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Archive for February, 2011

H-D Sprint Model on Varese, Italy Assembly Line

Congrats Ken!  You follow in the famous celebrity footsteps of Eddie Murphy, George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Woody Harrelson and Michael J. Fox who also turn 50 years old this year.

Factually speaking,  Ken was born March 11, 1961.  The year marks the “swingin’ sixties,” being a member of the baby boomer generation when John F. Kennedy was president, when race riots occurred throughout cities in the U.S., when the Peace Corps was established and the president advises American families to build bomb shelters as the cold war worsens when U.S.S.R. detonates a 50-megaton hydrogen bomb in the largest man-made explosion in history.  Then the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Cuba, twenty-eight men died on Texas Tower No. 4 in the North Atlantic and by year’s end there were more than 2,000 U.S. military “advisors” in South Vietnam.

In popular culture, 1961 brought the last episode of “I Love Lucy” to air, FCC Chairman (Newton Minow) claims that television is a “vast wasteland” (déjà vu all over again!), Johnson & Johnson introduced Tylenol, Harley-Davidson introduced the Italian assembled Sprint model, FM stereo is introduced and Ken got a hawt girlfriend, Barbie.  Yeah that Ken & Barbie – Ken Carson.

H-D Barbie Collectible Ken Doll #2

It was 50 years ago when Mattel introduced Ken with his trim crew cut, stiff carriage, and vacant eyes ready to do Barbie’s bidding.  That aging Ken now has a scruffy beard, shoulder-length hair and a patch of old-growth chest hair that might make Tom Selleck proud.  It certainly looks a lot like the core targeted customer segment of H-D.

But what about the new Ken?  The new modeling paradigm of American masculinity today seems to be that of men in their 20’s who hang out in a novel sort of limbo land – sort of a hybrid state of adolescence and responsible self-reliance — many still living at home with their parents!  These so-called “men” talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age and their idea of a perfect guys-night-out is a hanging around the PlayStation 3 with your guitar “bandmates,” or a trip down to the local ‘bucks’ with college friends who have yet to complete two semesters and are perpetually looking to land that dream job…  Yeah, the twenty-something’s have the appetite for luxury, but not the cash and given the slow pace of economic recovery it may be a long while on that job.

My advice?  Mattel should consider partnering Ken up with the likes of BRP/Can-Am to promote Ken & Barbies electric-hybrid roadster sensibilities and showcase that it’s okay to be more fuel-efficient and have greener CO2 emissions on the open road.

Photos courtesy of H-D and Mattel.

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He’s a preacher’s son, a perpetual optimist, and in a nod to the “Imported from Wisconsin” team he rides a Harley-Davidson Road King.

I’m talking about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who pledged a “return to frugality in government.”

Harley motorcycles and government frugality are two things I can rally behind, but just 6-weeks into his term, the badger state protesters, mostly public-sector workers have seized the same building and are comparing the governor to Hitler and Darth Vader.

The trigger?  A bill which would reduce most public-sector workers of their union rights and pare back their benefits. The protesters interpreted “frugality” as code for “union busting” and erupted into dueling rallies and slogan chants.

In my overly basic description, unions have two sides.  One is the great positive influence on democracy of people banding together for equal and fair treatment by employers.  The other is the misuse of that power to force too many concessions from employers, or become unreasonable about the union making concessions when economic conditions have changed.  In fact, watching the teachers demonstrate in Wisconsin I wonder how all these people obtained college degrees because a 6th grader understands that if you have $50 in the bank, you can’t withdraw $500.  Can they spell bankruptcydeficit, or foreclosure?  And if your taxes are increased (suggested by legislatures who like gov. welfare programs and want someone else to pay for them), will you have more money or less to spend?

“Frugal” may describe Gov. Walker, but for many Americans we’re in ‘frugal fatigue’ fearing a job loss any day, coping with rising health care costs and hoping for any opportunity to break the economic gridlock and return to the good ‘ol days of 2005.

