A geek’s guide to geeky holiday gifts

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 8:05am

I’m focusing mainly on devices that are particularly good at consuming media (like eBooks, audiobooks, videos, and music).

Today, it’s on to the strange new land of “phablets,” to be followed by my top picks for less expensive devices.

On the subject of phablets, let me get this out of the way first: the term “phablet” drives me crazy for some reason, so from now on, I’ll just call them “giant phones.”
We’ll classify them as any phone with a screen larger than 5”. Sound fair? To get on with it, there are actually several choices out there for giant phones, but for me, it really boils down to these:

The Google Nexus 6
I have a Nexus 6 sitting next to me right now, and I kind of love it. The screen is drop-dead gorgeous, and the way they packed 5.96” worth of screen onto a device that doesn’t feel clunky makes me think they hired Doctor Who to help with the design. It’s only a tiny bit bigger than the iPhone 6+ which has a 5.5” screen (there are a lot of comparison photos in the Forbes review if you’re interested in checking it out).

All that being said, the phone is pretty large, so it can take some getting used to. You’ve been warned. Me? I think it’s worth it. The Nexus 6 isn’t perfect, but I’m honestly having trouble coming up with complaints to share with you here. There are still a few bugs (to be expected with any brand new phone), but they’re minor, and software updates are imminent. I’d like the back of the phone to be a little grippier, but it’s easier to hold onto than the aluminum-encased competition like the HTC One or iPhone 6. Price-wise (at $649), I don’t think there’s a better deal out there for a “flagship” phone. It’s cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the iPhone 6+ (off contract), and easily goes toe-to-toe with either for quality and features.

Other notables (the iPhones 6+ and Galaxy Note 4)
The other big players in the giant phone pond are the Apple iPhone 6+ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. There are others out there, but these are the two most popular at the moment.
They’re both good phones, but both are more expensive than the Nexus 6.
I’d say to go with the iPhone if you’re already heavily entrenched within the Apple ecosystem.
Go with the Galaxy Note if you prefer a slightly smaller device (compared to the Nexus 5 and iPhone 6+) that still sports a jumbo screen.
It’s like I said: either phone is a solid choice–I just like the Nexus 6 better. It gets software updates faster, has more screen to go around, and the price is pretty good for what you’re getting.

Looking for something less expensive?
There are some really good options out there for gadgets on a budget, but I’ll keep this limited to my favorite inexpensive tablet and eBook reader:

  • ASUS MeMo Pad 7: At around $130, this is a steal of a tablet with a surprisingly good screen and a decent amount of horsepower. (review)
  • NOOK GlowLight: It’s not perfect, but it’s $99 and doesn’t come with ads. I wish it still had physical buttons, but I still like it. (review)

The wrap-up

There you have it–my top picks for tablets, readers, and giant phones this year. Any of the devices I’ve listed above would be great for ravenous consumption of media.

The most important thing to keep in mind when making your purchase is something us writers tell ourselves daily: who is your target audience? Make sure you’re picking the right gift for the right person.

My brother, for example, loves his Apple products, so I wouldn’t go out and buy him an Nvidia SHIELD tablet.

My wife likes to do more than read books on her device, so I would choose a tablet over an eBook reader for her.
You get the idea, and hopefully my list helps you pick out the right gift (or, barring that, helps you buy a little something for yourself).

If you have any questions, or feel like I left something off the list that should be there, feel free to call it out in the comments. Keep in mind, I’m human, and that means my advice comes laced with my own preferences.

My only hope is that, when it’s time to tear off the wrapping paper, I’ll have helped you put a smile on someone’s face. Go forth, my friends, and find that perfect gift! Happy holidays, and good luck!
 

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 05:11 AM PST by Quinton Lawman, a Technical Writer with OverDrive

More chaos for Dan Brown's character, Robert Langdon

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:06pm

Inferno by Dan Brown (2013)

Library Copies

Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon awakens in a hospital in the middle of the night. Disoriented and suffering from a head wound, he recalls nothing of the last thirty-six hours, including how he got there… or the origin of the macabre object that his doctors discover hidden in his belongs.

