Tag: need assistance

The Cure For The Next Pandemic

In this video, a younger me stated being unemployed is not a crime. That does not mean I believe we should leave them that way. Now more than ever, we need people to work.

Back in 2013, I recorded a video about unemployment, stating it was not a crime.

In 2021, the year that certainly will be regarded as the first year of the Era Of The New Normal, I have not changed my position on that opinion. Just because someone cannot find work does not mean they’re lazy. The work they used to do might have been automated out or rendered obsolete due to technological unemployment. They might have been a victim of constructive dismissal, a situation where they had no choice but to quit their job without having another job waiting in the wings. They may have suffered a severe illness, or either a physical or a mental disability that makes it impossible to work as a former able-bodied individual.

There’s always two sides to the story.

There’s also always two sides to any opinion, including my own.

The fact that I do not feel being unemployed is not a crime does not mean the unemployed should remain so in that state. We live in a capitalist society where everything —- including the sin of being forced to pay big bucks for shelter, a basic need —- costs money. There really is no such thing as a free lunch.

Here in Canada, the things we take for granted and assume as free (such as roads, hospitals, shelters, and other services) are actually paid for by the taxes taken off the paycheques of those still working. Nobody loves paying taxes, but we begrudgingly do so anyways because if there were no taxes, the services I’ve mentioned would have to be paid for directly by everyone. This includes the working poor. Those who don’t have any money at all would not be able to access them.

So, while I feel being unemployed is not a crime, remaining unemployed — especially in large numbers — is not a good thing and it would be criminal to allow that situation to continue.

Especially since Canada’s operating deficit went from $40 billion to $400 billion in 2020. To allow the deficit to remain that high by not taking the necessary steps to get Canada’s fiscal house in order is a recipe for national self-destruction.

As with any financial entity powered by fiscal needs, there are two ways to address this:

  • cut expenses.
  • raise revenues.

Clearly cutting services is not the option. Cuts have already been made in the past, resulting in lengthy wait times to see a medical specialist, our roads, sewage, and electrical systems in a state of disrepair; and the reductions and cancellations of services from social programs designed to help the less fortunate and most vulnerable members of society.

Nor is raising taxes, a form of revenue raising, an acceptable option. More people will refuse to pay their taxes and the underground economy will grow larger while public services suffer funding shortfalls. Disposable income will shrink which in turn will affect the economy. Businesses will simply shutter and either move out of city, out of province, or even out of the country to an economic climate that is less oppressive to the aforementioned fiscal needs.

A third option — often not mentioned except as something impossible to do or that it is not the government’s job to fix — is to treat unemployment as the next pandemic to tackle, a pandemic not composed of RNA and DNA sequences, but of dollars and cents.

Every person capable to work with a useful skillset, no matter how small that skillset is, should be immediately matched through a partnership formed by the government, business, and education to work suited to their abilities. It must become THE priority one goal to have every citizen tax-revenue-positive through employment, not struggling to find a job and thus remaining in a tax-revenue-negative state.

How do we make this possible? While this is something too big for any single individual, including myself, to figure out, I like to offer some suggestions.

Labour demands need to be identified and the qualifications for employment categorized and taught beginning at the junior high level and throughout the post-secondary education system. Co-op training, job mentorship, and entry level employment positions that were once outsourced or eliminated in the name of austerity need to be created in greater numbers.

In addition, most secondary education and career retraining must become more affordable. They must also be pertinent to the skillsets employers are looking for. This means no women’s gender studies, or interpretive music and art studies. Those should go to a private vocational school and not receive one dime of government funding. They are personal pursuits that do not encourage a tax-revenue-positive flow.

Finally, the foundation of ensuring stable employment — affordable housing — must become a reality. Those unable to obtain stable means of shelter will not be able find work or hold down an existing job. It’s not a stretch to see the connection between housing and employment. Whether this is made possible through a Universal Basic Income program or a cap on rent and housing prices is open to discussion, but finding a solution to affordable housing is paramount.

COVID19 will one day disappear, but the economic pandemic that will follow will make what we’ve all gone through feel a Sunday picnic in comparison. Governments must turn their focus on ensuring every citizen is working in some capacity to that tax dollars return to the coiffures, thereby getting the government books back in order.

