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I have been a storyteller since the beginning of my life, rearranging facts in order to make them more significant.
Found this excellent quote via @AdviceToWriters on Twitter. For the teacher librarian, as having a place full of written stuff (in print and digital form) and English teachers (who teach creative writing), there are some useful people to follow on Twitter for information/ideas/inspiration about writing. Microblogging (such as Twitter) = short snapshots of information, quick to read and investigate and use or skip over, depending on what interests you.
Some other folk who tweet about writing:
@elizabethscraig: check her stream of tweets for all sorts of useful links about writing eg.:
Elizabeth S Craig @elizabethscraig
5 ways to avoid an info dump: http://bit.ly/kvLUMo #amwriting
This is not the only writers' centre (in Australia or overseas) with a Twitter presence. Some post more about their centre's events, but others include writing advice tweets to, that you can use in teaching English. Hunt for them on Twitter, or by googling their sites and checking to see if they are on Twitter.
OZ SF+F Writers Assc @awritingjourney
26/05/11 4:19 PM
The ASFFWA Daily is out! http://bit.ly/fzVIKj ▸ Top stories today via @bloomsburysyd @harpernz @bothersomewords @shearersbooks
The Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Assoc regularly tweets useful stuff. This tweet is one about their "Daily". Some folk on Twitter use a site such as paper.li to collate tweets from their twitter stream (ie. tweets from people they follow and are interested in) into a digital newspaper. So if you follow the ASFFWA Daily link in this tweet, you are getting pre-sifted/curated content focused on topics that tweeter is interested in; so if you're interested in what they are, you're getting the benefit of their twitter stream.
And of course many authors are on Twitter: their Twitter streams can be extremely various: as varied indeed as the writers themselves. Best idea is to follow ones that might interest you, and if you're not finding their tweets useful/engaging, then unfollow them. Some writers will tweet everything from what they had for breakfast (that Twitter stereotype) to stuff about their writing process. Some will be more focused on writing. Stephen Fry's tweets (he's one of the most followed people on Twitter and tweets often) cover an extensive range of topics, daily life, thoughts, ideas. You can't make a writer write what they want, in books or anywhere else; on Twitter, if you follow them, you have to accept that they write what they do. Neil Gaiman @neilhimself has a lot of followers and tweets on a range of topics: he was one writer tweeting about the interrogation of teacher librarians in LA.
There are writers whose books I adore and whose blogs I find unreadable; and writers whose output, in whatever form, I generally find interesting. Nowt as varied as folk.
But am I finding good information about writing via my education/professional/teaching Twitter stream that I can use with students and share with English teaching colleagues? Yup. You can, too.
(OK, I'll admit it: this blog entry about useful info on writing is in fact a sneak evangelical moment for the educational possibilities of Twitter).
@ruth_skerricks on Twitter
I'm also on Yammer, but will only be found there if you work for the same employer as I do, because that is how Yammer works.
This is one of my favourite ideas. It taps into libraries as places with facts and information: facts and information can can be fun and light as well as heavy. It offers the opportunity for some fun interaction when you hand over the book and bookmark. It recycles something you can find in op shops on a reasonably regular basis.
See that price tag? $4. The most I've paid for a box of Trivial Pursuit is $6. And what's inside?
No, they're not question cards, they're bookmarks! Lots and lots of them! No guillotine work today, just some fun to be had.
It's probably a slightly pricier idea than some of the other ones from this week, but here's a comparison. A commercial library supplier I checked had quite a few bookmarks which came in bundles of 200 bookmarks for $40. In this box of Trivial Pursuit I got 200 bookmarks for $4. A tenth of the price. Still cheap as chips, and fun! (This idea is part of my presentation about Re-Imagining your School Library: I've presented it in Newcastle and south-western Sydney in the last month, so I know there are TLs in those areas scouring their op shops and garage sales for Trivial Pursuit!)
Links in again with a theme of the library being a place where you find facts and information (and fun, the unexpected, a happy moment) - oh, there are lots of ways you could tie this in to a wider promotional theme.
Hope you've enjoyed the Cheap Bookmark Week ideas on the blog this week - do comment, your feedback is always appreciated.