Take Harley-Davidson who was on a high-speed-train to utter collapse.  They had to reduce labor costs and gain worker flexibility to remain competitive in the new economy.  They stated it would move operations from Milwaukee to Kansas City if it did not get a new union contract with lots of worker concessions. They also had threatened to move operations from York to Shelbyville, Ky., if it could not get a contract in York.  The company never blinked and I don’t think it was an empty threat of playing one location against another, and the reality was they have the capability of moving if they want too — anytime.  The company wasn’t expecting much and didn’t get any pushback from the unions given the dismal job market and in the past 22 months, Harley-Davidson has negotiated competitive labor contracts with the unions, exited non-core brands, expanded internationally, rebuilt its balance sheet, and addressed the scarcity value of the brand.

Will there be fewer people employed at $35.00 an hour to manufacture a H-D motorcycle?  Yes,  but this wasn’t some proud attempt at “union busting” by the company management.  It was about survival of the company and for the remaining few people employed it was about work or do without!

So, for all the Wisconsin fans and Wisconsonites in these troubling times – for the love of the Super Bowl champions, Bucky the badger and of course, the beer (Pabst, Schiltz, Miller and Blatz) – can we all just agree and get united to pitch in a bit more on health care and retirement benefits like the rest of us in the non-public, non-union job sectors and break the gridlock?!

Photo courtesy of WI., collective bargaining rights protestors.

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Hollywood (circa:1921)

In Hollywood, morals clauses began cropping up starting in 1921, when silent-film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of raping and accidentally killing a young actress at a wild party in San Francisco.  A series of scandals led to popular outrage and calls for censorship.

A morals clause allows a buyer to bail on a contract if a star’s conduct is detrimental to the buyers interest.

In the late 1940s, morals clauses provided a convenient out for studios looking to get rid of suspected communists in Hollywood.  For example Ring Lardner Jr. was among the “Hollywood 10” who were notified that their studio deals were being dumped under the morals clauses.  These days there are other forces that push on top stars as an actor who has a ‘history’ can be much riskier to employ because bond companies generally don’t want to insure a motion picture or TV show that depends on such a person.

And speaking of morals, communists and conduct being “detrimental to a buyers interests” we have TV personality of defunct West Coast Chopper fame and Austin Speed Shop owner, Jesse James –  a heartwarming story of a man who dresses up in Nazi garb (a joke he states), cheats — repeatedly — on his universally beloved wife with a tattooed stripper, the Amish-raised Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, but turns it all around and gets engaged to yet another tattoo enthusiast, Kat Von D (a.k.a. Miami Ink).

So in a world where words speak volumes, Gallery Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint determined that a Jesse James memoir is what you’ve been waiting for and is going to hit bookshelves later this year.  James who writing experience is limited to, uh, well, nothing I can think of will write the tell-all book for those fans that want to know all the details about re-hab, his infidelities and how he found true love.  The memoir is called “American Outlaw” not to be confused with the movie of a similar title, but it looks like bad is good again!

And speaking of tattoo chronicles… Kat Von D has her own illustrated diary that offers up an intimate look at her life and art.

Photos courtesy of Kat Von D, and Ralph Barton/Vanity Fair (circa 1921).

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Kearl Module Transport Project

It’s a classic battle.  On one side are the corporations who would inject millions of dollars into struggling rural economies and justify the action as an economic benefit pitted against National environmental groups who state it will pose a threat to public safety and a risk to the environment.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

If you live in the northwest and have ever made it to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally then you’ve likely traveled over Lolo Pass, (U.S. Highway 12).  I’ve ridden this route several times to and from Sturgis.  In fact, last year our group traveled this route from the East going West and were amazed at the high-quality level of what seemed like freshly laid asphalt.  The route hugs the serpentine banks of the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers and road signs bear the silhouettes of the 19th-century explorers Lewis and Clark.  There is a particular interesting segment of the highway where you’ll read signs proclaiming the next 99-miles is nothing but S-curves.  And they are not kidding!  The National Scenic Byway is a treasure and one that should to be experienced by motorcycle enthusiasts slowly in appreciation.

So what’s the issue?  Well it’s complicated… a local issue having global impacts.

