Tell Me Everything, by Erika Krouse (audio)

Subtitled: The Story of a Private Investigation

Part memoir, part legal/true crime, Krouse details the work she did as a private detective on a landmark case involving sexual assault in the collegiate football arena. Over the course of several years, her work uncovered survivors, witnesses, and documentation needed to tackle not just the inappropriate behavior of students and the administration that hushed it all up, but the issue of women’s safety as a civil right. Mixed throughout her work on the case is her own personal history of child abuse.

I’m in two minds about this book, because it’s essentially two books mixed together. First, I thought the legal case aspects and the investigation was interesting. That’s what I chose the book for. Second, I wish the memoir portions had been left out. I know they were subject-related, and of course part of the author’s own mental health while investigating the case, but I’m not a fan of memoirs and this one was no exception. If the memoir had had some bearing on the legal case, it would have been different, but making this book part memoir instead made the case part of Krouse’s story, and honestly, that felt a little distasteful for me. In the end, those two pieces of the book really canceled each other out, making the book just okay.

A few things stuck out for me by the end: This was another extremely timely read, and it was especially ironic because Neil f*cking Gorsuch was one member of the panel of judges that finally got this case off the ground. There’s this discussion in the book about how everyone was surprised that Gorsuch would actually stick up for women’s rights, and it’s obviously now that him doing so was an absolute fluke, since he – along with other parts of SCOTUS – just sent women back into the realm of chattel last week. Those football players raping and abusing women at the center of this book’s case? They can now force their victims to have their babies. Yay.

(Can you tell that I’m still really angry? Good. Fellow warriors, stay angry! And if you don’t like it, no one says you have to read my blog.)

TW: all manner of abuse, assault, and sexual violence, as you might imagine from the book description

Performance: This audiobook was narrated by Gabra Zackman, my first experience with her. Personally, I thought she read the book well enough that I kept forgetting that it wasn’t her firsthand account. I’m not a fan of authors reading their own books about 90% of the time, but occasionally, I come across a narrator that sounds as if they’re the author reading their book well, and this was one of those cases. I enjoyed it. On the other hand, you might give the audio a preview listen before purchasing, because at one point, Jason overheard me listening, and while he wasn’t close enough to hear the words, he thought I was listening to a Tiktok vid with text-to-speech. A sort of robotic almost-human voice. I didn’t feel that way myself, but again, just preview before buying!

Posted in 2022, Adult, Prose | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Curfew, by Jayne Cowie

For fifteen years, women in Great Britain have been safe. Ever since the reforms of 2023, women have had equal pay, domestic work compensation, free and easy access to healthcare such as birth control and abortion, strict laws re: violence against women, and best of all, a period of curfew for men between 7pm and 7am. Men are electronically monitored, and breaking curfew immediately alerts police and requires a mandatory jail sentence. Women can walk the streets safely, be out after dark, get away from abusive partners, and control decisions about their lives. Even something as simple as cohabitating with a man requires counseling and evaluation to make sure any potential red flags for partner abuse are seen beforehand.

But domestic violence, and violence against women in general, have been engrained in western culture for so many centuries Can fifteen years of laws and curfew really overcome toxic masculinity? No system is foolproof, and when a woman ends up murdered, face pounded beyond recognition, and left in a park overnight, the police are baffled. The culprit has to be a woman, if no man broke curfew. Or is there something more at play here?

I learned about this book from a friend, and began reading it a few days before the recent SCOTUS decisions. The timing was a coincidence, but couldn’t have been better. This is one of the most pertinent books I could have been reading at a time when women were getting their rights stripped away from them. To be honest, when I heard about the book, I worried about several things – that it would present this idea of curfew as a dangerous precedent, an anti-feminist treatise or something similar; or that the book would be so heavy-handed that it wouldn’t feel realistic at all. It was neither of those. There were heavy-handed techniques employed, but honestly, it felt like the right way to present the situation. Were all the guys in the book awful? Pretty much, yeah. Are all guys in real life awful? Of course not…but enough of them are that women are in constant danger from them. And it felt so nice, so idealistic, to read about women jogging in the morning, or going out for drinks with friends in the evening, without worrying about catcalls, groping, unwanted compliments, or danger. I’d take that any day!