Thanks for reading!


Food For Thought

There will be some people who won’t see a table like this over the Christmas holidays. This includes, shockingly, those who are gainfully employed. Source: Wikimedia Commons Image Library, with all rights given to the owner of the image. ()

Many look to the unemployment rate as an indicator of how well our war on poverty is progressing.

The unemployment rate is a percentage of the labour force that is actively seeking work. It does not track those who have given up. It does not track those who are paid “under the table”. It does not track underemployment. It does not track employment disparity (where individuals are working either full- or part-time but not in the field he or she is trained in).

In short, it makes the erroneous assumption — a somewhat dangerous one at that — that to be simply working is to be okay. As long as one is earning a paycheque, the necessities of life — rent and food — are easily covered.

As reported in the following article, that reasoning is not necessarily a slam-dunk.

Despite having a job, citizens are going to food banks because apparently the paycheque is not enough to cover the grocery bills.

I’ve heard it argued that this is because people can simply walk in and get free food. On the surface, the reasoning seems sound: in the Region of Waterloo and also in the Greater Toronto Area, you don’t need to prove you are low income to access food banks.

In fact, I just finished having a phone conversation with someone about that very topic. Apparently a resident in her building goes to a food bank yet can afford an apartment of $1300 a month, drives a car, and has a watch that does far more than tell the time.

I don’t even have a watch that just tells the time. I consider it a superfluous expense. To me, food, transit and my teeth are more important.

Getting back on track, if this argument WAS true, the food bank system would be raided to chronic levels of scarcity. There are stock shortages, yes, but not like locusts going through a crop field.

No, the problem here is the assumption — by those who think all you got to do to keep out of poverty “is get off your lazy ass and find a job” — is that things don’t go up in price over time.

The average worker’s income has not kept up in lockstep with ever increasing costs, such as rent/mortgage , grocery, transit, gas, medical, dental, and prescription glasses. In the case of some individuals, income has not gone up, period, for a number of years. I recall during my IT career there was one year at Grolier Limited and two years at SANYO Canada where I didn’t even get a cost of living raise.

The minimum wage rate in most provinces of Canada have barely budged over the past decade. Ditto for social assistance and disability as well — in some cases, qualifications for receiving both have been tightened and coverage periods have been shortened in the name of government austerity.

Look, I won’t deny the fact there are people who cheat food banks. I even stated during my aforementioned phone conversation with someone they really should screen better to block the cheaters.

Having said this, there’s a fair argument to be made that there’s indeed a wealth distribution problem, and part of that problem concerns the ability of the working poor and the unemployed to afford food to put on the table. If there is even one employed person who is going to food banks because it’s just not enough, that’s one person too many in my book.

Thanks for reading!


That Age Old Question

Who doesn’t want discounts? Ah, but be careful for what you wish for, because even discounts come with a price!

Apparently I’m a senior.

Well, according to my local Rexall Drug Store, I am.

I picked up a few things on my way home from the library, and was asked by the cashier if I was a senior.

I didn’t get mad when asked. My current lack of stable employment and constant address hopping is stressful. As I pointed out in a previous writing, stress can prematurely age an individual. I will admit I look older than my actual age.

I smiled and politely said, “I’m not 65”. The cashier then told me that both Rexall and Shopper’s Drug Mart offer a senior’s discount to anyone 55 and over

Well, does David want to save money on his expenses? Yep! David’s a senior, then!

While saving money is never a bad thing, there is another side to this anecdote to consider. I wouldn’t have been asked by the cashier if I was a senior if I didn’t look the part.

A casual rewind of past events in recent memory has brought to my attention a few things that indicate the cashier was not the only one who took notice of my age.

For example, over the last two years I’ve been asked fairly often by fellow transit riders if I would like to have their seat. While I have no trouble standing while taking the bus and still go on very long walks to keep in shape, I took the seat with thanks out of courtesy and to reinforce positive behaviour.

If I accidentally bump into someone or commit some other social faux pas, even when clearly it’s my fault, I appear to receive a pass on that more often. “Oh, no worries, buddy!” one might say. “You didn’t do anything wrong, sir!”, chirps a polite student. Well, yes, yes I did. I bumped into someone because I misjudged my distance.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea society still has some respect for the elderly old age-challenged those with a few years on them. How society treats that age group is one indicator of how close society is to being a dystopia.