*GIFSL = good ideas for school libraries, an ongoing series on this blog.
A TL's spirit broken by prosecution from LAUSD & lawyers: http://t.co/YcfgtMp #savethelibrarians via @_capedcrusader #yam #austl #APPALLING
It's the same mizzmurphy blog I cited as giving a TL's view of the interrogations: Are teacher librarians teachers? The same teacher librarian whose phrase, "the nuanced beauty of pedagogy" I admired, and shared this week with one of our seniors who is planning to be a high school history teacher. What happened next? Read and find out.
Kids have an ongoing fascination with name definitions - hardly surprising, as they are, as in the subliminal story of Possum Magic and a gazillion other books, discovering and refining who they are in the world. I myself as a teacher librarian have had enormous fun solemnly assuring Kid A that the name of their best friend/ boyfriend/girlfriend could well mean "Viking vomit", but if they looked up this wonderful book it might be able to reassure them..... Oh miss, it DOESN'T mean that!
Parents have an enthusiasm (or used to, maybe most use the internet baby name sites now?) for baby name books, which become ripe for the culling when their baby-naming days are over. Which is why you don't have to hunt extra extra hard to find a baby name book in an op shop/charity shop/garage sale.
This one cost me a whole $3. 571 pages. Two bookmarks per page for most of it, four for others.
That's over 500 bookmarks for peanuts (571 pages is of course half that number of actual paper pages) with a bit of guillotining.
Find New Characters At Your Library
There's a theme to which this could be tied, easy-peasy. Book promotion ideas based around characters. Have you met Severus Snape? What about Harry Crewe? and on and on with book characters as a way into encouraging students to try reading something new.
I know some teacher librarians prefer to laminate bookmarks - yes, it's more durable, lets you have two different sides stuck together and so forth. I mostly don't laminate our bookmarks, for several reasons. One is cost - we hand out hundreds of bookmarks in any given week, and laminating each would add significant cost; I'd rather be able to hand out as many as possible without worrying about how much they're costing, as I'm on a tight budget. What I save on laminating can buy more books/resources. Another is time - running the laminator, guillotining/trimming the results etc. all takes time. A third is value - kids are kids are kids, and even if we give them a precious lovely laminated bookmark, I'm not so sure that most of them would treasure it as they ought. Better a shorter-lifespan item that I don't have to stress about and they don't either (much easier to get a new bookmark with a new loan than have a 'dragon in pearls' interrogate them about the lovely bookmark they got last time, where is it, they should have brought it, well OK here's another but you take care of it this time, etc etc). As I said in my first post, these are bookmarks I can hand out like confetti with a cheery smile on my face, and ones that can bring a smile to a kid's face because they're amusing/quirky/unexpected/fun.
I did have a couple of girls who were enquiring about when our next 'new' bookmarks would be out - and nobody was more surprised than me to find that they had a complete collection of the themed cardboard bookmarks I devise - Valentine's Day, Harmony Day, ANZAC Day, thrillers, holiday borrowing, winter reading etc.... It was heartwarming to know they liked them that much. But for most of our kids, a bookmark isn't valued/collected like that. But they do use them and appreciate the gesture/convenience/courtesy/kindness/fun of them, and that's the most important thing.
These bookmarks aren't just on a stand on the counter, we put one with every loan - wand the loan, stamp the due date, dezap the security tag and add a bookmark, that's our loan routine, whichever of us is doing it. It's an active gesture. Here you are. Enjoy. Here's a bookmark to help you (and amuse/interest you too - I've never had one that just has the name of the library on it and no more. It's too valuable real estate not to make it work harder and smarter). These bookmarks are part of our library's PR.
Tune in tomorrow for one of my favourite cheap bookmark ideas (if you know about it, you'll be able to jump the gun on your colleagues who don't....)
From an op shop/charity shop/garage sale, find the right sort of dictionary, with pages of reasonably thick paper, and a size of book/column width that lends itself to bookmarks:
...like this one, and you have hundreds of bookmarks for a few dollars. Just some slicing with the guillotine. (Or do you have a suitable dictionary that is overdue for being culled?)
