Friday, September 28, 2001

Tonight I went to the fabric store (in anticipation of my visit to S.R. Harris this coming Sunday...had to whet my whistle) and got 15 more of these adorable red buttons with small gold compass stars on them. Even though Toki won't be fighting for me in Coronet this time around, I liked the idea of a purple and red cotehardie enough to go ahead and plan one, so that's going to be my new Coronet outfit. I have 9 yards of simple purple cotton/linen, and then I can use up the rest of my red silk douppioni (I have about 2 yards left...enough for nice attached tippets, or maybe extended sleeves that mimic tippets? We'll see.).

I also went to the sale at JCPenney, and did not do quite as well as the last time I was there in the spring, but did okay. Got several tops, a pair of socks, and a nice dress/jacket combo for MC-MLA. I found a nice brown leather belt with silver studs that reminds me of the one I broke not too long ago, which I adored; I'm going to wear it to the Ren Fest tomorrow.

Tomorrow: back in garb (yay!) and going to the Fest! I cleaned out the basket and everything--I'm all ready, and can't wait to hang out with Sarra and Bronwen. I deserve this weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

With tonight being Kol Nidrei, and me still not totally sure I want to go to the local Synagogue, I just took SelectSmart's "What religion do you most agree with?" test. Here are my top ten matches:

  1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
  2. Unitarian Universalism (99%)
  3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (91%)
  4. Neo-Pagan (90%)
  5. Secular Humanism (80%)
  6. New Age (77%)
  7. Reform Judaism (73%)
  8. Mahayana Buddhism (62%)
  9. Theravada Buddhism (57%)
  10. BahŠ'Ū Faith (56%)

Not that I'm taking any of this as a sign as to whether I should go to the synagogue tonight. That would be unhealthy thinking, and anyway, Conservative Judaism (the flavor of the local synagogue) isn't even on the list. I've done this survey a couple of times and am always surprised to see how closely I agree with the Liberal Quakers. The Unitarian thing wasn't a surprise--a long-standing joke in Madison is that if us Reform Jews ever decided to lean towards the other side of the 'Is Jesus the Messiah?' question, we'd automatically become Unitarians. (Can't beat that gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright Unitarian church in Madison, either.) Number 3 doesn't really say anything to me. However, it was a bit of a shock to see 4, 5, and 6--which so many people lump in together as one general way-of-life--immediately preceding my actual religion, 7 (Reform Judaism). Is that perhaps the Madison influence, where for so much of my early life, 4, 5, and 6 reigned?

And if I wanted to be a Quaker, would I have to accept the basic premise that Jesus was the Messiah? 'Cause that, I'll never do. Seems to me that's the question never posed in this survey. They ask what G-d is composed of (corporeal/incorporeal, tripartite, etc.) but not whether Jesus is part of the picture. Maybe that's another survey. Anyway...

None of this helps me decide whether to go to services tonight. They start at 6:40 (they're not just Conservative, they're Conserv-odox!) and who knows how long they'll last. I hope these aren't marathon 7-hour services. I still do have to go to work tomorrow, in fact that's why I'm stuck here for Yom Kippur and not taking off for Madison tonight after work.

Then again, if they're THAT Conserv-odox, they may not care if women wander in and out of services, since men are the only important participants in an Orthodox service, and women are only expected to be there if it doesn't interfere with their duties concerning children and home. I remember being shocked in France when women sat chatting and laughing through services at the synagogue in Tours, getting up and moving around and leaving as they felt like it, while I hung over the edge of the balcony desperately trying to follow along in my prayer book, which was mostly in Hebrew. In a way it was okay: I was already in surroundings where I expected to have unusual experiences, this was just one more.

I don't know if I want to have that experience again, particularly...I am a born-and-bred Reform Jew after all, used to organized and dignified services with a lot of English and inspiring music. Kol Nidrei at Beth El in Madison is so beautiful: Mark Fink plays the Kol Nidrei on his oboe, then Debbie sings it, and the choir does one repetition. I'll miss that tonight. We'll see what I end up doing.

I went to bed last night at midnight or so, and woke up well-rested and comfy at 8:30, unable to understand for a moment why a flood of pure panic was coursing through me: it's 8:30 and I'm not at work. Why didn't my alarm go off? One of the following:

  1. There is something wrong with my alarm clock. (Unlikely.)
  2. I forgot to turn the alarm on last night. (Possible.)
  3. I turned it off at 6:30 when it went off, then was so in need of additional sleep that I slept for another two hours and have no memory of waking up. (Abnormal for me, but possible.)

Whatever happened, I slept way too long without any memory of waking up earlier, which is very weird for me. Maybe I simply needed the sleep? Even if I did, I would normally wake up at 6:30, be conscious for at least a minute, decide that I still needed sleep, and go back to sleep. I wouldn't simply sleep all the way through, especially not through an alarm. So I wonder what's going on...

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The Bleat is particularly good today. Mr. Lileks recalls elementary school and wonders if all those memories are still somewhere in our heads:

Itís all back in the brain somewhere, perhaps; all the memories of the endless days when the school was a warm safe place of familiar routines and comforting smells.

In a way, I hope they never find a way to unlock those memories. I donít think one could bear it. To be small, and safe, and loved, and remember the ordinary sight of Mom setting the table for noon lunch, see the clock that sat on the counter for years before it was replaced one day while you were at college, to see the utter homely normality of a good childhood would be like seeing paradise from which you had been gently and firmly, evicted.

I like how he implicitly makes the crucial distinction between remembering that something happened and being able to get back inside those memories, and feel what it was like to be there. I mean, I can intellectually remember that I had Mr. Bohleber for 4th grade at Leopold Elementary in Madison, I can vaguely remember walking down the hall in that direction, or a math lesson involving basketball scores (he was really big on sports), but how much can I really lie down inside the feeling of being there? As I get older, being able to get inside the true feeling of any memory both feels better and better, and is harder and harder to do, even for recent things.

