My Bedbug Nightmare

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I would not wish bed bugs on my worst enemy. You think you have it bad with a roach infestation or termites? I would rather sleep in a bed of termites gargling cock roaches than deal with another bed bug infestation in my life. Sounds like the finale of Fear Factor, am I right?

It all started when I began to wake up with itchy red bumps on my arm. There would usually be about 40 of them in an erratic pattern. The first day I wrote it off as allergies. Yet each following day, the problem only got worse. Eventually I woke up to a flat black bug crawling on my arm. Was this a beetle? I flicked the first one off in disgust. Waking up to bugs in your comfort zone is not exactly ideal. After flicking off the first bed intruder, two reinforcements took his place. I threw off the covers and started feeling a bit sick. Then I noticed some motion out of the corner of my eye. I turned to see dozens more of these critters crawling up my walls. I made a retreat to my shower, only to find yet another small, black armored bug on my shower curtain.

Okay, first they invade my bed and then my shower? Time to put these guys on Chris Hanson’s sexual predator list.

When I squished the bug a bright red liquid squished out onto my finger tips. This had to be human blood because bug guts are usually brown, and I don’t think bugs have a tendency to eat ketchup.

After some well educated…Wikipedia research (it counts sometimes) I uncovered the identity to my bedroom intruders: Bed Bugs.

At that point in time, I didn’t even think Bed Bugs were a real thing. I thought they were part of a phrase to scare children from  going to sleep. “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” But the nightmare that was about to unfold was all too real.

Check this out. Bed bugs can last an entire year without food. So if you think you can outsmart them by sleeping somewhere else, think again. They’ll either wait near your bed until their favorite human blood pie returns for a snooze, or more likely, they’ll follow you to your new slumber spot. They are a menace that will follow you into the depths of the Earth for a chance to drink a drop of your blood. Bed bugs put vampires to shame. After all, a crucifix, garlic, a silver bullet, daylight, or badly directed movie starring Kristen Stewart will do nothing to kill a bed bug.

Not only are these creatures nearly invincible, but they pop out babies like jack rabbits on speed. We’re talking about more than 200 babies within the span of a month.

If this isn’t bad enough, this army of numerous and nearly invisible creatures can also hide virtually anywhere. So to get the record straight. They’ve got the blood lust of a vampire, the invisibility of Chuck Norris, the stealth of a ninja and they make an exponential number of children.  Not to mention that they are itchy and annoying – the bed bugs, not the vampires or ninjas.

So how does one go about eliminating such a beast? If you are a tidy person, there is some hope for you. Yet if you are a slob like me – getting rid of bed bugs will be about as difficult as escaping David Bowie’s labyrinth with pickle juice in your eyes. You see, bed bugs can hide between the pages of a book and lay nearly invisible eggs in your clothes. You must wash everything you own twice in burning hot water and then seal it in airtight garbage bag. That which can’t be washed is thrown away. But even washing and throwing away almost all of your possessions will not eliminate this curse.

The only thing that can truly kill a bed bug is extreme heat. If you live in a Sauna or Sahara desert you may be okay. Yet if you don’t, you will have to call an exterminator to bring the heat to you for about $800 a room. The exterminator will push something that looks like the world’s biggest slinky through your window and then heat your room up to the temperature of 200 degrees. Thus melting many of the possessions that you haven’t thrown away or washed.

So surely this expensive and extreme procedure will kill the bed bugs, right?

Not necessarily. Even after all this, there will still be a few survivors left living in your mattress. Which means you will have to encompass your mattress with a protective casing that will keep all the bed bugs trapped inside. Yes, you will be sleeping on a Sarcophagus of blood hungry vermin for about a year at this point. Only then, will you POSSIBLY get rid of the plague that is bed bugs.

To make a long story short. I would rather swallow a gallon of live millipedes marinated in a spicy Vindaloo while laying on a bed of nails than ever, eeever deal with bed bugs in my life again.

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Minecraft Chess Set

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On my birthday the most wonderful thing happened. My sister and brother in-law with their creative forces combined created

my very own….

Minecraft Chess Set!