Libraries Define Your World:
there's a theme you could tie in with it. I think definitions have a lot of scope for use for display purposes in libraries. A department store book section featured this, in big print, high on the wall:
And they used definitions on their lampshades:
There's an idea worth adapting/borrowing: how could you use definition decor in your library? Think of the rich (and amusing) words you could define. Not just Book, or Reading. Student. Work. Study. Learn. Adventure. Discover.... lots of potential there, isn't there?
*GIFSL = good ideas for school libraries, an ongoing series on this blog.
Before you cry, "VANDAL!" let me point out that this hardback copy of Harry Potter fell to bits after being loved to death by our library borrowers. Pages falling out all over, irreparable. But not useless. Oh dear me no. Because every left hand page of the book has the header, "Harry Potter". The pages are a reasonable weight of paper. And the knowledge of Harry Potter among children is extensive. And J.K. Rowling created with these books a world and vocabulary that is highly recognisable. Character names, spell words, place names and more.
So if you take a page with Harry Potter as its header, and slice down either side to a bookmarky sort of size, you'll get, pretty much every time, some bit of recognisable vocab on the page (as well as the Harry Potter cue at the top). Lupin. Hogwarts. butterbeer. Expelliarmus. And you will also get a bookmark that kids like and which hasn't cost you a bean.
And there are lots and lots of pages in Harry Potter books, so you have lots and lots of bookmarks which you can share generously and without a qualm. It's recycling and it's useful and fun.
Tune in tomorrow for another cheap bookmark idea!
*GIFSL = good ideas for school libraries, an ongoing series on this blog.
Here are its recommendations: List of recommendations
2 Impact of recent Commonwealth Government policies and investments on school libraries
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government partner with all education authorities to fund the provision of a core set of online database resources, which are made available to all Australian schools.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government work with the states and territories to develop a discrete national policy statement that defines the importance of digital and information literacy for learning in the 21st century, which can be used as a guide by teachers and principals.
3 Potential of school libraries and librarians to contribute to improved educational and community outcomes
The Committee recommends that the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority include statistical information about the breakdown of all specialist teachers, including teacher librarians, on the My School website.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government support additional initiatives to promote reading, such as a National Year of Reading. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations should collaborate with the Australian School Library Association, Australian Libraries and Information Association and other education stakeholders in developing these initiatives.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government initiate an Australian-based longitudinal study into the links between library programs, literacy (including digital literacy) and student achievement, including their impact on improving outcomes for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government support promotional activities undertaken by ASLA and ALIA that demonstrate to the school community the valuable work that teacher librarians are doing in respect of e-learning in their schools, including those that highlight their leadership capacity.
4 Recruitment and development of teacher librarians
The Committee recommends that the rollout of the new national curriculum, which is to be made available online, include a component of training for teacher librarians.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government commission a thorough workforce gap analysis of teacher librarians across Australian schools.
The Committee recommends that the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, through the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs, establish a national dialogue, including with tertiary providers, on the role of teacher librarians today in schools and into the future. The dialogue should include an examination of the adequacy of the pathways into the profession and ongoing training requirements.
5 Partnering and supporting school libraries and teacher librarians
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government, through the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood and Youth Affairs, discuss ways to enhance partnerships with state and territory and local levels of government to support school libraries and teacher librarians.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government partner with ASLA and ALIA to produce a document that showcases some of the successful partnerships and programs between school libraries and other libraries, and joint-use libraries. The document should be made available to government and non-government education authorities and school principals.
The whole report is 180 pages plus. Haven't yet had time today to read/digest, but certainly will.
We hand out a bookmark with every student loan at our library, for all sorts of reasons. Because kids like to know what page they're on. To make it easy for students to know what page they're on without bending book corners (to make it easy for them to do the right thing). As a freebie. As a promotional item promoting the library and our current theme. Because we can.
If you follow the tag for bookmarks on this blog, you'll find a bunch of the ones we've made using Publisher and coloured cardboard (click here or over on the tag cloud on the right on the word 'bookmarks').
With a limited budget (but a confetti-style approach to bookmarks) I'm always on the lookout for inexpensive and clever ways to create fun bookmarks. By and large, I don't go for laminated-precious, but ones we can hand out with generosity and enthusiasm: so they need to be inexpensive.
