Hello 2018

Hello everyone! (Or, at least, anyone who reads this blog)

I can sense some awkward silence on behalf of my hypothetical audience as I type my first words again on this page. I haven’t written since December 10 of 2017, which was pretty much the last time I said that I should start writing more. Well, I have been writing. I wrote 2 complete songs in the past month, with melody, rhythm, and piano chords, but I have not recorded them – so I guess it’s not really complete yet.

But new year, new me. Just like I say every year.

This 2018 my first agenda, and most likely the agenda that summarizes all my agenda for the year, is to be more knowledgable and cultured.

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Here’s a photo of me and my love, Lawrence, celebrating the new year at 12AM.

For every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the year, I’ve mapped out a date plan, for me and my boyfriend, of New York City museums to go to and just explore around. It surprised me that most museums that we’ve shied away from visiting are actually free! (or pay-what-you-wish) Here’s an NYC-ARTS Guide to for those who want to share this new year’s resolution with us.

Alongside the small travels within NYC that I’ve planned throughout the said Saturdays of the year, I’m also thinking of alternating the plans to either visiting a museum/historic landmark or spending a day in a park, especially when the weather gets warmer. There’s more to NYC other than Central Park, you guys! I love Central Park but have you seen Hermon A. Macneil Park in College Point or Jacob Riis Park in Far Rockaway??! (I’m sorry, I’m biased with anything overlooking a body of water.) (They’re both absolutely amazing, too!)

2017 has made me realize how much material possessions I’ve accumulated in the past years since moving to New York. When I was in the PH, it was tough keeping up with the latest fashion trends because… I couldn’t afford them. However my move here and the job security that I have also made me want to purchase things just to even further prove the point that I have a good job that pays good. Not good.

When I turned 24 last November, I started making a list of “Things in Your Closet You Get Rid of Right Now.” I religiously followed this list and that made my wardrobe size decrease 2/3 of it. A more recent talk with an old friend of mine also made me realize that “my clothing style,” which is not really that fashionable, makes minimalism the best road for me to take, fashion-wise. Normally I would passively get offended with that kind of comment, when after giving so much effort in trying to look fashionable I still am not, but my new found wisdom since turning 24 made me know that she was right. It might take a while to make minimalism my lifestyle though, but you’ll see me writing about my attempts to it on my future blogs.

In 2018, I want to focus on things that really matters. Sometimes I look back in the previous years and I feel like I want to return my $80 coat (that I barely use) for a spontaneous trip to Albany. I look back at spending $30 on Marshall’s for home decors that I’ve just put inside a box and I know it’s one of my most cringe-worthy moments in my life. I could’ve fed me and my boyfriend some DJ Buffet lunch special and we would’ve most likely shared amazing memories together. But I didn’t. And starting this year, I’m sure I know better.

To travels! To more books read! To picnics in a park! To museums and historic landmarks to learn from! To decluttering a house because all it needs is good food and great memories! To Lawrence, who’s my confidant! To the other side of Lawrence, who contradicts my points of view and therefore makes me more open-minded!

Cheers, 2018!

Friday Favorites # 3 of 52

Hello again, and welcome to another entry on my Friday Favorites!

When I first started writing this new segment, which was last week I got worried that I might run out of topics to talk about in the long run. However I realized that all I have to do is talk about “the thing” that inspires me, that I woke up thinking about, that made me want to get through the day; something that makes me want to keep up with pursuing tiny steps to achieve my goals in life. (or my goals during the week, in some cases.)

My small push into doing all those things and more is my small betta fish, Marty. My boyfriend and I named him “Marty” because we got him on the weekend before Martin Luther King Day. Given that I’m horrible at remembering birthdays, I’m hoping this will make me remember his birthday better.

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I wasn’t worried at all that my betta fish will be living in the same space as my docile silver tabby, Haley. She was instantly friendly to her new roommate, rubbing her cheeks on his tank while he happily swims around his new environment. Her welcoming vibe – as I personified – to the new betta fish made me think that, because of his significantly small size compared to her, he could be Haley’s pet. It was just “cute” to think about it that way. PS: The fish is not being taken care of by a cat.