The reaction of the men in this book was very telling, too. Men attempting to get free from their electronic bonds. Men who beat up spouses and talked about their partners negatively. Men who lied to have affairs. Men who spoke ill of exes to their shared children. Men who feigned loyalty to improve their living conditions, but kept their dating profiles around. What was really telling – and all too realistic – was the descriptions of the protests over the years: Women protested by going on strike and marching in the street. Men protested by killing their spouses to show that curfew won’t stop the violence. Yeah…

Cowie thought about a lot of different aspects on the subject. The PR aspects from the police point of view. The naivety of children raised in this very different society. The shared living spaces for women seeking refuge from past relationships. Etc. The whole book was well-crafted and planned, and like I said before, an extremely timely read.

Posted in 2022, Adult, Prose | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Silence(d)

I don’t have words right now. We are living in a nightmare. I’m looking toward the future, and for the first time in five years, I’m seriously considering moving again, out of Texas, possibly out of the US. I’m done. I’ve blocked an a$$hole step-cousin of mine on FB. He wasn’t even a friend because I unfriended him years ago for his awfulness, but we have mutual friends, and he’s a garbage bag human being, and I finally had to block him entirely.

They say you shouldn’t live in an echo chamber, that you should hear many different viewpoints, and here is what I counter. 1) I’d rather live in an echo chamber, or in silence, if not doing so meant hearing the voices of hypocrisy, murder (especially in the name of anti-murder), misinformation, discrimination, hurtfulness, smugness, condescension, gloating, purposeful ignorance, and a whole host of other bullshit. 2) You can stay outside of an echo chamber and engage with people of other viewpoints while NOT engaging with people who actively want to hurt and oppress people. Those aren’t the same. 3) It’s my f*cking social media, and if hearing people rejoice at laws that will inevitably hurt and kill people is something my mental health can’t handle, then I will delete that crap. People claim you should listen to all sides, but I say you should draw the line at listening to murderers and oppressors.

There’s a thing that most people in the US don’t understand. There is no liberal America. What’s considered “liberal” in America is considered conservative worldwide. What’s considered “conservative” in America is extremism. We are a country being destroyed by white Christian nationalist terrorists, and it’s f*cking terrifying. I remember back in high school, a US history teacher taught us his biases, and it took me years to realize it. He told us about how no one in the US was concerned about the German nationalism during WWII, because nationalism wasn’t a threat to us, and the opposite regarding communism. But no, nationalism has destroyed us. Patriotism has destroyed us. We are a country in flames, and so many of us have turned to ash.

If you disagree, you can keep your opinions to yourself. I just have one thing to say to you. Over the last few months, I’ve trapped several female feral cats for spay and vaccination. Most outdoor unspayed cats will be pregnant to some degree when they go in for surgery, and spay surgery removes all reproductive organs, aborting any potential pregnancy in the process. The female cats that I’ve TNRed over the last few months now have more rights than I do. That’s correct. Cats have more rights than women in the US right now. And while I love cats, and I’m glad they have rights, I think that any rational human being will understand: there’s something really f*cking wrong with this fact.

F*ck this dumpster-fire country.

Posted in Wellness | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Gallant, by VE Schwab

Olivia has no home, not among family, not at the girls’ orphanage/school where she’s begrudgingly given a place. She has no voice, can make no sound, and so the other girls and the matrons turn away from her. Then one day, a letter from an unknown uncle arrives, and Olivia is whisked away to a place she’s been warned never to go, her ancestral estate, Gallant. Ever since she could read, Olivia has known about Gallant, mentioned only in her mother’s last letter to her, a plea to stay away, as Gallant is not safe. But an unsafe home among the last remnants of family has to be better than being alone in the world, doesn’t it?

This is essentially a battle story, the forces of good vs evil, keeping a dangerous enemy from exploding into the world. However, it’s a really unique take on the old story, with themes about found family and disability and discrimination and purpose. There’s an ages-old interplay of destiny vs free agency, and all the grey in between. The setting drips with shadows and portents. It would have been easy to devolve into traditional gothic tropes, but instead, Schwab found ways to ground the story in humanity: the mourning for a dead cat that Olivia didn’t actually even like. The piecemeal appearance of the ghouls that only she can see. The instinctual use of sign language even when no one around her speaks it. All these little things brought the novel from fairy tale or horror story into multidimensional life.

