Monday, January 28, 2002

Trivia's over. I'm always so sad after it ends (yes, always, even the years when it wasn't that much fun for various reasons). Our team, "Lord of the Iowans: Fellowship of the Corn", finished a proud 3rd (again); the first place team was quite far ahead of the pack, the 2nd place team was far enough ahead of us that only the Super Garruda would have jumped us up, and the 4th and 5th place teams were on our heels. I don't think we ever really worried, though, just stayed steady, made sure all the phones were in use at all times, and used a sensible, though unplanned, sleep schedule.

Speaking of sleep, I think this was the least amount of sleep I ever got during Trivia. I always used to say that I needed at least 10 hours between Friday morning and Sunday ~midnight when the contest is supposed to end. This year, I slept Saturday morning 7:30-12, Sunday morning 6:30-9, and dozed through the Garrudas Sunday night, between about 11:30 and 1:15 (that was when the Garrudas finally ended; I know it's supposed to be a 50-hour Trivia contest, but what's an hour and a quarter extra between friends?). Total: 4.5 + 2.5 + 1.75 = 8.75 hours. What's more, I did most of it on the floor in the main Trivia room; 3 hours or so late Saturday morning were in one of our host's bedrooms, but when his younger son came in with a toy airplane and started running around the room making plane noises, not realizing I was there, that put an end to that. Normally I would get a motel for the weekend, but I was trying to conserve funds, and maximize the amount of time I was available to the team if needed.

I did, of course, stay in a motel last night, a cozy Microtel near the Fox River Mall, where I was able to get about 7 hours before noon check-out today. Ah, but it wasn't enough...! It never is. In fact I ought to be wrapping up soon, so I can get some extra sleep in tonight.

This year was very good. Only okay on the Trivia Masters' end. The questions were fair-to-middling and they only got through 400-something of them; they continued the relentless trend away from fun Dr. Demento-style music and towards boring pop music; they inexplicably lost all the skit carts like "Toby and Gongor", "Bill the Snowflake", "Little Richard Alarm System", and some of the better shutout carts; they changed the end-of-question beeper to a buzzer (which I found jarring and never did get used to, but at least it didn't sound just like the cell phones' beep tone), and even more of the phone answerers stuck to the 3-answer, 30-second rule than have done so over the past few years. (Some even took it further, taking only one or two answers per call, at their whim. This reached its height during Mean Hour, when the Trivia Masters played four CDs at a time just to give us headaches, and encouraged phone answerers to hurl verbal abuse at callers. I must say I don't enjoy Mean Hour, but unfortunately it's just irritating enough to become a tradition.)

Also, many of the traditional theme hours and gimmicks have departed with their originating Trivia Masters: there were no Audio Questions this year, no Lightning Rounds (apparently someone finally figured out that they weren't fair to teams with fewer than four phone lines), and no Jewish Trivia or visit from the Rabbi on Sunday morning. Lastly, the strange man with the speech impediment who used to guest host on Sunday afternoon was not in evidence during this contest. Hey, I'm the first one to admit that SOME traditions need to be flushed out...!

As I mentioned in my last post, I seem to have developed a skill with finding answers on the Internet. Either that, or the Internet has finally accumulated enough useless information to allow me to find it relatively easily, using Google, WISCAT, the Library of Congress' catalog, and the occasional dip into a team member's Lexis/Nexis account. If I had to guess, I'd say my searching (sometimes with prompting or ideas from another team member) got us maybe 14-15 questions, about what my phone skills usually get; I got fewer on the phone, but still did a good job of keeping phone answerers talking on the phone. I didn't do a ton of computer time, only four or five hours total, and tried to split the rest of my time between phone duty, acting as runner between the computer room and living room, and relaxation time. (Got a little kumihimo done: I learned a new stitch that looks nice!).

Three or four times I had an answerer talking after the buzzer, and nearly got them to stay on with me into the next question, but never did. Being able to do this at least once is my benchmark for success in the contest; one year I kept one hapless phone answerer on for four questions. Either I'm losing my touch, or the Trivia Masters are doing a better job of checking to make sure all phones are down before reading the next question.

I love the team. They are the best, just the best, especially the original members, but I do have a soft spot for those Whitewater boys (and their moms, who send along the best cookies). They are all really good at this game, and manage to keep things fun and relaxed all weekend, as opposed to teams I've been on where people get cranky with lack of sleep and take things too seriously.

I think the most fun I had all weekend was sitting in the computer room during my self-assigned running duty (we were having communication problems again, with phone people not being able to hear computer people shouting out answers). Between questions I sat in the computer room and shot the breeze with Chris and Nick, who are among the coolest guys I know, and who are remarkably easy to talk to for academicians with PhD's in computer science. They got into a punning match, just to irritate me, while I covered my ears and hollered "I can't hear you I can't hear you". I don't remember any of the puns now, but I do recall some involving Claire, the stuffed loon, on loan to me from Owen. (I wanted at least one SCA friend along during Trivia. Though now that I think of it, next year I should try to convince Owen himself to come. He'd love it.) Turns out Claire doesn't like Chris, and would occasionally, only when she was being held by Nick, suddenly fly at Chris, aiming for his crotch. Lucky thing Chris has good reflexes and was able to move out of her path. I will have to talk to Claire about this disturbing behavior.

All right, sleep is calling, and that's all I needed to say about Trivia for the time being. On to the rest of the week. With any luck, I will not forget Choir tomorrow night, thinking it's Monday instead of Tuesday.

Saturday, January 26, 2002

Here I am at Trivia, between questions. If you want to hear what I'm hearing (with an unspecified amount of delay), visit, where the webcast is being broadcast. That didn't come out right. Oh well. It's Trivia and I've been up for nearly 24 hours.

