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Review of the 2016 Thunderbird Mid-Summer Pow Wow at the Queens County Farm Museum

Hello all. A week ago, I attended the Thunderbird Mid-Summer Pow Wow which takes place at the end of July at the Queens County Farm Museum. I have been coming to this place, and the associated Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo (which I originally thought was part of the QCFM, but later learned that it’s an entirely separate organization) ever since I was in pre-school. Chances are if you went to pre-school or elementary school here in Queens, New York, that around October you came to this place for some pumpkin picking. I enjoy coming here for the special events that they host, and among them is the yearly gathering of the Indian tribes from across the Americas to represent and honor their heritage – from Canada to Ecuador, and everywhere in between.

As a historian specializing in tribal cultures from ancient times to modern times, I feel that behooves me to come to events like this as often as I can in order to keep up my credibility as a historian and quasi-anthropologist. Also, I just love coming here purely for it’s own sake – I greatly enjoy coming to this place, I enjoy the “rendezvous” like atmosphere, and of course, I love the music and the dances. The food isn’t bad either!

The pow wow was a three-day event, and I arrived on saturday July 30. The weather was forecasted to be pretty bad that weekend, and on Friday, the first day of the festivities, it poured. When I arrived on Saturday, the sky was gray and heavy, and there were warnings that there would be occassional showers throughout the day.

Although it’s called a “museum” the QCFM is working farm where they grow crops and raise livestock. In fact, it is the last fully-operational farm left in all of Queens County. It’s a large place, and the pow wow events were confined to the front portion of the farm where the gate and most of the buildings are. The center and rear of the farm were pretty isolated, aside from a few farm workers and some families looking at the animals in their pens.

I enjoy walking amidst the gardens and crop fields. As I’ve said in previous posts on this blog, although I’ve lived my whole life in the city, I’ve always been more of a country person at heart, and this place allows me a certain amount of escapism.

Just beyond the gardens is the cornfield. they grow the corn in the form of a maze which is then enjoyed by the children during autumn. When I was there, the corn stalks were five and a half feet high, up to my chin.

You’re probably expecting me to post pictures of the pow wow celebrations, but I deliberately took NO pictures of this. The dancers, musicians, and story-tellers that were present here have strong feelings about having their pictures being taken. Remember, these people are not tourist attractions. They are people deserving of respect, and I felt that it would not be appropriate to be snapping pictures of people when they don’t want to be photographed. Besides, in this age when everyone who attends a concert records it on their smartphone rather than sitting back and enjoying the show, I am adamant in not allowing technology to get in the way of an immersive sensory experience. So, no photos. Don’t like that? Tough.

 

 

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Requests for articles and artwork

A while back, I asked you, the reader, if you had any requests for articles and artwork that you would like me to do, but I received no reply. However, I recently looked at the search terms that come up on this blog’s administration page. Most of the terms concern subjects that I’ve already written about or illustrated, but there were a few others on subjects that I haven’t touched yet, or have only just alluded to. Terms which showed up frequently were (in order of frequency):

  • Alamosaurus (12)
  • Caenagnathus / Chirostenotes (9)
  • Pterosaurs (8)
  • Liopleurodon (7)
  • Mosasaurs (6)
  • Dakotaraptor (5)
  • Velociraptor (in color) (5)
  • Suchomimus (4)
  • Carnotaurus (3)
  • Oviraptor (3)

 

Others caught my interest as potential future art or writing projects, including:

  • Abelisaur
  • Allosaurus courting
  • Allosaurus head
  • Allosaurus walking
  • Australovenator
  • Deinonychus
  • Dinosaurs of Texas
  • Dracorex head
  • Elasmosaurus
  • Iguanodon head
  • Neovenator
  • Pachycephalosaurus keeping shelter
  • Styracosaurus
  • Triceratops eating
  • Tyrannosaurus juvenile
  • Lacrimal horns on dinosaurs
  • Mesozoic turtles
  • What dinosaurs lived on Long Island?

