Tag Archives: humour

Going Buggy

Remember the old figure of speech, ‘put a bug in your ear’?  It means ‘give you a hint’.  So, the other day I was out in the garden and a bug flew up my nose.  I’m not sure how to interpret that.

What made the whole episode disturbing (other than, hello, a bug up my nose) was the fact that the bug flew directly up my left nostril with all the precision of a shuttlecraft docking in the Starship Enterprise’s shuttle bay.  (Well, maybe a shuttlecraft with a slightly inebriated pilot, because I did feel the bug carom off the inside of my nostril as it rocketed up there.)

Even more worrisome was the fact that the bug didn’t come out.  No matter how much I sneezed and blew, no reassuring bug-body appeared.

So as far as I know it’s still up there, tunnelling slowly but steadily through my sinuses on its way to my brain, where it will lay a zillion eggs that will hatch into hungry little carnivorous worms.  I’d like to say that’s nothing more than a bizarre fantasy on my part; but I’m afraid it might be actually possible after reading about the woman who had a cockroach living in her ear (and there’s a disturbing twist on ‘a bug in your ear’).

The sad fact is that even if my brain had as many wormholes as swiss cheese, it probably wouldn’t noticeably affect my current behaviour.  I’ve been deep in writing again this week (six more chapters, woohoo!) which means I’m perfectly capable of:

  • Not noticing real-life people and events that are right in front of my nose
  • Forgetting that my fictional people and events never actually existed
  • Forgetting to eat, sleep, bathe, and keep important appointments
  • Muttering incomprehensibly and making weird facial grimaces for no apparent reason

On the upside, it’s possible that my resident brain-worms will have minds of their own, which might lend a certain off-the-wall creativity to my future ideas.

Or who knows?  Maybe they’ll just be in single-minded pursuit of their next meal.  Food normally occupies a large portion of my waking thoughts, too, so… dang. I guess I’ll never know whether I’m going buggy.  But if I start vigorously flapping my arms and searching for dark moist tunnels to inhabit, it’s probably time to call the bug-catchers.

Oh, and maybe give Hollywood a call.  It’s been a while since they remade ‘The Fly’.

Anything bugging you this week?

Book 16 update:  I’m on Chapter 17, and Blue Eddy’s has been taken over by folks wearing tinfoil hats to protect themselves against space aliens.  In Aydan’s world, there’s always something…

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Bend Over And Chirp Like A Cricket

Last week Hubby and I were sitting outside on a pleasant evening when this conversation happened:

Hubby: “The crickets are sure loud tonight.”
Me: “Just a whole bunch of lonely hearts lookin’ for love.”
Hubby: “You mean that’s all I had to do twenty years ago?”
Me: “Yep, just stand outside and shriek ‘TAKE ME!’ at the top of your lungs. What could possibly go wrong?”

That conversation came to mind a couple of days ago when I started researching cell phone plans (again).

Despite the fact that there are nine cell towers scattered around within a few miles of us, cellphones don’t get a signal at our place.  But we still need them when we travel, so we have to pay for cellular service we can almost never use.

Canada has the highest cellular prices in the world, so every now and then I go looking for cheaper plans.  That’s when I start feeling like the proverbial cricket.

I surf over to the first site.  “PAY1 ONLY2 $203 PER4 MONTH5 FOR UNLIMITED6 SERVICE7!” it trumpets triumphantly.

That’s ten times less than what we’re paying, woohoo!

Then I peruse the details, which are coyly enumerated in microscopic cream-on-white print buried at the bottoms of the webpages; or sometimes behind cleverly-concealed popups:

  1. Only if pre-paid for two years in advance.
  2. Only on contracts longer than two years.
  3. Excluding access fees, service fees, and ‘because-we-can’ fees.
  4. For the first two months.  After that, the price doubles.
  5. That’s per month, per device, per person.
  6. As much as you want, up to our arbitrary limit.  Over that you pay extra.
  7. If you somehow manage to figure out this deliberately obfuscated process, pay online, and configure your phone all by yourself, we’ll waive the $40 connection fee; but if you contact us even once, you’re on the hook for an extra forty bucks.