The concern I have is this heightened sense of awareness to my current appearance may also be present in the minds of interviewers and others who I interact with in my job search. “Is he a senior?” each might ask.

A question asked not to give me a discount, but to be discounted for potential opportunities of employment which, as mentioned in another post, is clearly discriminatory and based on false reasoning.

Thanks for reading!


Storming Mad

In the challenging employment times we now live in, even heroic champions like this guy would have the odds stacked against him.

As mentioned in a previous post, I was once a World of Warcraft player in better employment times. I cancelled my subscription shortly after my full time employment finished, but I still follow Blizzard’s newsfeed, mostly for the trailers and cinematics. My gaming in WoW may have ended but I am still a fan of the lore.

One thing that caught my eye was Blizzard announcing a layoff of over 800 employees. Apparently the bloom has come off the rose that is WoW, particularly after the reaction for their latest expansion, “Battle For Azeroth”. One would have assumed revenue has fallen, so Blizzard felt the need to cut expenses. On the surface, a sensible decision, though I do feel bad for the employees who were let go.

Then I did a little bit of digging and what I found out angered me.

At the same time these layoffs were announced, Blizzard’s newly hired CFO, Dennis Durkin, received $15 million just for taking the position. Right then: Blizzard couldn’t find money to retrain or relocate these laid off employees, yet had no trouble finding $15 million to hire ONE guy — a finance exec, of all things.

I might have been a bit more forgiving if the hire was a creative consultant, a developer, a lore master, anyone who could contribute a gaming strategy that would have taken the stink off of BFA’s negative review and get subscribers to come back.

Instead, Blizzard has a new stink to air out: the optics of laying off employees while announcing record profits AND hiring a line executive for a rather obscene amount of coin.

This is not the first time Corporate Canada — and in this case Corporate America in the form of Blizzard — has put making money well over the well-being of its employees and customers. Over 10 years ago, Canadian banks reported record profits, after reducing teller staff and hiking bank charge. In 2018 GM Canada announced plant closures despite receiving corporate welfare on the condition of keeping local workers employed and not to relocate.

This has always been an ongoing practice, and the reason why this continues is because we’re sheep. We as consumers allow this to happen. We don’t vote with our wallets. Some of us might say we will, even vow that we shall, but clearly there’s nothing happening.

This same practice will continue unless companies are held responsible for the negative aspect of laying off employees for no reason other than to boost profits for their shareholders. Companies that are doing well have no reason to let people go. Re-assign? Yes. Re-train? Definitely. Discard just to fatten the margin because someone had the gall to ask for fair wages for a hard day’s work? Absolutely not.

This must end, and it’s up to each and every one of us to do something about it.

Thanks for reading.


Taking A Bite Out Of Poverty

This man would never had a positive change in his life had he not regained a reason to smile again. Click the image to read this wonderful news story that has stuck with me for so many years.


The Ontario Dental Association (ODA) recently asked for more funding for dental programs used by low income earners and the homeless. Currently in Ontario, OHIP does not cover the cost of dental care, which means unless you are rich or at least work for a company with a generous benefits plan, you are shit out of luck if you do not have the money to go to the dentist.

The ODA itself is shit out of luck if it thinks the Doug Ford government, which has already shown a callous disregard for the poor and homeless by treating them as an excessive expense to be cut from the budget, will go along with the idea. In fact, in a recent link, the Doug Ford government is considering plans to allow private companies to deliver health care — meaning dental care may not be the only thing Ontarians will be paying for out of their pocket.

You don’t have to be knowledgeable about the human body to know how important it is to have a good set of teeth. Teeth aid in digestion of food: if you can’t properly chew your food, that food will either not metabolize properly while going through your digestive tract, or you simply won’t be bothered to eat since you can’t chew. Poor oral health could also cause serious health problems to occur if oral infections spread throughout the bloodstream.

There’s another aspect most people miss when it comes to the importance of publicly funding dental care. It’s looking for work.

Much as I rag on employment assistance centres and their mostly useless job seeking tips, one tip I am in agreement with them on is that appearances count during an interview. Missing teeth is an unattractive thing to see, if not at least a visual distraction, and could subconsciously prejudice a job seeker’s chances of landing a job. We are after all a very shallow society that worships beauty to somewhat unreasonable standards.

