Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Well it's been too long since I last blogged. Sometimes life gets in the way of your best intentions. I've been hobbling around lately because I sprained my ankle last wednesday night playing basketball. This sucked for any number of reasons the first and foremost being that I was unable to play in my league championship the next night and we got smoked. Oh well, some things happen and you can't do anything about it. The swelling is finally starting to subside and the beautiful purples and reds are fading to pleasant autumnal yellows. It's like New England on the outside of my ankle. If I can figure out how to place a picture within the blog I'll post a pic of my ankle at its most grotesque. It's starting to feel better but I don't imagine that I'll play ball for at least another week. Riding the bike is less problematic with the exception that I'm unable to clip out of my SPD's with my right foot.

Business here is picking up. The pace has definitely increased. This is a blessing and a curse. It makes covering the work a bit more challenging during the peak times of the day. Because the challenges only occur at those peak times it makes the decision to hire or not to hire a bit more challenging. Essentially we're talking about being well staffed during the 2 two hour peak periods (one in the AM and one in the PM) but well over staffed during the other times. I'm simply starting to feel like the crew that's on the road is simply too stretched. Match that with a couple of riders who I find to be less than ideal in their performance and the recipe for disaster is written. Thus I'm leaning towards hiring a new rider. Because we use "free call" dispatch here it's very important to pay attention to personality as well as experience/rider ability. New hires need to be able to work well with co-workers in a cooperative environment that encourages a hire degree of interaction. Fortunately, we have a tremendous number of people of interested in being employed by Jetset, so we have a good pool of applicants to select from.

We've been challenged on the driver front as well lately. This is mostly because one of our drivers is a musician and has been on tour for the last 2 months. He comes back in about 10 days and his return will take the pressure off the other drivers, though their paychecks have certainly been very good in his absence. It seems to me like staffing is a constant source of complaint and praise for me. This is partially because I'm in charge of scheduling and making sure the road runs as efficiently and smoothly as possible so it's always at the front of my mind when I'm blogging about work. But in the messenger biz it's also true that signifigant increases in business need to be matched by a prepared road crew or service failure is inevitable. It's almost pointless to successfully get a new $5000 a month account if the road is ill prepared to deal with the new volume of work. You've set yourself up for failure. It's a delicate balancing act that we've struggled with since we started the company. It's better than the dot com boom when we had way too much work and a very limited pool of talent to draw from because everyone was well employed. In these marginal economic times we have a huge employment pool but limited business oppurtunities. It's never easy is it.

I recently saw a movie called "North Fork". It's an odd little picture made by the Polish Brothers. They also made "Twin Falls Idaho" which was a real good quirky film. I don't mean quirky as a derogatory term but I'm not sure how else to refer to their films which are not mainstream but also not as marginal as many indie films. I found "North Fork" to be really odd and disjointed the first time I saw it. But on subsequent viewings (thank God for Netflix) I found more and more to like. In the same way that a really good record often won't reward the listener until after repeated spins, I found more and more to like about "North Fork" each time I viewed. It was as if each viewing peeled away another layer. Very satisfying experience. I recommend it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

So of course I had a Gonzaga vs. Stanford final in the tournament. And now I look like a big boob for it. West coast bball certainly did not represent. I'm still rooting for Stanford in the NCAA womens, that Nicole Powell is a very good basketball player.

My bball league playoffs start tonight. I've been shooting the lights out for the last 4 weeks. Let's hope it continues. We'll play in the championship on Thursday if we win tonight.

Why isn't there a professional Capture The Flag game. I'm not talking about paintball so don't even mention it. I'm talking about a good old fashioned sneak through the underbrush, spend hours in a patch of poison oak, free the prisoners, game of Capture the Flag. I remember having great games with my cousins both in Santa Cruz and at Martha's Vineyard. Maybe it doesn't move fast enough for TV but we could add some hitch like if you didn't capture the other teams flag in 20 minutes you were set on fire. You could also sex it up by having the shirts of buxom female players get caught in the bramble and torn off. On second though perhaps a professional Kick-the-Can league. There's much more running involved and always the possibility that someone will kick the rock the can is sitting on instead of the can and break their foot. It would be even cooler if the league was sponsored by Hanna&Barbera so everyone would be dressed like sea monsters or giant mushrooms.

