive in it, plug the caddy into a PC's USB slot, and it should show up as another drive, like a flash disk would. You should be able to get the data off it that way.
If that doesn't work, it's more serious because it means the electronics of the hard drive have been damaged.
However, if you know someone good with electricals it might be possible to buy an absolutely identical hard drive, remove the circuitry from the outside of each drive and swap them over - and then do the thing with the USB caddy.
Last resort is to send it to professional recovery people who will charge you lots and lots of cash even to look at it, but should be able to get the data back.'
Useful chap to have around, isn't he?
(PS if you want more detailed advice drop me an email)

Anonymous said...

oops, apparently I misheard and it's SATA or ATA, not S80A or 80A - I have now lost all geek cred.


Ariel said...

Tis the season for laptop troubles. Mine is now mute and sporting the blue screen of death on an alarmingly regular basis... Glad to read you haven't lost your sense of humour through the whole thing. Send up and be counted indeed!

Bright-eyed said...

Argh shit on stick!

Congrats on being able to write about it in such a composed and humorous manner... I'm afraid I lack advice, but wish you good luck and look forward to a successful return to action!

(hopefully in better health too!)

Artful Kisser said...

What an absolute pain in the arse. My sympathies sweet cheeks. Best wishes with your health checks and I hope you'll be feeling much better by the time you get back to your blog.

Angela-la-la said...

Do not turn it on. Get the hard drive to a clever person. Save whatever the clever person retrieves to somewhere webby that doesn't allow carrier bags near the servers. Get an appointment with a male doctor and sort out your bleeding anus.

And while you're doing all that, I'll wait here till September. Good luck!

Angela-la-la said...

Do not turn it on. Get the hard drive to a clever person. Save whatever the clever person retrieves to somewhere webby that doesn't allow carrier bags near the servers. Get an appointment with a male doctor and sort out your bleeding anus.

And while you're doing all that, I'll wait here till September. Good luck!

Angela-la-la said...

So good I commented it twice. Grrr.

Andy said...

Bugger bastard, bugger bastard, bugger bastard. Shite!!

Heartfelt sympathy. I don't know what I would do if my laptop died on me. Other than carry on being an embittered and morose old queen of course....

Mrs. Hall said...

I find it wholeheartedly unfair that I just found this blog and now it going away for a while.

But perhaps it is for the best. You did lose a lot. And that needs proper mourning time.

When you come back, let me help you with weight loss efforts. After all, I did go to the trouble of figuring out your real weight.

Take care,

Mrs. Hall

Anonymous said...

Sorry mate, bad luck! Will miss you desperately while you're offline. Good luck with everything xx

Sophie said...

Commiserations, Bete. What an unlovely experience. If your work is irretrievable you only half lost the war: it didn't reach an audience but you did express yourself. You are a sooper-dooper writer- more will materialise and better.
I post-dedicate my Aug 8th post to you. No premiums, just lots of tlc: hhtp://

Anonymous said...

gutted.. i'm usually too shy to comment but i do love reading your blog posts bete. so sorry you wont be around for a while. hope things are looking up and look forward to hearing all about your adventures in september.
so much drama to end on - just had to let you know i'm wishing you all the best with bums and computer and fuckbuddies and the ongoing search for love
take care matey.
chin up

curly said...

oh dear Bete what rotten stinking effing luck. It might not have been your Curry's Bag. There are lots of Curry's Bags in the world, blowing about waiting to wreak havoc. Looking for dastardly opportunities to cause trauma. Besides, really it's the Landlord's fault for having a stupid window. Hope it all works out and a miracle occurs in the laptop department. We will miss you!

Coffee Boy said...

"There are probably some amongst you who will be thinking ‘Jesus, get over it.’"

Really, no.

Everyone here writes, and must have massive sympathy.

I'd've properly cried. And I'm dead butch, me.

Keep your absence short, Bete.

Hope everything gets sorted; computer, tests, anus.

('Computer tests anus' - sounds like a headline on the front of the Metro.)

Good luck.

suburbanhen said...

After having two hard drive crashes (yes, two. No, I didn't learn from the first one. Or the second one) I know of that which you feel right now.

So much grief.

And then something weird happened. I felt lighter. I'm not suggesting you will feel the same, but anyway...

