Old Diary

Engage – Disengage

You have probably heard the saying, “never say never” — alluding to the fact that those things we sometimes think we are least likely to do, we do in fact end up doing.  I’ve been thinking about how my attitudes about some things have changed over my lifetime.

When I was still in the workforce I was a pretty gung-ho guy.  I took my job seriously and aimed to excel at pretty much everything I did for my career.6a14da04f23d441a33752212a7b8a940  Over the last 5-10 years of my career I started easing up.  I still worked hard but I was wiling to be more sociable,  I enjoyed my time away from work more, and I threw away my suits and ties so as to begin dressing down  instead of up.  Then came retirement.

Obviously we downsized in order to go from living in a 6500 sq ft home/business into our first 230 sq ft RV.  We’ve been in RV’s now for 5+ years and during that time a sense of disengagement came over me.  I learned to dislike large cities (I was part way along that path even before retirement);  I learned to dislike protocols, and rules, and dealing manually with anything I could automate and not have to think about.  I cared (too much) about all those things when I was working and had no choice.  Now that I have a choice I allow myself to actively dislike all of that.

For once I am free to read, to enjoy the outdoors without having to keep cutting my visits short,  when I have the energy I can get out my cameras and be creative, and when I’m not inclined to drag 40-50 lbs of gear around I content myself with an iPhone and using my eyes instead of a camera.  I cook more.  (Well, to be precise:  I cook more often.  The doctor’s on my case and the quantities of what I cook are reduced significantly) We walk more often as a couple.  We have always walked as a couple, but when we were working our times to walk together were limited to weekends most of the time.  I write, I research, I do a few physical projects.  I enjoy my life as long as I don’t have to deal with insurance companies and banks and employers and all that garbage that once filled my life.

I’m not disengaging from life.  I’m disengaging from the trite, the trivial, and the boring.  Heck — I find myself staying up a little later in the evenings, used to be I was in bed by 9:30.  And I’m finally able (occasionally) to sleep past 5:30 — and periodically I’ve even been known to stay in bed till 7:30 — which never used to happen ever.

The fact of the matter is I’m trying to make life as simple as possible.  Not because I cannot cope; but because I like it that way.  I’m still the guy who wants to do business with people face-to-face; I still like hand-made items even though they typically cost more than machine made, and even if they might not be as flawless.

The modern world has sold itself to automation.  In the name of higher capitalist profits business has embraced machines to such a point that the machines now have the jobs that once employed humans. Now the purpose of humans is to wear out the stuff those machines can manufacture so as to keep the machines busy making more stuff. We — collectively — have made ourselves slaves to an automated world and I for one am tired of it.

So, I find myself making life simpler and simpler.  I find myself disengaging from uselessness.  And, to tell the truth — It Feels Great!

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll be here again tomorrow.  Why not stop and say hi!

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Old Diary

Forty Eight Years

I’m going to indulge my whim today in a little reminiscence. Forty Eight years ago my sweet Peggy wed me and life has never been the same.  I really can’t imagine what a jerk I would have ended up being had it not been for her influence.  I was a smart guy who knew he was smart and was in too much of a serious hurry.  It took a good woman to slow me down, to make me think instead of relying on my intelligence, and to humanize me.

In exchange, I’m not always sure what she got.  She seems happy with the bargain; I know she is.  But I haven’t always made her life easy even though she has never failed to support me in all my harebrained ideas — including buying a home in S. Texas.

In 1968 we were part of a large church in the Chicago metro area.  We could easily have had a wedding with 300-400 guests — we had that many friends, and I don’t mean acquaintances.  But we didn’t.  We had a small wedding — with all of about 34 people present — in a friend’s home.  We didn’t even invite all of our respective families — not even the close ones.

Our first apartment, I’ve posted photos here before, was scarcely larger than our RV — what was called the bedroom was so small that a Regular full bed was larger than the room.  We put our bed in what was intended as a living room.  We had a sofa and a record player on top of which we put a 13” TV in what we called our living room (actually another small bedroom also narrower than a regular bed) …. On that TV we watched man’s first steps on the moon.  It was a radically different time.  And we loved every minute of it.

