Camp Nomad, Welcome!

This is my personal blog. It covers a wide range of topics from outdoor adventures, social commentary, personal stories, and more. Be advised that some of my content may not be suitable for all audiences. If you are easily offended or overly conservative in your personal views or beliefs, this site is not for you. For everyone else, thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy my content and, if not, that’s perfectly fine too.

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Social Stratification

Socioeconomic strata—the grade of people with reference to: occupation, education, wealth, and power—represents the core of social stratification. In order to understand why social stratification is critical in maintaining societal balance, we must first dispel the myth of equality.

If the population of a country were equal—in terms of the stratum listed previously—then mediocrity would be the maximum level of greatness that one could ever possibly achieve. There would be no reason for an individual to rise above the rest as upward mobility would be limited by those around them. Equality works to ensure that nobody stands out or has more power than the next guy.

The concept of equality can be viewed as a system of support for the weak at the expense of the strong. This is the type of thinking that consumes the minds of liberals, socialists, and communists.

Survival of the fittest is key.

In most modern societies there exists three primary social classes: upper, middle, and lower. Each of the primary classes can be subdivided into additional classes. Each class represents a measure of one’s success in life. It’s quite common to find just as many depressed wealthy people as poor. Money shouldn’t be viewed as a way to buy happiness, but rather as a way to secure freedom. In fact, there are plenty of happy poor people in the world. Some people are fine with getting by while others are never satisfied.

Some strata may be granted based entirely upon kinship rather than merit—and that’s perfectly fine! The people who inherit millions of dollars have forward-thinking relatives to thank—for their careful planning and saving has secured them a spot higher up the scale.

Social classes are like stairs—we all have the ability to climb as high as possible, but we often encounter interference from liberals and apologists who cry for equality while lambasting the successful. They believe it’s not FAIR that Person X was able to attend college, be well-educated, and land a highly successful job while Person N dropped out of high school and holds a cashier job making minimum wage. Some liberals will also try to convince you that increasing the minimum wage to that of a middle-class worker would be a major boost for the socioeconomics of the country, but they are terribly incorrect! Person N is not equal to Person X. If Person N was given a leg-up by political social justice warriors, it only works to reduce the value of Person X.

You can place a homeless bum in the driver’s seat of a brand new luxury vehicle, but that person is still a bum. By giving the bum something that is only attainable by others with great wealth does not transform the bum into a successful person—just a lucky person who will likely be carjacked and killed by a vicious predator.

Each of us is born with an equal potential. We all have a chance to go to school and become educated (in the US, we have a public education system). Some people choose to slack in school, get poor grades, and either drop out or barely crawl their way to graduation. After school, we then have a chance to attend college, expand our education, and eventually land a job that pays well. The entire system starts with an equal and infinite potential, but the choices we make and company we keep develops a pathway that leads to great success or unremarkable failure.

No one should be protected from the effects of their own stupidity!

We should strive to exist in a meritocracy where the more intelligent, talented, and productive people can rise above the rest. Some people have distinct talents while others perhaps haven’t yet discovered theirs. A meritocracy, however, requires social stratification.

Meritocracy is non-discriminatory; it doesn’t matter what your race or gender is. What matters is what you can actually do. If you decide to get a good education or learn a particular trade and have done well for yourself, you deserve my admiration. If you choose to slack off and do nothing beneficial for yourself, then you deserve my contempt. It’s the not the successful person that is preventing you from making more money or attaining all of those things you want—it’s you.

Your evolution is guided by the decisions you make. If your parents were factory workers who lived in the same town their entire life, odds are that you will follow in their footsteps. Genetics are powerful and perhaps factory work is the only thing you will ever excel at—that’s okay! The job has to be done and if you can do it well, so be it. You may not ever be part of the upper-class, but that’s okay too! The existence of the upper-class should be enough of a motivating factor for you to do better. It gives you a goal or something to work for. Having everything handed to you in life has no merit whatsoever.

One of the major problems we face as a society is the fact that it’s become increasingly easier for people to give up and settle for a living in the safety net of welfare. The idea of welfare was to help people who were struggling, not to enable those who have no desire to do anything to do nothing. Our society is filled with people who have no ambition who are content with a zero-sum lifestyle. Becoming great is viewed as too much hard work! And as of this writing, we have presidential candidates that want to buffer you from even trying by “evening out the playing field” to make everyone equal. The funny thing is, those making promises are clearly not fighting in the trenches nor struggling to make ends meet. If they are elected, they won’t sink down to your level and be your equal—they will still be rich, living a great life, and you will be given the leftovers.

