November 2, 2015 § 27 Comments
Craig Hummer’s book, The Loyal Lieutenant, does a great job of revealing the character of George Hincapie. The book is filled with quotes by Lance Armstrong, Jonathan Vaughters, Frankie Andreu, Christian Vande Velde, Michael Barry, and Jim Ochowitz to name a few.
So what kind of guy was silent, loyal, smiling George?
“When we as a group made that decision to play ball, George and I, along with the others on the team, crossed over that threshold together.” Lance Armstrong, who wrote the Foreword to the book.
“I honestly felt I would never have to deal with my drug use.” George Hincapie.
“Milan-San Remo ended up being the final straw where [a number of us] decided we’d do it.” Lance Armstrong.
“I couldn’t compete on a level playing field without some assistance.” George Hincapie.
“I felt it was my only choice.” George Hincapie.
“I didn’t reach these decisions without careful consideration.” George Hincapie.
“I could tell from his tone and his protestations, that he’d already taken the infamous step, and that moment produced an epiphany for me. I had to do the same.” George Hincapie.
“Back then, those seemed like the only choices.” George Hincapie.
“I don’t have a choice. We have to do it to survive. Everybody’s doing it now. I don’t have a choice.” Frankie Andreu.
“I felt a little guilty.” George Hincapie.
“The thought of cheating never crossed my mind.” George Hincapie.
“I couldn’t make eye contact as I told them it wasn’t mine.” George Hincapie.
“I nervously asked for the drug.” George Hincapie.
“I exited the bathroom a changed man. I felt completely at peace.” George Hincapie.
“I also felt proud that I’d committed to the next level.” George Hincapie.
“I always tried to take the bare minimum.” George Hincapie.
“Where other teams had been good at simply cheating, we strived to be better at being professional in all aspects as required to win the Tour.” George Hincapie.
“I didn’t take any EPO that Tour because I started with a high hematocrit, or red blood cell count (my mother suffers from polycythemia vera).” George Hincapie.
“What also made Jonathan different, however, was that he was actively searching for new and better ways to dope.” George Hincapie.
“From a self-preservation standpoint, I felt it was important to know if there were any side effects.” Jonathan Vaughters.
“The biggest result of the 1999 Tour was that we started the gradual process of teaching a new generation of Americans about the sport, what it entailed, and what it took to make Lance the best.” George Hincapie.
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October 2, 2015 § 30 Comments
With the scourge of doping threatening to ruin our sport, USADA has finally gotten serious about the problem. Swooping in at this year’s Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, the drug testers snared a competitor who tested positive for cannabinoid metabolites, a/k/a marijuana, dope, pot, weed, Mary Jane, ganja, bomb, blunt, zambi, jive stick, juja, khayf, kickstick, kilter, yeh, twist, atshitshi, babysitter, bobo bush, fu, greeter, Indian hay, instaga, Jefferson Airplane, hot stick, and yerba.
Cycling in the South Bay sat down with new USA Cycling chief Derek Bouchard-Hall to talk about the new emphasis on clean competition.
CitSB: So, barely on the job for a month and you’ve already made a strong anti-doping statement?
CitSB: Care to elaborate?
DBH: We’ve got a zero tolerance policy for drugs. Starting today.
CitSB: And you’re going after pot smokers?
DBH: Have you ever seen “Reefer Madness“? Marijuana is destroying our country. It has been proven to make people insane.
CitSB: Right. But this is amateur bike racing we’re talking about. Everyone involved is already insane.
DBH: Exactly. And it’s because of all the marijuana they consume.
CitSB: What about its performance enhancing effects?
DBH: It’s been proven that a single puff on a marijuana cigarette adds 320 watts to your top end.
CitSB: It has?
DBH: That’s not all. It aids breathing, recovery, clear thinking, dieting, makes you extremely aggressive, defeats procrastination, and makes you extremely goal-oriented and organized. The performance benefits are undeniable.
CitSB: Okay. So where are the enforcement efforts going to be greatest?
DBH: Given our limited dollars for drug testing, we’re going to focus on Cat 3/4 women.