That first year I was working at Chicago Wesley Memorial Hospital, starting my two years of alternate service as ordered by my draft board.  I made…. all of $1.98 / hour… and when we went looking for apartments in Chicago we searched for the cheapest apartment we could find.  We settled on a place we called Berta Kempins (the name of our landlord) and we paid $65.00 a month without utilities.  It was a dump.  But we were in love and we entertained friends and overnight guests in that place and life could not have been better if I had been making a fortune for our happiness and our peace was not in things, it was found in people and ideas.

We hardly had two nickels to rub together but I insisted on having custom wedding bands made.  I found a jeweler on Archer Street in Chicago who knew a tool and die maker who would engrave two rings with a circular emblem sized individually so that 7 emblems fit exactly around the band.  The gold rings cost all of $730 including the engraving; but the engraver got sick while working on the project and we nearly didn’t have them in time for the wedding.  When we picked them up the night before the wedding the jeweler told us never to bring such a difficult challenge to his store; his engraver was mad at him — but he did a wonderful job.  Yup — a wonderful job — but now 48 years later you can hardly tell that there had been engraving around the circumference of the rings.

I suppose that’s a commentary on who we are today.  I don’t know if we would recognize ourselves if we were young looking into the future at our current selves.  The absolute basics of who we are has not changed:  our faith, our commitment to family and friends, our care for each other. Everything else has changed dramatically.  The people in our life are almost completely different.  For many reasons, not all of which we are happy about, but none of which we would ever change.   We have always been pilgrims in a strange world; citizens of a heavenly country and aliens in this land of our pilgrimage.  When Peggy borrowed the words of the Biblical Ruth in her wedding vows I doubt she ever suspected what she was really saying, for wither I went, she has gone, where I have lodged she has lodged, my people have become her people and my God her God.

We aren’t big celebration people.  We aren’t going to DO anything hugely commemorative today. We’re going to live and love today as we do each day.  And pray that we both have another day tomorrow to do the same.  It’s hard to comprehend being with the same person for 48 years.  When we married she was 21, I was 19, and “wet-behind-the ears” didn’t begin to describe us. And yet, here we are, as happy today as we were on that cold December Saturday afternoon in Niles Illinois.  That year a storm was blowing in from the west;  as I write this a storm is blowing in from the North.  The only thing that seems to have changed is the direction of the wind.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be here again tomorrow.  Why not stop by and see what’s up.

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Old Diary

Leaving Baby Behind…

Yesterday I was talking about how we are giving ourselves the opportunity to see what living in South Texas does to us instead of what we are going to make of living in South Texas.windswept-bonsai  Overnight (it’s now Friday) I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite visual arts:  bonsai.  The fact that I can find so much appreciation of that art form, and yet not own a bonsai or two myself fits in nicely to what we’re doing right now and I want to explore it with you.

You must be familiar with what a bonsai is.  It’s the ancient art of training live trees to look as if they are much older, in miniature. The art goes back hundreds if not thousands of years and it’s a commentary upon a life style that doesn’t really exist for the common man in 2016.

Why do I say that?  Because of the nature of society today.

To create a bonsai one first finds the subject, and wandering around in the wilderness looking for an old looking tree to harvest is frowned on in most places.  You can’t bring home specimens from National Parks — if you did, soon there would be no National Parks left!  They’d be denuded. But, I’ve seen bonsai that were over 100 years old when first collected as “starter plants.”  upright-bonsai

You can start your own brand new bonsai — and doing so is a commitment to the next generation(s) because your new starter bonsai will take years before it really deserves notice. But that is what a great many of us must do.

Having the plant one then repots it and here is where I (personally) get in trouble.  The nature of a bonsai is that the tree is continually under stress — for it is stress that causes the miniaturization, and gives character to the artistic form.  Part of that stress is caused by radically trimming back the root structure. Another part is the result of using loose, granular soil which channels water away from the plant rather rapidly.  And a third part is the selection of pot which limits growth and water.

When you are done you have a plant which literally needs to be tended to every day.  Therein lies the problem. Never in my life have I been one placegnarly-bonsai every day. Eventually I move on, or I go away, and my poor bonsai is left to shrivel up and die.  This, by the way, is also why we’ve only had 1 dog and zero cats in our 48 year marriage.  Our style of living doesn’t accommodate pets very well, not even pets planted in soil and called bonsai.

