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I loves me some minions. Mmmmm, tasty.

 Wow, guys - what great and thoughtful responses!  Thank you all so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

I'll get back to the question list next week (where we will be exploring my early years, complete with embarrassing pictures), but I wanted to write a sort of follow-up post to yesterday.  One person asked in the comments if apprenticeship was required to get a Laurel (a very reasonable question), and a bunch of peers replied that they had not been apprentices.  Just to make sure everyone knows it's not required - it's not a fast-track to peerage, and doesn't neccessarily give someone an advantage, except that at least one Laurel knows who they are.  Really, I think apprenticeship is mainly a way of making sure that there's always someone you're not afraid to ask for help.  Secondary to that is the role of Laurel as advocate for the apprentice.

In the course of that comment thread, isenglassand chargirlgeniusmentioned that since they had never been apprenticed [correction: isenglass was apprenticed at one point, but was not at the time of her Laurelling] , they weren't sure how one handled the whole apprentice thing.  I don't know whether this post will answer their questions, but what the heck.

First, a peer is not required to take apprentices - mentorship can take lots of different forms.  For instance, I have apprentices, but also like being available to anyone with a question, and Bob doesn't have any proteges, but is excellent at helping new people learn the ropes and find their feet so they can be successful in the SCA.  His method is more generalized, but just as valuable as the peer who takes one or two people and works with them exclusively until they go as far as they can.

I was never apprenticed to anyone - no-one ever asked me, and by the time I was seriously working towards a Laurel, I was too afraid of rejection to ask.  I had started out wanting to research costume, but I was told by a well-meaning friend that the Pearls were adamantly against me in that field, so I scrapped three years of work, and started over in a new direction (illumination).  Though this was better received (I got a Pearl within a year and a half of seriously working on illumination), I had pretty much resigned myself to having to do my work independent of any chance of apprenticeship.  Rightly or wrongly, I isolated myself and did my own thing. 

Consequently, when I did get my Laurel, I had no experience with the idea of apprentices.  To my dismay, that very same day, a person I knew asked me if they could apprentice to me.  I still feel bad about saying no (technically, I said "ask me in six months", but she never asked again), as I know it took a lot of courage to ask, but I would have been a terrible Laurel for her - she was better than me in her discipline, and the way I was feeling right then, I was fairly sure that anyone I tried to be an advocate for would automatically get a negative reaction, because they were associated with me.

(I really wasn't popular with many people.)

(Hard to imagine, I know.  :)  )

That person has been a Laurel for a number of years, as I knew she would be.  It was never a question of her, only of my ability to help her.

It took me a couple of years to get up the courage to ask someone to apprentice to me - we were good friends, and I thought it would be good for both of us.  As it turned out, I spent more time teaching her rapier.  In the end, she got sick, and mostly dropped out from the SCA.  She died a few years ago.

My second apprentice didn't work out so well - I failed to account for interpersonal dynamics, and I found that I was uncomfortably awkward around her, especially when she started dating someone who really didn't like me.  We eventually just sort of...stopped.  I totally failed; I should never have asked her in the first place.

My third apprentice has been Queen three times, and now lives in another kingdom.  We correspond fairly frequently, but I'm now in more of a casual advisorship role with her (especially since she way outranks me).  

My two active minions are doing well - by the time they came around, I had more of a handle on what worked for me, and we seem to be doing well. 

So, How can one be a good peer to one's apprenteges?  Like all people-driven things, it really depends upon the people involved.  Some people do well in a big happy loosely associated household/family, and some do better in a one-on-one situation.  Some like the strictures of a formalized household, others are more casual about who does what.  I do not require household membership from my apprentices - someone may have a household they already belong to, and I don't want to interfere with that - but if they want to, they can (family members are not required to join).  I allow them to decide where they want to go, and I like people who can work with a certain amount of independence, since I hate constant hand-holding (it feels like I'm doing all the work).  However, I do ask that they check in with me regularly during the course of a project, so I can supervise and tell them if they've gone off the deep end; there's nothing more frustrating than having someone present me with a finished project that is completely wrong, especially when one or two checks could have fixed it.