Don't e-mail me with answers--like I said, there's a certain amount (maybe minutes, maybe hours) of delay, and anyway I can only rarely spare a moment to check e-mail. Questions only last 5 min. so the point would be moot. But thank you (in advance) for the thought!

I just found the answer to a question! They asked, "Whose head is Ugolino gnawing on?" Someone knew it was from the Inferno so I did a Google search and found that he was gnawing on Ruggieri's head. So it was a cooperative effort. I feel glad to be helping. I seem to have moved from being a book research person, to being a phone person, to being an Internet research person, over the course of my Trivia career. Change is good.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Just two days until Trivia begins. Yay! The guys are all over the e-mail list trying to come up with silly team names. So far nothing they've come up with really grabs me. Of course since I won't be there until nearly time for the fun to begin, I pretty much am stuck with whatever they choose. That's okay--as long as it's long and has hard-to-spell words, as a phone person, I'm happy. The longer we can keep the phone answerers on the phone, the better!

Tonight I took myself out to dinner at the Freight House, just for fun, then spent a couple of hours gamboling through the public library's main branch, looking for Trivia fodder. Last year I was only staying part of the weekend, so I didn't bother doing a library run before the contest. So this is the first time I've done the Trivia thing using LaXPL's collection. I was delighted with the selection. And, get this, they have no book limit, so I brought four armloads of books out to the car. Note to self: find a sturdy box for transporting all this knowledge or you'll never get it out of the car.

The Kingdomality quiz is again making the rounds of the Northshield e-mail list. This is a personality quiz from a career consulting company that purports to tell you, after a series of preference questions, what your medieval occupation would have been. It's more storybook than history, but it's a step up on the authenticity meter from the Lord of the Rings Character Quiz, which has been bopping around the list for two weeks now (though to their credit, some people started writing LoTR haiku to express their character's identity, which I thought was neat). After taking the test tonight I am told I'm a Shepherd, with a job description following:

Your distinct personality, The Shepherd is to tend to your human flock. You understand the needs of those for whom you are responsible. Shepherds are vigilant and reliable. You realize your obligation and commitment to the well being of those entrusted to your care. Shepherds are very dependable. You engender a feeling of comfort and stability to those within your charge. On the positive side, Shepherds can be empathic, caring, understanding, practical and realistic. On the negative side, you may be manipulative, close-minded and sentimentally rigid. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.

Sorry, but I'm the furthest thing from being a responsible, vigilant caretaker. Oh well--what can you expect from a quiz that tries to tell you who you would have been in the Middle Ages based on whether you like going to restaurants, whether you like efficient or creative work, whether you prefer competitive relationships to meaningful ones, etc.?

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

We're doing Cesar Cui's incredibly beautiful Magnificat, in Slavonic, at the La Crosse Chamber Chorale concert next weekend. That's Feb. 2 and 3, at the Maria Angelorum chapel near the Viterbo campus in La Crosse: Saturday the 2nd at 7:30 pm, and Sunday the 3rd at 3 pm. Other music on the program: Mozart's cute Regina Coeli, which even rises above the conductor's mandate that we sing it in German Latin pronunciation (ewwwwww). Also, a medley of spirituals in late celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Herbert Howell's "A Spotless Rose", and all three movements of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms in Hebrew.

The Chorale members (especially, for some reason, the tenors) have been a bit slow to pick up on the Hebrew pronunciation. The conductor keeps apologizing to me for their lack of diction. Finally I said, "You guys, don't worry about it, I promise I won't tell G-d you're messing up His language." That got a laugh, since we rehearse in a church--I suspect G-d has the place bugged. ;)

Tonight a wonderful countertenor from Winona came to rehearse the solo part in the second movement of the Chichester Psalms, a gorgeous solo that I have only heard done by a woman or a boy soprano--never by a countertenor. This guy's voice is pure silk, with muscle behind it, too. He himself is a relatively short person of perhaps 38 with a fleshy face, clear gaze, nervous smile, and a mane of shiny black-red curls. (Not to name names, but he's the director of this Winona, MN-based ensemble, which my friend Karyn/Kudrun raves over.) He showed up in a dress shirt and black suit, which made him look as if he had stopped in on the way to a hot date. On his way out, he said sort of unassumingly, "You guys sound great. That sounds like it's hard." This referring to the fiendishly difficult tenor and bass sections in the second movement, legendary as tongue-twisters and quite beyond some of our singers. A flatterer who doesn't mince words; that's a novelty. ;) Anyway, I enjoyed hearing him--it'll be fun to sing the piece with him doing the solo.

On a completely different subject, this article introduces a decided innovation: an ovulation predictor kit that allows women to judge when they will be ovulating based on a saliva test. (Not that I am currently looking to make use of my own fertility. But you never know...and the longer I wait, the more likely I will have to pay attention to this sort of thing in order to get pregnant, right?) In a nutshell, salt levels in women's saliva peak at ovulation, after going up over the course of the preceding few days. So not only can women tell when they are ovulating by looking at the dried saliva on a test plate and seeing the salt crystallize into 'fern' patterns, they can also tell when it is a few days away by whether they see smaller salt formations on the plate.

I had no idea women's saliva became more saline during ovulation. That totally explains why my lips get sensitive and easily chapped around the time I'm ovulating. Huh! You learn something new every day.

Now: off to sleep. I can use my rest tonight.

Monday, January 21, 2002

Here is the second part of Tristan Trout's screed against the SCA. (Turns out his real name is Ken Mondschein. This guy has the gall to write about how much he hates the SCA under the name of his SCA persona!) In Part II, Tristan focusses on someone he sees as typical of the clueless, antisocial losers who join the SCA: "Cloak Boy", his name for a former college roommate. Sure, I know people like this (or with some of this person's characteristics). Some are in the SCA. Some aren't. Tristan takes a roundabout path, obviously enjoying ridiculing Cloak Boy, and ends up with a ho-hum point: that it's bad to be a total conformist, and it's bad to take nonconformism to an extreme, so you should take a middle ground. Thanks, buddy, now I truly know how to live my life.

