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Van's blog

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So I sorta dropped off the face of the Earth the past month or so... but I'm back now! There were so many times that I have actually started blogging, and then midway through, got busy with life, drama, moving, and family. Finally sat my butt down to look through Craigslist to find a few sewing machines and possible temporary/part time job to keep me out of the house and meeting new people. 

So, the first thing I wanted to update is that we FINALLY donated money to the Japanese Red Cross Society in July. Here is a receipt of the bank transfer to the JRCS. The whole 310,053yen

It took me and Everson a long long time full of meetings, numbers, paperworks, and more meeting with the TIC committee to get everything we need for the subsidy -- and yes, in the end, we got the full 100,000yen subsidy, which is in the process of being donated to Toyama Aiikuen. And hopefully Everson got a picture of the receipt or something from Aiikuen... woot! Unfortunately I wasn't here in Toyama long enough to go with him, and the one time we COULD have went, we hadn't gotten the subsidy yet. Woops. Ah well, I think everyone involved in the production did what we can. It was a good experience and again, thank you guys!! I wish that all of this -- I could have contacted the newspapers in Toyama to let them know that we have donated the money. I'm sure a lot of ppl who came would have liked to know. ^_^

So, currently I am sitting in my bro's dinning room table in Fremont, California, typing this all out. I'm here temporary, but I honestly don't know how long temporary is. I've spent about two weeks or so already hanging out with the family and so I'm kinda ready to look into doing things... whether it is joining a gym, some sort of club or circle, and looking for a temporary job -- again, I'm kinda just going with the flow, see where this next chapter of my life will take me. Today -- I got 5 of my 7 boxes. I am surprised how fast they arrived. So I got about half of my sewing supplies already, and my box of shoes! SHOOOEEES god I'm going to miss buying cute shoes in Japan. Buahaha...

Tomorrow, I am going to take my dad to the hospital -- he's had a stroke last week so he's finally taking better care of himself, after all the years we've been trying to tell him to. I guess sometimes it just takes something really big and serious for people to get in reality and realize what they do and how it can affect themselves and others. I'm just happy that he's not too bad off from the stroke and hopefully it is not too late to make changes for him. 

Change is good. 

Oh yeah, I updated: the gallery with some pictures from A Runway Epic, the commissions page for jackets and corsets. I also added a new "Full outfits" gallery page. 

I finally added a feedback page, it's under the "shops" tab. So if you guys ever bought or commissioned anything from me, please leave a feedback. Help a sista out, yo! 

07 Jul 2011
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Hoooooly crap!

I am cleaning out my apartment to move outta Japan in the next month. And I just ran into a 10 year old journal that I had started for a boyfriend's bday at the time. Talk about insights and blast from the past. It's kinda embarrassing to read it now, but some of the things that I thought back then... still have not changed now. And it's kinda funny to see how it started with me being this emotional 16 year old (holy crap it really was 10 years ago and I'm oooooold now ;_;), trying to deal with my emotions and paranoia about an inevitable breakup. Ha... I knew it wasn't just paranoia, it is a women's sixth sense. And all the signs were indicating a breakup to come. 

And then... I wrote my way through the breakup. But I sounded so happy and optimistic! Man, I can't believe it was me... I don't know how I went through that. I only now just remembered it was a really difficult time for me, and I can't believe I handled it the way I did back then. But then again... it really is just how I am. Still really weird to read it all again. I wrote soooo much. I guess it's true that writing is a therapy. 

After all that drama was over, a couple of years later I started writing again. And definitely sound more mature and impatient about writing. lol... one of my last entry: 

Dec. 11, 3:10pm, Class
I finished my drawing project. Ugh. Anthropology class sucks! I don't want to goooo! Learning how to draw men. Yay. I hope I can keep up my straight A's but I guess that's not so important. Man. Don't feel like writing anymore. This sucks. I'm stressed the more I think.

I also left everything at home.

Meh -- so I just felt like I had to write about this. I wonder if I were to start again now... and then 10 years later read and look back at this point in my life. Something about writing things down by hand, it seems, I don't know. More meaningful? Personal? But anyway, guess I'm just feeling a bit sentimental.

One of the quotes I found in the book... I always like and maybe you have seen this before in a chain mail or something stupid and cheesy like, but I still like it... 