Langdon’s world soon erupts into chaos, and he finds himself on the run in Florence with a stoic young woman, Sienna Brooks, whose clever maneuvering saves his life. Langdon quickly realizes that he is in possession of a series of disturbing codes created by a brilliant scientist—a genius whose obsession with the end of the world is matched only by his passion for one of the most influential masterpieces ever written—Dante Alighieri’s dark epic poem The Inferno.

Racing through such timeless locations as the Palazzo Vecchio, the Boboli Gardens, and the Duomo, Langdon and Brooks discover a network of hidden passageways and ancient secrets as well as a terrifying new scientific paradigm that will be used either to vastly improve the quality of life on earth… or to devastate it. – from book jacket.

Praise for Dan Brown:
In his most compelling and thought provoking novel to date, Dan Brown has raised the bar yet again. Inferno is a sumptuously entertaining read—a novel that will captivate readers with the beauty of classical Italian art, history, and literature… while also posing provocative questions about the role of cutting-edge science in our future. – from book jacket.

This is the fourth book featuring Robert Langdon. Be sure to read the others in this series; Angels and Demons (2000) (Bk 1), The Da Vinci Code (2003) (Bk 2) and The Lost Symbol (2009) (Bk 3).

Would You Like to Go on a Reading Date With Me?

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 3:53pm

I don't know about you, but I am a complete tsundoku (a Japanese word meaning to buy books and not reading them, i.e. a book-hoarder). Though I must admit that as an amateur book collector at one point I do actually pick one up from the pile and read it.

Reading is definitely what I consider to be the perfect hobby. I love having book-dates- as in having a 'one on one' date with a book. How would I do that? Well, I would take the 'lucky pick' out for some coffee, perhaps tucked it in my bag while I take a stroll in the park and would read it later while sitting on a bench by the lake. Sometimes I even take it to restaurants for lunch. Trust me; I treat the book with respect. It has my full attention and our interaction is seldom disturbed by the outside world which includes smartphone distraction.

As much as I enjoy reading on my own, sometimes I have to interact socially with an actual human being and go on a date with him (in my case). Thus, switching my intimate book dates to 'real' dates. I am sure that most of you have wonderful anecdotes related to the dating scene - some might be hilarious, some might be good and some might (sadly) be disappointing or straight bad. When the date does not go accordingly as planned, a book-date would have simply been safer bet. Then one night, I had this idea of a 2-in-1 formula that could really be my winning ticket: Reading Dates.

In my opinion, reading-dates are simply PERFECT and wonderful. Why? Well, here are the reasons to sustain such a statement:

1. The other person actually reads and we all agree and know that intelligence is utterly sexy. Here is something to look forward to if you are into words, the other person can cite some of literature's most beautiful sentences (i.e. "The curves of your lips rewrite history" - The Picture of Dorian Gray). Or some poetry? John Donne comes to mind.

Of course, bonus points if she/he brings a book in a foreign language ( Mon amour, voulez vous lire un livre avec moi ce soir? Les liaisons dangeureuses? - Swooning yet?)

2. The only flaw perhaps in reading dates is that it is not the best type of first date. In this case, grabbing food together as an ice breaker and then going to the movies after is quite a great deal. In my opinion, reading dates can serve as a great gauging tool to see how 'close' you are. Bear with me... Picture this, each person reading a book in the presence of the other person in silence (perhaps with an instrumental music playing softly in the background). The 'not talking' is no longer awkward. Therefore you have the whole intimacy aspect figured out because you are simply comfortable with each other's silent presence. You are just 'there' in the moment together. This is a telltale sign that you both are into each other, right? And imagine those cute glances you both exchange from time to time during a lecture session à deux, one is reading Sophie's World while the other is reading The World is Flat. Both of your hands touching... Sharing a bit of that kissy-kissy? Are you melting yet? I am!

3. Dinners, movies, getting ice cream together - of course these are superb couple's activities, but what happens when the end of the month is near? A reading date is your answer for it is free of charge and very simple to organize. You do not need much to set it and you can let that creative mind of yours run free.