And, uh...what does this have to do with the SCA again? If I quit the SCA, would I suddenly have a life? It could be argued that I have no life now (and it could be argued that I do, but we can save that argument for another day). If I suddenly had nothing to do on the weekends, how exactly would that improve my life? Would it give me the hankering to hang out in bars and find a hard-drinkin' man? Would it free up my mind for spiritual matters and allow me to find G-d? Would it drive me to study the stock market and make a fortune out of my savings? Would it allow me to travel to Europe, adopt a child, join the Peace Corps, buy a gorgeous house? How about anything else people normally consider to signify "having a life"? No. It would, however, finally allow me to go back to the scintillating hobby I picked up living in North Dakota: quilting. Woohoo. My life would be redeemed. Hallelujah.

I don't need to be saved from the SCA. I have a life, and I like it.

6-day work week last week; I worked a health fair Saturday. Then I slept for about 13 hours Saturday night, in two shifts: fell asleep after finishing a book (The Catsitters by James Wolcott, as aimless and content-free a novel as any I've ever read, but entertaining on a page-by-page level) at 7pm or so, woke up at 10:30, looked for SNL but it was pre-empted by a cancer telethon, so I watched the end of MadTV and my first Buffy: the Vampire Slayer in quite awhile, and worked on my current kumihimo project. Then I went back to sleep and slept until 11 Sunday. I had a dozen things I needed to get done, but I didn't seem to have any motivation. It seems like, if there's no chance I will get done all the things I need to get done, why even start? I am so behind...

Had a weird dream early this morning: I was touring some large city with lots of historic monument-type sights--Washington D.C., maybe? I don't know. As I walked around looking at historic buildings, I found a man-made pond in a parklike setting, nestled in between two buildings. It had a complex wooden pathway around it that led onto a wooden bridge over the pond. The water was dark and, I assumed, not very deep, and I thought, hey, I should walk up on that bridge. I'd see the whole city reflected. So I walked on the pathway and stepped up onto the end of the bridge, holding onto the wooden handrails.

As I walked out over the water it seemed like the bridge was not what I had thought (not that the bridge was changing, but that my earlier judgement was gradually being revealed to be faulty): it was actually very flimsy, made in spots of single boards, and not capable of holding a person's weight. It started bowing and dipping towards the water. For some reason I felt like I had to keep walking and try to get across to the raised platform on the other side of the pond. As I clung to the reedlike handrails, leaning back and trying to keep walking, the wooden walkway bowed so far down that it was underwater. My feet went forward, my legs stretched horizontal in front of me, my butt headed for the water, and I tried to keep my feet on the flimsy wooden boards in front of me. Foot first, then butt, went underwater, and I couldn't yet feel or see the bottom of the pond. I watched the murky darkness absorb my shoes. I started to think: I'm not going to make it across. Count on me to drown in a pond in a park in my own frickin' dream.

That was when I woke up, not to my alarm or any sound, but because of my own fright. I wasn't panting, my heart wasn't racing, but I was lying there thinking, that's BAD. That's a really BAD dream. Not a frivolously scary dream of something that'll never happen, but a depressive, dismaying dream that represents something that's really going to happen. Since then I've had a sort of a feeling of impending doom hanging over me. I think I know what it's about, and I feel the same way about that event as I do about the dream: that there is nothing I can do to prepare for it, that all I can do is trust to my lucky stars to save me, in something that seems to have very little to do with either luck or skill.

It's not going to be a good week.

Thursday, January 17, 2002
Heard just now on Blind Date, a man explains his proclivities: "I don't think I'm kinky. I think I'm just horny." Well, I can see why he'd want to make that distinction, I guess...

Been a little busy, but here are some links:

I just got a fabric sample pack from Istok Enterprises, a company that imports Russian religious items such as altar furniture, icons, censers, etc. They have an extremely fine selection of brocade fabrics, some in an unidentified fabric (probably virgin polyester) for $20-30 a meter, and many of the same designs in silk (!) for $8.95-12.95 a meter (!!!!!). That last price might seem like a lot if you are used to buying raw silk with the 50% off coupon at S.R. Harris. This kind of stuff, even if you did find it at Harris (which is doubtful), would cost quite a bit more even with the coupon--this is intricate brocade, some with metallic accents, in lovely symmetrical designs. Many feature religious symbols such as various styles of crosses, crowns, eggs, chi/rhos, etc. but a few are not noticeably religious. And the colors are incredible.

I can't decide whether to invest in anything right now, so I'm going to think about it. I do know one thing, though. When I decide what I want, when I've become familiar with most of the fabric designs so I can then rely on the website to guide me in future purchases, those fabric samples are going to become the most gorgeous postage-stamp quilt the world has ever seen. I'm sharpening my rotary cutter in anticipation.

This article in an online 'zine called Corporate Mofo is by someone named Tristan Trout (really), who laments his SCA past and likes to complain about how fat the women are in the SCA. The author seems a bit conflicted, taking a dozen or so paragraphs to explain how lame, imaginary, stupid, and embarrassing the SCA is, how we are all deluding ourselves and living in total fantasy. Then he back-tracks in three paragraphs at the end, admitting that the SCA gave him three things that have been really valuable to him: a chance to 'do-over' the social lessons he failed in high school, exposure to hobbies he still loves such as fencing and equestrian activities, and 'some sort of direction in life' (an MA in history, it turns out).