The last three sound like interesting research projects. Anyway, based upon what I have seen, I think that I can gauge what you would like me to do. So, I’m treating these statistics pretty much like a to-do schedule. Right now, I’m really hammering on a super-detailed drawing of a full-body T. rex, which I hope to have finished within one or two weeks, and then put up here for you to admire and comment on. After that, I’ll focus on the items on these two lists – the “frequency list” will take priority. I’m happy to say that some of these terms are on things that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while, so this will give me the impetus to do them. Take care everybody, and keep your pencils sharp.

Captain Louis Antoine de Bougainville

Louis Antoine de Bougainville

Louis Antoine de Bougainville (November 12, 1729 – August 31, 1811) was a French scholar, military officer, and explorer. He was a brilliant mathematician, gained fame for himself fighting in the French and Indian War, he became the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the globe, and he conducted an extensive exploration of the South Pacific. Bougainville Island, where a ferocious battle took place during World War II, is named after him.

This is a drawing as he would have looked in his 20s during his service in the French and Indian War as a captain in the French Army and as the aide-de-camp to Gen. Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. Made using a combination of No.2 pencil, colored pencils, and markers. The portrait that you see is based upon several existing portraits of him from later in life (none of them being full portraits), especially his distinctive blue coat with the gold Celtic-style braiding.

For more info, read the following:

Portrait of a Huron war-chief

Huron chief Long Spear

Hello all. This is a portrait of a war-chief of the Huron tribe named Long Spear – I don’t know how to say that in Huron/Wyandot, but I’m certain somebody out there knows. This person was supposed to be a character in a video game set in the French and Indian War that my friend Andrew and I were going to develop years ago, but that idea unfortunately never got off of the ground.

I found the original version of this man’s portrait that I had made back in 2005, I think – there was no date on it, but I’m pretty sure that’s when I first drew him. The overall pose and design was the same, but it was less detailed, done with markers instead of colored pencils, and was rather sloppy. I decided to re-make Long Spear’s portrait, and the result is what you see here.

Media for this portrait include:

  • No. 2 pencil
  • Crayola and Prismacolor colored pencils
  • Black felt-tip marker

I’m sure that many of you will likely see the influence that Wes Studi’s portrayal of Magua in the film The Last of the Mohicans had on this design. However, I tried very hard not to make a clone copy of THAT Huron war-chief! If you have any questions or comments, please write them. Hope you enjoy my latest work. Keep your pencils sharp, everyone.

Dinosaur Day 2015 at the Garvies Point Museum

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Well, it was that time of year again! Every April or so, at around the time of Easter, the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, located in Glen Cove, Nassau County, New York, holds it annual “Dinosaur Day”. This is one of the days that I really look foward to for a few reasons. First, I get to work at a place that I absolutely love and meet with some good friends. Secondly, I get to be out of NYC for a little while, which is something that I ALWAYS look foward to. Third, I get to talk about a subject that has fascinated me since my earliest days – paleontology.

Veronica, the museum’s de facto head of administration, did a wonderful job along with other members of the museum staff of setting up the classroom where the day’s major activities would be taking place. Recently, the museum’s library was substantially increased. The Sands Point Museum and Preserve had closed down its library a short while ago, and all of the books and papers were sent to the GPM. I should state, though, that almost all of these documents were originally part of the GPM collections anyway, and they just got them back, that’s all. However, Louis (one of the workers at the Garvies Point Museum, but works primarily at the Old Bethpage Village – another place that I really love) has been working hard to re-catalogue all of these books and papers back into the museum’s database.

The name of the event was somewhat misleading, as it concerned all prehistoric life, not just dinosaurs. We had exhibits on primitive mammal-like-reptiles, dinosaurs, and prehistoric mammals.

Here are some pictures of what the room looked like both during and after the hoards of kids showed up.

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Most of the really young children gravitated immediately towards the dino toy area and the fossil digsite. The older children and a lot of the adults were interested in the information that I and others were giving. They were especially interested in Dimetrodon, the famous sail-backed pelycosaur from the early Permian Period. I don’t think that I have ever had to say the name”Dimetrodon” so many times within the course of a single day! It seemed to be the only thing that many of them wanted to talk about!

