In this episode we dive into what ‘s crypto and what’s Blockchain technology. We discuss some of the properties of this fairly new technology compared to the traditional finance system.
Topics we cover:
-What’s crypto? Cryptography and Blockchain Technology.
-Blochain properties: security, transparency and transactions.
-Blockchain and Money as a store of value and as a method of transactions.
-Fees: Blockchain vs Traditional System
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Well, good morning, Alex, how you doing? Good, how you doing? Good. So today, I'm just gonna throw you some questions about crypto. But I don't want to talk just about print on its own. I think it's more interesting, a more interesting conversation to talk about crypto versus the traditional system. So we have a reference of what we're talking about this a lot of times when we talk about crypto, we don't really know how the traditional system works, at least the backboned agree. So is this is difficult to know what really are the differences between both? And what problems are they solving? Why is crypto relevant? or interesting? So why don't we talk about or start with? what's what's crypto? That's a good question. Okay, so I think as you started with crypto, you need to understand a few things, probably to simplify it on. There's two main topics. One is blockchain. The other one is cryptography, right? cryptography is just there to essentially, to simplify it all, make it secure, make sure that the things that you want to do, can be done in a secure way where the people who want to do something are the ones that are authorized to do something right in order to avoid hacking or a number of different bad outcomes. So we can almost put cryptography for this purpose on the side because it's a very complicated exercise, probably much of which I don't really understand even. But basically, it is there to kind of support the the rest of the system. Now blockchain is very interesting, because the the concept of blockchain at its core is just making public and easily accessible, and decentralized meaning everywhere across the network, a copy of all the transactions. So if there's one insight on crypto, which is, in my mind, super, super useful, is the idea that if I owe you money, or if I pay you money, or if I have a certain balance, or if I transact in any particular way, it is now completely public. Everybody can see who sent what to whom. Now, in terms of address. So again, who owns the addresses a different story, but for the moment, the way the thing about it is, let's say that you wanted to put in forget money for a second, let's say that you were a football club, and you wanted to put in all the data and all the information about every single one of your games, and you want to make sure to all your fans sides, you could do it in much of different ways, you could all put them on one computer. And then whenever anybody asks you, you print it out, and you send it to them by mail, there will be centralized, there will be centralized. And so they will be you know, dressed on their computer or on your Blackboard or, you know, in some going back hundreds of years, and some book, which lines for accounting purposes. So if I change it, or it's not accurate, it's eaten on whoever is controlling the center precisely. So in the centralized system, which, you know, let's say most of traditional finances is based upon there is a central place, even if it's duplicated in a couple places in order to make sure that the disaster doesn't strike and all information doesn't disappear, still, the power, the change of the power to consultants, the power to modify it is in the hands of few people, right? Few can be 1000s, which is still usually banks, right? It could be banks, in the case of, you know, the US Federal Reserve, and would be people at the Federal Reserve in the case of, you know, gold bullion, and the accounting for who has what kind of gold, since you don't have somebody walking around in New York, in the basement of the Federal Reserve, checking each of the bars, you know, on a live on live basis, there's some kind of record that the Federal Reserve maintains whatever it is, the old system tends to work on trust, where you say, hey, you're going to, and if you go back again, which is an important point, if you go back hundreds of years, this is a very helpful system. Because if you don't have a trusted centralized actor, a institution system that is trusted by all members of the community, then what happens is that you're left with a barter type economy where your trust and my trust ensures that you and I can handle transactions, lend each other money, build things together. But as soon as a third person arrives, then you've got to go through a whole process of getting to know them. With a centralized actor, then you have a clearinghouse for information that's quite useful right guide. And actually, that's an interesting point. We can talk about it some of the time that has to do with the concept of money and what problem that we're solving, but for the purpose of now talking about crypto, it's a very important point that it based on trust, we have to trust someone that is doing their job. And this is an example of Federal Reserve's, because that's very relevant when we are going to talk next about blockchain. And precisely, and I mentioned that because a lot of people say that centralized systems are evil or that you know, they shouldn't exist, or whatever it is, and everything is temporal. So in 2021, the opinion of a central system, maybe as it is today, but certainly it is clear that in the past, and for 1000s, or hundreds of years, it had tremendous value. That's how you build bridges. That's