If I think about it, I can still hear the sound of the manual pencil sharpener by the door (and smell the new wood shavings), hear the intercom click on as the school secretary is about to ask our teacher to go get a phone call (we had special room-specific intercoms in our school, and they could hear you too!). I remember how things got dark and quiet in the hallways after school. (I was stuck at school every day until 5:30, at After School Day Care--yes, that link leads to the same company that provided our after school care in the 70's on a shoestring, and I see the website is a tad underdeveloped--still on that shoestring, I guess.). I got to observe the custodian at close range: I smelled the sweeping compound he used to push down the hallway, heard the vacuum cleaner roam the classrooms. Our classrooms, at least upstairs, were all open-format, with only a coat rack to close the 4th wall, so when we'd turn off the lights and watch a film (no videos back then!), we would get runners from four other classrooms sent down by their teachers to ask us to turn the volume down. I remember the wonderful library with all its little alcoves of books and scatter rugs, the Little Theater which was my favorite room in the school, with its carpeted steps to sit on; the cafeteria and the back corner where we had After School Day Care (with its handmade wooden loft, book corner, arts & crafts cabinet, and the record player where we played my mom's Lesley Gore album until it was all played out); the art exhibit at the end of the basement hallway (and the lost and found, full of smelly mittens, under the stairs)...

The stupid thing is that no matter how many of these memories I commit to this blog, they can only help cue the feeling of being there, they can't accomplish it. That has to come from some kind of feeling-memory store inside of me. And I can only hope I'll always be able to get to that feeling-memory, and that I'm not mis-handling it by spelling out details in so many words, condemning it to come back in imperfect pieces.

Just this morning I was pondering getting older in the SCA (4 years this and how it is harder and harder to feel what it was like to be new: how big the Society was, how mysterious all these people around me were, how incredibly fine and accomplished all these costumers must be (this sense is more and more diminished as I find out where people are buying stuff from, what patterns they're using, and which costumes are more flash than accomplishment!). I always felt that everyone must know more than I do, both in terms of historical facts, and in terms of that intangible KNOWING that makes people walk around with a confident look on their faces. That feeling, of being young and not yet in on "the secret", is SO hard to recapture. And yet, if you can, it's worth it, because it both gives you insight into how other new people must be feeling, and it reminds you of how far you've come. We seldom realize the kind of adaptive learning we do every day (or most of us do, if our minds and lives are active). It feels good to trace it and see how we've grown.

I also get a personal charge out of remembering how big the SCA seemed, how many activities were there to be pursued, how much great stuff and how many accomplished people were there to see and consult with. Even if a given activity seemed beyond my skills or even beyond what I'd consider trying, it was there, being practiced by people who were once as new as I was, and I was still wowed by it. If I ever lose that feeling, of the SCA--or even LIFE--as a never-ending cornucopia of fun things to do, I'll be impoverished by its loss.

See, I told you I knew how to philosophize. I just don't normally sit down and do it.

Monday, September 24, 2001
Awwww...from the Bleat at

Gnat walked across the room today. Having accomplished this feat, she just decided sheís going to walk now. And so she does. Itís adorable, but when she grabbed my car keys and staggered for the door I thought: well, this is going to have its downside eventually.

That gem is from the 9/21/01 Bleat. I find it very interesting to see how having a young child can make a relatively liberal fellow, when war looms, go in sixteen different directions trying to rationalize blowing up the people who threaten his little princess. Not that this is bad--he is allowed to feel this way, and who's to say I wouldn't, if I had a small child? (I probably would.) The man obviously loves America, its precepts as well as all the trappings; we knew this. I just did not know in advance that he would burst forth in waves of jingoism...perhaps that's too strong a waves of love for Our Great Country. But to be fair, who could have known how they would react to the stunning events of September 11?

Not that life is all that quiet right now...well-ordered, but not quiet. This weekend was the last quiet one for quite awhile. For starters, this coming weekend, Sarra and I are going up to the Twin Cities to go to the Faire, hang out with Bronwen & Ben, and shop at S.R. Harris. (This week it's 60% off silks and $6/yard upholstery...of course that's only until Saturday, and we're doing Harris on Sunday. Grumble grumble...but maybe next week will be something else that's good. I want a new polarfleece blanket, and I'd like to make a nice wool cloak to sell on eBay, so there are some options there.) I'm really looking forward to it. It's amazing how one weekend out of garb makes me sigh and long for the opportunity to put on cleavage again. ;)

Sunday, September 23, 2001

What a nice weekend I've been having. It occurs to me that I really haven't had a weekend at home in more than a month: the last three weeks have been events, and various other things were going on before that, then before that was Pennsic. It feels good. Yesterday I went to choir, ran errands, came home and got a few things done; today, I slept until 1, read for awhile, got up and did some kumihimo kits, worked on a t-tunic I had left unfinished since before Pennsic, did dishes, started entering data for the Chamber Chorale directory I volunteered to do, and tidied my garb/fabric closet. For once I think all my garb is clean, present and accounted for!

It feels very much like fall right now; most of the trees are still green, but here it is 7pm and it's mostly dark out, and getting chilly. I was going to go for a walk last night but it rained; tonight I'm giving the excuse that golly, it got dark so fast! (Also, I never really got dressed today. So sue's the first time in months.)

Thursday night I went up to Ettrick to get the Chronicler files from Kudrun, and help her put together the current issue. Next one is mine! Seems to me I'm both more disorganized and more motivated than the last time I was Chronicler (in Falcon's Keep, 12/99-5/00). Hopefully the two will cancel each other out. I really am looking forward to it, but I've bitten off quite a big chunk of editorships this season: Rokeclif Chronicler, WHSLA newsletter editor, MC-MLA new member profiles editor, plus the Chamber Chorale directory. I'm going to be spending the next couple of years typing at my computer, I can tell.

Kudrun made the trip worth my while, though, by giving me a bagful of green beans from her garden. Friday night I combined them with some onions, leeks, peppers, and parsnips and put them in broth with some spices and such, and made a good light soup, which of course is all gone now. (Yum.)

Friday, September 21, 2001

I was realizing that I didn't mention my trip to Madison for Rosh Hashanah. Okay: I went to Madison for Rosh Hashanah. Spent the whole time at holiday dinners or services, so I didn't get in any visits to friends or shopping. I did get to sing though--as usual, the Temple Beth El choir gracefully tolerated my singing with them during daytime services. We did all the classics plus a new "Mi Shebeirach" which I wasn't too fond of; actually it wasn't appreciably different in its soppy tone from the Debbie Friedman version. At least Debbie has a gift for catchy melodies. The composer of the new version gave the impression of having crafted it in pieces throughout a semester, as part of an exercise for a composition class at a second-rate public university. After having gotten a D on the first exercise (come up with a good melody). OOOOHHhhh! I'm catty today.