I don’t know anyone who would be thrilled with a full time job that only offered 2 weeks vacation (after a suitable tenure).  We like our time off.  But you can’t take time off from your bonsai, or your pets.  Even the typical 2 week starter vacation is long enough to kill a bonsai.

Of course purveyors of bonsai sell hundreds and thousands (I suspect) starter bonsai every year.  And hundreds and thousands of bonsai end up on the trash heap because the purchaser didn’t realize what it would take to keep, nourish, and develop this artsy tree.

This new place of ours, this mobile home (I still have a hard time saying I live in a mobile home — even though saying I lived in an RV was natural), is a different life than we lived heretofore.  Just as a bonsai has it’s own needs apart from the needs of it’s owner/creator/gardener, so moving from a house, to an RV, to a mobile home means that our way of living has changed and we have unique needs that we never faced before. And the last thing I want to do is to tell the universe how it needs to behave to make me happy.  I’ll do much better if I listen to the universe first, and figure out what it requires of me and then determine how I’m best going to get along in a new universe of things, and people, and events.flipping calendar

The RV park has a monthly calendar of activities.  As temporary residents I had no problem at all ignoring that calendar.  I was here for a short time to do what we wanted to do. Now, however, we are becoming parts of a community and I feel some sense of involvement.  Just how involved we’ll want to be, or we’ll be able to tolerate, or we’ll be forced to be involved is something we need to feel out.  There is a difference here between permanent residents and seasonals.  Where we’ll fit in we’ll figure out eventually.

Leaving baby behind… that’s what it feels like when we travel away from home.  In our case we don’t have dependents — not pets, not plants — though in the old pre-retirement-days our plants often took a beating while we traveled.  And even if they weren’t bonsai we lost a good many of them while we were out having fun somewhere else.  This past 6 weeks we’ve been extremely stationary. The furthest we’ve wandered from the park has been about 50 miles. I’m sure that won’t continue.  We have been talking about whether we can afford a quick trip to Milwaukee.  I don’t usually think in those terms, “can we afford it,” because we try to live below our income level so that we can just up and do things without a lot of concern about money.  But coming on the heels of this home purchase, cashflow is a little tight and I’m actually having to think about whether it’s a good idea.

I hope you think about what you leave behind in your travels.  In the past when we returned home to dead plants I was always upset with myself.  The “investment” in the plant really wasn’t the point.  What upset me was that something alive that depended on my was dead.  It didn’t matter that it was a plant (fortunately we never lost a parakeet, or a hamster, or fish during our wanderings so plants are the only things I can mention as examples); it mattered that I had not been faithful to an obligation I willingly too upon myself. It’s an old code I guess.  In today’s throwaway society I’m not sure how much attention people pay to obligations they have taken upon themselves.

Here the sound of road grinders and graders and large trucks is temporarily filling the air with human activity.  It’s probably not the idea time to be settling into a new home.  What we are experiencing is not what life is going to be like over the next few years; the road construction will be finished soon and life will settle back into a steady hum and clanking of machinery.  I don’t know of any other major projects planned for the park so this major repaving is a one-off experience.  Yet… We’re still wondering… what life will be like in S. Texas.  Will I go out looking for a starter bonsai?  Will I commit to nurturing a new life that looks old?  Or will I say, enjoy them when you see them.

Thanks for stopping.  I’ll be here again tomorrow. Why not check in and see what we’re up to.

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Old Diary

Slightly Stunned

The days may fly quickly by, but don’t let that sensation fool you.  Deep down inside — at the human animal level — time really passes slowly because we are making new habits and nothing happens habitually, and nothing feels normal.  For the time being.

Time flies (whether or not you're having fun.)

Time flies (whether or not you’re having fun.)

Old habits change slowly. I’m sure you’ve heard that habits take something like 21 days to be normal, or automatic.  We moved from a mobile way of living to a more stationary one and our mobile way of thinking doesn’t quiet fit this stationary lifestyle.  Going the other way from stationary to mobile seemed much easier;  perhaps because we had been thinking about it for a longer time?

