Review: Neuroplanner by Kar Villard

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I joined the Kickstarter for this planner last year, but it turned out to not be a planner I wanted to use in 2018. It’s more of a productivity guide, as the weekly/monthly planning pages are interspersed with what is literally a small book on how to run your life and priorities. This would be a great planner for someone heading to college for the first time, or who hasn’t yet explored productivity, task management, and goal setting. Singaporean designer Kar Villard currently has a second edition running on Indiegogo, although with 3 days left to run this hasn’t yet gained enough traction to be funded.

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It’s an undated A5 planner – so the exact same size as a Hobonichi Cousin – with a Monday start for both weekly and monthly spreads. The planner has two ribbon bookmarks in coral and powder blue. The bookmark colors mean that 5 out of 5 male Kiwi tradies in my impromptu focus group would not be prepared to use it (because fragile masculinity and peer pressure, aka bullying). In addition, the advice sections talk about “dating too many men,” “the cute guy who always sits in the same spot in the cafe,” and the attraction of “his hair and the smell of a good aftershave,” so although the cover colors are gender-neutral the overall tone of the planner definitely seems aimed at humans identifying as women and who perform normative heterosexual femininity. The designer, Kar Villard, projects a normative female identity, and from the tone of the planner this seems like a personal project in which she is speaking to other humans just like her.

The navy or black cover is vinyl (aka “vegan leather”) and there’s a notch in the spine so you can slip a pen in and carry it without needing an external pen loop. There’s a soft elastic band on the back cover to hold the planner closed. This is looser than I prefer, but I guess that leaves a lot of room for your planner to bulk up with use. It’s about the same tension as a Moleskine, but the elastic is a nicer quality with a slightly plush texture.

The cover is debossed with the Neuroplanner logo and name. The planner is 2cm thick (3/4 of an inch). Overall it feels very nice in my hand and looks smart and efficient. This is definitely a planner you could use in a professional setting. The paper is cream, with dark grey printing. It feels smooth, like Rhodia/Clairefontaine. I’m not doing a pen test, sorry, as I will find a good home for this planner so I want to keep it unused.

The planner starts with a five-page guide and introduction.

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Then there’s a two-page quick-view calendar running from October 2017 to March 2020.

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Each month starts with a two-page spread for focus/goal setting/brainstorming, then there’s the monthly spread, which is followed by five weekly spreads.

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The month spreads only have 5 weeks, but there is enough dot grid below the layout to allow you to draw in an extra row for the 6th week on the couple of months that require it.

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The weekly spread includes separate columns for Saturday and Sunday (which I consider essential). The days are divided into hourly appointments from 7am to 10pm, with a space at the top for a daily focus. The spread has room for a weekly mindset, three focus items, six home to-dos, and six work to-dos, as well as five habit trackers and an open dot grid area.

At the back of the planner are 13 pages of 5mm dot grid paper (6 sheets + one single side).

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Inside the back cover is a paper pocket with ribbon reinforcement on the gusset.

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What makes this planner different is the productivity information. There are 48 double-page spreads on aspects of creating a productive life, incorporating handy tips from neuroscience (hence, the name of the planner).

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These spreads cover: creating a vision, setting and achieving goals, how to form a routine and how to learn, dubunking productivity myths, nutrition, fitness, multitasking and planning, creativity, non-romantic relationships, romantic relationships, future planning, and neuroplasticity.

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While the productivity information is useful I really hate it being interspersed with the planner pages. So, you get monthly goals, the month spread, then an info spread, a week spread, an info spread, a week spread, an info spread, and then two final weeks – a total of four double-page info spreads per month. That takes up a lot of space. I’d much rather these pages were instead dot grid pages, and the planner came with a booklet of this productivity info, sized to slip inside the back pocket. I could paste plain paper over these info pages, but even if I use tomoe river paper that’s going to bulk up the planner a hell of a lot. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting when I backed the project. I liked the idea of the neuroscience. It’s just that in person I realize I don’t want to actually use this product the way the planning and the information are sliced together.

My least favorite part of the planner is the section on Romance, in which Villard says, “physical attraction . . . [is the] first thing that draws us to the other person.” For asexuals this is simply not true. We are definitely talking normative NT sexuality, here.