I make this point because I’m often reminded of a 2007 news story I read in the Toronto Star. It’s about a man who could not afford dental care because he’s poor. As a result, he lost nearly all of his teeth and in turn could not find work because it affected his appearance. The reason why this story stuck with me for so long was because I do have a great deal of knowledge about the human body — in fact I once wanted to be a doctor — and found it odd that medical treatment for an illness was only covered by Ontario for as long as it did not happen in your mouth. So. Stupid.

After reading this story, I talked to my (former) dentist about it, and suggested that maybe OHIP should cover dental care. She responded, rather tersely, the day that dentists have to deal with OHIP is the day she relocates to America. Seriously.

Why would she have this dislike of publicly funded dental care? Is it because she can’t set her own prices when working under OHIP? Is it because OHIP — being a government run body — is a bureaucratic mess to deal with?

Whatever the reason, dental care is STILL extremely important for the working poor, not only as a sound foundation of good health but also for personal happiness and boosting self-confidence.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. For those of you who didn’t bother reading the story — that’s okay, it’s somewhat depressing — it does end with a happy ending. Toronto Star readers were moved by this story and generously donated enough money to give the fellow a new set of chompers.

In Vulnerable

What Is Wasteful Spending
Cuts do not necessarily translate into savings. Comic created on the Pixton comic making service.

The Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party win in Ontario has been trumpeted as a fresh new start for Ontarians by party supporters and lamented as a dark cold era by party critics.

By the time Ford was officially sworn in as Premier of Ontario, the mudslinging from both sides of the ideological spectrum had buried deep any chance of rational debate about the issues this province must deal with.

One of these issues is poverty. Ford has made it clear he plans to seek savings for the Ontarian people in the form of “efficiencies” that will help make things more affordable, especially for the most vulnerable members of our society.

The problem is, the term “efficiencies” was often used during the Mike Harris “Common Sense” Revolution to mean government spending reduction in the form of cuts. This resulted in halving welfare payouts, downloading some services to the local level which in turn created a new generation of homelessness in major cities like Toronto, and left transit systems with a shortage of funding. It pitted urbanites against ruralites. It divided a once united province into two factions of “us” and “them” on every front imaginable.  It was a noisy time of protest, sometimes extremely violent.

In the end, the Common Sense Revolution did nothing for the everyday Ontarian. It certainly did a lot of harm to the most vulnerable members of society I spoke about earlier.

The path Premier Ford is about to take will fail for the same reason why the Common Sense Revolution failed. It’s a mistake to assume that finding money to cut — be it a CEO of Hydro and the board’s combined salaries, funding for social assistance programs, or investments in green energy programs — and giving it instead as a tax cut is going to make things better. It won’t.

If there are no programs to help the less fortunate find affordable housing, obtain gainful employment, find release from addiction, or pursue post-secondary education, having that extra $786 annually (a maximum) for those earning $42,960 and $85,923 per year won’t help. In fact, according to one economist, Doug Ford’s platform will benefit high income earners the most.

There’s a reason why the term “most vulnerable members of society” is applied to the poor and homeless. They feel the effects of sudden economic, socio-political, and environmental changes more than those who are more stable in terms of shelter and employment. When that happens, these same people remain stuck where they are no matter how hard they try to change their predicament.

Any cuts to programs in the name of efficiency-finding won’t put more money back into the hands of the everyday man. That money will instead shift to increased hospital , law enforcement, and sanitation costs that poverty invariably brings. In the long term, those costs will have to be paid for later. Most likely, it will be paid for by a tax increase enacted in the next government — just like what the Dalton McGuinty government did after the era of the Common Sense Revolution ended.

At the same time, having the poor and homeless in a state of unproductiveness robs both the provincial economy of consumer revenue and the government of tax revenue that could go back into services that benefit every Ontarian: transit, roads, electrical grid, health care, and so on.

Doug Ford is a successful businessman yet he has forgotten that sometimes you have to spend money in order to make money. Investment in social programs in the short term reduces the need for them in the long run.

Thanks for reading!