DBH: Women are statistically more likely than men to cheat.
CitSB: On their husbands?
DBH: No, doping. Lance got his first can of testosterone from a woman bodybuilder.
CitSB: Can of testosterone?
DBH: Yes. He started with cans of Deca-Durabolin and before you know it he’s bonging up on EPO and finally mainlining marijuana leaves. It all starts with the women.
CitSB: Gotcha. So, crack down on Cat 3/4 women pot smokers. Anything else?
DBH: Yes. We’ve prepared provisional bans for all of Washington, Oregon, California, New York, and Austin. There are some very bad marijuana addicts in Austin. Tom somebody, Jack I think is the other guy’s name, and Phil.
CitSB: Tom, Jack, and Phil?
DBH: Yes. But the jig is up. And we’re going to ban them for life.
CitSB: I notice you left Colorado off the list.
DBH: Yes, I did.
CitSB: Any particular reason?
DBH: We’ve done an informal survey here at the office. Colorado has some of the lowest marijuana injection and addiction rates in the country, as well as the strictest marijuana laws in the nation with the stiffest penalties.
CitSB: Ah, who gave you that info?
DBH: Oh, my staff. All of them.
CitSB: Uh-huh. Well, good luck.
DBH: Thank you.
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September 4, 2015 § 11 Comments
Ol’ Cracks doesn’t call me often, but when he does I drop what I’m doing and take the call. Thank goodness I wasn’t holding my future grandbaby.
“How the hell are ya?” growled Ol’ Cracks, his Texas accent thicker than bacon grease on a Southern hooker’s shirt sleeves.
“Can’t complain,” I said.
“Yer a lyin’ sack of rotten oats,” he said. “All the hell you ever do is complain.”
“Now that you mention it,” I said.
“Now lissen up,” said Ol’ Cracks, which was not an invitation to flesh out my nascent complaint. “‘Cuz I got a story for ya.”
I moved from my office desk to my office bed and stretched out. “Shoot.” I knew I wouldn’t even need a notepad.
“You ‘member Gizzards?”
“Gizzards? Was he the guy who was blind in one eye and couldn’t see too well out of the other? Kind of rotund?”
“Naw, you got him confused with Big Piles.”
“Which one was Gizzards?”
“He was the dumb bastard.”
“That doesn’t narrow it down much.”
“Well anyhow, Gizzards got one of his buddies into cycling and started bringing him along on the Sunday Gutterfuck Ride.”
“How’d that work out for him?”
“We gutterfucked him coming out the dogdamn parking lot every time, but he kept coming.”
“Okay. So what?”
“Well, Gizzard’s pal’s name is Stumpnagel but everyone calls him Sags.”
“Hell, first off, his belly hangs down onto the top tube, so that’s your Sag Number One. And then when he gets tired, which is after the first five minutes, his head droops over the stem like the bend in a vulture’s neck. That’s Sag Number Two.”
“Sag Number Three?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“He’s allus the first bastard in the sag wagon.”
“Sag wagon? Since when did you guys start riding with a sag wagon?”
“Aw hell, never. That’s what we call the cars he flags down after we’ve gutterfucked him offn a ditch fifty miles from home.”
“Okay, so back to the saga of Sags.”
“So one day Sags and Gizzard come up to me and they say ‘Ol’ Cracks, how can we get better? You’ve been winning races for thirty years and you never train and you’re drunk half the time and you’re lazy as a post office supervisor. What’s the secret?'”
“What’d you tell ’em?”
“Same thing I tell everybody. I said, ‘Listen up you dumbasses, you suck and you always will. You’ll never win a race because you’re slow and stupid, in that order.'”
“They got all mad but next week they come up again and were just as sassy as a sixteen-year-old with big boobs and Gizzard says, ‘Ol’ Cracks we’ve signed up for Big George’s training camp in South Carolina and we’re gonna ride with some pros and get fast and come back here and stomp your ass.'”
“I bet you didn’t take that lying down.”
“No, sir, I did not. Told ’em they were just as slow and stupid as they’d been last week and that the only thing they’d get throwing money at a lying, cheating, doping ex-pro was poor.”