That ringer tenor who sings with the Choir for the Holidays every year turns out to be my pal Chandler's brother, which, I guess, would explain why he looks so much like Chandler. It only took me three years of singing with the guy to find out who he was, and only then because I overheard him spelling his last name for someone (and I happened know Chandler's mundane last name is Pavao). Once I knew who he was, I found myself listening to his voice during services and going, "Duh, they sound exactly alike, why didn't I figure it out?". That's me, denser than fog-flavored cheesecake...

I am having a Sing Thing (not my name, but the practice has to have SOME kind of standardized name, and that's what the first one was called). It's going to be at my apartment, if I ever get it cleaned, Oct. 20-21. So far I only have a few people RSVP'ing, but they're all people I'm excited about having there. All men too. I may have to slink back the Northshield Bardic listserv and beg for a woman or two to balance things out. (I can see it now: "Eliane is desperate for a woman...")

One person e-mailed to ask if my apartment would be safe for kids under 6, of which he has three. The concept of my apartment being child-safe has never occurred to me. My apartment in its current state is barely adult-safe (there's fabric and trim everywhere, tippy piles of papers and books, not enough bookshelves, and roadblocks made of clothing, boxes, etc. on the floors, plus I haven't vacuumed in far too long). So I'm going to have to do some serious cleaning between now and then, probably throw out quite a lot of stuff, and stash other things in boxes and put them either in the garage or back in the computer corner. Plus all the knicknacks will need to go into my bedroom. And my bedroom will need to be declared 100% off-limits to all who are not me. (When I was planning this Sing Thing with Owen, I declared that rule, and he said thoughtfully, "I see, it's not THAT kind of party, huh?" No, but when I plan the orgy, I'll let everyone know. ;) )

Tonight I drove up to Ettrick and had dinner with Kudrun at the Fat Cat, which is your basic small-town cafe (I had the egg salad sandwich and fries), after which we went to her library and copied/assembled/stapled her last White Birch. I am Chronicler again. This transition is going better than the last one, but then, I haven't actually put out an issue yet. I have this crazy fear that some month, I'll forget to do a Birch. We'll see...

Preoccupied this week, with odd thoughts. Not bad ones, but pleasant while being slightly wrong. I try not to legislate my own thoughts, but I'm tempted. Ever have moments when your fantasies take off and drag you along with them, and you're left thinking, "I should NOT be enjoying this so much"?

All right, going to sleep now before I become completely opaque. ;)

Monday, September 17, 2001
I would like to report that I've received the first New Year's greeting of the Jewish New Year, from a dear non-Jewish friend, who wrote this morning to wish me a "wonderful Rosh Hosannah". Oh, I SO needed a nice giggle this morning.

Rosh Hashana: the Jewish New Year, usually in September
Hosannah: a word of praise usually used in the Christian liturgy (e.g.: "Hosanna in excelsis")

Thank you, Trystan, for making my morning. Your kind wish is entirely well-taken, and I wish you a happy Tuesday. *hug*

I mentioned in my last entry that I had had a run-in with a piece that I considered too sexually explicit for the Saturday night Bardic circle. It was a very interesting situation: the gentle who told the story has a Tibetan persona and obviously has a strong interest mundanely in Tibetan culture. He told two stories during the evening, stories which he read out of a modern (~50 years ago) book of tales of Tibetan daily life. The first was a cute one about tricks the kids would play on other families in the village. The second went into some very frank detail about sexuality in Tibetan culture, starting out innocuously enough by describing the autumn festival and how boys and girls would sometimes pair off and go off into the bushes.

Then he read a section discussing the sexual practices of monks and nuns. One of the LESS descriptive passages pointed out that a common joke in Tibetan culture was that the dirtiest part of a nun was her finger, because of what she often used it for. The reader read this all word-for-word in a relatively matter-of-fact tone, chuckling at the more humorous parts, and did take the time to warn us that this story would not be appropriate for younger listeners (who had all gone to bed by that time). All the same, it made some of us a little uncomfortable to be regaled with descriptions of masturbation, sexual assault of young boys, and lesbians using eggs for sexual purposes! Especially when the stories he was reading were not SCA period stories, nor did he think they were--his premise was that in many ways, the Tibetan culture of 50 years ago was similar to the Tibetan culture (and other cultures) during SCA period. (Well, so is the culture of several tribes in central Africa, but we don't sit and listen to information on THEIR sexual practices during Bardic circles...!)

Not to condemn this good gentle, who seems intelligent and well-meaning, and wanted to share something he found humorous. I just think we were all a bit nonplussed by his contribution.

(Wooo, look at all the 'dirty' words I used above...I expect my site statistics to go up substantially this week. ;) )

Sunday, September 16, 2001

Post-Armorgeddon laundry night. I am discovering over time that there are all kinds of rainy events. First, they vary by type of rain: sprinkle, pour, monsoon, mist, etc. Then by their accompaniments: fog, thunder/lightning, wind, lack of sun. Then by how long/how often it's been raining. Then by the conditions at the site: dirt roads, proximity of activity areas to camping areas, ground cover type (moss/grass/new-mown hay/tree roots/dirt), availability of showers, availability of shelter, cabins vs. tents, etc. Then by how well you have thought to prepare: what kind of tent you're in, how many towels and pairs of dry socks you packed, whether you brought boots, an umbrella, plastic bags, etc. Then by the characteristics of the event itself: will you be fighting? Painting? Singing? Shopping? Sitting or mostly walking/standing? Will there be Court? Indoor, outdoor, or in a tent?

This event was by far the rainiest that I've ever been to, overall, in terms of how close and intimate I got with the rain. Let me set the scene: primitive campsite, newly-mown hay/reeds/grasses on the ground, rain for at least a day BEFORE the event, ranging from sprinkle to pour (no mist until this morning) with no lightning/thunder or wind, showers up a muddy hill and down a muddy path from the camping area (read: not real available), camping in a non-waterproofed handmade cotton canvas pavilion lined with one tarp and old carpet, well-stocked with towels/plastic bags/wool cloak and socks/boots/Rubbermaid, fighting and singing planned, Court outdoors. The sun did not show itself for one minute from Thursday night to Sunday noon. Although the rain let up for most of Saturday, it came back at inopportune times: during the Bardic circle, while we were trying to sleep, right before the large crush of people arrived Friday night, and during Wulfgang's three-part tourney Friday.

