Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Fun as a way of life
Or, We biz bag this, we don't biz bag that...

The people who make Jelly Belly jelly beans have come up with a new idea: JBz, chocolate candies covered in their signature Jelly Belly flavors. Tonight I found them in Finotte's candy shop downtown and invested in several flavor mixes. As I told the woman behind the counter, I love Jelly Belly flavors, but have never been really into the consistency of jelly beans. JBz get around that problem.

And are they any good? Actually, yes. The chocolate is nothing too special--not as sweet as Smarties, not as strong and addictive as M&M's. The flavor is also nowhere near as pronounced as it is in actual Jelly Bellys. Sometimes you are nearly through dissolving and chewing the candy before you catch a hint of the flavor. But overall they're a good consistency, tasty, and certainly more interesting than your average vending machine bag of M&M's.

The birth of a new candy! It's bittersweet because I don't foresee JBz lasting. They don't fill a niche. They won't sell well enough, or they'll sell just well enough to be available for the next couple of years before the company cuts the line. Oh well. They're good while they're here.

Another entry in the "Trade names ending in a superfluous Z" book is Jumpin' Jammerz, a company that makes footed pajamas for teens and adults, in two fabrics. They manage to market their product without salacious references to how...arousing it can be to feel like a baby every so often, thank goodness.

When we were kids, my sister and I wore biz bags, which were footed pajamas of whatever brand was available in the stores that year, made of miscellaneous fleece, zipping down the front and usually in pastel colors. I grew into pre-teenagerhood thinking that "biz bag" was the culturally-accepted name for them, but found out at one of my first sleepover parties that it wasn't. ("Hey, I changed into my biz bag." "You changed into your WHAT?")

In fact, my mom made up the name "biz bag" after seeing the early 70's Biz detergent commercial where a motherly type sorted laundry into two bags: "We biz bag this, we don't biz bag that", as she put the really filthy stuff into one bag and the lightly soiled things into another. Mom liked the phrase and applied it to footed pajamas, just for kicks.

For a few years I was mad because my peers had caught me using a cutesy family phrase, thinking it was universal. Now, of course, I rather like the idea of putting my own children in biz bags someday. And since my sister sent me the link to Jumpin' Jammerz, I know if I don't have kids, I can put myself in a biz bag someday.

A funny guy named Theodore Gray has constructed, I guess just for the sheer fun of it, a periodic table that's actually a table. Imagine, furniture inspired by chemistry. He also has a sample of each available element stored in its spot in the table, or nearby as part of his collection, and his website details each element and its characteristics in a chatty manner, with lots of photos.

Me, I hated chemistry--couldn't get the concept of the formulae. But even before taking it in high school, I had hand-written out the Periodic Table and stuck it to the wall behind my headboard (which had turned bars, with lots of space between, so I could see everything on the wall). I used to gaze at it and just think about the names. I mean, they're amazing. Praseodymium. Thorium. Ytterbium. Lanthanum. Tantalum. Some of the loveliest words in any language; you don't even have to say them, they just look ravishing on paper. I managed to memorize the first ten names, which admittedly helped in chem class, then decided I was just going to enjoy them rather than working at memorizing them.

Anyway, the rest of Mr. Gray's website is a lot of fun too--check out his visit with Oliver Sacks, who is also a chemistry fan, and lots of photos and videos from his Sodium Party. (Do NOT try this at home, kids.)

Tonight: I celebrated Halloween in advance by having dinner at the Elite Mediterranean Restaurant downtown, which is not the least bit scary but at least it's moodily lit, which is the next best thing if you ask me. The food was excellent. I then tooled over to the LaX Public Library where Richard Hendricks, of Weird Wisconsin fame, was giving a talk on ghosts in Wisconsin and the life of a ghost hunter.

Hendricks, who is easily among the top two or three most adorable male librarians I've ever seen (boyish face, big dark eyes, goatee, cool salt-and-pepper hair), gave a 100 mph discourse on why he tracks paranormal happenings in Wisconsin, the technique he and his colleagues use, and some examples of really weird s$%t that he's heard about. Interestingly, he himself has never seen or otherwise perceived anything that he would call conclusive evidence of the paranormal, but he kept saying how cool it would be. (And you know, it kinda would. Cool, but creepy. Creepy, but cool.)