Reading dates only requires an ingredient: a book (or two if you both do not feel like sharing). No crazy candle-lit dinner setting with ten thick candles which you would not be burning any time soon after they have caught their first flames, no supermarket-frenzy-food shopping followed by three hours in the kitchen slaving yourself to cook a two-course meal complete with dessert (random note here though: of course from time to time, it is amazing to have a nice cooked meal from darling and/or cooking for your heartthrob!). Reading dates can just be lying down on a blanket with a couple of candles lit in the room (from the previous first date romantic dinner), some tea or coffee, some cushions for support - and voilà! Can you feel the romance tonight?

Now IF you decide to pull out the big guns for your reading-date, I suggest going to the bookshop together to pick a couple of books. Now be honest with me, did I just draw the scenario of the picture-perfect date just there?

So yes, there are so many fun date alternatives to make things more interesting for the two of you lovebirds! As for me, I just wanted to share my kind of date out here!

Then again, reading dates alone could be boring at some point... (debatable indeed!) Another idea that comes to mind which could be tons of fun are YouTube-dates! All the giggles in prospect!

So after hearing me out, now there is only one last thing to do before 2015: GO ASK HER/HIM OUT ON A READING DATE!

article written by Erdika Wirengjurit for the Huffington Post 

3rd place for "Best Float" in Christmas Parade

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 11:51am

Congratulations go out to the volunteers who made the Christmas Parade a great success! 

We did it! The Library won 3rd place in the Best Float category!! (That marks 2 years running that the library has won an award in the Christmas Parade!) 

THANK YOU to all who made this another great success!!!!

 

 

Giving Tuesday and the power of literature

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:16am

Anyone who read a book as a child knows the power of a good piece of literature. Whether it's a fictional adventure to imaginary lands, a biographical piece with lessons from history, or something entirely different, a book has the power to spark curiosity, introduce innovation, and open opportunity.

Unfortunately, for too many kids in low-income communities, a good read is out of reach. Families lack books at home, with as many as 60 percent of low-income households not having a single book to read to their children. Schools and public libraries in low-income communities are short on resources as well, with 80 percent of education programs having no books at all for the children they serve. In those neighborhoods, there can be as few as one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. In the absence of interesting and informative books, consistent reading to and by children fades, impacting their cognitive development from a very early age.

As a result, children head to school without the proper foundation to flourish. By the age of 4, children from low-income communities have heard 30 million fewer words than their peers in middle- and upper-class families. This "word gap" impacts their future achievement, both in the early, critical years of school and throughout their life. By the fourth grade, more than 80 percent of children from low-income families fail to score "proficient" in reading on national exams, and at this point in their life, minority students who cannot read are twice as likely as their white peers to not finish high school. Children who cannot read on grade level skip school, too afraid or embarrassed to risk reading aloud in front of their peers. Year after year, these young people fall further and further behind until it ultimately becomes easier to drop out than to catch up.

Having books on the shelves of homes, classrooms, libraries, and community centers alone won't solve all our education challenges, but coupled with literacy programs and family engagement, it is one of the first, basic steps we can take to ensure all children are prepared to succeed academically.

So today, on Giving Tuesday, I hope you'll consider giving a child the gift of a book and the joy of reading. Whether it's through donating books to your local school or library, reading to a classroom in your community, or supporting one of the many great organizations working on literacy and early childhood development, giving a child a book can be one of the best ways to help them live their life story to the fullest.

Article written by Aaron Kinnari for the Huffington Post

CSI meets The Sixth Sense

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:21pm

Reviver by Seth Patrick (2013)

CSI meets The Sixth Sense in this compelling horror/thriller that has already been optioned by the producers of The Dark Knight Returns!

Revivers. Able to wake the recently dead, and let them bear witness to their own demise. Twelve years after the first reviver came to light, they have become accepted by an uneasy public. The testimony of the dead is permitted in courtrooms across the world. Forensic revival is a routine part of police investigation.

In the United States, that responsibility falls to the Forensic Revival Service. Despite his troubled past, Jonah Miller is one of their best. But while reviving the victim of a brutal murder, he encounters a terrifying presence. Something is watching. Waiting. His superiors tell him it was only in his mind, a product of stress. Jonah isn’t so certain.

