Tag Archives: espn

Bristol’s ESPN, Then Indy 500 For DWTS Helio Castroneves

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He’s headed to Sunday’s 98th Indy 500 but three-time champ and famed Brazilian racecar driver Helio Castroneves detoured through Bristol Tuesday for a pit stop at ESPN headquarters. Charming, polite and willing to talk a bit between shows at the sports broadcasting center, (unlike Hugh Jackman, who was also in the building) the 39-year-old sports legend, a “Dancing With the Stars” mirror ball winner, talked family, racing, dancing and a No. 4 win for #3.


helio (2)Q: It’s a star-filled race Sunday with Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and Josef Newgarden. Who do you think is going to be your fiercest competitor?

A: Myself I guess. It’s never just one person you have to watch out for. I’m not worried about the others. We will do what we need to do and I think we are in very good shape.

Q: #3 is your car, but on Sunday you are starting in the number 4 position and you will be trying for your No. 4  Indy 500 victory. Will you change your #3 car to “4″  if you win?

A: No,  I will keep the number because that is our car. But hopefully the number 4 will be special because it will mean the most wins for me at Indy.

Q: Do you have any good luck charms that go with you every time your race?

A: I do (pulling down his shirt collar to show off a gold chain around his neck.) I have a bunch of good luck charms for my protection on this gold necklace. Different saints. Each one helps me. I am a very religious person. My mother gave me most of them. She wanted me protected.

Q: You will be 40 next year. Have you accomplished all you set out to do?

A: That’s a good question. No, I haven’t. I think until we are done with life you are always learning more. There is always more to accomplish in life. You should never take anything for granted. We will go out there on Sunday like it is the first time we have ever raced.

Q: As a veteran “Dancing WithThe Stars” winner, any favorites this year?

A: I saw the semi-finals and I saw the beginning of the season  but I have been traveling so much I haven’t watched every week. I was surprised Charlie (White) was eliminated. I am very glad I am not in it this season because, oh my goodness, everyone is so amazing. And Amy Purdy, she is special.

Q: You have a four-year-old daughter with your girlfriend, Adriana Henao. What’s it like being a dad?

A: It is the greatest thing in the world when it comes to balancing life. Sometimes you are upset with the little things and you go home and they become really small when you see your child.

Q: So when are you getting married?

A: You’re a straight shooter. I like that. Very soon I hope. I am waiting for her to say ‘yes.’

Q: What will we be hearing you say on Sunday?

A: I hope it will be that I am so happy to win the Indy 500 for the fourth time.

A Weekend Sure To Wonderfully Wear You Out Hartford!

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If you haven’t squeezed in a nap by now this week, you are out of luck. calendar_clip_art-1_opt

There is so much going on in and around Hartford going forward,   that there is no time for weekend snoozing.

Fun begins Thursday  at On20 in Hartford with a launch party celebrating the “Best of Hartford.” The event features the May issue of Hartford Magazine and the people, restaurants, shops and services named to its 11th annual “Best of” list.

Also on Thursday, the state Office of Tourism will hand out its annual “Pineapple Awards” at the Connecticut Conference on Tourism at the Connecticut Convention Center. Awards in categories including Excellence in Tourism, Tourism Ambassador and Volunteer of the Year will be presented to each of the state’s three tourism districts.

pineappleAmong those competing for awards in the Central Connecticut district are the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, the Marriott Hartford Downtown Hotel, Farmington Valley Trails Council and Mark Twain House & Museum.

Keynote speaker at the daylong event is Daniel Levine, global editor of the website WikieTrend.org. For information go here.

Also on Thursday , the Simsbury Performing Arts Center will hold its Kickoff Celebration at the Hop Meadow Country Club beginning at 6 p.m. The event will highlight the upcoming 2014 season which includes performances by  Willie Nelson and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Proceeds from the event will benefit the center.

For information go here.

On Friday, the Wadsworth Atheneum opens its “Art and Flowers” weekend. On Friday, floral FineArtFlowers_wadsworthatheneumF-10-2_WEB[1]designer Bill Graham who will create arrangements based on “the little black dress” theme. The demonstration is followed by lunch.