It’s not well known, but Imperial Oil and ConocoPhillips are planning to ship hundreds of tons of oil equipment up the Columbia River, destined for the Kearl Lake oil sands project near Fort McMurray in Alberta as part of the Kearl Module Transport Project (KMTP).  Once those shipments reach Lewiston on the Washington/Idaho border they will then be loaded on to gigantic, multi-lane wide trucks weighing upwards of 500,000 lbs (semi-trucks generally max out at 80,000 lbs), and from there, the equipment would inch its way along Idaho’s stretch of U.S. 12, through the Clearwater National Forest, into Montana and points beyond (See map above).  These so-called “megaloads” could be up to 3-stories high, occupy 24 feet side-to-side (the full width of U.S. 12) and be 200 feet long.  The companies will spend more $21 million for permits and hundreds of highway modifications to accommodate the loads.

What we have here is a French company shipping Korean-made products on Dutch trucks to a Canadian work-site, that has the potential to destroy one of our most prestigious scenic byways and flagship motorcycle routes in the northwest!

Emmert "Mega-Load" on U.S. Highway 12

I realize it’s easy for anyone, including myself to lob a dismissive one-liner… but, does anyone think this is a one-time occurrence?  I don’t.  In fact, Imperial Oil, hopes to move 207 separate “modules” to Fort McMurray. For each load it will take the trucks nine nights to cover the route through Idaho and Montana.  Sure there were some modifications made and paid for by the companies, including additional pullouts along the route and raised or buried power lines — so the route could handle the shipments — but, the route is being actively marketed as a gateway to a valuable yet relatively undiscovered oversized shipping corridor—primarily utilizing Highway 12 — that ties the Pacific Rim to Canada and the interior U.S.  The Lewiston port’s website states in a section titled “Columbia-Snake Corridor and Highway 12: The West Coast Alternative.”

“The carbon footprint, transportation, permitting and strategic planning costs of utilizing this route [are] significantly less than shipping through alternate marine routes importing into the United States with the same destination.”

As is always the case in these type situations both sides ‘lawyered up’ and in record time it was run through the Idaho Supreme Court who in January ruled/approved 4-shipments through the “permanent” corridor.  More information is available in a well researched and fact-filled article by Alex Sakariassen (Missoulan News) that provides a great overview of the various factors in this issue that impacts Idaho and Montana residents; now and in the future.

Since the ruling, the second “mega-load” left Lewiston last Thursday night.  And as you might expect, winter weather got worse and the “mega-load” was held in position for, as Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) claimed, “routine vehicle maintenance”.  The short journey is now taking at least 11 days!   And if that wasn’t enough to make you scratch your head, Emmert International is using Idaho State Police (ISP) as escorts for the ConocoPhillips mega-load transports.  Emmert is footing the bill, but Idaho lawmakers still have to give their authorization/approval for overtime and associated costs for Idaho troopers to accompany the mega-loads.

Next up is surely a Discovery Channel series…  chronicles of the “mega-load” where the burly, bearded, sleep deprived, derring-do drivers and swashbuckling navigators traverse Lolo Pass with the threat of activists breaking rigs or plunging into the ice-cold river to haul their indispensable cargo to the Canadian oil mines… An ideological conflict and adventure on Monday nights at 9pm central.  Advertising sponsors could be BP and that would bring an end to a great highway for motorcyclists!

UPDATE: February 28, 2011 – According to this report Imperial Oil confirmed that due to weather delays they will be downsizing the 30 “mega-loads” into 60 smaller loads for the freeways and bypassing the more direct route on Hwy 12 through Idaho and Montana.   So, after telling the public for more than a year there were no alternative routes…suddenly the oil company gets slowed down and they find an alternative route…somethings fishy in Idaho!

Photo’s courtesy of Boise Weekly (Emmert); NY Times (Map).

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Let’s be clear.  Lady Gaga (a.k.a. Stefani Joanne Anglina Germanotta) grates on me.

Her lifetime achievement of ten songs are not only a derivative, but uninspired.  More on music later.