Some of the major topics of interest on this day were: the Permian Mass Extinction, which occured about 251 million years ago, when an estimate 95% of all life was wiped out; of course, T. rex was a favorite; as too was Allosaurus, who competed with its larger relative for attention from the crowds. This was helped in no small part to the fact that we had a lot of Allosaurus “stuff” arrayed for them: a picture of the skull, a hand model, bone casts, a model, and my drawing which you might recognize from an earlier post on this blog.

Finally, here’s a picture of me, “the Dinosaur Man” as several members of the museum staff call me, dressed up as an amateur paleontologist. In addition to my olive drab Garvies Point Museum shirt, I also wore a khaki utility vest, because apparently ALL paleontologists wear khaki utility vests! I thought that wearing it would help to enhance my ethos with the audience, and by my reckoning, it worked.

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Review of the 2014 Warwick, New York “Applefest”

On Sunday, October 5, I attended the annual Applefest for the first time. This is a massive fair that is held in the town of Warwick (established in the late 1700s), Orange County, New York. I was informed that it was one of the biggest autumn festivals in the entire Northeast, with a projected attendance of somewhere around 35,000 people. My parents and I had a lovely ride through the rural hilly forest-covered countryside of lowerstate New York (I hate using the phrase “downstate” because it sounds depressing). As I stated in a previous post, I’m a country boy at heart, and I love to get out of the damned city at every opportunity, especially to experience “old time” things like quaint fall and country festivals.

Despite my very limited finances, I had a feeling that I would be spending an inordinately high amount of money there. At country fairs, things tend to be slightly on the expensive side. Local craftsmen and farmers need to sell their wares, and with many of them feeling the pinch from economically bad times, they need to adjust their prices higher to make up for things.

When we got there, which was at around 10:30 AM (only a half-hour after the fair opened), the place was already jammed. I was surprised how popular the fair was in both senses of the word. I was told to expect a large crowd, but I wasn’t prepared for this. There were at least 7,000 or 8,000 people when we got there, and the crowds kept increasing every minute. Almost immediately, I spotted various stands for things. They were giving pony rides to small children, the local town fire department had set up a barbecue, and there was a stand for adopting ex-racing greyhounds – they seemed to enjoy a more relaxed laid back lifestyle than the hectic energetic one that they had previously pursued. Next to this was a stand selling spices and varieties of olive oils. In the energetic spirit of the moment, and with a fervent desire to help local communities and craftsmen, I bought three different bottles: Italian herb, sun-dried tomato, and spicy pepper.

The Applefest was not just about apples, despite its name. Certainly, all things apple-related played a big part in it, but the stands were for far more: food stands, craft vendors, and environmental/community awareness booths talking out things like solar energy, banning plastic bags, and animal adoption. On top of all this, seemingly everybody in the town decided to have a yard sale!

I had many good experiences here, but at the top of the list was when I got to make apple cider myself, which was something that I had never done before. I have an immense unquenchable thirst for knowledge, especially pertaining to things that I regard as from the past, and I tried to get as much information as I could. I first began by carefully studying the construction of the portable press, which was about the size of a bicycle, and took a few pictures just to have a reference – I am determiend to get one of these things for myself, if I should ever be so lucky as to have my own farm somewhere. I also carefully watched the press in operation. I had a wonderful conversation with a teenager (at least I assume he was a teenager) named Rafael about the process of making apple cider. He told me that it takes about 40 pounds of apples to make one gallon of apple cider, and that you can make your cider of a specific flavor depending on the apple variety (some are sugary sweet while others are tart). Then came the best part – I got to help him. I started by tossing the apples into the hopper. The hopper is connected to a turbine, which is connected to a wheel-crank. The operator turns the crank, which turns the turbine, which crushes the apples. The crushed bits then fall out of a hole in the underside and down into an awaiting bucket. The buckets are not whole – they have large slats cut into the side so that the juice can escape when being pressed. Make sure that the bucket is lined with a mesh cloth! Not only does it prevent the apple bits from being squeezed out through the bucket slats, it also makes cleaning the bucket a lot easier, and you can carry the shredded apple chunks away like they’re in a bag. After I acted as  the shoveler, so to speak, I acted as the presser. The bucket was placed underneath a large cast-iron screw with four spike-shaped handles on the top, and there was a circular wooden board underneath the screw, unattached. After the bucket of apple pulp was placed under the screw press, the mesh bag that the pulp was in was folded over, completely covering the apple pulp – this is to prevent the apple chunks from sticking to the underside of the board. Then, the board was placed over the pulp, lined up directly underneath the screw. Then, start turning! You have to make sure that you don’t turn too much, otherwise you’ll break open the bucket. As I turned the screw, which was easy at first but got to be rather hard work, I observed the tan-orange cider juice coming out of the slats, traveling a short distance down a decline and out of a drainage hole. Underneath the hole was a steel pot, collecting the juice. I helped Rafael out a coule of times with the process as the people watched us. I shook his sticky hand with my sticky hand and thanked him for all of the information that he gave me and for allowing me to participate. He smiled and gave me a free cup of cider for my work.