Have you ever noticed the worst way to miss someone, is when they are right beside you and yet you can never touch them? When the moment you can’t feel them under your fingertips, you miss them.

Have you ever wondered which hurts the most: Saying something and wishing you hadn’t, or saying nothing and wishing you had? 
I guess the most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish them. Words shrink things that seemed timeless when they were in your head, to no more than living size when they were brought out. 

Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them.
If you do, they might break your heart…
but if you don’t you might break theirs.

Have you ever decided not to become a couple, because you were so afraid of losing what you already had with the person? Your heart decides who it likes and who it doesn’t. Not people.

Don’t ever let someone tell you that you don’t love someone, when you really do. Don’t let people tell you that the person you love isn’t right for you. People like that don’t want you to be happy. 

You can’t tell your heart what to do. 
It does it on its own…When you least suspect it or even when you don’t want to.
Have you ever wanted to love someone with everything you had? But the other person was too afraid to let you? Too many of us stay walled up because we are because we are too afraid to care too much.
For fear that the other person does not care as mush, or at all.

Have you ever loved someone and they had absolutely no idea what so ever? Or fell for your best friend in the whole entire world, and then sat and watched them love someone else?

Have you ever denied your feelings for someone because your fear of rejection was too hard to handle?
Or maybe because of what people would say?
We tell lies when we are afraid…Afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others might think, afraid of what might be found out about us.
But every time we tell a lie… the thing we fear becomes stronger.

Life is all about risks and it requires you jump. Don’t be a person who has to look back and wonder what they would have, or should have done. 

No one waits forever…. 

Awrights -- nostalgic emotional sappy post ending!

Will update more interesting stuff soon (updates about fashion show and the race against time in my craziness to get my shit together to go home! Huzzah!)


26 Jun 2011
Van's picture

Taking a break from the fashion show posts to talk a little bit about Toyama. I realized that I've been here for 5 years and haven't had a proper post about it yet. Around this time of the year is when the new JET ALTs start finding out their placements. I remember 5 years ago when I was trying to research about Toyama, it was really difficult to find any information about what the place is LIKE aside from the prefectural website advertising about the beautiful nature and scenery it has to offer. 

Yes... it sure does sounds like the inaka. And what more, information that I DID find from other JETs on different message boards were negative towards Toyama. So who would blame new ALTs to feel nervous or anxious about coming here? 

Toyama IS one of the lesser known prefecture out there. For sure it is not Tokyo or Osaka or Hokkaido or Kyushu or Okinawa.... but it definitely has it's charms and good points. I would even say it doesn't really have any MAJOR bad points. Or maybe I'm just a very easy and flexible person, and can deal well with things that I don't have? 

In any case, I will highlight some of my personal favs about Toyama here. If anyone out there reads this *silence* and has other good points, feel free to add to it. :)

  • It's inaka enough, but NOT so inaka that it is difficult to get out to other places and prefectures. Trains at some towns may be inconvenient, but not impossible.
  • It's equidistance from Tokyo and Osaka, plus easy access there.
  • Starbucks. A sign of a big city?
  • Has beautiful nature and heritage sites, good for day trips and taking visitors. 
  • Mountains for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, camping.
  • Unazaki Onsen
  • We do have beaches
  • Tight foreign and local community
  • TONS of events happening nearly EVERY SINGLE MONTH.
  • Lots of international events, great way to meet people and make friends.
  • Strong AJET community
  • Our prefecture is lucky enough to be localized... and not spread out far and wide like Niigata, so we probably see can see each other more often.  
  • Night life? Theres Kanazawa. And who's to say that Toyama doesn't constantly have new bars and clubs popping up? 
  • We do have a Mexican restaurant, and Indian Restaurant, a few Thai restaurants, and an Irish bar, Penny Black bar/club, Maxx, and several new ones I haven't even gone to. 
  • There is a very nice fabric store in Takaoka that is like a warehouse. 
  • We have several large malls and movie theaters. 

The bad stuff? I must be stupid or something cuz I honestly can't think of anything serious or any time I wished that Toyama had something... There's the weather, but meh. Weather's weather, what can ya do? It's muggy, it's hot, it's cold, it's snowy.... but I love it. 