Schwab has continued to impress me, and given how many age groups she writes for, this is particularly notable. One day, I’ll go back to retry her Shades of Magic series, which I tried reading back in 2015, but gave up pretty quickly because I’d grown tired of reading fantasy books set in London. Even at the time, I knew I’d likely return to it one day, but as years passed, I never felt the urge. The more I read by Schwab, though, the more sure I become that I’ll enjoy the series, as well as some of her others. I’ll slowly read through them all! In the meantime, I really enjoyed Gallant. It was beautifully imagined, plotted, and written. Definitely recommend.

Posted in 2022, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Coffee – Struggling

The last few weeks have been really tough. It feels like I’ve spent months running marathons, and now I’m collapsing as my purpose, time, energy, and reason are all disappearing. First, Shai and Hulud move on to their next stage of life. Then Ambrose leaves for the military. Then Tipsy, Tillie, and Penny all go to their respective next-stages. Now we’re making plans for how to get Laurence up to Canada when it’s time for school to begin in the fall. Meanwhile, we’ve lost all three planned vacations for the year, and it looks like there just won’t be any time off. Well, not meaningful time off – just extra time to sit at home alone, in all this heat. So much, all happening at the same time.

I need a place to go. A place to spend a week or two in July. To get away for a bit before Ambrose graduates boot camp and Laurence moves to Canada. A time away from the oppressive 100+ temps that have been relentless over the last seven weeks. Time away from home, to reset my body and brain, to give myself a bit of fresh start. I’m not sure what that will be yet, but I’m on the prowl, so if anyone has ideas, leave them for me! They need to be places I can either drive to, or I can easily get around without renting a car. Jason and I thought about visiting Yellowstone, until it flooded, and then Olympic, only it turns out that everything there costs like $500 a night right now. So I don’t know. I just know I need something better to do than to sit around watching Murdoch Mysteries reruns while doing puzzle after puzzle after puzzle…

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 1 Comment

And off he goes…

There have been a lot of goodbyes lately. Yesterday, Ambrose went to a hotel for the pre-basic-training overnight stay. Today there is likely a ceremony to swear him in before he gets on a bus bound for the Air Force base across town where they have AF basic training. He asked us not to attend. Ambrose has never liked a fuss of any kind, and he would have been embarrassed to have us be at that initial swearing in ceremony. As difficult as that is as parents, we’re respecting that request.

Over the weekend, we tried to do everything we could to say our early goodbyes. Ambrose’s birthday isn’t until late July, but he’ll be smack in the middle of boot camp at the time, so we celebrated early with some bowling, berry cheesecake, a night at a restaurant, and of course some gifts. Jason also took him shopping for all the basics he might need at Basic, and we shaved down his sweet curls so that the initial haircut everyone receives at Basic would be easier on him (he really hates his hair being pulled). We took some pictures right before he left.

This is the second time I’ve sent a kid off to the military. It didn’t work out so well the first time, ending with a medical discharge for mental health reasons not long into boot camp. I can’t help but worry about Ambrose going into the same situation, especially as AF boot camp takes place in San Antonio, and we’re in the middle of a sustained heat wave that is breaking records every day, and doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon. Temps in the 105+ range with heat indexes of 110+ is really miserable for those of us who can stay inside and do nothing, and for those who have to be running outside in boots and pants and long sleeves? Oy.

I just hope Ambrose survives and finds his rhythm there in the Air Force, and we can see him at graduation sometime in August, before he gets sent to whatever cryptology program/schooling he’s supposed to attend for the next two years. I’m anxious and worried and proud and hopeful all at once.

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

Sunday Coffee – Cat-shuffling

Last Sunday, I talked about surrendering Shai and Hulud to the animal rescue for surgery and adoption. The absolute hardest thing in surrendering these kittens is that I had no control over the situation once they left my hands. I had no way of knowing how their surgeries went, who got to adopt them, if they were adopted together or at least with another kitten, etc. Once I turn them in, it’s over. The most I could do is watch the website and hope for the best.