Other nitpicks: Villard also calls humans a “race” of animals, instead of a species (section 37). And in section 40, Offspring, Villard says, “When you start to have children . . . ” I would definitely have been more comfortable with the phrasing “If you decide to have children . . .”

Kar Villard is doing a whole lot of promotion and expansion of the Neuroplanner concept, including an online community called Think Tank, and a separate booklet of the productivity pages which she recently Kickstarted. If she produces the planner without so very much productivity info it would be more useful for most people, but then I’m not sure what the point of difference would be. The current campaign on Indiegogo is asking US$40 for the planner, and for that you do get access to the online community, but in all other respects, it’s pretty much identical to any other weekly A5 planner like the compact Passion Planner (US $25) or the Transcending Waves Planner (US$19.97), although those both offer 30 min appointment intervals instead of the more cumbersome hourly spots.

 

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Neoruplanner weekly spread

 

 

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Transcending Waves weekly spread

 

 

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Compact Passion Planner weekly spread

 

So, yeah, overall this wasn’t the planner for me, but if the neuroscience tips sound useful and you’re new to organizing your life and/or time, then this might work great for you. If you are in NZ and want to try this planner I’m happy to send this one to you for free: just email me.

An important lesson in defining goals

These are my blog metrics for the last week.

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The Omoshiroi memo block went viral, and at one point my blog post was the 2nd English language result on Google for people trying to buy one.

I got more visitors in 2 days than I did in all of 2015. Which translated into 0 book sales, 0 blog followers, and 0 email subs. Which is fine, of course. These are hits from people who are, like me, into divine stationery, but not, unlike me, into twisty and worrisome consent issues in gay porn.

But it does highlight the flaw in one of my 2018 goals, which was to hit 10,000 unique blog visitors.

Having a glut of blog visitors raises the question, “Why was this my goal?” XX visitors doesn’t relate to engagement, or readers, or people who want to swap pictures of yummy new inks.

Speaking of, I’m not the only person drooling over Takeda Jimuki Limited Edition Kyo No Oto Hisoku from Jet Pens, right?

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So, I’m discarding this goal. Here’s a better goal. My best ever writing month was January 2015, with 61,547 words. My goal is to beat this before 1 July 2018.

More words translates (roughly) into getting a new book out faster. Getting a new book out . . . ? It’s everything.

Now that’s a goal I can work toward.

*delighted screaming* Someone buy one of these!

See update at bottom of post for purchase info (Spoiler: it’s not good news) Updated: 18 Jan – you can preorder one!

 

 

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The Omoshiroi Block, from Japanese company Triad Inc, is a memo block, with an inbuilt pen holder, of 100 (non-sticky) pages. As you use each note you uncover a tiny sculpture, and the folded notes become a haunting, monochromatic landscape to surround it. They have other models, too, over on their beautiful Instagram, but this one, of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, is everything.

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Apparently, these go for around US$50 to US$100, and so seriously, I will never have the budget to buy one, but I need some human I have at least a tenuous connection to, to own one and make my life complete. Forget the fact the notes are tiny. Write one word a day. It’ll be minimalistic poetry.

Update 15 Jan: WHERE TO BUY 

Basically, you can’t. There is no English language online retailer. The Triad-Inc server has crashed under the weight of traffic so I can’t ask them for purchase info.

Tokyu Hands in Umeda had some last week, but they are all gone. Kyoto Design House apparently had some as of the weekend 13/14 Jan, but they do not seem to have them listed on their website http://kyoto-dh.com/en/ If anyone has a contact to actually physically go to their store, let me know if they still have stock. (Update 2: Kyoto Design House posted on their Facebook they are sold out).

As far as I can tell, there are zero omoshiroi blocks left on the globe to buy. If I hear more I will update.

Update 18 Jan. Hat tip to Mike for letting us know Japan Trend Shop is accepting pre-orders for three styles of Omoshiroi block: Kiyomizudera Temple ( the one photographed above), Asakusa Temple, and Tokyo Tower, for USD$119 with $20 shipping, and stock expected Feb 1. Like Mike, I have no experience with Japan Trend Shop. If you’ve dealt with them before and found them to be a stand-up company – or not – share the info.

