Back in the USA

No sooner had Kim, the 18 year old Chinese kid who lives with me, landed in China, where he went for school vacation to visit his parents, when he texted me that he needed help. Literally he texted, “I need your help”. I have received these SOS texts from Kim before and I am always apprehensive about what might follow. Once, he left his soccer shoes at home and he had a game that day. Another time he was having trouble with his eyes and thought he should go to a doctor. So, what was it that he needed my help with this time?

When I texted back inquiring as to the problem, I received the following, “I left my Immigration paper”. Well, this sounded serious but something I know nothing about. He went on to ask me to look in his backpack for some official Immigration paper (it wasn’t there!) and then the top of his desk (I found an F-1 paper and texted Kim a picture of it so I could be sure it was the right form). Yes, I had indeed found the right papers! Step one complete.

He then asked me to send them to Xi’an in western China, his hometown, by 2 day mail. Ok, sounded like an easy plan. When asked for his home address he texted three lines of Chinese. Whoa! I don’t read, write nor can I copy Chinese. But, I knew people who could…

So, after school I drove over and picked up JZ (American name), the Chinese boy that lives with my friends, so he could accompany me to the Mail Store and write the address on the letter to go to Kim. Unfortunately, the Mail Store told me that there was no 2 day delivery to Xi’an; it would take 9 days. Now I got nervous. Kim was due home in 12 days and with the time change, etc. I didn’t know if the papers would get to him in time. I decided not to chance these very important original immigration papers to the Chinese mail system.

Now what? I asked my Chinese friends if Kim could use a copy of the papers to get back in the USA and they all said absolutely not. But, Jill’s (American name) husband was returning to Shanghai around the time Kim would be changing planes in Shanghai and he would be glad to rendezvous with Kim to hand him his papers. Sounded feasible. But, when asked, Kim told me that he was not going through Shanghai as he had when going to China; he was changing planes in Beijing. So, thanks but no thanks to Jill’s husband.

In the meantime, I emailed a copy of the F-1 to Kim in case there was any way he could use a copy to get through customs even though all signs pointed to no.

And, then, it struck me that the best solution was to head to the airport just prior to Kim’s arrival and beg someone to take the papers to Customs so that they would be there when Kim passed through. On the day of Kim’s arrival into Boston I drove to Logan Airport, International Terminal, Hanian Airlines and walked right up to an employee behind the ticket desk. I explained the situation and Harry (American name) told me that he would take the papers to the plane and hand them to Kim. No begging required. When the plane landed I texted Kim to look out for Harry.

Harry did go on the plane and handed the Immigration papers to Kim. Kim sailed through Customs and he was back in the USA! And people think immigration is easy!!!


Fortune Cookie Game

Happy Chinese New Year! I am steeped in Chinese culture this year because I am hosting an 18 year old boy, Kim Sun, for the entire school year. When he arrived in September I made a pact with my good friends, Marybeth and Irwin, who are also hosting a Chinese teenager, JZ, that all of us would go out for Chinese food every Thursday night. We have made good on our pact and every Wednesday or Thursday we start the round robin texting/Wechatting about who can come, where we should go and what time works for everyone.

The number of invitees have grown to include my friend Kathy and her boarder, Hao. We also invite Jill, a lovely Chinese woman I met at Kim’s agent’s house, and her six year old son, Hanyuan. So now, there are up to 9 people who join together on Thursday nights to share a Chinese meal and conversation.

Our local restaurant is Asian Gourmet – a fabulous Taiwanese restaurant that we all like. The Chinese among us say that it is “quite good” “almost like home” and we Americans think it is very “authentic” and “delicious”. I make a reservation on Thursday so we can all sit at the big round table with plenty of room for all the food. When we arrive, the two teenagers and the six year each get to choose a dish (Hanyuan orders seafood hotpot every week!) and then the rest of us fill in with a couple more dishes , some vegetables, rice and maybe an appetizer like beef wrapped in scallion pancakes or pan fried dumplings. When the food is served we pass and taste and comment on all the dishes. We order different things (except the seafood hotpot!) every week so there is always a great variety.