I love it when youth become involved in these sort of things. I’m noticing a greater interest among young people in “getting back to the land” and focusing more on simple things. First, I had a great talk with a student from VVS High School about the process of making maple syrup, and now this. I really want more young people to get involved in agrarian pursuits and having a greater appreciation for home-grown local produce.

We made our way through even further. The fair wasn’t limited to just one street – it seemed that half of the town had been converted for the Applefest. Along every street were food venders, craft vendors, and social awareness booths. I had talks with a person who made bows and arrows, a person who made fudge, and another person who represented a group that wanted plastic bags to be banned in the town of Warwick. I was rather moved by that, and I am contemplating starting a similar organization in my home town of Flushing.

After having some hamburgers made for us by the Warwick Fire Department, we looked around for a little bit more, and then decided to head back home. We left at 1:00 PM, and the traffic leading up to Warwick was backed up bumper-to-bumper for miles. By the time that we left, there had to have been at least 30,000 people there, and they were still coming in! Along the road, I passed by the barn of a nearby farm, and painted on the side were the words “LOCAL = GOOD”. I absolutely agree.

I had a great time. I heartily recommend visiting the Warwick Applefest at least once in your life. Certainly, it’s a must if you live in lowerstate New York. I’m already thinking about going back next year.

Review of the 2014 Queens County Fair

I have a great love of the peaceful pastoral countryside. I love quaint farms and orchards, forests, rocky tree-covered hills and crags, glistening rivers, and small crumbling waterfalls. I take every chance that I can get to visit places like this. I especially love it if the scenery in question contains old colonial-style buildings with that musty smokey smell which is my personal high – I absolutely love the smell of a wood-burning fireplace. I get excited whenever I go out to the eastern end of Long Island or up north past the Five Boroughs, because I feel a greater sense of freedom, relaxation, and a feeling of internal peace. Although I am a denizen of New York City, I am much more of a country boy at heart than a city slicker.

Because of this, I love it when there are what I could call “folk-ish” places, where there are a lot of the old-time practices. I like visiting colonial farms and regional celebrations, like apple festivals and seasonal fairs. One of these which I like to visit is the annual Queens County Fair, held at the Queens County Farm Museum. This is the oldest continuously-operating farm in all of New York State, dated to 1697. Located next door is the Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo, which (at least according to my generation) was an obligatory field trip for all children between the ages of 3 to 10. You can find out more about the Queens County Farm Museum by clicking on the link here.

I’ve had this fair marked on my calendar for a long time, and I was very eager when I went to it yesterday on Saturday, September 20.

The Queens County Fair is a typical county fair, the sort of event that I imagine taking place amidst more rural surroundings. You have food vendors, rides, contests, bands playing, performances, and advertisers. The highlight of my day was having a wonderful conversation with a high school student from upstate about the process of making maple syrup. Some may read this and go “Huh? How could you be excited about that?”. Believe me, it absolutely made my day.

The fair is held every September. If you live in Queens or the general New York City area, I highly encourage you to come to this fair the next chance you get – the pig race this year drew a very large crowd (yes, they have pig races – awesome). The fair is usually held in late September around the autumnal equinox. Bring lots of money with you – I guarantee you’ll be spending it.

The Queens County Farm Museum has and hosts events throughout the year. The next one coming up is the Kickoff to Fall, formerly called the Apple Festival, held in early October. Check the museum website for more details and a full calendar.