Individual must strive to become better—not demand more handouts. Instead of focusing on how we should all be “equal” we should focus upon individual greatness. Instead of trying to degrade ourselves to the lowest common denominator, we should celebrate those who have the courage and power to drive themselves to success.

The idea of an equitable society where you work for nothing and only get you need is not plausible. If you look back in history, you clearly see how these types of societies have failed repeatedly. We must maintain a balanced society in which we have stratification. We must have free markets and enterprises. Government should not be stealing from the hard workers to give to the rest. If you can’t stand on your own two feet, the only other option is to lay down and die.

Blair Witch Project Journey

I’ve had the opportunity to explore a number of unique places over the years, but one of my all-time favorite trips occurred back in 2005 when my girlfriend and I ventured off to Maryland in search of the locations used in filming of The Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project was released into movie theaters in 1999 following—what I believe—the first ever successful viral internet marketing campaign. I remember talking about the film with a guy at work and he had been convinced that it was real—I guess he didn’t see the 555 area code listed as the phone numbers? I managed to get pretty excited about the film from the website and especially the fake documentary that aired on the Sci-Fi channel prior to the release. What really got me excited was the amount of effort the guys put into this thing on a shoestring budget.

In 2000, I bought my first DVD player and The Player Witch Project was the first DVD that I owned. I’ll never forget how fun it was sitting in my bedroom with the lights off watching it on my little 19” television.

Over the years, I revisited the film. I watched it multiple times and several times with the filmmaker commentary track. I was really impressed with the story behind the film. The amount of effort and dedication these guys put into create the history and mythos behind the movie was fascinating. To see a group of friends get together and create such an interesting product was refreshing and even inspiring.

A couple of years later, the sequel was released. I knew I’d be disappointed, but I went to the store on the day it was released to buy a copy. It wasn’t as horrible as many would lead you to believe, but it certainly didn’t have the fresh allure that the original had. I enjoyed the concept, but thanks to the commentary track, I learned that it was the studio that opted to hack it up and essentially ruin the idea the Joe Berlinger had.

In the spring of 2005, my girlfriend and I were lounging around watching The Blair Witch Project while indulging in some cocktails. We coined the idea of driving down to Maryland to see if we could find the locations they filmed the movie at. So for the next few days I scoured the internet and found plenty of information that pointed me in the right direction. Turns out that a lot of other people had taken the same trip and provided some basic instructions on how to get to the various spots. After burning through some printer ink, we decided to head out the next weekend.

The first thing I learned was that the film was not shot within Burkitsville—only a small sequence was filmed there. You may remember the scene towards the beginning where Heather is standing in front of the small sign for Burkitsville while talking about all the dead children being buried there. The bulk of the film was filmed in Seneca Creek Forest which is about an hour away.

When we got to Burkitsville, I stopped the car right in front of the sign to snap a picture. It was basically the same exact spot that was used in the film. I remember that the roads leading into Burkitsville were regular paved roads, but the roads inside of the town were all brick. That made for a very unpleasant drive. I jokingly made the comment that they probably resurfaced the roads like that help keep people like us from touring around town.

Next, we headed off to find Black Rock Road, about an hour away. The drive seemed to be a lot longer than an hour, probably due to my excitement. Along the way, we stopped off at a Bob Evans restaurant. That was also the LAST time that I ever at one of their establishments. The food was horrible! The biscuits were so hard, I could have easily thrown one through the window. I did not leave a tip that day. We got back in the car and continued the journey. I remember going past a large plant that makes English muffins when a car pulled up next to us. The passenger in the car signaled for me to roll down the window, which I did. Turns out they were lost and needed some directions. Being from out the area, I had no clue what to tell them.

These were the days before I had GPS. All of our trips were planned with the aid of only a map. We had this one map of Pennsylvania and Maryland and used to put X’s on different locations we went to. I wish I knew whatever happened to that map. I got pretty good with map reading. We took a lot of trips that way. Now days we’re kind of spoiled with the digital guidance system on the dash.

