|This Week’s Theme: Pick a famous fictional character and give them a secret vice—at the very least it should be distasteful if not outright illegal. Now give the character’s rationale in their own words.|
I'm not like the brutes sent out by that bloody Sheriff. My only goal is to bring him down, and that damned Prince John with him. But I can't do it alone. I need the people behind me. Granted, the Sheriff is doing a jolly good job of turning the people against him without my help, but a little nudge here and there can't hurt, can it?
Robbing the rich to feed the poor people around these communities is all well and good, but it's simply not enough. If there's to be change--real change--then we must restore the order and justice that existed while King Richard was here. He may not return from the Crusades, and in that case we have to watch out for ourselves. If he does return, we have to be prepared to receive him and fight for his rule again.
How else can we do that without having the people against the prince?
Like I said, I'm not like the Sheriff's brutes. They burn houses at random, just for the fun of it. When I burn a peasant's house, I am very careful to make it the right house, at the right time. The residents must be away so it's easy to blame the Sheriff, and to ensure there are no injuries.
I suppose there might be other, less destructive ways to incite the people. But there's nothing like a good fire to get people really angry, is there? As a lad, I used to practice archery at night with fire-tipped arrows. Part of the thrill was in the secrecy of it. I had to sneak out of the manor house and down past the stables. One night I missed the target and nearly set the stables ablaze. My father saw from the window, and I had never seen him so angry. Later, when I first went into hiding from the Sheriff and the prince, I took every opportunity I could to learn the best ways to make a fire in all weather, from all materials.
That intense study has made it relatively easy, for example, for me to burn farmer Giles' house and blame the Sheriff. After all, it happened while Giles was with me, five miles away, feeding the seven children orphaned by the last attack by the Sheriff's brutes.
Like I said, I'm not like them. They burn houses for sheer enjoyment. I burn houses for a much nobler purpose.
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August 31, 2007
August 29, 2007
her room number forgotten
hotel matchbook lost
obscure floor, bare feet
slimy roach hotel
obscure hotel tryst
"I've forgotten your name, hon."
just how I want it
10 Things I Like About My Job
Ironically, I was so busy with my work yesterday that I never had time to complete this week's Tuesday 10. But I like my job so much that I just had to do it, even if it's a day late.
- My boss is wonderful.
I've had a couple of good bosses and a few real stinkers. My boss now is not only a wonderful person, she's a terrific mentor and is genuinely concerned with all aspects of my career. She actively encouraged one of our coworkers to pursue additional opportunities, and even though we lost an outstanding performer when he left, her mentoring and advocacy has him on a great career path. I have learned a ton from her already.
- My team mates are awesome.
I figured working for a company with 150,000 people would be a bureaucratic nightmare. But every company is made up of individuals, and with extremely rare exceptions the people I work with are helpful, sincere, team-oriented, can-do, positive people.
- Doing good in the world.
What can I say? My job is all about helping communities improve. I build systems and run programs that make it easy for people to volunteer and donate. I've had jobs where we were making products I didn't really believe people needed. Now I'm helping make the world a better place. Cool.
Although it's not like my time with Geoworks and Nokia when I traveled overseas a couple times a year, I do get to travel to conferences all around the US quite often. I like it when it's not too much... a trip a month for 3-4 days is just about right.
- Work-life balance.
My boss is super supportive of a healthy work-life balance. Flexibility in my schedule allows me to head out for lunchtime pickup soccer games or take the car to the shop or volunteer at the school as a crossing guard. I make other sacrifices for this balance... my salary is way lower than my market value, but I prefer the balance to the cash.
- Very cool projects and people.
There are CEOs of large organizations who greet me by name, sometimes with a hug. I've met with White House advisors and directors of national government and nonprofit organizations. Although I wouldn't say I've had a significant impact on policy, I've had a voice that will only grow as I progress in this career.
- Very cool and fun people.
The people I meet when I got to conferences tend to be wonderful people--they have similar jobs trying to improve communities, so they tend to be compassionate, nice people. But I've found they also tend to be very fun. It's rare to go to one of these conferences and not find a group to go out with, whether it's the French Quarter in New Orleans or dancing at a lame club in San Antonio or just having drinks at the hotel bar. Really fun people who
- Using all my skills.