It came complete with spiders, pigs, sheepy sheeps, chickens, endermen, cows, ghasts, squids, oh my!

On what I presume to be “the good side,” you have chicken pawns, sheep rooks, pig knights, cow bishops, I’m a queen, and my boyfriend is a king.

The bad guy side! Here we have spiders as pawns, creepers as rooks, zombies as knights, skeleton archers as bishops, an enderman king, and a ghastly queen.

That’s right! There are rare pieces of me and my bf.

Here’s me!

My boo!

I was truly spoiled this year!

Minecraft, Crafting a World that is Mine

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I kill a skeleton archer and pull out my wooden crafting table. Within the nine squares on my table, I can create almost anything: boats, shovels, swords, axes, you name it I make it. I place the skeleton bone on the table and it instantly turns into bone meal. How this happens, don’t ask me. With my newly acquired bone meal, I run out into the yard and sprinkle it on a mushroom. Instantly the tiny red toadstool shooms up into the air, and soon towers over my house.

I decide that I would like to have a mushroom house in my yard, so I collect some sticks and go back to my handy dandy crafting table. With seven sticks I can create one rung of a ladder. Forty nine sticks later I have a ladder tall enough to the scale the height of my new giant mushroom. On top of my fungal monstrosity, I begin to build a balcony, a treasure chest, and a bed. Could you imagine the rent I could charge on a one person, Mushroom Studio Apartment?

No, don’t worry, I’m not high on shrooms. Or maybe I might be high on top of one mushroom – but it’s not that kind of shroom. I’m simply playing the best game ever – Minecraft. The 32 bit graphics are nothing special compared to the ultra-realistic ones of today’s gaming systems. You may not be able to fight an ice-troll realistic enough to place on an HDTV, but the primitive graphics of Minecraft have their charm.

Many gamers actually prefer more simplistic graphics. It’s a breath of fresh air from all the flash and glitz of modern gaming. (This is the exact reason why Mega Man games released in 2010 look the same as they did in 1987).

Each time you play the game, a completely new world map is generated.  When you begin, you will be spawned into a random biome: forest, taiga (with spruce trees and wolves), swampland, extreme hills, desert, plains, ocean, tundra, or a mushroom island. What’s better is that these world maps are huugeamongous!  A minecraft world map is actually 1.235 times the size of the Earth. If you don’t believe me, download the game yourself.

Minecraft brings both the elements of creativity and survival together. The player is basically given the chance to create their own world, a world made up of 3D cubical formations on a fixed grid.  Each cube represents a different material on the earth: dirt, grass, gold, water, lava, gravel, cobblestone, etc. Gameplay involves collecting these cubes and crafting them into new materials – the possibilities are vast! Among more interesting creations, some players have made castles and roller coasters in their mine-craft worlds.

The world also has a 20 minute day cycle, 10 minutes of daytime and 10 minutes of night time. When the day transitions into night your character must be cautious. It is at this time that monsters come out to harass you. This motley crew includes zombies, skeleton archers, and an annoying creature called a “creeper.” A creeper is a green, frowning enemy that runs towards you, hissing all the way. If the creeper manages to hug you – you and it will both explode. I guess I would also frown all the time if I exploded every time I gave someone a hug.

What’s even more incredible about the game though, is that it was created independently by two people.  The main designer, Markus Persson created this game when he wasn’t at his main job, working for king.com. When the game’s popularity took off, he quit his king.com job in order to create his own gaming company, Mojang.

The game itself is cheap and easily obtained. With a mere 20 bucks it will take you less than 10 minutes to download the game off of the Minecraft site. With only 20 dollars down, you have the opportunity to create world larger than the Earth itself, filled with castles, portals to hell, and floating islands in the sky. The possibilities are almost endless. Some people like to focus on the fighting aspect of the game, building up an armory of diamond swords so they can raid other people’s bases and steal their stuff. Some people focus more on the architectural aspect, building beautiful and sturdy homes from Obsidian blocks.

And me? Well…I’ll continue adding onto my mushroom house for now. As my home in real life remains cluttered with unwashed dishes and stacks of paper, my 32 bit home begins to sport glass windows and flower décor.

