Horsing around

A friend of mine asked me to look into this particular bill, which, according to the title, is intended “[t]o amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to improve the management and long-term health of wild free-roaming horses and burros, and for other purposes.”

The Bureau of Land Management, in charge of these critters, doesn’t much like the idea. Ed Roberson, Assistant Director, Renewable Resources & Planning, testified in March [pdf]:

H.R. 1018 would require the BLM to continue to identify appropriate management levels, but the legislation repeals the requirement in the 1971 Act that excess animals be removed if these levels are exceeded. Under H.R. 1018, the BLM would be required to “exhaust all practicable options to maintain populations on the range” before removing any animals. H.R. 1018 would also require that an adoption demand exists before removing animals. Without a clear mechanism to trigger removals, wild horse and burro populations could grow exponentially. As we noted before, adoption rates have declined substantially in recent years. In 2008, only 3,700 animals were adopted. If gathers are limited to only animals that can be adopted, wild horse and burro populations on the range could increase sharply and cause severe destruction of rangeland habitats (including wildlife and fish habitats).

Considering that they’re having to compete with livestock for grazeland and water, I doubt there’s going to be any huge upsurge in the population, and if there is, these things tend to be self-correcting — assuming the BLM isn’t also messing with the predator population, which may be a lot to assume.

Madeleine (Mrs. T. Boone) Pickens proposes to take some of the animals off the BLM’s hands by establishing a privately-operated sanctuary in northeast Nevada, which strikes me as an excellent idea. But while this will reduce the BLM’s inventory, it presumably won’t do anything to improve the lot of horses not yet sequestered by the Bureau.

This bill isn’t a cure-all by any means: it doesn’t do much of anything for the grazeland and water issues, and nothing in it is likely to increase the number of adoptions. (If anything, they’ll decrease at first, since the Bureau would have to get statements from the adopters to guarantee the animals won’t wind up on the dinner menu somewhere.) Still, it seems to be a step in the right direction.

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Walk a mile in their shoes

The Festival of the Arts is at hand, which means, among other things, a lot more foot traffic in the general vicinity of Hudson and Sheridan. It seemed like a good time, therefore, to gauge consultant Jeff Speck’s assertion that several downtown streets are too wide, given the meager number of cars coming through.

So I’m on foot at Main and Hudson, near the west entrance to the Galleria parking garage, to watch the cars back up from Sheridan, where Hudson is closed to accommodate the Festival — and they’re not backing up, despite the fact that one lane of Hudson is blocked off: maybe four cars, at most, are waiting at the light. Meanwhile, it’s a long slog across Sheridan to get to the Festival, but it’s an even longer slog across Hudson. Admittedly, this was high noon, not exactly the peak hour for downtown commuter traffic, but on a Festival day, there’s likely an extra 50,000 folks downtown, and they’re all in the same general area. Furthermore, rather a lot of those fifty thousand don’t come downtown very often at all, so they’re apt to be perplexed by the layout of things, assuming they aren’t already befuddled by the most recent screwing around with the street grid. Right now, it looks like Speck 1, City Planning 0.

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Clarissa won’t expose it all

Melissa Joan Hart apparently was offered a deal to doff her duds for Playboy, but decided to turn it down:

They came around and offered me a million dollars, which I had to seriously consider. Initially it’s like, “yeah, I’ll take my clothes off for a million bucks, are you kidding?” It’s the big question: what will you do for a million dollars? But I decided that because of the reaction I got from Maxim I wasn’t comfortable — and my brother had that cover shoved in his face for months. That made me say no.

My reaction to this falls almost exactly halfway between “Good for you, stick to your guns” and “And I just renewed my subscription, too.”

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Out of tween

From a couple of weeks ago:

It occurred to me some time last week that I have one person on the blogroll who wasn’t even born when I started out.