 

Review: The bound Japanese Franklin Covey Planner – a rival to the Hobonichi

The Japanese version of the Franklin Covey planner should be better known. It’s a day-per -page planner printed on Tomoe River paper, in A5 Hobonichi Cousin size, so it’s a great alternative to a Hobonichi.

The planner is a Monday start for all weeks and months. It opens with a page for your details, and an overview for 2018 & 2019 on one page.

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All the months are together at the beginning of the planner, then all the daily pages are grouped together after this. There’s a double-page spread for each month, starting with December 2017 (although there are no daily pages for December). There’s room for a Master task list down the right hand side, and plenty of extra room at the bottom of each monthly page spread.

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There are two double-page spreads for 2019 future planning, then the daily pages start. There’s no similar yearly view for 2018 in the planner.

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My favorite feature of the FC is each week begins with a Weekly Compass page. This gives you a place to write all the weekly tasks you need to do, as well as identify your “big rocks” aka key tasks for your roles (if you’re not familiar with the FC method, there’s a basic primer here. A weekly task list is crucial to my own planning, so I find this superior to the Hoboncihi layout.

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Then there’s a day per page which is very similar to the Hobonichi layout, but you have even more space, as there’s no quote at the foot of the page. The top has a daily task list, and the appointment bar runs in half hours from 7am to 11pm. The grid is 4mm, and light enough it’s easy to ignore if you prefer to go freeform.

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The paper is the same excellent quality, fountain pen friendly, as the Hobonichi. The cover is plain white card, with two ribbon bookmarks.

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The back has three blank double-page note spreads. The edges of each page are marked with the month to make it easier to navigate through the planner, but they’re all in one color – burgundy – instead of multiple colors as in the Hobonichi.

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The spine is cool, as you can see the stitched binding.

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The main difference is the Franklin Covey (FC) doesn’t have the weekly view, but for me the weekly page more than makes up for it. However, even without this extra section, because of the weekly page the FC is pretty much the same thickness as the Hobonichi, just a smidgeon thinner.

 

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Hobonichi Cousin on the bottom, Franklin Covey on top.

 

But we’re not done! With the FC planner you also get a separate Organizer Planner Guide and Forms. This is a 95-page booklet that contains a bunch of cool organize-y stuff you can use for wasting time instead of actually being productive.

The first 15 pages explain how to use the Franklin Covey system with the planner. Explains in Japanese, that is.

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There are sections for writing down your roles, values, mission statement, and six Goal Planning Pages. If you’re familiar with the Franklin Covey system it doesn’t matter at all this is in Japanese, you can totally work out what you’re doing.

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This is followed by Monthly Expense Trackers, Budget Worksheets, Yearly Income and Expense Tracking, and an Annual Summary of Expenses.

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Then come three Meeting Planner double-pages, four pages of Contacts, four pages of Client Files, four Information Records, and three Project Planners.

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Finally the booklet rounds off with calendar pages for 2017-2020, and one page each for future planning 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, broken down by month.

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The booklet ends with 17 notes pages with dotted lines 4mm apart. If you write large this is a small scale, but again the gray dotted lines are easy to ignore.

Both books together will fit into a Hobonichi cover, as well as all the A5 covers I’ve got.

I bought mine on Rakuten Global Market and it was shipped fast and efficiently. I got a version without any cover, because the gods know I have enough journal covers, but the planner does come with very basic colored covers as well. If you’re interested in trying one make sure you order the bound version, otherwise you’re going to get the regular ringbound planner pages which Franklin Covey also produce for the US market. You also want to make sure you’re buying the daily planner, as there is a weekly one available too. The planner comes in B6 as well as A5. Basically you need to search Rakuten for:

Notebook system notebook Franklin planner 2018 that I bind it and begin in notebook January, 2018, and there is no Franklin planner in A5 organizer cover

The cost is US$29.55 vs US$33.26 for the Hobonichi Cousin. Shipping is still pricey because EMS is expensive, but you save the 500 yen handling fee Hobonichi charge.