Not only does this mean that the final cost works out to about $200 per month for normal usage (which, by an amazing coincidence, is what we’re currently paying), but it also takes an entire day to dig through all the sites and discover that the simplified translation is this:

“You, the customer, are an insignificant insect.  Every provider in Canada colludes to fix prices, and we will charge you whatever we damn well please.  And when we want more revenue, we’ll pull a new “service fee” out of our asses and charge you that, too.  Muwahahaha!!!”

All of which makes me feel like sticking my head out the door and shrieking, “FINE!  TAKE ME!  JUST TAKE ME!!”

But I don’t dare.  One of them might hear, and then I’ll get hit with the Voice-Only Outdoor Pickup Service Fee*.

* Fee is doubled for cranky middle-aged red-haired women.

Book 16 update:  A record writing week — eight chapters under my belt!  I’m on Chapter 10 now, and wedding bells are ringing.  You’ll never guess for whom!

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Garden Goodies

We’re at the height of the gardening season now, happily inundated by a flood of fruits and veggies; which only goes to show that gardeners are a bunch of freakish masochists (or maybe that’s just me).

You’d think sane people would avoid a hobby that requires them to go outside during the hottest part of the year and perform vigorous labour, then return to the house lugging pounds of produce that needs to be peeled/trimmed/chopped and then processed in boiling water over a hot stove.  But what the hell; if it made sense, it wouldn’t be a hobby.

I harvested about 150 pounds of strawberries in June, and now the rest of the veggies are attempting to follow suit (though fortunately not quite that enthusiastically).  I’ve picked forty pounds of beans so far, and they’re finally “slowing down” to only about six pounds per picking.

I only planted three zucchini seeds this year, so that means I’ll only be feeding all our friends and neighbours instead of having to make multiple deliveries to the Food Bank as well.  Ditto cucumbers; but we may have miscalculated on the corn.  If you don’t see a blog post for a while, you’ll know we’re trying to dig/eat our way out from under a giant heap of kernels.

The veggies’ success hasn’t exactly been shared by the flower seeds, though.  I optimistically planted the seeds in our perennial beds this spring, but I didn’t take the time to mark their locations — I figured I’d be able to tell which were weeds and which were flowers when everything came up. (You gardeners, stop snickering.)

In fact, I did figure it out. It was quite simple: If it looked pale and weedy and it was struggling to survive, it was a desirable plant.  If it was huge and green and growing vigorously, it was a weed.  But at least our established perennials performed beautifully!

Here are a few of the blooms we’ve been enjoying this summer:
(Click on photos to see full-size versions.)

Dahlias

 

Romneya coulteri (California Tree Poppy – Fried Egg Plant)

 

LA hybrid lily

 

Another LA hybrid lily

 

Gorgeous roses

 

More dahlias

 

Poppies

 

Echinacea x hybrida ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

 

Sky-high sunflowers

 

Echinacea purpurea

 

Here’s our most unexpected summer harvest:  A pineapple.  Two years ago, Hubby potted up the top of a pineapple that I’d bought at the grocery store.  The plant grew, and you may recall that back in April I posted a photo of the baby pineapple that was forming on one of the plants.

Well, it actually ripened; and yesterday we picked it and ate it.  Yum!

Our pineapple harvest for the year.

All my sweating in the garden is rewarded with more than yummy veggies and pretty flowers:  I also get to watch the hummingbirds!  They’re amazing — so tiny, and so fearless.  They do their rounds of the flowers less than three feet away from me, completely unconcerned by my presence.

Sometimes they hover a few feet from my face, staring.  Then they’ll swoop over a few feet to the left, then to the right, studying me from all angles.  I think they’re wondering what kind of non-human creature I am, with my giant broad-brimmed gardening hat.

Anna’s hummingbird with scarlet runner bean blossoms

 

Rufous hummingbird with scarlet runner bean blossoms

What’s new in your neck of the woods this week?

Book 16 update:  I’ve plotted far enough to get started — writing begins this week! Woohoo!

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Tea… Ahhhh. (Or ‘AAAAAAGH!!!’)