how you create financial markets. And to be fair with maybe that kind of thinking is because obviously, it has some problems. And it's getting, it's, you could make the argument that it's getting a little obsolete in certain areas, right? Yeah, I hate to use the word obsolete. But one of the things that come with trust is that you have to have actors who are the ones that are trusted, that behave in a way which is good for all actors. And there, there's a very diverse opinion as to whether, as we discussed in the last episodes, the loose monetary policy and other safe, centralized actor actions, the things that these people do, are good or bad, and it will be manipulated. Yeah. And certainly, there's an argument being made, which I think is is a reasonable arguments that many of the markets are manipulated in some way, maybe not directly, maybe not manipulated, to the extent that it's the only influence on the markets, but certainly there is. And there are actions that are distorting perhaps the level of risk in investors minds. And also, to be fair to that point, although it could be manipulated, there's also regulations or watchdogs that their job is to make sure that people don't trick the system, and people go to jail for doing these kinds of activities. Right. So yes, except, except, of course, if the government is doing it for the purpose of the global good, then, you know, as we saw with COVID, and everything else, and it becomes a very debatable argument as to whether manipulation for the good is a good thing we're not, and I guess not everyone gets caught when, when for sure. And then certainly, if if you're part of the government, and you certainly have a lot of safe harbors. So going back to the blockchain, the piece, which is really determinant is that, okay, now, the ledger. Now, that piece, if you will, what's the ledger? So the way to think about it physically is like, there's a book somewhere, right. And in that book, you say, Gabrielle has 100 units, and Alex has 100 units, and Joe has 50 units, or whatever it is. And then when it comes to football scores, when it comes to in this particular case, money in Kindle transactions, any of these things, there's now a public source that you can go to and at any time, consult, verify. So to give you an example, this is probably one of the easiest things of all bookkeeping. Yeah, that's exactly right. But think of it this way, right? If I send money to you, I'm going to go to my bank's website, I'm going to log in with some kind of username and password that they gave to me, right. And I'm going to go to some web page and consult my balance, I'm going to send you some money, I'm going to get some kind of confirmation number, and then I have literally no idea what happens next, right? Then I call you and I say, Hey, I sent you some money, then you're gonna go to the same day, the next day, two days later, whenever it is, depending on the method, they CH, y or whatever. And check your balance to figure out if the money came right. In this case, it's a purely trust environment, I trust my bank to send it. You trust your bank, that when it comes in, they'll show they'll show up in in not just the vast majority. But essentially, most, if not all of the cases. That works out to kind of doesn't, we're all used to it. And we again, as we talked about in the past episode, we've been born into the system. So that's all we know, it is what it is, right? There is no place where I can go and check independently from my bank or you can check independently from your bank that I actually sent you the money now, and this is different with the blockchain. Correct. So with blockchain, what happens is the ledger so the bookkeeping, the table, the piece of virtual paper upon which this transaction has been written is visible to everyone. So it's public. Now I can see it from anybody can see it. Anybody can see it, but again, it will say address XYZ has sent to address ABC, a certain number of verifiable units. So so the units like let's say, one bitcoin, or one Satoshi or new one, or whatever, is well defined. The addresses are just numbers, which represent your address on the network. Let's put it this way. Right. Now, of course, the question is, some addresses are public because people have raised their hands and said this is my address. Therefore, when You know, sometimes you can see when Coinbase, or certain exchanges or certain existing actors have done things on a network because their relationship has already been established between that address in that physical or person or institution. But mostly, these are just entries, and most of them are essentially anonymous by the fact that you don't know what the addresses, but the transaction itself is completely public. So everybody can see the transaction. What does it mean it just a finish up, if I send you money, the very minute that I send you money, I send you a detail of what address I used to send you money and address it gave me and you can go that very second to go and check on the public blockchain or after the settlement happens, which is usually in the case of Bitcoin every 10 minutes. But there are a number of different ways in which you can find out exactly immediately that I did send you money. So the transaction becomes public. And that, then, is quite interesting when it comes to trust, because I don't trust you, you don't need to trust me necessarily. It is verifiable. That's the first level of what is fairly interesting about crypto in the blockchain, which is now what it does is it gives you an eye a tool to be able to exchange value. And again, value becomes very subjective, right. But the method by which we exchange value as a completely objective, there's