It’s good to give yourself time to adjust to life’s changes.  Which is what we’re doing now.  Nothing exciting happening.  The appointment book is clear of dates for another month.  We are doing nothing more than waiting to see discover what rhythm might become our new life.  Our sleep cycles are new, our activity levels are new, we’re cooking (and eating) differently; it really is a new life.

We sort of did this when we became full time RV’ers.  We didn’t force anything, we stayed in places for a couple weeks at at time and gradually a daily routine became apparent.  The transition to RV’ing seemed automatic — perhaps because we’d thought about doing it for a longer time.

Now we’re doing the same thing sort-of-in-reverse.  The routine we had before retiring wouldn’t work, and in many ways the RV routine isn’t appropriate either.  So, we’re sitting back and observing what the heck we are doing. Bottom line, this is going to be a different life and we aren’t going to try fitting it into an old mould. We aren’t even rushing to clean out Serendipity.  I’ve had two inquiries about selling her and I’ve stalled about answering because I haven’t taken time to work up a value at Kelly Blue Book.  I’ll get that done soon, and rest assured that we’ll post the listing here as well as on RVTRADER when the time comes.

ROADS

On another subject, the road construction here at Palmdale RV Resort has begun.  We’ve been there once before; two years ago a contractor came in and started the job and left it incomplete — too much rain was cited as the excuse but who knows the real story.  However…. This year with new management — and a much more aggressive approach to getting the job done a different contractor has arrived and work has been begun.

We are told that it will be two weeks of prep work, followed by three days of paving, with 2 weeks off someplace in there for the Christmas/New Year holidays.  I’m pretty optimistic that’s what’s going to happen.

It’s typical that many of the winter arrivals show up right after the 1st of the year.  I’m curious to see how all this plays out with new arrivals and construction equipment.  I know it would have been “nicer” had the work been done before folks arrived for the winter but the permitting delay wasn’t resolved prior to the annexation of the park by the City of Los Fresnos, so I don’t think there’s anything Ted the owner could have done that he didn’t do.  All I care about is the job is getting done — and it looks like it’s getting done right.  

I’m going to stop there for today.  Thanks for coming by, and why not check in again tomorrow to see what we’re up to.

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Old Diary

Living In the Non-City

After wandering quite happily around the U.S. for 5 yearscameron-county they question might be asked why buy a mobile home here?  Why Cameron County; why South Texas?

If you’ve been paying attention to our travels you’ll realize that we have avoided large communities.  Last summer we did visit Minneapolis a couple times but we were living 70 miles away. And yes, we do spend a month or so each year in Milwaukee for medical & family reasons.  But our routes have kept us away from major cities; and our overnights have been about as far from major cities as we could manage.  I’m tired of the urban rush.  I’m tired of sirens.  There are plenty of other places to spend time.

Los Fresnos — the closest town to our RV park had 5500 residents in 2010.  The exact population is in question now as the park we’re in has recently been annexed to the community.  We’ve always said that our goal was communities of approximately 10,000.  Making heads or tails of our decision to choose a community of about 1/2 the population we had targeted is legitimate.  Los Fresnos may be small, but the county is significantly populated.  Cameron county’s population is 404,000, with the Brownsville/Harlingen metro area accounting for 180,000 of those.  The next county over — Hidalgo — is home to 770,000. Within about a 50 mile drive there are 1.1 million folks.los-fresnos-logo

Yet, when we look out the rear gate to the park we see mostly sugar cane fields, and out the front gate it’s mostly other agricultural crops.  We’re three miles from a 2 year old Walmart (which we don’t patronize very often).  Across the road from them is a locally operated meat market and the nearest H-E-B store is about 10 miles down the road.  Their “Plus” stores are a lot like a smaller version of a Texas-locally-owned version of Walmart.  They don’t have as diverse stock but for most of our household needs they fill the bill.  We’re about the same distance from Home Depot, Lowes, Kohls, two major shopping centers and two hospital/medical centers.  We live on a rural road, that is reasonably close to most of the services we need.