“How much did it cost?”
“Five grand for the first sucker, I mean trainee, and $2500 for the second one.”
“Big George has a good gig going. Ride around with a couple of hicks for $7,500 bucks? Hell, it couldn’t be any worse than riding around with you, which I do for free.”
“You’re just as big a fool as Sags and Gizzard. You think Big George rides around with these yahoos? He escorts ’em out of the parking lot to the base of a climb and leaves ’em at the rear like a dingleberry on a horse’s ass. Then five hours later he circles back to the hotel, pats ’em on the back, cashes another check, and goes home to his wife and EPO.”
“So they’re out there all alone?”
“Oh, no. Big George ain’t dumb. That’s what all those washed up pros and masters national champs are for. He pays THEM a pittance to ride around with Sags and Gizzards and change their diapers.”
“So what happened? They came back and kicked your ass?”
“You got a good imagination,” he said. “But not quite. On the first day Gizzard gets put in a lodge that has a housecat, and he’s deathly allergic to cat hair, and the housecat has layered the place with six inches of fur, so Gizzard swells up like a pumpkin and winds up in the ER on an inhaler.”
“Sags starts at the bottom of Big Corkscrew Mountain, a twelve-mile climb with sixty-three switchbacks and an average pitch of 23 percent, and when I say ‘starts’ I mean ‘almost tips over.’ His nursemaid is Cardboard Box O’Houlihan.”
“Cardboard Box O’Houlihan? Last year’s 35+ masters national road champ? The guy who lives in a … ”
“Cardboard box. Yeah, that’s him. So CB rides off and then about halfway up he stops to wait for Sags. Way off in the distance, here comes Sags, head down spinning at 4 or 7 rpm, tacking like a catamaran, all 235 lbs. of him grunting and groaning and grinding up that fuckin’ hill.”
“O’Houlihan’s phone rings and he pulls it out to see who’s calling. About that time Sags, whose head is still down, t-bones O’Houlihan at about 3 mph.”
“Thank goodness he was going slow.”
“You ever been hit by a piano going 3 mph?”
“Guess what? It fuggin’ hurts, especially when it lands on your leg, which Sags did, and it snapped O’Houlihan’s femur like a matchstick. O’Houlihan is writhing on the ground saying ‘You dumb motherfucker you run into me going UPHILL you dumb bastard!’ They fly him out or more likely drive him out in a pig manure truck.”
“Then what happened?”
“Sags comes home and I tell him man, you are one stupid sonofabitch. Couldn’t you make something up so’s you don’t look like such a brainless rhino? Running into a national champ going uphill? How the fuck does that even happen? And of course he says, ‘I dunno, but it was O’Houlihans’ fault.'”
“Yeah, for stopping on the side of the road, to which I said, you dumb bastard he stopped because he was waiting for you because that’s his fucking job!”
“So did his fitness improve?”
“I don’t know, he was only in town for a couple of days after that.”
“Where’d he go?”
“The Levi Leipheimer training camp somewhere in California.”
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July 7, 2015 § 12 Comments
As much as I try to ignore the annual pro-wrestling championships for skinny people, the Tour invariably impinges on my serenity. Here are the impingements so far:
- Cav is a d-bag. Sitting up in the sprint because he couldn’t win, letting Cancellara get third, and thereby depriving TEIMMATE Tony Martin of yellow? There is apparently a very large “I” in Teim, or rather a very large “Cavendish” in “douchebag.”
- Since the Tour no longer has 300-mile stages and it’s “short” enough for most riders to complete, and complete pretty tightly bunched, the challenging, cobbled, wind-swept, hardass opening stages are fantastic. Nice work, whoever continues to push for such stages.
- Tony Martin no longer has to drag his dick to the microphone and answer the German journalists’ questions about why he didn’t win stage one, why he didn’t win stage two, why he didn’t win stage three, why he didn’t win stage four and why in the world is he NOT in yellow?
- Enough with Astana and Boom’s doping. They all cheat, it’s pro wrestling for skinny people. Can we sweep all that under the rug for another few years until someone important dies? Thank you.
