Tag Archives: Westport Garden Club

Roundup: Busted Chops, Haiku, Suite Tooth, More


Tonight, Church Lane celebrates its closure to traffic with music.

Busted Chops plays funk and soul between Spotted Horse and Urban Outfitters, from 6 to 9 p.m. Bring your friends — and masks!

Busted Chops takes over tonight, fro 6 to 9 p.m.


First there were planters. Now comes haiku.

This weekend, the Westport Arts Advisory Committee’s is placing 20 lawn signs throughout downtown. Each contains a photo of Westport, and a haiku by town poet laureate Diane Lowman.

Rotating lawn sign “art shows” are designed to keep downtown visitors inspired and smiling during the pandemic. Here are 2 signs — still packaged — for the first round.


Among the Westport Garden Club’s many roles: maintaining the “Beach Buds” garden at the entrance to Compo Beach.

Yesterday they added more color, through their #FridayFlowers bouquet. They came from Ginger Donaher’s garden.

So even if you arrive too late this weekend and find the parking lot closed, you’ll have something to smile about.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


It’s a syrupy name, but it does the job. SuiteTooth — already active in New York City and the Hamptons — has just started working in Westport. They solve  a big obstacle to visiting the dentist — it’s inconvenient (especially now, during the pandemic) — by offering at-home preventative dental care (cleanings, exams, X-rays and sealants), plus cosmetic services like whitenings.

Their mobile dental suite can be set up inside a home, outside, or in a pergola or pool house. (You do have a pergola, right?) They just need an 8×8 space, electricity, WiFi and a bathroom.

For more details, click here or call 347-256-1445.


And finally … it’s already August. Can September be far behind?

 

Roundup: Compo Playground; Comet; Art; PAL; More


The latest reopening is a big one: the Compo Beach playground.

Everyone — except those under 2 — must wear a mask. Social distancing must be observed.

Other than that: Have fun!


The Neowise comet got plenty of publicity when it first arrived.

It’s still visible — all the way through August 15. In fact, says Elyse Heise — who took the great photo below, at Saugatuck Elementary School — it just hit peak brightness yesterday.

The view tonight should be as bright as the day this past week, when she took this shot.

(Photo/Elyse Heise Photography)


Three downtown galleries — Amy Simon, Pop’TArt and Sorelle — are sponsoring an art walk this Thursday (July 30, 5 to 8 p.m.). There’s live music and refreshments (masks required, of course).

If this one goes well, more are planned for future Thursdays.

Amy Simon Fine Art


For decades — and very quietly — Westport PAL has impacted thousands of lives.

In addition to organizing 10 sports for 2,000 kids each year, supporting Staples High School sports, helping with field enhancements, organizing the 4th of July fireworks and Main Street Halloween parade, PAL awards college scholarships. Since 2003, they’ve handed out $400,000 in aid.

Their fundraisers are low-key. Unfortunately, their biggest — the fireworks — was canceled this year.

But the 58th annual Chief Samuel Luciano Golf Tournament is still on. Set for September 14 at Longshore, it’s more important — and fun — than ever. Click here to register, and for more details.


In these tough COVID times, EnergizeCT has expanded their rebates and incentives. The popular — and free — Home Energy Solutions program helps state residents save on bills by reducing waste.

Virtual visits (“pre-assessments”) offer a look into a home’s energy efficiency situation, so experts can make suggestions and explain how the rebates work.

There is no co-pay, regardless of how the home is heated. And the insulation rebate rate is now $2.20 per square foot — more than twice the previous $1 rate.

For more information, click here or call 877-947-3873.


This week’s #FridayFlowers — courtesy, as always, of the Westport Garden Club — adorn the entrance to Longshore.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


And finally … play ball! Baseball is back!  There’s new grass on the field …

 

Roundup: Bingo; Bridgeport Rescue Mission; Flowers; More


Stan Witkow reports that the weekly virtual bingo game just crossed the $5,000 mark.

Anyone can play. The winner chooses a non-profit to receive his or her winnings.

Homes With Hope has been a major recipient of the weekly winnings, receiving $1,235. Other include Bridgeport Hospital’s COVID-19 Response Fund, Connecticut Food Bank and Harvest Island food pantry on Long Island.