There are as many relationship styles as there are peers, so saying what one should do is difficult.  It's easier to talk about the things I've seen that haven't worked as well for the apprentice.

(All situations are fictitious; any resemblance to peers you might know is purely coincidental.)  (Really.)

1.  The More, the Merrier - Sometimes, a peer goes off their head and starts collecting apprentices like they're free with every box of cereal.  There can be several reasons for this:  The peer likes them all, or the peer wants to mentor everyone interested in that particular art, or the peer is building a power base from which they will attempt to wreak havoc upon the world with their army of minions.  Any way you look at it, the peer gets stretched a bit thin, and apprentices can suffer.  Unless you're experienced at running college-level classes of thirty people or more, fewer is better, since you can spend more time with each apprentice, especially if they all have crises at the same time (and inevitably, they do).

1a ...Of course, if you're gathering apprentices so that they will all tell you how much they love you to make up for the fact that your father left your mother when you were four, and you'll never be lonely again, knock it off.  You don't need to drag innocent people into your psychodrama.

1b ...If your goal is world dominion, just get yourself a couple of talented apprentices, and have them build you a robot army instead; it's cheaper in the long run, and the robots will remain loyal even if they don't get Laurels.

2.  Oops!  Disappearing Peer! - Everyone knows that real life takes precedence over the SCA (uh, most people, anyway).  However, when you have apprentices, you have responsibilities.  No-one can predict what might happen, but if you think you're burning out, make provisions for your apprentices - release them, foster them out to someone, something - just don't disappear without taking care of them.  The ideal thing would be to discuss this possibility when first discussing apprenticeship - that way, you and they have an idea of what to do if life attacks and you're suddenly stationed in Japan for ten years.

2a.  It might be a good idea to cultivate other peers in your art, and let your apprentices get to know them, so that if the unthinkable happens and hamsters kidnap you and make you their eternal ruler in their magic kingdom far, far away, your apprentice has a good idea of who else is out there to help them, even if they don't want to be released from your care.

3.  I Hate You, But I Feel an Obligation to Help You - Sometimes, people's generalized ideas of what a peer should be mean that they have unreasonable expectations about what they have a right to ask of you.  Don't take on an apprentice you don't like, no matter how much they whine at you.  Just don't.  They may be fabulous at their art, and you may have visions of grooming them to become the premiere authority on left-handed falconry, but if you don't like them, it's almost impossible to work around that.  You'll be dreading their e-mails and phone calls, and tensing up every time you see them coming over.  If you can't hang out with them, you're not going to enjoy working with them.  

3a.  Get to know your apprentice before taking them on - take them to dinner, spend time with them at events and at your home (or theirs).  See what makes them tick.  Just because you're good at the same thing doesn't mean you'll get along.  Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were both good at politics, but I doubt they liked each other much.

4.  Love Me, Worship Me, Never Leave Me - The goal with an apprentice is that you teach them all you know and let them loose on the world to work their magic.  Sometimes, this means that your apprentice will get to be better (and more respected) than you.  If you can't handle this idea, please don't take an apprentice.  There is nothing lower than sabotaging your students so you remain the number one in your field.  If you're in the least bit tempted to hold back your secrets, try to discourage the apprentice from taking risks, or hold them back from reaching for the stars - put the apprentice back, and get yourself a lap dog.  If the student outshines the master, then the master has done their job (and the glory of the student shines upon the master as well).

4a.  Demanding unconditional loyalty from your apprentice will only lead to grief for the both of you.  If you're good at your job, your apprentice will respect you.  Anything more is gravy - don't require more from them emotionally than is reasonable.  

5.  Oh, God, Whassisname is Calling Again - If you don't have the time or the emotional resources to work with an apprentice, don't take one.  Even if they beg you - you can always mentor them at a lower level.  Having an apprentice is work - ideally, you should be willing to give them your full attention whenever they need it.  This doesn't mean having no boundaries (see #4), but it does mean being more involved.  Take it on only if you have the mental and physical space to do so.