So: rain. My main rain memory of this event will be of the moment when we realized the tent was not at all waterproof. Janvier had decided to add in a black plastic tarp between the pavilion top and its metal pipe ribs, to see if it would help prevent greenhouse-effect warming during the day. Turns out the black tarp was the only thing that kept the center of the tent dry. The edges of the top, not covered by the tarp, quickly soaked through and began to drip onto the carpet and other items within about ten inches of the walls. The walls themselves became sodden and contributed by getting anything hung against them wet. To be honest I rather liked the pavilion--it's spacious, attractive, and its octagonal shape promotes stringing ropes across the sides to create privacy (I had my own room!). And my cot was always dry. But the constant dripdripdripdripdripdrip on my Rubbermaid containers...oh praise the Lawd for Rubbermaid...drove me nearly crazy the two nights I spent in the tent.

Friday was cold, with intermittent sprinkling to pouring rain, but I got to be a consort in Wulfgang's rapier tourney (Baron Adrien fought for me) and then again in his heavy weapons tourney (Toki fought for me). Baron Adrien won in rapier, against Janvier, Fiskr, and Gorum, and I got the prize: a neat tabletop lantern. I walked around for a bit with Dahrien and his friend Ivan. Things were sort of aimless; it kept raining, and there weren't that many people there. So, Janvier and I decided Friday night to take up Fiskr and Brigid on their offer to drive us into town to their motel, and see if there was a room left that we could use. We bargained with the woman at the motel desk and got a great deal on one of their last rooms, a jacuzzi suite, and so after a night and a day of miserable wetness and cold (never got above 50 degrees on Friday), we got to unwind with a nice dinner, a soak in the hot tub with companionable conversation, and comfy private rooms with our own temperature controls. We returned Saturday morning, much more able to face the remaining half of the event.

Which, truth be told, turned out to be a lot of fun and very relaxing. In the morning I walked around with a nice woman named Teffan whom I remembered meeting earlier in the year. When I returned, it was almost time for opening ceremonies, which was neat because all of Calontir's Royalty showed up and we had some nice pageantry. While waiting for Calontir, I missed a photo op as His Excellency Niklos, Lord Heir of the Northshield, snuggled with a small Siamese kitten before being called back up to the front by the Prince and Princess. However, Prince Kenneth felt the need to snuggle too, so he and Princess Leyla opened Court, had the kitten heralded in ("Their Highnesses call into Court Hector the Cuddly!"), and they each got to snuggle with the little ball of fur without leaving Court. The kitten was officially named Northshield's first Feline Champion and Royal Mouser. It also made for some nice shtick later on (Niklos: "Awww, can't we call the kitten into Court again, Dad? He's one of Your champions!" Kenneth: "No." Niklos: "Geezzz..." [and he pouts and hides in his cloak]...)

After opening ceremonies I walked up to the merchant area with Owen, who had arrived with his Lady that morning. He also had his Anglo-Saxon lyre, which drew the attention of Merowen, one of the Ladies with whom I sang backup for Mistress Gwyneth at Calontir A&S a few months ago. We had a little reunion and she then pounced on the lyre, and we got to sit down in the picnic shelter for a little while and sing and play. Ed the Tall stopped by and noticed the makeshift leather fold-around bag Owen uses to hold the lyre, and proposed to sew it up that afternoon. So, Owen and I went to Ed's comfy pavilion and kept Ed company while he cut and sewed the leather into a rather serviceable briefcase-shaped bag, complete with secure strap and handle. I finished my 10-strand gold heart kumihimo; the stitch is relatively simple and the effect is stunning. I'm going to make more. Owen immediately converted it into a neck-strap to free up his hands as he holds the lyre, which sorta works as long as he isn't moving. I told him, "Keep it and use it as a decoration on the bag." So he did. Can't think of anyone else I'd rather have carry around my hearts. ;)

Bardic was nice, though as I mentioned, it did start to rain again. I did "Lady of the Northshield", "I Love my Love" (since it worked to such great effect last weekend), and a couple of Northshield classics by request. Also got to do "Stella Splendens" again with Owen, who really has a thing for that song. There didn't seem to be any Calontiri at the circle, though there were quite a few South Dakota Northshielders I'd never met before. Notably: Fiona of the Harp, who is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/harper, and Tigerna, who is about as different from how I pictured her from her Hall posts as she could be--but somehow exactly the same!

Also had my first run-in with something that I did not consider appropriate for a Bardic circle: not due to crudeness, rudeness, out-of-periodness, the drunkenness of the performer, or anything like that. It was purely the level of sexual content. More about that tomorrow, as this post becomes dangerously long and I risk putting my reader(s?) to sleep...not to mention myself!

Thursday, September 13, 2001
Things still look damp for Armorgeddon, especially right now, if the radar is correct. The front is slanting NW to SE over the site and there seems to be rain in its immediate future. We'll pass through it as we drive tonight, probably, but let's hope it is already east of site by the time we arrive. In any case it'll be wet there. I'm wearing boots.

Also, the Cross donation page continues to skyrocket with contributions. When I donated yesterday at maybe 10 am, they had just over $200,000. Now it is up to 86,624 donors and nearly $3 million in contributions. I'd be willing to bet the Red Cross doesn't get this kind of response to their everyday campaigns--and that this chunk of change will represent a healthy part of the money they need for humanitarian response to Tuesday's atrocities.

I am feeling a bit in the minority, to hear all the anger around me: people declaring that if they had one of those terrorists in front of them, or anyone connected with them, they'd shoot them, and people saying we need to just bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age "for what they did" (which is not totally clear as of yet, but hey, why let the details get in the way, right?). I even read a very well-meaning, inspiring article saying that all people, everywhere, need to show unity and support for each other as we prepare a reaction to those who do not deserve to live.