After we moved into our new home three years ago, I developed a tea ritual:  Almost every morning I take my mug outside to the front porch.  Even in winter, I wrap up in a blanket and enjoy my tea outdoors. It’s a lovely interlude of peace and serenity… or it was, until last week.

In the summer, my ritual has an extra step: I have to put a hat on Hubby’s car. Not because the car or I care anything about fashion; it’s just that when the sun is at its summer height, it reflects annoyingly off the windshield and into my eyes.  My wide-brimmed hat is always by the door, so that’s my default sunshade.

Last week I carried out my mug of tea and sat down in my favourite chair, only to receive a ‘glaring’ reminder that I’d forgotten to put the hat on the car. I hauled myself up again, grabbed the hat, and plopped it onto the windshield before returning to my chair.

And that’s when everything went to hell.

We still don’t have a proper front porch — it’s just a patch of gravel awaiting concrete. We’ve laid a small piece of plywood down so we don’t get our feet dirty, but only the front legs of the chairs are on the plywood. So they’re a tad unstable.  As was I. (I realize the jury is still out on my mental stability; but I’m talking about physical stability here.)

My foot bobbled on the edge of the plywood and I sat down rather more quickly and inaccurately than I’d intended. My hand caught the edge of the little table that held my tea mug, and my butt hit the seat cushion at the same time as approximately a pint of hot tea.

Turns out that our chair cushions are waterproof enough to hold a pint of tea in a convenient butt-shaped puddle for exactly the amount of time it takes for two short messages to flash through my stunned synapses: “Shit, I spilled my tea” and “OH-SHIT-THAT’S-HOT!

I launched out of the chair like it was an ejection seat, then immediately turned my ejected seat into the breeze in an attempt to cool the steaming fabric. Then, standing there plucking soggy pants away from my parboiled butt and eyeing the chair with its wet cushion and incriminating puddle below, I burst out laughing. Not for the first time, I gave thanks that we live out in the middle of nowhere and there were no witnesses.

I always drop a few ice cubes into my tea to bring it down to drinkable temperature, so the only damage was to my dignity.  Fortunately I wasn’t over-endowed with dignity in the first place, so it’s not much of a loss.

But it’s gonna be a while before I can completely relax again with a mug of tea…

Book 16 update:  Everything has been on hold while I’ve dealt with the time-consuming and annoying transfer of my paperback publishing to a new distributor.  It’s (mostly) done now, so I’m looking forward to getting back to Book 16 this week!

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Off In The Weeds

Maybe I’ve been self-isolating for just a little too long.  I’m talking to weeds now, and it almost cost me a friendship.

But it wasn’t my fault that I apparently phoned my very nice neighbour and told her she wasn’t welcome at our place.  No; the blame lies with our strawberry patch, and rampant weeds.  (It’s good to be a fiction writer — we can manufacture bullshit to rationalize even the most egregious behaviour.)

Here’s what happened:

Our garden is in full swing, which is my oblique way of admitting that we planted far too much as usual.  I’ve picked 150 pounds of strawberries so far, and everything else is doing its best to compete with that over-the-top-abundance.  And when I say, ‘everything else’, that includes the weeds.

But the strawberries didn’t quit after yielding 150 pounds. They were still pumping out ten pounds of berries every second day when I cried ‘Uncle’ and started inviting friends and neighbours over to pick. (Thank goodness we have lots of room so social distancing was easy.)

One of our neighbours planned to drop by sometime in the late morning, and she said she’d call before she came. I was outside weeding and enjoying the beautiful weather, so I stuck the phone in my pocket.

Spotting one of those long vine-like weeds wrapped around a potato plant like a malevolent steel cable, I hunkered down to unravel it.

“You’re… not… welcome here!” I growled, just as the phone handset beeped.

When I took it out and checked the display, my heart plummeted: “Missed call”, along with my neighbour’s number.

Oh, SHIT.

I dialled her back, and she picked up immediately.

“Um…” I began sheepishly. “Did I just, um… hang up on you?”

“No,” she replied, sounding puzzled.  “I didn’t call you yet.”

Whew!  I had pocket-dialled the call list; not my neighbour.