As an almost-lifelong resident of Wisconsin we are more than familiar with cultural diversity. Milwaukee has a reputation for being a segregated community.  I’ve heard the public rancor between whites and blacks most of my life —  regardless of who my friends were I can hardly remember a time when whites and blacks weren’t upset with each other.  As a Texas transplant to an 85% hispanic population area I have to say that we have not seen anything like that kind of racial tension here.  Allowing for the fact that we are not conversant in Spanish and most of the population here is, we have not had a single negative personal interaction in either this stay or our previous winter stay.

It’s going to be different living without forests as we know them, and hardwood trees, and evergreens (as in pine & spruce & larch).  Nature looks very different here.  I’m not sure anyone comes here for the scenery.  For a Photographer that’s a bit of a challenge but I’m trying to look through new eyes when I do get out my cameras — which I haven’t had much time to do lately.

Yeah — the weather here will be different. A lot of readers have written in and warned me about the heat here — as if we were unaware.  But the fact is we will never know how well we can tolerate S. Texas heat until we try living in it — and at it’s worse it’s still generally cooler than the temperatures experienced last year in Phoenix and Tucson — which had always been one of my personal fallback options.

We love the fact that we are 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and South Padre Island.  That gives us some storm distance and some salt-spray distance but enough proximity that we can be there in a little over half an hour.  And there are several National Wildlife Refuges within an hour’s drive.  We’re on migration flyways.

There is a small coterie of residents who live in the park year round.  I kind of like that — it’s not a huge park (as mentioned before there are 200 sites and many in the valley number upwards of 600-800 sites).  I’m not sure but I believe less than a dozen sites occupied year round, maybe a few more.  Most of the residents here are winter Texans — whether they bring their RV down with them every year or leave their RV here year round.  That means we have a year round community that is smaller and more our kind of group. We like small groups. I don’t yet know how active we’ll be with the existing residents — we’ll find out over time.

Obviously, I love the pool here. Whenever the temps get above 80 degrees I’m eager and willing to get into the water.  Just call me waterbaby! As a perk for living here that is pretty decent for a geezer like me.

I suppose I could go on about what we like about the place; suffice it to say that personal decisions are, in fact, personal.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be here again tomorrow.  Why not stop and see what’s happening then.

 

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Old Diary

The Sweet Rest of the Exhausted

Remember all that stuff we got rid of before going full time in an RV.  Seems we’ve purchased some of it back!

We’ve been trying to be prudent about how much “stuff” to buy to get back to living in a house but there are these urges that are hard to control.  I’ll figure out how well we controlled them when I see this month’s credit card tab!  (¡¡Cringe!!)

But the bottom line is that we’ve been having a lot of fun; we’ve been exercising muscles we haven’t used for a while; and we go to bed each evening exhausted.  For some odd reason after hitting the sack late, I’m waking up earlier again.  3 a.m. seems to know my name too well and I hear it calling, “Peter…. Peter…. Peter….”  However, the good part is that I’m not almost 60 feet away from my sweetie when I begin banging on my keyboard and Peg doesn’t really realize I’m gone.

Speaking of which… I now have enough room to get out my keyboard and mouse and go back to full-sized touch typing.  I missed my keyboard!  Somehow typing on a laptop doesn’t afford the same tactile satisfaction.  Yes — I am having an affair with my keyboard!  img_4245-161209

Speaking of which… we once again have “real” Internet ( 😆🤔)  and after the install I did a speed check.  Considering the measly numbers we got with Verizon’s LTE it’s a dream to to have some speed again. I know, I know…. I’m just a speed freak!

I’m intentionally sticking close to home for a while.  First it was the moving, then resting up after the move, next we’ll be prepping the coach for sale and probably resting up after that.  We haven’t gone to the island (S. Padre is what we always mean when we say that) or any refuges or even any parks.  Right now we’re just nesting.  It feels good after 5 years to be in a place that feels permanent even if we don’t plan on spending the rest of our lives here. I guess after a while the need to move from one place to another just got tired.  Besides, the weather’s been kind of crummy lately.