Marty wasn’t an “impulse buy” although I didn’t plan on getting him on a cold night in mid-January. It was a Saturday and I was coming home from a date with Lawrence. He knew that I’ve wanted to get a betta fish for a while now and I’ve also been making small preparations (research, tank cycling, etc.) while just waiting for the right time to get one. I said, “You know what will make this day even better than it already is? Getting that betta fish that I’ve been meaning to have.” He drove straight to the pet store before we headed home.

I’ve always wanted to get a fighting fish before I even moved to the US. I liked how it symbolized how strong one could be despite wanting – preferring – to be strong alone. I liked how it’s tropical, like I am. The vibrant colors of its kind is one thing, but its undeniable positivity with the way it swims around its tank – exactly as Marty does – is a plus. Betta fish are just basically gay; and I mean genuinely happy and gay. A website I found also talked about how the author decorated his betta fish tank and he said that betta fish could do with little. They are “minimalists,” as he puts it, and it fits perfectly with the lifestyle that I’m trying to achieve starting this year.

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Marty, looking through the “window” of his new home.

As of the moment, Marty is bloated. I feed him twice a day, at 8 in the morning before I leave for work, and then again at 8:00 PM when I get home. I am feeding him flakes for now because it is the food that came with him from the pet store but I am going to feed him pellets as soon as my order from Amazon arrives. I know that betta fish are “overeaters” and upon finding that out, my boyfriend said, “Maybe that’s what he got from me!” HAHA! (We like to think that our pets are our children.) Given that flakes are harder to control in portion, we now have a bloated Marty. Bloatedness/Constipation is common among betta fish, usually caused by overfeeding or lack of fiber – just like with humans. Good news is fasting Marty would fix this problem in 36 to 48 hours, though I can’t deny that I was worried about him when I noticed how “fat” he got since bringing him to his new home. In the future, different web sources say that fasting a betta fish one day a week would help prevent this from happening again.

Having Marty is a huge responsibility that I gladly took in when I purchased him from the pet store. I like having responsibilities such as giving close attention to someone or something that I truly care about. It gives me a sense of routine (feeding him, changing his tank water, etc.) to follow and to keep myself in-check. When I told this to one of my dearest friends, she commented that I sound like I’m ready for the real thing – which is to have a child of my own together with the love of my life who’s been nothing but amazing and perfect in the last 3 years. When that happens though, I’m pretty sure that my Friday Favorites segments will all be about that precious little thing every week for the rest of my life.

It’s been a fun week! Hope you enjoyed this topic about Marty, an aqua blue betta fish. Till next week!

Cost of Owning a Car in Queens (NYC)

In the past month, especially in this extreme winter weather that is constantly experienced by NYC, I’d thought countless times of how different my commutes would be if I had a car. Literally, if I had a dollar for every single time I thought about getting a car, I would now have a car.

In consideration of my current average-paying job and my affordable school expenses (fortunately), I did a mini research on what the average cost of owning a car would be if I will only drive it around Queens. (Because… who drives in Manhattan?!) I stumbled upon this post; and while Roger Ma, the author of this post on Life Laid Out, made a good point, I think some costs were overestimated.

I live in a neighborhood that is at least 25 minutes away from my workplace if I’m being driven by my boyfriend, and an hour and a half by bus or train. My workplace happens to be in a street with a lot of residential parking. While this job is not a job that I’ll be doing for a long time – maybe 2 years max, just till I finish my Bachelor’s – I still feel like a car would be useful for where I am now in life. I also go to Queens College at least 3 days a week as a full time student and even just considering that makes having a car a deal that’s worth it.

According to the “Cost of Owning a Car in NYC” post mentioned above, parking could easily cost $250-500 monthly. I think that is the case if you go to a crowded city with levels of garages to accommodate its population. However, if you’re going to, let’s say, a place like Midtown, you’re best bet of getting there would be by taking the train. That goes for almost any spot in NYC that charges as much as $500 for monthly parking. I live in a house with its private driveway so luckily I don’t have to worry about monthly parking in garages near my house. When I go out, I usually don’t mind parking faaaar from my destination as long as it’s for free. Usually, my boyfriend and I go for the residential parking or, even if not, we always have the option of metered street parking that costs $1 per hour. In my mind, parking around 5-10 minutes worth of walk away from my destination covers for the fact that I was comfortable for the rest of my drive to and from my destination.