I started this job as a contractor doing simple database work. It turned into a tech-oriented job where I built one of the most successful employee giving campaign intranet sites in the world, processing over $20 million in employee gifts a year. But technology has become only a fraction of my job. I use a whole range of skills from writing to presenting to technology to diplomacy to support to strategic thinking to problem solving to... you name it, I'm probably doing it at some point during the week.
- The learning never stops.
See #8 for the job arc. I have learned a lot about technology and enterprise applications. I've learned a lot about United Way and the nonprofit community. This year I began learning a lot about economic development policy and government relations. There is so much more out there to learn, and I've got that opportunity.
- Benefits and stability.
If I didn't need money, I would choose not to have a job. (I would write.) But since I have to work for a living, it's better to work for a company with nearly unparalleled performance over a huge period of time, a company with stability and growth. Also, the benefits are pretty good, and there's a good 401(k) match. So that's definitely a benefit.
August 27, 2007
August 24, 2007
|This Week’s Theme: Create a character in a genre you would normally avoid. I took a look at wikipedia to see what genres exist. I thought about selecting Autobiography for this prompt, but I didn't think I could create a believable character. Erotic Fiction was another one I thought about long and hard, but I have settled on Erotic Lesbian Historical Western Romance.|
Setting: 1844, all along the Santa Fe Trail
Name: Elizabeth "Ben Walker" Davenport
Profession: Pioneer Guide
Born in Baltimore in 1820, Libby Davenport became an orphan at 14 when her parents were killed in a tragic, late-night accident involving two horse-drawn carts, an exploding gas streetlamp, thick fog, and too much alcohol. Essentially a drunk driving accident, but Libby's parents were not at fault.
Even before the accident, Libby felt trapped in her normal, urban existence. Her father was a lawyer with political connections, and her mother was well respected in the Baltimore social circles. But Libby found herself enamored of stories from the western frontier and often imagined herself astride a horse on a hillside overlooking a vast prairie, a sixgun on her hip and no one telling her to sit up straight, to hold her teacup just so, to put those silly ribbons in her hair.
Before she could even be put into an orphanage, Libby took what money she could find in her parents' house and purchased travel to Missouri on the pretense of going to care for her ailing aunt. Once in Missouri, she signed up with a wagon train heading west along the Santa Fe Trail, linking herself to a family who wanted an older girl to help with their two small daughters.
Along the way, Libby hovered around the guides and learned to handle horses, to shoot, to hunt, and to live in the outdoors. One day, one of the men offered to take her out hunting, but when they got out of sight of the wagon train, he tried to rape her. She fought him and accidentally shot him in the head with his own gun. She thought she could not return to the wagon train, that no one would believe her, so she took all his things and the two horses and rode off into the hills. She cut her hair short and disguised herself as a boy. Through the next few years she drifted from town to town, finding odd jobs but mostly living alone or acting as a temporary guide along the trail for wagon trains... all the time disguised as a man, calling herself Ben Walker.
Now it's 1844, and Libby has signed up to guide a wagon train from Dodge City to Santa Fe. The caravan consists of ten families. As they make their way along the trail, Libby falls in love with Ellen Whidby, the young, quiet wife of Charles Whidby.
Description: Libby has dark brown hair and, despite her English heritage, tends to have darker complexion. She's got deep, brown eyes that have a serious. thoughtful look about them. She rarely smiles, preferring to keep her emotions internal and not show anything about herself to others. Well educated as a girl, she enjoys reading but enjoys being outdoors and living with nature more. She always wanted to be a tomboy growing up and envied the boys their rough games and horseplay, but she was never allowed to participate. Instead, she patiently accepted her lot in life and fully expected to live as her mother had lived--well married, socially respected, demure and polite and well dressed and conversant on the themes of the day. In her mind, the death of her parents was not so much a defining moment as a liberating one, a cutting of the bonds of society and permission to become who she always felt she should. She loved her parents deeply and would have done anything to please them, but when they died she came to believe that from Heaven they could see into her heart, and she felt they were telling her to be happy in her life now that they were gone.