I suppose it's a good thing that he recognizes that the SCA, like anything, can be a mixed blessing. But he seems to be placing a bit too much emphasis on the things he hates about the organization. He wraps up with a final jab, telling us: "...there are those out there who need help. Those who, trapped in the Great American Heartland, see no way to liven up their existence, except by slowly ruining their lives with a mass hallucination." Hey, uh, I don't know where he lives, but is that a poke at midwesterners? 'Cause it's not fair to generalize when the SCA is much thicker on both coasts than it is in the midwest.

Better than the article itself are the links he sticks unobtrusively into the text:

  • "Cultic Households and Groups in the SCA", a detailed and rather serious screed about the psychology of controlling, paranoid groups in the SCA--not mentioning any in particular. Smacks roundly of Master Ioseph of Locksley, though it's not signed. I don't know of any groups like this, outside of the rumors and second-hand stories I've heard about the Penroses (the household which was prevalent in this area before I arrived here).
  • "The SCAtanic Verses", a satirical encyclopedic list of SCA definitions written in 1990. Screamingly funny in spots. The authors (Ealdormereans, I think) define real terms as they are commonly (mis)understood in SCA practice, for example:

    • "Households all had names, usually beginning with the word 'House'. Most of them had badges as well. Households were a device which allowed people to have relatives from widely divergent times and places."
    • "Italy did not exist until the Renaissance. Italians loved to dance and hated to fight. They often wore short tunics. The Renaissance was invented in Italy. It began when Petrarch wrote in his diary, 'Everyone in Florence has begun wearing short tunics and tights. It must be the Renaissance.'"

One more thing: I wanted to point out Toki's Yahoo! photo album from Twelfth Night. Check out the pic of me sitting on the floor (the 15th one on the first page) during Nordskogen Baronial Court, bound up in my Felix Needleworthy gown but not yet ready to show full cleavage, so I had my cloak closed. Well, mostly closed. I was being silly and I shook it partway open when I saw Toki aiming the camera. Who says I'm not a ham?

I know I said I would sum up Twelfth Night. I'll get to it, though possibly not for another couple of days.

Sunday, January 13, 2002

I just found an .mp3 of Niamh Parsons singing a peppy piece called Alexander, one of those very quirky Irish songs that seems to exist only to exhibit strange and lovely ways of saying universal things:

Your sweet celestial charms they have wounded quite my brain,
Your skin's far whiter than the swan swims o'er yon purling stream.

You are tall, genteel and handsome, you are modest, mild and free
And as the lodestone varies you draw the heart from me.

Yes, that's how I'll know when I'm in love--my brain will hurt. "So, when did you first notice this headache, Jennifer?" "Well, Doctor, it was about the time I met my true love. By the way, he has extremely white skin. Can you recommend a good sunblock for him?"

Got back about three hours ago from Twelfth Night. Wow. Another incredible wonderful event. I didn't stay up all night last night, like I did last time the event was held at Camp Courage (Alexandr was nowhere to be found--he finally got around to giving me a hug as I was going around heralding part of site this morning), but I only got about 4 1/2 good hours of sleep, so I'm not even going to attempt to give a rundown right now of everything that happened at the event.

Here's one wonderful thing as a teaser: At lunch yesterday, Princess Aramanthra came by to give me a 12th Night present, saying, "I hope this will be useful in your studies of the bardic arts." I opened it and it was a book of medieval Jewish poetry from Spain--exactly the type of thing my French/Jewish persona would have had access to, through her father's family who left Spain years before she was born. Wow! I got a lot of thoughtful and sweet presents from friends this weekend, but none of them fits my SCA interests quite so perfectly as Her Highness' gift. I was just bowled over. "I haunt used bookstores," she explained with a smile and a shrug.

Between her remembering me with such a perfect gift, and Prince Niklos' signing my webpage guestbook last week, I feel well-and-truly noticed. They say that attention is the most precious and valuable commodity any peer, Royal or otherwise, can bestow on anyone else. I personally would amend that to say that by giving attention, anyone--not just peers--makes other people feel valuable. Recently someone told me that if I ever needed to learn something that he could teach, I had his full attention. If you knew the amount of people clamoring for this person's attention, you would know what a compliment this was. One of my fondest hopes is that I can become better at giving people my attention--and one of my greatest sources of pride is that others seem to seek it.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

This is a good week to have Friday off. I am SO looking forward to a 3-day weekend. And of course, I'm looking forward even more to 12th Night. For those non-SCA-folk who might read my page, Twelfth Night was originally (pre-1600) a celebration of the twelfth night of Christmas--yeah, like the song. Practically since the inception of the SCA in the mid-60's, celebrating Twelfth Night as an excuse for an SCA event has been tradition. (Yes, a 36-year-old organization has traditions.) Any weekend in January can host a Twelfth Night celebration in any given group or region, ranging from small evening gatherings with mostly local folks, to huge regional or even Kingdom-level events that are the social event of the season.

Themes might vary: in just our region, this season we have a Masquerade Ball Twelfth Night (in Pennington City, SD), a Winter Camping Twelfth Night (in Minneapolis), a Caravan to India Twelfth Night (in Winnipeg), and nearby, The Telltown Fair: A Celtic Twelfth Night (in Chicago). But the idea is usually the same, that after the holidays, when we have spent several weeks immersed in family celebrations with basically nothing going on in the SCA, we want to dive back in again, and maybe give some presents to our SCA friends at a religion-neutral celebration.