Insurance, around $100 per month according to people I know who own cars, is non-negotiable; apparently in this country. I didn’t like the idea of insurance before because it feels like the only way I could get my money back is by betting against myself, but now I see why it’s important. Basically, if you can’t afford to “throw away” $100 a month, your best option is to not get a car. At the same time, an unlimited metro card for a month is $116.50, so you’re actually almost there.

Gas can be cheap if you use the right car. My boyfriend’s Mercury Mountaineer uses up twice the cost of gas with the same miles driven as his family’s Toyota Corolla. I have yet to consider which car I’m going to get but I’m definitely not getting an SUV. I’ll leave the long drives to my boyfriend’s car and mine will be used purely for school and work, and other errands. According to Lawrence, he only spent $25 in his entire week of driving to the Bronx from Queens and back. While his gas expenses are reimbursed by his workplace, it’s still not a big expense if you are spending for your comfort and saving your time.

Parking: $50

Insurance: $100

Gas: $100

Monthly payment for a used car: $200

Total: $450

The way this works in my mind is that when I have a car, it takes me around 15 mins to get to work or school. Compared to 1 1/2 hour of train/bus ride, I save more than an hour in my car ride. If you are someone who earns minimum wage, which is up to $15 in NYC, then it’s like your valuable time is not wasted while you’re sitting in traffic. Of course, if you know that you can afford it but then you could barely make ends meet – like my situation – then you shouldn’t get a car. Healthy food is first priority. Enough sleep is second. Comfortable commute isn’t even part of my top 10 priorities.

Comparative Literature: Getting my first B-

If you are like me, in a small fraction of my everyday life, who takes the MTA trains to and from anywhere I have to be, then you probably have a passive hobby that helps you stay aware while also keeping you entertained in your long commutes. On my hour and a half train/bus rides to work (6x a week), I keep myself busy with listening to TedTalks, new music released on this month of this year, or the Hamilton soundtrack over and over.

Once the school semester starts, which is exactly in 2 weeks, I’ll have to change these routines and I am not prepared to do that. While I enjoy reading as a form of relaxing, the idea that I’ll be forced to read my classes’ required readings for school takes out the fun in it.

On the past fall 2017 semester, I took a class on Comparative Literature with a professor who – I would say – is not ideal for the type of class that she’s teaching. She required 5 books to read, which was fine because I do enjoy reading fictional novels, but her lectures made the books appear boring. She discusses the books either too fast or too slow. When she gives a homework for her students to read up to a certain page of the book, her next day’s discussion would end on at least 10 pages before or after the homework given, making her discussions hard to keep up with. Aside from her boring manner of reading off of the book, she also doesn’t ask the students in the class if we have any questions; she also doesn’t ask us questions to see if we’re able to keep up with her. Whenever she reads off of a paragraph, she doesn’t let us know where she started reading from and it was very hard for students who have the same novel at hand but with different version, translator, or publication.

I’m sure she’s a highly intelligent person. From what I’ve heard in the department, she graduated from the best university in her country and that led her to get a job as a city university professor now. But truth be told, she is so much better off teaching an online class. Students’ grades shouldn’t be in the hands of a professor who cannot teach!

In the end, I got a B- in my final grade in her class. She gave me a bunch of B+ and A- on my papers, but she gave me a C- for my attendance which is 20% of the grade. The way I wrote, which should’ve been the focus of this writing intensive class, only accounts to 10% of my grade for each paper. Her grade rubrik shows how conscious she is of her students’ attendance dropping if she doesn’t require it to the point that she gives more importance to the attendance instead of how much the students are actually learning.

I tried to talk to this professor. Our email exchanges we’re looooong and one after another. All she said was that she’ll try to figure out a better way to grade her students and that she cannot change my grade because she felt like I deserved it.

ANY SCHOOL shouldn’t be employing professors like this. Intelligence doesn’t equal ability to teach. You can be a master of your field but some highly intelligent people, because they’re soooo smart, are not able to effectively translate that knowledge and wisdom to beginners in the field. This experience shouldn’t happen to any student who’s just trying their hardest, doing all the work assigned, and being a good writer in a writing class, while also being employed full time to afford going to a good college.

 

Friday Favorites 2 of 52

Hello, you dear reader!