At the end of the meal when the waiter puts the nine fortune cookies on the table, everyone comes to life – especially Hanyuan (who is bored at the adult talk but loves the two teenage boys who have taken him under their wings). Hanyuan does the unwrapping of the cookies – opening the paper, breaking the cookies in half and pulling out the fortunes. He then passes the slips of paper to the 4 Americans. The four of us take turns reading the Chinese word printed on the paper and the Chinese folks try to guess what word we are saying. It is uproarious! Our Chinese is so bad that sometimes noone can translate what we are saying. Other times we say the Chinese word correctly, by chance I am afraid, and one of the Chinese yells out “pear” and we are so thrilled that we have said the foreign word correctly that we high five and get excited that perhaps we are learning some Chinese after all. Hanyuan just laughs at us when we make mistakes – he thinks we Americans are quite foolish when we totally mispronounce a simple Chinese word like “cat” or “pig”.


Racial Slurs hit home

For the second time in 20 years of selling real estate I heard a racial slur unintentionally directed at me. Recently, while discussing a pricing strategy for their home with a white couple in their 70’s, the wife said matter of factly, “Well, the price is fine but people may try to Jew us down.” That’s when my heart stopped. I had a hard time keeping my composure. I thought my face might have turned red, but, if so, the man and woman didn’t notice a thing and we went on with the conversation. The first time I heard this phrase was almost 18 years ago when a 30ish woman – white and married to a Filipino man – said it to me and I couldn’t believe my ears. And, here it was again – 20 years later.

It is unbelievable to me that in this day and age I would hear such a thing. It shows a complete lack of respect – especially since I am Jewish and that fact never even occurs to them. They use the phrase “Jew them down” like they were saying, “It may rain.” What are these people thinking?

I never said a word either time. I know this sounds like cowardice on my part and it probably is. Both conversations took place at the couples’ kitchen tables and I was in the position of trying to gain their confidence so that they would list their homes with me. If they choose me to sell their houses I would make $6,000 to $10,000. This is how I make a living and the money is very important to me. I also don’t know how to correct them without shouting, “You racist pigs! How dare you? I am Jewish and you have just insulted me. Don’t you think before you speak? Or do you use racial epithets against all kinds of people?” I don’t have the self control to calmly say, “Noone should use that phrase or any other phrase that contains a racial slur.”

In this day of Mr. Obama and Ferguson, in the age of gay marriage, in the year of immigration reform, is it possible that people are still using Jew as a verb to mean stingy, tight, money hungry? Apparently it is. If folks off-handedly use an anti-semitic remark I can only wonder what they are saying about people of color.

No, I didn’t say anything to the woman at the dining room table. But, I certainly did not think I would work well with this couple. And, the thought crossed my mind that they would not want to work with a person like me if they ever found out that I was Jewish

Coda – 20 years ago I did sell the house of the woman who remarked, “Jew the price down.” I remember being particularly appalled with her use of this phrase while she sat across from a husband who was not white. I heard a few years later that they got divorced and I felt relieved that he got away from her.


Answers Are Here: Secrets of the Universe

secretslogoTo conquer the questions that plague me, I am undertaking Secrets of the Universe, a blog series to explore some of life’s greatest conundrums like…is there a certain age beyond which a woman should not wear an unnatural shade of nail polish? Does Bernie Sanders truly believe guns and ammo in your checked luggage on a plane is the same as guns and ammo in the luggage over your head on the train? Should hospitals be nonprofit? Cracker Jacks or Fiddle Faddle?
Courageously stepping forward to take on this weighty task, the members of the Secrets of the Universe Panel (alternatively, The Four Pillars):
B – writer; mother of one favorite son; married to a coach who honorarily adopts honorary sons who play basketball; floral designer.
D – writer; mother of artistic college-aged daughter and son who just left the nest; married to a patron of the arts; organic gardner.
P – writer; mother of a stand-up comedian son; partnered with Ricky Riccardo, a rescued Lhaso Apso; realtor.
R – writer; mother of two musically-inclined college-aged boys; married to The Nicest Man in the World; tour guide.

Need I say more? Stay tuned for the first installment…


The Arrival

Kim Sun arrived at my house in late September – a few weeks after school started. I had agreed to host a Chinese boy for the school year after my wonderful experience hosting two Chinese boys for a month over the summer. All I knew about Kim was that he was 18 years old, came from a city in western China near Tibet and would be attending the Waldorf High School in Belmont and that his agent described him as “pure” whatever that means.