If people were wondering what's it like to be a foreigner here... I'd say that it's what you make out of it. I feel like I definitely got a lot out of living here. There were tons of events and I'm always active in the community, whether it's volunteering or going out (if I am not busy sewing :P) or watching shows/music/etc.... I try not to shut myself alone in the apartment too much although that can be good and fun too. But you know -- everywhere you go, anything you do, the opportunity is always there and you just gotta see it and grab it! It is vague, but it honestly is all about seeing what you got from a different POV. I know some people came here and thinking this place is just shit.... but then again those people have a negative view on everything. lol. Most people I would say would probably be indifferent too, but like said... it really is what you make out of it. Toyama is safe for the most part, especially from typhoons and earthquakes and tsunami. We got the natural mountains on our back and the Ishikawa arm protecting us in the sea.... So, it's a sweet place. Plus we aren't affected by the Fukushima reactors at all. 
Anyway, going to leave it here for now. I love Toyama and will miss it when I leave. But I'll be back! 

See, you can see the mountains in the background even! This is at my base school. 

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I had all these really great and encouraging comments after the show that people have either texted me, written to me, or told me and I thought that it'd be a good idea to share with everyone else the highlights of the highlights!


"I thought this was just going to be a normal fashion show with catwalk, but it had skits and acting and everything! I was really surprised." -- along that line, by many people at the show.

"This year's fashion show is amazing. I mean, not that last year's wasn't amazing, but THIS year is REALLY amazing." - Adam, I think.

"The lights were too dark and it was difficult to see the clothes." --- my eikaiwa student. We didn't have time to do final stage/light/sound check. :(

"Gooooood afternoon Vannie! Don't wanna lay it on too thick, but also really wanted to thank you again for all your hard work last weekend (and the lead up to!!).  You really are a bloody super woman! All of my friends who came were insanely impressed, and my 62 year old eikaiwa student said that she never thought she'd see such a cool event happening in Toyama.  She also commented that she thought corsets were supposed to be underwear and that Kalani is hot...hahahahah.  What a cracker. Anyway, otsukre to the max!  You really did show everyone a good time :)" - Sally xx

"Vannie, your fashion show was phenomenal. Congratulations. I thought you should know about one of my students who came to the staff room to say that it was one of the greatest things she has experienced. She was so amazed by all the different people who were there supporting you on stage and in the audience. She is normally shy shy shy - and today she just glowed while talking and talking about your event. " - Christina

"Van, the fashion show was AMAZING!! You did an awesome job!!! So sad there won't be one next year!" - Denise

"The skits and models were amazing. It was very interesting because it seemed they all had their own personalities." - someone....

I've also had many many other comments from people wondering how the hell we did all this. I told them it's a combination of being liked by many people, having many different talents within our community, and good management. Hey... if people don't like you they wouldn't wanna help you, right (unless it's for ulterior motives...)? So I assume that I am liked by many... ??

From the Japanese audience that I talked to, they were soooo blown away, especially with the reactions of the audience during the show. They told me that in Japanese events, usually the audience are somber, but this event was many of their first time experiencing such excitement and cheering for the models. One of my JTE actually came to tell me that my students who came were soooooo surprised and almost a little bit scared at the noise and cheering everyone else was making. I thought that was hilarious. I must say, we had an AWESOME audience this year. I couldn't have asked for more. 

So if you guys have any comments, good or bad about the fashion show, feel free to post them here (or not. Does anyone even read this? You don't have to register to post...>_>)

So, I guess that is IT for now.... Today is Friday (actually posting this on the 24th of June) and tomorrow is our leaver's weekend, fun times up in the mountains. Debbie and I made jello shots last night to sell for uber cheap to raise money for Scottish Autism Society since we weren't able to make so much during the fashion show. 

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Waaaa!! I feel like my attention is being scattered everywhere. The day had come and gone in the blink of an eye, and two days later, I am still high. Hey that rhymes! 

Anyway, there is so much to say and show you guys, but it's going to be a trickle coming in as people take their time posting photos and I have to ask for their permission, and editing videos and counting the money we have raised and etc etc etc... 