Although it’s tempting as a delicious time-waster I won’t be using the Forms booklet; I don’t have meetings or clients to track. But for 2018 I’m going to try the planner as my daily carry notebook for lists and to-dos, in a Hobonichi cover. I’ll be planning my work out and tracking my progress in a different planner my friend Katie gave me, which I will review at some future date. I don’t want to overwhelm y’all with planner reviews: I seriously have enough to post a couple a week for months. I bought a shit-ton of planners to audition as potentials for next year (let’s not discuss how bloody much this cost me) including some I couldn’t get shipped to me in NZ and bought while I was in the US. It’s going to be seriously shaming to share them all with you. But, you know, it’s a cheaper vice than cocaine? Or polo ponies?

Jibun Techo Unboxing

Not mine, but the captivating Meredith Moore from Wonder Fair in Lawrence, Kansas. I’ve watched all her unboxings now and I wish this was my local store. They have an online shop, but they sell bugger all on it, so you can’t order the Jibun Techo from them. I wonder if it’s a distribution agreement thing? Maybe you can order if you phone them up, like you’re living in 1991?

They sell the Hobonichi too. If you’re in the midwest you have to check them out. For bonus points, report in and tell us how the shop was IRL.

Review: The D1 Archer Planner

I vastly prefer a 2-page per day planner. Sadly these are thin on the ground. Although I made my own planner template, I don’t love ring binders, and I’ve always hoped to eventually find a bound 2-page per day planner. I was pretty thrilled, therefore, to find the Archer D1 Planner by The Active System Company, and I gave it a try for the second half of August.

The Archer comes in a set of three, covered in a classic unoffensive navy cardstock, each with a different color on the spine: yellow, red, or green. This is handy when pulling them off the bookshelf in future to find project details you need.

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Each planner measures 6″ x 9″, or 15.3 cm x 22.8 cm. Here it is compared to a Hobonici Cousin. It’s wider, too, coming out to the edge of the month tabs on the Cousin.

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In the planner world this is an awkward size, too big for a standard A5 journal cover. It’s also thin and needs a companion in any cover so it’s not too floppy. Luckily I have a tragically underused travelers’ notebook: a Chic Sparrow A5 Deluxe Mr. Darcy in Buttered Rum. It was delicious to have an excuse to get it back out again.

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Although it did technically fit within the dimensions of the Chic Sparrow cover – just – it looked noticeably awkward and out of place, like Rodney Dangerfeld at college.

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My current plotting notebook is a large Moleskine pro. You can see how much bigger the Archer planner is.

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I liked a lot of the features of the Archer.

Most obviously, the Archer offers you – ta dah! – two pages per day.

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Look at the size, look at the size! I have two pages to write on and I wants them both!

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It’s important to note that my planner must have been pre redesign; the pic on Amazon is of an updated 2-page layout, which I do like better. The tiny dot grid was no loss, and I much prefer the long notes section on the right.

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The planner is undated. For me this was good, because I got it half way through the month and could launch into it without feeling I was wasting pages. It can’t be denied it is a hassle setting the damn thing up initially, though. I needed PaperMate handy when I forget the 23rd existed. This isn’t a feature that would put me off using a planner though. The planner I’m reviewing next month is also undated and so far I love it.

A big pro is the pages are numbered. I like this way of being able to note what pages have important project details, or to refer back for figures etc.

My version offered the ability to rate a larger number of personal variables than I care to track, alhtough YMMV.

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The new version adds Energy and Optimism instead of Activity and Sleep, and adds a section to record more useful metrics.

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I would have used the metrics-tracking section, but rate your friends? Daily? Yeah, that won’t go horribly at any point. Rate my hair?? My clothes? I would crumble under this constant self-evaluation.

The inside cover has a useful Project list and quick reference section, for numbers you’ll be calling a lot, or info you need frequently that month.

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The planner opens with note pages and places to record the cities, events, shops, and restaurants you visit, books you read, TV shows/movies you watch, music you listen to, sports/games played/watched, recommendations received, milestones reached, and people met.

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At the back there’s another double page of note paper in lines and dot grid.