In hindsight Kim’s arrival was portentous. The day before he was supposed to be at my house I texted Kim’s agent, Ying, (actually Wechatted his agent – more on Wechat and the agent in later posts) to find out what time I could expect Kim so I would be home to welcome him. Ying texted back that Kim would not be arriving the next day as his Visa was being held up. She was sure it would be worked out in the next few days because it was just a matter of paying another fee which Kim’s family didn’t know about. Ying said that she would get back to me as to the actual arrival day and time which would probably be in a week.

A week went by and then I received a surprising text from Ying. Kim’s mother was coming with him to America. My first thought was, “Oh my God! I hope they don’t think the mother is staying in my house! Not only don’t I have an extra bedroom for her, but I really don’t have the time or inclination to spend that kind of energy dealing with Mother Sun especially with so little notice!”

When questioned for more details, Ying assured me that Kim and his mother would be staying in a hotel. He would start school right away traveling back and forth between Belmont and the hotel in Cambridge. She would let me know when Kim would be moving into my house.

After about 10 days I heard from Ying that Kim and his mother would like her to bring them to my house the next afternoon so they could meet me, see his room and bring his clothes over. I agreed and made sure I had cake and juice to serve them because I thought that I was certainly expected to serve food and drink as they would in China.

We had a very pleasant meeting. Kim seems to be a lovely boy – fairly tall and slim with a wide face and glasses. His mother was a pretty little thing – fully made up and dressed in a navy blue skirt,a sparkly white sweater and heels. It was the first time I had met Ying who turned out to be a realtor like myself; very chatty and very nice. She translated the conversation between the mother and I while Kim sat quietly.

My Llasa Apso, Ricky, joined us in the living room which seemed to tickle Kim but not his mother who wanted nothing to do with Ricky as she was afraid of dogs. Ying went over some school and insurance forms with Mrs. Sun and they handed all the papers to Kim so he could take them to school the next day. Kim promptly forgot them and I found them in the living room after they left.

After we ate our snack, Mrs. Sun and Kim went upstairs to his room to unpack his suitcase. I was so impressed that Kim’s mother came with him all the way from China to get him settled. It certainly showed a deep affection for her only child and I was pleased to be dealing with such a nice family.

Mrs. Sun handed me a gift before she left – a lovely gold scarf.

Of course, I attempted to pin down the day Kim would actually move into my house. Ying told me that first Kim was going on a 3 day field trip with the school to a camp in New Hampshire and would come to me the day he arrived home from this excursion. Finally I had the date for Kim to move into my house – 3 weeks after I had originally been told.

But, now that Kim has lived with me for 4 months, I realize that is par for the course in hosting a Chinese child – some things you are told, other things you are not told, some things are lost in translation, some things are Cultural differences and the rest is a mystery.



Strange Interview

Thank goodness there have been only a couple of times in my life that I have had to send out resumes and set up interviews to find a job.  One period of job searching occurred in 1980 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The reason I was living in Milwaukee and looking for a teaching position is a long story. But, suffice it to say, I had already taught elementary school for six years in the Boston public school system and found myself in Milwaukee with no job, no prospects and no connections.  So, I combed the newspaper for  teacher openings, sent out my resume and garnered a few interviews.