He seems to have an attitude of healthy skepticism mixed with openmindedness, which is fine by me, except that he kept referring to odd theories such as electromagnetic fields causing hallucinations and such things. "You know, it wasn't a ghost in that case, it turned out he was just sleeping right on the other side of the wall from the TV set, and it was affecting his vision and his perception..." But he did keep on steadfastingly answering the audience's somewhat naive questions ("Have you ever used one of those ooja board thingies? Do they work?") with variations on "I don't know; people have reported some strange happenings, but I have not witnessed them".

All that having been said, you can't beat his enthusiasm, or the jaunty way he would take each sheet of paper from his script as he finished it, hold it in the air by the side of the podium, and let it flutter to the floor as he kept on with the presentation.

This weekend: in Madison, for fun for once. I'll be shopping, looking for music and poetry at Mills Music Library and Memorial Library, and attending the big Halloween party at Iohanna/Eithni/Callixte/Grisha's on Willy Street. The theme is Alice in Wonderland and I'm going as the White Rabbit. I won't describe the costume in too much detail; suffice to say, yes, there are ears and a tail involved, and no, I will NOT be wearing a white satin Playboy Bunny teddy. Not even if Eithni finds one for me...!

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
No good without bad, no bad without good
Or, Does that trapdoor lead to Hawaii?

Look--my mom is on the Internet! I'm so proud of her.

So far, it's been a week when I've been pondering the concept of luck. This week, I've had both bad luck and really, really stellar luck. Both times, after the inevitable emotional response, I've assimilated these two happenings into my life without much to-do. And then I've watched while each happening has melted slightly into a more mixed blessing. The bad luck gives me several smaller bits of convenience. The stellar luck brings with it some potentially difficult choices. Doesn't change my opinion about either: the first is still bad and the second is still fabulous. But it's reminding me that:

a) Things are seldom precisely as they seem. Wait a bit and things will change, or at least your perception of them will.

and b) There's no good without bad, and no bad without good. If you think there is, refer to a.

These are good lessons to learn, and learn again, 'cause lord knows none of us ever seem to learn anything without repetition, now do we?

In the "about time" department, I have finally brought my/Sarra's tent in from my garage, where it's been sitting since Pennsic, forcing me to park in the parking lot every night. Not that this was a horrible thing--the parking lot is right outside my front door, and I've always been able to find a space. But my WHSLA window scraper is less effective than it ought to be, and becoming more and more necessary. I had to scrape all the windows this morning. It may still be lovely out, but it's finally autumn. It was definitely time to put the car in the garage.

Oh yes, and I'll have to wash the darn thing sometime soon. It turns out parking your car outdoors makes it get dirty way faster. Who knew. (Said the woman who's only had an attached garage for the past 3 1/2 years...!)

Very quiet here tonight. I need to transcribe minutes from the Shire populace meeting, and then after that I may just turn in early. I just don't seem to be in a "stay up late and get things done" kind of mood this week.

Sunday, October 19, 2003
Another quiet weekend
Or, More sleep = more happy

Yes, I had a quiet weekend, but I also did a lot of stuff. Friday night I rode with Kristen and some other LaXPL librarians to Lanesboro, MN (an hour away) for dinner at a little bed-and-breakfast called the Victorian House. The meal, which cost about the same as what I'd spent Wednesday night at the new Three Rivers Lodge restaurant in the Radisson in La Crosse, was fabulous and included an appetizer, soup, salad, and main dish with veggies. I had pork cutlets in lemon sauce, which was good but not the finest thing I'd ever eaten. The decor and the ambience--and the attentive staff--were almost better than the food.