nothing. There's no third party that needs to come in, to validate to vouch to, you know, to facilitate, to account for any of the transaction, I can transaction to you directly. In a copy of that blockchain. The final point about blockchain is that the way the network runs is that you it's a little bit like BitTorrent existed before for file sharing, or otherwise, you create a network of people who voluntarily install a piece of software, that this software is essentially universal, meaning it's the same across all the people are running it, they keep each keep a copy, a full copy or partial copy, when you get to sharding. And you get to other things, but have the full ledger of all the transactions and therefore, once a transaction is approved, it now is there's a copy of it on every node everywhere around the system. So you can't change it after it's verified. You can change it after because of the cryptography that we talked about before, is everywhere. And this is really meant for trust, that you can't cheat the system. That's that's the whole Exactly. And then there's a whole argument as to whether new technologies like quantum computing and other things in the future, perhaps we'll be able to do things that will eventually break it. And again, this isn't about that same thing with Bitcoin thought about that, but that's a different subject. So so far, we got that it's a notebook, we can go in a ledger that is public, it's verifiable. And the vision one of the most important qualities is that it can be trusted. And then you can't really corrupt it. That's correct. The design is made for that to happen. We've all heard of exploits and hacks and other problems that exist, like for example, Mt. Gox, was a big exchange earlier on, but on so forth. But there's more a platform that the blockchain so the blockchain exactly this is more the fact that the keys the way you identify yourself to the network, the way that you prove that you have the authority to move the transactions, the Bitcoin, the ultimate currency itself, those keys, your identifier, think of it as a username and password, those can be leaked, those can be lost, those can be socially reverse engineered. So those can be there are a number of different ways in which bad actors can gain access to them. Okay, let's let's talk about that later. Because that is so far, that did not happen in the blockchain itself. When we don't know the blockchain, you can, we can call it like the notebook or the ledger, but that that blockchain is designed that it cannot be hacked and hasn't been hacked yet. Is that correct? I would say that's the case for Bitcoin. I think there may be some other chains I don't know about that have had exploits but certainly for Bitcoin. So that will be a different conversation, what kind of different kinds of crypto like Bitcoin or aetherium or other technical differences, but the main thing that we need to understand on the blockchain is that the vision is that it could be tricky. can be trusted hasn't been hacked. Yet, is that correct? Yes. I just don't want to confuse people with with mangaka the platform because it can be very confusing when Tony Hawk. Now the important point here, I think to make is that this is exactly your point is that you need to separate Bitcoin as a system or a blockchain as a system, from all the actors on the system on the network, right? And for the moment, the points of failure when you hear crypto to people, it means everything or when even when you hear Bitcoin, it means everything. But it's important to try to work at it as if you were building your house and look at layers, and the foundation layer, the lowest layer, the one that supports the whole house. In this particular case, when you think in Bitcoin being the Bitcoin blockchain, that one has not been hacked is, you know, considered to be extremely secure. But when you have heard and if somebody dismisses you at a party, you're in discussion and say, Yeah, but crypto, there's been plenty of hacks and, and ways it's the equivalent of the dollar being secure. $1 is worth $1. But somebody mugged you while you were walking down the street and took your dogs away. The dollars themselves haven't changed, they still work the same way the thief can still use the dollar in a way that works for them. But you did lose them because you got mugged that you know, at the corner of the street while you were carrying dollars, okay? Would it be fair to say like the blockchain is just to do like a comparison. Maybe it's a bad one. But like, I tell you, I have a really good lockbox and no one can break into it. I like okay. But you have like a, like a combination. Okay. Now, if someone gets your password, and then of course they can open it. But so far, no one, there's no technology that can open that box. I think the best way to put it. Okay, so we've talked about is balik cannot be corrupted or hacked. There's a third point we should talk about, it's transferable. So we can we can use the blockchain to transfer money from one and from one place to another. Because that's an important factor. That's kind of the use the use of the blockchain. The other one, the other part that I think it's very interesting in the blockchain than losing my train of thought here. Give me one second. Well, anyways, they'll come to my mind later. But what if it doesn't come? What would be another quality that you would that makes the blocking so important? So if we go back to some of that conversation about how do you think of money, right, so let's let's now go forward, you can use blockchain for many things, right? Like I gave an example earlier, you could be a soft soccer club or soccer league. And you could decide that the official results of Formula One or soccer can be on the blockchain in order to make sure that they never get you know, change or whatever it is, but in this particular case, was focused on money right. Now money for a long time, not forever, but for a long time has been a trusted medium. It has been the use of fiat money in the use of an intermediary trust military to issue money has been the standard has been how things have worked and money to again, oversimplify right is two things. It is a store of value, right? Something that you can put value in while you're doing other things between things, Sell house, put into money, buying another house, whatever. Or it is a method of transaction, which is how I decide that I'm going to rent a hotel room or buy a product right. Now, all of that the major impact of Bitcoin, let's put it this way, crypto and these blockchains. So let's call them monetary block transfer better. Lack of word because people use currency and many, many things, but then tend to be polluted by other attributes that those words tend to project. So let's call them monetary blockchains. Perhaps the biggest thing is that now I have a method to do transactions with you, that are completely different from anybody else going back to that earlier points. And that's huge, because what that means is that instead of having to put money into the system, I can keep the money off the system. I can decide the rules, I can figure out how to make it work. So course one of the applicability is that people were criminals who don't want to have their their money in the system can certainly use that, right? And we can go into all that reason, but it's certainly not the sole use of it, right? That happens with cash and cash or anything. Of course, as soon as something has more value than its utility, it can be used as a medium of exchange and a store of value. So why is that important? So the next the next level, which is very interesting about blockchain is that blockchain is essentially software, right? So the way to think about it is that and there is code that you can write, or that is written, that does certain things when certain things happen, and that's, again, predictable. So it is not subject to human influence. It's not subject to human manipulation, as we talked about before. But importantly, what it means is that it can serve as the basis back to the house analogy. The if the blockchain itself Bitcoin, whatever is the foundational floor, the foundation of the house, then you can start building upon it, you can start building things like for example, you hear a lot the word smart contracts. But forget smart just contracts, you can create things where every month I released to you, you know, a certain amounts, let's say it's, you know, out of a trust or out of a sale, or out of an escrow or out of any transaction, for rent as a deposit, any financial transaction that has existed, can now be programmed. And that's something that is difficult to do in the traditional banking system. Sure, you can have relationships with your bank, where you create automated, automated systems, and so on, so forth. Certainly, as a small consumer, you have very limited such tools, you can create a monthly transfer, you can create certain things, you can pay your bills, whatever it is, right, which is the beginning of essentially the first layer above the money layer, which is where you have create a program, right, let's say that you automatically pay your car payments. Well, what you've done basically is that you have borrowed a program written by your bank, that allows a certain amount to be debited from your bank account and sent to a certain destination, every x amount of time, right every month or whatever, right? Now, in this particular case, that exists and the bank has written it, and they've done it within all of the systems that they need in order for it to work in the traditional financial system. But now you can write all of that yourself and interact with somebody else directly. and not have to worry about both the transaction fees transaction latency, meaning how long it takes for the blockchain, as a project Tron does that it is verifiable it is going back to the fundamental databases, because now I am back. Interesting, why is that when you're putting your money to your bank in the traditional system, and correct me if I'm wrong, but this is kind of what I understand is very important. You basically enter a system with like, IOU You owe me now. And it's not really finalized until you actually take the cash out of the bank, that's fine. You have the cash, there's no IOU, you have money. And what I understand, correct me if I'm wrong, is blockchain once is verified, there's no by you or miss. It's finalized. And you can reverse. So I think there's two levels. ways like you have that you own it. That's it. There's two levels to the question. I think, just to go through the first one very quickly, is that the banking system, monetary system, the established one is based upon capital reserving system, which means that again, back to the example we're using per episode, if I deposit $1,000, into a bank, then I think they owe me $1,000. But they've turned around and taken $950 of it and lend it to somebody else. And they do that at such a scale. There's this concept of velocity of money, where $1 put into the deposit, the bank generates many, many, many numbers of dollars that are then transacted lent out borrowed and all that kind of stuff. So in that context, yes, you're right. If you want to be absolutely sure that you still have $100 or let's say, $1,000. At Chase, then pretty much every morning, you go to a Chase Bank, you ask them for $1,000. You look at the $1,000 and then the very next moment you redeposited back into the bag, it's just so that you get your daily check that Yeah, I still can get my $1,000 whenever I want. And my point is it because you talk. We all decide to take the money out at the same time, but I'm on their blockchain At the current level of the blockchain, it doesn't happen, right? But you can definitely imagine people who would create again as a first or second layer of the house, a back when it's on the blockchain. So the blockchain, to your point blockchains can lead to a transparent if you have a Bitcoin that bitcoins there. You know, until somebody steals it from you, which is, you know, if you if you take security seriously is probably a remote event. But yeah, in that particular case, there's no capital reserving concept is none of that is 18 and a half current bitcoins in circulation 21 million by next century. And that's what it is. And everybody knows where every one of them is. Well, yeah. With Bitcoin, which is going back, no going back, but actually going forward. The reason why we're doing this is to go to the next question is like, What What problem? Is it solving the blockchain? We talked specifically about what promises. Okay, so there we go more into opinions. Right. I think up to now, the as long as you add the word materially to everything I said before, I think it's difficult to argue that, you know, that that's not how the blockchain works now, where it adds value gets very, okay, it can potentially become subjective. What do I mean by that? So, first, the question becomes, is it valuable for 2/3 parties for two non financial system parties to be able to transact with each other directly? Right. So certainly for criminals, as we talked about before, Sure, absolutely. super useful, fantastic. But that's it doesn't change much of anything. That that was for criminals indefinitely. That's right. Well, for now, if I want to send you money from Spain, to the US, and then we're gonna get exactly, exactly so then you can replicate the idea that and then after that, you have to get to what why don't you just use a bank or whatever it is, and this is where you get the fees? speed, certainty. Right. So the idea is, for example, crypto has been used in remittances which is basically immigrants who are in a, let's say, developed economy countries earning developed economy Fayette, want to send money back to the home country to save us money to send money to Mexico, El Salvador, Africa, Asia, whatever it is, Philippines, whatever it is the family. That is a this is a quite quite an important point. Because the reason for that is the fact that the current rails the current system is not made for that international payments are relatively difficult to do. They require correspondent banking, they require the use of the swift network, they require all this kind of stuff that makes it transaction expensive. says that remittances is sending money back to the home country. So you know, if Filipino working in the US decided to send money back to Manila, right? What are the problems there? Well, there's, well, the current system is just as expensive takes time. inconvenient. And, and, and again, the existing system was fantastic. 50 years ago, 70 years ago, whenever you know, after the Second World War, when a lot of this got reshuffled fantastic system to end that you can send in money for two 3% 5%, you can send $100 to the Philippines. But as a result, you know, you only got 5% taken out at the time was fantastic, right. But as the time goes by, and so on, so forth, and people expectation change. And today, if you can get $100 sent, and it really is as close as you can get to $100, and you can get it almost immediately. And it is accessible, and the fees have been paid and so on so forth. That becomes a great advantage for those people who are currently paying three to 5% in remittances. So the blockchain versus the traditional says, well at scale, and this is always an argument at scale. The addition of computer software and hardware perhaps but mostly software to money, will does create much lower fees. So that's practical. Yeah, the difference and you can buy, less, less expensive for someone in the US. Family official, but even from us to us, right? I mean, we've all experienced this right? It is, it is somewhat amusing to know that if I want to pay you money, right? for, let's say, for the moment for business only. So let's put aside Venmo and PayPal, friends and family things, which to me is more of a marketing gimmick, we'll get to that in a second at some point. But what I'm saying is, if you're a business, there's no fees there. But it's a trap in some ways. topic, but if you're a business, and you saw that Venmo now is pushing users that they consider to be using it for business for a business transaction, not friends, not family. Those fees are essentially 3%. Right? The community, the consumer cost of fees, for you to send money to a provider to a dog walker to anything is 3%, this is more of a small business, we're paying it. So it's a bit transparent to the consumer, right. And the mechanics of this are kind of interesting, but basically, it's 3%. And I haven't money, my accounts when I'm ready to pay you, and you're gonna get the money after a while, by the way, sometimes quickly, often not. And when the money exists in the in the departure account, the money is going to get credited with certain relative certainty, or at least you have to trust somebody that the money is going to get there. And you still have to pay 3%, right? In the US, you have this whole cottage industry, this whole industry has been built around it right? of points of gift cards have miles of things that encourage you to basically retain a portion of that 3%. So the way to think about it, if you really want if you want to Super simplify numbers is that you're paying 3%. Or I would say the provider pays 3%, you as a consumer, you better believe that it's included in the price by definition, right? So yeah, you're paying 3%, just as much doesn't know. But it doesn't mean it doesn't pay, right. But benefits by 30 by by a third of a percent, for example, by getting this points, and then you have a whole agency issue, which is that if I use my corporate card to buy something, then that's extra compensation to me, because what happens is that the company that I'm using the card for, for a hotel stay for a conference for a meal for travel entertainment, for whatever it is, let's say that I use a corporate card, the corporation is going to pay the 3%. And I personally, I'm going to earn the third of a percent or 35 basis points or whatever, on that. So a whole industry exists, that is just supporting expensive payments, right? And the way, you know that is that if you're a wholesaler, right, if you tried to go in by credit card processing, it pretty much still cost you 2%. So it's not like people are making tons of money. I mean, a lot of people, you know, certainly large networks like Visa, MasterCard, and the banks and central ride sharing in what could be considered excess profitability because it processes so much of that. And that's why the quick card business is incredibly profitable on top of, you know, high balance interest fees. But ultimately, where kryptos interesting is that the cost of running crypto are can be are or can be, again, you know, we're in the middle of all this low enough that you can reduce the prices quite substantially. In order to be able to process transactions, you've got billions of dollars that have been transferred for pennies. Okay. So we're clear that one problem that it solves is also to be clear to the traditional system. Yeah, we're getting that 2% 2% fee, billing the whole environment, which is like, like a big, you know, marketing, medical, however you want to call it. But to be fair, they're providing convenience, because it's very convenient to have like a credit card instead of like kind of cash. Well, let me let me let me dispute that right. Well, the dogs going crazy. The let me dispute that. Right. One of the major things I have in less than 15 years is that now you have a full, massive computer in your hand. Right? That computer can authenticate, you can make sure it's you. It allows you now to pay many places, but still today in 2021. It is organized through the existing financial system which means If you have an apple card, the apple card is issued by a financial institution player your loan on the phone itself is issued by a finance, by financial system. The when you go and put in your own card into the phone, you use your card, and then it'll appear on your statement on whatever MasterCard, Visa American Express you've put into your phone. But ultimately, ultimately, Apple, Google, all of these people can disintermediate that completely, there's no reason, the way to think about it is that when you add your MasterCard, it could be a lawyer. Long term Absolutely. Like if Apple ever decided that they wanted to go out and used crypto chains and perhaps stable coins. I'm sure they're waiting for regulatory clarity, but from a technology point of view, and take it from a use case point of view. And from a technology point of view, there's no reason to add a credit card to your phone, your phone could have in, you know, manage addresses as it already does on a blockchain to process all your payments. Okay, so it is just mine. But we've got these now in the past, add greater convenience. And back to exam now. One of the advantages it could face, okay, when we feed. So let's talk about time. processes. What are the differences between when I send any money because in the traditional system, and again, put it all in one? ledger because it could be the lady. And the ones that? Well, the the timing also is completely fragmented, because for some people, the timing is very quick. And for some people, the timing is very small. So depending on the amount and the instrument, right? It goes from saying in a traditional system, right? If you send a wire internationally could take a few days, if there's currency exchange, it could take even more time, it could take it could take a week for money to arrive into somebody else's account in a different in a different currency, for example, right? Even as a business, you get paid at 11 o'clock in the morning. Well, a credit card gets run and your place of business or whatever it is, you don't have the money that day, you don't have the money that moments you made that to get the money in aggregate at the end of the day, or even the next day or even the next day, or there's many ways in which the financial system, you know, and again, let's not forget, let the financial system makes money with your money for some period of time. Even if it holds for an hour or six hours or 24 hours. It still is making money on your money while it's holding it. It's part of you know, part of that system. The speed on the blockchain is always going to be faster. materially, right. I mean, there's always going to be an example somewhere, but it's faster on the blockchain. But that's like me, right? Yeah. So we're going to wrap it up here. We talked about a lot of things, but this is going to be continued on the net podcast and we'll talk about we're going to carry on talking about the advantages and the differences on the blockchain. I hope you have a great day and enjoy your week weekend or whatever you doing. Thanks very much for your time.