Welcome to my first entry in this new blog segment: Friday Favorites, deeply inspired by A Welder’s Wife and her journey to minimalism.

While my Friday Favorites will be my way of showcasing material or non-material possessions that I am obsessed with for the week, I am also in the process of planning another segment that I’ll call “Letting Go at Twenty-Four.” It was supposed to be a one-shot vlog of the earthly possessions that I’ve accumulated in the past years that I should let go (and would), but now I am working on this idea as a monthly journal entry. In that way, I’ll get to let go more. Win-win!

This week, I am un-healthily obsessed with GTA V Online!

I have played this game late 2016 to the point that I’ll be sleep-deprived on tomorrow’s class or work, which led me to go to a complete hiatus in 2017 (and also I started going out more in 2017). But now, because of the Doomsday Heist update, I started playing PS 4 again. Together with my old PlayStation buddies, Tiu and Ralph, and now with a new playmate who goes by the vague name “New Yorker,” I’ve earned more than 2 million in GTA dollars in only 2 nights!

Before I start any session in GTA V Online, I always make sure that I change the outfit of my character. It brings out the feminine side of me, which hides completely once I’m in a mission or in a heist along with the other players of the game.

When school starts, around last week of January, I’ll have to stop this madness and go back to a normal sleeping schedule. One time, I slept at 2:00 am because my crew couldn’t quit a game without finishing the mission. The next day I regretted every minute of staying up that late the previous night. It’s like my body is telling me that I’m no longer the teenager I once was and that I should start taking care of my body more than I did when I was younger. I was dehydrated, unable to focus, and I fell asleep in a public transportation! But then, I’m in college. I should be able to live these college years like I am – in fact – in college, and also since I was forced to be an adult pretty much at a young age. This is me trying to catch up on being young again.

So.. That’s pretty much my weekly obsession update! Please stay in tune for next week’s Friday Favorites!

On Trying to “Fit In” Upon Moving to NYC

Early 2017, I was obsessed with the show, “3rd Rock from the Sun,” by NBC. I was fortunate enough to catch the show on Netflix together with my boyfriend who recommended it to me in great quality as if it’s a new show, although this American sitcom aired back in 1996 to 2001. Half of the main casts are people I recognize now, 20 years after: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as dreamy guy in 500 Days of Summer, in Snowden as Snowden, and (I almost forgot) in one of my favorite movies, Inception. The calming voice and face of John Lithgow in How I Met Your Mother as Barney’s long lost father. Lastly, Wayne Knight as Newman in Seinfeld. I liked the show a lot because it reminded me of the time when I was new to America. Like the Solomon family, who were extraterrestrial beings in the show, I did extensive research on “life in New York” before coming here. However when I moved here, I realized that it’s definitely a way of life that you can’t learn by reading, but instead by experiencing it – by living it.

Most shows that I watch, now that I’ve come to think of it, are shows with protagonists who are outcasts. Or to say the least, people who are just trying to fit in.

When I started watching “The Office,” another NBC show that’s one of my top favorites, I thought this breaks my cycle of watching such shows. (If you haven’t seen it, I don’t care. I’m just gonna go straight to talking about it. SPOILER ALERT!) (If you haven’t seen it, then what are you doing with your life?!) Michael Scott is breaking norms and is not even making efforts in trying to fit in. He just does whatever he wants because he’s the boss and nobody can tell him to do otherwise. However, as the show progresses, I’ve seen him in the more intimate scenes and I’ve realized that he’s actually the one who is trying – quite too hard – to fit in. He has his peculiar ways of doing so for he is a peculiar man.

You can see Michael Scott at his most vulnerable side in Season 5 when Charles Miner, a new boss above him, started making changes in the office. The people that Michael worked so hard in fitting in with are suddenly making changes as well. Having so many changes happening, starting with Charles’ arrival, was too much to keep up with, and Michael most likely was also trying to devise ways on how to fit in again. Middle of the season, Michael quits his job as a regional manager in Dunder Mifflin to start his own company.

Season 5 and the episodes that unfolded in it inspired me in a way that Michael Scott, who was just trying to fit in while losing himself along the way, has reached a point where he’s done trying to please other people and he focused on his own life goals instead. He started a new paper company, tried to hired the people he trusts most, and stuck with the thing that he’s most knowledgable and passionate about – which is paper. In the end, I would consider it a successful journey. The Michael Scott Paper Company was bought out by the same company that Michael left, and he got his job back as the regional manager. He took risks and landed on his feet, and now with even better perspectives in his new old job. (And let’s not forget, IDRIS ELBA!!!)