Libby is the type of person who serves others. She is highly intuitive about others' needs and often sacrifices her own convenience or comfort to provide for others. She's also keenly intelligent and observant and has an intuitive understanding of how nature works and the cycle of life. Thus, while she's more comfortable alone in nature than she would ever be in a big city, she also gets lonely because she has a need to be helping others and feeling useful.
At 5'7", she's tall for a young woman but looks like a teenage boy to others. She's lean but quite strong, with a mental fortitude that helps her withstand pain and discomfort that would be difficult even for many hardy pioneer men.
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August 23, 2007
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
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August 21, 2007
It's that time of year again! Every year, the last few weeks of August I feel like I'm wandering back from the desert. Not only has the Premier League kicked off again and NFL preseason is in full swing, but college football looms within sight. When I open the sports page, I can finally see something other than baseball, steroids, indictments, and contract disputes. Now I can see football, baseball, steroids, convictions, and contract disputes. It's a beautiful thing.
Anyway, I digress. I have done well over six minutes of research into the media guides of both Cal and Tennessee, and I feel I have achieved expertise sufficient to prognosticate with the best of the TV talking heads. So here you are, Bear fans: My first game preview of 2007!
What can we say? TB Marshawn Lynch, OL Andrew Cameron, OL Erik Robertson, and FB Byron Storer all are gone from the Pac-10's most high-scoring offense of 2006 (32.8 ppg). One of the league's best quarterbacks, one of the nation's best tight ends, possibly the nation's best center, and almost certainly the nation's best corps of wide receivers return. Including Heisman Trophy candidate DeShaun Jackson. In addition to TB Justin Forsett, who has 1,600 yards and six 100-yard rushing games in his career as a backup, the offense also returns strength and size in the offensive line despite the departure of two outstanding players in Cameron and Robertson. If the offensive line plays well--and it says here they will--and if the stars and stalwarts say healthy, then this offense could be something really special. With Tedford back in charge and a few spread and shotgun wrinkles added to his playbook, I just can not wait to see the blue & gold line up for the snap.
The defensive line needs some rebuilding but also sees an influx of tremendous talent in players that haven't yet seen game action. Despite the linebacking corps losing Desmond Bishop and Mickey Pimentel, I think the weak link--or rather the biggest question mark--is on the line. The Bears lost two key DEs in Ma'afala and Tafisi and a real force in Brandon Mebane, and the backups coming into their roles have had injury problems and are generally lacking in the type of experience you'd like to see. Given the Bears' tendency to bend-not-break in 2006, I worry about Cal being susceptible to strong running teams. In the linebackers, the Bears lost two great players in Bishop and Pimentel, but they return two players who were both freshman All-America in 2005: Anthony Felder and Zack Follett. Follett was the only non-starter in the nation to earn all-conference honors at linebacker and is a Butkus Award and Ronnie Lott Trophy candidate this year. In addition, Greg Van Hoesen and Worrell Williams have seen plenty of game experience and round out the linebackers nicely. In the defensive backfield, you can't expect to replace a player like Daymeion Hughes, but the Bears return their other three starters and have a lot of talent with significant experience as backups.
CAL SPECIAL TEAMS
The Bears are stocked on special teams, losing only the regular kick holder, Joe Ayoob. Both punting and kicking should be solid, and with DeSean Jackson returning punts again (he shares the Pac-10 record with four TD returns in a season), the return game will also be strong.
The Volunteers come into Memorial Stadium ranked #14 preseason compared to Cal at #12. I think this is basically on the strength of returning QB Erik Ainge, who is quite good and had a 67% completion percentage in 2006. They also return all three (oops, just two... LaMarcus Coker was recently suspended for undisclosed transgressions) of their top tailbacks and a whole bevy of experienced tight ends, one of whom is a monster at 6'8". They also return three of their five starters on the offensive line including a freshman All-America center. BUT, they lost essentially their entire receiving corps and a four-year starter at fullback, Corey Anderson. The two OL they lost were true stars, Aaron Sears (an early 2nd round NFL draft pick) and David Ligon. The OL is still huge, though, averaging 305 lbs. I think any team that doesn't key on the run against the Vols until Tennessee can prove they have a passing game is insane. Cal fans are familiar with the strategy of using an entirely new receiving corps, and it usually turns out not so pretty... even with a really good QB.