Tomorrow Sarra and I leave for the Minneapolis celebration. When I say it's a winter camping event, don't get too worried about me trying to erect a tent in the snow. First of all, there probably isn't any snow on the ground there--there certainly isn't here, after several days with the temperature reaching above freezing. Secondly, we all know I can't erect a tent by myself to save my life, snow or no. But the main reason is that the event is held at a really wonderful winterized camp for disabled kids. The cabins are spacious and well-appointed, with real beds (no cots or squeaky boy scout bunks) and fireplaces and cozy sitting rooms, with views over the river. Sure, you have to walk around to get to the various buildings, and yes, this site (along with the former W&W site in Osseo) is one of the few sites at which I've spent a weekend that I still can't find my way around. Oh well. Last time the event was there (two years ago) I used my lack of directional skills as an excuse to grab friends and walk around with them.

Perhaps that's the main difference between me and my SCA persona. Jennifer spends holidays alone at home, getting stuff done and enjoying the luxury of not having to deal with anyone else. Eliane spends events keeping an eye out for people she hasn't seen in ages, and hoping she gets to spend enough time with each of the fabulous human beings she is lucky to call friends. And they're both happy with this.

Anyway, the weather is supposed to be nice (high in the mid 30's, no lower than 15 at night), with no snow until Sunday when it should be light. And this year, the bardic circle is taking place on the lower level of the building we're staying in. What does this mean? This year I can stay up until all hours at the bardic circle--in my pajamas!

We're leaving at 10 am tomorrow and stopping on the way in Rochester to eat at Victoria's. For any college-time friends or acquaintances who might read this page, the Victoria's in Rochester is EXACTLY the same restaurant as the Victoria's in Appleton on the Ave, that we used to walk to in the cold, snow and sleet just for the chance to sample something new from the mile-long menu. The logo's the same, the soup tastes the same, and the menu is identical, right down to the dishes named after customers. Now that I can go to Victoria's without driving 5 hours, I am left with the pleasant conundrum of trying to decide where to eat the Monday after Trivia, when I will be in Appleton recovering. The Greek place? The Japanese place? The Caribbean place? The place that serves excellent non-alcoholic blue raspberry margaritas? It's so hard to choose...

About Trivia: Last year I had to leave early (Saturday afternoon) due to a choir concert. This did not make me happy. I love Trivia. (Some things I have loved for a lot longer than I've loved the SCA.) Consequently I wasn't around to witness the final results, as I normally would be. But I just found this list of final standings from 2001. We came in 6th (we were Temptation Iowans...long story), only 35 points down from the third place spot, and immediately before the group I played with in 1997. This after several years in a row in the top three. I can imagine what morale was like at the end of the weekend, when we realized we had no prize waiting for us down at the station. It's probably just as well that I wasn't there. This year, we'll hope for a turnaround and a return to the top three.

I'm not posting which ones are our jam team names. Technically, fake team names are against the rules, but if you register a fake name at the beginning and call it in consistently once you already have the answer, it can do quite well. These are called jam team names, because you use them to call back into the station once your real team has gotten the points, so as to tie up the phone lines and keep other teams from being able to call in. I remember the year I played with Trever/Sage, when we were docked 100 points because the team captain was caught cheating (he had a portable phone in the corner with which he was in secret communication with an off-campus team; he got caught when the Trivia Masters called his dorm room extension, into which he had plugged the portable phone...and he answered with, "Do you know the answer?"). We went from 1st to maybe 6th in one fell swoop--and two of our jam team names beat us! Small comfort, but comfort nonetheless. ;)

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Tonight: miscellaneous pre-event stuff. Stopped by Shopko for supplies: a new hammer (no idea where my old one is), a shower curtain liner, Spree hearts for the trip, M&M's for the bardic circle, dental floss, etc. Cleaned out candy wrappers, kleenexes, old site tokens, etc. from my basket. Packed my suitcase. Picked out garb (though for Saturday during the day, I'm still torn between the purple brocade cotehardie from last year's 12th Night and the plain all-purpose blue-and-green cotton cotehardie). Packed up the 113 tokens (and a basket to pass them out with). Tomorrow night, after the Chamber Chorale marketing committee meeting, I'll wrap presents. There are only a few. I won't list what they are here because you just know someone who is going to get one reads this 'blog. That would be just my luck.

Today I had one of those immediately-pre-menstrual headaches, starting around noon. Not bad enough to make me clutch my head and take three ibuprofen, but definitely there. I even took a short break in the afternoon and lay down in the quiet waiting room, something I wouldn't normally do because that's for patients. No one was there; it seemed okay. But I couldn't relax knowing I might be making someone too uncomfortable to come in and use the room. People never seem to want to share a quiet room with others. In a loud, bustling departmental waiting room, people will even sit next to strangers if there are no other available seats....but not in a smallish sitting room with one door and no service desk. So I gave up and went back out to work.

Barely done with one major garb project, and I'm dreaming of the next one: I was thinking of making some sort of brightly colored satin gown, probably a cotehardie but possibly with an English quasi-square neck. When I say satin, of course I mean that I want something shiny and flowing, but I'll have to do some serious research into what will look pretty AND be period AND not bleed color, fray, dull, rip when pressure is put on it, or permanently crease when you look at it. Probably silk is the only period thing, even if it might do some of the bad things I list above.

And to find appropriate silk, in enough colors to allow me to pick something really stunning, not spend a fortune, and not be stuck with raw silk (which I can get in rainbow colors for cheap, but am not exactly in love with after this last project), guessed it. Another S.R. Harris run will be in order. Possibly Sunday after the event, though there's a May Feaste meeting in La Crosse I wouldn't mind getting to at 6 on Sunday. But! Harris is on our way back from St. Cloud! Can we do it without spending four hours there?

More importantly, what happened to my resolution not to buy more expensive fabric until I use what I have?