Uh...apparently "all people, everywhere" doesn't mean what I thought it meant; was he saying that "those who do not deserve to live", i.e. the perpetrators, are not people? Very, very dangerous idea, there. After all, the majority's decision that there were those in the world who were not human, who did not deserve to live, resulted in six million of my people being killed, not so very long ago. We need to keep in mind the implications of what we say, folks. We always feel we are on the side of good, and those opposed to us are on the side of evil. They feel the same way. They were willing to die to show how strongly they felt the same way. Argue against relativism all you like--but admit that, no matter who's wrong or right, no matter if there even IS a wrong or right, just about everyone KNOWS they are right, in their deepest hearts. Even those with whom no sane person would agree.

I am also mildly irritated by some of the jingoism I see/hear. Being in the SCA, I understand the display of symbols now better than I ever did: I recall how the sight of the flag at the top of the Northshield's bell tower at Pennsic cheered me, every time I would catch sight of it on the way home to our encampment. I know how the flag is helping people, psychologically. It's comforting to them. But for people to attach so much emotional significance to an object like that just makes me nervous. Cheering at the sight of the American flag, talking about what the flag means (we have unity, we have strength, we have pride, we are shaken but not destroyed, etc.) as though it were all we needed to carry us through this all makes me quail a little. When people are shocked like this it's natural that their brains turn off and their emotions carry them for awhile. I'm waiting for some people to turn their brains back on, and decide on a logical and satisfying response that doesn't involve wrapping ourselves in the flag, screaming "U.S. is number ONE!" and throttling Afghanis with our bare hands.

On the other hand, far be it from me to stifle people's expressions of anger...I tell ya, it's a paradoxical business, this being a liberal pacifist. ;)

One thing: wouldn't I hate to be Middle Eastern in America during all this. Imagine being a doctor born in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and seeing a new look in your patients' eyes, or living in a crime-ridden part of a city and having to go into hiding to avoid 'provoking' street toughs who are just looking for anyone Middle Eastern to beat up on. Maybe it's not that bad yet, but I can see it coming--there are so many angry people in our country, just looking for a voice and an ethnic target. I hope this crisis doesn't give them both. That would infinitely deepen the wounds we have received.

Obviously: no blogging tomorrow, Saturday, or until late Sunday. I will be, with any luck, singing and hugging my way through the weekend with my friends at Armorgeddon. Have a good weekend and here's hoping we all begin to heal.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001
I am so pleased to see that Amazon has extended its useful and easy donation system to allow customers to donate to the Red Cross in a quick and painless manner. I've used their Amazon Honor System a couple of times to donate to non-profit websites that provide services that I think are important (for example, RefDesk as a useful compendium of reference web links covering every possible topic). Since I'm already an Amazon customer (as evidenced by my particularly full Wish List), they have my credit cards on file, so donating mostly consists of my selecting the amount I want to give and confirming twice that, yes indeed, I do want to give it. No entering numbers, faxing signatures, calculating costs, or additional fees. Amazon has even waived their normal fees to the non-profit for the Red Cross donation program. What a cool thing.

What I find most fun about it is that every time I re-load the page, even if I just re-loaded it a minute ago, the donation count goes up by 40 or 50 people and the amount goes up several thousand dollars. Woohoo! Help is on the way!

I'm still trying to comprehend a disaster of this magnitude that is actually caused by people, and not a volcano, earthquake, etc. In fact, the last time I felt like this, staring at the TV and thinking that if I were a Christian I'd think it was Armageddon, was in Spring 1997 when I was living in Bismarck, ND. Although the flooding where I was was small to nonexistent, we in the State Library felt a connection to the parts of the state that were really suffering, along the Red River. The flood waters kept going up. It seemed like they couldn't go any higher, but they did. We watched people work themselves to the bone filling and slinging sandbags, only to have the careless river crush their efforts in a second, take their property and nearly kill them.

This was dismaying and saddening, but what freaked me out completely was the TV coverage of downtown Grand Forks at the height of the flooding. Of course everyone had been evacuated much earlier--the water nearly covered the downtown, maybe 20 feet deep. Then the fires started. I saw all of this via helicopter camera on TV, late one night: an entire city center, drowned AND burning, ugly smoke rising from the conflagration. I just stared. Gone, gone, it's all gone. Businesses, records, property architecture, all gone, all eaten by water or fire or both. Thank goodness no one was there by that time.

You can't say that, unfortunately, about yesterday's horrors. LOTS of people were there. People were there to get crashed into the side of a building, to get burned in the subsequent explosions, to get crushed in the slide as the buildings fell, to get covered in debris and choked by dust as they fled or tried to help out, and to get crashed in a field if the original target didn't work out. There were even the type of suicides that spontaneously occur when people suddenly aren't sure if they will live or die a painful death: people leaping from windows 50 floors up, knowing they will die quickly at the bottom. This was a people disaster. There's no way around it.

I have said over and over again in this Blog that I believe most worthy institutions of any kind are about the people. The SCA could not mean what it does to me without the people I know and love in the Northshield. No library can provide effective service to its patron base without library staff who care about that patron base, work to satisfy its needs, and practice social librarianship: looking into patrons' eyes, going an extra mile to help them, and showing interest in their lives. This is a really important concept to me: that people are at the heart of anything worthwhile, and that valuing them makes anything work better. So when people are attacked, real lives ended horribly, by people who think and feel so differently from us, that's a huge, wrenching, ugly shock. Can anyone really understand why people kill other people?

I'm afraid of what happened, but more afraid of what will happen. Cool-headedness must prevail. If we grab our guns and go hunting with the intent to get vengeance now, our actions are no more justified than theirs. (Remember, they have an extensive theological and logical system to justify what they did, not unlike the theological and logical system that would urge us to take revenge quickly because an-eye-for-an-eye is a long-standing Biblical example.) I don't want war--I never want war--but of course we have to do something in the names of those who have had everything taken from them, including their lives. What that will be, I don't know, and I am profoundly grateful that I don't have to be the one to decide. I just hope those who will have to make that decision are the right people to do so.

Having been irritated Monday (and since) by the Armorgeddon weather forecast, I had considered not going. After all, I'm not driving, not teaching, don't really have a reason to be there except to enjoy the event and the friendly rivalry. And I am a little rain-shell-shocked after last Friday night at Bard Wars. And if I didn't go, I could work Friday, take Monday off, and have an extended weekend to spend combined at home/in Madison, with my family.