I've received a few emails about my blog on beer pong claiming that the non paddle version of Beer Pong is legitimate. Let me re-emphasize the fact the Beer Pong without paddles is no less than a horrid abomination dredged from the gooey depths of all that is wrong with the world. If you're throwing the ball then there is no "pong". The terms ping and pong are derived from the noise that the ball makes as it alternately hits the table and then the PADDLE. Thus ping-pong and from there we arrive at Beer Pong because Beer Ping would sound dumb. If you throw your ball at a cup of beer it's okay. Just call the game "cup toss" or "pong toss" or "beer cup chuck" or "Pong Ball Heave" just not Beer Pong. Thank you.

In further developments I've come to idolize Al Franken. Finally a liberal democrat that you can get behind and laugh with. There was a great profile of Al in last weeks New York Times Magazine. He's funny, intelligent, and willing to be as bellicose as those on the right. He's a fighter. I like both his attitude and his zeal. Demos need more Al Frankens and Howard Deans because the country needs to understand that being liberal doesn't = being a push over. It just means you're intelligent and able to think past the status quo arguements and perspectives that we are force fed every day.

I've got Rush Limbaugh pegged as a no paddle pong player. That makes him a tosser.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Update on the Jetset tax fiasco: As I think I mentioned earlier we did have correspondence with the IRS about out tax misstep in the year 2000. Everyone thought that it was resolved at that time. So back on the phone with the IRS who are kind enough to put the payment requirement on hold for 6 weeks while we figure out what's going on. The interesting thing is that no one that you talk with at the IRS world HQ can tell us why we owe the money that we do. In order to find out why we owe money we have to write the IRS a letter asking them to tell us why we owe them the money. A complicating factor is that we don't have much of a paper trail on this whole thing because we though it had been put behind us. That was immensely stupid on our part. None the less I find it interesting that the helpful folks at the IRS phone center can't give you info as to why they are asking you for money. It's like you get a bill for $2000 from the water company but there's no usage indicator on the bill, just a dollar amount. So you call the water company and say, hey I've got this bill from you guys and I don't really understand why it's so high, did i use alot of water last month? Answer: We don't know. Can you tell my why I owe you so much money? Answer: No, not really. Is there some way in which you can verify that this amount is correct? Answer: Sure, write a letter to us stating that you'd like to know why you owe this amount and we'll pull your file and come up with your answer. This should take 8 weeks.

Seems ass backward doesn't it.

I'm loving the NCAA tournie. I've got a Stanford vs. Gonzaga final. Though MD will always have a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I noticed this ad in the local weekly the SF Bay Guardian. It was a full page ad for a 3 day symposium into whether 9-11 was an "inside" job or not. Here's the link: 911 Inquiry Near as I can tell it's a bunch of people who are fervently convinced that the attacks on 9-11 were committed (either tacitly or explicitly) by the Bush Administration. As I followed the various links sending me to various articles on everything from the Bush-Bin Laden conspiracy to suspicious circumstances including but certainly not limited to why airforce jets were never scrambled once the first tower was struck to how a hijackers passport miraculously survived the attacks, I was reminded of a conversation I had in a sports book in Las Vegas.

Not too long ago my wife and I went to Las Vegas for the weekend. It was a little get away without the kid and we had a blast. On our last day there we ended up in the Sportsbook @ Ballys drinking beer and having a good old time betting on the ponies (I also wagered $20 on the Warriors winning the NBA title, they were 65-1 which seemed generous at the time and absurd now). We made the mistake of striking up a conversation with a couple of locals who were spending the day betting on baseball. What started out as innocent conversations about the "system" that they used to bet on football and baseball turned into a lecture on the evils of the Bush Administration, what secrets numerology reveals to us about said administration and a host of convoluted ways of arriving at the conclusion that Bush is Satan. Now these guys were normal appearing, middle age, white guys but when they sunk their claws into a captive audience they wouldn't let go. It wasn't a conversation as much as a lecture. There was no give and take and no response to questions, only the reiteration of points made. I ended up being presented with a handmade flyer the likes of which would've made even the most untalented high school 'zine maker ashamed. I may still have it at home and should scan so you guys have a more insightful perspective into what I'm talking about. I'm prepared to listen to most conspiracy theory and I'm inclined to be distrustful of Bush and his neo-con Christian motives but these guys came off so half-cocked/borderline nuts that even the most open minded person would've had trouble believing what they were saying.