*whiiiiiine* But I don't haaaaaaaave any satin.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Done, done done done! I am done with Owen's garb as of last night. All of it, even the cuffs/hem of the undertunic. Done. There. Everything I was planning on getting done by 12th Night is finished. Now there are just little things like packing and selecting the garb I want to wear. Oh, and I probably should wrap a few presents. But that won't take long. Thank goodness I didn't go out of town this weekend. I would still be panicking Thursday night (and I have a choir committee meeting that night)!

The cool woman who writes Blueberry Hill has some New Year's resolutions, actually more like plans. All right, more like fantasies. Yes, I know she isn't actually planning on reaching these goals, but they're funny because they reflect things she actually wishes for herself.

Goals...hmph. I have always been reluctant to set goals. I tend to want things that can only prove themselves valuable and successful over time, such as a good marriage (someday), joy from singing, pleasure in work, helping others, etc. Of course each of these things can only happen if an ongoing series of small, discrete things happen in order to promote them. I am willing to do what is needed to bring them about. But the predominant business culture claims that if you can't measure a goal to find out whether you have attained success at any given point in time, it's not a viable goal.

Well, what's measurable about what I want? Shall I carry around a chart on which I rate how happy I am after a choir performance, on a scale of one to ten? Is a marriage an automatic success if it continues for 10 years? 11? If you get two 'thank you's a day from strangers, does that mean you are helping adequately? Trying to kludge intangibles into some kind of bar graph not only takes up valuable time, it leeches the meaning out of the valuable work that's being done in order to work towards those intangibles. And yet, businesses, non-profits, and service organizations are running their organizational lives on measurable goals. This may be fine in a business where you are selling a product or individual service--"We'd like to sell 150 massages between March and June this year." But I can think of instances in past jobs where I have had to search my brain to come up with a totally fabricated, totally inappropriate measure for a goal, or even remove the goal from my plan, simply because that's the rule--it has to be measurable.

In my actual non-work-related life, I don't have measurable goals. Nope. I would like life to be good. I am willing to do whatever seems to need to be done to achieve this, including learning new things, taking risks, having memories, tolerating temporary discomfort, and singing a lot. I will NOT know when I have achieved it--that's part of human nature.

I have a confession: I watch Blind Date. I know, it's bad. And I just watched a guy with a horrible haircut dump all over a relatively nice woman who was trying valiantly to communicate her dissatisfaction with his treatment of her, while not offending him. Even as he was cursing at her and accusing her of being bitchy and stupid, she was responding with polite sentences and a giggle or two--obviously covering up her consternation, but even so. She even waited until he told her, in so many words, "Why don't you get a f***ing cab and go away", before getting up and leaving. Why are women nice-at-all-costs to their dates? Even the ones who seem to have bottomless depths of meanness and idiocy? Why does anyone have to work that hard to avoid offending someone who is obviously bent on offending them?

I didn't know I was going to rant tonight. Oh well! Too late now.

Sunday, January 06, 2002
This weekend was the Thread Extravaganza with Sarra and Earnan. That's really just a fancy name for a weekend spent sewing/embroidering. Sarra is one of those lucky people in the SCA who has found her calling: she embroiders. When a person finds his/her calling, you can tell: the look of enchantment on their face is wonderful to behold. I was there when Sarra found hers. She had just taken a class in embroidery for beginners from Lewina of Sussex, and she was beaming and showing off her first few stitches. You should SEE the work she's done since then. Just for kicks, in February she gave me a napkin embroidered with a 3-inch-wide rendition of the gillyflower pendants I gave away as a 12th Night token last year, complete with gold beads. I don't know what to do with it; you can bet it's never going to see active duty as a napkin!

But back to this weekend. Sarra wanted to make a sloper for a kirtle and sideless surcoat, so I helped her with that. Earnan made a red pouch to hold his chirurgeon's gear, then Sarra showed him some new embroidery stiches, and gave him a rundown of the goldwork class she went to in Minneapolis in November. During all this time I was chugging away at all the work I had yet to do on the tunic for Owen: cutting out the embroidered facings, sewing them on, hand applique-ing the edges, sewing seams and then hand-sewing the inner seams down, all with much ironing and much switching of green and white thread in the sewing machine and in the needle. Today I was down to just the facings on the bottom hem: tracing and cutting them out, sewing them onto the bottom of the hem, ironing them up and then ironing the top edge down, and then applique-ing all...around...the hem.

I still have to cuff and hem the undertunic, but no applique will be involved--just traditional hemmed edges. With the tunic itself, I'm finished. Incredible, but true. From my computer desk I can lean to the right and see it hanging on the hinge of my washer/dryer closet door. With no one in it, it does sort of have the look of pajamas, or perhaps someone's very, very wrong idea of a beach cover-up: 3/4 length white raw silk tunic with dolman sleeves and a slightly flared skirt, with dark green embroidered silk around the cuffs, keyhole neckline, and hem. I think, though, that it'll look good on Owen. If it doesn't, I will probably sink slowly to the ground, weeping, and then go quietly INSANE.

I am so glad I decided to stay home and do the Thread Extravaganza. If I hadn't, there's absolutely no way I'd have gotten the tunic done in time. Also it was a lot of fun hanging out with Earnan and Sarra. Being able to share every little milestone with them really helped motivate me. They are very down-to-earth, relaxed people, always ready for a laugh. We made a fabric run in mid-afternoon, went to China Buffet for dinner, then we were up until 2 watching Saturday Night Live and picking through Sarra's stash of special goldwork threads, oohing and ahhing over the shiny stuff. They thought it was so funny that I kept picking textile fluff off the floor and saying, "Textile fluff." As I was drifting off to sleep last night I could hear them proposing Thread Extravaganza heraldic devices amid gales of laughter: "A textile fluff couchant proper!" "No, my sanity, blasted and eradicated, maintaining an embroidery needle!" "How would you draw THAT?"