She’s been everywhere: award shows, gay-rights rallies, magazine covers, stadiums, YouTube, Letterman, SNL, Grammy’s, etc.  She consistently makes headlines for wearing outrageous outfits – a meat dress here, a spiky scepter there – and for spouting sound bites such as, “I can mentally give myself an orgasm” or “I smoke a lot of pot when I write songs” … it’s gag-a, gag-a all the time.

She is clearly a celebrity overexposed and should just go away.  But, her “little monsters” are goo goo over gaga and won’t let that happen so, what to do?

Call Mark-Hans Richer to suggest he create and capitalize on a “Sputnik Moment” as President Obama evangelized.  So here it is… drum roll please…the headline would read: Harley-Davidson signs Lady Gaga to an endorsement deal!  I can’t think of anyone else other than Lady Gaga who cuts across multiple gender identities, social boundaries, is an erotic taboo breaker, a mainstream manufactured product who claims to be singing for freaks, the rebellious and the dispossessed.  If there ever was a Harley-Davidson brand ambassador she would be it!

So, I put the question out to the Northwest Harley Blog think tank (a.k.a. my pet cat Smurf!) and the name H-D: Lady Gaga Edition rose to the top.  A close second was Lady Gaga: Dare To Be Different clothing line.  Honestly I think Lady Gaga’s fashion style is weird and qualifies her for worst dressed, but what do I know?  My fashion wardrobe is mostly black t-shirts.  However, the youth crowd demographic — which H-D desperately seeks – see’s her as agent provocateur.

Now I could wax on about some ideas of a limited edition, “Bites of Enlightenment” Sportster model with Beef Jerky strips as the paint theme or “The Fame Monster” FatBoy model complete with a “Glam” accessory kit like a hair bow, hat, sunglasses, gloves and even a couture neck brace!   But you’d likely think I’m just grousing and I wanted to get back to music.

Speaking of, there’s no cheating music.  Let’s be clear, you can imitate, you can rip off what’s been done before, but there is no short cut.  There’s a schism between “performers” and true artistry.  The artist stories are all the same.  They bought records and practiced in their basements until they were good enough to get a gig.  Then they gigged long enough until someone noticed.  Then they got a chance and some broke through.

The Eagles - 1973 on BBC

Speaking of breaks.  A reader emailed me a video.  My jaw dropped.  It was an Eagles performance on the BBC.  It was like being transported back to 1973 instantly.

So for all you Gaga haters out there the clip begins with “Train Leaves Here This Morning.”  What’s stunning is the band is sitting on stools singing all the music.  ALL the music.  Incredible harmonies.  There’s no one in the background, nothing electronic-fied or on tape.  The 4-part harmonies are almost perfect.  And when something is almost perfect you get “chicken skin.”  Hell, Bernie Leadon is wearing a UCLA t-shirt which was likely the first thing in his suitcase.  It was about the music not the look.  Randy Meisner smiles when singing “A Certain Kind of Fool” and when Don Henley sings “Witchy Woman” it takes you back to the first time you ever heard it, when you had no idea who he was.  This is a band.  Remember bands?

This is not Glee.  It’s not a look-a-like tribute to Madonna.  It’s like stumbling onto the Dead Sea Scrolls.  You can be broke and still sing “Take It Easy” with the wind in your face on the open road and you’re right where you want to be.  It’s reminiscent of a time where radio was about music, not commercials.  This is the way it use to be.  Something that exists in the mind of the artist/players not some stylist standing in front of the mirror perfecting your ‘do.

Photo courtesy of Lady Gaga, The Eagles, BBC and various publishers.

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Are you Hokiddingme!

It’s true.  The press release is HERE with an accompanying H-D executive quote:

“We’re excited about what the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge represents to our riders,” said Steve Piehl, Harley-Davidson Director of Customer Experience. “The new direction of being more about a personal test of touring endurance, where rider and machine stretch the boundaries of long-distance touring, appeals to us. It’s a perfect match for the superior touring experience and capabilities of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. ‘Hoka Hey’ translates to ‘It’s a good day to ride!’ and that is always the case on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.”