This bring me back to the 911 Inquiry symposium. I imagine that much of what will be said during the 3 days will be interesting, astute, probably truthful and eye opening. But how does a group such as this disassociate itself with the high number of nut jobs that will invariably attend? It will be interesting to see what kind of coverage the local media gives the event.

The other aspect of the symposium is that many of the sponsors run fee based websites and small publishing houses that have a financial interest in selling books, information, videos, etc. to people. I'm not making an undue accusations here, just pointing it out.

One of the interesting things about the folks who market in this kind of conspiracy theory is that their end message is, to a certain degree, very similar to the goverments. The government shrugs the theorists off, counting on people not to believe what is being said. Conversely those trying to prove the government corrupt see those who believe the "company line" as being unwitting sheep, blind to the truth. Those of us in the middle end-up being alienated by both, our distrust neither doused nor inflamed. Myself, I'm inclined to believe that the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft goverment will do anything to further their vision, however if I'm ever caught handing out xeroxed flyers about how Bush's birth date numbers magically transform into 666 while I'm betting on the Red Sox-Yankees game somebody stop me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I've really been slacking off on the blogging. Must be the beautiful weather. Work is so much easier when the weather is nice, though I've made the fateful error of removing the front fender on my bike (because it was rattling so much not because I thought the rain was done for the season but the karmic Gods don't really care about mortal reasons) so it should rain soon.

I'm deep into the NCAA tournament selection process now. I've filled out 5 brackets on ESPN.com's tourney challenge. I'm sure I'll be the one to win the $10,000 prize with my astute predicitions based on fact, logic, statistics and mascot color. The sleeper is Pittsburg as a #3 seed. Please cut me in on your winnings.

My daughter has just completed reading her first book. "The Tin Man" which is a phonics related reading activity was finished yesterday on the porch. It's so exciting to see her doing these things, but also so sad to think about her growing up so quickly. I think we may have another kid though my wife and I have always been comfortable with one. Problem is that one is just going to grow up as well. It's a vicious cycle.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Another beautiful day in California. But the bay area is very weird meteorlogically speaking. At least it is for someone from the East Coast. Riding my bike to work, at the northend of the GG Bridge its a lovely 65degrees with a light breeze, great riding weather. By the time I get to the center of the span its 45degrees and I'm totally fogged in, my sunglasses are misting over, the bridge fog horn is bellowing every 30 seconds, the traffic's tires hiss on wet pavement. Off the bridge and into the Presidio it's still foggy and cold but as I get closer to the Arguello gate I can see blue sky and temps coming up. By the time I'm on Sacramento street and headed through Laurel Heights towards the Western Addition it is once again 65 degrees Sunny and even the crack dealers seem to be in a good mood. Back home in Fairfax it's probably 75. In the East Bay hills the winds probably blowing at 30 miles per. Pick a climate I'm sure we've got it somewhere.

It's been pretty busy at work lately. This is a good thing. People make money. I think the economy's turning around, hopefully that won't mean an easy election for Mr. Bush. I think I'd be willing to wait 8 months for a serious increase in business if it means kicking Herr Bush out of the house that is white.

Man oh man am I getting excited about the NCAA's. I love the March Madness. I'm going to root west coast this year. It's all about Stanford or Gonzaga. I'm tired of Duke this and Duke that and Carolina Blue, blah, blah, blah. Although the ACC sure is strong this year. But so is the Pac 10. I loves me some basketball. Sometimes I wish I'd gone to a big state school instead of a tiny division III school so I could be a die hard fan of some obnoxiously huge basketball program. Instead I root for the Warriors (which most Div I college teams could probably beat) and get let down each year.

In the circles I tend to run in you can always tell that summer is coming because people start putting on benefits for their "camps" at the upcoming Burning Man festival. This saturday is a huge warehouse party with many DJ's and much debauchery I'm sure. I'm going to sit this one out. Sometimes you've got the party bug and sometimes you don't. I'd rather stay close Fairfax, have a drink at the tikki bar and see a movie.

