Faces of the Road: Betting on the 'highest common denominator' with Road Dog's Jimmy Mac

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Updated Oct 28, 2022


I caught up with an intriguing radio personality, Sirius XM Road Dog host Jimmy Mac, at the Mid-America Trucking Show a few months ago. He'd just downed four cups of TA's newly-rolled-out high energy coffee. Tired, but fully wired, with two conventions under his belt in just three days, he was in full Jimmy Mac rant mode.

"Remember Mos Eisley," he said, then drawing a parallel between the Star Wars cantina and, well, the hall of chaotic public discourse that is today's internet. To wit:  

"Sometimes, when it comes to the internet, you have to remember that you're walking into a wretched hive of scum and villainy."

Jimmy Mac (aka James Fitzsimmons, the host of Dave Nemo Weekends) is a man whose social commentary frequently brims with cinematic references, but he's got a way of keeping his listeners on their toes. Personally, I had to hit YouTube to refresh my memory from the 1977 film he referenced there.

I first stumbled upon this unique radio personality last November around Thanksgiving, when he had a panel of Native American guests on his show. He was discussing how we might view the holiday in light of all we now know. The show turned into an homage to Native American culture, and everything that heritage gave us.

For this gearjammer, the week of Thanksgiving 2021 would be a tough one. A co-worker was down with COVID, and I was picking up the slack on his milk run, working through the holiday. I was in Cleveland, and had run myself into the ground as well with what would become yet another case of pneumonia. I was in a scramble to find something interesting on the radio just to keep awake. I scanned over to Sirius XM Channel 146, Road Dog, and there was Jimmy Mac, holding a veritable post-graduate course in the humanities on a call-in trucker show.

Drivers from all over the country, many of whom were of varying degrees of Native American descent, were calling in. The phone lines were blowing up. 

Somehow, I wasn't tired anymore. "Who is this guy?" I said out loud.

Howes logoOverdrive Radio sponsor Howes is offering a prize pack including bottles of anti-gel fuel treatments Diesel Treat and Diesel Lifeline, among other things, to callers to the podcast message line: 615-852-8530. Got a winter fuel-gelling-related story in your past? Shout-out to a member of your own personal trucking hall of fame? Tell us all about it in a message, or relay your own experience with Howes products. We'll be back in touch for your shipping information.Back when trucks were metal and the AM band was king, I spent a lot of years steeped in the medium of talk radio, but it had been a long time since I'd heard a radio personality hold forth like Radio Nemo's Jimmy Mac. This was the way that well-read people from the mid-20th century used to speak to one another, long before the rock-throwing contest began. WGN's Milt Rosenberg from Chicago comes to mind, or maybe Barry Farber of WOR, New York.

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But this cat was speaking with us, and he was speaking as if we were actual adults. 

I needed to know more about this guy. So once again, I parlayed the platform lent to me by Overdrive Magazine to speak with someone I admire. Find some of the gems of our conversation in today's podcast:

More from Long Haul Paul's "Faces of the Road" series of profiles and oral histories.

Also in the podcast: A big congrats is in order for to the final four among Overdrive's Small Fleet Champ contenders who competed last night in two categories. Coming out on top were, in the 11-30-truck division, 19-truck Louisiana-headquartered John McGee Trucking, hauling mostly tankers and serving oilfield customers in the wide oil-rich region around the home base: Then in the 3-10 truck category, hailing from Sanford, Florida, was 5-truck CAP Trucking, the small fleet of LTL Reefer specialist Chris Porricelli, who brought home the title belt there. Read more about all the finalists and semi-finalists via this link.

Podcast transcript:

Todd Dills: Coming to you today from Nashville and the site of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies Annual Conference where we had the honor of hosting four of the greatest small trucking businesses I've had the pleasure of meeting, writing about, and, last night, introducing to a huge crowd on hand for the unveiling of the two Small Fleet Champs among them.

I'm Todd Dills, your host for this edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast for October 21st, 2022. Before I tell you just who those winners were, I'll note that this year we winnowed a huge pool of almost 100 entries in this year's Small Fleet Championship down to 10 pillars of small trucking excellence, all 10 of whom you can read about via overdriveonline.com/small- fleet-champ. The final four competing last night in two categories were, in the 11 to 30 truck division, West Point, Iowa-based, 30 truck dry van fleet Holtkamp Transportation, and 19-truck Louisiana-headquartered John McGee Trucking, hauling mostly tankers and serving oilfield customers in the wide oil-rich region around the home base.