During this process I received a letter in the mail that I had  been granted an interview at the Indian School for a 3rd grade teaching position.  Having grown up in Ohio and then spending my post- high school years in Boston and New York, I had never actually known a Native American.  But, I needed a job and the position sounded very interesting.
I called my sister who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico – home to many many Native Americans – and picked her brain about what I might say to my interviewers about my limited experience with their community.  My sister even gave me a couple of well- known names in the Native American “world” to drop into my conversation.
On the morning of the interview I arrived at the small wooden school building surrounded by playing fields on the north side of Milwaukee.  I was  very nervous, but had nothing to lose and a lot to gain so I forged ahead.  The lady that greeted me told me that I had to wait a few minutes until they were ready for the interview to begin.  They?  I didn’t know the procedure and had no idea who They were.
After about 15 minutes I was brought into a darkened room.  The shades were drawn and the lighting was dim.  I could see two Native American men in chairs facing an empty chair obviously meant for me.  Off to the right side of the room were two more chairs with Native American women sitting in them – fast asleep.  The two women never stirred; they slept through the entire interview and were never mentioned by the men.  There was absolutely no explanation as to who these sleeping women were. The men ignored them and so did I.  Were they the wives of the two men  simply brought along for the interview, but not part of the process?  Were they also interviewers who had fallen asleep out of sheer boredom? 
The two men asked me a series of questions for about half an hour.  I told them of my education, my 6 years of teaching experience.  I explained to them that my sister was an attorney in Santa Fe and through her I had met some Native Americans.  Although total BS, I added that my sister knew this Native American and that Native American.  Of course, much of this discourse had absolutely nothing to do with me.  But, I wanted to come across as a person who believed in the goodness of all children – especially Native American children.
I was told that the interview was over rather abruptly.  I said my good-byes to the two men while averting my eyes from the two sleeping women.  I remember thinking that the room was so dark that I wouldn’t know my interviewers if I ran into them on the street.
I left the school with no hope of getting the job.  I thought that I was probably ill prepared to work with folks who thought it was all right that two women were asleep in the interview room. They probably wanted a Native American teacher – someone who really knew the community and could relate to the children better than me.  I was probably just a token white candidate and they had no intention of hiring me – thus the lack of explanation about the snoring women.
A week later I received a letter that the job was mine and I would start in 3 weeks.  
Real Estate Hint – Underground oil tanks are no longer legal.  If you still have an underground oil tank, it must be removed under full supervision of the local Fire Department before you can sell the house.  If an oil tank was removed from the property in the past you may be asked to produce the certificate from the fire department.  This may be problematic if the tank was removed 20 or 30 years ago.  If you can’t find the fire department’s certificate of compliance, check with your attorney.

Board Games; Gotta Love Em'?

        I am playing board games again. Or rather my family is. Not because we have children hanging out in the house–we are all consenting adults—but because its’ summer and the perfect time to enjoy the traditional simple pleasure of a non-mechanized game. We spend time together and let the conversation flow. Our exchanges may be social; news about family or friends or neighborhood happenings. They may be goofy; teasing about who is going to win and who is going to lose, or which playing piece brings the most luck. They may be meaningful; musing over a disappointment or revealing a  lofty goal. These conversations don’t happen when we are in front of the television, huddled over a computer, or attending to our cell phones. I can’t say they happen over meals that often either. Our meals tend to be more functional than social as we all run busy schedules and have more to get to in that day. But board games, ahh. Everyone playing has put aside at least a portion of time, and isn’t hurrying anywhere. Nirvana.

          We have a friend, who upon discovering our propensity to enjoy board games or card games, said with some horror, “Oh, so you’re one of those. You’re all game people. My wife is one, too.” We all knew he didn’t mean high-tech game people; that would have been more understandable, and acceptable, I’m sure. Nope, we meant, he knew, recoiling, the good old- fashioned kind of games, with a board or a fifty-two care deck.   

        So this is my public confession.  I am one of those.  

        A recent acquaintance who also has one adult son, not to mention a PhD, told me she and three of her friends have a regular board game night. Immediately, I knew this woman was my kind of gal. One of those, and not afraid to say so.    

Favorite Board Games:  With a nod to my blog mate Peggy, who never fails to give us a good tip or two, here are a few of my favorite board games.  Parcheesi, where dice strategy and how you play your rolls is key; Life, where we all get to choose a profession, choose a spouse, choose how many children we want, purchase insurance, and decide when to retire; and Amazing Labyrinth, where those who still have the ability to maintain focus for an extended time can forecast the openings of the labyrinth as people make their moves and come out the winner almost every time.  And, finally, Clue.  I’ve played this game maybe hundreds of times over the years, but there’s always room for one more round with Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, or Professor Plum. Who can resist the draw of the Billiard Room or the Conservatory to ferret out that dangerous candlestick or hefty wrench?  Or the opportunity, in less than an hour, to flush out the villain and put things to rights every single time…     



We have all watched as industries have become computerized.  The banks went to ATMs to cut back on tellers.  The travel agency industry all but died when we started to order airline tickets online. My own industry, residential real estate, has changed dramatically now that folks can look at pictures and videos of houses on their computers.