I sagged with relief and explained the situation, and laughter ensued.  It was a little embarrassing, but I figured it was better to be that weirdo who talks to weeds than that rabid bitch who invites people over and then rudely rescinds the invitation.

And as soon as I got off the phone, I yanked out that weed with extreme prejudice.

I’d love to report that I’ve learned my lesson and I don’t talk to weeds anymore; but that would be a lie.  The only thing I’ve actually learned is not to carry the phone to the garden.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who talks to weeds…

Book 16 update:  Initial plotting is almost complete, and I’m hoping to start putting words on the page this week.  Woohoo!

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Plumbing The Depths

I’d just like to say up front that I hate plumbing.

I’ll tackle carpentry, automotive, and electrical projects without complaint; but I hate plumbing.  Not because it’s difficult; just because it’s disgusting.

I have a pretty strong stomach.  I can deal with blood, injuries, and even vomit without flinching.  It takes a lot to gross me out; but plumbing does it.  I don’t know whether it’s the gray and glistening slime, the stench, the revolting schloorrrppp sound of pulling out a giant clog, or all three; but it’s almost enough to activate my gag reflex.

Not quite, though.  What it does activate is my mouth.  My exclamations of disgust are completely involuntary and frequently unprintable: “Eeewww!  Bleah!  Eugh!  Aw, gross!  Ech!  Blargh!  Yuck!”  (Etcetera.  The full list would require an F-bomb alert at the top of this post.)  Those with delicate sensibilities would be smart to flee the scene if they see me wearing a resolute expression and clutching a pipe wrench.

That happened last week.  After months of avoidance, I had finally reached my breaking point with a sluggish sink drain. It’s been a long time since I plumbed the depths, so my memory of revulsion had faded and I started the project without much dread.

But as soon as I got the P-trap off and slimy reeking gobs of I-dare-not-name-this started slithering out and splatting into my bucket, my fountain of expletives surged up and over.  And when a particularly large splat spattered slime onto me, well… let’s just say you wouldn’t want to have been there.

The good news is that the clog was easy (albeit repulsive) to fix, and the drain is fine now. The bad news is that I might have melted a piece of the ABS pipe with the heat of my invective.  And I think I lost a layer of skin from scrubbing my hands ten times in a row afterward.

And scrubbing the sink.  And scrubbing the cabinet under the sink.  And scrubbing the floor just in case some molecules of grossness escaped…

Have I mentioned that I really hate plumbing?

Book 16 update:  I started plotting this week and the ideas are flying!  This week’s goal is to round up my brain and point the story in some recognizable direction.  Stay tuned…

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I Hear Bagpipes!

“I hear bagpipes!”  Those three words are guaranteed to convulse my friends and me with laughter.

Yes, there’s a rational explanation. (Or at least as rational as I ever get.) It’s a reference to a little-known Canadian movie, “Men With Brooms”, starring and directed by Canadian actor Paul Gross, and I was reminded of it when I got a bagpipe-related joke in my email this week.

The movie is spiced with oddball glimpses of waddling beavers, and a lone bagpiper is frequently seen and heard for no apparent reason.  It also contains one of my favourite lines of dialog ever:  “How could you forget about three hundred pounds of defecating menace?!?”  The whole movie is like that:  Funny, irreverent, and well to the left of weird.  It never fails to make me laugh.

I was a child when I heard bagpipes for the first time. We were attending a funeral in our little country church, and the bereaved family had engaged two pipers who marched down the aisle in full cry.  (Or should that be ‘full tortured-cat-screaming hell-shriek’?)

Good Lord. If anybody didn’t have religion before the pipers started, they’d have been praying by the time they were done.  Bagpipes should be deployed from a safe distance, not used as a close-quarters weapons.  The sound was so deafening in the small space, I thought my poor pulverized brain was going to leak out my ears.

But ever since “Men With Brooms”, whenever one of our group hears bagpipes, we take it as a sign that it’s time to get together and watch the movie again.  Sadly, we’re now spread across four provinces so the get-together is out; but one of these days I’ll pour myself a nice cold quintessentially-Canadian beer, dust off the DVD, and laugh over some bagpipes and beavers.