6.  I'm Just a Gal Who Can't Say No - Having apprentices can be very rewarding, but it's not the only way to teach, and it's not right for everyone.  If you aren't comfortable with being that close with someone, it's okay to stay apprentice-free.  Many people find it difficult to refuse someone who asks to apprentice prettyprettypleaseI'llbegoodyou'llLOVEit, but if you know that you can't be the kind of peer that person needs, in the long run it is kinder to say no.  Sure, they'll be hurt for a bit, but that's better than being bitter and resentful of a peer that never came through for them.

6a.  To soften the blow, remind them that you're willing to answer questions if needed, and try to steer them in the direction of other peers who might be interested in an apprentice.  

Apprentice-herding will always be a learning experience - it takes a while to work out the wrinkles in any relationship.  Just remember you're the one in charge, and if they act up, tell them they can always be cyborgs in your robot army.  That ought to shut them up.

...For a bit, anyway.  Right,  lisettelarouxand brian_murray?


( 72 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Feb. 7th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know how it is in other kingdoms, but down here in Meridies there's a tradition of not taking associates until a year after your elevation. I think that's probably a good idea for a lot of people.
Feb. 7th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
Often the case in Trimaris as well. The majority of exceptions seem to be those who were elevated as someone at the top of their field and already had students they were mentoring for quite some time.
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Feb. 7th, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)
One of the few things I did right when I took an apprentice was to set a time limit on the relationship. We made it a year and a day, with the option of renewal if both parties wanted to continue. (We didn't.) I'd strongly recommend this to anyone on either side of the equation, since it stops a whole lot of difficulties when it isn't working for whatever reason but people are reluctant to say so. The other good thing I did was a formalisation of what I'd done with my own laurel, and that was to have an apprentice contract which set out what each of us expected of the other. We did this as a period indenture (two copies on the same piece of parchment, cut along an indented line) and had it witnessed in court. There was some serious stuff in it (I was to make him a suit of clothes within the year, he was to weave a certain number of ells of cloth), but also some fun, but researched stuff - I was only allowed to beat him within reason, and he was not allowed to marry without my permission.

The other thing that worked well, and I'd recommend, is the idea of formally releasing your apprentices as journeymen/women before they are ready to be laurelled. This also reflects period practice, where people practiced their craft on their own before they were good enough to be masters and take their own apprentices. I was a journeyman (woman, but I couldn't find evidence for the feminine version of the term) for about 18 months before I was laurelled, and this provided a really great opportunity for people to be able to see what I could produce on my own, and also to develop my own style. This is reasonably common in Lochac now (although I was the first to do it) and people either do or don't remain in the household of their laurels as parties see fit.
Feb. 7th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
I was considering defining an early stage – a year and a day of something other than apprenticeship – that would give us both a chance to see if we could stand each other. In the 14th-15th century English model that I was looking at, a craftsperson might have some associates more like servants, that could work their way up to being apprentices. I certainly wouldn’t demand servitude, but we could have a spiffy little contract, etc. etc.

I like the journeyman idea, thought I don’t see myself as ever being a laurel who assigns projects, or has apprentices who aren’t already doing the projects that they want to do, etc. I’m sure that’ll morph over the years as well.
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Feb. 7th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I got a post almost all of my very own!

Ok, not really.

It all makes sense. Of course, doing is different than reading and nodding vehemently.

I think I’m going to need to make sure that anybody I work with has a strong personality. I need them to be able to tell me if something is wrong – I’m not always sensitive enough to know it until it becomes a thing.

Real-life eating me up is always a concern, though I don’t anticipate that I’ll permanently or totally disappear. I certainly play less than I did before, but I can’t imagine not playing. Though as you say, things happen, and it’s good to have contingencies.