But, now I am watching as my local libary systematically moves away from professional librarians to machines.  Libraries made a leap into the age of technology with their online system making it possible to reserve books and videos while sitting in your own living room.  This was a boon to readers and avid movie watchers like me.  I no longer had to waste a visit to the library only to find out that the book I want to read is out and all I can do is wait for a phone call from a librarian to let me know when it comes in.  Now the computer will notify me when my book or video is waiting for pickup.

And not only that, I now get email notices when I have 2 days to return an item to the library before I will incur a fine.  I love that!  It has all but eliminated any late fees.

But that’s not all.  A few months ago I noticed a little machine sitting on the side of the checkout desk.  I inquired what the machine was for and the librarian took me through the paces of checking out my own books.  It even prints the slip with the due dates. There wasn’t a big sign or an attempt to show the public how to use the machine unless you asked. It was like the library had a secret that they didn’t want to share.

This week I noticed two new systems at the library.  The first one was a real shocker!  The shelves  of young adult books located directly across from the main desk had been transformed into shelves loaded with items that were reserved.The shelves were sorted by the alphabet presumably so you can find your own pre-ordered book or video by your last  name.  Aha!  They used to keep reserved items behind the desk so it was necessary to ask one of the library ladies to fetch an item for you.  Now we – you and I – can retreive our own reserved books and movies and check them out ourselves – no librarians needed.

The other thing I noticed this week was a computer pad lying next to the scanner on the main desk.  When I took my stack of books to be checked out – deciding for no real reason to use a live person instead of the little machine – the lady put the entire stack on the pad and voila! it scanned all the books at once and printed out the due date list.  No more scanning of each book separately. Oh my!  Now a machine can scan an entire pile of books at once.

I knew the 5 ladies behind the desk were doomed. 

” Oh, I see we can pick up our own reserved items and check out our own books.  Are you worried?”  I  tentatively asked the librarian as she handed over my books.

That launched the poor soon-to-be-obsolete librarian to start her rant.  She told me that she loved her job; all the librarians did, but it was obvious that the public library wouldn’t need them all.  She told me that she didn’t expect to be fired, but the town had not filled an empty job slot when one of the librarians retired recently.  She compared the library to the automobile industry – “You know they used to have people actually build the cars and now they have people watch the machines that build the cars.” 

I sympathized with her explaining that my industry had changed too now that houses were shown on the computer.

“Well, they’ll always need some librarians.” she said.

“Yes, someone will have to restock the shelves, order the books and oversee everything, but they won’t have to check books out anymore.” 

“I know.  Furthermore, they just purchased a cash register.  We have never had a cash register before.  We took care of collecting fines and keeping track of the money – and we were almost always right.  Now they make us use the cash register.  Pretty soon all fines will probably have to be paid by credit card.”

“Yeah.  You’re right.  I’m so sorry.”

And I am sorry.  It is hard to watch people disappear and machines take over no matter how efficient or cost effective they are.  And, I thought of all the college students who are majoring in library science and how they might have a hard time finding a job.  It’s a shame – a real shame!

There is one little caveat to this – I was speaking with a fellow Concordian recently and we were complaining about the librarians.  We both felt that they could smile and even chat with us about books.  I visit the library at least once a week and almost always in the late afternoon.  Of the 5 ladies I see regularly only ONE has ever spoken to me about the books I take out and she has not only recommended books but we have also exchanged opinions of books that we have both read.  Only ONE; the others rarely smile or say hello; one in particular always has a very sour expression on her face as though I am interruping something she has to do that is more important than checking out books.  So, although I hate to see the librarians dwindle down in number, I do feel that they could have garnered more sympathy over the years if they had taken a little bit of interest in what the public is reading. 

Real Estate Hint – The other day I entered an offer for my buyers in a multiple offer situation.  There were 3 offers coming in on the property including ours.  The first thing I told my buyers is to sit down at the computer and compose a letter of two to three paragraphs telling the Seller why they wanted to purchase the home.  In this case my buyers wanted this particular house not only because they thought it was beautiful but also because the wife’s brother lived on the street.  It worked!  Their offer was accepted.  Yes, the buyers offered the Seller a very good price, but they beat a cash offer with a quick closing.  The Seller liked the idea of selling to buyers who had family in the neighborhood!