The Joke Is On Us, Revisited

Apparently Intern Leah’s marketing of herself as a thing is not an exception but a common method of trying to find work in this Age of Austerity.

In 2014, I wrote on my job-search blog the following article. It featured a job-seeking young intern named Leah presenting herself on her CV as a Lego block figurine. While some people thought this was a creatively good idea, it did not sit well with me. I got the impression that Leah was trying to advertise herself in the same way a company makes marketing ads for a product.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand you have to get yourself noticed in the job search. I’ve been looking for full-time work in this Age of Austerity for eight years now and discovered jobs are harder to come by. The only way a potential employer will ask me to come in for an interview is if something about myself stands out. The line in the sand I draw is getting down to the level of portraying myself as some sort of product. As stated in that blog post, “I’m not a consumable product or service….I’m a person with feelings, ambitions, desires, and opinions”. The Lego block version of me you saw was done as a gag. Don’t expect to see it on any of my CVs any time soon.

I haven’t thought about that blog post again until I came across YouTube superstar Dave Cullen’s (Computing Forever) video about selfies. During one point of that video, he mentioned the corporate world demands we sell ourselves during an interview and remarked it was a form of “corporate prostitution”. Not only was it bang on, it also prompted me to revisit the subject of my 2014 blog post.

As an experiment, I did a Google Search using the words “Creative CVs” and the returned result horrified me.

Apparently Leah’s approach is no longer an exception but a growing trend for job-seekers. There were hundreds — yes, hundreds — of examples similar to hers. The following is just a tiny sample of what I found online:

Two graphics designers, one marketing himself as a pack of beer and the other a Swiss Army Knife.

A marketing professional marketing himself as a chocolate bar right down to itemizing his qualifications as ingredients.

A business professional marketing himself as a newspaper.

And probably not one of the most media friendly way to market oneself, with the bad press the tobacco industry is getting, a pack of cigarettes. Yes, that’s right: cancer sticks.

Appalling. Is this the level  job-seekers must stoop to in order to find employment in this jobless recovery?

Must job-seekers demean and dehumanize themselves through their self-promotion to the point of becoming a thing, a consumable on an expense report like toilet paper and coffee?

Must job-seekers perform like trained dolphins in order to land employment?

Has the job search become a Hellish game of flaming hoops to jump through?

Do we now need the skill of an artist or stage show producer to get a hiring manager’s attention for something as banal as a shelf-stocker job? Don’t dismiss my point. It would certainly explain nonsense like this I come across on a regular basis in my job search.

Most important, why are we doing this to ourselves? Is our pride, our identity, worth landing a paycheque? Why can’t anyone see how wrong this is!

Thanks for reading!


For The Little Guy, Them’s The Breaks

Tim Hortons Image
A double-double with no benefits or breaks, please. Image from the linked story’s home page.

If this story is indeed true — and I have reason to believe it is — the fallout from the folly of the Ontario government’s decision to proceed with increasing the minimum wage has begun.

Employees at an Ontario Tim Hortons in Cobourg, Ontario claim they have been told to sign a document acknowledging they are losing paid breaks and paid benefits as a result of the province’s minimum wage hike.

I’m against the idea of raising the minimum wage too quickly and too soon and wrote a post stating my reasons why, yet when I hear stories like this, I’m not sure who should I be angry with.

Should I be angry with the Ontario government for not listening to the concerns of businesses — the generators of jobs — to balance the increase against the need for businesses to make a (reasonable) profit, and instead ram the labour law change right over them?

Or should I be angry at those same businesses for using the labour law change as an excuse to promote a “take-it-or-leave-it” style of employee management? This document signing smacks of employer bullying.

No matter what party I’m angry with, one thing I’m sure of is that it will be those caught in the middle who will be hurt — those who are already doing their damned utmost to keep financially afloat in this Age Of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery.

These people have just moved closer to experiencing more workplace abuse if not outright unemployment.

Thanks for reading.


Something Better

Shelter Under Shelter By Purnie
“Shelter Under Shelter”, by “Purnie” on the Pixton comic making service. Permission given by author to use her work.


The eagle-eyed of you who follow my blog might have noticed in a previous post that I mentioned I am moving out of the House of Friendship on December 28th, 2017.