Well, now she’s rolled over the big one-three:

I FEEL OLD, GUYZ. Even if I’m not. Not OLD, necessarily, just not wise, at least. I always had this idea that when I aged I’d be all ~philosophical~ like Morrie Schwartz and awesome like Anna Piaggi. I’m older but not wiser. Just like… awkward.

Comes with the territory, I’m afraid. Anyway, happy (belated) birthday, Style Rookie.

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Pipe down, why doncha

The Live Music Capital of the World thinks it’s getting too noisy:

This week the reports have been all over about Freddie’s Place on South First having to finally shut down their outdoor music after receiving a warning from the Austin Police Department for noise violation. The battle between Freddie’s patio music and the surrounding neighborhood has been ground zero in the noise ordinance debate the past few years, and Freddie’s has been careful to maintain a strict policy of no outside music after 9:00pm and that the decibel level doesn’t exceed the traditional level of enforcement for live outdoor music at 85 db. So what went wrong?

Turns out that on February 26, the city council adopted Ordinance No. 20080226-028 (pdf), which set a distinction between outdoor music venues and restaurants hosting live music. As the Chronicle reports, this allowed for the enforcement of the previously established City Code Section 25-2-808, which set the db level for live entertainment at restaurants at 70. With the clarification, APD was given the power to enforce the 70db limit at Freddie’s. The problem is that the ambient sound level for the restaurant would be between 65 and 70dbs, which effectively nixes any outdoor entertainment.

As the Austinist reported, after being notified of the new enforcement policy, owner Fred Nelson shut down the show and canceled the 83 shows he already had booked at the restaurant. The worse part is that restaurant residencies and gigs are an incredibly important means of support for local musicians, and city hall has effectively just killed that work for already struggling artists. Nelson estimates over 200 musicians are out of gig just from his cancellations alone.

Freddie tells the story here.

So much for keeping Austin weird, huh? I hate noise as much as the next guy, but this seems awfully draconian. And it’s not, as I might have expected, the result of a steady influx of new center-city residents who aren’t used to this sort of thing:

These folks have been complaining about venues on Barton Springs and Congress and Red River ever since I’ve been here — for more than a decade; and there hasn’t been any new group of downtown residents joining them; they’re just using the supposed downtown residents as cover — most people living downtown view music as an amenity, not a problem.

Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re expecting the benefits of a vibrant urban center, you shouldn’t be surprised to detect an occasional bit of, um, vibration.

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Split vs. overlay

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, area code 918 is just about full, which means one of two options: either 918 is split into two different codes, one retaining 918 and the other being assigned a new number — this was the action taken when 580 was spun off from 405 — or an overlay is applied, which means that the 918 area remains intact but that new numbers will be assigned the new code.

Each of these has disadvantages. In a split, roughly half the customers suffer the inconvenience of a new number; in an overlay, all the customers suffer the inconvenience of having to dial ten digits instead of seven.

Michael Bates would rather have the split:

To my mind, an overlay makes sense in a metro area like DFW or New York where people are already using ten digits for many of their local phone calls — calling from Dallas to Arlington or Brooklyn to Manhattan — or where the area code that needs splitting is already a small area and there are no clean breaks between exchanges. Those conditions don’t obtain here in Oklahoma. It makes sense to do to the 918 what was done many years ago to 405 — keep the existing code for the urbanized area and assign a new code to the outer area.

It should be noted that the reason DFW and New York are already using ten digits is that they’ve already had overlays, and Dallas and Fort Worth have been in different area codes more or less since Day One (which was in 1947) anyway. Come to think of it, 918 was originally a split from 405, implemented in late 1953.

And while I agree with Mr Bates that 918 should get the same treatment as 405 — a split rather than an overlay — splits are on the way out. There are three area-code changes in the works right now, two in southern California and one covering all of West Virginia, and all three are overlays. In fact, residents of north San Diego County in California actually fought for the overlay, since they were the ones scheduled to be split off into 442. Since this would have been the fifth area-code change in that area (213 to 714 to 619 to 760 to 442), I can’t say as I blame them.