I hope this review was enticing enough to convince you to purchase the game. What’s that you say? “That’ll be the day that pigs fly?” Well, you’re in luck. The game has that too! Looking forward to seeing you!

Rapido!

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The joyful & unbroken creative power that sustains the universe.

I get to work a few minutes after 5:00. No one says anything my tardiness. I zip off my jacket and squeeze it into a cabinet under the bar along with the straws, stop tops, and rags. I’m a bartender at an Indian restaurant.

First I take the cover off of all the alcohol bottles: vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec. Bowman’s alcohol, the cheap rail stuff. Four bucks a bottle I bet. Bowman’s vodka tastes like it is distilled through a vacuum cleaner.  I unveil the finer liquors. The scotches, a drink for gentlemen: Johnny Walker, Macallan, Glenfiddich. With only a shot – you can absorb some sophistication by drinking molten gold. It’ll put hair on your chest though – so watch out!

I’m now already cutting lemons in the kitchen. Why are you still reading about the alcohol?  Stop lagging behind! Hurry up! Rapido rapido!  In the hospitality business there is no time to lose, not even for the people reading this paper. So move your ass!

In the kitchen I greet the cooks, Udu, Alok, and the bread guy Peter. They’re all smiles and enthusiasm. Ram, one of the waiters, comes up from behind and picks me up, threatening to put me in the tandoor. I slap him in the face and his scheme to bake me into a crispy piece of naan fails.

Peter tells me another bread maker in Deli murdered his wife this way. He cut her up into pieces and put her in the tandoor. Not the smartest murder, but it would make a good CSI episode.

The tandoor method of making bread hasn’t changed much over the last 5,000 years. It is basically a large fire pit heated to a temperature over 400 degrees. Baking bread in this Neolithic machine is a dance with fire, a dance that Peter partakes in ten hours a day, six days a week. He takes a piece of dough and spins it like a pizza – a process that seems simple enough. Yet after this task comes the dangerous part. He has to place the dough on the metal walls of the fire pit, with his hand as his only tool. He does this task a hundred times a day; I bet he could do it with his eyes closed and playing baseball with the other arm. He shows me his arms, the hairs are charred and multiple burns cover his flesh.

I walk past the cooking area and ask Oscar, one of the kitchen staff, for help.

“Donde esta la juga de pina?”

Oscar reaches up and grabs the pineapple juice for me. He laughs about my height – I am muy chiquita.

Oscar has a bright red scar on his finger that stretches from knuckle to nail. He refuses to get medical attention. Like most of the staff he shrugs it off, and leaves the healing process to fate. The other kitchen worker, Maria, reaches for a crate containing about 40 dirty dishes. It looks to be about 20 lbs. Much like with Peter and his bread though, Maria does this task almost as often as she breathes. She is also eight months pregnant.

Now I am back at the bar. Rapido, rapido! The waiters yell as I make drinks. The entire wait staff is Indian, yet they frequently communicate with one another in Spanish. A habit they picked up from the kitchen staff. Their “rapido’s” end up transforming into “lapidos or shlapidos.” And then through the two American staff members, it morphs into “lapedo.”

The waiters gossip amongst themselves in a cocktail of different languages – Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Spanish, and English.

Moti Moti Moti! Ram clucks as he walks behind the Pakistani hostess.

“I know what that means!” she yells, “Stop calling me fat!”

She explains that her language, Urdu, is almost identical to Hindi.

“Look at these guys!” She yells over to me, “Aren’t they creepy?” Everyone laughs.

I make her favorite drink. A virgin Mai tai: pineapple and cranberry juice. If you’ve never tried the combination you should – it’s a nice tropical drink to enjoy on a breezy summer afternoon.

I myself drink the Chai tea prepared by the bus boy. It’s an eclectic mix of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar. The American customers miss out on this delicacy. Their chai tea is served bland because the waiters assume American’s don’t like the more complex flavor.

Then the drink orders come in.

“A Taj Mahal with two glasses, one coke, one diet coke, and a pinot greeeeseot (pino gregio).”

No sooner do I start to make this drink when a second order is yelled at me.

“A curry leaf martini, an appletini, and two mango margaritas!”