First of all, I do want to express my gratitude and sincerest thanks to ALL THE PEOPLE INVOLVED. Although the fashion was my baby and my event, and all you really see on the outside is ME ME ME (Arvynia), there are TONS of VERY important people that took part in the last few months that I MUST give proper credit to. I know that I have already shout out to some people in the program flyer we made for the event, but I wanted to let everyone know what part they helped out with, because without them, this event could not have been possible! I wish I had made a better speech on stage thanking everyone better than I did -- but I was kinda caught off guard and totally forgot to prepare for it so I am truly sorry if you feel that I didn't give enough credit to you. Here are some highlights of people and things that went on during the past few months. I hope I don't miss anyone and if I did please let me know!

Debbie -- If I were to choose one person to walk up on stage with me, it would be Debbie. She has helped me out tons with sewing, prepping, being my run-to-for-emergency, my runner for tasks, taking photos when I couldn't, and just all around SUPER HELP. Even when some of the fabric were giving her allergies (and me!). She was there the most for me, during frustrating times and crazy times these past few months! Thank you Debbie!

Will -- my support and tech person. I know he is suuuuuper busy with his own jobs and stuff, but he always comes around to help me whenever he can, whether it be doing the dishes, getting me food, pinning things together, getting music together, editing Japanese/English texts, and MOST OF ALL.... being the front stage manager without anticipating he'd be one. We thought things would go smoother and easier on the day of the show but we ran into lots of complications. Namely, we had needed more volunteers to really handle the sounds and lights --- but realized last minute that THERE WAS NO ONE to be lights and music manager. So Will had to take it upon himself to figure out the lights and sounds, PLUS help the variety show people with their sound and mic check, PLUS be a model, PLUS be a driver for transportation. On top of THAT -- I wasn't able to spend too much quality time with him for the past few months, but he understood and had the patience to wait for me while I got my shit together. He would be my number one model and boyfriend. :3

Jon -- He was one of the best motivator and supporter. His ideas and genkiness never faltered throughout any of the time leading up to the show. He's become super busy with other duties in his professional life, but always managed to do exactly what he says he will do, and beyond. He was one person that I NEVER had to worry about because he's so on top of his shit and always updating me and emailing me about what is going on and such. He definitely brought to the table this year PROFESSIONALISM to the show, and definitely helped out TONS with PR and getting support from other communities that is not Toyama City based. 

Everson -- He's always telling me how great I am and that things will be okay. Definitely a stress reliever and as the others, have a lot going on in his life, but he's always put the Fashion Show first. My deepest heartfelt gratitude. He's an amazing MC with superb Japanese and English AND Protuguese language skills, and I always felt really important and big when I go with him to meetings for fashion show venues and such. I learned and gained a lot of confidence as a designer working with him. 

Yoshimi - She wasn't able to come to the show, but she has helped out a lot with preparing before-hand in terms of getting documents together and translated into Japanese so we can hit the Japanese market more this year. She is super professional and self-driven. I did not have to tell her to do anything, she just went ahead and did what she needed to do to make (me) look good on paper. Teehee. 

Laura (and staff: Eric, Lou, James, Taku)  -- I honestly do not think it would have been the same without you catering your delicious food. It was the highlight last year and this year! You are great to work with, straight forward and no mess. And I did not have to worry about the food section as you took care of that part all yourself. 

Hilda -- My best friend and another great supporter. She did her best to come help me whenever I needed, and was patient with me during stressful time. She was also a very good person for me to release my stress and feelings about things that came up regarding the show. She was also an all-around imp who cooked, sewed, cleaned (sorta?), and helped managed things. 

Tiffany -- Everytime I see your face, you are always excited about the fashion show and cupcakes. I loved talking to you because you always pump me up... for my OWN event. lol. You also sold the most ticket, at what? 17 the last time I checked? Plus you are an amazing support, and super cute to boot. And SUPER TALENTED with your cakes and sweets. It was one of the bigger things people looked forward to at the fashion show. Thank you! 

Tina -- Catwalk, hair and makeup, and backstage manager. She also was the other machine sewer and came to help sew a few things a few times. You can see the picture below where she's finishing up Hilda's shirt. Thank you, Tina!! I could have finished that shirt that morning, but my main machine broke down (eeps!) and I just couldn't be arsed to finish it. So I am sorry for putting that one on you last minute. But that was really all we needed to finish by then. 