Players come from across the country. Some are Westport ex-pats living in Florida, and stranded in California.

Games are every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. Newcomers are welcome. Email stan@witkow.com for details.

A scene from the Virtual Bingo game.


Ariana Napier reports that during the pandemic, Bridgeport Rescue Mission is providing twice as many meals and 3 times as many grocery bags as before.

Requests for donations have not stopped. She’s not stopping either.

She and generous Westporters have donated 1,395 pounds of food and other items so far. Just 605 pounds more are needed to make 1 ton.

Items most in need:

  • Peanut butter and jelly (plastic)
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned tuna
  • Cereal (family size)
  • Macaroni & cheese (box)
  • Canned soup, stew, beans .

Items can be dropped off in bins at Ariana’s driveway (14 Jennings Court). Questions?  Email ariana.napier@gmail.com.


Yesterday’s Westport Garden Club #FridayFlowers arrangement celebrated the reopening of the Westport Library. The beautiful flowers were created by Beverly Stanley and Laurie Holst, left and right respectively in the photo below.

(Photo/Kelle Ruden)


And finally … sure, no one likes wearing masks. But it’s an order. It’s an important way to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s no big deal. Just put on your mask, and then …

Roundup: Library Reopens; Oh Brother!; More


The Westport Library’s limited reopening begins Monday (July 13).

In-person services include borrowing of books, audiobooks, movies, and magazines; visits to the Children’s Library to borrow materials; access to Express computers for 20-minute sessions, and in-person reference and reader’s advisory services.

Hours are weekdays 2 to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 12 to 4 p.m.

Precautions will keep staff and patrons safe. Patrons must wear masks, and are asked to keep visits short.

Meeting and conference rooms, the café and store will not be available. Most seatin ghas been removed from the media studios and MakerSpace, and near scanners, copiers and printers. Newspapers will not be available, but magazines can be checked out. For more information, click here.


If it had nothing else going for it besides its name, “Oh, Brother, Not Another Podcast!” should be in the Media Hall of Fame.

But there’s plenty more. Miggs Burroughs and his (of course) brother (and fellow artist) Trace regularly regale listeners with interesting banter and plenty of surprises.

They might outdo themselves on Thursday, July 23 (7 p.m.). They’re hosting a special event, live from the Westport Library.

Of course, anyone anywhere in the world can tune it. There are great guests, videos, interactive quizzes, and a few “celebrity” surprises.

It’s all free. But click here to register.


This week’s #FridayFlowers enhance the entrance to the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum, off Stonybrook Road adjacent to Earthplace.

It’s fitting. In the 1950s the land was made available to the town by Wadsworth, an artist, sculptor, philanthropist and member of the Westport Garden Club — the organization responsible for each week’s flower arrangement, somewhere in town.

Both the arboretum and Earthplace have walking trails, and are open to the public.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


And finally … On this day in 1962, the satellite Telstar was launched from Cape Canaveral. It beamed live television from Europe to the United States.

Roundup: July 4th House Decorating Contest; #FridayFlowers; More


There will be no 4th of July fireworks this year. But you can still show your patriotism — and win tickets to the 2021 show.

Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department and Westport PAL — the sponsors of what is usually our town’s biggest party — are collaborating on the first-ever “4th of July House Decorating Contest.”

They encourage residents to decorate the side of your house most visible from the street, showing off the themes of “patriotism” and “America.”

Click here to register, so your house can be judged (on July 2). There are 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes.

BONUS: The winning houses will be featured on “06880” too!

Showing the flag, on Hillspoint Road.


Surprise!

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association is honoring Staples High School’s graduating seniors with a special tribute: banners, flying high.

Every 12th grader’s name — all 443 — is on one of the 39 handsome, Staples-blue pennants. They were a surprise until yesterday. Now everyone can see them, on Main Street, Elm Street and Church Lane.

One more great reason to head downtown!

Nicole and Victoria Caiati, with “their” banner.


The Westport Garden Club’s #FridayFlowers campaign brought them this week to St. Luke Church. There was special meaning for their volunteer efforts: The club’s monthly meetings — open to the public — are held in the church’s Community Room.