The consensus of qualified experts (OK, me) is that the Vols are vulnerable in the middle. I base this on the fact that Tennessee returns to outstanding DEs but are struggling to fill the hole left by two stars at tackle. In addition, they lost their starting middle linebacker. The backup, while capable, is still entering his first year as a starter and is bound to make a few mistakes at one of the most important positions on either side of the ball. In the secondary, the Volunteers lost three starters, but the one returning is a superstar, Jonathan Hefney. Hefney took five interceptions and was second on the team with 96 tackles in 2006. All three of the other positions are to be filled by essential newcomers. The secondary will be a weakness, for sure, especially if the DL can't get solid pressure up the middle.
TENNESSEE'S SPECIAL TEAMS
Like Cal, Tennessee sports one of the nation's top punt return men in Hefney, a semifinalist for the national award for best punt returner. He was beat out by Cal's Jackson. But he is outstanding, and Tennessee also has a superb punter. Their kicking game may suffer, though, as they lost their starting placekicker and were weak on kickoff returns in 2006.
At the risk of sounding like I'm woofing, I think the matchup favors Cal in this game. Not only are they at home with a hankering for revenge with something to prove on national TV, but the returning experience is more balanced than Tennessee's. I think Tedford will have an easier time building a game plan against the Vols than they will have planning against Cal. It all comes down to execution, and injuries can play a vital role in any game, so there are always tons of question marks in the first game.
Now that I'm done equivocating, I'm going to pick Cal to win this, 38-17. When the Bears have the ball, they should be able to give Longshore enough time to find his star receivers running free amid the Vols' inexperienced secondary. Hefney can play, but he can't cover all three receivers. I look for the Bears to keep the defense on their heels with a powerful running game and a couple of middle screens. When the Vols have the ball, the Bears will work to keep them one-dimensional. Cal's secondary is tall and very athletic; my worry is the creative use of the experienced tight ends and running backs against the relative inexperience of Cal's linebackers. Even so, Cal's defense is not lacking experience anywhere but the DL, and if the Volunteers are to establish any sort of passing game, that will be why. If Cal's line can't pressure and hurry Ainge, he might be able to pick out his targets. Still, I think that will be more rare than common, and Tennessee will have difficulty moving the ball with consistency against the Bears.
To win, Tennessee will have to get up early and control the tempo of the game, focus on running and a power game through Cal's line to open up some room in the passing game. On defense... well, Tennessee will need some luck, to be honest. Their best bet is to remove Longshore from the equation.
Man oh man, I wish I was able to be in Berkeley that day.
10 Things I Don't Like About My Job
I've held my job now for six years (1 1/2 as a contractor, nearly 5 as FTE), and I've said right from the beginning that if I had to have a job, this would be just about the perfect one. Mostly. This week I have to stretch a lot to fill ten items. Most of these are of the "double-edged blessing" variety where really I'm looking at both sides of the same coin and choosing to tell you about the seamy underbelly. (How's that for mixed metaphors?) In reality, I love my job and hope to keep doing it until I retire in oh, say, 20 years or so... unless I win the lottery this week.
- My boss has cancer.
This is by far the worst thing about my job, bar none. She is the best manager I've ever had (I've had a few real stinkers, and she's totally at the other end of the scale from them), and she's a totally remarkable person that has a passion for helping people in need. Also a great mentor from whom I've already learned tons.
- It takes time away from my writing.
This year has been exceedingly busy. Usually I have a slow period from February through April, but my boss was diagnosed in January, and I've been doing my job and much of hers ever since.
- It takes time away from soccer.
I love to travel for business on short trips. For this job alone I've traveled to at least fourteen states for meetings or conferences, and every one of them was well worth the trip. But if I'm not here, it means I can't get out on the pitch and kick a ball around. When I don't get to play soccer, I get very, very cranky.
- Too many tasks, too little time.
This falls under the category of "we expect a lot from our small but mighty team." Shortly before my boss was diagnosed last winter, the other of our three-person team left for another job within the same company. He took with him a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge. Although he has been around to help, and although the replacement we got is a real star performer, we expect so much of ourselves that it would have been a real disappointment if we didn't do even better than our last five years, which were all better than the prior years.