I’ve now mentioned 2 NBC shows that I loooooved and upon going through the list of NBC shows on, well, Google, I really am now owning the fact that NBC is my favorite network for TV shows. On top of the ones I’ve already mentioned, NBC is also the home network of FriendsParks and Recreation, 30 Rock, SNL, Seinfeld, etc. all these shows I’ve watched and adored. I fancied myself working for NBC as a Human Resources intern, meeting and hiring the people who are going to be in charge of the future shows in this amazing network, but unfortunately I’ve been denied in the past 3 semesters that I’ve submitted my applications. But that’s not what I was here talking about. Moving on….

Rachel Green’s journey into becoming an independent city girl was also one of my all-time favorite stories on TV. Except for the fact that she’s undecided whether she wants to be with Ross or not, Rachel’s story is probably the one that I most identify with when I moved to New York. Working as waitress, going to job interviews, trying again with romance, getting a job that she is passionate about and having the opportunity to do it in Paris, and the list goes on (The last part is just something that I’m hoping to achieve, not necessarily in Paris.) Oh, and don’t forget about her fashion sense!

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My small attempt on Rachel Green fashion.
High-waisted skirt. Tight fitting top. Eh?

In the end, Rachel Green did New York life her own way. Not the way her parents told her to. Not by rushing into something sure (which was being with Ross) but by taking risks and seeing what else is in store, literally and figuratively. Not by living a comfortable lie but by being true to herself.

Let me see if I could do that.

Just like how I ended my previous blog post, Hello 2018, let me leave this one with a cheers. Cheers to living the life that you want, love, and respect. To being true to yourself, no matter what that means. To trying new things without forgetting your old self. To doing the things that make you happy as long as nobody is harmed (offended does not equal harmed). To being amazing in your own way!

 

12/10/2017: Creative Life

Just a week from now, I’ll be untied from my responsibilities as a full student and be able to focus on the things that I’ve been planning to do! Photography, novel writing, maybe get started on the poetry book that all I basically have to do is compile, record song I’ve written with the help of my boyfriend who’s now an excellent self-taught guitarist, and tour around Queens! Although I still have to work part time – around 3 days a week – and by January go to school and attend 2-3 classes, I still get a lot of time compared to before. I really am looking forward to the next few weeks!

I got a Nikon D3400 over November this year as kind of a birthday/Christmas gift to myself. Last year, I got myself a Canon video camera to start off my YouTube page – OR just something to use for my trip to the Philippines – but now I’m thinking that vlog is quite pushing it for myself and I should go back to my roots, which is photography. Last week I was with a couple of creative friends and we polished on our photography skills in Central Park, but for me that was just testing the water on how it’ll will be with other people involved. Photography is kind of “my thing.” It is something that I enjoy doing on my own, like my other hobbies such as reading and writing. I will have to go out alone, maybe have a tripod for myself, or take my boyfriend out on photography dates since he’s been wanting to learn how to use a dSLR that’s set in manual.

Writing is still a part of my creative life, pretty much ever since I started writing songs back in high school, and I’ve actually started looking back at the things I wrote around 4 years ago. I had songs, poems, blog posts about my day which were pretty ordinary but I had a manner of telling it as if it wasn’t just ordinary. They were good. I realized that I was more real back then. I wonder if being in a professional field, or being with an adult relationship with no drama, or just being in a life itself that doesn’t come with as much challenges as before, had something to do with my manner of writing now. I still write quite more often now than a few years back when I was just focused in work and making money. But I think I’ll have to put “writing” as part of a routine, just like I did with “work,” and come up with a schedule that is easy to follow for me and for the time that I want to allot on spending doing other things.

Recently I’ve also started playing the piano weekly. It was something that I was fond of doing ever since I was little, and it was an activity that my mother made me do every week. It was a good routine especially as imposed on a child then. At that time, since my piano lessons were on a Friday evening, it seemed like a “close” to my week. I intend on playing piano every week and I also bought new books for me to learn from, with finger exercises and classical pieces that I’ve always wanted to learn how to play.