What I really liked (besides finding out about a new restaurant, which is always fun) was meeting some area librarians with whom I don't actually work. I got to meet the woman whose office is that "fishbowl" area right near the fiction area on the first floor. She was telling me about how she does reader's advisory work and also manages the volunteers who select and deliver reading materials to shut-ins. I think that sounds like a fun volunteer job--I may see if I feel like I still have time once I am in choir again in November to take that on. I'm having flashbacks to when I used to select from the Large Print collection at the NDSL, for older folks who would call in to the reference desk. "Send me ten new ones, westerns, no Louis L'Amour, I've read all those!"

Speaking of the NDSL, I see in the Flickertale that Mark Bowman died. There's a nice tribute to him in the Sept./Oct. issue of Book Marks, the SDLA newsletter. He was a cataloger who had trained my boss when I arrived there, and when my boss departed for another job (and was not replaced because the assistant state librarian felt her 20-year-old cataloging experience was sufficient to allow her to supervise the department), he was a lot of help with cataloging questions. He was also one of the few people on staff who was remotely friendly to me, always willing to give me a moment and listen to a question or concern, and quietly sympathetic when I was looking for another job and suffering from management's hostility.

Mark had apparently moved to South Dakota in 1998, so he was not still at NDSL when he passed away. I'm sad to think that almost all the people who were at all friendly to me at that library are gone. Two are dead: Mark and Mike Jaugstetter, who became the State Librarian when I was there and was always so kind to me, writing a great reference letter before I left. And Doris is now the State Librarian, as she has been wanting to be since long before I worked there. It must be very hard to work there now. Thank heavens I left.

Anyway, back to the weekend. Last night I went to the UW-La Crosse's Fall Choir Concert, which was very nice. I was struck by the fact that all the women in the Concert Choir and Women's Choir had matching elaborate formal gowns--in the school color of dark red, no less. I don't think a lot of my friends would have had the money to buy a uniform like that for choir at LU. We had the traditional make-do uniform of long black skirt and white blouse, whatever style we happened to find, with the addition in my senior year of colorful shoulder scarves in bright colors, whose main function was to slip out of our waistbands and creep slowly backwards over our shoulders as we performed.

Today we had a Shire populace meeting in La Crescent, which is known in the fall for its apple stands. I stopped and got fresh cider for the meeting--bright, delicious and sweet. It's the perfect fall drink. But then, it hasn't felt like fall this weekend. It's been up to at least 70 both days. Everyone I meet remarks on it. It's very unusual for October in Wisconsin. I went for a walk Saturday afternoon and I was all sweaty coming back.

A few websites I found recently:

The Xanadu Preservation Society is a page dedicated to one of my favorite movies, Xanadu. It features info on a live show that played recently, memorabilia, photos of the Art Deco-style auditorium where part of the movie was filmed, a Xanadu-style font, links, and a lot more. The "Prelude" and "Aftermath" sections are interesting discussions of where movie musicals were at the time, what the thinking was in creating a roller-disco musical, and how the lead actors and director were selected/where they went after the movie.

My friend Annora, who has moved to Scotland to take a job caring for horses, has an online journal where she posts her adventures. (That's not her picture on the page--she's a big Angelina Jolie fan.) She likes to talk about trips she takes on her days off: padding through sheep pastures (apparently Scotland is 96% sheep pasture) looking for standing stones and avoiding sheep poo, taking a Pictish pottery class where the pottery is only Pictish because that's the name of the class, and making friends with castle curators, master falconers and retired policemen. She's one of the funniest people I know, and her sense of humor is totally different--but no less funny--in writing than it is in person.

Quite frankly she is living the life a lot of SCA folk would like to live: castles, runestones, horses, ageless rolling green hills, and time to explore. (Not me particularly, but then I was never too into the British Isles in my SCA experience. I'd go because they're pretty, but early period Celtic stuff just doesn't interest me.) Completely aside from the SCA, I hope she's having a great time there. I miss her but I totally, totally understand not wanting to live in North Dakota. Believe me, I understand it like few other people would. ;)

One more: some friends of mine in the Barony of Windhaven Scribal Guild are going to be selling kits of period illumination pigments. I can only imagine the stampede of customers. I think they might well revolutionize how we practice illumination in the Northshield, if not in the SCA in general. I'd better get to their merchant booth early in the day Saturday at Crown if I want to buy a kit!

