ok, _that_ was what is was trying to find info on! couldn't figure out how to burn the pids i still had in shells on things like kill or shutdown. thanks!
the nested shells is a neat idea also... actually, that's really easy and convenient to setup with 'screen' also. i generally end up with at least eight shells running because of wonton use of windows in screen, so having spare pids is more likely than not.
i just added an init line to the system to make screen start a half-dozen shells for the root account, so as long as i have a connection to the machine i will have those available for emergencies.