There is some hope on the Jetset Tax front. We did have correspondence with the IRS in 2000 concerning underpayment of withholding taxes. It was, supposedly, resolved at that time. The back and forth continues, we'll see what happens and I'll let you know.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I see the ETA is hard at work blowing up Spain. Always good to see that a group can hold steadfastly to its princples even after so many years. They've got the same tenacity as a woman scorned. I guess I could direct you to see my rant on the not so recent Chechnya bombing in Moscow to reveal my feelings on this sort of thing. I'm just so not down with violence as a political tool. This goes for the invasions of other countries as well as the falsifying of pretense to invade said countries. It just shouldn't be a viable alternative in this day and age and it points directly to our barbarity towards each other that it is.

So we were having trouble with the radio this morning and in my infinite wisdom I diagnosed the problem as having to do with the headset. So I foolishly took the whole thing apart in order to clean it out (years of gunk in that thing) and ended up not being able to get it back together. I lost a tiny part, couldn't get things back together, it was a nightmare and I was dispatching with a hand held the whole time. Turns out it was an outside service issue and not the headset. I finally put the thing back together by cannabilizing another headset. I hate feeling like an ass first thing in the A.M. I especially hate being the one to put myself in dopey situations.

If anybody has taken the time to see "The Passion of the Christ" I'd love to hear your reviews and comments. Email me or leave a comment.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Today, for some reason probably because it's real hot, I've been thinking about beer pong. Beer pong was an intergral part of my college life. It was essentially responsible for me failing out of college. For me it was a recipe for disaster: a highly competitive game involving hand eye coordination and lots of drinking that all of my friends liked to play. So of course I did a Google search on "beer pong" and found these guys:

National Beer Pong Association

Lots of interesting pong related things. One of the things you need to understand about beer pong players (and I still consider myself one though I haven't played in years) is that we're fiercely protective about the rules of the game. Frankly most of what's on the site is absolute crap and the very idea that you would play a game called "beer pong" and not play it with paddles is absolute heresy. I've always harbored a wish that one day I'll have my own 3 on 3 basketball court in my backyard one day, but I may have to amend that to include a game room with Beer Pong table and the official Lambda Chi Alpha rules on the wall.

I was all Katty-wum-puss (as my wife likes to say) this morning. Rode into work and didn't bring clean clothes to change into. I can't wear a stinky jersey all day. Luckily my friend Grey bailed me out with a t-shirt. I don't know why I think it's important that I mention such a trivial detail. I may as well tell you that the arch of my foot hurts. It does. Check the tour schedule for this guy John Vanderslice if he's going to be in your town go see him. It's good stuff and the bass player (Rob) and the drummer (Dave) are good buddies of mine. Tell them I say hi.

I guess I should write something about Jetset. The owed tax issue still looms. I doubt think it'll go away. I know the IRS has been wrong but it's far more likely given our businesses history that something got screwed up on our end. What sucks is that it takes them 3 years to find an error you don't know you made then you get charged penalty and interest. Fuckers.

Even the bad stuff seems good when the weather is like this. Glorious.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Well the good news is that it is absolutely unbelievably beautiful here today. Actually has been for about the last 3 days and looks like it willl continue through the weekend. It's the kind of day that makes you love northern california, earthquakes and all.

Here's an interesting story. A friend of mine used to own a clothing store/party promotion company called Bullet Proof. They put on great parties, particularly their famous boat parties which were basically floating raves but with great people and great music. I've probably been on about 20 of them and they were always a blast. The brain trust of BF was british and after the dot com fallout he decided to move back to London and manage a club over there. This was about a year ago. According to the couple that now lives at his old flat about a week ago at 6am 5 black suited "thugs" from Homeland Security popped up at his old flat and inquired about the nature of this company called "bullet proof". Couldn't a simple google search have provided them with the necessary answers about the company in question and their insidious unpatriotic ways? What a waste of resources. Not to mention the glory of the American way.

Work developments: here are the current suck ass things about Jetset.

1) The IRS just told us that we owe them $13,000 from the tax year 2000. Oh joy please take money we don't have. They don't tell you why you owe that amount, simply that you do. You've got to penetrate the voicemail hell and get a human that knows what they're talking about in order to figure out if you're getting bent over and screwed and just how hard.