It’s true. After over three months in a shelter, I was able to find a place well within my budget and the budget of those supporting my housing. In fact, it’s $25 less than the rent paid before my previous landlord sold the property (no hard feelings about that: he was awesome enough to give me a reference that made a difference. Thank you).

I can’t wait to get out.

Not because of the staff. They did an amazing job ensuring I had a roof over my head and food in my stomach. For that, I helped wipe the table and chairs after dinner nearly every night. My resource planner helped me find the proper mindset to look for housing. Bless the House of Friendship for all they’ve done.

It’s just that I had to deal some difficult residents who threatened me with physical harm on two occasions and with death in another, on top of the diplomacy I had to practice to peacefully coexist with others. While I’m not saying I could bring peace to the Middle East, I would at least help send peace talks in the right direction after what I experienced. Maybe I should ask the United Nations if there’s a job opening. I’ll gladly work at minimum wage.

Such experience in the shelter helped support my past arguments why the homeless will sometimes choose not to go to shelters. It’s not a slumber party for adults. It’s stressful. You have to deal with weird shit from some people, and hope you have a good understanding of them in order to predict the next weird shit move. There are days I can’t sleep because a new arrival in my room has proven to be a tough nut to figure out. It’s sometimes wiser to stay awake than go to sleep only to awake in a hospital bed minus a few teeth and in a lot of pain.

It also supported my concerns that we are headed in the wrong direction with urban development.  We just had our first major snowfall recently, with more snow and bone-chilling temperatures on the way for the Region of Waterloo. The shelters are now at overcapacity, being forced to either send homeless people to motels (an expensive solution) or turn them away outright. According to data from a  March 2013 Ipsos Reid poll,  “as many as 1.3 million Canadians have experienced homelessness or extremely insecure housing at some point during the past five years”.

So many people, yet we price a basic need like a luxury item through building expensive buildings only the wealthy can afford and the homeless will seek cover under the awnings of.

I’ve already given a city councillor my opinion about yet another expensive high-tech tower being built for Torontonians to move into, while ignoring the homeless (who either cannot find work like myself, or are millwrights, welders, contractors, or landscapers who would not benefit from this development).

We need more zoning for affordable housing, not more glistening gleaming towers that only benefit the wealthy. We need something better than the current urban mindset that punishes the poor for being poor.

That is what I will strive for once I move into my new room on the 28th.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you all a Merry  Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Falling Stars Still Shine.

From “The story of the sun, moon, and stars (1898)” by Agnes Giberne. Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” 

– George W. Bush. Past President Of The United States Of America.

NOTE: The mentioned in this post are innocent before proven guilty in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

Another falling star.

Every day I turn on the radio, I hear news of sexual misconduct involving a public celebrity.

Harvey Weinstein, George Takei,  Kevin Spacey, LouisCK, Dustin Hoffman, Mark Halperin, the list goes on and on and on.

So does the outrage. Names are removed from credits in decades-old movies, films currently in production are reshot after recasts are made, past awards are revoked. The history of the accused is being wiped clean, all that was accomplished is being blasted into nothingness.

Is this fair? I feel it’s not.

I’m not saying there should be no justice for the victims of the crimes committed by the accused. I believe people should be punished for their crimes and after a trial serve the sentence given to them. The guilty must pay for what they’ve done.

Having said this, their crimes have nothing to do with the past accomplishments they earned. They are mutually exclusive. There is no link of causality between the two.

It’s clear Weinstein has behaved in an absolutely horrific manner. He has to take responsibility for his past actions, and accept whatever punishment for committing them. He was also a very successful film producer and executive. He was co-founder of Miramax. He is an Academy and Tony Award winner.

He is the personification of the American Dream by achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. The fruits from that labour should not be taken from him.

To do this is to set a precedent right out of George Orwell’s “1984” where one day if any of us commits a serious crime, we could lose our diplomas and degrees, our trophies and awards, our titles and medals. The current power of digital video sharing and virtual reality technology makes it possible to erase people completely from the public record through de-pixilation. Each of us would be effortlessly and efficiently un-personed.

This un-personing could also go so far to prevent those individuals from rejoining society and contribute in a positive manner. For example, what are the chances of landing a job if your past employment and education history and the associated certifications that qualify you for the position are *POOF* gone?

Thanks for reading!