This week: a quiet week, I hope. Nothing much planned outside of work and preparing for Crown Tourney. I was thinking I'd wear my Peacock Italian gown with the chemise it came with, which has huuuuuge sleeves. I'm going to bring ribbons to lace around my sleeves when it comes time for Feast--if I don't, I'll end up dipping the sleeves in half the dishes!

One more note: the newscaster on the local ABC news station has just finished telling us about how the Pope recently "beautified" Mother Teresa. The "beautification" apparently is an important step on the road to sainthood. I'm snickering, picturing the Pope smearing makeup on a portrait of the wrinkly Mother. ;)

Sunday, October 12, 2003
A new member of the flock
Or, She wanted to be Welsh

My friend Will gave me a new bird at Coronet: a Mountain Bluebird from the Audubon collection. She is blue-raspberry blue and has very intelligent little birdy eyes and a pert little beak. She tweets appealingly when you squeeze her. Where I have often said that Colleen de Loon would be about 8 or 9 if she were a human girl, I think the bluebird would be about 13 or 14, but a serious and introspective 13 or 14.

Finding a name for an SCA stuffed animal is a process that takes on a fairly ridiculous level of research. I wanted the bluebird to be Sephardic Jewish so we started looking through names. No offense to my progenitors, but some of those names are the silliest things I've ever seen (Ceti? Colada? Cobes? Covallis? Isn't that last one a city in Oregon?!). And I wanted to keep her to the "C" theme started with Claire and Colleen. I settled reluctantly on Clara, but the bluebird was having none of it.

"I'm thinking I'm Ceinwen," she mused late one night.

I replied, "What? That's not Jewish. That's Celtic. Welsh, I think."

"I like Ceinwen. Yes, I'm Ceinwen."

And so she is Ceinwen. The sources I've checked disagree on pronunciation--it's either CANE-wen or KYNE-wen. The bluebird likes CANE-wen. So that's what it is.

My stuffed animals have altogether too many opinions.

Quiet weekend. I stayed in all day yesterday and watched movies (Jane White is Sick and Twisted, which was awful, and Laurel Canyon, which was pretty good but draggy in spots).

I also finished a library book (Kevin Crossley-Holland's The Seeing Stone, easily the best YA novel I've read in the last couple of years). Today we had a Shire research day at the library, and I stopped and got the next book in the series, At the Crossing-Places, so I could dive right into it. It's been awhile since I had an urge to read all the books in a series--in fact, not since I was reading Valerie Anand's Bridges Over Time series. I wouldn't even mind seeing what else this guy's written. I like his approach--he manages to confine the fantasy element to one sector of the story, so it doesn't overrun the book, but it informs the plot and adds atmosphere. At the same time, the characters are amazingly complex, even the earnest 13-year-old male protagonist who could so easily have been a totally inaccurate stereotype. I really, really recommend this series (and will say as much on my books page as soon as I get around to it).

Speaking of updates to this webpage, I added a photo of me in my Middle Eastern outfit to my photos page. Beth, the administrative director of the La Crosse Chamber Chorale, took it (and printed it on her printer, which produces really beautiful prints for an inkjet--I'm jealous) at May Feaste this past spring. I rather like this picture both because she got a display of nice nylon flags as a backdrop, and also because I was wearing a little bit of makeup, which seems to make a difference in this case. Those who know me, know that theatrical situations are the ONLY time I'll ever wear makeup. In this case it looked appropriate, I think.

I'm off to bed now--me and the flock. ;)

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
The Tudor Harping Lady finds a home
Or, How to take a proto-Pelican by surprise

Viscountess Mistress Goddess Elashava has taken some amazing Coronet photos at Not that the picture quality is particularly gorgeous, but Her Excellency has a great eye for people shots. She also caught some things I especially wanted to see:

Here's Wyndreth and Fiskr, two of my favorite people in the SCA. Wyndreth had just received her joint Prince/Princess' Cypher (yes, that's my Tudor Harping Lady scroll in her hands!!! It was supposed to be a Crwth, but I have no objections to this use of it!). Fiskr was holding his Seneschal's staff, which was carved by my friend Janvier from Falcon's Keep (he who lives in Alexandra's Castle with Alexandra).