But then I thought: right now, I need to nestle with the people I love. And the best way to do that is to do exactly what I'd planned: nestle with work today and tomorrow, nestle with the SCA Friday/Saturday/Sunday, and nestle with my family Monday night and Tuesday (Happy New Year!). That gets me quality time with everyone I want to be with. I guess I wouldn't mind a tad less quality time with the rain at the event, but that's how the weekend is planned--if I want to ride with the people I had arranged to ride with, I have to go by their schedule. And anyway, if you check the forecast, things are shifting: now it's rain Thursday, scattered storms Friday, and only partly cloudy Saturday (and sunny Sunday). So if Janvier doesn't mind pitching his tent in the rain, and if we can stand one or two squalls Friday, we should be okay. I'm bringing my boots.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Peter Scott of LibDex has just linked my page on his Library Weblogs page, a page I've seen and thoght, "Hey, neat". I feared I wasn't library-related enough (let's face it, this is more an SCA blog than a library blog), but he says he just wants to show that librarians CREATE blogs, it doesn't matter what kind. I'm just happy to be asked. Thanks, Peter!

More about Bard Wars: the tourney was kind of cute. The idea was that for each armored fighting bout, there would be two fights and one bardic challenge. Each fighter would draw a card with a bardic assignment on it (they were fairly easy, for example: "sing a children's song", "draw a picture", "tell a limerick", "read a poem"). If the fighter did not feel up to the bardic challenge, he could 'contract out' to one of the many bards in attendance. I didn't get asked individually, but Chris got asked several times (being one of very few instrumentalists there) and each time, asked as payment that the fighter attend an event in the Northshield. (Smart!)

Rosanore, me, and Christian sang "Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie" for a Lord who was challenged to sing a love song to his Lady; as we sang, he knelt before her. A good musical moment. I couldn't help remembering singing that with certain people I'd never met before, at Valamer and Gisele's wedding in 1999, when someone from Head Table ran up and said, "They need a love song". I didn't really know Owen yet; I didn't realize the emissary from Head Table was talking to him. People didn't yet know me as a bard, though some had heard me sing in isolated instances. I offered to go get my bardic bag (no book yet, at that point), and Owen's head swiveled towards me in surprise; he said, "Do it." I ran. I tell you, from the moment I met that guy, he's been inspiring me one way or another...

Anyway, the tourney ran overtime so our classes (Rosanore, me, and Christian each taught a class) were pushed back so they ended right before Feast. I thought my class went okay. It was about resources for building a Bardic Book, and I passed around my book, gave a healthy list of websites for finding lyrics/MIDIs/poetry/other info, discussed how MIDIs work, talked about how to get the most out of a music library, and of course covered what I know of copyright (though I'm no expert). My prejudice was obviously towards period music, but I also discussed how to learn music if you don't read music, where to get Calontir-specific SCA music, and supplied at least one source of excellent filk lyrics, plus poetry, short-story, and other literature links. (What bard can help being inspired by the complete works of William Shakespeare?) A couple of people were nodding off; this was 3:30 in the afternoon. But for the most part, people stayed awake and seemed interested.

Feast was fairly good, in a cozy log-cabin-style feast hall with wooden tables and benches. As I was walking up to the building, I smelled fresh-baked bread, felt the uneven path under my feet, saw the slightly worn log-cabin wooden building and the late afternoon sun slanting through the thick forest to either side, and had an unbelievably strong flashback to camp, where before every meal I walked the crumbling path through the woods to the Lodge, where kitchen staff would have just finished the day's bread. Before Friday night dinners, the bread smell was especially strong: fresh challah for the week's most special meal. The feast hall even reminded me of the dining hall at Beber, with its ragged hangings of old banners and posters, poor lighting, dusty corners, and screened-in porch. Oddly enough it made me feel at home.

Lots of us performed at Feast; I got up and did "I Love My Love", after having decided to debut "Away With These Self-Loving Lads". (Sometimes the acoustics of the space, and the psychology of the moment, make your decision for you. I nixed "I Love My Love" at the bardic volleyball thing Friday night at Pennsic, in favor of "Stella Splendens".) "I Love My Love" is one of my few memorized songs, admittedly because we learned it in high school choir; it does make a difference to sing from memory, after all. You can communicate more directly with the crowd because you aren't always having to break gaze and look back at the words. It's also, as I've mentioned, high and loud in spots, commanding attention, and it shut the whole hall up--even though feast was technically over at that point and everyone was in the midst of cleaning up. I got lots of applause and one woman came up to me at the Bardic Circle and said she wished I had won the best performance prize. As the day's most notorious instigator, though, Christian really deserved it, and Rosanore got "best singer" for doing a great piece from the SCA's 20th anniversary event.

Rosanore and I did some Northshield songs at the Bardic Circle, to some applause--more 'popularity' applause than real pleasure. ("Oh, that's those women with the good voices who have been singing all day. Who cares what they're singing? It sounds nice. Clap hard.") Which is okay. We were mostly singing for ourselves. The Circle was a bit fractured and a bit...shall we say...damp, with alcohol I mean (the rain never did start up again), and there was a significant lack of etiquette, with people roaring away on their own conversations and making no attempt to pay attention to who might be quietly trying to start a song on the other side of the circle. It made me feel like Northshield Bardic Circles have improved immensely since I've been going to them. Informal though our circles still are, we are paragons of restraint compared to the people at the Circle at Bard Wars. Not to condemn them, they just haven't had anyone to force them to learn.

I was going to talk about musical officerships in the Shire, wasn't I? Okay, here's what happened:

  • Maggie has stepped down as Seneschal and will be autocratting Autumn Rose next year.
  • Kudrun has moved from Chronicler to Seneschal. (YAY!)
  • I have moved from Chatelaine to Chronicler. (Sad, but happy. I have missed being Chronicler.)
  • Brilliana has taken over as Chatelaine.

I instantly felt sad when I signed the Change of Officer form and realized I was no longer Chatelaine. I truly love being Chatelaine. But I'm not worried. One great thing about our group is that everyone understands the importance of recruiting, (almost) everyone is very capable of running a mini-demo and showing the SCA to great advantage, and several key people are on the lookout for demo opportunities. Truth be told, we ran an incredible number of demos during the time I was chatelaine (2 school, 2 parade, 2 county fair, one Open House, 2 event public days), and the only one that was actually conceived, scheduled, and run by me was the Open House. For everything else, I was there, helped, printed flyers, etc., but the demos themselves were coordinated by others. So, not being Chatelaine doesn't mean I won't still be welcome to pitch in. Everyone is needed.