Westport Garden Club member Louise Demakis (left) with Sister Maureen in the garden at St. Luke Church. (Photo/ Kelle Ruden)


On Thursday, Aly Sivinski graduates from Staples High School. Since her first half-marathon 2 years ago, it was her dream to run in the New York City Marathon.

COVID-19 made that impossible this fall. But with time on her hands now, she decided to run her own half-marathon around here. She spent the past 8 weeks training, and will run her half on June 21.

Aly says, “Due to recent events in our society and the continued perpetuation of systemic racism, I have to decide to use my run to raise money for Black Lives Matter and the Connecticut Bail Fund.”

She hopes for either a flat donation of $13.10 (for the 13.1 miles), or a pledge of a any amount per mile. Click here to help.

Aly Sivinski


And finally … powerful, thought-provogking words from Depeche Mode:

COVID Roundup: Reopening; Friday Flowers; Ford Escort; Donut Crazy; More


As Westport reopens, it may be hard to figure out who’s in charge of what. First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

The Westport Weston Health District licenses restaurants and the beauty industry. So the WWHD leads compliance of those state rules.

Fire Marshal Nathaniel Gibbons will lead enforcement efforts for all non-WWHD regulated industries. Efforts include conducting spot checks, referrals and coordination with the WWHD and Police Department.

The police are responsible for tracking all complaints. They’ll investigate to ensure compliance, and work with business owners to correct infractions.

The Police Department requests that reports of non-compliance or complaints about business operations should be made by phone to the non-emergency number: 203-341-6000. For complaints made to the state, call 211.

If you see penguins not following proper protocols, call the police non-emergency number.  (Photo/Marcy Sansolo)


As life — and human beings — come back to Main Street, the Westport Garden Club is making sure everything looks lovely.

Yesterday they planted flowers downtown. The project is part of “Friday Flowers,” the club’s campaign to brighten spirits with colorful flowers. Four beds on both sides of Main Street will be maintained throughout the summer and fall.

From left: Kathy Oberman Tracy, Kelle Ruden and Kara Wong. (Photo: Topsy Siderowf)


Of all the COVID-caused changes in Westport, none is starker than the scene at the Saugatuck train station. Almost instantly, what had always been better-get-there-early-for-a-spot lots turned into ghost towns. All those coveted parking permits? They’re gathering dust, as thousands of commuters work from home.

But — if you’re one of the few people who has been there knows — there is one lonely car. A Ford Escort has been there since mid-March. It sure is practicing social distance.

Does anyone know the back story? If so, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Caroly Van Duyn)


Meanwhile, a few yards east, Donut Crazy opened. Commuter traffic is not yet back (duh). But Juliana and Anna (below) look like they never left. Except for the masks…

(Photo/John Karrel)


A couple of days ago, I wrote about the debut of Manna Toast. Molly Healey is opening a cafe in Bedford Square in mid-July. She’s great, and it will be wonderful.

In the meantime, beginning next Tuesday (May 26) she’s delivering family-style kits that serve 4. They include ready-to-toast sourdough bread with a choice of 2 toasts (meatless meatballs, hummus, burrata or roasted squash); 1 salad (kale with tahini miso or local greens), 1 soup (creamy carrot or 3-bean chili), and 1 tea. Everyone gets 4 chocolate chip cookies.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek. It’s fantastic — flavorful, creative, fresh; something new and welcome in the midst of so much COVID sameness. But don’t take my words for it. Check it out here:


It doesn’t feel like it, but this is a holiday weekend. We’ll miss the Memorial Day parade. The weather is a bit iffy.

But Compo Beach will be open. Not at full capacity, yet. There are no picnic tables or grills. Port-a-potties only, too.

Still, the scene today was like any other start-of-summer, late May day.

If only.

(Photo/Kathie Motes Bennewitz)


And finally … there might be a more beautiful way to end the week. But I don’t know what it is.

COVID Roundup: Yarn Bombing; Minute Man Flowers; Masks; Movies; More


Anne Craig is familiar to Westporters. She spent 15 years on TV, as an entertainment and features reporter for Fox 5 in New York, and evening news anchor on New Haven’s Channel 8.