John McGee, a semifinalist in our very first Small Fleet Champ production, emerged victorious to claim the title bill. You'll hear much more from John and Brenda McGee, as well as runners-up Les Holtkamp and Tina Dres of Holtkamp Transportation in a future edition of the podcast. Here's a big congrats to both.

And in the corners of the ring in the 3 to 10-truck division, hailing from Sanford, Florida was five-truck CAP Trucking, the small fleet of LTL reefer specialist Chris Porricelli. In the other corner, Comanche, Texas-based, Kay Creech and her daughter, Jaclyn, represented their 10-truck business serving mostly dairy customers hauling feed with belt trailers around their region. The winner? Here's a big congrats to Chris Porricelli and CAP Trucking who bring home the title belt there.

Stay tuned for more from Chris Porricelli and Kay Creech, too. And congrats to both and big thanks to all the fleets for joining us here in Nashville.

Today I'm covering the rest of the NASTC conference here. Always a variable fount of information and intel on trucking business conditions, regulations and much more, of course. And while I'm doing that, we're going to hand off today to a couple of podcasts and radio pros, namely our own "Long Haul Paul" Marhoefer, who will introduce a trucking radio personality you may or may not have heard of before who Paul feels is …

Paul Marhoefer: Bringing a sense of wonder back into trucking radio.

Todd Dills: That'd be none other than Jimmy Mac, host of Dave Nemo Weekends on the Sirius XM Road Dog Channel 146. If you've never heard Mac, here's a little taste.

Jimmy Mac: We're not looking to educate in the sense of “learn you,” but the idea is to ask people on an adventure. So when you can have a show where your second guest is a National Geographic explorer and your first guest is a doctor who's a brain expert and a former captain in NATO for the British ...

Todd Dills: That's a pretty good description of the kind of truly engrossing, entertaining and enlightening talk Jimmy Mac's doing there, and I know you'll get at least something out of Long Haul Paul’s something of a profile Mac, here. Consider it part of Marhoefer's Faces of the Road series of oral histories he's been chronicling now for years, featuring individual truck owners and drivers, personalities associated with trucking and music and much more. Find a link to all of those profiles via the show notes or the post that houses this podcast at overdriveonline.com/overdrive-radio.

Overdrive Radio sponsor Howes has prize packs still available for any caller to our podcast line. That's 615-852-8530. If you've got experience with Howes products or not, call in and tell us your story of winter fuel gelling, prevented or mitigated. Call in to just say hi or give a shout out to your own personal trucking hall of fame member, as it were. The prize pack includes bottles of Howes' Diesel Treat and Diesel Lifeline anti gel fuel treatments, as well as plenty more swag from the company. You can claim one for yourself or another recipient by calling. Again, that's 615-852-8530. 615-852-8530. We'll be back in touch for your shipping information.

And speaking of Halls of Fame, here's this week's message from Overdrive Radio’s sponsor.

Sponsor: Where do the greats of the trucking industry belong? In the Howes Hall of Fame. Do you know a person, place or organization that deserves to be recognized for their outstanding work? Nominate them today. Howes, makers of the nation's top diesel additives for over 100 years, has been adding amazing inductees into its new digital Hall of Fame. And now they want to hear from you. Become a part of the fun and excitement by submitting your nomination when you visit the Howes Hall of Fame at howesproducts.com.

Todd Dills: And here's "Long Haul Paul", setting us up.

Paul Marhoefer: I caught up with a really intriguing radio personality, Road Dog's Jimmy Mac, at The Mid-America Trucking Show a few months ago. He had just downed four cups of TA’s newly rolled out high energy coffee. Tired, but fully wired with two conventions under his belt in just three days, he was in full Jimmy Mac rant mode. Jimmy Mac, aka James Fitzsimmons, the host of Dave Nemo Weekends, whose social commentary frequently brims with cinematic references, has a way of keeping his listeners on their toes.