Then Daniel Harker, the first journalist to bring revival to public attention, is murdered, and Jonah finds himself getting dragged into the hunt for answers. Working with Harker's daughter Annabel, he becomes determined to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Soon they uncover long-hidden truths that call into doubt everything Jonah stands for, and reveal a threat that if not stopped in time, will put all of humanity in danger . . . Amazon

Praise for Seth Patrick:
“Supernatural thrillers don’t get much better than British author Patrick’s assured debut, the first in a trilogy…Patrick has carefully thought through the implications of this phenomenon, including religious objections and insurance issues, and maintains the suspense throughout.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Patrick has created an entire forensic discipline, all backed up with authentic (at least, to this non-scientist) and utterly believable detail. I was completely absorbed by the weird take on the world he has created between the covers of this book. Heartily recommended.” —Susan Moody reviewing for promtingcrime.blogspot.com Show more

List of books to tide you over till the next TV season

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:00am

We all love books at XOXO After Dark, but that doesn't mean we don't have our fair share of TV junkies on the team (as anyone who's seen our Bachelorette recaps will know!). So we were relieved when Kristin Harmel, author of The Life Intended and The Sweetness of Forgetting, sent us the perfect list of books to tide us over till the next TV season:

For many people, the end of the year is a festive time, full of holiday celebrations, family gatherings and days off from work. But for those of us with a bit of a television addiction (ahem... guilty!), the long stretch between late November and January -- when shows begin to come back from their winter hiatus -- can feel long indeed. To pass the time before the worlds of Meredith Grey, Alicia Florrick and Olivia Pope return, why not pick up a book that's on the same wavelength as your favorite show? These picks are sure to please -- and they make great holiday presents too!

Scandal
Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope is a woman to be reckoned with. Her wardrobe has sparked a real-life clothing collection at The Limited; her on-screen power is the stuff of legend; and the various forces tugging at her allegiance make for one pulse-pounding episode after another. But the biggest reason many of us tune in regularly is all that sizzling romantic tension between Olivia and the president of the United States. So along those lines, why not try Mimi Alford's memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath, which shows you a side of the beloved 35th president that you've never seen before.

The Good Wife
Sure, this ABC hit is about a woman who happens to be the wife of the Illinois governor. But far more than that, it's a series about a woman who runs her own Chicago law firm, takes on cases that mean something to her, and manages to keep her personal life from imploding at the same time. If you're missing Alicia Florrick this winter, dive in to Laura Caldwell's Izzy McNeil series (starting with Red Hot Lies). Caldwell, a former trial attorney, writes about a Chicago lawyer, her questionable fiancé, and a murder that changes everything. Laura Caldwell titles

Madam Secretary
This new CBS hit, starring Téa Leoni, is about the newly-appointed Secretary of State, who struggles to walk the line between being a normal family woman and becoming one of the most powerful people in America. Each week brings a new diplomatic complication that she has to solve. If you're interested in what really goes on behind the scenes of the State Department, Condoleezza Rice's No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington is sure to please. You'll be fascinated by the true tales this real-life former Secretary of State tells.

Grey's Anatomy
The long-running ABC hit keeps drawing viewers back season after season in large part because of its fascinating medical storylines and titillating personal drama between the characters. While you're waiting for an update about what's happening at our favorite Seattle hospital, try Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, which centers around a huge medical decision and the emotional fallout experienced by the family at the heart of it.

Revenge
Love. Betrayal. Family secrets. A picture-perfect coastal backdrop simmering with lies and alliances. All of that and more is what keeps "Revenge" going strong. So why not turn to the original story about secrets and deception in a privileged New York state beach community? You may have read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby when you were in school, but now's a great time to pull it out again and to dive back in to a world that will make the wait for Emily Thorne's next move easier to bear.

The Blacklist
One of this season's breakout hits, this NBC drama stars James Spader as Raymond Reddington, a high-profile criminal who agrees to cooperate with the FBI. His relationship with FBI agent Elizabeth Keen is at the heart of the show, and viewers are left to peel back the layers of their complex relationship each week. While you wait for their next adventure, check out Thomas Harris's chilling novel The Silence of the Lambs, which, like the famed movie based on it, pairs a gifted criminal with a young woman from the FBI. You'll think Reddington and his cronies are incredibly gentle and normal after checking in with Harris's Hannibal Lecter.