These days Anne is home in Westport with her husband and young kids. But  she still loves telling stories — and tells them very, very well.

This one is about Westport’s mysterious “yarn bomber.” We’ve all seen her (or their) (or his?!) work. Now Anne tries to unravel the mystery.


Two weeks ago, Staples senior Lillie Bukzin learned that Oprah Winfrey was organizing a Facebook Live graduation event — and was looking for videos.

Lillie and her friends Sofie Abrams, Meher Bhullar, Reilly Caldwell, Kate Enquist and Cassie Lang went to work. They wrote a mini-script, and Lillie recorded them all saying “Hi! We are from the class of 2020 from Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut and this how we graduate.” They also threw their Staples baseball caps in the air.

On Thursday, they learned they’d be part of Oprah’s event — which aired yesterday. Click below to see their 15 seconds of fame! (Okay, it’s more like 1.5 seconds. But the video is very cool!

PS: In other Staples/national graduation/famous people news, tonight (8 p.m., multiple platforms) is when former president Barack Obama gives a speech to the Class of 2020. It’s the direct result of a social media campaign spearheaded by Lincoln Debenham, who grew up here and spent 2 years at Staples before his family moved to Los Angeles.

The Class of 2020 may graduate virtually, but together they rock!


The Westport Garden Club had to postpone their annual flower sale. But the 96-year-old organization is growing new roots, with their “Friday Flowers” project. All around town, they’re brightening our days. Here’s one example — at the gateway to our newly opened beach.

(Photo/Ellen Greenberg)


Here’s another interesting shot. David Squires calls this “our new (ab)normal.” Personally, he says, “I prefer the fuzzy dice.”


In month 3 of COVID, you’ve gone through nearly every Netflix, Showtime and Disney title available.

But you may have missed “Batsh*t Bride.” Filmed locally — including Christ & Holy Trinity church, Longshore and Pearl restaurant — the comedy stars Meghan Falcone as a bride who pranks her fiance by saying they should break up. Unfortunately, he feels the same way. Everything spirals out of control from there.

It’s available just about any way you can watch: Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Xbox, FangangoNOW, Hoopla, Sony Playstation Video Application and console, AT&T, DirectTV, Dish, iN DEMAND (Comcast, Spectrum) and Vubiquity (Verison Fios). Enjoy the trailer below; then click here for the direct links.


There’s not a lot to laugh about these days. But people walking past Saugatuck Congregational Church have to smile when they see the signs below.

Too young to know the reference? Google John Cleese and Monty Python.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … the beach parking lot reopening was timed perfectly with the arrival of actual spring weather. Well done, Westport!

COVID-19 Roundup: Supper & Soul; Plants & Earthplace; Technology & Masks; More


“Supper & Soul” was a great, popular concept. The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce organized dinner, a concert, and dessert/drinks. It was a moveable feast, great downtown entertainment, and tons of fun.

It was also something you could do in a pre-COVID world. But — undaunted — the Chamber and Westport Library have partnered to offer a new, socially distant (but still very cool) “Stay Home & Soul” program.

The first one is next Friday (May 15). There’s curbside pickup dinner from any of 15 local restaurants, and a livestream concert by folk/roots rock band David Wax Museum. The husband and wife duo earned raves for their Supper & Soul concert last year. The opening act is Staples graduate and multi-talented musician Drew Angus.

$35 a person gets you a 2-course dinner, and access to the show. Want the concert only? That’s just $11.

$1 of every ticket will be donated to the Homes With Hope food pantry.

Participating restaurants include Dunville’s, Jesup Hall, Kawa Ni, Match Burger Lobster, Pane e Bene, Pearl at Longshore, Rive Bistro, Romanacci Xpress, Tarantino, The Boathouse, The Whelk, Viva Zapata, Walrus Alley (formerly Rothbard Ale + Larder) and Wafu.

For more information and tickets, click here.


Today would have been the Westport Garden Club‘s annual Plant Sale.

It didn’t happen. But the 96-year-old organization is not letting any grass grow under their feet.

Today they launch Friday Flowers. Each Friday, members will share pots and bouquets of colorful flowers at locations around town.

The first “flower bombing” is at Saugatuck Congregational Church. That’s appropriate — for years, the downtown landmark has hosted the Plant Sale.