In the morning we had cereal for breakfast and Sarra finished up a project she began in her goldwork class: a canvas bag with a couched diamond-in-square design. Then she cut out her kirtle. There were some tense moments when we weren't sure if she would have enough fabric. She is still not sure about having enough for the surcoat, but we both agreed, you have to take these things one step at a time. She is going to make the kirtle, then worry about the surcoat later.

Mom called while Sarra was cutting out the kirtle. She says Papa (my maternal grandfather, who is currently 86 if memory serves) has an 81-year-old girlfriend named Joan. Mom knew this last summer, because Joan, who lives in Skokie, gets limousined down to Munster every weekend to be with Papa, go to Friday night services with him, etc., and she met up with them when she was there on UAHC business. (Papa is one of those old-fashioned people who believes that limousines provide a service, not a luxury--both Ellen and I have been ferried to the airport on different occasions by a limousine, just because Papa didn't want anyone to have to find a parking space.) Joan lives in Arizona 3 months out of the year, in the same city where Papa winters (coincidence? Hmmm...), and when his house there was rendered unlivable by some water damage, he stayed with her for a few weeks. Well! My grandfather, cohabitating. I guess our little talk a year or so ago, about how nice it can sometimes be to be single, didn't really take...!

It is truly nice to know that I have such longevity in my genes. Really, it is, don't get me wrong. But am I wrong to feel just a little bit odd about the fact that MY 86-YEAR-OLD GRANDFATHER IS GETTING MORE ACTION THAN I AM?

There, it's nice to get that out.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

Christy came up last night (Thursday) to visit, while she's home in Madison visiting her folks. We had such a great time! We went to Tequila for dinner and had great Mexican food, then stopped by my workplace so she could see the library. Then we came back and hung out for a little while at my apartment until she had to leave. It's too bad she couldn't stay over--we could have had a slumber party. I so rarely have company on a weeknight. But her mom needed the car back first thing in the morning. So I gave her a Pepsi to make sure she had a supply of caffeine, and reluctantly sent her on her way.

We still make each other laugh--what a nice thing to realize! I don't think I could have predicted that Christy would be one of the few people from high school that I'd still keep in touch with, albeit infrequently, twelve years later. I really enjoyed hanging out with her last night. I'm afraid I talked too much about the SCA, but then, last time we had a good conversation, I don't think I was involved in the SCA yet. She thought it was just the wackiest thing, but not in a bad way, and was surprised to discover that I make costumes (with cleavage!), write songs, and travel to faraway places for events. I suppose it must seem like I'm different from the way I used to be in high school: mostly a homebody, not at all flirty, afraid of driving, and not very prolific in the few creative arts I practiced. But I can think of many ways I could be much more different! I think I have developed along good lines since 1989. It wasn't always easy, but I'm on a good road, even if I don't know where it leads.

Christy herself does not seem too different to me. She has definitely lost some of her anxiety in the last few years--maybe just the effect of time, I don't know. But she still likes to complain about things that bug her, and luckily we generally agree and can have a good satisfying grouse together. She still tells the best stories. She was describing to me a play she's just begun to write for her dramatic writing program. She didn't give me the full plot, but it involves a woman doing research into an alternate version of Merchant of Venice that she believes exists, and hanging out in a Shakespeare library, where she falls in love with the librarian and eventually discovers the missing version, directed by clues given to her by the ghost of Shylock. Who lives in her apartment.

I think it sounds like a lot of fun, and has a lot of possibilities for exploring, as she said, heart knowing versus book knowing. Sometimes you just know something because your feelings, and the assertions of someone you know well, tell you so--even if scholars find all empirical evidence to the contrary. That seems like a wonderful grand concept for a play, if you ask me. Plus it sounds like the librarian character is going to be quite a likeable guy, though she did say there is a very unsympathetic library director who tries to stifle the whole enterprise.

Garb report: Only two small oak leaves left to embroider. We're getting down to the wire here. I only have the weekend and Monday and Wednesday nights to work on this garb (choir Tuesday night, and a choir committee meeting Thursday night, then we leave for 12th Night Friday morning). This makes me nervous. I'd like to think we'll get a lot done this weekend when Sarra and Earnan are over, but can't conceive of that being true. Maybe I'll try to encourage us to do a lot of movie-watching. I know when I'm in front of a video, I can't just sit and watch--I have to be working on something.

Bless 'im, the landlord, John, was true to his word that his wife would come Thursday morning and unclog my shower drain. Not only that, but she didn't leave a footlong slimy glob in my wastebasket--and she cleaned the tub. Cleaned it! I don't even clean my tub! (Hope they don't read this. ;) ) Tonight I celebrated Friday night (and the suddenly clean shower) by taking a great hot bath with some apple-cider-scented bubble bath. When I got out I was feeling so cozy and toasty that I lay around in bed dozing for an hour or so (yes, I KNOW I could have been embroidering with that time!). So I'm not very tired right now. Though I probably should get to sleep soon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

I have only seven, count 'em, seven, of the embroidered oak leaves left to finish. Besides the cuff panels that I finished a week ago, I did five on New Year's Eve at Kudrun's, one New Year's Day, three tonight, and should be able to get the rest done by this weekend. This weekend, of course, being the Thread Extravaganza, which in this particular case means that Sarra and Earnan are going to come to my place and ponder sewing, while I do the same, and we all loaf about like slackers. Should be fun.

New Year's Eve was so nice and homey. I could see doing New Year's Eve there every year. Kudrun lit a bunch of candles and turned on the Christmas lights she has installed on various of her hundreds of house plants. Then we had chili, focaccia, and salad for dinner, and Kudrun gave me some homemade pomegranate sekanjabin, which should have been good, but I am not capable of liking sekanjabin, I'm sorry. Drinking vinegar is just wrong. But I liked the idea. Kudrun and I showed Cybele the new Northshield Bardic College webpage. Cyb has been around in the SCA long enough that most of that timeline is recent history to her!