- Froome hasn’t fallen off his bicycle yet. Amaze-balls.
- In addition to boycotting the Tour, we’d appreciate it if Oleg Dickov would just boycott cycling and go back to making usurious payday loans to poor people. Oh, wait, he never stopped …
- There are three Americans in the Tour: Van Garderen, Talansky, and Farrar. Way to build the grass roots, USA Cycling! Perhaps they could work with Alto Velo to sue some more small pro teams and encourage promising riders and sponsors to quit the sport?
- Pro bike racing is more dangerous in terms of injuries per race than any motor sport. It’s no fun watching the yellow jersey swap shoulders because of crashes (Cancellara), or watching the whole event turned on its head because contenders crash out (Froome, Contador in 2014). It’s also no fun watching people get hurt.
- Trying to reach a cyclist on the West Coast on July late mornings is like trying to get a SoCal handyman when there is a good swell.
- It will be interesting to see how much, if any, Tour Fever has spread to Germany. It’s taken years for the cycling public to recover from Ullrich/Zabel Telekom.
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June 12, 2015 § 88 Comments
The handwriting is on the wall, it says “You are totally hosed,” and even Lance Armstrong can read it.
This is a moment to savor if you enjoy watching the mighty brought low. It’s a delicious experience like no other to read the lying, cheating, doping, scheming evildoer as he contemplates a most unheroic end, the end of bankruptcy, of utter ruin, of losing every single bit of his ill-gotten gains.
Betsy Andreu, the sworn enemy of the world’s most infamous cyclist, must surely have floating dinner reservations for the expected date of the jury verdict when Armstrong’s fraud case goes to trial. The case is so overwhelmingly against him that it’s hard to see any impartial jury finding in his favor.
He ripped off the government. He lied about it. He covered it up. Then … he admitted the entire fraud on television.
Juries are unpredictable, and of course no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Random chance may pull this one out of the fire simply because, as Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until you punch him in the face.” Maybe Lance’s lawyers will get in the first shot and it will be a haymaker.
Realistically, his fate in this case will be no different from his fate in the SCA Promotions fraud case. Judges and juries are repulsed by sociopaths when their lies are finally exposed, and the human instinct to punish the powerful is almost as strong as the urge to put them on the pedestal to begin with.
Of course, what’s happening to Lance is the grossest injustice, as the Ninth Circuit recently ruled in the case of another allegedly lying, corrupt, doped-up cheater who’s now a hobby cyclist by the name of Barry Bonds. The appeals court essentially held that a non-responsive answer to a question posed to a jock cannot be a criminal act. No shit.
By the time justice was served, Bonds had been required to do his time. So far, the Betsy Andreus of the baseball world are likewise smacking their lips in satisfaction, the joy of seeing evildoers punished. Unlike Lance, Bonds still gets to keep his millions, though.
Where Betsy and all the sanctimonious people “betrayed by Lance” have gone awry is by ignoring the ugly fact that the cheap actions of a self-admitted “dick” are the matters on which the criminal system devotes itself, when not one single person has seen a jail cell as the result of Wall Street’s takedown of the economy, its obstruction of justice, and its co-option of agencies created to protect the public from the worst criminals in our history–people who don’t pull triggers and who don’t shoot up elementary schools or movie theaters, but rather people who wreck the lives of millions and leave them to rot.
But don’t worry, because those same criminals have re-made their billions with taxpayer bailouts and with a surging stock market, recouping their losses in the “free market” and taxpayer-funded one. What’s that? You didn’t get rich during the bust? There’s a word for people like you, friend. It’s called “sucker.”
Hanging Lance from his ball passes for justice because it is great theater. It’s easy to hate the guy many used to love; it’s impossible to hate a Harvard MBA at a bank you’ve never even heard of. It’s easy to hate doping cheaters; it’s impossible to hate people who cheat with things you only vaguely even understand like mortgage backed securities and default credit swaps. It’s easy to put the “little” millionaire’s ass in a sling; it’s impossible for the entire SEC to win a single case against banks worth hundreds of billions.