So that’s what I did. I watched. The shelter had named the two babies Tater and Tot, so that’s what I looked for, and it didn’t take long before both girls were on the website. Their stock photos were horrible. Shai looks miserable and I wouldn’t have even recognized Hulud if I hadn’t know what name to search for! And that made my heart ache. A lot. So much so that I did something I’d promised myself not to do. I went in to the shelter to visit them.

I’ve been to this shelter many times. In fact, Ash and Christabel were adopted from this specific shelter in 2009. One of the best things about it is that the cats have free-roaming rooms, rather than sitting in blocks of cages. I had this idea that I would walk into the kitten room, say something aloud, and my girls would recognize me and run up to me. That’s…not what happened. Because I’d actually never been in the kitten room before. And the kitten room isn’t free-roaming. It’s two to a crate, small spaces with small litter pans, food, and water. Shai and Hulud were together in a corner crate, and their eyes were heartbreaking.

Visitors are limited to handling two kittens, but I was only there to visit two. I explained that I’d been their foster mom and was visiting them post-surgery. They brought Shai out first for me. She was so scared of all the noises and smells, but she clearly recognized me and snuggled into my neck immediately. While she did, Hulud sat at the crate door screaming at me to get my attention, reaching toward me as far as her arms could go through the bars. She also clearly recognized my voice/smell, but she had to wait her turn. I spent 15-20 mins holding Shai, then swapped the two kitties. Hulud was purring before she even got into my hands. She tried to climb onto my shoulder, potentially to go down my back so she could run free (she loves running free!), and when I didn’t let her do that, she settled into the crook of my arm and began to suck on her paw to put herself to sleep, just like she used to do at home. Meanwhile, Shai was now calling out to me, begging me to pick her up again. Neither kitten had made a sound before I came close and they heard/smelled me.

I should not have gone. The whole experience tore my heart apart, and I knew that I could not come back. If I came back, I’d bring the girls home. I was so upset that they were in cages, that they were scared, that they couldn’t run free…but they told me at the shelter that kittens go quickly, especially the fluffy ones, and they weren’t wrong. On Wednesday, Hulud was adopted. I cried, because I missed her so much, and because she and Shai didn’t get to go together, and I didn’t know if she would have any kitty friends with her at her new home. Then Shai was adopted the next day, and again, I didn’t know any of those things, but this time I cried happy tears because both of my little girls were out of that cage and hopefully in wonderful homes that will spoil them rotten.

So. Lesson learned. Do not go visit the kittens, under any circumstances. And it’s a lesson I’ll need to remember, because Tillie and Penny are going to the shelter this upcoming Thursday. Thankfully, with the current clear-out of kittens (the shelter is running a fees-waived special), they now have room for these sweet girls. So by the end of the week, there will be no more kittens in our home, and hopefully by the end of the next, Tillie and Penny will be adopted, too. Tipsy, the last of the litter, will go back to our neighbor, who has fallen in love with him completely.

I do hope this gets easier in time. Because when I dropped them off, I thought I was going to be okay, but after they showed up on the website, with everything that followed, it was absolutely gut-wrenching.

Also, I think I might volunteer to take better photos of the animals for the website, if I can improve my photography and editing skills enough!

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Wellness Wednesday – Move Every Day

My body hasn’t been well for a long time now. Ever since October 2020, with the double whammy of a bad medication and an injured foot caused massive inflammation, weight gain, and chronic pain/fatigue, I’ve struggled to just exist day to day. In that not-quite-two-years’ time, I’ve gone through periods of pushing myself to crippling levels, and periods of crashing down and doing nothing for months on end. I’ve been in the ER/hospital more than once, had multiple surgeries, had over 175 doctor’s appointments/tests/etc, gotten multiple diagnoses, and generally had very little success at getting my body into a better place. It has sucked.

(2018)

When I got my RA diagnosis in late December, I knew that one of the big things I needed to do was slow down. The pushing myself until I crashed was only doing more damage in the long run. I spent January through early March trying to find a good balance between doing enough but not doing too much, and tbh, it wasn’t working. I gave up for several weeks, and started over again in late March. The first weekend of April, I injured my bad foot, and said f*ck it. I had those kittens anyway, and I was going to take some time off to heal. Heal my foot, tend to my mental health during the toughest months of the year for me, let my body rest. And what happened? I just felt worse, and worse, and worse.