Fiction Writing

When you are a fiction writer you are forever seeing and hearing tidbits in real life that you might someday weave into a story.  I have not written fiction for a long long time, but I still plan to go back to it.  Non-fiction is not my first love but I have been pursuing it in recent years.  I think this is partially true because my creative juices have been sucked dry by my busy life.  I wrote fiction in high school and college when life was simple and I didn’t have to take care of a child or earn a living.  In my dreams I am the author of the next Great American Novel.  But, will I ever really seriously write fiction again? 

But every once in awhile I hear or see something that I think, “Oh I have to remember that for the book I will write someday!”

I had one of these experiences last Thursday.  I was chatting with a real estate customer, David Caruso, who plans to put his house on the market in the spring.  We were discussing the color he was going to paint the living room to get it ready for the market.  He told me that he could count on his father to help him pick the right color.

“My father was a colorist.” Dave explained. 

I looked at him and asked, “A colorist?  What kind of colorist? You mean a hair colorist?”  surprised because Dave didn’t seem like the type of guy whose father would be a hair colorist – although what kind of guy that would be I don’t know – but that was the only colorist I had ever heard of.

“No” said Dave, “My father was a wallpaper colorist.”

“A wallpaper colorist?  I’ve never heard of that.”

“Yeah, his job was to pick the colors for wallpaper.”

“There is a job for that?”

“Yeah, he did it for years.  In fact, he named wallpaper after me and my sister.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If you look at the old goose wallpaper printed in a variety of colors by General Tire it is named DavidCaruso or DCaruso or DaveC and other wallpaper is named RoseCaruso or RCaruso after my sister.”

“You have got to be kidding!”

“No, really I have wallpaper named after me.  Noone else can say that outside the family!  It is our distinction.”

“No way!”  I laughed.  “That is too cool!” 

 Meaning this is  one of those delicious tidbits that  would be hysterical in a book!  I have to remember to make someone a wallpaper colorist in my novel – whenever I write it.

Real Estate Hint – When you sell your house do not pinch pennies.  Recently I had to get a quote for a customer who has moved to Europe for a Trash Man to clear out his house and garage.  We are talking a major clearout – wood, paint, insect poison, mouse poison, old tools, file cabinets, etc.. The price to bring in dumpsters, dispose of hazardous waste, etc. is going to cost the homeowner over $2000.  The seller was not happy and did not want to pay this large sum.  I had to explain to him that he had no choice.  He had accumulated all this stuff over 25 years and if he wanted to close on his house it all had to be removed.  He had to remember that he was making $600,000 and the $2000 was a necessary cost of selling his home.


Words With Friends

I had to pull myself away from playing Words With Friends to write this blog.  If you like to read or write or play scrabble you will love Words With Friends

Words with Friends – the game that got Alec Baldwin in trouble  – is addictive.  I am currently playing with 3 friends (2 of which have 2 games going on with me simultaneously).  That adds up to 5 games at once.  My Iphone is set to make a little ping noise whenever it is my turn.  So, no matter where I am – watching TV, eating dinner, walking the dog, working at my desk – I know when it is my turn to make a word with the most points possible.

I am competitive enough to try to win every game.  Do I?  No way!  My friends win as often as I do.  Sometimes I just can’t make a good word or my letters are lousy or my friend plays a stupendous word with lots of points and I lose.  It makes me mad and I want to try again.  Thus the never-ending competition.

I have my strategy – look for the triple word, then the double word, then the triple letter, then the double letter spaces and try my hardest to land on them with my letters.   Probably everyone has the same strategy but I don’t  know; we don’t discuss our strategies.

One of my friends spells words that I never knew existed like ka and ai.  Now I play them too.

Since I started playing the game months ago, I have probably wasted a huge number of hours doing so.  The only up side is that I play less Sudoku. 

Want to play?  You can use any smart phone.  But, don’t even start if you don’t want to get addicted.

Now I have to go…I just heard the ping.  It’s my turn…

Real Estate Hint – Realtors spend a lot of time doing odd jobs for their clients.  This week alone I met a French client at the Social Security office to assist her in getting her social security card; opened a house I have listed for the moving company to make an estimate of the amount of furniture for the client’s move to Sweden; called a snow plow man to clear the driveway of a house so the moving company would be able to drive up to the house; brought my own fake fruit to a home so we could fill a basket in her kitchen before the public open house; met a fireman at a home so he could check the smoke alarms.  You get the idea!