Saturday, January 24, 2004
My annual Appleton home weekend
Or, Some of my obsessions go back before I was in the SCA

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. Between being away at events and something lovely my rental managers did, I've been a bit busy. What'd they do? Well, a few weeks ago I had a clogged tub drain, so I called and they sent a maintenance guy over to unclog it. He did, but apparently he was appalled by the state of my apartment (which was not that bad, just very cluttered and full of bits of sewing patterns). Tuesday I received a letter saying, essentially, you're messy, this is in violation of your lease, we'll be over at 2pm Thursday to see that you've mended your ways.

So I flew into a cleaning frenzy. So to speak. (I don't really do frenzy these days, as such. More like a fast mosey.) I got a lot done and was pleased with myself and my spotless apartment. Then the maintenance guy and the compliance manager from the rental managers' office came at 2:05 Thursday, took a desultory look around, said they thought it looked okay and it hadn't even been that bad last week, and then zeroed in on the bathroom where they worried about the ring in the toilet (I clean it, I swear, it's the water) and the permanent staining on the bottom of the tub for ten minutes or so. I listened to them discuss various cleaning products and who on their team they would talk to for advice. Then they left.

I spent the rest of Thursday lying on the couch in my hotel-like apartment and watching the three videos I had picked up just prior to opening my mail on Tuesday (since which time I had been cleaning and sleeping, not watching videos). Oh, and packing for Trivia.

Yup, I'm at Trivia in Appleton, a radio trivia contest run by the radio station at my alma mater. I play with "the Iowans", a team that changes their name every year but has "Iowans" in it every year because the core members met at Drake University in Iowa. We congregate in the one local member's home in Grand Chute, near Appleton. This year we're "Lord of the Iowans: Return of the Pig", which struck me as not long or complex enough for me to spend lots of phone time tying up the lines explaining it to phone answerers. Ah well. That's what happens when you show up at 9pm before the 10pm start of the contest.

This contest goes for 50 hours. Normally I would not get a real, full night's sleep until Sunday night (ideally, after the awards ceremony, if we make it into the top three), but this year I've reserved a room at the Microtel starting Saturday at 3pm, and that's probably when I'll go over for some actual sleep. This is strategy: leave when things are busy and come back rested in time for the slack times. I have also brought some food, but will come back Saturday late night after a Woodman's grocery run. More strategy: interesting food perks up the teammates when nothing else will.

This is my 15th year playing Trivia. I don't do this anywhere else; my disdain for what I know of the Stevens Point game is deep and wide. I don't play video trivia in bars or beat my friends at Trivial Pursuit (though Kudrun will tell you I'm not bad at the music portions of her version, Trivium Pursuit). I'm one of two females on a mostly-male team; Colleen de Loon makes it three, but hey, she's just a stuffed animal, so she doesn't count. But the guys are great, and let me drift around doing whatever job I like: phones, computers (like right now), runner, whatever. I always have fun here.

Sum up of Nordskogen 12th Night: fabulous food, cozy circular cabin with interesting spiral ramp, amazing quiet in the woods, some of the funniest and most inspiring bardic performances I've seen in a year. My friend Fiskr was Pelicaned after a three-month vigil, in what had to be the most normal, standard Pelican ceremony I've seen. (Then I got to sing him the song I wrote for him at the bardic circle, whereupon we both got teary and bent our heads towards each other at the same time and bumped heads. I still have a little bump.) I enjoyed it tons. Camp Courage has a wonderful feel to it, especially when it's cold and dark and you're going back to a warm bed from a fabulous bardic circle. I hope they have another 12th Night there, but if they don't, I've got enough memories from the three events they've had there to last me the rest of my SCA life.

Eithni and I went to Tree-Girt-Sea Twelfth Night last weekend. I am still a little freaked over the black ice we encountered between Madison and Chicago. Eithni is a wonderful driver and I never felt I was in truly mortal danger, but there was a little fishtailing episode where we were literally all over the road for what felt like two whole minutes (but was probably more like six or seven seconds). We nearly went off the road on the left side, nearly went under a semi, went back, then went all the way across the road on the right side and nearly went off before we recovered. I sat in my seat and held Colleen with both hands and was appalled at the moments passing. But we got where we were going (late, but then I'd rather be safe) and then went to the event as planned the next day.

I had a very nice time. Somehow I felt more at home than I thought I would. There were plenty of people I knew to hang out with, and I had a project: make Colleen a new hood, since I could not find her blue wool hood when I arrived at Nordskogen 12th Night a week earlier. (I'm sure it's still in the Edgewood College parking lot where I dropped it after the Jararvellir Yule Moot a week before that.) The new one is periwinkle soft canvas with yellow silk chain stitch decoration. She's wearing it now--we have nullified the rule about her only being in garb when I am, just for this weekend--and it looks nice, if I do say so myself.

I got to sing with the Pippins, lunch and feast were very good (love that Middle Eastern food), and I gave away the remaining 20 of my 12th Night tokens. Then we did a mini-bardic in the hallway and I sang perhaps too many pieces, but people seemed to enjoy it. Got to sing harmony with Dahrien and John Inchingham on Dahrien's silly Rennie's Renaissance country love song that he wrote for Mateo. Together we were painfully cute.

I'm nearly forgetting that Eithni got us up early (well, comparatively early) Saturday morning to go see the Queen Elizabeth I exhibit at the Newberry Library. This was the last day of the exhibit and Eithni was very keen to go, having visited some of the historical sites in England and Scotland that had pertained to her reign. I was sleepy but enjoyed it, especially seeing original partbooks for choral pieces I have sung, a letter in Lady Jane Grey's own hand, and the profusion of wonderful period-topic books in the bookstore. (Got some great illumination books. Where haven't I gotten illumination books in the last few years?)

