Best Shorthand Text

Greetings to everyone.  I just this minute joined this group and look forward to interacting with many of you.

Since I'm new here, I was wondering if anyone would share with me his or her ideas of the best shorthand text available.  I have the one that deals with dictation/transcription, and I also have "Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified."  What is the MOST RECENT shorthand publication available?  I also have the Gregg Shorthand Dictionary, but I've noticed that it does not incorporate all the strokes that are included in more recent textbooks.
I'm mainly interested in shorthand THEORY.
Also, how big is the ITH?  The "under" ith pretty much looks like a smaller version of the symbol for ND and AND.  It's hard to tell, though, since often the shorthand symbols in textbooks are not written on lined pages.
And, if anyone has any suggestions for making shorthand even shorter than it already is, I'd like to hear them.  I sometimes omit the short "u" (uh) sound, such as in "cup."
I know I'm going to have lots more questions, and I'm anxious to hear ideas to improve my shorthand skills.  If I think I have any info that might be of use to anyone, of course I'll pass that on. 
PLEASE feel free to write ANYTHING you wish about this fun system.  I recently began self-teaching shorthand as a way of making notes that no one else could understand.  Even though I don't ever intend to use it to take dictation, I wish I could improve my speed.  The basic symbols are all second nature to me now, though I haven't yet begun to study the brief forms.  Actually, I'd really be happy if I could just learn to use the symbols at  a decent rate of speed.  I've tried to find a school that offers a Gregg Shorthand course, but I've not met with any success. 
Again, I look forward to sharing with all members of the group! 

(by nippersnick1 for everyone)