Sports make great entertainment and greater crime. Think O.J., Lance, Barry, Marion, and now the granddaddy of them all, FIFA. Of course the targets in the FIFA investigation include people from wretchedly poor countries such as Bolivia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Nicaragua, corrupt and bribery-prone third world countries where the petty graft from FIFA is huge money. Not a single person from Switzerland, though …
These sporting crimes, on a global scale, are meaningless in the context of institutionalized money laundering and tax theft in corporate fraud havens like the Cayman Islands.
“I’ve heard of FIFA! Go get ’em!”
“The Cayman Islands? Where the hell is that, and why are you wasting my tax dollars on it?”
The hallmark of justice is not its ability to punish wrongdoers. Any fundamentalist crazy from ISIS with a Koran and a sword can do that. The hallmark of justice is refusing to exact total retribution on the small criminal while the big ones go free. When “No one is above the law” comes with the asterisk “Except the richest,” then you’d better take care, because your neck will soon be on the chopping block, too.
Betsy may have made dinner reservations for twelve in joyful anticipation of the final ruinous act in Lance’s tragic opera, but the satisfaction of revenge doesn’t make it just.
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April 28, 2015 § 62 Comments
The end of the road isn’t really near for Lance Armstrong. He lost the suit by SCA and is now on the hook to repay $10,000,000 that he probably doesn’t have, or if he does, will have a hard time scraping up. The Justice Department nixed a settlement agreement between Floyd Landis and Armstrong’s henchmen, Bart Knaggs and Bill Stapleton, which puts further pressure on Lance to cough up millions more to settle the False Claims Act lawsuit brought against him by Landis and the U.S. government.
No matter that Lance is a complete douchebag, that he’s an arrogant jerk of a sociopath who caused a lot of harm to a lot of people. When you begin thinking that cycling is really just a metaphor for the broader community and the people in it, maybe Armstrong is a victim.
How? How in the world can the Darth Vader of cycling be a victim?
Well, that depends on what you think about fairness. Our government has thrown its full weight behind Landis’s False Claims Act lawsuit. When they get finished with Armstrong, whose sole defenses are that USPS knew he was doping and thus wasn’t defrauded, and that they suffered no economic damages because of the publicity Lance brought them by winning the Tour, he will be penniless.
Lance Armstrong will have been punished to the full extent of the law, and some will even say he got off easy because of Andrew Birotte’s decision not to pursue federal criminal charges a/la Barry Bonds. In the end, even if he wins — which he won’t — the legal fees will bankrupt him.
This isn’t fair. It’s unfair because the government is focusing its resources on the smallest of the small timers and letting the big fish go free. Examples? Name one single criminal investigation from the 2008 crash that targeted a banking executive. Let me help you. There were none.
Now, consider this. The banks that caused the crisis were first let completely off the hook for their crimes, crimes that had far worse consequences than the hurt feelings or derailed career of a bicycle racer or his masseuse. Then the American taxpayers were forced by their elected officials to reimburse the banking thieves who stole the money and wrecked the global economy. There is a story here, and the story line goes like this: Make an example of the minor crook and reward the greatest thieves with a kingdom.
That’s why the prosecution and attempted extradition of Briton Singh Sarao is such a complement to Armstrong’s prosecution. In the same way that MLB, FIFA, the NBA, and the NFL have made billions through the performance of drugged athletes, Wall Street has made hundreds of billions through sophisticated computer programs that buy and sell with sophistication and efficiency that ordinary investors can never match. As in poker, when you’re investing your money if you can’t tell who the sucker is, you’re the sucker.
As the Department of Justice continues to roast alive Armstrong the small-time thug, one of its other tentacles prepares to extradite Sarao for causing the Flash Crash of 2010, an allegation that is kind of like blaming a tsunami on some kid who tossed a pebble into the ocean. But the story line is real. Mask the greatest of crimes by punishing the smallest of crooks, especially when they are personally revolting as Armstrong most assuredly is.