Another concern I have is distance. I know that people have apprentices in other groups and even kingdoms, but at least at first, I’d think it’s easier to work with somebody in your own back yard. Yes? No? How to cultivate healthy relationships when you live an hour and a beltway away from people?
Feb. 7th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
I have a married couple up in Winchester (don't ask me the canton's name, I can't remember it) so they are about 4 hours away. I talk to them on the phone at least 3 times a week, and I have a yahoo group that we use (cause my Sr apprentice moved out to Illinois). I go up to their house to work on things with them over a weekend here and there, they come to my house for the same.

I *only* take people who are self-starters. I see my job as their Peer more as a guide than a teacher if that makes sense...
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Feb. 7th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
Apprentices, students, and anyone who needs a hand.
I have 6 apprentices (one long distance), 3 less formal 'students', and scads of people for whom I edit documentation and offer help.

I enjoy the "Student now... maybe apprentice later" route to working with people on the arts. (To clarify, some asked me, some I asked) My 'students' are very informal associates who are offered use of my knowledge, skills, whatever... much like giving them a library card to pick my brain and get advice and direction on projects. I don't mind if someone wishes to remain in this 'student' relationship forever. Obviously if they do then that type of relationship was what they were looking for. I don't place any demands on my students, just helpful suggestions on projects and mostly positive (but honest) critique. This also gives the new person, myself, and my apprentices time to all figure out how this mix will work. If any way around it is decided that the relationship isn't working out... no hard feelings.

I do have higher expectations of my apprentices (unless attacks of life happen, in which case I would WAY rather they deal with that first) on documentation, project difficulty, and an expectation for them to judge at every Art/Sci they can possibly attend. I also encourage them to teach classes and one on one. Mostly, I expect my apprentices to help support each other. They serve as resources and sounding boards for projects and this has seemed to work very, very well. I also expect them to be honest with me about our one on one relationships and to let me know if they need more or different. I am have strong 'anti-drama' feelings, and they all seem to feel the same way. This helps immensely.

Beyond students and apprentices, I make myself available as "Laurel on Call" for ANYONE in my Barony or the College of Scribes that I oversee (or really anyone else that asks). Need help with documentation? I'll help you! Need someone to bounce project ideas and tell you honestly if the project is too much or too little, I'm your gal. Yes, some days I feel a touch like public property... but I never really wonder if I am doing enough.

Having as many apprentices and students as I do is a lot of work. I credit them (their personalities, honesty, work ethic, and caring for each other) for how well the whole group works together. No one Peer can direct a group that does not get along and work together. Lastly, I am amazingly blessed with having a very strong group of artists. They are not much of the fetch and tote variety, (even though sometimes they pack lunches!) but that wasn't what I was looking for anyway. I really dislike pedestals... my engineering is all wrong for those sorts of heights.
Feb. 7th, 2008 01:34 pm (UTC)
beep zzzap beep beep zork beeep zap.

err ... what?
Feb. 7th, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC)
Well, you'd have to be one of the engineers, because if I made you a cyborg, you'd reprogramme yourself in short order... :P
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Feb. 7th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
You are absolutely right, Mistress
In all seriousness, our peer/minion relationship has seriously clicked and your level of patience is through the roof.

Although I have images of Brian and I with little black wings and and black bows and arrows sitting on each of your shoulder....
Feb. 7th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
Re: You are absolutely right, Mistress
Actually, I have these puppets you guys are going to start to carry...

Oops. I've said too much. :P
Feb. 7th, 2008 01:51 pm (UTC)
Although I'm not a peer, I do have a handful of folks I help out on a regular basis. I love encouraging them. I had one person ask to be an apprentice, let me tell ya, that was a bit awkward. And anyone who has a question I'm determined to find the answer for them (I love to research) and if I don't I will find the person who does have the answer.
Teaching/Guiding folks is the best, most enjoyable, part of what I do. I love watching other folks 'get it'. That 'lightbulb' moment is priceless.
Feb. 7th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I was not an apprentice at the time of my Laureling, but I was an apprentice for 13 years. It was not a good experience and I was fired in the end. It's hard to say if the relationship I had with my former Laurel will make me a good mentor or a bad one.
Feb. 7th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
You're a smart and sensitive (without being oversensitive, of course) person, so I think you'll be able to use it as a learning experience. Sometimes, knowing what went wrong for you can make you more aware of how it affects other people, and consequently more effective at forestalling it.