Jimmy Mac: I always tell people, right when you're despairing about the, remember the cantina from Star Wars, The Mos Eisley, the wretched hive of scum and villainy, is ...

Paul Marhoefer: So many of your references just go right over my head.

Jimmy Mac: Mine, too. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about most of the time. But, he talks about The Mos Eisley canteen being a wretched hive of scum and villainy. And sometimes, when it comes to the internet, you have to remember that you're walking into a wretched hive of scum and villainy and then you walk outside and you realize you are in a beautiful world.

Paul Marhoefer: I had to hit YouTube to refresh my memory from the 1978 film. It had been a while.

I first stumbled upon this unique radio personality last November around Thanksgiving when he had a panel of Native American guests on the Dave Nemo Weekend show. He was discussing how we should view the holiday in light of all we now know. The show turned into a tribute to Native American culture and everything that heritage gave us. For this gear jammer the week of Thanksgiving 2021 was a tough one. A coworker was down with COVID and I was picking up the slack on his milk run, working through the holiday. I was in Cleveland and I had just run myself into the ground as well with what would become yet for me another case of pneumonia. I was in a scramble to find something interesting on the radio just to keep awake. I scanned over to Channel 146, Road Dog. And there was Jimmy Mac, holding a veritable post-graduate course in humanities on a call in trucker show.

Drivers from all over the country, many of whom were of varying degrees of Native American descent were calling in. The phone lines were blowing up. Somehow I wasn't tired anymore. "Who is this guy?" I said out loud. Back when trucks were metal and the AM band was king I spent a lot of years steeped in the medium of talk radio, but it had been a long time since I'd heard a radio personality hold forth like radio Nemo's Jimmy Mac. This was the way that well-read people from the mid 20th century used to speak to one another, long before the rock throwing contest began. WGNs Milt Rosenberg from Chicago comes to mind, or maybe Barry Farber of WOR, New York.

But this cat was speaking with us and it was speaking as if we were actual adults. I needed to know more about this Jimmy Mac. So once again, I parlayed the platform lent to me by OverDrive Magazine to speak with someone I admire. These were some of the gems of the conversation.

I'm talking to Jimmy Mack here at the Mid-America Trucking Show, and I think what it is you're bringing a sense of wonder back into trucking radio.

Jimmy Mac: Well, thank you very much for that, too. And you and I have talked about this in the past. I've talked this with other people who have a stake in this industry and one of the things I think is, Dave Nemo, a long time ago, if you listen to his earlier work and consistently roll with him, even when it was fun and games as is his term for it, fun and games, that it never stooped into a sort of gutter. It never went into some darker places. And I realized something from everything we pick, whether we're talking about using the explanation for what's going on in the Ukraine and the show, what kind of impact it has on the price of oil and how California actually is the one most impacted by that.

When we talk about any sort of political situation through the filter of building coalitions of people actually knowing how to embrace their local government, whether it's [ IDA inaudible 00:09:56] coming on and giving people strategies for actually becoming, not a major political player in their neighborhood or their community, but to somehow in many ways understand how to engage and in that engagement that doesn't work in what they call the black or white scenario, where there are many multitude and shades of gray to how to be an active participant citizen.

And one of the things about the time constraints on truckers is that many of them have a deep hunger to be citizens and I don't just, of course, we're all citizens. I mean, if you're an American citizen, you're an American citizen. But to be an active citizen, a participating citizen, because I've always said that in a tyranny or an autocracy, citizenship is easy. It's very flat. You ain't got much to do. The leader, whoever he or she should be, takes care of business. Being in a republic or a democracy means you got to actually do the heavy lifting. You got to do the work, you got to go to school board meetings, you got to go to city council meetings, you got to go to zoning laws and all that stuff. But no fairness to the men and women, Paul that we talk to, many of them don't get a chance to get home.

And so what we want to do in part of that, too, and this plays into their two sides to not playing to the lowest common denominator. The first of which is by encouraging people to be more active citizens at the absolutely local level with the understanding that their fellow citizens often have conflicting desires and once many of which are completely honorable as well. And that honorable citizenship allows you to engage with the information in a way that makes you hunger for information rather than for results or victory. The second thing is that we have a whole bunch of offerings on the show, and Dave and I talked about this, whether it is a National Geographic podcaster talking about diving with friends and family to the bottom. It was remarkable, wasn't it?