I also have some hope that I'll be picked as Principality Chatelaine. Everyone reading this, keep your fingers crossed for me...!

Monday, September 10, 2001

Yesterday I got an e-mail from Geocities (I assume it was from's so hard to tell these days), informing me that my website exceeds the monthly allotted bandwidth for a free site (3 MB) and that if I don't want parts of it shut off during random hours of the day, I need to pay for additional bandwidth through their premium site plan. I'm amazed that my site is commanding so much bandwidth, but knowing that a) site statistics are steadily going up, and b) it's safe to say that more people are looking for photos of me in a bodice than are, say, browsing my bardic book, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. What does surprise me is that this announcement should come just as they are debuting their premium site program (the link is marked "New!" on their main page), and that they should not even mention how much I am going over my 3 MB. It makes it seem like a blatant sales pitch and makes me wonder if, indeed, I am actually going over the 3 MB limit, or if they simply did a mass mailing to promote the new program.

The plan, at $8.95/month, also would allow me perks such as no ads on my site (that'd actually be nice), additional storage space (don't need it), 5 customized "" addresses (don't need them), my own URL (hmmm...but is taken), and many add-ons/services which are already available to me for free. Sarcasm aside, I'm thinking about it. It would be nice to get rid of that irritating pop-up ad, to rid myself of the stigma associated with a address, and to have my own URL. And if it would keep Geocities from further attempts to market their Premium Programs to me, it may well be worth it. ;)

Well, hey. There are many ways to go about it. I'll think about it for awhile. It's not like Geocities has never blacked out parts of my site for no reason, it's just that they've always done it unintentionally, not as any sort of structured punishment for not paying them. ;) Besides, there are other ways to go about getting a domain name, and if I'd wanted to do it before now, I would have done it. So I'll think about it.

Bard Wars was good, but didn't start that way. It was at a ramshackle campgrounds in rural Iowa (which seems bigger than rural Wisconsin for some reason), with cabins that were comfortable but not what I'd call clean. (I found mouse droppings under the blanket with which I'd covered the vinyl mattress. I KNEW I should have tucked it in.) Friday night wasn't pleasant: I arrived at around 11:30, tired and scared, with rain sheeting down around me to the point where I couldn't see anything. Drove around the campsite for 20 minutes looking for a building that looked like it had people in it. As it let up slightly I drove up to the main hall, where 15 people on the porch stood in light and dryness and watched me drive up, none of them bothering to come out with an umbrella and help ease my arrival. I got out of the car in the pouring rain with no umbrella, picked my way through the mud to go up to the hall (hoping against hope that check-in was inside), pushed through several people who didn't want to move in order to get to the door, and went inside.

Dripping, I tried to convince the woman at check-in that she really did know where I was supposed to sleep and what the schedule was for Saturday. (Nothing irritates me more than someone who vacillates, claims not to know, stalls, makes it up, argues, etc., instead of calling for an answer from someone in authority, when asked questions she is supposed to know the answer to.) She also charged me the full amount for the cabin, since I was the first to arrive, despite Christian's having been assured that they would wait until he arrived to charge him for it. This took all my cash, and my checkbook being lost in the bottom of my soggy purse, I got put on the list as 'yet to pay' for site and feast. Of course Chris paid me back, and they graciously spotted me a site token, but it was still irritating. I was assigned to an empty cabin, where I went, shivering, alone, cold, and feeling generally un-SCA-like. I woke up the same way, except mildly pleased to see that the rain had stopped.

The next day, my friends didn't arrive until around 11, but when they did, things started to look up. More about the actual event later, plus 'musical officers' news about the Shire after the populace meeting yesterday.

Thursday, September 06, 2001
Today is going so much better than yesterday. In retrospect, the whole world seemed to be having trouble yesterday. All around me all day, people seemed easily piqued, argumentative, whiny, depressed. Full moon syndrome? I don't actually know if the moon was full last night. The Weather Channel website (sorry, no link if it doesn't give me the information I need) doesn't give moon phases.

Well, so anyway. Last night I got done the errands I needed to get done (or, in a couple cases, established that they for sure weren't going to get done), went home, did laundry, did a little packing for Bard Wars, and spent the rest of the evening playing around on my newly-re-established LambdaMOO account and ignoring two messages on my answering machine. I feel terrible because one was from Tuesday, and one was from Wednesday afternoon--my response was already overdue by the time I got home last night, but I didn't even think to check my messages until I was turning off lights and noticed the flashing light on the machine. Worse, one was from Chris asking about my plans for last night; I sure hope he didn't sit around at home waiting for me to arrive, and miss the meeting. I have GOT to get direct instructions to that meeting site, and then whether I'm coming or not, he won't have to sit and wait for me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2001
I forgot to note that I had kind of an odd dream last night. I dreamed that I went to Japan with some friends (not anyone in particular, just some generic people I knew to be my friends). Not knowing anything about Japanese culture or what it might be like to visit there, the only way I know it was Japan was that I bought quite of bit of chocolate that tasted just like those little chocolate hamburger cookies Tara brought back for me from Japan. In fact the main feature of the dream was that I was shopping a lot, stopping at small family grocery places (much like my favorite Asian stores in Madison) and picking up all kinds of interesting little trinkets: jewelry, tassels, trim, Hello Kitty stuff, and much, much interesting food and chocolate. I was having a blast.

Then one day the authorities raided my room and took everything. I remember that they were raiding my room secondary to my being arrested for something else (some kind of political misunderstanding, I don't know), not simply because I had been shopping too much. It was nothing that was my fault, that much I remember. The really odd thing was that I don't remember being taken away, threatened, manhandled, talked to in quick Japanese, etc., or any of the scary things that must happen when someone is arrested in a foreign country. That part of the process just didn't make it into my dream. When I returned, though, I remember being really upset that they'd taken all the things I had shopped for, all the things I was really enjoying, and left my room totally empty--and there was no hope of getting them back. I just stood in the room feeling that it was so unfair that I had lost all my chocolate, and wondering what recourse I had.