2) A messenger is currently having such challenging personal issues that I don't even feel like I can, in good conscience, blog about them. I mean it's heavy shit. This of course creates a whole slew of personnel issues as there's a possibility that they may take time off. There's nothing worse than starting of your day with another human being breaking down and balling in front of you.

In the grand scheme of things none of it is that big a deal. The IRS thing will work it's self out, I mean if we owe the money then we owe the money and have no one but ourselves to blame. The messenger will figure out life because they're bright and resilient and are in the right city to do it. It just all seems like an uphill battle sometimes for a mere pittance.

Sam's nose is almost all better.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Yesterday was very busy. It was a good old fashioned Friday in the messenger industry. Problem is that we're a little shorthanded. So it was a challenging day. Fortunately we have a good working relationship with a number of other small independent messenger companies and we're constantly trading work back and forth. I don't like to lean on the other guys too much because it means losing money on the tags we give to them when you factor in admin costs. But it's better that someone else does it than we screw it up. We did about 180 deliveries which is fairly busy for us these days. I'd say our average tag count is about 140. Compare that to the dot com days when we regularly did 270 tags a day and never less tan 210 and you can see how things have changed in the last 4 years. As I was dispatching for the majority of the day (as I usually do) I really had to use a good deal of discretion in lowering customers expectations as to what we could and couldn't do. I think I'm good at that. Getting people to understand and actually be empathetic with the company when it's busy, make them understand that their work is important to us but that we don't want to let them down so "here's a realistic look at what we can do for you". I bend over backwards for customers all the time, going the extra step, doing frequent callers personal jobs for free sometimes, making people feel valued. So it's nice that they'll cut us some slack during intense work times.

This is one of the companies we share work with Rallycap Couriers. Three great guys who've I've worked with alot over the years. Dominic is one of my oldest friends in SF and also the lead singer of Our Lady of the Highway (link's in the link menu). OLOTH is getting ready to do a little tour of the northwest from April 1 to April 8 so if you live in Portland, Olympia, seatac, Bend they'll be up your way and you should definitely check them out.

So Kerry is the man, huh? The election is so far away and so much can happen. I worry that the Dems have picked their man to soon. It's a long way to go and there'll be plenty of mud to sling. He is, after all, a senator with a voting record. Fingers are crossed. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

If you go to the "The Passion of the Christ" website you'll find that they noblely market little trinkets. Things like "witness pins" and coffee mugs and t-shirts. I haven't seen the movie yet but it's good to note that Mel keeps the high ground and won't sell out his uncompromising vision of the gospels (though it's just one vision, remember the bible has a number of differing views of the crucifixion within Gospels) by hawking anything less than the finest quality doo dads. I mean he wouldn't sell engaved ball point pens or license plates holders. Or would he?

Todays work related rant falls under the category of "Essential to the business but a constant pain in the ass". Collections. I'd be making a lot more money if my collections ran %100. But of course that's every small businesses dream. In truth it's often a nightmare. I hate just chasing invoices. Sometimes it's a good account that falls behind. You don't want to cut them off because you want to keep them as a client. So you call everyday, harassing the accounting people, charging finance charges, and still you get the run around. It's because the courier service is the lowest on the food chain. Our invoice will be pushed to the bottom of the pile until it absolutely can't be avoided. Problem is that I've already paid out in commission half that invoice. Bad debtors often just go out and get another service that's excited to have their business. It's all vicious but a part of the business cycle. In truth we haven't lost much money on bad invoices. After the dot com melt down we did lose money on a couple of businesses that declared bankruptcy. But surprisingly it wasn't too bad. Often a company like the Gap, which we do alot of business with, is slow paying simply because the bureaucracy is so thick that it takes payments a long time to get processed. In %90 of the cases no one is trying to screw you over, but best intentions without any cash are still worthless.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I've been debating about putting the knobby tires on the Surly. If I do then I can utilitze all the fun shortcuts to get to work, because right now it's crazy muddy everywhere that there isn't asphalt. But does that mean I'll want to put the slicks back on in 2 weeks? I'm essentially lazy and the idea of changing both front and rear tires on my bike twice in a two week span is almost incomprehensible. Then again maybe the drag of the knobbies will help to get my in a little better shape.