On Saturday, there will be a farm-to-table dinner and tours of the galleries and art and flower displays. For ticket information for both events  go here.

And what is spring without Meriden’s annual Daffodil Festival?

DaffodilsThe sea of yellow is ready and waiting at Hubbard Park  and opens Saturday at 10 a.m. Celebrating its 36th year, the festival includes 600,001 daffodils, food, arts and crafts, children’s rides, entertainment, a parade, and firework on Saturday , and arts and crafts, food, children’s rides and entertainment on Sunday.

For more information go here.

Saturday night has more events than any one person can possibly get to but here goes.

The American Red Cross will hold its “Red, White And You Ball” at the Connecticut Convention Center.

stew (2)The black tie evening, emceed by WFSB personalities Dennis House and Kara Sundlun and ESPN’s Kevin Negandi, features educational exhibitions, digital storytelling, three-dimensional installations and imaginative pop up booths.

Honorees for the night will be Kim and Stew Leonard Jr. who will receive the Red Cross 2014 Community Impact Award.

For information go here.

Meanwhile over at Hartford Stage’s “Party in the Paint House” time once again, this one hs13celebrating the theater’s 50th birthday.

Titled “1964″ Hartford Stage Gala” the evening is all about the year the theater began and will feature its paint shop turned into a “oh-those 60s” party venue. For information go here.

At the Bond Hotel, CRIS Radio will host its 4th Annual “Dancing in the Dark” gala featuring a dance competition with celebrities including Broadway actor Billy Johnstone, NBC CT anchor Todd Piro, Miss Ct. Kaitlyn Tarpey, WFSB reporter Courtney Zieller, tv host Jose Vega, the Bushnell’s Paul Marte and emceed by WFSB personality Scot Haney.

Cris Radio Dining & Dancing in the Dark April 21, 2012For information go here.

And at the Bushnell, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will perform its 2nd annual “Playing With Food” concert, a collaborative effort with several Hartford area restaurants.  Music based on food dishes will be featured. For more information go here.

Like chocolate? On Sunday head over to the Connecticut Science Center for the Chocolate World Expo. All things chocolate  including baked goods, special foods, gelato and more will be featured at the event that runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  For more information go here.

Costner At ESPN Today

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ESPN photo





ESPN had a special visitor today, actor Kevin Costner.

Seems the award-winning actor/director/musician stopped by to promote “Draft Day,” his new movie about fictional Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr.

Costner, who plays Weaver, stars with Jennifer Garner, and while in Bristol made the rounds appearing on a few chosen ESPN shows.

The movie is scheduled for release on April 11.


ESPN ‘Rats’ On NCAA Men’s Results

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ratHow will the UConn men’s team do as it  begins the NCAA tournament bracket climb Thursday?

Ask the rats.

At the time of year when basketball enthusiasts throw into the “pools” weighing Las Vega odds, President Barack Obama’s opinion or a host of other non-scientific forecasts to hedge their bets, ESPN, the Bristol-based mighty master of sports, offers a rodent –fueled showdown when it comes to the sport of tournament prophecies. They call it “The Rat Bracket.”

“We were bouncing some ideas around about the unpredictability and craziness of a bracket, and how it also looks like a maze,” said ESPN marketing manager Won Kim. “Then we landed on a ‘Eureka’ moment of, how about small animals in a bracket maze,” he said. “We went with dwarf rats, and the name “Rat Bracket” was born.”

For those of you who are UCONN fans, spoiler alert. The designated UConn rat, named “Peace Pact,” ran enough successful races to bring UConn to the Sweet Sixteen but lost to “Arcade” representing Iowa State.

Now back to the rest of the story.

ESPN hooked up with an Emmett Street warehouse owned by RGD Tech and contacted Brittany Golas, president of the United Rat Club in King of Prussia, Pa, to arrange for 32 dwarf rats to come to Connecticut for an overnight getaway and the maze race in Bristol.

The large-scale maze was built by Deary Construction in Brooklyn, and then transported to the Connecticut warehouse where it was assembled.