Fiskr was also about 8 hours from being put on vigil for recognition as a Companion of the Order of the Pelican. (Exclamation points don't cut it here--I'm happier for this to happen than ten thousand exclamation points could begin to communicate.) Master Julio got up to beg the boon, and I figured out who he was begging it for about 12 seconds before the herald called him up. Dahrien (who is the new Bard of the Northshield!) was standing next to him and says Fiskr was about to fall over when his name was called.

Many people thought that, as Principality Seneschal during the Kingdom transition period, he would be the first Pelican of the Kingdom of the Northshield. I have no problem with the Midrealm doing this now. Why not reward hard work and heart while they are still fresh in the minds of the populace? Lord knows we still have plenty of candidates for first Pelican of the new Kingdom...!

Shava also took a sorta nice photo of me in my Middle Eastern garb, which has me looking rather pasty and round due to the lighting at the site (large fluorescent lamps, blazing brightly and buzzing loudly), but does capture the upper half of the outfit I was busily working on earlier this year. I left my hair down under the turban this time, because dear friends walked right past me without recognizing me when I tucked it all up at Castle Fever. (Annora, it'll take you awhile to live that one down...!) It didn't help much--people were saying all day that they barely recognized me.

BTW, I don't recall whose hand that was in the photo, but they were going "woop, woop, woop" and flicking a finger through one of my turban tassels. People were doing that all day. For once, at least, no one was pulling on my sausage curls and going "boing, boing, boing"...!

The bus ride was nice, but longish both ways, and I felt childish and mostly did not spend the time wisely (wisely = discussing Bardic Madness plans with Dahrien and winding kumihimo bobbins for my classes in December). Dahrien, Colleen, and I played the alphabetical "I'm going on a picnic" game. That's Colleen de Loon. She participated in her high voice with no r's. All right, I admit I did her voice, but only because she's a stuffed animal and doesn't talk. Really it was my chance to double-practice the list and hence stack the deck in my favor. If we had played to win, I might have had a chance, but we mostly just played for laughs. When Colleen piped up with "eagle" for E, Dahrien laughed and asked how she was planning on eating an eagle at her picnic. "Vewy cawefully", was her reply.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was giving Eithni a ride from Minneapolis to Madison; I was going straight to Madison once the bus dropped me off in MN so I could attend Yom Kippur services Monday morning. After I off-loaded my stuff in Minneapolis I was standing around talking to Eithni and I realized she was going to have a lot more driving time if she continued on the bus to Appleton (the end stop) and then rode down to Madison from there with Giles and Shava. So I invited her to ride with me. She is a ton of fun to talk to and, since she is also in health care (she's a pharmacist), we also talked work stuff some of the time.

After we got back, I had already missed Kol Nidrei services (which I knew I would, even though the bus got into MN slightly earlier than I'd thought) so after Eithni picked up her car at Giles and Shava's, we went over to her new apt. on Willy St. She, Callixte, Grisha, and Iohanna have this gorgeous place, into which they have put mondo amounts of work in painting, decorating, etc. All four gave me the tour. The upper floor is a finished attic with two huge bedrooms, a hallway for everyone's award scrolls (and there are a lot of them), an extra work table and reading nook, and (this is the coolest) a big living room with beautiful bardic-type acoustics. Yum.

I'll wrap up with this shot of Viscountess Astrid looking pensive. In the past year I've seen her look wacky, joyous, teary, irritated, amazed, and more, but never pensive. Shava seems to have capped the reign with this photo. I think Astrid and Shava are more alike then they might suspect. They both have a talent for bringing out unexpected goodness in others.

Astrid, thank you for a wonderful reign. I won't forget it.

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