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Because the planner is so slim there’s no ribbon bookmark, but each top right corner is marked to cut when the day is done, so you can easily find the current page.

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Cons:

Using so much room to record weather AM and PM is pointless to me, and I would much rather have a Daily Top 3, so that’s what I repurposed it for, even though it annoyed me to cram 3 items into 2 spaces.

The paper quality is only OK. Even ballpoint ghosts, and forget it for fountain pens: it bleeds right through.

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The month view is a list.

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This does not work for me at all because I’m a visual thinker, and I need to see the month laid out in weeks. It wasn’t a big deal to print out a blank monthly layout, fill it in for August, and glue it into the front of the book. I ended up using the two monthly calendar pages for my August Master Task List, and it worked well for that.

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There is a monthly review in the back, although it’s basic.

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But there’s no monthly planning pages/goal setting space. I printed out my August Momentum Planner and stuck that next to the month view, and I did the same with each weekly plan, although it was awkward having to jam each weekly plan into the middle of a 2-page daily spread. It bugs me I have to do this. With all that metric-tracking space the planner gives the impression of being for someone with a lot to juggle and keep track off. Forward planning and setting priorities is a big part of that.

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Here’s the worst con for me. Because I started mid-August I intended to use the planner through September as well. I was pretty shocked when I realized one planner would only work for me from Monday 14 August to Saturday 2 September: when I realized, in fact, there are only 20 days per planner.

Twenty days?? Seriously? This is a huge pain in the ass. That monthly Master list? I’d have to rewrite it. The monthly calendar, print out again. That useful project code list and quick reference list? Copy over. Each planner is thin, so I could definitely just staple two, or even all three, volumes together, but going forward, paying US$21.95 plus shipping for only 60 days – 2 months – of planning! No way. And it wouldn’t even cover a whole 2 months. I’d have to photocopy a layout for one day and stick the extra pages in to cover one 30-day month and one 31-day month.

I would gladly swap all those notes/recommendation pages for enough daily pages to finish out a full 31 days, but I’d also add monthly and weekly planning pages. This would bulk out the planner, but not by much, and would make it 300% more practical. One month per volume would even offer some definite advantages.

But would it be enough of an improvement that I’d overlook the price? Archer says you need four packs to cover a year, which costs $88, plus shipping, so probably not. But because of the 20 days thing, as it stands now, to cover a full year you’d actually have to buy six packs, for US$131.70, and you’d still have to photocopy five extra days worth of pages.

It pisses me off that so many page-per day planners ruin things by having a shared page for Saturday and Sunday, but to only include enough pages for four sets of five days per week? That’s not even enough in one volume for the weekdays of August, which would require 23 days. This is perplexing when a two-page per day layout seems designed for people with Shit To Do. So is this for people who don’t have things to do every day, but when they do, their days are very busy. Who is that? Who is the target market for this planner?

A full year of Franklin Covey dated 2-pages per day 2018 inserts is $32.95. You can buy that and a basic pleather binder for $82.90, leaving you enough left over for a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen and a 2018 Hobonichi Techo from Jet Pens. Seriously. How would that even be a debate?

So yeah, when I realized the limitation of the number of pages vs price, I abandoned this sucker after only two weeks – which was only 6 days before I would have run out of pages anyway. The Archer is never going to work for me long term. On the other hand, maybe this will suit you. I have two volumes of the three-volume set left. If you want to give them a try drop me a line – or comment – and I’ll send them to you. Or if you want to splash out on a set for yourself, they’re distributed through Amazon.

 

 

Music Monday: De La Soul

Australian stationery brand Kikki K is releasing a wooden box to conspicuously put your phone in when you get home so you are forced to interact with the humans you live with.

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Seller SkullLillyDesigns offers a couples version on Etsy too. (I had to google Guy Finley to find out who the hell he is. That is one obscure person to quote.)

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God forbid we should, you know, just turn our phones off. Or maybe the idea is to gift one of these to the person who won’t meet your eyes for longer than half a second at a time, as a subtle hint. At $USD $18 for the small Kikki K box and USD$36 for the large it looks like offline really is a luxury.