“Lapido ! Rapido!”

In the middle of the order, water jugs begin to breed on the bar top. Each one requires ice and water from the sink. One, two, and now four jugs lay before me. The customers propagate quicker than the jugs. A tall skinny Indian man has been waiting for service for about ten minutes. He begins to wring his fingers and check his watch. A couple sits down at the bar – they need menus – and someone to take their order. All the while the jugs keep multiplying, the wait grows longer, the curry leaf martini is half finished and the other drinks haven’t even been started. The couple needs a place matt. The tall skinny man needs change for his purchase.

“Rapido, rapido!”

The phone begins to ring.

Welcome to ____, Fuck you. I say – I wish I could say.

“Welcome to ______, how can I help you?”

“What are your lamb dishes?”

We have over 40 items on the menu. I don’t have time for this. Ram asks where his drinks are for the second time. I shove the phone into his hands and try to finish his order.

A woman with curly hair wants to pick up her take out order at the bar. I place a bag before her and go over the items on the receipt. Yes, yes – she insists the bag is her own. She waves me off, and walks out the door with the food.

20 minutes later a man is upset because his order is missing.

Raj, the head waiter, gestures for me to fix the problem.

I pull an apology out of my ass.

For the third time Ram comes by asking for his drinks. The customers have already finished their food, they’re wondering where their drinks are.

“Have you made the Appletini yet?”

“Yes”

He begins making a drink. It is a bright green fluid in a cocktail glass garnished with a cherry.

“I made that drink already! That’s an appletini!”

I hear a string of Malayalam explicative accentuated with English “Fucks!”

Raj helps me take orders. I continue making the drinks.

The customer traffic dies down and sanity is restored.

A woman in her 40’s drinks a margarita and insists to her husband, on the phone, that she hasn’t had a drop to drink.

A man in a blue blazer and a crew cut is texting his friend.

“He’s at the Congressional Black Caucus hearing the president speak. We were supposed to catch some drinks tonight – but hey, when you get tickets to hear the president speak, it’s kinda hard to turn a thing like that down.”

“Can you text your friend to tell Obama I said ‘hi?’” I ask.

Obama never returned my “hi.”

Guess who I’m voting for?

The last few customers trickle out and the clock on the register hits 10:30. Closing time!

“Turn off the sign Drew!” I yell to a waiter. “Lapedo Lapedo!”

The neon “Open” sign is turned off. We eat biryani rice – my favorite.

I collect my tips.

“Oh you’re rich!” The bus boy jokes.

“Yeah, you and me are gonna run off to Vegas.” I reply.

I drive Ram home. Most of the staff doesn’t drive – not because they don’t know how, but because their driver’s licenses from their home countries are not accepted in the U.S. Two of the staff members bike home. Eight of the staff live together.

“This is no life.” Ram says. “Work six days a week. Ten AM to Ten PM. In America and don’t have time to see America. But what can you do?”

Their days aren’t linear, but cyclical, like the Goddess herself. Each day begins and ends exactly like the one that came before. No one calls out sick and few complain on the job.  As a customer we only see exotic food and smiles. Little do we know their backstory. All we know is that they are a joyful and unbroken creative force that sustains our experience.


A Jess of All Trades

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American will have 7-10 occupations in their lifetime. I am 23 years old and I have already had twelve. I’ve bagged groceries, assisted a veterinarian, sold greeting cards, taught children, brewed coffee, mixed alcoholic drinks, waited tables, wrote up lesson plans for a daycare, checked out books at a library, sold time shares on the phone, did a voice recording for a commercial, and have taught English as a Second Language at a university.

At a time when the economy is at an all-time low, and people are begging for one job, I’ve managed to juggle three jobs while attending school full time. So let me give you the scoop on what to do – even though I haven’t worked at an ice cream parlor.

Be Resourceful

Be open and available to any opportunity the world provides you. Look at every flyer you pass. Copy down every number you see. Apply to places you frequent regularly – the local CVS, the library, the bank, the pub, etc. As the old expression goes, “don’t leave any rock unturned.” In fact, don’t leave any mountains unturned either! There might be a Sherpa job available if you look in the right place.