I know what it means. It means I have to do some serious thinking. It also means I wish I could find some good Japanese chocolate, but that's mostly just because I spent most of the night tasting it, so now I'm hungry for it. ;)

Not a good day so far. Having been busy last night (choir) and tomorrow night (choir marketing committee meeting), I had to write and tell Chris that I couldn't come to Minneapolis tonight for what he calls the "really BIG Nordskogen meeting", where they dress up, hold Baronial court, etc. Life is very busy in other ways as well.

I always judge my level of anxiety/upset by whether I a) want chocolate, or b) can't even remotely imagine eating anything. I'm at b) right now. I'm sure I can coax myself back down to a) when I get home tonight. It just gives me a little extra measure of anxiety just to realize I have reached that level of anxiety, you know? It's not normal for me.

So. The day can only get better from here.

Monday, September 03, 2001
Autumn Rose went extremely well, better than last year if you ask me. I have three pages of sign-ins to add to our mailing list, and if I had to estimate numbers, I'd have to put the number of visiting mundanes at over 250 throughout the day (not counting those who drove through the campground this morning while we were cleaning up, misled by this story from the La Crosse Tribune into thinking that the Medieval Festival was going to be going on Sunday too. (I am usually pretty tough on newspapers, but it is no exaggeration--good lord, I wish it were--to say that I have never yet read a story in the La Crosse Tribune that didn't have at least one serious inaccuracy. Someone please send me a gift subscription to the Capital Times, or better yet, the Isthmus!) The A&S Challenge earned something ridiculous like $38, more than twice what it did last year. And Maggie says we had 135 SCA folk sign in, making it the biggest Autumn Rose ever.

More importantly, wherever I looked, whatever I was doing, I saw people around me having fun. Dancing, singing, heavy and light fighting, archery, merchanting, eating, washing dishes, equestrian, a Court to be reckoned with, and rather filk-filled bardic (we had two people who came armed with their copies of the ElfHill Times songbook, which is not to my taste but if it gets people singing, I'm willing to live with it).

Kudrun is the new Bard of Rokeclif, having wowed us with her performance of one of the Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X, in her own translation. Actually she tied with a new transplant to the Northshield, a Laurel in Juggling (!) from An Tir, who was there with his family and asked to compete in the contest. I felt a little bad because although I told him what the requirements were to participate (his piece had to mention, or have as a theme, "Autumn", "Rose", or "Rokeclif"), he neglected to fulfill them. When the applause had been given, and I referred the judging to Head Table, His Excellency Niklos brought up the requirements and said he thought that was the deciding factor between the two; the rest of the Head Table folks agreed, as did I. So Kudrun is our new Bard. Couldn't ask for a finer successor.

Another new transplant, this time from Ealdormere to Nordskogen, arrived to collaborate on a scribal project with a visitor from Bloomington, Indiana. They set up in the back of the A&S hall and before I even had a chance to look at what they were working on, the gentleman from Indiana came up front and asked for the person who had done the scribal work in the Challenge. I stepped forward and he asked if I'd like to help out with some initials on the scrolls they were working on. When I went back to look at them I discovered--gasp--they were doing the County scrolls for Their Majesties of the Middle Kingdom, Bardolph and Brigh, who will become Count Bardolph and Countess Brigh when they step down at the end of this month. I trembled, I blanched, I shook, I said, "Okey-doke". So, although I didn't do the gilding because I don't know how and didn't have time to learn, I did the drawing, painting and whitework for two small D's on the King and Queen's County scrolls! Plus, I got some nice pointers from the Indiana fellow, who, it turns out, besides being a fantastic illuminator (you should see the peacock feathers in the scroll borders...WOW), is a gov. docs. cataloger. (Librarians are lurking everywhere.) He even gave me some feedback as we went, and commented on the scribal pieces I had in A&S. Talk about an opportunity. I was so honored.

But I would have to say it was Their Excellencies, Niklos and Aramanthra, who really made the event for everyone. They were so down-to-earth, and so complementary of everything at the event. They loved their house (apparently most events don't provide actual houses for visiting Royalty at their camping events...well, I think they ought to consider doing so, don't you?), which we helped make more homey by using the quilt bars hanging from the ceiling for draping fabric in a canopy over the airbed. We also had a table and chairs, a floral arrangement (which I got to order and pick up), and a nice toiletries basket. They really seemed to enjoy feast too. Niklos said he could not believe it was Sarra's first time as feast-o-crat--Aramanthra is a cooking Laurel and had some very nice things to say to Sarra.

They held a forum (not being Prince and Princess yet, they can't hold their own Court, though they did open Principality court as regents for just a minute to give Matthias of Rolling Oaks his AoA, long long long overdue) and awarded all the 7 virtues tokens that Sarra had embroidered, that we'd thought we were going to have to award, but their selections--and the reasons for those selections--were so much better than we could have come up with. They gave the Loyalty award to Rocky the Horse, Lady Anna's daughter's horse, for authorizing 9 new riders Saturday (and more than 50 since he started doing SCA equestrian work!). Courage went to Lady Simonis, who had just authorized Saturday morning in heavy weapons; since Aramanthra was one of the first authorized woman fighters in the Middle Kingdom 20 years ago, it was pretty neat to see her give the token to Simonis. I couldn't name all of them, but each one was an inspiration to all of us.

Anyway, they were so nice and so pleasant and friendly, and before they left they promised they'd be back next year--and requested the same accomodations! Maggie told them that if we got royalty next year, they would take precedence, but that we would find a place for Niklos and Aramanthra--and if we didn't get royalty, they'd have the same house. If you think about it, we have quite the selection of structures at that campground--I'm reasonably sure we could accomodate another couple of sets of royalty with their own buildings, without having to significantly curtail public use of the buildings. We're pretty lucky.

What else? memory is going. It's nearly 2:30 am and my sleep schedule is all thrown off. I slept Friday night on the folding cot and, when the folding cot finally broke, slept Saturday night on the ground, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. However, the volunteer fire department sirens went off at 6:45 this morning and woke us all up, so none of us really got the sleep we needed. After I got back from cleanup, I tried to do some reading and was again overcome by tiredness. But I didn't let myself sleep more than a couple of hours, which had the effect of a) making me feel kind of sick and gross on waking and b) not helping much. So I am pretty tired. But I'm celebrating Labor Day by staying up ridiculously late while refusing to clean all the event junk out of my car. It'll wait until tomorrow. it won't. My allergy medication is in my toiletries bag in my large the center of my back seat. *sigh* All right, up and at it...

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