One thing we're about in the library is facts and information. So, get yourself one of these:
...which isn't a tricky find in an op shop/garage sale for a couple of dollars. Study the pages:
and realise that the column widths line up on either side of the page (in this edition: check if you have a different year's edition). A bit of guillotine work slicing along the space between the columns and you have hundreds of bookmarks for less than five dollars. Bargain! Fun facts and information which the kids enjoy (and which can be tied into a wider library promotional theme if you wish). The columns lining up means you can read front and back, and if a pic gets sliced, oh well - read the current entry in the current copy of the Guinness Book of Records, waiting for you at your school library!
Here's another facty-book find with equally good potential:
That one cost me a whole four dollars at an op shop. Thick and full of bookmark potential, hundreds more for very little money.
Accustomed (and happy) as I am as a teacher librarian to engage with the idea of 'working noise' (let's be real about it, very few school libraries are hushed temples of learning at all times), the senior study area upstairs in our library is a different matter. There, seniors are expected to be doing silent, individual work; if they want to discuss work or work as a group, they must be elsewhere in the library so the senior study remains a haven of silence and academe. At least this is my goal (and appreciated by students seeking silence and academe). So while I wouldn't put this picture up in the main part of the library, it's handy-dandy and apt in the senior study.
Aren't I a clever pop-artist? Um no, I'm a clever shopper. It's from Ikea, measures a decent 50cm x 70cm, the item name is Solmyra and you can find it here for a mere $19.99:
We're preparing for a debate, miss, and we'd like your help. Sure. What's your topic?
All we know are four general topics, and the one I am prepping for is politics. So -
Excuse me, miss, before you start... Yes?
(she produces an iPhone) Do you mind if I record you? That means I'll have all of it and we can check back on it later. If you don't mind? No, um, OK.
Interesting how self-conscious I feel launching into my spiel - terminology, definitions, general sources, specific sources. Every now and then that sense of self-consciousness recurs. Speech is a different beastie to the written word. More sprawling, this kind of conversation certainly doesn't involve, as a formal speech might, neat tidy sentences. So she goes back to her table with a satisfactory bundle of sources and ideas, leaving me reflecting on a new experience. I'm not used to being recorded as I toddle about my daily work. More than that, I'm interested in how this is her choice of method for 'making notes', like the kids who'd rather see how to do something on YouTube than read about how to do it.
The happy life of teacher librarians: recorded. Well, today, and likely not for the last time.
I subscribe to several free weekly newsletters from the New York Times - health, books, movies. The health one this week included an article about one family's willingness to allow their loved one's death to become the opportunity for transplants for others. And on Monday this week I'd had a senior English class in looking for material on medical ethics/issues in relation to their study of the play Whose life is it anyway?. Serendipity? Dunno, but I've joined the dots and the teacher is very happy to have an additional resource.
The article includes a video of the (unusual) meeting between the donor's widow and the people who received transplanted organs, as well as an illustration/graphic about transplantation.
Pip Cleaves from the DET presented this PechaKucha at the MANTLE teacher librarian conference in Newcastle last week. In the PechaKucha format of 20 slides, with 20 seconds for each, she covered a bunch of web 2.0 tools you might like to explore.
In 1971, an enterprising children's librarian in Troy, Michigan, wrote to dozens of important people to ask for a letter to the town's children, celebrating the opening of the new library.
Isaac Asimov was one of the 97 respondents. Isn't this great?
You can read more about the Letters to the Children of Troy here, a few on Flickr here and there are pdfs of all the letters here. Some names I know, like Edward Ardizzone and First Lady Pat Nixon, and others I don't, but it will be fun to take time to read them and see what they say about books and libraries and reading. And then see how I can use these ideas forty years later for the library here.
PS. This is the letter from Dr Seuss. Both letters are from the Flickr set linked above.
Flags acquired around Australia Day, when they're plentiful and inexpensive. Bunting is four sheets of coloured cardboard, cut into pennants and stapled to string. Photos using Hipstamatic (Kodot Grizzled/John S.)
On top of the bookcase is this picture of ANZAC Cove:
and two great quotes related to the day, the ode and Ataturk on how our sons are now theirs too.