You are not beneath any line of work

I talk to many college students who complain about how hard it is to get a job, any job. I don’t blame them. It can be rather degrading to attend interview after interview only to be denied each time. Yet many of my peers I talk to have a specific job in mind: a clean cushie job with an office, a living salary, and benefits. After all, what the hell is the point of wasting thousands of dollars on a college education if you’re going to work at the local gas station or taco joint? Of course one should pursue their ideal line of work first. Yet if the pickings are slim, I would suggest searching new vineyards.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a blue collar or retail job. These jobs do not make you less of a person in any way. If anything, jobs like these build people skills, character, and empathy. At one of my retail jobs, my supervisor said:

You know how every citizen in Israel has to spend a year doing military service? Well I think every American should be drafted into one year of retail. After all, retail is such a big part of our culture and day to day interactions – everyone should know what it feels like to be the person behind the register, dealing with everyone else’s crap.

If it’s any consolation, you won’t have to do this job forever. Think of it as a temporary fix until you manage to get the job you actually want.  Also, employers would rather see that you were working at McDonalds, than sitting around your house unemployed and playing xbox for three months. While I appreciate your efforts in saving the human race from aliens in Halo 3, I don’t think that reasoning will work with your employers.

What if I can’t get a blue collar/retail job? What if I can’t get any job?

When someone closes a door you need to open a window. Know what I mean? There is always a way out of any situation, you just have to make your own exit. And what if you’re thrown in a prison cell? Well, sharpen the nearest object into a pointy shiv and dig your way out! Be proactive! If there are absolutely no jobs in your area, not even a vacancy as a Walmart Greeter, it may be time to move or even start your own business.

Consider Jobs in Growing Fields

Since America has a fairly large population of aging baby boomers, many of the future jobs will be in geriatric fields, health care, home assistance, dental hygiene, and physical therapy. A degree in nursing or physical therapy will be about as useful as an oxygen tank on the moon.

Also, it goes without saying that the information technology field is growing at an explosive rate. Jobs as Network Systems and Data Communication analysts and computer software engineers are readily available for those with the right qualifications and experience. Let the recession do what it will, many people in my generation would rather go a winter without heat – than a week without the internet or a smartphone.

Improve Your Skills

Not just your ninja skills and extreme Bass fishing skills! I’m talking about skills that’ll make you money, skills that will put dollar signs in your employer’s eyes when they look at your resume. A list of the following skills are useful for obtaining future employment:

  • The Ability to Speak  a Second Language
  • People Skills (duh!)
  • Proficiency with technology
  • The ability to type more than 60 words per minute
  • Basic knowledge of Microsoft Office Programs
  • And feel free to drag any other fun ability into the mix. Maybe you don’t want to tell your employer that you can burp the Canadian Anthem. But if you mention that you do something interesting like play the guitar, or that you do modeling in your free time, you’ll seem like a more well-rounded and interesting person.

There are simple and cheap ways that you can improve upon said skills. The library is one useful, FREE, and highly unused resource that you can use to improve upon any of these skills. There are dozens of books on language and technology at your disposal. Also, if you attend a university, there are often free courses you can take to improve your ability to type quickly or to make a spreadsheet in excel.

It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know

Clishes exist because they are true. Utilize your friends as you would the library. I know this makes me sound like a terrible person, but I don’t care because I have a job. Go through the entire contact list on your phone or Facebook to see if there is anyone you know who can connect you with a job opening. I obtained half my jobs just by having friends in the right areas. I acquired a job teaching at a university, even though I don’t have a degree, because I was friends with the head of the department. Long story short, I did her a favor once, and she returned it three-fold by giving me a job. Karma can be a bitch, but it can be your best friend too if you treat it right!

Lie. Lie and Wear Fire Proof Pants, So They Don’t Catch On Fire

I know this sounds terrible. But everyone lies a little at a job interview. Don’t tell tall tales, but it doesn’t hurt to embellish upon the truth. “I wasn’t employed this summer because I was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity,” sounds better than, “I couldn’t find a job, so I decided to work on my tan;” Even if you only volunteered a couple of times.