The Armstrong saga plays itself out by analogy in so many other arenas as well, often on the same day in the same newspaper on the same page. Congress approves the CIA’s drone assassinations and gets weekly briefings that show people being blown to bits. Civilians are murdered in the process, most recently an American and an Italian hostage, oops, but that’s a cheap price compared to actually going to Yemen with troops or committing trillions to building peace.
A few columns later we learn that Western governments are outraged that Indonesia plans to execute nine more drug traffickers … No due process! … The judiciary is corrupt! … The punishment doesn’t fit the crime! …
It’s strange how these same curses of unfairness apply to drone strikes, police murders, and Wall Street’s get out of jail pass for its great predation of 2008, not to mention its aggressive attempts to roll back the trading regulations imposed by Dodd-Frank. But the way we keep the hypocrisy out of the public eye, especially leading up to an election year, is by focusing on something we can all agree on, especially Betsy: Lance Armstrong is a bad guy, so off with his head while the real Hydras thrive.
For once, I’m finally pulling for Lance.
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March 10, 2015 § 20 Comments
The Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) released the results of its year-long investigation into doping, and CitSB sat down with the lead investigator, Jean-Claude Peut-être, to discuss the significance of the commission’s findings even as shock waves continue to roil the cycling community.
CitSB: After a full year of intensive research and investigation, the retention of a former war crimes prosecutor to head the effort, and a budget of €12 million, what is the commission’s most significant finding?
JP: There are actually three. First, Lance doped. Second, so did many others. Third, Betsy is still very angry.
CitSB: Wow. How confident are you regarding that first finding?
JP: I would say that we are probably 95% certain. When you add up the back-tested results, the statements of his former teammates, USADA’s Reasoned Decision, the finding of the arbitrator in his insurance case, his settlement with the Times of London, and his 12-hour confessional special on national TV, we think it’s highly likely that he doped. But of course nothing is 100% certain.
CitSB: This is going to destroy a lot of childhood dreams, isn’t it?
JP: Oh, yes. There are a lot of masters racers out there who will be taking off their yellow bracelets.
CitSB: And you are equally certain with regard to your second finding, that many others doped as well?
JP: Unfortunately, yes. We dug deeply into the history of the sport and learned some fairly shocking things which we frankly haven’t shied away from including in our report.
CitSB: Like what?
JP: Well, the biggest one is that doping has been around for a long time.
CitSB: Really? You mean that Wikipedia doping cheat web page is true?
JP: It appears to be.
CitSB: And it took you a year’s investigation and a €12 million budget to Google “doping in cycling” and click on the first link that came up?
JP: We had to be thorough.
CitSB: How is your report going to change cycling at the professional level?
JP: Fundamentally it will let cyclists at all levels know that the UCI and the organizations responsible for clean sport are now on the alert that doping used to exist, and that in all likelihood it still does.
CitSB: You’re suggesting that actual professional riders are still cheating?
JP: It’s possible.
CitSB: So when Chris Froome puts out 6.84 w/kg this past week on a mountaintop finish, you think that’s fishy?
JP: I wouldn’t say “fishy.” But It suggests that perhaps he may have an unfair performance advantage over other riders.
CitSB: Such as?
JP: Wheaties, perhaps.
CitSB: And what about corruption at the UCI? What were your findings in that regard?
JP: There was no corruption.
CitSB: Wow. What about that whole Verbruggen/McQuaid/Armstrong kerfuffle? You know, backdated TUE’s, giving Brochard a pass, letting Armstrong’s lawyer write up the results of the independent investigation, that stuff?
JP: It wasn’t corruption. There simply was no corruption.
CitSB: The preferential treatment of Armstrong to the detriment of other riders, bending the rules about Contador’s tainted meat? Accepting massive donations from a rider they were supposed to be monitoring? That wasn’t corruption? What was it?
JP: It wasn’t corruption. More like being bad boys. They were sort of bad boys, naughty, you know? Mischievous, even. But not corrupt.
CitSB: And what did the commission find regarding the current UCI and its president, Brian Cookson, who funded this completely independent report?
JP: We think he’s a wonderful chap, really, and look forward to working with him in the future.
CitSB: I’m sure you do.
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