Kristyn and Kelly -- you guys rocked with organizing skit ideas and being there for me to vent frustrations. And making my life easier by being SO flexible as models and buttoners. :P 

Trevor and Ryan Pruitt - you guys definitely added so much more to sets and stage with the banners and the washi-paper frames.  Maybe you didn't think it was ALL that big of a deal, but honestly, it had added lot to the whole event. ^_^ The weapons were AWESOME!

Val -- Thanks for being the model this year for the flyer again, this time with Trevor. Doing photoshoots like this takes a long time and I appreciate the patience you had and coming all the way from Uozu! 

Torry -- of all the models, I am most glad you are on the team. You have very good ideas and you are someone I never had to worry about because you just "go" -- You took charge in finalizing the epic scene (which was awesome) and you made yourself and other girls look good in the dressing room. Also you have a definite knack for doing things to improve it, rather than doing the basic minimum. 

Xue -- thanks for working with Torry and Trevor on the epic skit. I have to say that your wushu and fight skill blew everyone away. You brought the "epic" into the "A Runway Epic" for sure. :D

Sally and Shez -- I never had to worry about you guys either. You just rock. Thanks for being super easy to work with! 

Jarrad, Lawrence, and Matt -- you guys may feel like you didn't do that much for the show, but you did. You VOLUNTEERED. And that was exactly what I needed. :D

Takuma -- thanks for the translation, the company, and driving around for emergency frames and cupcake pickups! You literally were the only one that could have done this. 

Anita -- backstage assistant,  Ryan Liverman - Stage lights, Sheila - music, Nicole -- powerpoint, Adam and Stephanie -- front desk, James -- food, Anastascia -- garage sales. You all had had small roles, but VERY IMPORTANT roles, so THANK YOUOOOOUUOUOU! Ryan and Sheila had to learn the cues and how to manage the lights and music like and hour before the show, with NO FULL runthrough. Super glad you guys didn't mind it and was patient with us while we got our shits together. lol. Plus, you guys are fast, competent, and efficient learners, so yaaaay!! Defintely took a lot of stress away from me and Will. <3 Anita, -- thank you for allowing us to take advantage of your makeup skills when you were helping out in the back. You made things easier in the dressing room. :D

Phew! I hope I didn't miss anyone! With all that said, I must say that the volunteers here are very talented. One of my teacher who went to the show came up to me today and was curious about how we put on the show -- so I explained to him all the parts that you guys were involved with and he is super impressed at the wide range of skills that we have. Hehe, we're not just teachers here, we do have other skills -- our super secret talent. :D 

My personal impression of the whole shebang -- definitely I feel like this year was a lot less stress, more organize, and because of last year and all the things I went through and learned from dealing with people, I must pat myself on the back for good stress management and learning to just breathe and not take anything out on anyone. :) I think because of this, people this year defintely had waaaaaay more fun and enjoyment out of it. Plus the venue was awesome and flexible, and I had cut out a lot of things I thought were unneccessary like calling out for volunteers, sending information overload to everyone, etc... I kept things as simple as possible... but I also did take on more role as director, producer, charity information gathering, flyer and ticket designing, administration stuff, etc etc... learned a lot! In doing this -- I didn't have to worry about what other people thought. Of course I listened to ideas and tried to be fair, but in the end, it was my call and I was the one that was putting ALL my effort and time into this show. 

Also -- this year, we actually had practices for the catwalk -- last year we just kinda did it as we go, but we had organized two official catwalk/skit practice to learn to make everyone look badass and hot. And it really really made a difference and totally helped the models build up their confidence. I was super friggen surprised that Xue, a few DAYS BEFORE THE SHOW... went bouldering and sprained her ankle. Of course she was not allowed or able to wear stillettos anymore, but she made it work with her black platforms (easier on the ankle) and I bet no one in the audience could have notices it! AND she friggen got the vote to win the epic battle. You rock on with your bad-ass self, Xue!