- I don't get paid enough.
I took this job knowing that would be the case. I could take a programming or software product management job for probably a 70% increase in base salary, but then I wouldn't be where I am, doing what I do. Still, it's been a tough year doing two (or more, at times) jobs for less than my market value. I do believe, however, that what goes around comes around, and it will all work out for me in the end.
Most of my career has been in companies of fewer than 50 people. Now I'm in a company of more than 150,000. While this particular position in this particular company is incredibly entrepreneurial and autonomous, the company's size and bureaucracy occasionally gets in the way of good ideas. In particular, if a good project needs funding outside a budget cycle, it's very hard to find money for it, and occasionally opportunities are missed. The flip side, of course, is that many bad ideas also get stymied by The System, and often the bureaucracy will illuminate entire business units that actually can help when you thought you were on your own for a project.
- Processes should serve the people, not the other way round.
With the regulatory environment in our industry, we have to make sure we always dot our T's and cross our I's. (Wait... strike that. Reverse it.) Sometimes this leads to creation of insane processes that require several hours a month of busy work even though the resulting product--usually some plan or other--essentially gets filed away and never used.
- Technology standards are not my first choice.
I do a lot of web application development as part of my job, and my department has standardized on technology choices that aren't my preferred ones. Shrug. I told you I had to stretch to fill ten items this week.
- Formal recognition doesn't come my way very often.
I get TONS of informal recognition, and my job is one of those where even though the company is more than 150,000 people, many of the top managers and senior executives know me by first name. The people I work with are great with thank-yous and such, which is important, but a little more of the formal recognition would also be nice.
- We can't do everything we want to do!
The biggest problem is that with such a small staff, we can't accomplish everything we'd really like to do. We have so much opportunity, so far to go. There are so many ways we could make a bigger impact, but... see items #1 and #4.
August 17, 2007
|This Week’s Theme: Pick an adult character and write a scene where the character demonstrates one from a selection of childlike habits. (I chose this: Must sleep with a particular stuffed animal or blanket.)|
"What are you doing?" Claire's voice floated to me on the chilly night air with a hollow sleepiness. I heard her yawn behind me. "It's freezing out here. Come back to bed."
The lake stretching out in front of me was a vast field of black oblivion, half misted over with the reflection of silver moonlight. The hills on the far side rose up, ominous shadows against the paler blue-black of a sky littered with stars. The houses on the other shore, so lively with kids and dogs and boats during the day, were entirely invisible as if they'd just been swallowed up by the emptiness. "Couldn't sleep," I said without turning.
"Want a blanket?"
Maybe in the morning she'd turn out like Linda, like Sandra, like Anne, but her voice had a softness, an acceptance in it that suggested otherwise. My former girlfriends were all psychological woodpeckers, pecking and pecking away at me, never satisfied that there might be things I wasn't ready to talk about. Not yet.
I heard Claire disappear into the bedroom and return, sliding the glass door shut and joining me on the balcony. She pulled a plastic patio chair across the tile floor, its legs protesting with a chucka-chucka kind of grinding noise that filled the little space around us. She didn't seem to mind the noise or care whether it might wake anyone in the other condos around us. She hadn't brought me a blanket, but she'd wrapped a thick, white, terry robe around her. I watched her lower herself into the chair, ghostly and ethereal in the moonlight.
"It was a night like this my sister disappeared," she said, her voice calm and soft and shadowy as if it had come straight from the air. She stared out over the lake much as I must have been doing before she sat down. "Moonlit but dark, silent. If you listen close, it seems like even the normal night noises are gone." She paused, and we both listened. Then she turned, and I could see her smile at me. "See? There's a breeze out there on the water, you can see it in the rippling moonlight. But shouldn't we hear waves lapping on the beach, or the boat rubbing against the dock? Shouldn't we hear the trees whispering even a little?"
Her voice, so beautiful and smooth, held a mystery of its own. It sounded thrilled with the eeriness of such a still, dark night. But it also sounded sad, hinting of regret.