Last week, I saw a TT vid from a fellow spoonie who talked about how she shifted her mindset away from workout plans and toward daily movement. She had a long list of options that would satisfy a daily movement requirement on days when she couldn’t manage an actual workout. Some days, she may do a full body strength training regimen; others, she might manage a single stretching pose, and she had to shift her mindset to accept that both were equally valid, rather than one being better than the other. She included a specific statement in her video that sliced through to my core:

Before I sent this goal, I spent a year or two “only workout when I felt great” and let’s just say I missed A LOT of days and consequently felt even worse.

THIS. When I saw this post last Thursday, I hadn’t done any exercise in two months. And I felt like garbage. The longer I rested, the worse I felt. The more “jammed up” my body got. And before that, when I’d exercise, I’d push too hard, and then just stop to rest, and nothing ever improved. It was a never-ending cycle of pain, constantly too much or too little. That video opened my eyes, and right then, I made a choice to do the same as this woman. Whether I felt up to a six mile hike or only a few cat-cows and spinal circles, I would move my body in some way every day.

This is, of course, a work in progress. It’s been five days now. For two days, I did yoga first thing in the morning, and honestly, I felt brilliant. The yoga was tough and I had to modify a lot, but afterwards I had more energy than I’d had in ages, and my body felt really good. Then the third morning came around, and I decided not to push things too quickly, and instead of doing a full workout, I did some basic mobility work on my shoulders and neck. It felt good, but also didn’t give me that boost of energy. And maybe it was too little, or maybe I overdid things the first two days, or maybe it’s that my cycle started, or maybe it’s the grief of missing Shai and Hulud that hit me on delay, but whatever it was, I spent the last two days doing nothing at all, miserable and depressed and on the edge of a panic attack, binge-watching shows and putting together puzzles and generally Not In A Good Place. Clearly, I still have a lot of room for improvement, and today I plan to start again with some yoga.

Progress, not perfection, right? The whole goal is a mindset shift away from an all-or-nothing perspective. So I move on.

Posted in Wellness | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Coffee – Surrender

“I could never foster animals, I wouldn’t be able to give them up.”

This is a common sentiment that gets stated all the time from people who interact with animal rescue workers and foster parents. And certainly, it’s what people have thought of me in the past, especially after we ended up keeping Angus, Gherkin, and Ghost last year. The boys still claim that I “just wanted more cats,” which is categorically untrue – four was enough, and if I’d wanted to keep the kittens we rescued, I would have given them names aligned with our other kitties! We only ended up keeping them because we couldn’t find a shelter to work with us, the vet wouldn’t spay/neuter until they were 5-6 months old, and all the adoptions we lined up later fell through. By the time all that happened, they’d been living with us for six months and had bonded with both us and our other cats. It would have been cruel to dump them in a shelter, where they were no longer cute little kittens to be snatched up, and where they might linger for years without being adopted.

But Shai and Hulud – the only reason we could take them in was because we could foster them through a program and surrender them at eight weeks old. (Their siblings are a different issue, but we’re working on a solution that will likely be good for all.) We threw everything we had into those little girls, from bottle-feeds every two hours, to making sure they were the healthiest, friendliest, cutest little critters in their new adoption room. I loved them with my whole heart and every fiber of my being. And this Thursday, when it came time to surrender them to the shelter, I shed a tear or two, but still handed them over.

Because they weren’t mine, and they were never meant to be mine. As much as I loved them, I knew that the best thing for everyone would be to surrender them. They’ll find good homes with families who love them and have more resources than a home already overfull with cats. And because I surrendered them, I have more room and energy to take on more fosters eventually, to raise more kittens or help more cats regain their health, to socialize babies who came in from the streets or to give a mom a safe place to raise her kittens. I can work to TNR more cats from the neighborhood, and spend more time with my own cats, who have not had nearly as much mom-and-dad time over the last two months as normal.

A kitten rescuer I follow says that as a foster parent, you need to fall in love with the foster cycle. To shed a tear when you let go of a cat that has your heart, but to also know that for every cat you decide to hold on to, that’s another cat you won’t have room to help in time. Finding wonderful forever homes for these babies is the end goal.