As we continued driving, the open fields and housing developments slowly faded and the woods started to consume our view. I carefully inspected every intersection looking for the Black Rock Road sign. After more driving, I spotted it.

This was the main road the cast drove down when the film started. I was surprised as how many houses lined the first part of the road, but after a while they dwindled. I remember coming around a turn and hitting a straight stretch only to see the little red shed. We had successfully navigated the identical route as the cast.

A little bit further up the road we found the turn off where they parked the car. I pulled my Pontiac in the spot to mimic how they parked in the film. We walked back a bit and snapped a quick picture. We then walked back up the road towards the little shed for a few more picture. After that, we went back to the car.

From my research, I learned that in the movie, they started down the wrong path. They were supposed to go across a little bridge and head up a second path instead of the route they took. I made sure we took the right one.

While walking out the path, I remember seeing a lot of strange trees. They had weird knots in them. I took a picture of one that looked almost like a heart. We continued up the path and started to hear voices. In the sequel, there was a scene where a tour group is leading a multi-cultural group around the woods and there were these two Asians—I made the joke that it was probably Asian tourists in the woods with us. About 30 seconds later, an Asian couple comes down the path.

We eventually made it out to the location dubbed ‘Coffin Rock’ and snapped more pictures. We walked around for a while longer and then eventually made our way back to the car. Just up the road from the pull off there was an old building. I have no idea what it was, but it kind of reminded of the setting for the sequel.

That was the first time I had actually gone to a place like that—where a movie had been filmed. It was a pretty cool experience. When we got home, I developed the film right away and then put the pictures together in a little frame with a note that marked the date we went on the trip. It’s hanging up in my living room right now. Directly next to it is my homemade stickman that I crafted later that summer while on a camping trip.

In 2012, I made it out to Evans City, PA where the opening sequence for the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead was filmed. I’ll post these pictures here another time.

 

Slight Panic

Panic is a double-edged sword. The limbic portion of our brain is responsible for our survival, holding the keys to engage our primitive fight-or-flight reflex. When panic kicks-in miles away from humanity atop of mountain in the middle of nowhere, the ability to reason and think is key. The acronym of S.T.O.P. is always in the front of my brain, whether while thrust into a predicament of great proportions or even while just living the regular day-to-day life.

Stop

Think

Observe

Plan

My fiancé and I were taking a mountain ride, crawling across ridges and beating the hell out of my car. It was not the right vehicle for adventuring in the mountain, but I did what I could. We zipped across this one mountain several times. At the zenith, there existed a crossroads. To the right, you could follow the ridge into the next county. To the left, you used to be able to follow the ridge to the base of the mountain, but years ago, a sign as erected proclaiming that the road was closed. We had been by the crossroads a hundred times and I always made note of the road-closed sign, but today, the sign was gone.

Alas! They finally opened the road! I was ecstatic. I hadn’t had the opportunity to actually follow the road for years! Today was the day.

I turned the steering wheel and we began the trek across the ridge. At first, something didn’t seem right. Large rocks and potholes littered the two-track road. It was awfully rough for now being open. No matter, the sign is gone and I’ve been dying to head out this road for ages, we must soldier on.

Our pace was drastically slowed to barely a crawl. The passenger-seat driver kept encouraging me to just turn around and head back, but I would hear none of it. I wanted to make the trip that I hadn’t made for so long. I was on a mission and I would not be satisfied until I got to relive the experience. But, the road was pretty damn horrible. I suppose it was the man in me that attempted to ignore the female sitting next to me and venture-on. Even though I was slightly nervous, I was fully confident in my driving skills.

After 30-40 minutes, we finally reached the end of the ridge. To the right, there was a giant boulder blocking the one of the two roads. The road to the left was unblocked and appeared to be the one of my memories, the one that would lead us down to the base of the mountain. I stopped the car and got out to size-up the road. It was just wide enough for the car and nothing else.

Was this a good idea?

We stood there looking down the road and not paying much mind to the sheer drop-off to the left. In fact, I did not want to even contemplate how far down it was. Instead, I felt comfortable in what I saw and so we started down the road. About 20 feet down the road, the absurdity of the situation sank in, but I trekked ahead knowing that we would eventually meet the bottom of the mountain, one way or another. After several minutes of a download crawl, I round a corner and encounter something I truly did not account for. Immediately crossing the road in front of us was a tree, laying horizontally, making continuing further entirely impossible.