And Kellie --- I had warned her way beforehand that her skirt is going to be restricting. So throught the whole time they were practicing their skits and walk, she walked as if her knees could not move. It was a good call, Kellie! ... cuz in the end, your skirt was REALLY restricted, and everyone had looked forward to you bending ove...... er... I mean, picking up your skirt to walk up the step. It was perfect! XD

As far as the skits were concerned - I have to give credit to the models. I only gave them an idea of what I want to happen, some music options, and gave them free range on what they wanted to do. Most of the group decided on their own choice of music. Of course I worked with every group or at least listened to their ideas to make sure it was still fitting with my image for the show. Some of the group took a while to finally decide skit and music. But once they did that, I had to think of a way to make it transition to the epic battle confrontation/fight scene. We had to switch some of the groups around so that the whole story flows nicely. It defintely was a team effort. 

We definitely put more effort this year in making it a fashion show to remember. More focus was on the models and the clothes and less on the party like last year. In fact, we didn't even have a party this year for the event, just mingling and talking afterwards. And it was such a good event/idea that we had trouble getting people out ---  that is a sign of a good event, when people don't want to leave. 

There were a few things that I wish I had done. One -- tried harder to get some good lamps. We had built three frames that were covered with Washi paper donated by Sen, one of Will's friend in Nanto that worked at the washi-paper factory, and there were supposed to be lights that shine on the paper and so you can see the model's silhouette whoever were standing behind there. During the setup of the frames, we tested out the lights and it worked. But during the show, there were no lights. I asked about it and turns out they decided not use use it cuz we only had one lamp (actually two but the other was used for something else I think *sadface*)... still even if we had one lamp and it didn't shine that brightly, it would have been better than nothing. I had imagine for us to have this feature since the very beginning so it was very disappointed that it fell through -- after all the trouble of building the frames and getting custom washi.    It was THE thing on stage, ya kinow? :( 

Another thing I wish I really did was to organize an epic photoshoot on stage with me and the models. Just everyone on stage posing and taking pictures, and another where anyone can join us in the pictures. But I didn't even think about it until the next day. boooo. Oh well. Zanen. Let me just mellow in my disappointment a little. 

Also -- this year, I had given myself a time limit for sewing. I did have to cut out some things but unlike last year, at least the models all have SOMETHING to wear. :D Some have full outfits and it's more than I can say about last year, heheh. We almost didn't make the bustles for the skirt because I had wanted to make more elaborate ones. But when Kristyn came over that morning and told me the Whips group were disappointed, I knew that we had to have bustles, even if it was makeshift. So her and I were testing out and thinking of ways to make it -- decided to drape large pieces of fabric on the paddied bustles we already made. When we tested out a draping on Sally in the dressing room, it turned out waaaay nicer than expected and goes well with the "grunge" theme of the show. :D

By the time it was ready for me to leave my apartment to go set up for the show -- I really only had Hilda's shirt to finish and Xue's corset neck piece to grommet. I called Deb up to grommet for me (took 2 minutes) and while sewing Hilda's shirt, my machines screwed up. I only had to sew on the sleeves, buttonholes, and buttons. It would have taken me about 1/2 hour to finish it, not so bad. But I got way too frustrated with the machine so I just had to get my mind off it since I've been sewing all last night up till then (no sleep!). So I called Tina up and asked her if she can come a bit earlier than 4 to finish Hilda's shirt. We took my other machine to the venue (I had not planned to take it cuz didn't want to sew there). Also we had to buttonhole Ryan's vest since we weren't able to get it from him the day before. But other than that, everything was finished. I didn't have a shit ton of stuff still left to sew like I did last year. So definitely less stress. I got to spend more time with the models for their practice, helping Will with managing lights and music with Sheila and Ryan, and also helped do hair in the dressing room. And manage the backstage. 

Lots of people came, but I will give more deets about that later in another post after i finalize some shizz.... For now, This definitely is the highlight of my JET experience. And I got all those people, and more, to thank for it. 


Enjoy these photos taken by Debbie on her iphone. Of all the days I forgot my camera.... 

Yikes... I thought I had put this video up already but found out that I did not! This here is the interview of Ebi and Jon -- and I didn't know I was in the video, thought Anita just took it of the two men. They are the awesome MC of the event. Now you can learn a little more about them! :D <3 to Jon and Ebi! (Wow... my voice is really squeaky... I'm annoying myself.) Good times good times.