Kristin Harmel is the international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting. Her new novel, The Life Intended, a P.S. I Love You-meets-Sliding Doors story of finding oneself in the face of tragedy comes out Dec. 30... and would also make for wonderful before-the-TV-season-starts reading.

article written by Kristin Harmel (Huffington Post)

Tips for Tracing Your Family Tree from Expert Genealogist, William Forsyth

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 11:41am

The rise in easily searched resources that are available online has made the emotional quest of uncovering the stories of your family history increasingly popular. ProQuest historical content and datasets help in researching your family history. But navigating through the volume of resources may be a bit daunting, especially when you are trying to figure out where to begin.

With October being Family History Month, ProQuest took the opportunity to tap our very own genealogy expert for his tips on researching your family history. William Forsyth oversees ProQuest’s expansive line of digital family history resources, and has dedicated more than 30 years of experience to building high-quality genealogy subscription products for librarians. Bill has led many initiatives to educate librarians in their service to genealogy patrons and the following are his expert tips on how to begin tracing your family tree.

1) List what you already know
When you’re getting started, one of the most important things to remember is to work backwards. Many people want to start their research with a family member who was a Civil War soldier, or something similar, but that could lead you down the wrong line of descent. It is even more critical to work backward if your family surname is common. You don’t want to spend a lot of time researching only to find that you were tracing the wrong John Smith. The best approach is to simply start with yourself and work from the present day to the past.

Ancestry® Library Edition (inside Library link) has ancestral chart forms that you can download to help you while filling in your family tree.

2) Interview relatives
This step appears to be easy, but can pose a possible setback if you have relatives who aren’t particularly chatty. Be sure to ask your family members whether anybody has already started researching the family history; this can eliminate duplicating work that may already be done.

If you should be so lucky, speak to the family member who started tracing the family history or get a copy of his or her research. This may uncover leads for you to research further. Older generations may know the occupations that family members held, where they are buried, and they may have other stories that you can search for in historical newspapers. This information can provide a place to start.

3) Get death records
This goes back to working in reverse chronological order. The most recent record of an individual will be the death record. For this reason, death records are much more common than birth records. In the U.S., death records are kept on a state-by-state basis; therefore, some are available online and others require you to mail in a request to receive a copy of the death certificate. There will likely be a fee (which varies by state and/or county), and you may have to provide proof that you are related to the person whose record you are requesting due to privacy laws.

A death record will provide many clues about the individual: the names of parents, spouse, residence and and where they were buried, their occupation, religion, and even cause of death.

4) Follow death record clues
Once you have the clues from the death record, you can narrow your research! Search birth records by date, in the county of the birth. The birth record will reveal more information to lead you down the right ancestral line.

It is important to keep in mind that while the death certificate can provide plenty of helpful hints, it is not always accurate and reliable. The person that died is not filling out the form, of course, so the information comes from the person who is providing the information on the deceased’s behalf.

5) Search census records
The purpose of using a census record is to discover and validate where the person lived and who is in the family. Many people start their research with census records. The census lists the individuals living in the household – even relatives, servants, farmhands – and provides their name, age, gender, and birthplace. It may also give their occupation, and whether the head of household rents or own the home, and the value of the property.  

Census records are the most popular documents in tracing family history, but sometimes for one reason or another, you may not find your family in census records. If that’s the case, there are other helpful records to try.

Many cities kept their own directories, backed by private enterprises that listed the residents and their addresses. There are also the state censuses, which are not conducted in the same year as the federal census.

It may also be possible that you’re looking in the wrong county. County boundaries settled around 1920, but throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s, boundaries often changed. HeritageQuest® Online (inside Library link) or (outside Library link) provides a digital version of the Map Guide to the U.S. - US Federal Census 1790-1920, allowing you to look up county boundaries by both state and year.     

6) Search local sources
Once you verify names and locations, you can start looking in the local publications for stories about your family and the area. Historical newspapers are great sources of personal stories, birth notices and obituaries.