"This night has death written all over it," she whispered. I shivered, and not because of the cool breeze that snuck up my tee shirt.
We sat in silence a long time after that, both of us facing the oblivion before us. I thought of how we'd made love for the first time just a few hours earlier, how I felt so close to her. But sitting here a few feet apart, both dressed, silent... it felt even more intimate. I wanted to get inside her, touch her soul.
Quietly I asked her, "Do you know what happened to your sister?"
Claire, staring out at the lake, didn't move as she said, "No." After a moment, she added, "I spent the last three weeks of that summer in my room upstairs in our summer house, in Wisconsin. My window looked over the back yard, which sloped down to a small dock on the lake. I spent those three weeks at the window, watching Sheriff's volunteers drag the bottom looking for her." She turned and smiled at me. "They never found her. I like to think she's out there somewhere, living life like she always meant to." I tried to smile in return.
"Sixteen years ago," I said quietly, "my mother slipped out while my father and brothers were watching a football game on TV. I knew she was leaving. I was in my room, crying my eyes out into my pillow. I was fourteen. She writes me, but I haven't seen her since."
My gut tightened as I fought against tears I knew I couldn't hold back. At least it was dark. At least Claire wouldn't see them. Then, her hand settled softly on my thigh and just rested there, a warm touch in the darkness without expectation, without the peck-peck-peck of unending questions.
"I understand why you can't sleep," she whispered.
I snorted a wet laugh through my tears. "Actually," I said, not believing I was about to tell her my most closely kept secret, "no, you don't."
I felt rather than saw her straighten a bit. Maybe I'd offended her? Maybe she thought I was shutting her out, and I didn't want that. Not at all. "You see," I began to explain, "I can't sleep because... well, I guess it is because of my mom after all. When I was seven--my brother Luke was eleven, and--well, that doesn't matter, but he did something really mean to me, and my mom bought me this little, black bear, a stuffed animal. Dad didn't like her to do that, to make me feel better by buying me things, but she said this bear was our secret, that it could make me feel good no matter what happened. Hey, I was seven." I shook my head, getting lost in the memory of my mom glancing around as she paid for it, making sure Dad was still with Luke in the sporting goods store across the way. "It was a little gift shop in a Tahoe mall, and we were on vacation, and it was just a simple bear. I mean... anyway," I continued as I could feel Claire's confusion next to me, "I slept with that bear that night. And every night since. And now I can't sleep unless I have it with me."
"So... you came out here in the cold because you don't have your little bear?"
"No, I came out so I wouldn't wake you up. I couldn't sleep because I don't have my little bear."
She laughed, a bright, soft, musical kind of sound, and I smiled at my own childishness. Her laugh faded away, and her hand, still resting on my thigh, slid over to my arm and found my hand. She clenched it in hers. "Come on," she said. "Come back to bed. We don't need to sleep tonight." I stood as she led me up out of the chair. "But next time, bring the bear with you."
I figured I could wait until morning to tell her that Blacky was in my suitcase wrapped in a shirt. Like she said, we didn't need to sleep that night.
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August 14, 2007
10 Interesting Web Sites I'd Like to Share
Huh. I'm not sure I've got much here for people, but here goes. Sorry if you've seen all these before.
National Novel Writing Month. I've participated three times and may or may not participate this year. Either way, when I get my first novel published there will be an acknowledgement of NaNoWriMo for kick-starting my writing again.
- Recent Earthquakes
This is the USGS' real time earthquakes map. I have used the Bay Area map to get earthquake details within minutes of feeling an earthquake at home. Pretty remarkable.
- Cal Insider Football Board
This wouldn't be a "favorites" list of mine if it didn't include something about Cal sports. This board is a typical BBS in that it's got a few lucid posters with a whole bunch of airheads. But it's Cal football.
- CSR Wire
Get daily news about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from around the world.
- Netcraft web server survey
Some interesting stats about the Web.
- Project Gutenberg
This site contains a remarkable wealth of the full text of classic (and not so classic) literature.
- Just plain fun.
- Old-time arcade games
My kids love this, and it's a nice trip down memory lane.
Whenever I need a quotation, I go here. Very useful!
- Best. Comic strip. Ever.
Bill, you are an unparalleled genius.