Now what?

There is obviously no room to turn around. In fact, the mere act of getting out of the car to look around seemed quite dangerous. As I stepped out, I was no more than a few inches to edge of this very steep drop off leading down into a deep forest—I couldn’t begin to rationalize how high up we were. The only option was to back up the entire length of the mountain that we had come down. My plan was to walk in front of the car while my fiancé drove backwards. The thought was that I could provide a degree of guidance that would promote the greatest degree of safety. After about 100 feet of this, the idea proved useless. She hopped out of the car and I took control of the driving while she guided.

Her guidance was not the best and I decided to just go for it. I floored the gas pedal and just went in reverse quite quickly until I reached the top—never looking down over the steep edge to my left, just giving it all without much thought. As I got back to the top, I pulled the car off to the side and popped the hood. The engine was quite hot from the backwards mountain climb. I walked over the start of the road and met my fiancé as she made her way back to the top.

We stood around and laughed and discussed how incredibly dangerous the whole episode had been. After 30 minutes or so, a little Subaru station wagon came up the road towards us. The occupant was a single guy. It looked like he was heading to the road we had just came back from. I waved my arms to get his attention to save him from the same experience we had. The guy told me he had a chainsaw and that he would be fine.

A chainsaw—brilliant! I quickly added that to my checklist for things I need to get.

We watched his car disappear down the side of the mountain. A while later, we could hear the sound of the chainsaw firing up as he cleared the road. Slightly defeated, I got back into my car and started back the original way we came.

Halfway down the road, I caught the sight of headlights behind me. It was the station wagon! He was coming up pretty fast so I pulled to the right side of the road so he could come up beside me. I stuck my head out the window to hear how he made out. Apparently, after clearing the tree he came to a rockslide and drove over it. Beyond that he cleared another rockslide before the third finally proved to be insurmountable.

I guess that having the chainsaw would not have really gotten us much further anyhow.

Who in the hell took down that sign? I don’t know, but I can say that the sign is STILL NOT there even to this day. I suppose that we all go upon the assumption that road is closed rather than relying upon a sign proclaiming such.

Unexpected Assistance

Thom and I were walking down College Avenue in downtown State College on a warm summer evening. We had spent the past few hours at the Sport’s Café drinking beer and playing pool. It was starting to get late and we decided to head to the parking garage and make our way back home. Walking through downtown with Thom was always interesting—it seemed like he knew everyone. No matter where we went, somebody would bump into us and immediately strike-up a conversation with their old pal, and since I was there, I was instantly friended. Tonight, the walk was fairly boring. We got to the end of the block and head right towards the garage. Across the street we saw a fairly large house party. There was a lot of college kids outside, loud music from inside, and the entire place was brightly lit.

“Hey Thom!” a female voice called from the porch.

We stopped and Thom greeted a young woman who was running across the street with arms-spread for a hug. “How are you?” Small-ensued. Sometimes it’s awkward to be the stranger when your buddy has a chance encounter with an old friend. You are suddenly on the fringes of the conversation simply observing the interaction that is taking place. Instinctively, you smile and pretend as though you are part of it, yet all three of you realize that you are now the outsider. She invited us over to the party. In fact, Thom made the criminal mistake of announcing that we had some pot.

Now, when I saw we “had some pot,” I do not mean that we had a quantity that was right for sharing. Rather, we had a small amount that would enable the three of us to catch a nice buzz. By incriminating us, it must have been assumed by the other party that we really had some pot. She ushered us across the street and we made our way on to the porch. Various “Hey Thom!” greetings were cast out as we went inside the house. The smell of cigarettes and alcohol filled the atmosphere while the typical college-type music provided the classical soundtrack for the scene. We went up to the third floor loft.

I do not recall anybody announcing to anyone else at the party that we had any pot, but soon, word would spread. We got upstairs and the three of us got comfortable. I sat on the bed while Thom and this girl sat in two chairs that were next to the bed. I pulled out my bowl and we packed some bud into it. This was not gourmet bud, just your sub-par compressed Mexican brick-weed. Before we sparked the bowl, there was a knock at the door. The girl opened the door and there were no less than a dozen people standing outside. Apparently they knew that a smoking session was about to happen.