The goal of Friday Flowers is to encourage a love of gardening, while respecting the current limits on public interaction. Providing fresh flowers reflects the club’s mission to participate in civic beautification, and its dedication to the community.

Photos of each week’s display will be posted on Facebook and Instagram. Anyone can post their own photos too; just use the hashtag #FridayFlowers.


Speaking of nature: Here’s an update from Earthplace.

“We cannot say enough how much we miss our visitors, families and students during these difficult times.

“Our building may be closed to the public, but we are very active behind the scenes. Our 50+ animals need daily care, our building and grounds maintenance is ongoing, and our critical river monitoring work continues. The Earthplace trails remain open. We hope you come visit and (safely) spend some time outdoors in nature!

“Meanwhile, our wonderful staff has been working hard to support the Earthplace community with online resources including stay-at-home activities and educational nature videos. Click below for a virtual visit of Animal Hall, and check out our new YouTube channel.”


Early in the pandemic, Dream Spa & Salon owner Lori Dodd got a surprising — but welcome — call.

A group of concerned, caring citizens were making anonymous donations to businesses in town. Dream was on the list.A

An attorney played Santa for a day. He delivered much-needed (and greatly appreciated) checks to places that met certain criteria:

  • Long-time Westport business
  • Owned and/or operated by Westport residents
  • Impacted by Covid-19
  • “Westport would not be the same without them.”

That last meant a lot to Lori. She cried — and was told other men and women did too when they got their donations. It helped a lot to keep her salon going.

And it’s still going. She’s got a Mother’s Day special: For gift certificates of $150, you can pick up a major spa swag bag (prepared of course by healthy, gloved and masked staff!). Just click here, then text 203-349-0680 to say you’ll be picking up the certificate and gift bag on Saturday, May 9 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), as opposed to the e-gift option.


Many Staples High School students have access to technology. Many students elsewhere do not.

Some of those Westporters — members of Staples’ Girls Who Code chapter –have joined a national fundraiser to provide underprivileged girls the technology they need, now more than ever. Without it — and with libraries and community centers closed — virtual learning is virtually impossible.

The effort runs through May 12. Girls Who Code’s partner Citrix will match every donation, up to $50,000. To help, click here.


Staples High School Class of 2000 graduate Shane Smith had plenty of success as an entrepreneur with Med Spa. But through a connection with one of the country’s largest laser cutters, he’s now helping provide masks to those who desperately need them.

CT (Connecticut) Masks began as a charity effort. He and partner Nuwan Foley first donated 170 masks to the Westport police department. They shared the news on social media; residents soon asked if they could buy the same type masks.

The masks are laser cut in the US, and machine packaged. That eliminates human contact, while the “no-sew” style makes them more comfortable than most. There is a lightweight “jersey” style, and a thicker “fleece” option.

Shane and Nuwan sold some, bought more, and donated even more. Up next: Norwalk Police Department, and a New York City precinct.

To order your own — and help them pay it forward — click here.

 


And finally … back in the day, Friday marked the end of a tough week. Work, school, whatever — it was all over. Time to cut loose, kick back and par-tay!

Now, Friday is just another in an endless line of similar days. You may not even know today is Friday. But it is. So cut loose, kick back, and get down with the Easybeats.

COVID-19 Roundup: Resurrection; RaRa; Frannie Faith; Garden Club; More


The pandemic has forced a lot of religious services into cyberspace. But there’s still plenty of activity at Green’s Farms Church.

The 157-year-old meetinghouse of the 309-year-old church is being renovated. The few people driving past on Hillandale Road will see a naked building (siding has been removed for off-site lead paint remediation).

Inside, workers have dismantled the 1964 Aeolian Skinner pipe organ. It’s been sent to New Jersey for restoration. Church officials hope to have it back by fall, reinstalled in a renovated meetinghouse.

“The first Sunday we all get gather and sing with the resurrected organ will be a big day in our history, for more than one reason!” says operations director Claire England.

Whether you’re a member or not — or even a non-believer — I have faith you’ll enjoy this video:


Westport artist Lisa Stretton recently launched a new business. Real Art Real Artists (aka RaRa) is a very cool online directory that helps local artists connect with consumers, and offers art-lovers an easy way to find artists in their area.