As for the new code, we don’t know what it will be, but I expect it will start with 5.

Update, 5 January 2010: 539, in fact.

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Too much for Derrida’s

Is there a problem if the headline on a story is too good? Maybe yes, maybe no, says Stanley Fish:

The problem of a readership that may be excluded from the wit and wisdom the headline writers dispense becomes more acute when the knowledge required is literary and even academic. Another recent [New York] Post story (April 7) concerns a Staten Island pastor who stole $850,000 from his church and spent it on plastic surgery and botox treatments. (The Post just loves stories about wayward ministers, rabbis and priests.) The front page headline was “Friar Tuck.”

Since I have no doubt all of my readers would have picked up on this little jest with ease, the inevitable conclusion here is that Fish, a deconstruction worker with a blog at The New York Times, thinks this level of wordplay is over the heads of those ill-bred Post readers.

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Paid by the keystroke

From this Technorati survey, The Wall Street Journal jumps to a conclusion:

It takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year.

Yeah, right, says Robert Stacy McCain:

I’m doing G*o*o*g*l*e A*d*s*e*n*s*e (you’re not actually supposed to mention it on your blog) which threw me a whopping $153.25 for 243,000 page impressions in March.

Maybe Dr. Joyner (who’s also a member of the BlogAds network I’m not allowed to join) can do the math and tell me how many page impressions per month I’d have to get in order to gross $75,000 a year from Google. Short answer: A freaking lot.

Well, yeah. I have no idea what the scale is at G*A*, but inasmuch as $153.25 for a month is about 1/40 what it would take to make $75k a year, I’m guessing somewhere around 9.9 million page impressions per month. Which is indeed a freaking lot.

For myself, I’m delighted to be running at less than a triple-digit loss each year.

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Once heights, now pits

Blair Humphreys has dug up a promotional piece for a new subdivision, to be called Boulevard Heights, positioned along the Electric Car Line in the “famous Northwest part of the city.” The price, for 1908, was remarkable: $75 per lot, which could be paid off at $10 down and $5 a month.

One of the arguments routinely being made for urban passenger rail these days is that, just as it did a century ago, it spurs development along its routes:

Metro estimates that since 2004 $7.4 billion in planned, under construction or completed construction is targeted along the rail line. That development money dwarfs the $1.4 billion price tag to build light rail.

Which sounds like a pretty compelling argument to me, except for one minor detail: there’s not much of anything in Boulevard Heights, south of Britton Road and east of Classen, anymore. (The nearby city of Britton was annexed as part of Oklahoma City’s 1950s land grab.) By that time, the streetcar lines had been scrapped. This is less of an argument against rail, though, than an argument against the idea that development can last 100 years.

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He just twoted all over the place

I’ll have you know, I was a twit before twits were cool.

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The adverb as a form of litter

Tony Woodlief has literally had it up to here [oh, if only I had an embeddable video for this, to show you precisely where "here" is] with this particular misconstruction:

“Literally” doesn’t mean “really.” It’s not a word that you put in front of some other words to show that, unlike the rest of your lackluster sentence, this is the part you really totally completely, like, absolutely mean. And it doesn’t mean figuratively, or metaphorically. “Literally” means that it actually happened.

So if you tell me that you’re “literally going to hijack this meeting,” I’m liable to go all Jet Li on you. If you tell me that viewers of the latest Star Trek movie “quite literally get to pick up the very end of a new thread,” I’m going to imagine dorks in fake Spock ears crawling about the theater floor in search of a string. If you write that the Columbine murderers “literally put a scar across the American Flag,” I’m going to suggest that this is the least of their crimes. If you declare in your headline: “USA Today fights for its life, literally,” I’m going to insist that unless the newspaper’s representatives are in fact in a deathmatch, you are mistaken.

Me, I’d like to see someone go all Jet Li on USA Today. And dorks in fake Spock ears are running about eight and a third cents each these days. Which may or may not explain this:

Our words have entered the realm of fast food. They don’t offer much in the way of nutritional value, and so we dream up ways to enhance a flimsy burger by giving it extra-hot jalapeno cheese. We don’t just say, “I was frightened.” We say, “I was totally, like, so, so frightened.” For the love, people. Buy a freaking thesaurus. Literally.

Future tweet: OMG the thesaurus is starting to freak!

Now if someone would just explain to me how “peruse,” which used to mean “to examine or consider with attention and in detail” [Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 8th edition, 1981], came to mean simply “read.”

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Lined up none deep

The world’s first plug-in hybrid, the F3DM from BYD, has gone on sale in the Chinese domestic market. How’s it doing? A few breaths short of “Meh”:

Warren Buffett’s hefty investment into the cell phone battery maker quieted the skeptics and gave green-hued futurists a license to thrill. A 60-mile plug-in range, a multiple-mode hybrid system and a price tag under $25K had American hypermilers factoring in local tax credits and greengasming at the fantasy of it all. But in the world’s new largest market for automobiles, even $20K is a huge amount of money. And it turns out that one society’s eco-fantasy is another society’s overpriced, overly-complex answer to a question nobody has asked.

Xinhua reports (yes, nearly a week ago) that BYD’s F3DM has utterly failed to attract Chinese consumers; the firm has sold only 80 models since it went on sale in December. Apparently 20 of those were bought by the city of Shenzhen (think China’s Detroit) with the rest going to the local branch of China Construction Branch. In fact, BYD never even attempted to target private consumers with the model, despite the fact that an F3DM costs 30-40 percent less than a Toyota Prius (which only sold about 3,500 units in China between 2006 and 2008). Even the government isn’t rushing to put its citizens in the alleged volks-hybrid, offering a $7K hybrid subsidy to fleet buyers only.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group, through a subsidiary, owns 10 percent of BYD.

The F3DM has a 1-liter inline-three producing 75 hp, plus two electric motors. The battery design is BYD’s own. Projected range is 60 miles.

All this is cause for concern at Specific (formerly “General”) Motors: if the car-crazy Chinese won’t buy a $20k hybrid in a booming market, how are they going to sell a $40k hybrid (Chevrolet’s Volt) in a market gone to pieces? Answer: more subsidies, of course. I have to wonder if this fact will appear in the advertising: “You’ve already paid for this car, now drive it.”

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Quick, Henry, the spin!

Swiped from Tim Blair:

Susan Boyle’s celebrated British talent show appearance (more than seven million YouTube views) results in a swarm of PC email for Nation columnist Patricia Williams:

The first email about Susan Boyle was forwarded to me by a friend who works for a human rights organisation. Her message fumed that Boyle had been “disrespected as a woman”. The second email came from a retired neighbour who was unnerved by the ageism on display from Simon Cowell and the other judges. The third was from a vegan who despises the cosmetics industry for experimenting on animals and was delighted that Boyle hadn’t worn a speck of make-up that anyone could tell. The fourth was from a law school classmate who saw her success as the apotheosis of a just order, the fifth from an Indian friend who deemed it a liberatory moment for persons of low caste.

“Hey, nice voice” seems not to have occurred to any of these blinkered Philistines.

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Keep it in the pink

One town in South Korea, Iksan, apparently has designated certain parking spots for women only. Are they closer to the front door, making it easier for women carrying packages, or children, or both? Do they have better security, just in case someone with dishonorable intentions is lurking nearby?

Nope. They’re wider, because women can’t park so well:

The “pink lines”, painted pink, are 2.5 meters wide rather than the standard 2.3, offering aid to women drivers unskilled at parking.

Is there any reason to believe women actually have less skill at parking than men do? I’ve seen some pretty shabby parking jobs done by my half of the species.

And two and a half meters is wide? Where I live, the minimum required by city code is 2.6, though 3.05 is preferred. Then again, Koreans tend not to drive Chevy Tahoes.

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Standing in the draft

For something that involves a bunch of ping-pong balls, the NBA Draft is fiendishly complex. Consider this bit of legalese that was part of the transaction whereby the Thunder acquired Thabo Sefolosha from the Bulls:

Oklahoma City shall convey to Chicago one first round draft pick, such that it shall occur in the first draft that Oklahoma City receives either Denver’s own 2009 first round pick (top 20 protected in the 2009 Draft, top 15 protected in 2010, top 10 protected in 2011, top 5 protected in 2012, top 3 protected in 2013, top 1 protected in 2014 and unprotected in the 2015 Draft) or San Antonio’s own 2009 first round pick (top 15 protected in the 2009 Draft, top 10 protected in 2010, top 5 protected in 2011, top 3 protected in 2012, and unprotected in the 2013 Draft). Chicago will receive (i) the less favorable of such picks if Oklahoma City receives both picks in the same draft or (ii) the only such pick if Oklahoma City receives just one of such picks in that draft. For example, if Oklahoma City receives both San Antonio’s own 2009 first round pick and Denver’s own 2009 first round pick, then Oklahoma City must send the less favorable pick to Chicago. However, if Oklahoma City receives only San Antonio’s own 2009 first round pick, then that pick will go to Chicago.

Sefolosha speaks three languages, but I doubt he’d make any sense of this either.

The result: the Thunder have a lottery pick (position to be determined) and the #25 pick, obtained from the Spurs. The #26 pick, acquired from the Nuggets, is duly dealt to the Bulls. It ends there, though: Oklahoma City traded its second-round pick for the year to the Nuggets in the same deal that got the Nuggets’ first-round pick, as part of the Chucky Atkins/Johan Petro swap. And there’s more: the Thunder also owned the Nets’ second-round pick, but traded it to the Bobcats for the rights to sign Kyle Weaver. (That Nets pick goes all the way back to 2006, when the then-SuperSonics acquired Mikki Moore, who has since gone to the Kings and then the Celtics.) What’s more, the Sonics also owned the Magic’s second-round pick, which was dealt to the Suns as part of a weird deal involving Kurt Thomas, who was subsequently traded to the Spurs (hence that first-round pick). So: two first-rounders, nothing in the second. I have to figure that the NBA has at least one staffer who works year-round to keep the draft picks straight.

(Oh, and we get Phoenix’ first-round pick next year: see “weird deal involving Kurt Thomas,” supra. Subject to change in the future, of course.)

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Shots at noon, or thereabouts

The state and the Feds have child-immunization goals: the CDC, for instance, wants 90 percent of two-year-olds to have been immunized against diseases that actually respond to vaccines by next year. The current Oklahoma County figure is a tad short: 82 percent.

So: freebies. In 1994 the Oklahoma County Immunization Coalition came up with CAKEwalk Saturday, CAKE being “Care About Kids Enterprise,” the sort of acronym that’s de rigueur in these matters. This coming Saturday, parents or guardians can schlep their 18-and-unders to one of three locations and get their shots up to date.

Vaccinations will be offered from 10 am to 2 pm at these locations:

  • Douglass High School, 900 N. Martin Luther King Ave (as part of the 3 on 3 Hoops for Health Fair)
  • Variety Health Center Lafayette Clinic, 500 SW 44th Street
  • St. John’s United Methodist Church, 1755 N. Meridian Avenue

(More details at Wimgo.)

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Strange search-engine queries (168)

This particular category is called “You Asked For It,” which doesn’t mean you, specifically, unless you happened to wander in here via a search string that made me snicker, in which case it does, and thank you for the blogfodder.

Who is credited with saying “One can never be too rich or too thin”:  Officially, Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, though I figure it might as well have been Jenny Craig.

High court rules Oklahoma City zoo employees can’t unionize:  On the other hand, Marsupial Court has already mandated card-check.