I looked over at Thom and then down to this little bowl that I had packed. “Thom,” I started, “we don’t have enough to go around.” Thom shook his head in agreement. The bed shook behind me, I was getting some company. I looked around the room and took in the diversity of the people around us. There was a very tall Asian guy that was speaking Rastafarian and making references to Babylon. There was the token redneck, a black guy, and several other random faces. I was an interesting character back then. I had long hair (down to mid-back), a long goatee, and long sideburns—I was perfecting the look and mannerisms of a late-60’s hippy. I turned around to see who crawled on the bed with me.

He was fairly tall. I remember his feet were at the end of the bed as he laid next to me. He looked distinctly familiar, but I couldn’t place him. I held my little bowl and decided to fire it up. The guy pulled out a gallon sized Ziploc bag filled with lovely green buds, far better than the commercial grade crap that Thom and I had. “Don’t worry dude,” he started, “I got your back.” Inside the bag he had a very nice glass pipe. He pulled it out and packed a very generous bowl, sparked it up, and it started making its rounds.

I fired-up our bowl and got it in circulation as well. A few bowls later, everyone in the room was nicely buzzed. The guy next to me stood up and started walking to the door. He turned around to say goodbye and then it hit me. I finally recognized this person. There was a show on television at the time called That 70’s Show and this guy was a spitting-image of Ashton Kutcher. I shook my head, assuming that the chances of it actually being him were slim, but he looked unmistakably like him.

The tall Rastafarian Asian guy thanked us for the smoke and declared that he had to get back to Babylon and with that, the room emptied. I looked over and realized that Thom and I were the only two left. I stood up from the bed, “What the fuck just happened?”

Thom looked a bit dejected, “Ready to go?”

We walked down the three floors and out the front door. The original welcome greetings were replaced with “See you soon” from the same faces. We walked across the street and found my car. Apparently my meter ran out and the local meter maids decided to give me a ticket. I removed the ticket from the window and started the 1981 Olds Cutlass Supreme.

Years later, I learned that Ashton Kutcher holds a bit of a love for State College. Apparently he is quite the sports fan and enjoys watching the various PSU teams in action. In fact, he has made quite a few appearances in the downtown area—not as a Hollywood star, but just as an average person. While I have no definitive proof that it was him that night, the resemblance and speech are essentially indisputable. Most importantly, he really helped us out in a tight spot.

Local Satanic Panic

I remember back when the Satanic Panic came to my small town. I was just a kid. We lived in the kind of town where I could leave the house first thing in the morning and be out with my buddies until dark. The parents were never concerned. We didn’t have to check-in, we didn’t have cell phones to be reached out, we were just somewhere in the neighborhood being kids. There were video games, but we didn’t it in front of the television playing them all day – we went outside and played like kids. Times were a lot simpler back then, at least for a while.

The rumor was that someone saw a strange vehicle across town (nothing ever happened without somebody taking notice around there). Apparently the vehicle was old, beat-up, and filled with dead animals. The immediate mental connection was made (no doubt inspired from day time talk shows) that the person in the vehicle must be part of some child-snatching cult. It didn’t take long for the rumor mill to spread like wildfire and there were suddenly dozens of crazy stories circulating.

Before long, parents weren’t letting their kids wander off like the used to, they were driving their kids to school, everybody was in lock-down mode. Then the local police department started coming around to the schools and lecturing kids on the dangers of cults and what to do if you are approached by a stranger.

As a kid, the shit was kind of fucking scary. You could see the fear on the faces of the adults. Everyone was on high alert. The local rumors started to spread to other small towns. Nothing ever came of it. Nobody ever saw this mysterious vehicle again. In fact, I would put money on it that the vehicle never even existed in the first place.

The point of this is to show how one single seed can be planted and spread out and become something really big. One person mistakes something that they don’t understand and next thing you know, an entire town is paralyzed with fear. Maybe the vehicle DID exist and someone DID see it, but there was no proof other than the initial story. Maybe it was started by someone who was doing this intentionally to stir the pot and it just got out of control. It’s hard to say precisely.