Paul Marhoefer: That was, yeah.

Jimmy Mac: And the thing about it is, if you listen to her podcast and we're talking about, Tara Roberts, the National Geographic Explorer, Into the Depths, is her documentary, it is challenging. It asked Americans to examine their values and to examine the way that people of color were treated in this country. It does it in an inviting way. It does it in a way of saying it's an adventure. We're going to learn about ourselves, we're going to go forward together, and you are welcome to. So we're not looking to play any kind of what I say. We're not looking to educate in the sense of or learn you, but the idea is to ask people on adventure. So when you can have a show where your second guest is an astro geographic explorer, and your first guest is a doctor who's brain expert and a former captain in NATO for the British ...

Paul Marhoefer: That guy was really interesting.

Jimmy Mac: And that being two guests on a show and each of them, and here's the thing, it happened in this order.

Had she been the first guest and he'd been the second, she would've gotten the extra time, I would've immediately invited her for a longer period. We had weather to do and other things to kind of do at the nine o'clock, nine 30 hour. But the idea is that we are basically saying that we believe, and I think it's actually been born out, that we have men and women who are listening to us on the air, who want to read, who want to listen, who want to learn, who want to be entertained, who want to do fun things with their families, who want to travel, who want to find a second life, who want to have an adventure, who want to be invited into the great conversation, the better part of the internet. The better part of the worldwide web, the better part of globalization, the one that prioritizes human rights and fair working conditions and that these men and women as the ambassadors of so many goods and services can in fact be at the vanguard of that.

That there is still room and still time and it's always late in the hour. People say it's late in the hour, but it's always late in the hour. But there is always still time for trucking to claim a place as the leaders by example of what it means to be a fully involved citizen. That great middle brow culture that used to exist in the 50s and the people used to read Reader's Digest. People used to read Harper's magazine and look, that's print and, we know where print is to some degree. That being said, though, there are multitudinous outlets of information, many of them viable, and we just want to present our listeners with podcasts and books and movies and television shows and talk shows and thinkers both in the supply chain and outside of it. Although I think at the end of the day we're all in the supply chain, but presented them a world that they can be active in and not say, "These are the things you should like," but to say, "these are the things worth your time and attention, and we'd love to hear your thoughts on them."

There is nothing better, I kid you not. It's great to have somebody call you and say, I signed up for that podcast and I love it. Nothing better than I bought that book, and I'm crazy about it, except I didn't like it. I like the last two though. You recommended and I'm getting a sense of who it is you are. So I'm beginning to understand that there's certain things for you and certain things for me and certain things for other people. And it's really moving. It's really moving. I had one caller literally say, "I buy my books because of you."

Literally had one guy tell me that, he goes, "I just got finished reading this book and I wanted to tell you," he said that, "any books I read," he recommended it to his wife only to find out that his wife had already read it.

Paul Marhoefer: I was listening to that doctor who wrote that book about his involvement in the Vietnam protest and ... I downloaded it on audiobook and started listening to it. But you must have to really, so this whole thing that you're doing with the Sleeper Cab Library and the whole philosophy of betting on the highest common denominator, it's almost counter-cultural to what so much is going on, at least in the digital space, in trucking, as Dave was talking about the other day, someone posts, someone was changing a digital fuel, how the price of fuel has changed digitally. And for a moment it was at $9 in California, someone posted, it's 2 million views. Everybody's in an outrage or ready to burn the station down. And it's almost like we're in this dystopian reality where views and engagement have eclipsed reason and truth and dialogue. And you're almost taking this stance against that in a way, it seems to me.

Jimmy Mac: This is not a political comment. This is an observation. The only person that didn't, in the presidential election of 2020, the only person who didn't run for president of Twitter, who ran for president, was the one who won.

Paul Marhoefer: That's really ...

Jimmy Mac: And, like I said, but but but ... I mean everybody, you name anybody, the only person who did not run to be president of Twitter, was the one who won. And our friend is across the way. She's nodding her head, you know exactly what I'm talking about. He didn't care. The rest of them cared. All of them cared. The young, the old and everybody in between. They ran for a world that didn't exist. And that dystopian world is there. I agree. It's an awful place where somebody is literally standing by the side of the road waiting for somebody to make a digital mistake or actually just be running the numbers till they get them set and taking that quick shot and looking to really grease the skids and really make it happen.

Here's the great irony. I have noticed though, that more and more people will post things now and ask, "Is this true? Can someone fact check this for me?" Which is encouraging, number one. But number two, remember this, that I always tell people. Right when you're despairing about the, remember the cantina from Star Wars, Mos Eisley, the wretched hive of scum and villainy?

Paul Marhoefer: So many of your references just go right over my head.

Jimmy Mac: Mine too. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about most of the time, but he talks about The Mos Eisley canteen being a wretched hive of scum and villainy. And sometimes when it comes to the internet, you have to remember that you're walking into a wretched hive of scum and villainy and then you walk outside and you realize you're in a beautiful world with all kinds of people who are reading books. The other gamble is …. This is where I stand up for all these men and women, too. We're not just gambling that they're better than they are. We're gambling that they're as good as they are, we're gambling that they're as remarkable as we think they are because there are so many stereotypes about truckers, invented by people who don't understand that if they didn't have these truckers, they wouldn't have anything.

And yet they feel this need to knock somebody down. And we're out there saying, "That's funny because James Patterson booked to come on our show, Ken Burns booked to come on our show." I mean, we can go for a while here. I mean Mark Greaney booked to come on our show. A lot of people who have great followings have booked on our show. People ask to come on our show. We have a regular gamer who just loves coming on our show. Peter Stark's booked on our show. I mean, I can talk about the men and the women who have consistently booked on our show, they're banking on it. They're not banking that we can get them there. Our gamble is that they're there. That there are people like yo. That there are lots of people out there who are reading books and people who are conservative, who are liberal, who are all stripes going, "I want to hear other sides."

I want to go to places I've never been before. And because that's the thing, what does a book do but take you to some place you've never been before? That's ultimately, the human story is our connective, empathetic tissue that brings us in. But we always want to hear about a human story from someplace else. We want to go someplace, we want to go to Oz. And is there anybody better situated from being attracted for places that take you place you've never been before than a truck driver.

Paul Marhoefer: Oh, that's such a great point.

Jimmy Mac: I mean, these are men and women who hunger. John Dos Passos said this in his book USA. 'He dreams of distant trains', and there's so many of the people behind the wheel of trucks who I think grew up dreaming of distant trains, the sound of the train whistle in the distance and longing to go to those places.

Well, that's what a book does, podcast does. That's what quality news does for you. It takes you place you've never been before and we're not, when I say gambling, it's not so let's have a gamble. It's more of an understanding is we think they're there. And so far I think we found them. And there's more to find that if we can get the word out more and the idea that my perfect show would be to get enough speed with the size of the company that we have to have enough information to know who's coming on the show in advance, the social media campaign, three weeks out, tell people, "Hey, so-and-so is coming on with his or her new book. It's available on audiobook. It's a reasonably priced book. It's available on Kindle, reasonably priced. They're going to be here in three weeks. They're going to be on for a full hour. They're going to be on for the first half hour just talking to me and the second half hour taking your questions about their book."

And wouldn't it be wonderful that we got a week out and people on that thread were already commenting about what they thought of the book.

And then to get to the point where literally we finish up the first half hour of the interview, close it out, phone lines are open and literally ...

Paul Marhoefer: People are asking about the book they've already read.

Jimmy Mac: And we have to close the phone lines because we just simply going to run out of time before we get to everybody out there that we literally get to a place where I have to ask the author, "Can you stick around 15 more minutes? More people want to talk to you." We had that happen to some group with Ken Burns. It really was remarkable. But wouldn't that be a show worth getting behind? And I don't just mean a book. I mean, it could be a podcast. I could mean the idea that so and so is coming on who wrote this really challenging article about the trucking convoy or a really challenging article about some crisis involving parking. We post it up there and we say, you got to spend some time reading this. Maybe do a little citizenship here, little heavy lifting.

But then you get to listen on the show to the person who wrote this piece, be challenged, be celebrated, be vilified, within the reasons of actual genuine debate. That's a trucking culture worth investing in. And what I really loved over the last year, Paul, that has made such a difference is the listeners are starting to get the format, but there isn't this, "I want this show to be about a regulation I want to talk about." I'm sorry. And it's one of those things too where it's, in many ways, Dave on the weekends, you'd call it the weekend 34, it still is about trucking. We always tell people, Sidney always asks, "Are you a trucker?" People will say no. She said, "Can you hold on a little bit longer? There's some other truckers we want to get to first."

Still a show for truckers. Still a show that relates to the world of trucking. There's often at least 15 to 20 minutes of me figuring out how this filters in. It's how I make the decision to pull the topic in. So for truckers, but it's for truckers, doesn't mean it's always about trucking and it's not always the same thing. And I think people forget that these are, who was it making the point that so many people who drive a particular product or work for a particular company, are as much an expert in the product they drive as they are in the driving that they do? And so why do we have to say, so when somebody makes a nasty comment, "What is this? Book club?" I actually told one guy, I said "No," I said. "It's intelligent human being club, and I'm sorry you can't be a member of it." I literally say, "Do you really want people to think you're a moron?" I literally told somebody that. I said, "Is it important for you for people to think you don't like no reading?"

Paul Marhoefer: What makes this so important to me, I guess is because, was it last week or the week before, you had this truck driver calls in who used to teach English as a second language in Ukraine?

Jimmy Mac: Oh, it was fantastic, wasn't it?

Paul Marhoefer: He's explaining to you why it's insulting to say The Ukraine, to put the definite article in front of Ukraine, because that's what the Russians say. But if you're evoking that kind of driver, then you're betting on the highest common denominator. They're there, as a driver that makes me really proud to know they're there.

Jimmy Mac: Well, that's exactly it too, is that, what would be really nice one day to hear is somebody say, "Hey, you know why they don't think you're stupid? You know why they don't think you're a sucker? You know why they don't think you're somebody who doesn't deserve respect? The Dave Nemo show. Dave Nemo Weekends. Tim Ridley show, that we actually think, "Hey, you know what? Maybe you're somebody worth listening to and because you're worth listening to, you're worth talking to and you're worth giving certain points of view that you may not agree with. Who cares?" It's like, who cares? It's like America to me is a giant, it's [inaudible] just died.

And he wrote a fantastic thing once, attacking both people on both the far left and the far right. He says, "America to me is a great bar room brawl where old ideas get tossed through the plate glass window, go find themselves some fresh new friends, storm back into the bar, try to reseize it." He said, "The bartender fires off a shotgun. Everybody overpowers the bartender. And then it spills out to the back alley." And then he, in criticizing the far left and the far right, he says, "And these weenies want to call the police."

And I just feel like if we can have the kind of show where people feel like it's tough, too, because, is it a no judgment zone? Or is it a permission to speak any darn way you please show? And that's a big difference here, and that's one of the great balances you got to figure out. Say, Well, I thought we were no judgment zone. Well, we know where there is judgment and where there is not.

But I just feel like at the end of the day, there's so many of these men and women I meet that are so smart, many of them wonderfully educated, either through a classical education or through the life of hard knocks or through military or through trade school, but really rigorous thinkers. I mean, it takes a rigorous mind to actually do a pre-trip. It takes a rigorous mind to actually do a post trip. It takes a rigorous mind to actually get a hazmat certification and to maintain their health, be able to stand behind the wheel of and to actually balance the miles and the stress and the family. That's a rigorous mind at work. And it's a rigorous mind that deserves rigorous, thoughtful entertainment.

Todd Dills: Hear, hear.

A big thanks to "Long Haul Paul" and Jimmy Mac for their conversation, and to you for hanging through to the end. Here's a question for you: What's the last book you read that you'd recommend to others? Mine was a biography of a lesser-known baseball player from the Golden Age of Baseball. Think the time of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and other Major League lights. That lesser known player is George Sisler. The man held the record for most hits in a season until Ichiro Suzuki broke it early this century. The book tells the story of good luck, plenty of adversity overcome, of humility, and much more. It's called The Sizzler. Again, what's the last book you read that you'd recommend? Dial 615-852-8530 and tell us in a message. That's 615-852-8530. Bonus? We'll get back to you for your shipping information for one of those prize packs from Howes, featuring their Diesel Treat and Diesel Lifeline fuel treatments and more.



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