I had an absolutely great time there, a welcome and relieving change of pace from where I live and how I live. Some people like living in the bustling big city, but I don’t. I’m a country boy, and I need to live in the country. I don’t want to live in NYC anymore. I’ll go to the Queens County Fair every year as long as I am able to do so.

General Jean Armand, Baron von Dieskau

2014 has been rather hectic for me, between frantically looking for jobs, pounding on the writing, and doing schoolwork. This weekend, I FINALLY found some free time to do a little bit of illustration, and the result is what you see here.

Lately, I’ve been on a colonial history kick. One of my writing projects is on the French and Indian War – I decided to temporarily shelve my book on ancient Egypt. I intend for this book to be fully illustrated, and one of the pictures that will be in it will be this portrait of a French officer. His name was General Jean Ludwig August Armand, Baron von Dieskau. He was a German-born officer who fought in the French Army during the opening stages of the French and Indian War.

Baron Dieskau

 

 

Onderdonk House – Brooklyn, New York

Wow! It’s been a really long time since I posted anything! Well, maybe some pictures will make up for it.

At the beginning of September, I visited the Vander-Ende Onderdonk House, located in Brooklyn, New York. I’m very interested in colonial American history, and I’m surprised by how much from that time period can be found within the five boroughs of New York City. You may have to go out of your way to find these places, but it will be worth the wait and the effort.

This building, more commonly known simply as the Onderdonk House, was constructed in the very early 1700s. It’s actually, according to the website, the oldest stone house built according to the “Dutch colonial” style within NYC that is still standing. It currently serves as the headquarters for the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society.

I had no idea that this place existed (again, you’d be surprised how much historical stuff is in NYC that hardly anyone knows about) until that day, and I went there to visit the Battle of Brooklyn re-enactment that they had during the weekend. Well, it wasn’t really a re-enactment; it was more like a “life in a Revolutionary army camp” sort of thing. They handed out samples of beef-and-pea soup (it was okay, but it desperately needed salt). Still, I had a good time.

If you want to know more about it, visit the following website:

http://www.onderdonkhouse.org/

If you’re interested in early New York history or colonial American history in general, then I highly suggest that you visit there.

I took some pictures while I was there, which i will now put here on display for you. I hope you enjoy.

 

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Garvies Point Museum and Preserve

I want to talk to you about one of my favorite places in the whole world. It’s called the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, located on the North Shore of Long Island in the town of Glen Cove, Nassau County, New York. It is a geology / anthropology museum devoted to the history of Long Island. It’s a small place, but very precious, and worth taking the trip to visit. Very few people know that this place exists. The reason why is because it is tucked into such an out-of-the-way corner that if you didn’t already know that it was there, you would probably never find it. Thankfully, my parents have always exposed me to a lot of different things and different places from a very young age, and I’ve known about this place since I was a little kid. Most people outside of Nassau County don’t know that this place is here, and that’s a real shame. Hopefully, people will read this blog post and go visit there. I used to work at the Garvies Point Museum as a volunteer from January to September 2012. I got my first taste of what working there would be like when I volunteered one day for the annual Thanksgiving feast several years ago. It was a blast. I started volunteering there on a somewhat regular basis not long after I got laid off from a previous job (the place went out of business). I’ve always enjoyed going out to the North Shore, and this place was one of the reasons why. I came there on January 20, 2012 just to look around and soak in the nostalgia. Somehow, I got into a conversation with the staff about my interest in dinosaurs. They were impressed, and told me that they had a dinosaur-themed birthday party coming in the next day – could I come in and volunteer as a paleontology teacher? Sure! I had a great time, and both the children and the parents learned a lot. I made sure that I brought in some of my drawings to show the kids. One of my drawings is on public display in the Mineral Room – that’s where they did the paleontology lessons. It’s a color drawing of a Coelophysis, and it adorns the base of a Coelophysis statue. I stopped volunteering there on a regular basis when I got my teaching job at Vaughn College, but I still call them every now and then just to keep in touch, and I still volunteer there if they ask me and if I have time to spare. The following photographs date to when I was volunteering there. They’re from April 2012, so they’re a bit old. The place has been remodelled a little bit since then, but the overall effect is the same. GP Museum 1

This is the entranceway to the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve. As you can see, the museum is run by the Nassau County Parks Department. The museum sits atop cliffs overlooking the Long Island Sound, and is situated amidst many acres of forests and meadows. There’s also a REALLY good bakery nearby called the Landing Bakery, which sells some really fantastic food. Get there quick! The doors open early, and the place is usually completely cleaned out by 4:00 PM.