Act fast and take your lap top to some pros. Don't fuck about trying to fix it yourself.

DJ Kirkby said...

Oh dear, I have nothing to say except that I feel absolutly sick for you!

Tanya Jones said...

You poor sod. I would have cried as well. Never mind, it looks like there's practical things you can do and I'm sure you'll be back better and stronger!

Michael said...

Tough break!

Anonymous said...

I will cry for days when my computer breaks - good old computer. So full of useless crap that I never look at but like to know is there all the same.

Still, I'd move on pretty quickly. Get myself a sporty new model from dell. I don't care that their computers are meant to be shit. They deliver them to your door in big, exciting boxes for god's sake. What more does a girl need?

Laura said...

Have everything crossed for your data recovery.
Hurry back.

Valerie said...

misspiggy's husband speaks wisely.

Also, I once dumped a glass of Tang (don't ask why I was drinking the stuff in the first place) on a fancy telephone, drenching it completely. I was told that it would never work again because of the sugar in the Tang, but I did your trick of shaking it out and putting it upside down and when I tried it a week later it was fine. So I'll hope for the best. Just don't turn it on for a while!

Anyway, this is The Suck. You have my sincere sympathies!!

Sam said...

I have nothing to offer in the way of expertise or anything, B, but that rainbow really was nice. Have a good rest.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think it *is* like somebody died. With a sizeable handful of exceptions, I think I'd be more devastated by the irretrievable loss of my laptop and everything on it than I would by a death.

I hope the rest of the summer is not a total write-off, and that you manage to get the thing fixed.


caroline said...

'Missing you already.Please come back soon, all fresh and rejuvenated.Or something.

Caroline x

Anonymous said...

I saw this and thought of you

Je ne regrette rien said...

okay its been 7 days and I'm experiencing something akin to D.T.s.

get thee to an internet café or something. absolutely ridiculous, this.

curly said...

I can't help know....just incase you're there sooner than you said you would be.

I's pathetic and I need a life or rather just get on with work which is what I should be doing between 9-5. Oh well.........getting on with work then

Walter said...

Just discovered your blog, and I absolutely love it. Can't wait to read what happens next.

Data loss is a sad situation to find yourself in. Years ago I paid a data recovery center an arm and a leg to get some of my old work back, and I'm still not sure it was worth it. My advice would be to look at this as a fresh start, rather than a painful end.

Lauren said...

Ok Bete, really... you can come back now.... where I am the temperature's dropped considerably. leaves are turning!

Selena said...

Last night, I had a dream that you tricked us all in a cheeky way, and posted a bright gem for the faithful or obsessed readers (you say tomāto, I say tomäto), slightly ahead of the September date.

Thinking that this was a vision of the immediate future, I gleefully readied myself for work. When I got to my mundane job- I jumped on the internet, clicked my way through to your blog and...

Alas, nothing!

Cue, resigned sigh...

Ok, I didn't dream that at all, but I was hoping that it was true!

It's Monday and I love to read your blog on Mondays or any day; for that matter.

Anonymous said...

All star-bloggers do that trick, sooner or later: Stop writing and observe the frustration and tears in the comment box.
Don't count on me to fall into that trap.

Oh merde! c'est fait!

curly said...


Old and past it said...

shit! I don't believe that plastic bag/falling asleep masturbating on the sofa/computer crashing shit! It's too farfetched! I think you are taking a well deserved break from blogland and probably stemming the rose with new fuckbuddy in Brighton.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

dude (what can I say, I'm American), you need to hurry up and get your shit together. I'm over HERE singing tributes to you a la Fat Albert through a Cheech & Chong phase. After sinking this far, I don't know what's next.

My readers are begging you. "bete de jour jones ... got a bete de jour jones" .... staggers off ...

Yawn said...


Anonymous said...

yawn - you're an idiot (but you probably already knew that).

Fermina said...

I'm starting to worry about you now.This weekend has your name on it so be a good boy and let me know what's going on.
That's a double rainbow by the way. Two pots of gold..

Anonymous said...

Bete, If you don't get yourself back here soon, I'm going to have to hunt you down like a dog. Do you understand? (And I'm a seasoned dog hunter)

So what if you're ugly (and fat) and your computer's knackered and you're borderline homeless and your life is generally crap. We love your words - isn't that enough to make you happy?