The 32 rats “rehearsed” two-by-two in timed heats Sunday night so organizers could pair the faster rats with the better teams and the slower rats, well you get the idea.

Golas made fleece sweatshirts for the rats and ESPN added college-colored identifying logos to the rodent-sized tops to give the whole event a collegiate look.

GoPro cameras were positioned at 16 locations along the maze offering “rat-level” shots of the racing rodents while an overhead GoPro camera offered an overhead view.

So while we know how UCONN fared in the “Rat Bracket,” ESPN is being tight-lipped as to who won the whole shebang offering this suggestion instead, see for yourself  here beginning Wednesday.

Steele, Calhoun, Mill At 2T, Martin All In Java News

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sageIf you are an avid tv watcher or sports fan  you may have noticed a Hartford vibe going on in places beyond the local stations.

If you happened to be watching ESPN’s Sage Steele on ABCs “NBA Countdown” earlier this week, did the dress look familiar? Steele was wearing the navy and white sheath that won the AIDS Ct “Project Runway” competition here a few months ago. The dress, which also came with a coat, was created by local designer Jeannie Boccaccio. Steele, who, along with “Project Runway” celebrity designer Mondo Guerra and others including Colin McEnroe, Java, Ricky Trendy and Debbie Wright, judged the show held in Hartford, was so impressed with the winning outfit that she asked Boccaccio if she could wear it on air.

“I am designing a few additional pieces for her as well, and feel so honored and grateful that she will be wearing them on tv!,” said Boccaccio.

You might want to tune in to ABC’s “Good Morning America” this weekend. You will see a familiar face. WTNH’s Erika Martin will be stepping up and doing the weekend weather on the Emmy award-winning morning show.

It’s goodbye and good luck to WVIT NBC Connecticut’s Emma Asante who was the Director of Community Projects there. But don’t be sad. Her departure is an opportunity. She has been named Vice President of Special Projects & Community Relations for the NBC affiliate in Chicago. There is life after basketball.

A shout out to former UConn’s men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun who stepped in for WFSB’s calhouncremevacationing Scot Haney on the “Better Connecticut” show. Calhoun, who co-hosted for a day with regular co-host Kara Sundlun, was all game on for segments that including getting slathered in facial moisturizer and donning an apron to cook ceviche.

At Fox CT, it was good-bye to Jan Carabeo who has moved on to Philadelphia and taken a reporting job with CBS-owned KYW.

In the “did you know” category, did you know that George Sloan, a Quinnipiac University alumnus is a staff writer for the CBS comedy, “How I Met Your Mother?” The award-winning show starring Neil Patrick Harris is ending its run with its series finale scheduled for March 31. Slsage (2)oan is a 2004 graduate of Quinnipiac’s School of Communications.

And in “don’t get in a panic” news, Mill at 2T is not closing. It’s just renovating. The very popular restaurant in Tariffville will close March 16 and when it reopens on April 1 there will be lots of “new” beyond the updated look. Happy Hour, special Monday family dinners, more coveted “counter” area seats, an expanded menu for casual dining and a new vibe will all be part of the transformation. “We love the space and it was just time after five years to give it a facelift,” said Kelleanne Jones who with husband Ryan Jones, have made the place a “must go” dining destination in the Farmington Valley.

“We want to be more than just a special occasion place,” explained Jones. The dark wood tables and chairs, as well as the famous oversized hutch, are being replaced with lighter, more traditional pieces, a new floor is being installed and the more casual “kitchen “ area, where diners can watch Ryan Jones and company create their award-winning food is being expanded to include high top tables and chairs for casual dining. “We will be adding lighter items to the menu as well for people who just want to stop by for a quick bite or share a dish or bring their families,” said Kelleanne Jones. “We will also be having Happy Hours with wine and beer and appetizer specials. It is all going to be great.”

Dillon Speeds Through ESPN On His Way To Daytona 500

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daytonaRace car driver Austin Dillon is only 23 but he has the pedigree, the talent and the coveted pole position as he heads into Sunday’s Daytona 500 race in Florida. And there’s something extra.  The grandson of famed RLC Enterprises LLC NASCAR race car team owner Richard Childress, Dillon is making some history when he brings Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s  #3 back on the track for the first time since the legendary race car driver,  who drove for Childress, died in a racing accident at the 2001 Daytona 500.  On Tuesday, in the middle of yet another snow storm, Dillon made his first trip to Bristol-based sports mecca ESPN where he was the guest on a slew of shows. But in between the sprint from studio to studio, the very mature, very polite and very single young driver found some time to very quickly Spill the Beans with Java.


Q: How is a Southern guy like you liking this Northern snow?

A: It is definitely a different weather climate then where I came from in Daytona. I am already ready to get back to Daytona.  But I love driving in the snow when we get snow in North Carolina, which is not very often. When we do, we always like to mess around in it with the car and have some fun sliding around a bit.

Q: Did you know you had won the pole after the qualifying run? Could you feel it?

A: We knew we had a car capable of winning the pole because when we came for the test early in February we were the fastest car there. So then bringing back the same car brought some confidence. But the other guys brought a lot of speed to the track, too, and in practice we weren’t the fastest. But then everything went right for us to get the pole and it was pretty special.

Q: Who do you consider your biggest competition Sunday?

A: At Daytona there is so much competition because everybody is on equal playing ground. There are a couple of competitors.  I know that all the Chevrolets are strong; the Fords are up there too. As far as drivers, there are so many good ones. But I’m not scared of any of them.

Q: Have you been to ESPN before? What do you think?

A: No m‘am, I haven’t been here before. But it’s been great being able to talk sports with SportsCenter reps.This is pretty awesome to be here for sure. I watch ESPN religiously.

Q: It’s the anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s untimely death and not to pull a Christin Cooper Olympic moment, but are you feeling any sadness as you bring his #3 back on the track? I know you knew him since you were a youngster. Do you feel his karma as you get ready to race with his number?

A: Who is Christin Cooper? For me it is good fortune to be bringing back the number that Dale made famous and created so much history with. Having support of Earnhardt Jr. and the family has been great. We just want to add to the legacy the number already has. I am just focused on what my goals are this year and trying to win the Daytona.

Q: You have quite a racing pedigree in your family, your own personal success as a driver and the Earnhardt connection. How are you handling the pressure knowing all eyes will be on you Sunday for so many reasons?

A: On the day we qualified, I slept until about 1 p.m.,  got out of bed, walked over to the track,  jumped in the car, talked to my crew chief and asked what our plans were. It’s all been pretty good. I stick to what I know and that is going to the dirt track for seven days and that puts me in a comfort zone. I stay busy and that helps. There is a lot of pressure. You just stay busy and try to stay focused on the goals.

Q: When Austin Dillon climbs into his car before each race, what does he say to himself?

A: Don’t mess up.

Q: Any lucky charms going with you Sunday?

A: No lucky charms but I do wear the same cowboy boots every day of the week of a race and then again when I go to the race. This time it’s these brown ones. These are Justins.

Q: Any lucky ladies going with you on Sunday? We might as well put it out there.

A: No I am single. I am very single but hoping so put it out there.

Q: I read somewhere that you are juggling college and racing. True?

A: I had to give up college. It was just too much. I went for two and a half years and each semester had to keep cutting back the number of credits I was taking. I was majoring in communication.

Q: Would you ever want to be an ESPN show host or commentator?

A: Maybe one day. That would be awesome, but Connecticut is so cold.

Q: What will the headlines say once the race is done?

A: I hope they say “Austin Dillon Wins the Daytona 500 In A Dramatic Fashion.”


Super Bowl Seahawks at Salute, Then ESPN

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seahawskSalute’s Jimmy Cosgrove, Andy Rizzo and company became fast Seattle Seahawks fans late Thursday night when four members of the Super Bowl championship ball team stopped for something to eat at the popular Hartford restaurant.

Special visitors who were reportedly headed to ESPN Friday included wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive lineman Cliff Avril, and defensive end/tackle Michael Bennett, all reportedly so happy with their food that they posed for a picture.

And what did they chow down on?

According to their waitress Rachel Spellman, (who did a crash course on the Seahawks when she learned at 11 p.m. that they were coming in) dinner included chicken and broccoli alfredo, shrimp piccata, lobster pinchiori, mussels, a couple of salads and of course Salute’s famed garlic bread.

Spellman was tactful saying the very nice group of customers was ‘more than fair’ when it came to tip time, but word is that tip was a very generous 50 percent of the bill.

Class act. Thanks for coming by.


2013. What A Java Year It Was!

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goodspeed5stage501capgrill1It’s a day of change, one year ends and the new calendar begins and for Java, 2013 was one packed with anniversary celebrations, new babies, power weddings, celebrity visits, new places to eat and old ones that closed and media comings and goings that kept the buzz factor high.

Anniversaries (and the celebratory galas that marked most of them) were the big news as some of the area’s most prominent arts venues and non-profits celebrated noteworthy milestones. Among them, the Goodspeed, CPTV and Hartford Stage marked “gold” with 50th anniversaries. Hartford Symphony Orchestra marked its 70th year while Mercy Housing celebrated its 30th and Infinity Hall (which opens a second location in Hartford in the spring) celebrates its fifth anniversary. When it came to eating, Carbone’s, an iconic landmark in Hartford’s South End marked its 75th anniversary and downtown’s Bin 228 marked 10 years in the business.

Speaking of food, the anxiously awaited Capital Grille arrived in Hartford and Salute’s Jimmy Cosgrove was named restaurateur of the year by the CT Restaurant Association. Manolo Blahnik execs George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis opened their chic Arethusa al Tavolo eatery in Bantam and Chris Prosperi moved his Metro Bis restaurant into the historic 1820 House in Simsbury. Dan Keller and Billy Carbone added to their dining dynasty, opening Sorella across the street from their DISH restaurant in downtown Hartford while West Hartford’s Dorjan Puka, well-known owner/chef, opened a second restaurant, Avert, just around the corner from his TREVA rsilo (2)estaurant there.

Gary Santorso of Silo restaurant family fame got back in the business after a brief hiatus, opening his own place, 150 Central in Bristol’s Forestville Center.

Well-known eateries, Rainforest Café at Westfarms Mall and Prospect Café in West Hartford closed, as did Mortensen’s, the family friendly haven on the Berlin Turnpike. Carmen Vacalebre also closed his Carmen Anthony’s Fishhouse on the turnpike.

Wedding bells were loud and impressive with some power couples hooking up during the year. Hartford Public Library’s President/CEO and Hartford Board of Education chairman Matt Poland and Cigna exec Jeff Capelle said “they did” at a ceremony at the Wadsworth Atheneum. The Hartford residence of wedding guests Gov. Dannel P. and Cathy Malloy served as the backdrop for the nuptials of former legislative heavyweight and now deputy OPM secretary for criminal justicelawlor (2), Mike Lawlor and David Zakur, as well as that of former Malloy political advisor Roy Occhiogrosso and Meagan Cowell.

Also saying “I do” in 2013 were FoxCT’s Rachel Frank and Laurie Perez and WTIC 96.5 FM radio’s Damon Scott.

And hours before a new year begins, WTNH personality Teresa LaBarbera plans to tie the knot with Brandon Dufour.

Babies made the news when Dr. William Petit and wife, Christine Petit, welcomed new son William Petit III into the world. WTNH anchor Anne Craig and her husband also welcomed a baby daughter while FoxCT’s  Rachel Lutzker and her husband welcomed a new son.

Tallison-demers-feat[1]here were lots of comings and goings on radio and TV during the year. Among them, WTNH’s Sonia Baghdady left that station as did Jamie Muro. WFSB’s Olessa Stepanova headed to Boston while former NBC CT/WVIT General Manager Dave Doebler headed to Chicago. WDRC FM’s Jerry Kristafer was shown the door but walked through another at WJMJ. WDRC AM’s Mary Jones retired and WRCH’s Allison Demers also left the business. Veteran radio personalities stepped up. Mary Scanlon joined WRCH and Kim Zachary joined WDRC. WCCC had a bit of a ruckus during the year with a change in music format and an unwilling departure by Mike Picozzi.

Truthhe stars hone bright in the area, the biggest and shiniest being Prince Harry’s spring trip to Greenwich where he played polo and hobnobbed with VIP guests at the Greenwich Polo Club. Project Runway’s Mondo Guerra, supermodel Kathy Ireland, sports greats Tim Wakefield and Tony Dorsett, and others including Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Justin Bieber, Jillian Michaels, Tabatha Coffey, Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King, Jimmie Johnson, Nick Cannon and Steve Carell were all out and about the Hartford area, with some doing special guest shots at Bristol’s ESPN.

king1Hill-stead Museum’s Sue Sturtevant left the executive director’s job there and was replaced by Susan Ballek. Rob Ruggiero officially took over as producing artistic director at Theaterworks, while at Mark Twain House & Museum, Cindy Lovell took over as the new executive director. At the Bushnell, Mike Fresher left his COO job to take a post in San Antonio.

Connecticut had a couple of ‘beauty and brains’ firsts. West Hartford native Ashley Wilson became the state’s first Playboy centerfold in 2013.  Miss Connecticut, accountant and Glastonbury resident Erin Brady was crowned Miss Connecticut and went on to win the Miss USA pageant, a first for a Connecticut contestant. She represented the country at the Miss Universe pageant in Russia a few weeks ago, placing in the top 10 in the international competition.Erin Brady poses at a news conference after being crowned Miss USA 2013 in Las Vegas

When it came to reality shows, Connecticut did okay in 2013. The New Haven-based 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra did the state proud as it advanced on the “America’s Got Talent.” And East Hartford’s Ashlee Feliciano was equally impressive as one of contenders on “American Idol.”

Ace Racer Jimmie Johnson, First ESPN SportsCenter Athlete Co-Host

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jjFresh off his Sprint Cup win, an extra-exciting sixth win, Jimmie “Six Time” Johnson headed over to ESPN in Bristol Tuesday  but not for the reasons you might think.

Sure the  Bristol sports dynasty is the place outstanding athletes go to be interviewed on a host of the ESPN radio and tv programs, especially after they have accomplished something really great. But Johnson was there for another reason as well. The 38-year-old is the first athlete ever to guest co-host ESPN’s 34-year-old signature show “SportsCenter.” 

“I am so nervous,” said the married 38-year-old who is considered one of the best race car drivers there is as he comes within record-breaking reach of the winning records of iconic drivers  Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. “I hated even getting up and doing oral book reports in school,” said the Hendrick Motorsports driver who said he has a hard time even standing at a podium to address a crowd. 


Courtesy of ESPN

ESPN however, had other plans for the race car driver. Johnson spent the day there learning how to read teleprompters, look at the camera and in general, be a co-host worthy of the show.

Still visibly excited after his performance over the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway , Johnson said that while being “Six Time,” winning race car is pretty satisfying,  he would be just as happy  being “Two Time” winning Dad to his two daughters. 

Speaking of girls, what about that Danica Patrick  who is blazing the trail and the racetrack when it comes to female drivers who are making their impressive mark on the sport. 

“She brings so much to the sport,” said the soft-spoken Johnson. ” And she is such a nice woman,” he added. “I would love to see my daughters race but am not so sure their mother would.”

Johnson, who guest hosted with regular co-hosts John Anderson and Lindsay Czarniak on the show that was rebroadcast at 7 p.m. , while Johnson is the first athlete to take on the guest role,  he is the third celebrity guest host. Actors Billy Crystal and Ken Jeong were the first two.

And among the topics a sports-coat clad Johnson discussed on the show, Sunday’s Panthers-Patriots game and the questionable pass interference call, the Lakers recuperating Kobe Bryant and his planned return to the court, the Cold Hard Facts segment on football picks and pans and of course, his own win!

And by the way, he did just fine with that  teleprompter!