Art is searchable by location, theme, style and price. Buyers contact the artist directly, by email, phone or the artist’s personal website.

RaRa takes no commission. Artists pay a low monthly fee to be listed. However, to help them during the pandemic — when they need it most — Stretton is offering free listings to artists. Just click here, and use the code RaRa2020.

RaRa also includes videos, and information about art shows and events.


The Westport Garden Club’s Plant Sale has been held — rain or shine — every year since 1928. The only reason it’s been canceled was World War II.

And now, COVID-19.

With regret, the 96-year-old club has scrubbed the May 8 event. They’d hoped to reschedule, but a new date cannot be found.

The June 11 open meeting has been canceled to. The next one is September 10.

However, public gardens the club maintains are open for enjoyment. Grace K. Salmon Park on Imperial Avenue, and the Nevada Hitchcock Garden (corner of Cross Highway and Weston Road) feature new daffodil plantings.

The Westport Pollinator Pathway Project, launched last year with Earthplace and Wakeman Town Farm, continues. Educational programs will be added as circumstances improve. Click here to find resources for native plants.

For more information about the Westport Garden Club, click here ,and follow on Facebook.


Every other week, Frannie Southworth leads a free music and meditation class on Zoom.

It started as a class called Shabbat Shalva (Sabbath of Peace) through her synagogue, Temple Shalom in Norwalk.

Now –during COVID — it has some Jewish content, but is not particularly religiously oriented. People of all faiths join in.

Southworth’s husband Jeff plays guitar. Together they perform soothing songs and chants. She then guides a relaxation body scan and meditation, and teaches breathing techniques to keep the nervous system calm.

The next class is this Saturday (May 2, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) Email Franniefaith@me.com. For more information, click here.

Frannie and Jeff Southworth


And finally … at times like these, we need Times Like These.

COVID-19 Roundup: Gardens; $$$; More

 


The Westport Garden Club‘s spring plant sale is always a red letter date for green thumbs.

Like so many other events, it’s fallen victim to the coronavirus. But, the club says, it’s only postponed — not canceled. A new date will be announced soon.

COVID-19 has not knocked other plans. Members of the 96-year-old organization continue to beautify and maintain gardens and cemeteries all over town.

They’ve been busy at Grace Salmon Park, Nevada Hitchcock Park, Adams Academy, Earthplace and more. No more than 2 members work at any time, and they keep far apart while weeding, pruning and planting.

Next up: extending the Pollinator Pathway project begun last year, and enhancing the town with floral accents.

Beautiful Grace Salmon Park (Photo/Ginger Donaher)


Westport Rotary Club grants are usually a big deal, unveiled with fanfare at a big May meeting.

This year, the pandemic forced a change. $80,000 in funding was announced by email. And it’s going out now — not next month — because for many recipients, the need is urgent.

Thanks to fundraisers like LobsterFest, and ongoing hard work by members, Westport Rotary can help 35 local organizations. They include Staples Tuition Grants, Homes with Hope, CLASP Homes, and a wide range of Westport-based social services, housing, education and addiction services organizations.

Also receiving grants: Bridgeport and Norwalk organizations that serve the needy, including Mercy Learning Center, Family ReEntry and the Carver Foundation.


Speaking of Mercy Learning: Many Westporters are longtime volunteers. The Bridgeport program provides underserved women with academic, language, computer and life skills; early childhood education; assistance preparing for citizenship, and mental health, job and financial counseling.

Recently, many more Westporters have given generously, as the organization adds food, medicine and diapers for women in need.

Yesterday, the National Catholic Reporter shined a great spotlight on MLC. It’s featured in the paper’s “Saints Next Door.” Click here for the full story on this wonderful institution — and the great people behind it. (Hat tip: Diane Johnson)


More great philanthropic news:

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is giving 90 grants totaling $1,359,500 from its COVID-19 Resiliency Fund. The project was launched just a month ago. Click here for the list.

But they’re not stopping there. An anonymous donor will match every donation — up to a total of $500,000. Click here to make a donation of any size. Every dollar counts!


And finally, a beautiful song that means more than ever, these days: