Friday, December 16, 2011

Critical Life Issue #1

It's hard to distinguish between critical life issues and ordinary mundane reality, but for the masses out there, I believe the fear of losing there home and job is so close to so many that it drives much anxiety and depression and foreshadows the mundane and becomes what's currently critical. Those on the edge may make very poor financial decisions, be taken advantage of, or just fail to respond and lose everything. Those that have been foreclosed, most likely from losing their job, have been checked out of this monetary-based society unwillingly. Without money, you have no voice. When you turn to the church with no money, it can even become a burden for the church. I have no solution or even a suggestion what to do except mutual support from friends and church.

Those that have the means and are clever about dumping inverted mortgages may be saving themselves but in the long run are log jamming the society. When any house suddenly stops producing income for banks and insurance companies, they find ways to flush the expense onto the rest of us. The standard of living in America for the average Joe will continue to recede until those institutions with money come to par with their expected ROI. At some level in our society money becomes sacred and is protected by law and business practices at the expense of those below this threshold. That's the reality they should teach in school. More kids would opt not to drop out if they realized that education allows them access to this upper chamber. Without this savvy, one becomes the pavement for others to walk on. No one cares if you dye your hair green and rebel. You just become next year’s freak show. If our education system focused on current realities of how to earn a living, kids would respond and take notice and not want to drop out. Our education system is in a dream world of teaching ancient history and politically correct pabulum.

I recently had a water leak in my house and have been working with the insurance company. They are very reputable, as reputable as insurance can qualify for, but my broker confided that with these massive house foreclosures things like homeowner insurance has become a slippery slope, because the pool of premiums that keeps cost averages correct for their formulas to work is being undermined. When I come along with a claim, they have a knee-jerk reaction. They fight not to pay you more than in the past, while you have to fight to be paid for every line of benefit in the policy. But policies are written by lawyers, so the language is deliberately vague to protect the insurance company.

So what I'm trying to relay here is more than ever, for this generation of adults, we have to wake up to the fact that financially, the whole nation is fracturing. To avoid falling into the cracks, one has to read all those papers stuffed into filing cabinets and normally ignored and become aware of where our financial liabilities are and start to sandbag around our families. Otherwise, we will be swept away by those that will defend their wealth to the death when they come looking for our money.

This idea of re-educating to jump start into a new high-tech career is so foolhardy, especially when you're 50 and above. It's an act of desperation and people need to be warned on how much to sacrifice to make it happen. If you find you have a knack for this new area, fine. I taught at National University for several years and I experienced over-and-over again people working two low-end jobs to pay for this very expensive education only to fail or find that as a waitress, maybe computer programming was not their forte. The school took advantage of their ignorance. But what do you do. The only viable industry in America is financial services. Learning to become a programmer is a death sentence. All those jobs went offshore decades ago. The youngsters brought up on computers are enough to fill our techie needs. Financial services define the new order ever since the Clinton years, but no one in education shifted to line up American citizens to exercise their talents in that field. Manufactured goods is large, but much of it owned by foreign companies, and the rest is located in other countries. We as a people, failed to see the rug being pulled out from under us. So to deal with Critical Life Issue #1 as a middle aged family is becoming a disaster. The young have resilience. They will start new companies and work their buns off bringing back success, hopefully by generating valued items to sell and not financial rhetoric to baffle people out of their earnings on ponzi schemes. If not, they have the means to move to a country that is doing better. There in lies the rub. This is the country with the best opportunities!

To list critical life factors to advise and guide people out of the darkness that concerns our future stability, one has to spend some time on how to become financial sound. We criticize and sneer at money, but when you create a huge delicate superstructured society, maybe the most sophisticated in history, money is the mortar. We could all live in a cave and cook over a fire and boast of our philosophical purity, but really, money has a lot of beneficial savvy. Trouble is, we as a nation, have not focused on teaching our children to coup properly in the presence and power of money in a responsible manner. It’s hard to find a teenager that can even make change.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

For Whom the Belly Groans

Well, when you're 66, you can write any damn thing you want. Nobody can fire you. A group of elderly writers were conversing on the dignity of how they used to write their columns within strict guidelines of ethics for their time. Everyone avoided opinion, only stated the facts. I had to speak.

Today's journalism is nothing but opinion and editorializing. I call it the blog mentality, the Wikileaks zeitgeist of our times. We tell all, because no one is embarrassed by anything anymore. The term scruples, pshaw, it sounds so Victorian. You have to shoot the public in the face to get noticed. And being noticed is more important that ever with six billion people on the planet to compete with. It is now acceptable to bend the truth. The believable lie gets you the attention you seek. Pardon my boarding house reach.

We go from Reader's Digest to Wired and beyond in our taste in news stand literature. In fact, the more grossly exaggerated and laced with "lies" the better. Many of us really think the blather-bloated scandal sheets at the grocery store checkout to be worthy, must reads, only just below the NY best sellers. And they are in sales. This is the relevant writing of our time, because it reflects our confused state of mind.

Does Rupert Murdoch run your life? Of course, he does. He even wiretaps your phone. He knows more about you than your priest.

Most of us "seek professional help" like getting a tune-up for your car. It keeps the engine running in a world where someone is pouring sugar in your tank everyday. It is exciting to be running around with your hair on fire yelling, "Look at me. I'm a redhead now!" We live in a time of complete neurotic behavior. We relish best selling authors with 1,000 page tomes, but abbreviate life with texting. We drive thousands of miles a year, but rarely go more than a few miles from home. If writing seems scripted, it is in a world where some of the stupidest sitcoms on television become the most watched and imitated cultural events that get discussed around the water cooler.

Really people, get a grip. Especially you writers out there. We need to hear the truth. We crave reality over false platitudes. Our psychic will turn on us if not properly calibrated with the truth. The challenge before us is how to deliver this information directly into a vein.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Author Angst

Authors today have to wear many hats. In fact, not only wear them but have a degree in each function represented by those hats.

It was once only being a reclusive typist with a way with words, but now the author has to know how to build a website, create a brand, issue press releases, develop a marketing strategy, develop a target audience, besides writing a Pulitzer Prize winning query letter. Now, technology has slammed another brick on our foot.

All the XHTML, XML, CSS alphabet soup that sent your head spinning is now obsolete. These small handheld devices don’t like the old stuff; they only digest digital meals written in HTML5. So, just as you worked your way up to the plateau of your learning curve, another curve is thrown in front of you.

Well, get cracking. You have to redo all your Internet presence so it will show up on an iPhone or iPad. Current digital wizardry is like Harry Potter getting stuck with a punk wand while in the brazen stare of Lord Voldemort. Trusty old Microsoft Word has turned into a jigsaw puzzle and outputs file types that e-book distributors gag on. Your next book has to be carefully stylized to pass the vetting process of upload conversions to ePub. Major players like Adobe’s InDesign is fast becoming the go-to layout program. Have fun with its learning curve.

Authors need to incorporate so they can hire a staff and function, not like a small business, but a small-cap business. You need lawyers, nerds, editing and marketing experts, media promoters, and publicists that have holdings in Dubai. You need backers, brokers, and world class poker players. But most of all, you need a walk-in closet to hold all your hats.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Order, Order, in the Court

One of the ways writers get new ideas is to watch the drama that takes place in our courts, and this last couple of months has been a windfall of character studies. What I find remarkable, besides the tragedy of playing out people's lives in the media, is the fact Americans don't have a clue how our justice system works.

The reason there's a blindfold over Lady Justice's eyes is our system doesn't actually profess to provide justice, but strives to perfect the rule of law. In other words, the legalese has to be precise, the justice comes out of the rule book not a sense of justice we feel when serving on a jury. The judge's instructions often lead the jury into never-never land, because of how the rules have to be played out.

If a serial killer is on trial, his past crimes are not allowed to sway the jury's verdict for the current case on trail. All that slaughter in the past is benign and could hurt the defendant's current situation to convince you he's really a sweet guy.

If the defense attorney plays by the rules and the prosecution leaves any tint of doubt, then the jury has to acquit. Ever wonder why we have so many criminals on the streets, crazies that commit crimes over and over. It's really hard to nail a criminal down, so they all plead innocent and snicker at the justice system. And if you're a clever man with money, oh baby, its rather easy to buy a certain level of justice.

It's not all bad. If you break the law, and what you did is in the books, you most likely will go to jail. But the clever man does something totally evil and deceptive where there is no law written about it and always gets away with it the first time. That's how the economic meltdown occurred in the first place. Wall Street sharpies created financial instruments that were highly unethical, but there was no law against it on the books. We see the injustice, the law only sees from behind the blindfold.

The main reasoning behind blind justice is it's better not to punish the criminal than to prosecute an innocent man. I think that is admirable, but does it work? If the penal statistics can be believed, bunches of innocent people get locked up all the time. The only thing saving their bacon these days is DNA testing. The blindfold test didn't do them any good.

What I would like to see is well versed writers that have studied our legal system come up with a better adjusted legal system for the 21st century and beyond. It needs to be better, and maybe the facilities for holding criminals wouldn't be so chocked full, if the legal system provided stronger deterrence against committing crimes in the first place.

As far as the tragic drama of a court room - that's what feeds us writers. We could never dream up such fantasy on our own.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

California Drives Another Stake

As we spend millions upon millions to develop an educational system in Afghanistan, we cut millions upon millions in the education system in California (and other late great States). We preach the virtues of how education is the defense against poverty, crumbling economic situations , and political unrest. Education is the cornerstone that all other things depend. Yet, we don't seem to comprehend that these situations could happen right here in California by disregarding our own preaching. Education clearly ranks lower compared to other political agendas.

Actually, educating children to the level of fighting poverty, enhancing economics, and bringing together people to support their country is cheap. The one-room school house did it and really all modern educational systems can be done with modest funding. Local neighborhood taxes did the job for decades. But when Big Government and corporate greed turned the spigot, huge sums of money started to flow. Not even the Mega-Lottery could generate enough to plug the holes and feed the massive administrative bureaucracy. The problem is not the educators or the students, it's clearly the massive load caused by the free-loading bureaucracy. Why don't we cut that instead of education? Why don't we practice what we preach? The corruption in Kabul has the same taste here at home.

When a new school is built, it has multi-million dollar buildings and a campus like it was an independent country. Where I grew up there was one football field that was shared by rival schools, and it was built by the city. Each school doesn't need totally separate world-class facilities for all activities. This is the product of bureaucracies being duped by architects an administrators willing to funnel huge sums of money to build these structures. What is relevant is facilities that enhance teaching, but not works of architectural greatness. Save that for the monuments to politicians. Their egos demand it. Teaching children to think, read, and understand the world around them doesn't need galleries of empty hallways and landscaping that runs into the millions. It's really silly.

Not all schools have had the light of grandeur cast upon them. In fact, they have had to suffer a lot of neglect. Why? Where is all this massive administration when you need it? Every district has well paid administrators. Why can't they do their job? What do they do - hire people to do studies, increase benefits and salaries for their own. Oh, now I see the problem. Yes, we have been way to easy on administrations enriching themselves at the expense of the jobs they were hired to do. Disgusting. Welcome to Afghanistan West. May all your schools have dirt floors while the administrator vacation on the Riviera.

Why do books for schools cost millions upon millions in an electronic world of e-books? Why do students lug backpacks full of books back and forth to school each day? Because someone is making a huge profit off of them, that's why. The only backpack I ever saw as a child was on a Boy Scout hike. The source material for a course can be put online for all students and it cost zero for them to access and it doesn't degrade their posture hauling dead weight around everyday. This is something administrators, if they were doing their job, would have thought of before the crisis emerged. The point is they didn't. It had to be pointed out by the media.

You're going to see a lot of backpedaling now that the crisis is upon us, finger pointing, and I told you so - like I'm doing. The trick is to sort out the BS and get kids back in schools where the teacher loading is such that a good education can be realized not politicized.

My interest in this is purely selfish. As a writer, how can I sell books if my audience can't read them? I need educated souls to be a writer.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Switching Horses in Mid-Stream

Life used to be a bit more mechanical and easier to understand. The same cycles would come around over and over. If you fell off the merry-go-'round, you just waited and your spot came back and you climbed back on, but today mechanics have shifted into this ethereal world of electronics. Relationships have ratings like TV shows. Leadership is bought and sold to sway the ship to a different port. If you swim out to meet your ship that's been diverted, I'm afraid you might drown before you find it.

It's like life in America without a car. With the exception of places like New York City, you can't even have a job without a car, get groceries, or get medical help. There are no house calls, friends walking over, or even the ability to cross a road on foot. The landscape has changed.

My challenge to you to get your mojo fired up again is to stick you finger in the light socket of this electronic age and use your God given writing talent to load up Amazon with a thousand Kindle short stories. I know you can write them.

What's going on here is close to the Bolshevik Revolution for writers. Overthrow the imperial class that have sucked the wealth out of writing in this country like a dry sponge with their lock on who gets published and/or distributed and take advantage of the level playing field called the Internet.

I wouldn't even try to publish a paper book anymore. It's expensive and a dead-end in this down economy. But it doesn't make sense to put it into an e-book and climb aboard the bandwagon of worldwide, 24/7 sales availability, and marketing and distribution that Amazon provides for zero dollars.

So there you go - get cracking and write some short stories. Maybe this is more motivation. I'm doing the same thing as fast I can, so catch me if you can.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


It’s open season for contest buffs again. I just heard about an e-book contest for authors to compete for a website to list their e-book and a link to Amazon for purchase. Oh goodie. You also get a sticker to use to market with. Big whoopee. Well, after hundreds of thousands of dollars are dragged in for this contest, the owners can easily give one person a few thou. Winning! You can get that same recognition and nation-wide dispersion telling people about your book and receive feedback from those that are interested for free on

I know it’s hard to resist these fast-track operators, and it’s true that one person will get a dinner and hand shake, but there is no guarantee that throwing your money at these contests will do you any good at all. And this one was more than twice the cost of the average ones I’ve seen. The lure of the author contest is like the lure of your local Indian casino. They are the ones making the money not the few braggarts that happen to win a pot. Those that keep going back are guaranteed to be fleeced based on mathematical odds. If these schemes had the authors in mind, they’d be $5 tops to cover mundane expenses. The reason the cost is so high is to limit the numbers of entries that they can handle and get the same gains.

What does work is doing the hard work to build book trailer videos, interviews on local TV and radio, giving lectures to groups that would be interested in the topic of your book. You build momentum from local to regional, expanding the number of people that recognize you. If your book or e-book version is great, it will gain momentum on its own and you will be chasing it.

You can place your bookcopy on Amazon Kindle for free, the world’s largest distributor and marketers on the planet. If you really want to make some progress, go that way and make money, not spend it. Winning!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Goodbye California

I just read and article by Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome , and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern where he discussed the decay of California ethos in the back country that has been caused by policies in Sacramento and the massive acceptance of illegal aliens that have basically set up small city-states within abandoned regions spotting the major agriculture areas in California caused by the impact of misguided governing. Here is my response to the people on the article's email list:

What we should glean from this tirade is politicians don't solve problems, they discuss causes and if elected, promise to make them go away. We have relied on politicians to deal with issues we don't want to touch, don't know how, or if we did, would be arrested by our own judicial system. This article talks about effects. We are just now becoming aware that cause AND effect go together.

Diversity is worshiped in this country as the great future builder, the answer to social issues, but in every other country in history, this is the very thing that broke nations into city-states and later to warring nations. In American, if you aren't interested in the American culture, but came here to plunder, you are no better than a pirate or insurgent invader. That's why legalizing aliens IS relevant. Being invested IS important. Diversity is best represented by legals on one side and illegals on the other, preferably a border. Absorbing dislike and non-compliance for our system is not acceptable. It signals we don't care. If you want to impose your value system on us, go ahead. If you proceed to obtain citizenship, you become American and your cultural background is respected, but flag-waving diversity is anarchy to most scholars. What we are, is afraid to face the effects of these causes.

During the Vietnam war, Mr. MacNamera disbanded the Southern Air Command which resulted in no attention given to the southern border. The southwest has always been ignored by the rest of the country. I come from New Mexico and the New Mexico magazine jokingly has a piece at the end of each issue called one of the 50 is missing, documenting cases where even the central government in Washington officially loses New Mexico all the time. They think it is part of Old Mexico. Students that apply to Harvard are turned down because they aren't taking foreign students that year.

Ignorance is rampant in this country at the highest levels. The last recognized statesman (woman) prior to Hillary Clinton was Henry Kissinger and he was German and that was 40 years ago. We tend not to be aware of other cultures and live in a commercialized bubble of elitist luxury or the attempt to gain it for our selves as job one. Nothing else is on our radar. The only reason we care about student test scores is because we are rated low. It's all a sports game. We don't have a clue why this is happening, we just want to be "number one" and go have a beer.

What this article points out is we are way down the road of the crumbling away of American values, if we could even list a few - let's see, what are they? Unfortunately, we let Hollywood and gangsta-rappers define too much of our ethos. Many laid-back nations in history are gone and are no longer players. As the rich get richer and have better things to do than worry about peasants, the problem gets larger. The "nation" is outraged at low academic test scores, but don't have a clue that third-world children filling the schools where English is a secondary language, don't do real well on tests aimed in a different direction than they are going. It's not the kids fault and if you talk to them, they are bright and smart with lots of enthusiasm. The number of these kids is so great, one couldn't possible expect superlative scores on these tests. If you add to this all the kids from broken homes, divorced parents, single parent homes, lack of core support that the "norm" has, you could better understand, of course we have lower scores. So how do we react - blame the teachers, fire the teachers, and add more bureaucracy. That is just plain stupid and demonstrates ignorance of the cause and effect.

I have a daughter that has taught elementary kids in California for years. She is also fluent in Spanish. The one way to improve the first generation Americans from Spanish speaking backgrounds, whose parents don't speak English, is to be able to communicate with these kids in Spanish and to communicate with the parents in their native tongue. The concepts are conveyed and the students move on. But the cultural and emotion connections have to be laid out first. It does not mean that the system caters to moving to all Spanish and doomsday will result. That is yet another example of rampant ignorance bordering on stupidity. You can't effectively teach anything if the message doesn't transmit to the learner. Once on the path to catching up with those that soar in school because they understand the language, real progress emerges. These kids are bright. This isn't diversity, this is compatibility and acceptance of our system not an independent state. But what did the bureaucrats do? They dropped the grants for bi-lingual teachers. They walked away from a perfect solution for many problems and yes, better "scores." Why? Because politicians only cater to the loudest voices (you know - that old song I have to be re-elected). Who were the loudest voices - ignorant Americans.

The verbs teach and learn are separate words for a reason. If you aren't willing or have a different agenda, you can teach your guts out and the learning won't take place. Stability of a nation depends on the educational system that binds our ideals together so we can unite in our efforts and nation-build together. Diversity is the basis for tearing down with the intent to re-build into something different. You know...united we stand...remember than one?

If you think diversity is just different types of pottery in Pier One Imports, you are dim witted. Diversity means I don't accept your value system and intend to change it into mine. Wake up people. We want and need to bring foreigners into OUR system legally not bend over backwards to accommodate values that are incompatible with everything we stand for. If they can't deal with that, then they need to leave. You know - you are illegal so the judge says bye-bye. We have the way and means, but lack the muster.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Seeing the Trees in the Forest

Looking at the forest of words before me, I search the underbrush and thickets to find value for the reader. As the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style emerges from behind corporate sized computer cabinets, filled with all the latest modifications to the mother language, I hesitate to rely on my past experience to find my way through the saplings and poison ivy of this new forest. The language is filled with new species of flora. The needles on the pines are particularly sharper, the rustic colors are becoming more ghastly, and the snarly branches harder to navigate.

There seems to be a pattern of crudeness creeping into our speech that in turn bribes the written language into corruption. There is a hollow ring to sentences that are full of technical terms that in themselves are whole disciplines of science and engineering. Even if we recognize the word and have a vague idea of its meaning, we have no understanding of where the word comes from, the nest it hatched in, or the beast that was borne from its use.

Language now has a chemical corrosiveness and a metallic taste. The floral patterns of pastoral grace have given way to I-beams of corporate desire. Romantic moonlight is replaced with daylight tungsten set at 5400 Kelvin filtered through nylon coming from soft light boxes. Beauty is in the eye of the photo-graphic designer, layering skin and tones to give us optimized good looks. The words that follow to describe and record all of this are ledgers not prose.

We are deceived by acronyms composed of acronyms all designed to further encode our world. The language of our times is fragments into primary particles like with the physicist’s cyclotron. We smash words together, break them apart and text the results with swollen thumbs on tiny broadcasting devices, telling our life’s story minute by minute, second by second. Our poetry rattles like a machine gun. We store words and pictures at such a rate as to fill canyons with diatribe, yesterday’s news, and our ever burp, gulp, or grunt.

Words are a human’s way to communicate thoughts, build on ideas to reach greater enlightenment. I fear by the time a 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is conceived, there’ll be no words, just strings of ones and zeros, pulses of light, as humans stare into light bulbs, dazed and bewildered. We will have succeeded in breaking down our language into its basic elements, but our ability to converse with the spheres lost in a forest of time. We won’t see the beauty of the Milky Way; we will only see pin points of light. When asked to describe the event, we will text OMG 2G2BT IDBI :).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Social Insecurity

I've contributed to Social Security since 1962. Now that's is time for the system to pay back, all I hear is the politicians telling me, sorry we ran that train into the side of the tunnel and it ain't coming out the other end. Thanks. I sat down and calculated the value of the money placed in their hands. If instead, I would have had it to invest in the simplest of savings account, I'd been worth a little over $2 million dollars today. Somewhere along the way, even the most trusted servants in their zeal to better themselves have dropped the torch in water. We wonder in darkness now as a result.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spin the Bottle

Why don’t people relate cause and affect? We see politicians and TV pundits develop all sorts of believable lies and thrust them onto the public in hopes of creating a new world order or getting a group of people to follow their deceptive logic. Many times the sad conclusion is to follow them off a cliff. If they are really clever, you follow the imaginary leader off the cliff and the soothsayer is left unscathed at the top of cliff quietly saying, “Suckers.”

It’s hard enough for some to relate even more direct examples like beating your head against the wall because it feels so good when you stop. Really? What I’m getting at with this article is the vast majority of us fill out the broad bulge of the bell-shape curve of intelligence and are a long ways from the sharpies at the high end of the curve where their numbers are slight as well. But we have to become curve shifters. We have to wake up and understand cause and effect. We don’t have a father-figure government anymore that is there to protect us. In fact, they are busy taking advantage of us. Otherwise, you will always be poor, disadvantaged, and last in line. Why, because the ability of the sharpies to take it all away from you has never been greater.

Just look at where you are right now, 2011; put a map-pin on your board of life. Four hundred individuals in this country control over 30% of the total wealth of the country. Nearly half of everything you make goes into public servant’s salaries - some of it, of course, goes into services they perform, but really, how often do you see them doing something for you? Most of that money is consumed by them personally. Where does this leave Joe American out in the Great Plains facing this vast economic shifting and shell game being played out by the sharpies?

There is no basic human skill more relevant to success than understanding cause and affect. When you observe activities and actions of others around you and don’t pick up on the affects being generated, you are not hearing the water rumble in time to avoid going over Niagara Falls (without a barrel). When public servants vote themselves in huge benefit packages and salaries, so greedy that they exceed the revenues coming in that they manage, you have to be an idiot not to realize you are being taken in by a con-artist. But you see this in the news every day.

When Congressmen take in millions of dollars in contributions by wealth industries to adjust the law so that entity doesn’t have to pay taxes or shifts great opportunities in their direction, or turn the other way when they want to create indiscretions, most of us in the middle suffer.

When jobs are sent overseas and industries closed in this country, this allows these unworthy landlords to register their companies in countries that don’t levy taxes, we don’t notice that also allows them to not pay taxes here, their country, America. You can bet a lot of money goes under the table to these dubious sponsors. That’s cause and affect wearing a disguise. These people aren’t Americans; they are thieves working the neighborhood. The effect they should be feeling is deportation. Let them live in the Third World Country they are so chummy with.

The politicians have been pandering to this behavior for at least 30 years, maybe 50, and we haven’t been observing the affects. All that money that slipped through the cracks could have rebuild or better put, maintained our infrastructure, shored-up a valid educational system, or a million other wholesome activities for a healthy America. No, we didn’t make the connection. We sat on our hands.

You either figure out the cause and affect of things or lose your ass. Take that to the bank.