I will miss my little Shai and Hulud. It was hard to say goodbye. But it was also the right thing to do, and I don’t regret it at all.

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | Leave a comment

May 2022 in Review

I’m not feeling so well right now, had a really bad cold the last few days (several negative covid tests say it’s just a cold, anyway, despite me moaning dramatically about it at home). So this post is going to be fairly short/terse. May was about the same as most Mays are for me, though at least I didn’t have a full breakdown anytime this month like I usually do. It was frustrating to have our vacation canceled, twice, and to be stuck doing unexpected construction, and to have the cat situation grow exponentially, but what can you do? The only way out is through.

Reading and Watching
I was into fast, thrilling reads this month that kept me entertained and that I didn’t have to do a lot of extra thinking to read. I’ve declared The Hacienda my favorite, but over time, that may change to Breathless, which seems to be the one that has stuck with me the most. I did get to see a few movies that had been on my list for awhile, too: Death on the Nile, Nomadland,  and of course the newest Downton Abbey in an early showing at Alamo Drafthouse!

Goals
Only one crossed out this month, my Paint Your Pet night for Nimi, which is both a personal goal for 2022 and part of my 50×50 goals!

House
I already wrote about the bathroom saga, and the only other thing related to the house this month was discovering that our red oak by the porch potentially has oak wilt. We need to get an expert in, and I’m hoping that I’m wrong about the diagnosis. If it’s oak wilt, the whole tree has to go. They don’t survive that fungus and it spreads like crazy. So I hope it’s something different!

Health/Fitness
This continued very poorly this month. I did no exercise at all, not one day of it. I did finally get my CPAP toward the end of the month, but the mask doesn’t fit properly, so I’m sleeping worse than ever. I was supposed to get a refit yesterday, but Sunday came down with a really bad cold with a fever, so I have to reschedule once I’m healthy. I also had to skip the next round of tests for my nephrologist, because I can’t take them when I’m sick. My mental health hasn’t been great, and honestly, as much as I love these kitties, I can’t wait until they’re all off to other locations and no longer in my house!

The Ferals
When I last left off regarding Shai, Hulud, the sibling crew, and their mom, Tippy was off for surgery and the babies were in a playpen in the garage. Since then, Tippy has been returned home to her feeder. I sterilized and cat-proofed my room, then moved Shai and Hulud in here until June 2nd when they go to the shelter for surgery/potential-adoption. (Them being in my room, btw, isn’t helping the sleep situation!!) The siblings – now named Tipsy, Tillie, and Penny – moved to Jason’s room after he sterilized it, and have been working on socializing. It’s slow-going, but they’re actually pretty sweet, just timid.

(Tipsy, Tillie, Penny)

I mentioned in the post at the above link that one of the two girls was a chonk? Turned out, she was all fluff, and was actually the lightest, weight-wise, of the kittens! They all lost weight for the first few days but they’re rebounding, and currently on a medication regimen for the next two weeks. One of them has a home after that, the others need to get on an intake list for the shelter since they can’t go through the foster program. Sigh. (This last part is frustrating because it’s not what the shelter originally told me, but if we can’t get them taken in by the time their meds are finished in two weeks, they’ll go to the humane society instead, because they’re young and more likely to find homes that way. I can’t do this on my own like I did last year, because we really can’t have more cats stay in house!!)

Favorite Photos
Didn’t take a whole lot this month, and most of what I took were kitten reference photos, so I basically have four cat portraits and a lizard for you all in May, ha!

Top: anole on the porch, startled Hulud. Bottom: Angus, Nimi, Shai.

Highlights of May
I barely touched my computer this month so I’m struggling to remember the lighter moments of May, but here are a few good moments:

  • the kittens bopping around as if they’re big scary creatures, ha!
  • homemade scones with clotted cream, even if I shouldn’t eat either of those things…
  • squirrel asleep in the crook of our red oak tree
  • watching the skunks in our yard!
  • finally getting Laurence’s junior and senior photos printed and onto the wall
  • the crazy small-world moment at the Paint Your Pet class
  • we are all done with school for all the kids!

Coming up in June
Ambrose will be off to the military soon, and the kittens will be off to the shelter one way or another, and then I’m just going to take some time off to hopefully get my health and fitness back to a better level, and my mental health to baseline…

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment