romantic way 2 die

Letter to Kerrilah

Dear Kerri,

Strange how being back in school and forced to listen to authority figures throws you back ten or fifteen years. I find myself sitting here, writing notes to you even though you're not here, even though it's been a long time since we sat next to one another in class.

Things in the job are kind of sucking, lately. It's not the kids, whom I have learned not just to handle, but genuinely enjoy. The 8th graders in particular are adorable messes of preteenaged hormones. They are funny, loyal, and wildly creative, not to mention far smarter than they know.

Sadly, it's the adults who cause the trouble. I was going to do dissection in class, and told the kids about it. One child took this home and their parents had a field day. Worse, my principal claimed to the parent - and to the vice-principal - that he had told me in unequivocal terms that he would not allow dissections in the classroom... when, in fact, he had told me he was 'leaning' towards no, and that he wanted some time to think about it. So could I come back tomorrow?

This actually is the third time my principal has lied about something I've said or something he's told me when a parent or member of the administration challenged a decision he made. I was SO furious. Then, I talked to Jess, and it turns out that her principal does the exact same thing.

The job of principal is a classic example of the nightmare that is middle-management. A principal is responsible for pleasing the local Board, the Superintendent, the parents, the teachers, the kids... perhaps in that order. It isn't a wonder that people in this position feel pressured to lie. The Board can fire them, after all, on the word of one irate parent alone. Still, while I understand the position of the principal of a public school, I can't condone the cowardice inherent in lying whenever that would be more expedient than telling the truth.

The parents overall are great. I teach in a close-knit community, so I can't help but know exactly what people think of me. I've gotten some notes from people, and some calls, all positive, as well as some positive comments from people via Mom - yes, of course, everyone knows she's my mother - once again, small town = small world. But the lack of support from the administration is a perpetual irritant, depressing and stupefying in terms of attempting to create change in the community and real interest in the kids.

The silent struggle is exhausting. I am very tired of fighting the parents, the kids, the administration, all while fighting FOR the kids, for their own betterment. Of course, this is a very old song to be singing. But it's new to me, at least at this level; it gets me where I live, now, that our education system needs so much work. I want to be on the front lines doing that work, but I'm not sure how to begin.

Mom - as you know - would tell me that I am already doing that work just by being here. But there's a place where you're working towards the betterment of an individual school, and a point at which you're aiding and abetting the downward spiral of the American education system by participating and saying nothing - by pretending, as several generations of teachers have, now, that This is How it Works. This is How We Do It, this is How We Have Done it. That 'Up the Down Staircase' is normal, natural, the regrettable state-of-things.

Is there any way we could make the education system apolitical? This is not rhetorical; I am thinking very fiercely and passionately on this matter.

Sweetheart, I miss you. I hope you're doing well. Did I tell you I ordered the dress? I'm still worried it'll slide right down, but I'll believe it'll work if you say so.

I'm sorry I haven't been in contact as much as I'd like, but 98% of my emotional energy is tied up in my work, just like always. Just ask anyone else we both know.

Ranma, Ranma-onna, water

(no subject)

So, guess what? I'm participating in the H/D World Cup this year!

What is the H/D World Cup, you say?

It's artists and authors coming together to form three teams: The AU team, the EWE team, and Team Epilogue. The AU team writes alternate universe stories - stories where Harry never went to Hogwarts, where both Harry and Draco are Muggles, where there's a divergence in canon and things turn out very differently. EWE stands for Epilogue? What Epilogue?, and includes stories that follow canon exactly, minus - you guessed it - the Epilogue. Finally, there are the stories that take the Epilogue into account and yet still pair our famous characters. Each author in each team receives a challenge that can work for their genre, then produces an H/D fic based on that challenge.

Two months of feverish writing commence.

Then the voting begins. Viewers vote on the quality of the story - was it good? - and then the appropriateness of the story - did it answer the challenge well? - etc. The team who has garnered the most (average?) pointage in the end wins the cup.

Normally, I'd be asking everyone who reads this journal (all three of you?) for oodles of advice. Unfortunately, while I'm allowed to tell you I'm on the AU team (go AU!) I am not allowed to tell you what my challenge is, or what my plot-skeleton currently looks like. (Filling out, actually. Am pleased.) However, I will tell you this: go to the H/D World Cup and check it out! You can get an AU banner to support me, if you would like. :)

Also will tell you this: HELP! HOW DO YOU POST THE FICTIONS ON LJ?!!?!?

artwork by red_rahl banner by elanorofcastile
*dies*, Anne, Annebreathless


I will have a much longer post, soon, but for now I just wanted to share this with you.  Mortari has apparently compiled a list of the 50(ish) hottest guys in fandom, and it's a very interesting one.  Rather than pick the men who were most objectively cardboard cut-out cute, she chose the 50 men she found most appealing - which is, I think, a very different question.  Attitude and tone of voice and acting skill and the nature of the characters they play(ed) seemed to be every bit as important to Mortari as how they filled out a tight pair of jeans.  Which, yes, jeans important, personality moreso.  The result was a list that I found myself nodding at rather frequently and gaping at even more often.

The Davids (Hewlett and Tennant) win for hottest personalities without the archetypical pretty going on - what horrible pictures of both of them! - they both often look far hotter in terms of looks alone.  (Luckily, there is a better picture of the Hewlett if you scroll down.)  Shanks is what I guess you'd have to call 'not my type'... yet there are moments watching SG-1 when I've found him incredibly attractive, mostly just after he came back from the dead.  Guess I was really happy to see him.  ;)

Kavan Smith?  Is my new favorite person.  Guess they polished him up and shined him pretty for SGA, because where did the bad boy go?  Weird.   Jason Momoa, and Joe Flannigan are both incredibly hot on the show, although this is not Joe's best pic.  I think I find 'John Sheppard' more attractive than Joe himself, if that makes sense; the unshaven-surfer-dude-homeless-guy look is not to the good.  Clean-shaven military man?  Yes, please.

Zachary Quinto's character from Heroes is too OMGSCARY for me to think of in any realm approaching attractiveness.  I just want to hide when I see his picture.  Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Peter on the other hand... whoa.  And Ramamurthy is almost supernaturally attractive - sometimes when watching Heroes, I'd think to myself, that man cannot be REAL.

Elijah Wood looks like an elf or sprite of some sort, and that is NOT LoTR-influence talking.  He's just... otherworldly and cool and yet not attractive in that way.  David Wenham from LoTR - what a sly expression!  Mmm.

Good for Mortari for including men like Richard Dean Anderson (and NOT in his 'MacGuyver' days), Anthony Stewart Head, and Patrick Stewart (and for later including Rickman).  All four of them have a sophisticated edge that goes along with what in Hollywood constitutes an 'advanced' age - and they are all the hotter for it.

I was shocked and amazed at how well James Marsters and David Boreanaz look, because although I liked Buffy, I haven't been watching Torchwood (yet - just started) or Bones.  Seeing them - and Head, and Stewart, come to think of it - is like seeing a picture of someone from childhood.  It makes me glad they're doing well.

Radcliffe?  Just - just scary.  (Oh, Harry - what has become of you?  Actually, the same thing as in the books, apparently...)
Now you've seen my appreciative babble, go look and make some appreciative babble of your own...


P.S. - It occurs to me some of my students read this blog.  *double checks*  Nope!  I sound just like my eighth-graders, so I think we're safe.  ;)
romantic way 2 die

Kirinin Dreaming

So I'm writing a post about the way I dream, because believe it or not it has to do with fiction and fanfiction.

First you should know that I'm the sort of person who dreams complex storylines rather than the 'classic' sorts of dream; for instance, I have never dreamed myself naked in a public place.  I often dream long conversations as part of a dream or the dream may consist completely of dialogue + background.  Sometimes, I have dreams where all I do is watch the action.  I am aware I'm watching a story, and I do not interact with the characters; instead it's more like being in a three-dimensional theatre: what's going to happen next?  Being aware you are watching a story or that you are dreaming is called 'lucid dreaming'; and apparently, I am a very frequent lucid dreamer.  Besides being complex, my dreams are also often very vivid.  Occasionally, I have dreamed myself as one of the fictional characters in a novel or show or manga I am following.

So a very long time ago, I had a dream that Ranma and Ryoga were married.  Ranma didn't remember having gotten married at all, and was very skittish.  The freak-out was huge, obviously.  Ryoga was patient (and hot) and convinced Ranma he was, in fact, her husband.  The story 'Happily Married' was written, in three, feverish days thereafter.  Sleep had very little part in those three days, but I was very grateful to the dream for leading me to such an interesting idea.

I should, however, note that I have never been able to picture Ranma as a 'real' person - mostly because 'Japanese' and 'redhead' just don't go together in my brain.  So in the dream above, I was mostly dreaming dialogue in the black, with flashes of images.

In the second dream, several months later, I saw her, and she was most certainly not a cartoon.  She looked curvy, tiny (five-foot, or maybe five-foot-one), with cropped hair and she wore her usual Chinese getup.  Her slanted eyes were a very dark blue, and her lashes were very dark red.  She was seated on a low wall, one knee curled up towards her body, the other leg swinging. 

I was completely delighted.  It was sort of like meeting your favorite actor - omigod, is it really HER? - and I think I  grinned in my sleep - again, quite well aware that I was dreaming the conversation, but delighted nonetheless.

"Hey," she greeted me with a sudden frown that was way too scary to be coming from someone her size.  She looked pissed.

I blinked, trying to figure out why my character was so angry with me.  Sure, I'd put her through a lot in Happily Married, but her suffering had paid off, and one of her last lines in the story was how happy she was about how her life had turned out.  It never entered my head that this might be Takahashi's Ranma, seeking revenge.  For one thing, canon!Ranma would not have shown up as a girl if he could help it; and there was certainly no water of any sort in sight.

"You have seriously left me hanging," she continued, scowling.  "Do you have any idea how long?"

"What?" I demanded.  "I've - I've finished."  I tried to cast back, to think of what she could possibly be talking about.  It was like a good friend being that angry with me out of the blue, and I racked my brains to figure out what I could have done to make her so upset.  Then it finally hit me.  This was NOT 'Happily Married' Ranma.  This was Juketsuzoku-Fu Ranma!  The horror that gripped me at this point was very real.

I was so screwed.

"Listen," I said, "I've been really busy."

"How busy?  You wrote a whole other story!"  She practically growled at me, then looked slightly puzzled, as though she had no idea what to think of HM!Ranma.  "It's been ages," she went on, "and I am not waiting any longer.  Stop what you're doing and write it NOW."

And I woke up.  I said, "so long as you'll help me," rolled over and went back to sleep.

But then I wrote what is now the first chapter of Juketsuzoku-Fu.

I had a third dream several nights ago.  It was Ranma again, standing in front of the same, low wall.  (Where is that?  Where am I placing her?)  She narrowed her eyes and spat, in the fucking WOODS!  Then a loud noise woke me up, but I knew what she meant.  I'd left her, and Tatewaki, and Hikaru standing in the mountains of Quing Hai Province, high and dry.  Unfortunately, she hadn't given me very much to go on.  I'm waiting for my redheaded muse to show up again.

Much, MUCH weirder is when I dream myself AS a particular character.

Ranma 1/2 is an anime, and therefore it requires some imagination to picture.  However, I know exactly what 'Atlantis' looks like in Stargate:Atlantis, which might at least in part explain the insane vividness of this particular series of dreams.

In these dreams, I was Rodney McKay and I was doing my job: fixing things around Atlantis, occasionally talking to Radek, and on one memorable occasion, presenting a particularly exciting finding to the senior staff (while Sheppard looked bored).  Since the character of McKay is entirely surface and says everything he thinks, my brain did not, apparently, have to stretch in order to figure out how his worked.  The dreams were VERY convincing, to the point I would wake up and think for a good, solid five seconds: wait.  Where am I?

I wonder if this happens to the actors, too, or if the presence of cameras and scriptwriters detracts from the fictional universe enough that it's never an issue?

Dreaming myself as Rodney was very cool, but it was also sincerely disconcerting.  Waking up every morning for a week and a few days with an identity crisis, no matter how temporary, was off-putting.  Also, I apparently 'learned' things my conscious mind didn't know about the character.  For instance, my version of him literally forgets other people exist when he's busy.  He/I would be tinkering with Ancient Console No. 52 and then Radek would say something and he would jump and curse (having forgotten entirely that Radek was there).  Despite the fact that he's really good friends with Colonel Sheppard, he apparently re-discovers the man every time he walks into a room: he doesn't think about him at all, otherwise.  This surprised my conscious mind.  For some reason, I'd been pretty sure that a lot of what McKay did was to impress other people, so he must be thinking about those people, their reaction to his brilliance as he works.  Now I think, not so much.  The arrogance appears to be almost an afterthought, making me wonder if I believe he's just doing it to entertain himself or others, or maybe to distract people from some other aspect of his personality?

The funniest part of 'being' McKay, though, was his thought patterns.  He had a weird, tripping, stream-of-consciousness mental litany, where he would think about a problem, get led away from the problem with a chain of seemingly unrelated thoughts, then return again to the original problem by linking it to the previous thought again, like a Gordian knot.  For instance:

Problem with the dimness in the corridors -->
notes light outside -->
view outside reminds him that part of tower needs repaired, but too heavy to move manually --> 
flashback to moving the city, and subsequent damage to the tower -->
Conclusion = dimness
in corridors is preprogrammed, due to anticipated seasonal changes back on original 'Lantea, where it would be summer now (and bright!), but here on the new planet it's winter and it's dark. 
Action taken = He will reprogram the original calendar as a stop-gap and set what's-his-face on figuring out how to make the illumination in the corridors responsive to the light outside, because really, it's an excellent way to husband the power of the ZPM, and he'd been wondering where that 0.03% was going, and it's a load off his mind. 

Then he's on to the next issue.
  ALL his thoughts were like this, and he never stopped.  It was more than a little exhausting.

The neat bit, though, was that his random mental forays into entirely different topics always had a use - his consciousness had made the connection for a concrete reason.  Once he figured out how the different thoughts were connected, he would have solved the problem.  This makes McKay a lot more of an intuitive thinker than I would have supposed if you'd asked me before I had these dreams: he seemed to rely on his subconscious to tell him answers to questions that should have been, strictly speaking, slightly beyond his reach without that intuitive leap.

Another interesting thing about the dreams was that it made me realize that McKay doesn't talk to the main characters as often as my conscious mind thought.  Instead, he spoke more often to Radek than to anyone else, and was quasi-aware of his presence much of the time.  He saw John and Elizabeth equally - about once every two days.  Teyla and Ronon were barely blips on his radar, and he mostly dealt with them in the context of John, if that makes sense.  There is, apparently, not an emergency every five seconds the way it seems in the show, because I never got to that point.  (And a good thing, too.  I'd worry that I'd have an aneurism in my sleep being Rodney in a crisis.)  I don't think I ever 'got' offworld, either.  So - an average few days/scenes in the neighborhood of the Lost City of the Ancients.

The worst part about dreaming myself as Rodney?  Even after I had sat up in bed, realized where I was and took a few cleansing breaths, Rodney's way of thinking took longer to 'wear off', which was seriously disconcerting.  That week, I was attempting to explain a complicated concept to a group of people I really thought would get it if they would just shut up and listen, and suddenly *snap snap!*

I stopped and stared at my hand like it didn't belong to me, but only for a moment.  I had to go on, because first of all, discussions of how you dream yourself as a fictional character and then pick up their annoying habits are not conversations you can have with just anyone; and second of all, I was mid-explanation, and the show must go on.  But I do remember how much I blushed in combined horror and surprise, because I think it's one of the most insulting habits the character has; and also because the snapping had been totally instinctual and involuntary

Weird, yes.  But at least when someone asks, where do you get your ideas?, I can answer honestly.

romantic way 2 die

More on Mary

The other day, I was reading two of my eighth-grade students the Mary Sue posts.  It got me thinking of several different pieces of fanfiction I've read in which Mary Sues featured prominently.  And that post of 15 or so MS traits is still one of my favorites, so... if you want to explore MS-dom, here ya go.

You might as well start with the Mary Sue Alphabet.  While some of the rhyme scheme could use a little tweaking, it is genuinely entertaining, and offers a decent tongue-in-cheek primer of what not to do.  Then there's the Mary Sue Generator, which is hilarious - just hit refresh to get a new Sue 'story'; or, better yet, go here and see other people's generated Marys and read their comments on them.

I'm still looking for some Mary Sue or Gary Stu stories that are actually well-written.  It's all to easy to point out a Sue when the author can't string three words together without making a grammatical mistake.  It's harder to spot when the author actually has a good turn of phrase...

Catch you later,


Update: Yet more on Mary!  A great primer on what not to do can be found here, by the marvelous Cat_Feral.  It's an entry on Fiction Alley called 'Denial' and it's very tongue-in-cheek funny.  :)

romantic way 2 die

Awesome fic

So, after abandoning the HP fandom for SGA for awhile (and OMG do I have things to share with you all), I returned.  The result is that a lot of fanfiction has been updated, and I was able to finish some stories I'd begun a long time ago.

Thus - recs!

The first of these is Never Say Remember, by Malora.  The story is unique for a number of reasons, the first of which is when in the continuum it takes place.  

(More than any other fandom, for reasons quite unknown to me, Harry Potter fanfiction authors have a morbid fear of the label 'AU'.  They often re-write their entire fics to make them 'canon-compliant', even if they wrote their original story before a specific volume of HP was released, while Ranma fans gleefully ignore whole chunks of canon they prefer not to use.)

*minor spoilers ahead*
Malora, however, has chosen to write her story as taking place at the end of the third book, stamping it with the (apparently) evil stigma of 'AU'.  Harry is sitting in the Hospital Wing after Sirius's and Buckbeak's escape, with Dumbledore, Snape, Ron and Hermione surrounding him, when he feels dizzy.  Apparently, his encounter with the Dementors has taken a toll on him, and his soul has not completely re-settled into his form.  The world around him is not immediately discernably different, afterwards: Harry is still in the Wing, Snape is still standing there, along with Dumbledore and Hermione.   At first, Harry is unaware of anything out of the ordinary, except the dizziness itself.

It quickly becomes clear, however, what has occurred: canon!Harry has been transported to a strange new world, that has such people in it - and the other Harry has taken his place back home.

*moderate spoilers ahead!*
In a story where one of the central mysteries is the unfolding of the backstory of an alternate universe - and the characters of Harry, Lily, and Snape - it is difficult to write even a basic synopsis of the tale without giving everything important away.  Despite the length of the tale, I find myself limited to the following: Voldemort did not kill Lily Potter at Godric's Hollow; instead, he took away all her memories of James and tossed her at Snape, like a gift.  Snape eventually married her and adopted Harry, who became Harry Snape.  How he can possibly justify this action is one of the central mysteries of the tale; and while we readers are willing to patiently wait for his (undoubtedly good) explanation, canon!Harry is less understanding.

Harry in his new position as Snape's son is a fish out of water in a world that is, frankly, more complex than his own.  First of all, it certainly seems to Harry that Snape is taking advantage of Lily because she doesn't know any better, because she can't take care of herself.  Anyone observing Lily's character will quickly understand that this is not the case, but Malora writes canon!Harry just like Rowling does - and Harry often ignores reality if it contrasts with his a priori assumptions.  Harry reacts, at first, through violence and petulance, refusing Snape's simplest suggestions, including things like 'sit down'.  

What is perhaps the most surprising move by the author is that, however badly Harry wants to believe in Snape's evil, it is plain almost from the start that he also longs to be proven wrong.  Early in the story, when Snape is holding Lily,

                    "He turned his head to see that Harry was still kneeling on the sofa, his throat gulping wildly as though 
                     suffering from a great thirst.  [Snape] held out a hand toward Harry, but the boy jerked away and bolted from 
                     the sofa."

Even this early in the story (the second chapter or so) the reader can see the longing for a real family working on Harry, eating at his resolve to continue in his hatred of Snape.  While Harry fights his warm feelings towards Snape admirably, he finds himself increasingly confused, at the mercy of his desperate desire for adults who care for him, for this warm vision of a caring family to be real.

Snape's and Lily's rules and expectations are numerous and intricate, especially to a boy who's never had parents before, and most especially in regards to his interactions with Lily; he is treated to a crash-course in how to behave around a magically-attacked invalid.  All too frequently, he finds himself inadequate to the task of caring for Lily; it is with this discovery that he is finally forced to admit that he does need to rely on someone for support, and that this person must be Snape.   The scene in which Harry comes to grip with this was poignant and heartwrenching without being the slightest bit maudlin; Harry blames himself for his failures with his mum, and Snape, in his own, unique way, soothes Harry's fears easily, as though he's been doing it all his life.  As far as Severus is concerned, he has.

Meanwhile, in the canon universe, Harry Snape finds himself more than equal to the situation of being yanked into another reality, despite his frustration with his father refusing to behave like - well, his father - and his very real pain at his mother's absence.  

Malora writes a perfect extrapolation of who Harry might have become with love and guidance.  Like our Harry, his primary qualities are a brilliant capacity for love, and a cheerful stubbornness; but unlike Harry, he has developed both a strong responsibility grown by necessity in the wake of his mother's condition, and an interest in scholastics, honed by the presence of his father... not to mention his rather Slytherin tendencies, which nonetheless seem only to be exercised in the name of a good cause - Harry is a very Slytherin-ish Gryffindor. 

Harry Snape manages to manipulate his 'father' (canon!Snape) into spending more time with him by using memories of Lily as the carrot.  This scene was by far the most wonderful of the story because Malora answers the question, " it really ethical for Snape to be taking care of Lily when he is most of the reason she's ill?" with "...Snape doesn't just take care of Lily - she takes care of him."  Lily's memories may be messy, but Severus is an emotional cripple, one who needs her just as badly as she needs him, and the memories Harry reveals prove it unequivocally.

The story is, unfortunately, still a WIP.  At the current point in the plot, Harry has realized he can't help his mum without accepting Snape's help; and Snape, in the canon universe, has realized he desperately wants what Harry Snape can show him.  At the heart of it, this fic is about love, and the longing for it, and the way we fight against that need when we feel it cannot be answered.  It is by far one of the best I've read in ages, and definitely long enough to begin reading, as the author updates regularly.

Go read and have fun!


romantic way 2 die

Scrubbing the toilets

So I haven't updated in, well, EVER... and I have about five million papers to grade.  No hyperbole - really.

My mother, who has a wealth of interesting sayings, calls this "scrubbing the toilets".  Now seems the perfect time to:
     1) learn how to make icons
       2) clean the empty classroom (children are @ home, lucky ducks)
       3) call parents I've been meaning to talk to
       4) update the LJ I've been studiously ignoring for the past several moons.


For those of you who have been hiding under a rock, the author of the Harry Potter Lexicon has come under fire for attempting to publish his work.  Couldn't this have been settled out of court?  "Look, sir, we realize you've worked many years of your life on this project, but these are Ms. Rowling's characters.  Cut us in __%, slap our name on it, and we'll back off."  Instead, it has turned into a dog-and-pony show; the lawyers harrassed the poor man on the stand to the point that he was in tears.  I have no idea how much of this is Rowling's idea - she does, after all, have many lawyers advising her.  However, I will add my small voice to the cacophany in hopes that someone important to the struggle reads it: please just make the compromise.  You're ruining the life of one of Rowling's biggest fans and supporters, and it makes her look like a malicious fool - no matter what the truth is.

I've always enjoyed the Lexicon, and found it to be incredibly useful, especially lately.  Recently, I've taken up writing the sequel to Secret of Slytherin again, and I've needed to rely on the Lexicon over and over for factual information, especially dates.  This made me realize: Secret of Slytherin has multiple timelines to the degree that even I sometimes can't keep track of what happened when - even when I was NOT making a mistake.

I used to begin stories very carelessly, and SoS is one such story.  Putting together a timeline made it even more clear just how screwy my timeframe is.  I will likely have to go back through SoS, adding new lines, new scenes, and maybe even removing some - though I hope not to - in order to make everything jive.  This'll also give me the opportunity to fix other things.  For instance, in the FF-dot-net version, it still says 'Hogsmeade' when I meant 'Diagon Alley', even though that's fixed in the version archived at Potions and Snitches.

The timeline is craziness.  It's already almost as long as the new story itself, and we're just to the end of October.  Keep in mind, I'm dictating what happened over the summer that Harry doesn't recall, but still...  I also drew a map of Hogwarts Grounds (slightly different than the Lexicon's version, from what I read in Book 7), and an extrapolated map of the inside of the Castle itself.

Something that is quite interesting is the size of the inside of the castle.  According to Rowling, there are around six-hundred students in the school at any given time.  I remember the size of my elementary school, which housed the same number of children, and... it was small.  Given the size of the Castle (after map extrapolations) I have to wonder if the Founders expected a LOT more wizards to be showing up.  Are the wizards dwindling, and is this why the purebloods picked the children of 'mixed' blood as scapegoats?  It's a thought to ponder.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  I continue to teach, (slightly) better at it than when I began.  OMG, it looks like I might be teaching three classes of eighth-graders next year.  Aieee!

See you in another few months (!),