Thanks for stopping and check in again tomorrow to see whether we’ve gotten any more ambitious! 😇😇😇

 

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Old Diary

Trapped in a Whirlwind

our new digs

our new digs

We’ve had the keys to the house for 32 hours and it’s been an absolute whirlwind!  Part of the windstorm is a wife with a new house.  Makes no difference if the house is a used mobile home, a woman’s nesting impulse is absolute!

Mind you…. I’m not complaining.  We’re both having fun and there’s nothing in the world that makes me happier than seeing Peggy happy! First steps along the way….

  • I ordered our broadband installation, the prior owners had the same ISP so installation won’t be very much — and now that we’ll be stationary I can cut back our Verizon contract to bare bones. They’ll be out on Thursday — until then I’ll use the park’s WiFi and my hotspot.  After being limited to LTE speeds I’m not sure what it’ll feel like to try 60mbs.
  • All those computer wires that I sorted out a couple weeks ago I pulled apart today! I never thought we’d be in the new place this soon. Ever….  The computers are in the house now — sitting in a box.
    I’ll get to reconnecting everything in a day or two. After refreshing my brain a couple weeks ago about what I was trying to accomplish, this time the network will come together more quickly. Except for the fact that I don’t currently have anything that looks like a desk and I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.  I’m not really a “desk” person.  I’m more like a table/work surface person.
  • I’m looking forward to having a real office again and the convenience of having things easily accessible.  Everything fit in the coach but not always conveniently.
  • Hand tools in hand, the doors on the refrigerator now open towards the counters they service, instead of the wrong way around.
  • The living room has been reconfigured.  We need a couple pieces of furniture to finish out what was here when we bought it, but the living room feels like home already.
  • What isn’t organized is anything inside the cabinets.  Pantry items and cookware and dinnerware are helter-skelter.  We put anything in any cabinet without a plan — just so we could empty out the containers we used to carry items out of the coach and into the house — before refilling, emptying, refilling, and emptying, ad nauseaum. The good part is that we’ll have a goodly long time to sort things out.
  • Kathryn let us know she booked return tickets for early in February.  The plan is for her and Michael to drive down with as many of our belongings in their Sprinter van as possible and then Mike will drive back to Milwaukee while she hangs out with us for a few more days.  So, we’ll soon be reunited with the few things we left behind 5+ years ago.  Sometimes they seem like a few things — other times they seem like quite a lot.  Our (mutual) memory about what we still have in storage in Milwaukee is getting vague.

Bottom line, though, is that we’ve gotten a lot done in a few hours.  And we’ve had a lot of fun doing it.  I think we’re ahead of schedule — not that we had one, but I sort of thought that if we took it easy we’d have the coach emptied out by next Friday working just a couple hours a day.  (Still have to have time to enjoy life doncha know….)

Tomorrow — Monday — is the first residents’ meeting of the winter. Everyone is looking forward to an update on the roads — rumor has it that construction is soon to start. There’s more of a trickle of winter residents showing up.  Our last time here I was surprised to see that the park didn’t really “fill up” until after January 1 (as much as was the case last time when we were less than 50% full).   But, we get an arrival every day or two now, and after Christmas they’ll be coming in the gate more quickly.

weather-cam-12-04-16

weather cam from Sunday night in Milwaukee…. brrrrr…. snow!!!!! NO!!!!!

I’ve only ever had a garage for about 9 years in my life.  Most of the time I’ve been accustomed to parking in the elements.  With a carport here that is deep enough for 3 cars it’s such a novel situation to be able to unload the car in the rain without getting wet.  Funny how little things like that can make a big impression on you.

All of which is just life…  we’re doing the same things millions of others are doing at the same time.  Life isn’t complicated — there’s a certain unity to be found in acknowledging that our experience isn’t all that unusual;  others go through similar trials, decision, and adventures.

Ever since we took off on our RV adventure there was one thing I was sure of; we had to stay out on the road long enough that once we decided to get off the road we wouldn’t regret the decision a few years down the road.  I think we did that.  We had a blast and we knew when the time had come to stop.  No angst in the decision.  No suffering.  No precipitating moment.  It’s just time.

We’ll stay busy for a few more days unloading the coach.  Then we’ll have to get the coach spruced up and ready to sell.

Thanks for stopping by, and why not stop by tomorrow to see what’s up!

 

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