GP Museum 2

This is the front door. It’s a small building, but believe me, it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks. You may be wondering what that strange half-rotted wooden object is on the picture’s left. That’s a solid wooden Indian canoe that was made by one of the local Boy Scout groups in the area. It’s been there since I was in elementary school, and the constant exposure to the elements hasn’t been kind to it. There’s another log canoe in much better shape inside the museum.

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This is the geology hall. This place has stuff that I have never seen anywhere else. For example they have mosasaur coprolites – that’s right, the fossilized remains of prehistoric marine lizard poop. How that stuff could have remained intact in a saltwater environment is beyond my knowledge. They have an impressive display of local fossils as well as various minerals and gemstones.

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This is the archaeology / anthropology hall. Here, you will find various exhibits devoted to the Indians who lived on Long Island, from the Ice Age up until the arrival of the colonists in the 1600s. In the center of the hall is a reconstructed wig-wam – a dome-shaped shelter made of branches and covered with tree bark and deer skins. There are also displays concerning archaeological work. In the back of the hall is a display of various animal pelts, including deer, beaver, black bear, and others.

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All the way in the back is the educational area. This museum is very much hands-on, unlike other museums. At the Garvies Point Museum, many of the things on dislay are exposed to the open air where you can touch them. This museum is very much geared towards schoolchildren, and it is an EXCELLENT destination for a field trip! Kids can learn about hunting, fishing, growing crops, constructing buildings, making leather, and especially making ground corn flour. Throughout the museum, there are several corn churns where you can grind up corn flour yourself. It’s one of the things that this museum is most associated with.

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This is the cafeteria, located next to the educational area. I know it’s not that big, but we do get a lot of parties here, and the view of the park and the water is really good, especially in the winter when the trees are bare.

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This is the office / lab. The people who work here are some of the friendliest people that I’ve ever worked with. The big green bookbag on the middle table is mine. GP Museum 8

Here is a place that the general public hardly ever sees. This is the museum library. This place has books that I’ve never been able to find anywhere else. Not only that, but their giftshop also sells books that I’ve never been able to find anywhere else. It’s worth taking the trip out here just to visit their gftshop! GP Museum 9

These are some of the fossils which are on display downstairs in the basement: a hadrosaur leg, a hadrosaur footprint, and an Anatotitan skull. When you first come downstairs into the basement, you’ll see a large sand table that the museum workers use to teach students about erosion and weathering, to the left of this table are these fossils. GP Museum 10

This is the mineral room, where we teach the paleontology lessons. Everything is all set up on the tables for a typical half-hour lesson on dinosaurs and prehistoric life: what are fossils and how are they formed, what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur, plant-eating dinosaurs, meat-eating dinosaurs, and two activity tables in the back where you can make your own fossils. There are other fossils, both real and replicas, which are in the room. There’s also a large collection of (of course) minerals such as quartz, mica, and various other rocks. GP Museum 13GP Museum 14

The museum sits on beautiful parkland with lots of hiking trails.

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This photo shows the view of Long Island Sound from the cliff.

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These two photos are taken from the beach below. The cliffs contain clay dated to the Cretaceous Period, deposited here by the glaciers during the Ice Age, and I’m told that it isn’t impossible to find fossils embedded in it. However, DON’T DIG UP THE CLAY!!! The cliffs are unstable, and landslides happen every now and then. Moreover, you’re not allowed to take anything. This land is protected by Nassau County, and that means that nothing leaves the property. So, no sample collecting is allowed. I hope that this gives all of you a good idea about what the place is like. Hopefully, you’ll be interested enough to visit. Take care, everyone.