Does the Harley-Davidson corporate firewall prevent Google searches?  Or is the company desperate for publicity – even bad publicity?

There are so many lingering questions about the legitimacy of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge that even after Will Barclay, the so-called winner of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, stated the $500,000 in prize money was wired to his bank account – no one believed him – he won’t produce proof – and months after the race the drum beat of rage in the motorcycle forums and Facebook pages about allegations of a full-blown scam and improprieties of Big Jim Durham/Redcloud continues unabated.

Is it possible for a 3-country, 14-day rally to get arranged, promoted, staffed and managed in such a short time (HHC 2011 is August 20, 2011), and come off with fewer legal threats, contradictions, communication issues, controversy and disorganization than last year?

And Harley-Davidson wants to entrust their brand with this organization?!

Photo courtesy of HHC/H-D.

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"No Cages" Advertising

It’s official.

The first work from Harley-Davidson’s new ‘hookup’ with Boulder, CO.-based crowdsourcing agency Victor & Spoils has debuted on YouTube.  The consumer-created spot was born of a new agency model that H-D adopted after parting with longtime agency Carmichael Lynch last year.

Watch the YouTube video HERE.

Congrats and a shout out to Whit Hiler, the Kentuckian who’d submitted the “No Cages” original idea that is also part of Harley’s HD1 factory customization program in which buyers can design their own rides.

It’s an old and improved formula, but it doesn’t make me want to part with my cash!  Maybe you will?  It doesn’t have that viral feel where people are watching the video and then instantly going to Twitter and Facebook, to start a dialogue.

We live in an “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” culture, where speed to stardom and availability of technology makes about anyone a creative director. And this video has a get it done fast, good enough is good enough look.   In the internet world, where everything happens now, this is anathema.  Everything’s here today, gone tomorrow.  Like a lot of advertising these days, the big idea is lost and the execution is vanilla.  I would have thought that V&S’s multiple years of experience would have vetted out the creative gold-nuggets from the train-wreck incarnate.

This creative spot wreaks of ratings/hits, not quality and has a race to the bottom mentality.  Mr. Richer, isn’t this how Pontiac died?!  Is it time for a mea culpa?  When you contrast how the big middle finger of rebellion helped build this brand and now advertising which has been replaced with me-too imitation…  It’s got to be about the long haul.  Not overnight success, but enduring success.  Forget about genres.  Just be good.

I’m still a fan of H-D, but not for this ad.

UPDATE: February 16, 2011 – Mark-Hans Richer (H-D CMO) told in an interview to Ad Age: “We’re really happy with the way it  [“Cages”] came out…”

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Rep. Andy Olson (R)

Republican Rep. Andy Olson, a 29-year OSP veteran turned Albany lawmaker has a fatal flaw.  He wants to be liked by motorcyclists.

It all started when he sponsored House Bill 3141 which allows Oregon motorcycle riders and passengers to ride without helmets if they’re 21 or older.  The bill would amend the state motorcycle helmet law to say that only persons under 21 years of age are required to wear one.  I’ve written previously HERE about helmet laws in Oregon.

But, what are the odds of newly re-elected Governor John Kitzhaber (D) approving a “threat to the health and safety of Oregonians” … that’s like Dick Cheney caring what the public thinks or like Sarah Palin suddenly saying Obama’s great or like Paul Krugman saying trickle-down economics work.  A Leopard can’t change its spots and if anyone remotely believes that Doctor/Gov. Kitzhaber would allow it to become law, then they are ignoring history, evidence and logic!  Gov. Kitzhaber had an opportunity to approve a similar bill (HB 2454) back in August 1997, but he vetoed it on the very last day before it would have become law.

With all due respect to Mr. Olson, this anti-helmet campaign is dumb given the Governors clear stance on the topic and because there are a lot of other campaigns more important (government intrusion on attire, noise, superbike legislation etc.) to riders, but Mr. Olson is committed and said the change would allow riders to hear better and see more.  Huh?  That’s the logic to influence the Governor?!   Mr. Olson expects the measure to go to the House transportation panel and come up for a hearing in a week or so.  Hey, Mr. Olson I have an idea… how about stop wasting tax dollars and work on how to generate jobs.  You’d have a better chance of building a helmet factory in Oregon!