I'd like to learn to play guitar. Is there anyway to just implant that knowledge in my brain because I'm terrible with the whole practice-perseverance thing.

I recently watched the movie "The Missing". It's with Tommy Lee Jones and Kate Blanchet. Fairly entertaining movie if a little far fetched. There's this one scene that I found deeply disturbing for some reason. When the mean Indians (why are they mad? it's not like we killed them, drove them off their land and ruined their culture) take Kate Blanchet's daughter they cook this guy. They skin a cow, tie him up in the hide, hang the hole she-bang from a tree and light a slow roaster underneath him. Such a grisly image. I can't get it out of my head. What an unpleasant way to go.

Here's what I really want to do. I want to own a record store. I want to sit around unpackaging CD's all day, listening to music and riding snarky reviews. That sounds like a little slice of heaven. But you've really got to find a niche to retail music nowadays. You're competing with enormous retailers and of course the whole downloading (legal and illegal) craze. There are some really good record stores in SF. Good locally owned shops that have found a niche in hard to find music or just excellent customer service combined with a knowledgable staff. Amoeba Records is amazing, Rasputin Records is great, but I've always admired Aquarius Records . They've integrated on line shopping with their nice little brick and mortar store in the Mission District. They've done well and if you buy CD's on line consider using these guys.

Another business idea while I'm rambling: Do you remember the great bikes we rode as kids? I had a red Schwinn Stingray. Single speed. Coaster brake. Banana seat. That bike rocked. It was inexpensive but bomb proof and I rode that bike until I was 12 or 13. Why doesn't anyone make a bike like that anymore. Show me a $300 bike and more often than not it's a pile of shit because the manufacturer is trying to spec it to make it look like a $1500 mountain bike. Kids don't need suspension and 21 gears. Someone should start producing a simple steel bike for the pre (and limited post) adolescent. The Stingray needs to make a come back because I don't want my daughter riding around on a Toy's R Us Huffy that's always going to need tuning and is in constant danger of breaking, but I'm not buying a 7 year old a $700 bike. There's got to be a middle ground with quality and price for this generation.

Ok, done with the rant. Have a great day.

Monday, March 01, 2004

According to this article my wife and I married at the perfect age: Article.

Another of day rain here in the bay area and I don't mean that because the basketball team lost last night. It's been damp here for the last month and the black ants have invaded the house looking for reprieve. So naturally I kill them. I hate ants in the house. They're okay outside or on trees or rocks or leaves but not on my god damn carpet. I'm looking forward to summer. I like long days. I like warm and dry. I like good cycling weather and outdoor hoops.

Not much to rant about on the courier front today. My kid did a serious face plant on thursday and looks like she's wearing a piece of bacon on her face but otherwise all is well. She's resilient and is already non plussed by the horrified looks of strangers. It's not that bad really. All my injuries growing up were in the back of my head. I kept falling over backwards up to about age 14. Stitches in the back of the noggin 3 times. In high school I went to a barber to get my head shaved (I was too dumb to buy clippers and do it myself) and as he got to the back of my head he paused and said, "you get in fights with pipes alot?" I didn't really think I looked like the type for pipe fighting. I also assumed he meant hitting other people and getting hit with pipes as opposed to the syntactically awkward image of me wrestling around in the middle of M Street with a piece of lead plumbing pipe. Whatever.

Here's a question for all you bikers out there. On wet pavement what kind of tires gives you better traction, knobbies or slicks? As I understand it using a slick actually gives better traction on pavement because you want to have as much surface area in contact with the road as possible and knobbies only provide that sporadically as the wheel spins. I suppose it also has to do with the type of tire compound you're using (soft or firm, rubber or synthetic).

This band is really fun: The Darkness It's a guilty rock pleasure in a very 70's metal kind of way. If you ever had any affinity for Thin Lizzy or AC/DC these guys absolutely do it right. The vocals are insane as the guy runs the register in any given song. Humans shouldn't be able to hit highs and lows like that in one fell metal mad whoop.

I'll be back at work tomorrow so I'm sure I'll have something to bitch about. Word.

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