Then we sat around and ate M&Ms for the rest of the evening. When we realized we were just minutes from midnight, Kudrun and D.T. ran to the computer and argued over which authority they were going to trust for our down-to-the-second countdown. (I think they finally picked the Federal Bureau of Standards or whatever.) We toasted each other with apple-cranberry sparkling cider in Wonder Woman glasses, and then Sarra said it wouldn't be a true SCA gathering if we didn't toast the Royalty. Yeah, Sarra, a noble thought and all, but next time remind me to coach you on how to pronounce "Ragnvaldr"...! (Kidding, kidding. It was really very close. ;) ) So we toasted the King and Queen, the Prince and Princess of the Middle, the Prince and Princess of the Northshield, and the Heirs to the Thrones of the Northshield. Between the five of us we managed to remember all the names of the Middle ones. I mean really, that's a lot of Royalty to remember! Hopefully in the next couple of years we'll be down to two. Keep your fingers crossed.

New Year's day was very much like the previous weekend, and like Christmas, in that I didn't do a lot, but managed to get little things done that I had not gotten to in awhile. Got some serious painting and sealing work done on a woodworking project that may or may not need to be done by 12th Night (but I'm finishing it up and bringing it in the car trunk just in case). Did some light cleaning & laundry, esp. of blankets and such that hadn't been done recently. Read a bit (I'm finally getting to In a Dark Wood by Michael Cadnum, which I've had for a few months. It's excellent but takes an effort of attention. The author likes to hide crucial details of the plot, or just of people's movement in the scenes, in three-word sentences at the end of unimportant paragraphs. So you have to be on the ball or you get lost. This is a YA novel that I wouldn't have understood as a YA. I love a good Robin Hood re-telling, though, and this one has more than just the gimmick of being told from the POV of the sheriff: it's got subtleties and vivid details, and classic characters, all sympathetic in one way or another.)

Tomorrow night, Christy is coming to visit. She has to leave the same evening, which is too bad, but I guess it works out okay because my shower is still clogged up and consequently full of grime. It is NOT possible to clean a clogged shower. The water goes down so slowly that all the dirt is re-deposited on the sides of the tub as the water is diminishing. I don't mind standing in the soup every morning, but I wouldn't want to make a guest do that--blech. The landlord claims someone will be here to fix it tomorrow offense to John, who is very conscientious, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Listening to the third movement of Vaughan William's In Windsor Forest (you need an unzip program to decompress these files), which is sort of a little mini-opera all by itself, never mind the rest of the movements. We did this in my first concert with the Chamber Chorale and it sort of brings back memories. That was a good concert--right after Halloween, so it was all full of witches and fairies and spooky stuff. Then we finished up with "Teddy Bear's Picnic", as if to say, "We can't be this spooky for long--our real natures have to shine through!" My friend Linda brought a teddy bear and propped it on the piano during that song. It was far too cute. ;)

Tuesday, January 01, 2002
I am famous for not making New Year's resolutions. Never have. I find them restrictive, self-browbeating, and null anyway, since I know I'll never live up to any of them.

This year however, my friend Fiskr came up with several SCA resolutions. Now, this idea really makes sense to me. In an organization where you see a direct return on most types of effort in the form of recognition from your peers and from Royalty, of A&S projects gone right, of praise from friends and events running smoothly, and more, making the effort to better yourself actually seems worth the trouble. Imagine that. If I resolve to clean my shower once a week, no one will ever know that I did so, and even if they do, the most recognition I can expect to get is an incredulous, "But people are supposed to keep their showers clean. If you don't, that's gross. That's not an accomplishment." And I have nothing to show for my effort but a shower that is perpetually clean. But if I resolve to say hello to at least one new person at every SCA event, then that person's day is brightened by the attention, the friend they came with feels relieved that they are having a good time, I might make a new friend, and who knows--the enthusiasm I kindle might be joined with other flames over time and forge, say, a future Queen of the Northshield. Now that'd be something to be proud of!

With all that in mind, I feel...well, if not safe, at least hopeful in putting forth these, my very first New Year's resolutions ever. They are SCA New Year's resolutions (yes, I know, the SCA year turns over May 1, so sue me), but you might recognize some universal themes in them.

  • I resolve to plan to be more spontaneous. (That's a joke. Laugh, dammit.)
  • I resolve to remember why I do this.
  • I resolve to sing more.
  • I resolve to answer my e-mail in a more timely fashion.
  • I resolve to get the White Birch out by the last Thursday of every month (honest, truly, I promise I will).
  • I resolve to change the 'this website last modified on:' date on the main Rokeclif webpage EVERY time I make a change on a sub-page.
  • I resolve not to complain unless I am in pain AND there is something the people around me can do about it.
  • I resolve to express praise and appreciation of others whenever I even think I might possibly be inclined to do so.
  • I resolve to have a more open mind towards A&S competitions.
  • I resolve to listen with as much of my whole being as I can possibly marshal towards the effort at any given moment.
  • I resolve not to buy any more expensive fabric until I can sew up the stuff I already have.
  • I resolve to cut everyone some slack, every day, for any relevant reason, or just because I would want to be cut some slack myself.
  • I have a life, but I resolve to continue to have it, even during spates of 3-4 SCA event weekends in a row. And at Pennsic.

Who knows whether I'll accomplish any of these? One would be enough. I have a few other resolutions...but some of them verge on the category of prayer rather than resolution: I hope such-and-such happens...please, let so-and-so get thus-and-such...let X not happen until Y...etc. Things I have no control over, or can't do anything about now. And, well, I gotta have some secrets, right?

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