Looking for some balanced reporting on the helmet choice discussion?  Here is some information that might cause a moment of pause…

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that helmets reduce crash-related head injuries, the leading cause of death among riders wearing no helmets. And, a recent study published online in the Journal of American College of Surgeons shows that riders who wore helmets were 22% less likely than non-helmeted riders to sustain a cervical spine injury after a motorcycle collision.  I’m not a doctor, but basically they debunked a popular myth that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle can be detrimental during a motorcycle crash.  They dispelled the hypothesis that helmet weight causes significant torque on the neck during motorcycle crashes which could contribute to spinal injuries.

Photo courtesy of Andy Olson’s Facebook page.

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Bruce Hansen knows the roads around Washington, Oregon, Northern CA and British Columbia.

His 2nd edition of the “Motorcycle Journeys Through The Pacific Northwest” (Whitehorse Press – 288 pages) reads like a conversation with your buddies.  The full color photos in the travel guide will have you thinking about summer and is sure to get your enthusiasm up for the open road.

This is an update to his popular first edition and riders can learn from the 30+ trips that Hansen has planned which includes topographical maps for each trip, specific directions, and tips on the best places to eat, sleep, and visit.

Hansen guides riders through the areas around Seattle and Portland, up and down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and northern California, around the volcanoes’ of Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier, across the desert of Oregon, out to the San Juan Islands, and over the border into parts of British Columbia.  When not riding Mr. Hansen teaches writing through Portland State University.

It’s a favorite among motorcycle enthusiasts and I wanted to pass it along.  You can pick up your copy HERE on Amazon.

Photo courtesy of Whitehorse Press/Bruce Hansen.

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Miguel Cortes - 107MPH Speeding Ticket

Yes, the “B-side” of Ohio.

Warren Haynes can not only play, but he can SING!  If this were 1971 instead of 2011 Warren would be a household name, someone all over the radio.

Watch this video HERE.  The title says “Gold Dust Woman”.  But when Warren steps to the mic, he starts singing that legendary cappella CSNY song…”Find The Cost Of Freedom”.  And then…at 1:10, Warren starts playing “Gold Dust Woman”.  But this is not Gov’t Mule.  This an all star band at the Jammys.  In music what we’ve got these days is two roads.  One based on recording and one based on performing.  The recording one is often sterile, it doesn’t titillate us, and those performing are too often playing B-level material.  But Warren Haynes performs.

And speaking of PERFORMANCES, one of the more disturbing aspects of the motorcycle culture is how the few seem to rewrite history for the rest of us as they ignore their own glaring stupidity.

I’m talking about Miguel Cortes (41) of Tualatin, OR.  Yes, you Miguel!  He wasn’t satisfied to be out riding on a relatively dry winter day and enjoying the freedom of the open road.  No, he needed to PERFORM and make a spectacle of himself and by association drag all motorcycle enthusiasts along with his reckless behavior.

Mr. Cortes was riding a Yamaha F6S, 600cc, and raced past a parked Marion County Sheriff patrol car about 11:40 a.m. and then decided that “splitting” the lanes of travel as he continued northbound on I-5 at a high rate of speed was appropriate.  Mr. Cortes was clocked at 107 mph in a 65 mph zone!  Not only was Mr. Cortes arrested and released on reckless driving, he was also cited on accusations of speeding and failure to maintain a single lane of travel. The speeding fine is $1,143; lane splitting is $287.  Mr. Cortes told the police officer that he thought he was only going “about 80” as he split the lanes of travel.  Clearly Mr. Cortes found his ‘cost of freedom.’

In an open and free society it’s so adorable when we get to watch performances of the dumb and dumber.

Photo courtesy of Marion County Sheriff as Mr. Cortes proudly consented to posing for a photograph holding his citation.

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