The bookmarks we use feature these two quotes - I designed the bookmarks a few years ago (using Microsoft Publisher, they are printed eight to the page on brown/green cardboard) and they work nicely each year. It's good to put both those pieces of writing in the hands of our students each ANZAC Day.
The school, of course, has ANZAC Day remembrance assemblies for the students and staff. The library's display is in support of this. It's good policy and practice to work in with school/national events like this; sometimes libraries can be perceived as being islands/apart/disconnected. Better to be at the heart of things.
Here's an extract from it: A court reporter takes down testimony. A judge grants or denies objections from attorneys. Armed police officers hover nearby. On the witness stand, one librarian at a time is summoned to explain why she — the vast majority are women — should be allowed to keep her job.
The librarians are guilty of nothing except earning salaries the district feels the need to cut. But as they're cross-examined by determined LAUSD attorneys, they're continually put on the defensive.
"When was the last time you taught a course for which your librarian credential was not required?" an LAUSD attorney asked Laura Graff, the librarian at Sun Valley High School, at a court session on Monday.
"I'm not sure what you're asking," Graff said. "I teach all subjects, all day. In the library."
"Do you take attendance?" the attorney insisted. "Do you issue grades?"
I've seen a lot of strange things in two decades as a reporter, but nothing quite as disgraceful and weird as this inquisition the LAUSD is inflicting upon more than 80 school librarians.
It's a project from the National Library of Australia.
Trove is a new discovery experience focused on Australia and Australians. It supplements what search engines provide. If you are researching in the fields of the social sciences, literature, local or family history, or need inspiration for your school assignment, then this is the tool for you.
For example if researching images relating to Edmund Barton, our first Prime Minister, results will include descriptions such as people, book, manuscript, map and newspaper articles. A researcher searching for information on Nellie Melba will be presented with a range of results including biographies, pictures, music, newspapers, books etc.
(Two girls with a camera walk into the library and up to my office door)
Hey miss, do you mind if we take some photos? No, of course not. What are you looking for?
It's for art, we're doing stuff with lines so we thought we'd take photos of books and spines. Great idea! Take them in different areas - the fiction book spines are different to the mixed sizes of nonfiction, and don't forget the graphic novels either.
Thanks miss. (They head off).
(Some minutes later, they're walking down the steps from fiction.)
Hey, those steps could be a good lines photo too.
We can't, miss Oh?
We ran out of film...
(And we all laughed like loons over suddenly being in 1995, and not 2011 where one just EXPECTS that you can take, like, a gazillion photos on a digital camera, and hadn't had the 'run out of film' experience for years...)
The happy life of teacher librarians: OMG is this 1995??? The good new days and the good old days sometimes collide; and there's always something amusing in each working day. Love a library with laughter in it.
And yes, the sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this was last weekend. But my comic book fiends at school only told me about it on Monday... So I thought I'd let you know about it now, and I'll mention it on this blog before the 2012 event.
My comic book fiends went to King's Comics and Kinokuniya in Sydney. The site has a FAQ page and a store locator so your comic book fiends can find out about any local stores that are participating and toddle along to acquire freebies.
Said one, "Miss, you should go to Supanova this year."
Supanova Pop Culture Expo is where the adoring public comes face to face with Supa-Star celebrities and the creative talent that inspire their imaginary worlds under one big roof.
Gathered from the wonderful worlds of science-fiction, pulp TV/movies, toys, console gaming, trading cards, animation/cartoons, fantasy, comic books, entertainment technology, books, internet sites and fan-clubs, the result is an amazing celebration in an atmosphere tailor made for expessing your inner geek and where getting into cosplay (cos-tume role-play) is the obvious thing to do!
Ruth (who thinks she is flattered to have been perceived as having an inner geek).
(The Mitchell Library in Sydney:: photo used under Creative Commons license)
From various sources on my Twitter stream, I have been following the stories about library closures in the UK. The Guardian has a thoughtful, thought-provoking and sometimes rather amusing article about the secret life of libraries; it's by Bella Bathurst. They have always had a dusty image – and never more so than now – but libraries are at the heart of our communities. With the axe about to fall, Bella Bathurst reveals just what we're about to lose.