Space has been tight. Currently, I am living with my boyfriend in a studio style basement. I have regrets on getting a queen-sized bed when I’m not sleeping on it but none of that when I am. When I set up my keyboard, I have to go out of my way just to get it in a decent angle with the proper height for the stand and the chair. I’ve managed to separate the clothes in my wardrobe that do not go with the “capsule wardrobe” that I’ve been attempting to work on in the past weeks. My closet has gone through 2 elimination rounds, but I’ll give it a final round with the help of my fashionable sisters hopefully before the end of the year. With regards to my boyfriend and I’s separate bookshelves, I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of our books. Ever.

For now, I’m just excited for the school semester to end. It’ll be the first year since moving to this country that I’ll have the holidays off. In the past years I’ve worked in either retail or fastfood, where employees are expected to work on holidays because that’s when consumers usually shop/go out, but now I get to spend the weeks to come with my mother who will be visiting for the holidays.

High Line

(As my first entry on “CasseLakbay,” here are pictures from when I went to High Line with my boyfriend’s mother and her brother who’s a tourist from the Philippines!)

(CasseLakbay is two joined words: Cassela + Lakbay. Cassela being my name and ‘lakbay’ which in Tagalog means to go on an adventure.)

I am blogging to share a couple of photos that I shot when I went to High Line on November 16, 2017. While it wasn’t my first time being in the place, it is my first time to be able to shoot the good views to see because the first time I went there I was with Lawrence – and he was simply the best view.

Krispy Kreme

I started my day with 3 Krispy Kreme original glazed donut and a cup of coffee – because who doesn’t? It still surprises me everytime I realize that there’s only one Krispy Kreme in the whole New York City. This is why every single time I pass by Penn Station I always get an original glazed donut to-go.

High Line

I love how High Line is half old and half new. The place, even from the first time I saw it, gives off the vibe saying, “I’m in New York! But it doesn’t look like it. Ha!” Aside from the popular yellow cab shot overlooking a veranda, everything else in this place is not too iconic as a ‘New York’ shot, or maybe not just yet.

https://flic.kr/p/21GxeLT

Ever since I moved to this country, I didn’t want people to identify me as an American or as a New Yorker, and that explains a lot why I didn’t like doing things that most Americans do or go to places that are overratedly New York. I’ve always seen myself as someone who goes to New England but chooses to spend most of my time in a place called Kennebunkport, and then goes to Pennsylvania and spends the night in an AirBnb in Manayunk (which btw has an amazing night scene).

High Line

New York is so full of history, and these old buildings witnessed the most glorious time of the city. At some point, these old buildings make me feel like I’m part of history just because I get to walk around Chelsea surrounded by them.

When Candid Turns Out Better Than Actual

(Here’s a candid photo of me because the candid photo turned out to be more decent than the actual one.)

 

Yes or No?

Another question I should also ask myself… #1 choice but temporary, or second best but stable?

Being in the field of HR made me shush myself on my opinions that prior to this job I could say out loud. It is contradicting how I am a writer, and I write about things that happen in my everyday life (extraordinarily), but I cannot write what happens in those 8 hours that I’m working. Usually when the most interesting things happen. This ultimately leaves me with  8 hours of conscious time to write about and 8 hours of sleep. The 8 hours of conscious time though is full of relaxation, binge watching, and anything else that can make me forget for a while that there’s a pile of work is waiting for me to be done; and that’s been the cycle of my past few months so far.

Deep down I’m still waiting for my big break on my novel that I haven’t written. I see myself a lot in my co procrastinator friends, but the difference is that they’re not working and going to school at the same time. At some point, I wish I didn’t do this to myself. I wanted to achieve so much in so little time and now I’m stuck with 2 self-made choices when I wanted neither of them. I work full time and go to school full time, and (on the brighter side) I also just bought a PS Plus subscription that I have no time to make use of (sadly). Why did I do this to myself?

Maybe it’s okay to give up for now. Maybe I tried and now I see that I’m failing and maybe it’s okay to seem mediocre this once and then strive for excellence again. I can do that. I am capable of securing the same job in the future, which is when I’m done pursuing a my Bachelor’s degree. I’ll have no strings attached and I can commit to my job 100%.

Yes or no? Maybe.