Obituaries can offer rich details about the deceased’s life, including the names of other family members. However, not everything is available on the Internet. You may need to do some on-site research, and the local librarian can help.

Local libraries may also have “mug books”; it was very popular for communities and commercial vendors to publish books that contain photographs and information about its residents, as well as history of the community. The accuracy of the stories can be questionable, however, as the content may have been embellished. Often, contributions to these books were made by the wealthier residents, because those who contributed were expected to purchase (or, help pay to publish) the book.

7) Don’t forget
Maps can provide many helpful details while tracing your family tree. Resources like Digital Sanborn® Maps and Historic Map Works Library Edition (inside Library link) or (outside Library link) provide the size and type of the family home, business or property, and can reveal other possible ancestors who may be neighbors.

Don’t forget to check immigration records, as most of us have ancestors who immigrated to the United States at one point. Ancestry® Library Edition has passenger lists for all major ports and has digitized these immigration records. Also, don’t automatically assume that your family changed their surname when they immigrated. Instead, it may have been misspelled on the records.

Many of our male ancestors served in the military. Military records, like the service and pension records, are accessible in databases like Fold3, which includes fascinating stories and photos as well.

The more corroborating records you can find, the more genealogical proof you have that you’re following the right ancestral line.

Need help with the resources mentioned in this article? Visit the SWLA Genealogical and Historical Library at 411 Pujo Street in Lake Charles for assistance on these resources and other resources to help you with your research. Find more details about this unique Library location.

Economic growth and the impact to SWLA

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 10:01am

The Southwest Louisiana Region (SWLA) is poised to undergo a prolonged period of economic growth, with the announcement of over $65 billion in announced capital projects expected to bring over 18,000 permanent jobs to the area. This economic growth has the potential to enhance overall prosperity and quality of life throughout the region. However, unprecedented impacts to the various systems within the community can be expected. These impacts are the focus of this Regional Impact Study (RIS) which consists of three major components: baseline assessment of current systems; socioeconomic modeling analysis of changes that will happen; and assessment of impacts on each major community system along with recommendations on how best to address those impacts.

View the Southwest Louisiana Regional Impact Study.

Rick Springfield, the author?

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 1:38pm

Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield

Review by Christy Duhon

Library Copies

If you were down on your luck and desperate for anything, would you call a 1-800 number that was scribbled in a self-help book? 

What would you do if you found out that this said 1-800 number just so happened to be God’s personal cell phone number?

Horatio Cotton (or Bobby, for short) had just that opportunity in “Magnificent Vibration” by Rick Springfield. (Yes, THAT Rick Springfield…the musician and soap opera actor!)

Bobby has been down on his luck after finding out that his wife has been cheating on him with a rather wide variety of men.

On top of that, his job is going downhill as well.

On the verge of committing suicide, he steals a book entitled “Magnificent Vibration: Discover Your True Purpose” and notices 1-800-CALL-GOD scrawled on the inside front cover.

Desperate for anything, he gives the number a call, only to find out that it is God’s personal phone line.

Shortly after speaking with God (who prefers to be called “Omnipotent Supreme Being” or Arthur for short,) Bobby meets Alice (a nun) and Lexington, who both have copies of the book with the same phone number written inside of it.

Realizing that this book was meant to bring the three of them together, they set out on an extraordinary journey in search of the answers to life’s greatest questions.

Along the way Bobby confronts his boss, gets over his extremely unfaithful ex-wife, meets and has a conversation with the Loch Ness monster, falls in love, and decides whether or not to destroy the world as we know it.

Just a typical day following “Arthur’s” plan.

And while it all may seem strange, it all works out in the end.

A rather odd yet funny read and not for those looking for a “real” inspirational book, “Magnificent Vibration” takes it’s root from the likes of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” or “The Outsourcer’s Apprentice.” 

Readers may blush while giggling at this funny look at life and our unquenchable thirst for finding out just what we’re doing here on this third rock from the sun.

Christy Duhon is the public information officer for the Calcasieu Parish Public Library.

Explore additional book reviews by the Library staff.

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