Some more quotes:
Discussing the types of books stolen in various parts of the country, she observes: among all communities and in all parts of Britain, our old passion for self-improvement remains vivid. ... But the cuts also underscore a deeper confusion about what libraries are: what they do, who they serve, and – in an age where the notion of books itself seems mortally flawed – why we still need them. What's the point of buildings filled with print? Isn't all our wisdom electronic now? Shouldn't libraries die at their appointed time, like workhouses and temperance halls? ... The great untold truth of libraries is that people need them not because they're about study and solitude, but because they're about connection. ... (Seattle Public Library::photo used under Creative Commons license)
...reading seems to be becoming an increasingly alien concept for children. "The pace of life is different now, and people expect art to happen to them. Music and film do that, a CD will do that, but you have to make a book happen to you. It's between you and it. People can be changed by books, and that's scary. When I was working in the school library, I'd sometimes put a book in a kid's hands and I'd feel excited for them, because I knew that it might be the book that changed their life. And once in a while, you'd see that happen, you'd see a kind of light come on behind their eyes. Even if it's something like 0.4% of the population that that ever happens to, it's got to be worth it, hasn't it?"
The article concludes thus: The libraries' most powerful asset is the conversation they provide – between books and readers, between children and parents, between individuals and the collective world. Take them away and those voices turn inwards or vanish. Turns out that libraries have nothing at all to do with silence.
It's a terrific article, very much worth reading in its entirety. I want to think some more about its ideas, such as connection, and conversation, and art happening, the sort of engagement involved in the act of reading. This week, as every week, I will have the joy and pleasure and sheer bloody fun of putting a book in the hands of a kid and watching their eyes light up, or (they are teenagers after all) their body language just relax that small bit that is (in reality) a decibels-loud acknowledgement that the book and the transaction and the library were good things for them. And so many of them have fabulous smiles, don't they?
If you've been kicking around the education game for any time at all, Bloom's Taxonomy would have grazed your consciousness.
At my regular fortnightly meeting this week with my Year 12 student mentor group - half a dozen fabulous kids! - I used this to get them thinking about how they learn, not just the ever-demanding what they learn. We went round the table, with each nominating one subject and the level at which they thought they were currently operating in that subject. From thinking about themselves, and considering the answers of their colleagues, it gave them food for thought.
I used the version I found here. (There are a whole bunch of great links and content on that site about study skills). It includes very handy lists of verbs associated with each level in the taxonomy; verbs that the students could link to the wording/requirements of questions/assignments etc.
For senior students, there is real value in encouraging them to take that step back to consider how they learn, and thus how they might develop/improve, and Bloom's Taxonomy is but one tool that helps this process.
PS I know the picture (taken using Hipstamatic!) is a pretty bad pun - but at least it's pretty!
It's likely to become a Famous Speech; it's a carefully-structured piece of rhetoric worth considering in the English classroom (I'm thinking of how Earl Spencer's speech at his sister Diana's funeral was part of an English HSC paper a few years ago). News reports say that Obama wrote it himself.
Miss, is onomatopoeia a word? Yes, it sure is.
Really? Yup. It means words that sound like what they mean, like BANG!
oooooooh (strong resemblance to the little green chappies in Toy Story)
Miss, could you settle an argument for us? O-kay.....
Who would be a better Fuhrer, him or me? Define Fuhrer for me - leader in general, or replacement for Hitler?
Miss, you've changed the question. Yes. Define 'better'...
The happy life of teacher librarians. Solving problems of all sorts.
I called this blog Skerricks because it began as a gathering place for me for the bits and pieces (or skerricks) I wanted to record, remember and use in my work as a teacher librarian. Turns out it's useful for others as well. w00t!
All text and pictures on this blog are copyright, by the author or as otherwise acknowledged.
If you borrow an idea and mention it on your blog, I'd really appreciate a credit/link back here, so people know where you found it. Thank you! (I have found blog entries from here copied word for word into other people's blogs, with no attribution, you see).
The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.
I've been a Teacher Librarian for twentysomething years and a blog is a great way to share the stuff my flypaper mind finds amid the internet jungle. I'm also a year adviser at my school. If you want to reach me, leave a comment.