All I know is that it doesn’t take much to make a situation spiral out of control. A loose parallel can be drawn to the situation that took place in Arkansas (I think it was Arkansas anyhow) where those three kids were murdered and the murders were pinned on three other kids because they were essentially ‘goths’ and listened to heavy metal. That small town mentality can be dangerous. And even though the three alleged killers are now free, they will never escape the original situation. That stigma will remain with them for the rest of their lives. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities that a very similar thing could have happened locally, given the climate at the time.

We can’t run every single even that take place through a fact-checker. We can’t screen everything that everyone says to determine if it’s true or not. Everything must be looked at with a critical eye. Everything must be questioned. People should be held accountable for what they say. But most importantly, we as people must learn how to interpret the bullshit. Don’t accept it at face value, even if it comes from a reputable source.

Additional links to other articles:

Paranoid

In the early part of 2003, my primary objective in life was buying drugs, selling drugs, using drugs, and trying to attain a perpetual altered state of conscious. A couple of my friends had previous run-ins with the police and were extremely paranoid as a result. Late one freezing January night, we convinced each other that our best bet to remain relatively safe was to relocate the living room to the basement. This will give the illusion to passerby’s that the house was empty. We opened the garage door and started lugging all the furniture down to the basement. Then we moved my stereo equipment, television—the works.

After we relocated the living room, we took cardboard box pieces and duct tape them to all of the windows to block light. Then we cleared a path in the garage so that we could pull the car in. On top of the car we put a blanket to eliminate the light from reflecting off of it. With that, we felt safe.

Over the following few weeks we had a great time. Every night we were drinking, smoking, popping pills, and living like kings. The phone would ring and it would be someone looking to buy. We’d send my buddy’s little brother (he hanged himself years later) up the steps to meet them out back—it seemed a lot safer to have people sneak in through the backyard rather than use the front entrance. Occasionally someone would come to the garage door and we’d let them if we knew who it was. Most importantly, we were able to avoid Chuck, the biggest mooch ever known in this part of the world. He was the kind of guy that never had money, yet always wanted to get in on the party. Gary was the same way, but at least he would be our sober driver when needed. Chuck would also try to trade his wife’s medication (usually Dexedrine and Seroquel) for cash, cigarettes, or pot. He had no driver’s license, as it had been permanently suspended due to too many DUI’s.

I remember one night that we all got particularly wasted—drinking cheap Scotch and smoking high-quality bud—and got pretty hungry. Lacking sound judgment, we decided to jump in the car and drive up to the truck stop to get something to eat. We got to the truck stop safely and piled in to the store to get snacks. From there, we checked out, got back in the car, and headed home. The trip from the truck to the house was no more than 3-5 minutes, tops. But when you are under the influence and slightly paranoid, that short trip can seem a bit longer—at least for me it did and I was the one driving.

We pulled out from the truck stop and started heading home taking a secondary route. We came to an intersection and watched the local cop drive by to our left. The road he was taking would eventually go in a circle and eventually bring up behind us. The sight of the cop startled us all and after he went past, I floored it and turned right then left to hit the last road before the house. After 50 yards or so I had a sharp right turn and then I was essentially out in front of my house at a stop sign. When we were approaching the stop sign, I saw the cop car shooting up the road from the right—it didn’t make any sense. Why would he turn around and then go flying up around town taking him about a mile out of our path? He zipped by, presumably before he ever noticed us creeping up the side road. When I got to the stop sign I made a hard right followed by a hard left to turn into the driveway. I could see brake lights up the road—he must have seen us!

Before the car came to a rest, three of the guys jumped out of the car and ran to the garage door to open it up. I quickly pulled in and then they shut the door behind me. As I was getting out the car, the guys had already started pulling the blanket over the back. We went inside the door to the basement proper and shut it. Then we sat there in candle light looking at each other, waiting for the door to get kicked in.

After some time passed, one of the guys left the basement and went upstairs to do some recon in the dark. When he got upstairs he looked out the front window, being careful not to disturb the blind too much, and across the street he saw the cop car sitting. He turned around and ran back down the steps as fast as he could to tell us the news. Nobody was sure if he actually saw the car or not, but we convinced each other that he must have some sort of high-powered sonic listening device pointed at the house. We blew out the candle and waited for the night to be end.

The next morning provided no sight of the cop. I showered, got high, and then went to work like usual. While the cop never actually showed up at the house or caught us actively doing anything illegal, it would leave all shaken up for a few days.