To quote another line from the show, “We’re talkin’ the kind with teeth, right?”

Right.

Book 16 update:  I took a much-needed two-week vacation after Book 15 was released, but now Book 16 is knocking at my mental doors.  Plotting begins this week!

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Wait, Who Is This?

One of the cool things about being a fiction writer is that I’m constantly learning new things.  Some are interesting and useful; some are boring but necessary; and a few are downright disturbing.  Sadly, the disturbing ones can never be purged from my brain.  (Like the photo of the naked woman holding a severed pig’s head that I discovered back in 2013 when I was looking for cover art for Book 6.  Why?  Why???)

But mostly my new discoveries are fascinating and fun.  F’rinstance, until I decided to publish the Never Say Spy series as audiobooks, I knew nothing about ‘voice artists’.  My narrator, Michelle Armeneau, has opened my eyes (or rather, ears).

What a talent!  She makes each character’s voice distinctive by subtly modulating the pitch, cadence, accent, speed, and forcefulness of her speech.  I’m blown away by her ability to create unique voices, because I have absolutely zero vocal ability.  I don’t have a great track record with voice recognition, either.

I have a few friends with similar voices who occasionally phone and start chatting without identifying themselves.  If I’ve grabbed the phone without checking the call display, it can get awkward. When somebody’s yakking away like we’re best friends (and I’m pretty sure we are), I’m embarrassed to stop them and ask, “Wait, who is this?”

Plus, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by not recognizing their voice, so I try to figure out who it is by the context of the conversation. Usually that works, but sometimes it backfires badly when I’m long minutes into the conversation and still have no idea who’s on the other end of the line.

Then I have to do the Talk of Shame: “Um, hey, it’s been great gabbing to you all this time, but… I have no idea who you are.”  I’m sure most normal people don’t have this problem, but ‘normal’ is another one of those admirable qualities that seems beyond my grasp.

Anyway, Michelle and I have always communicated via email, and a few weeks ago we decided to have our first phone conversation.  I’d like to proudly point out that, having just finished reviewing eleven hours of Michelle’s narration, I recognized her voice instantly.

I’d like to point that out; but I can’t.  The truth is that if I hadn’t been expecting her call at the appointed time, I wouldn’t have known who it was.  I thought her speaking voice would be the same as her narrative voice, but that’s yet another persona.  I’m in awe!

And a bit worried.  If she ever decides to mess with me, she could call me with a different voice every day and I’d be doomed to repeat the Talk of Shame over and over.

Fortunately, she’s far too nice to do that.  And she’s far too busy to waste time on prank calls — she’s hard at work narrating Book 4.

Yes, it’s true: Book 3 is now available in audiobook, and Book 4 is under way – woohoo!  Thanks, Michelle!

Get REACH FOR THE SPY on Audible

Middle-aged bookkeeper Aydan Kelly never wanted to moonlight as a spy, but she doesn’t have a choice. Working with computer networks in a secured building sounds safe, but it turns out the job’s a killer – literally.

When Aydan’s trusted co-worker is shot while committing an apparently treasonous act, Aydan embarks on a secret mission to clear his name.

But her investigation casts suspicion on the director of operations himself. If he’s a double agent, Aydan’s in more danger than she ever imagined…and national security hangs in the balance. 

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Dishing The Dirt

Wow, the last few months have been so crazy-busy, I feel like I’ve been living under a large rock.  I kinda look as though I have, too.  I’d like to blame the COVID-19 isolation for my dishevelled appearance; but with gardening season in full swing, well… even basic personal hygiene seems a bit futile.

I get up, shower, and sit down at the breakfast table all shiny-clean. Mere hours later, I’m caked with dirt, soaked in sweat, and greasy with sunscreen. My fingernails are pitch-black crescents, and I have hat-head worthy of a clown show or a horror movie.  (Is there really a difference between the two?)

Here’s the embarrassing truth:  I’m perfectly happy like that. What’s more, I love wearing old clothes because I don’t have to worry about wrecking them. I’ve been wearing the same gardening jeans for at least fifteen years. They’ve been exposed to so much sunlight that they’re almost white, except where they’ve been permanently stained by dirt, engine grease, paint, caulking, glue, and/or other unnamed substances. They’ve fallen apart and been sewn back together so often that even their patches have patches.