I think you'll do fine. :)
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Feb. 7th, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Don't take on an apprentice you don't like, no matter how much they whine at you.

And don't take on an apprentice that doesn't like you, no matter how much you whine at them. Even as a foster laurel. It doesn't matter if, as per #1 the peer wants to mentor everyone interested in that particular art. Sometimes, a laurel needs to be prepared to hear and a student needs to be able to say "Thank you but no thank you."
Feb. 7th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
P.S. Your third apprentice was the queen who gave my Laurel her Pelican. I had heard so many good things about her and her husband, and I couldn't wait to meet them. I likes her!
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Feb. 7th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
What? .. Hey!

Actually, to me, the biggest reason I wanted to apprentice to Lucia, was because I wanted her to actually teach me. I've never been a formal art person, and having someone who could point out just why something looks funny, or can show me how to get the effect I want, or how to improve my drafting, was a huge thing for me. So people who approach the laurels, may be doing so because they really like your work and want their stuff to look that good someday.

We did a lot of traveling together to events (about six months or so worth) before we discussed apprenticing and that kind of both reassured each other we had very complimentary personalities. It was a good way to get to know each other, and since we hadn't talked about apprenticing previously, there wasn't any pressure to impress each other. If you can't stand riding in the car with them for four hours, think real hard about taking them as an apprentice. We're all clingy and stuff.

She talks me down off the crazy ledge when I get myself wound up, and I drag her out of easy-mode with my constant demands for attention. :>

Other things that I've gotten from being an apprentice rather than a student though are less tangible, like knowing there's someone standing in my corner who will both stand up for me and check me when I'm going nuts. It's a big psychological thing to know that I've got someone who can tell me when I'm doing something right or wrong or who can reassure me that no, it doesn't really look THAT BAD..

Feb. 7th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Gah, I hate my computer
Anyway, harleenquinzell wrote: "She talks me down off the crazy ledge when I get myself wound up."

My laurel cracks me up: he says he'll either talk me down from the ledge or give me a push, and I'm never sure which it'll be. ;-)

I agree strongly with the personality-compatibility comments already discussed: it's crucial to enjoy each other's company. It's no coincidence that my husband and my laurel both have very warped senses of humor and the ability to crack me up when I'm getting way too obsessive about something.

And, oh yeah, it's also crucial that the spouse and the laurel get along as well. I am extremely fortunate that my husband, my laurel, and my laurel's wife get along very, very well. We are interchangeable friends: any combination of two will get along great. There have been people I've worked with whom Grettir did *not* like much, and that makes things difficult.
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Feb. 7th, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
I also was asked right after my Laurelling to take on an apprentice. It wasn't somebody I really thought was a good fit, so I (truthfully) answered that I wanted to wait at least six months to get the whole Peerage thing straight in my head. (I'd been a surprise Laurel at my own request, and I thought I was a couple years out.)

The person in question asked again in six months, and I again fended the gentle off with a comment that I wasn't ready yet.

I've had a total of three apprentices, one currently. In all cases I've structured it as "a year and a day" initially. I'm a big fan of no-fault divorce, especially for the first year. I find it reduces any pressure to "make it work" if it really doesn't. The one that didn't dropped off the relationship well before the year was up.
Feb. 7th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
my apprenti and I do a 360 review (hows it going? what went well? what should we tweak?) once a year along with an escape clause....at a year we both have the opportunity to say "we're done, thanks!" with no hard feelings.

so often I've seen apprentice relationships just sorta peter out, leaving the apprentice in wierd limbo.

at July coronation I'll be taking my first long distance apprentice (still in kingdom, but about 22 hrs away). it will be an interesting experience for me, whos other two apprentices live really close and we see each other many times during the week.

the non-sca social stuff we do really helps cement our relationship I think (anyone else take a lindy hop class with their apprentice? heck, the other apprentice was one of the teachers... ;)) and being in a situation where boy apprentice had to lead in the dance was really really a good one for both of us :)
Feb. 7th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
Again, this is awesome!