How to make invisible spray that could turn anything invisible:  How would you find the container you stored it in?

penguins of madagascar, “anatomical impossibility”:  I believe you’re looking for this.

mazda transmission fixes itself:  Does it also deplete your checking account by itself?

diet sandals:  Look for the really, really thin straps.

“be rhett butler”:  And then, my dear, will you give a damn?

foreskin chewing gum:  Almost certainly not kosher, either.

men ejaculating in mayonnaise burger king columbia sc:  Evidently “hold the pickle, hold the lettuce” proved insufficient.

footed pjs are wedgie proof:  Perhaps, but do you really want to take that chance?

second toe longer than big toe gay correlation:  This is what you come up with when you discover you don’t actually have working gaydar.

is minority groups improving today:  Nice of you to drop by, Mr. President. How are things on the ranch?

love for sale postgraduate:  I knew there was some reason I should have stayed in school.

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But we like potholes

Only a government could defend potholes:

An Essex Parish Council wants to leave its roads marked with cracks and potholes unrepaired, in what it calls a “natural traffic calming measure”.

Parish councillors of Navestock say there is no need to go through the costly and time-consuming process of approaching the county council to repair the roads because “it just allows people to drive faster.”

Fortunately, at least one cooler head prevails at the county level:

Norman Hulme, Essex county council’s member for highways and transportation said: “The vast majority of Essex residents want to travel on safer, smoother roads.

“Regrettably, in this instance, we will have to take the opposite view to the parish council. We will be making arrangements to fill these potholes as soon as possible.”

(Via Autoblog.)

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Erosion of property rights

In 1988, Spain enacted a law intended to protect its coastline:

Basically there are two zones separated by a demarcation line (deslinde). The two areas are, the public domain, in which there can be no private ownership, and then a zone of 500 meters in which there are several areas and various restrictions to private ownership, the restrictions are very stringent nearer the sea but get more lenient as you get further away from the sea.

The public domain (dominio publico) has a very wide definition, including:

1. The surf zone and the beach.

2. All areas where the sea waves reach or have reached in the worst known storms.

3. All areas where there is sand, shale or pebbles, whether or not it is built on or whether or not the waves ever reach there, up to a point where the effects of the coastal winds are negligible and the area has no effect on coastal protection.

4. All areas reclaimed from the sea.

Inside this public domain everything belongs to the state and you automatically lose ownership rights.

One minor problem: coastlines move. The law, however, doesn’t concern itself with that detail:

It all started when the hotel next to the naturist resort in Vera, Almeria, decided to build a breakwater which does a fine job protecting the beach in front of the hotel, but which created a whirlpool on the other side, right in front of the sunbathing naturists.

Because the beach has shrunk, the resort’s 250 apartments are now located right next to the sea, in flagrant violation of the Coast Law.

Nor is this a one-time fluke:

More than 200,000 properties are said to be affected, 15% of them belonging to foreigners (up to 40% in some areas), mainly British and German, according to the National Platform for Owners Affected by the Coastal Law (known as the PNALC, its initials in Spanish), a pressure group with 20,000 members set up to fight the law.

A badly-drawn law with European origins. This can mean only one thing: we can expect an American version in the near future.

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Non-uniform regulations

Prepping for a trip to Santa Cruz is evidently a bit more complicated than I’d imagined:

The iPod was loaded with a soundtrack of Sixties music, heavy on Joplin and the Dead. Since I was overdue for a leg wax, batik and sandals would be all I’d need to blend in. Actually not. Without a tattoo — especially one with some Zen, Hindu or African significance — dreadlocks and REAL hippie garb, I stuck out at my first coffee shop visit like a stockbroker at a Phish concert. My faux hippie garb — with skirt from REI and sandals from Minnetonka — didn’t really have that hippie street cred.

I’d like to say I’m immune to such considerations, but I’d be lying: during yesterday’s cupcake session, I found myself wondering if anyone seeing me on the premises would immediately write me off as, and I quote, “yuppie scum.” Upon reflection, we decided that I was at most half correct.

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