Don’t make up a bogus lie like, “I have 5 years’ worth of experience in marketing,” because then your employer will ask you for references and proof. But if your employer asks you something like, “Are you a people person?” It will probably be better to simply say “yes,” rather than, “I have no friends, but I’m really good at Solitaire.”

Persistence!

If someone took your food away, would you sit on the sofa until you dropped dead? No! Think the same way about your job. A job equals money, independence, food, and shelter. Maybe you won’t get a job the first time you apply, and maybe you won’t even get it the 30th time. But you will get one eventually if you keep trying. One of my friends went through 32 job interviews before he obtained his current job, but now he has his own place and is doing a job in his field of interest. The best things in life are worth struggling for, so welcome the struggle. The reward will be that much sweeter.

Oh…and one more thing, if this advice does help you to get a job – a really nice job with a company car, a six figure salary, paid vacations, and free medical insurance – don’t forget who gave you this wonderful advice when you are looking for a new hire.

A Rolling Rock Night

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I was in shock. My dad was actually going to let me sleep over at a boy’s house. My friend Daniel’s dad was a lobbyist and he had a silver tongue. Or rather, he knew exactly how to plant himself in one place and complain endlessly until he got what he wanted. After an endless barrage of persuasion, he finally convinced my dad that I would be safe at his house. The agreement was that Daniel and I were absolutely not – under any circumstance – allowed to drink.

We were two 15 year olds, in a basement with a fridge full of beer, on New Year’s Day. What do you think we were going to do? Pass the night away playing Yahtzee?

As soon as his parents were in bed we each grabbed a bottle of Rolling Rock. My parents’ had let me have individual sips of beer before, but I never had my own bottle. I hated it. Each sip made my stomach lurch the Electric Slide. At that moment I longed for chocolate milk or apple juice. But we weren’t kids anymore and not quite adults either. We were something awkward and in between.

I gulped my bottle down quickly so I could spend less time tasting it. I began to feel a little woozie and slightly silly, kind of like I just got off a roller coaster ride. After all, we did just drink a Rolling Rock. Within a half hour we began making blog updates.

Me: Weeeeee!!! I just had a few rolling rocks, butt I’m fine! I can even spell. I’m n0oot a polar bear in an icecream factory.

Daniel: hi this is daniel. Im sorta kinda drunk. my arms feel reeeeeeaaaaally heavy right now. And the roomis kind stupid.

We decided that each bottle we consumed would get hid in the sofa. At the time, in drunk logic, it made sense. Trust me! With the fifth bottle the room became VERY stupid! I was on a merry go round that I couldn’t get off. I sprinted to the toilet and vomited like I never vomited before. All five Rolling Rocks along with dinner spewed before me.

Daniel tapped at the door. He wanted to know if he could get me anything. He was holding his liquor far better than I was. “Get me some Saltine Crackers! It might be bland enough to settle my stomach.” 5 minutes later he came back and handed me a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar. I proceeded to vomit more and scream at him.

At that moment Daniel’s mom woke up. She told me to sleep on my side so I wouldn’t choke on my own vomit. I lay on the sofa, sideways, not sleeping much. I would doze off for 20 minutes only to wake up to the continual spinning of the room. My stomach continued to lurch even though it was empty. My throat compulsively gagged on nothingness.

After a long painful night the morning finally came. My dad sat down on the sofa next to me, expressionless, saying nothing. Daniel’s dad handed him a mug of coffee. Both his parents were shaking with nervous energy – his mom still in her blue bathrobe. “Don’t worry! We didn’t do anything sexual!” Daniel blurted out. I could’ve died with embarrassment.

His parents frowned. I think my dad might’ve chuckled. I remember his dad talking a mile a minute but not really saying anything, like a train continuing to spew smoke even though it was breaking down. But my dad said nothing. It was this still anger that scared me – the calm before the storm.

I collected my things and climbed into the passenger seat of his black Ford Explorer. I felt empty enough for the wind to blow me away with one gust. My head was pounding. The slightest sliver of sun light was like a laser surgically piercing my skull – most of all though, I was scared. “Jessica.” He began. “I’m so disappointed in you. Rolling Rock is a terrible brand of beer.”