May I please share with the AnTir Apprentice list? I just always like to ask before posting elsewhere.

Many thanks. :)
Feb. 7th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
Yup. :)
Feb. 7th, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
What are you feelings on taking a dependent in an art/science in which one is not a master? To me, I became an apprentice to a master tailor to learn all that I could about sewing and such. I was not looking for a parental figure or anything else like that.

If/when I take a dependent, I wouldn't feel comfortable if their art/science was something I had no expertise in.
Feb. 7th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
It depends - if they just need an advocate and cheerleader, I might consider it.

Sometimes people need a peer who has their back and is someone they can come to to talk honestly about how they feel - they have a peer for the support, rather than the learning.

I would like to think I could be that for anyone, regardless of their discipline. However, if they still have a long way to go artistically, then it would be a bad idea.
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Feb. 7th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
I was asked about half an hour after I was made a Laurel. The person who asked me had a point in that the art I was made for (performance magic with a lot of research into historical magic in general) and what he was studying at the time (alchemy) had good cross-over, but I also recognized that they were busy fishing for a fast-track peerage.

That may very well have been one of the best advantages I had in the fact that it took as long as it did for me to be made (ten years). I had lived in the world so long and had talked with my Laurels about Peers and peerage qualities with such depth that not only *didn't* it surprise me to recieve the immediate request, I had no problem with saying "I have already made it a rule that I won't even consider this question for at least a year."


I was prepared.
Feb. 8th, 2008 07:56 am (UTC)
"I was asked about half an hour after I was made a Laurel."

My bad. I did that to the first person I was apprenticed to and it was done under duress. The peeps I was hanging with strongly urged me to snatch up my opportunity as this person had just been Laureled that day for Middle Eastern garb (um, no, it was North African garb I came to discover) and she didn't come to many central Kingdom events so I may not see her again for a while. (Did I see the Big Hint at that time? Of course not.) So I pounced and she politely advised me that she would like to wait a bit before giving an answer. About a year later, she approached me and we began casually. It was a few months in that I realized that mebbe this was not the right person. Although we never formalized our relationship, she was very helpful and shared what resources she had that meshed with my specific interests.

Then I was approached by another newly minted Laurel (about a year old) who asked if there would be any problem of fostering me as my originally chosen Laurel had become less involved with the SCA. In the end, Laurel #1 was relieved that I was being looked after by someone more active than herself.

Laurel #2 was a better fit in temperment and leadership style for me. Unfortunately, our time together was brief and not as fruitful as either of us had hoped, I'm sure. Within a year, I developed a serious Case of Life and she developed a serious terminal illness. She passed just a year ago and I am very sorry that I did not have the pleasure of knowing her better. We did not have the opportunity to have any serious discussions about peerage or similar topics that I've heard others talk about between themselves in such relationships.

So, for now, I am hanging loose, following my own star, and going with the flow. If I am apprenticed again some day, dandy. If not, that's OK too.
Feb. 7th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
I guess I can't really see anybody who'd be a good fit for me, anyway, so I don't worry about it. I'd rather spin my wheels and go my own way, than get distracted by somebody else's ideas. Heck, I get distracted enough all by myself.

There are actually two good reasons: One, I have a butterfly brain, that flits from topic to topic. Two, I'm working in an area that is fairly obscure. There are a couple people in the Kingdom that are doing anything close - and I pretty sure I'd be a bad fit personality-wise with either of them.

Luckily, I'm independent-minded enough to not really feel it as a lack. ;-) And I have access to a host of folks further away who are very generous with their time and knowledge. I'd probably feel more alone without the on-line access to those folks, though.
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