But they’re comfortable.  And I live out in the sticks so nobody can see me; and even if they do see me and judge me, they’re far enough away that I don’t know they’re doing it.  So it’s all good.

Problem is, that kind of laid-back comfort gets insidious.  If I’m not careful, I’ll become that stinky old lady with the tattered clothes, matted hair, and feral expression, who shows up at the grocery store twice a year to buy staple foods before vanishing back into the dilapidated hovel whence she came.

Fortunately Hubby is much more civilized than I, and he somehow manages to stay clean(ish) no matter what he does.  So I have a model for normal human behaviour; and at least I’m still capable of cleaning up when it’s time for cover photos (albeit with a big assist from Photoshop).

Which, of course, is my ever-so-subtle segue to dishing today’s dirt:

It’s release day for Book 15, A SPY FOR HELP, woohoo!  (And whew.  It’s finally done! But the next book is already knocking at my mental doors…)

Off-duty secret agent Aydan Kelly knows she shouldn’t interfere when her lover finally locates his long-lost sister, but she’s afraid Arnie’s too upset to stay on the right side of the law.

Arnie’s sister has been outed in a social media firestorm, and threats against her escalate to a violent attack.  Aydan and Arnie rush to her rescue, only to discover she’s being targeted by a powerful crime lord from her unsavory past.  As danger mounts, Aydan realizes Arnie will do anything to save his sister… including murder.

Caught between love and legality, Aydan faces an unthinkable choice:  Risk her career and freedom by turning a blind eye to Arnie’s deadly plan, or save the crime lord and condemn Arnie to prison and his sister to death.

Click here for links to retailers

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Marriage Is A Short Sentence

Now that I’m in the final stages of polishing Book 15, my brain has apparently decided to become creative in more questionable ways.  For instance, last week I figured out why language skills seem to diminish with age.

It’s not normal aging.  It’s not even dementia.  No, the cause is much more widespread and insidious.

It’s marriage.

I determined this through exhaustive scientific research, of course.  To be exact, it occurred to me at the dinner table.

Hubby and I were chatting about nothing in particular when I mentioned that I’d finally taken time to clean my engagement ring.  I’m an avid gardener and even though I always wear gardening gloves, fine particles of soil sift through the fabric and sully my diamond.

I attempted to communicate that idea as follows:

“I always wear gloves, but you know how fine dust always comes through the…”

I didn’t bother to complete the sentence.  Hubby was already nodding, so I knew he’d gotten it.

And that’s when it hit me:  After being together for twenty years, we don’t have to finish our sentences anymore.  We each know what the other means.  (Or we don’t; and then we accuse each other of conversations that never actually took place.  Marriage is all about give and take:  Give blame, take credit.)

But it proves my point:  We don’t lose language skills as we get older; we just expect others to decipher our meaning after only a few cryptic words.

And Hubby and I have only been married for a couple of decades.  People who have been married for fifty years probably don’t even need to use nouns.  In another few decades, this will be our dinner conversation:

“Did you…”

“Yep.”

“How about…”

“Uh-huh. But don’t forget the…”

“Got it.”

If we were married even longer, we could probably communicate with only the lift of an eyebrow and a nod.  (Or the lift of a certain finger; but that’s more of a universal gesture so I’m excluding it from my scholarly research.)

But now that I’ve identified the problem, I’m stumped for a solution.  It seems like a lot of work to change my habits just for the sake of keeping up language skills; and it’ll likely be a while before the COVID-19 isolation protocols are relaxed enough that I can visit regularly with people who require me to express complete ideas.

So I guess I’ll have to start conversing with inanimate objects that can’t possibly nod and indicate their understanding after only a few words.  As long as self-isolation doesn’t last so long that I develop an unhealthy relationship with my teapot or my dining room chair, everything should be fine.

But if they start replying…

I don’t think I’ll finish that sentence.

Book 15 update:  I’m expecting the final feedback from my beta readers this week, so stay tuned for a release date announcement in my next post!

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