Wow, that entry has no time organization whatsoever. I just bounced from this weekend to two weekends ago to last weekend, and did last weekend in three out-of-order parts. My Trivia brain has appeared and is now occupying my skull, in the place where my cleaning brain dwelled just hours ago. I can do nothing about this. All I can do is shrug and advise you diagram this entry on paper for your own clarification.

Off to continue Trivia-ing...

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Sleeping too much and loving it
Or, Rockin'...well, some other time

I've been sleeping until obscene hours of the day now that I'm not working anymore. This 8 am being at work stuff was always difficult for me, frankly. I can do it--don't get me wrong--but my ideal would be working 10-7, that is, if choir rehearsals all over the U.S. didn't usually start right at 7. Not that I am currently equating 9 am with an obscene hour of the day. No, my obscene rising hours these days are tending to come once the sun has already hit its daily apex. And I like it that way. So there.

At least, I like it that way right now. No telling how long that will last.

Anyway, I am finding that I like life in my apartment. I barely miss work at all. Occasionally someone will bring up a health topic in a conversation or an e-mail, and I'll flash on where exactly those books are located at the library I left. That brings a twinge because of all the things I was mildly sad to leave, the collection was the thing that came closest to making me regret leaving.

After all, I built that collection with my own hands, my own collection development plan and decisions, and the suggestions of many others with whom I networked. My very first class in library school, at 8am on the first day of classes, was Collection Development; I thought it was boring then, but it turns out that I'm good at it because--who couldn't predict this?--I love shopping for books. More than that, I adore wrapping my brain around the collection and knowing where everything is, why I kept that 1995 book on Lyme Disease, when the new Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine is coming out, where I got that useful little book on thyroid diseases, and who to call to cajole Nutrition Services into giving me a free copy of their diet cookbook. There is a certain warm fuzzy feeling I have towards each book I purchased, processed, cataloged, and shelved. I know their covers like I know the faces of my friends, and my favorite moments at work were when I found someone the perfect book for their information need. I will miss that collection. But I betcha there will be other collections.

For a very long time I have not used this webpage for work anecdotes. Many librarians do use their personal 'blogs for that purpose. My reason was simple: my boss forbid me to do so. At some future time I will probably discuss that situation in more detail. But for right now, I have a work anecdote:

We had a book called Golfers take care of your back. In the context of the collection, where we had quite a few consumer-level sports medicine type books as well as a LOT of back care books, even a few specifically on exercises to care for the back, we didn't need Golfers take care of your back. We really didn't. This is the sort of thing I might have gone to MEDLINEPlus for, or checked WISCAT to see if Wisconsin libraries had a book on back exercises for golfers that a person could get via interlibrary loan.

When I did my first serious weeding in 2002, I looked carefully at Golfers take care of your back, noted its 1995 publication date, noted what else we had on back care, noted that it wasn't in terrific shape, and thought, "Ehhhh...I'll toss it." But something kept me from doing that. I don't know what. I think if I did, I'd be a better librarian than I am.

Because six months later, a gentleman came to the desk asking for back exercises. I took him over to the FB's where the stuff on back pain is, and I plucked out a few that looked like they might be of interest. "Well, actually," he said, scanning the titles I'd handed him, "I'm a golfer, do you have anything specific to that?" I thought for a moment and then it was like a golden gong rang in my head. I gave him a huge grin and put out my hand, without looking, to right where I knew Golfers take care of your back was sitting, and I said, "How about this one?" and handed it to him. The look on his face was worth a hearty percentage of whatever frustration I ever got from this job. He was delighted, he was amazed, he obviously considered me one of the better librarians he'd ever encountered, and we shared the glow of a little shining reference moment together as I checked it out to him and he went along his way.

Reference success stories are not rare (I have a sheaf of thank-you's that confirms this), but reference moments this perfect are uncommon. So I'm glad that I get to share it here at last, because it's made my day just to type it out.

I had this odd dream last night that I had gotten a job at a medical center--not the one I just left, another one, perhaps elsewhere, that was not at all familiar--and discovered that there was a special cafeteria just for the medical administration and medical education departments. Basically it was always full of high-level doctors and their medical students. I don't recall why I was there or what made it possible for me to enter this secret cafeteria, but I remember why I stayed: there was this very cool setup where you could fill a cup with two different substances, one sherbet-like and one like a thick carbonated drink, and the woman at the checkout would stick your cup in a machine and in a few seconds, out would come your cup filled with the most delicious smoothie/freezie ever. Wow was it yummy. I think I drank three or four before the dream ended.

What does it mean? Maybe I'm hankering for the prestige of knowing the inner circle. (Nah.) Maybe I'm thinking there were many things I still had to learn about Gundersen Lutheran. (Sure, but I don't really care.) Maybe I am thirsty for frozen treats. Yes! That's it!

(gets up to get some Root Beer Float flavored ice cream)

Ahh, much better. Now, where were we?

I have wanted this upholstered rocking chair since I saw one in a furniture store in La Crosse several years ago. The person in the store told me it only came in this hideous yellow floral print, so I gave up hope that I would have one, but kept it in the back of my mind. The Plow and Hearth catalog (never my favorite; rustic furniture at thrice the price) now has the same thing in six denim colors, three twill, and the requisite horrendous floral prints/stripes. For $399. With special $60 shipment which pretty much means you have to be at home waiting for it for an entire day.

Do I need this chair? No.

Do I have a place to put this chair? Not at the moment.

Do I love this chair? Do I want to rock in it with every twitching fiber of my body? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

So what I will do is, I will move to Madison and make sure I have room for the chair in my new apartment, I will order the chair once it goes on sale, and I will wait for it on the day it's scheduled to come, rubbing my hands together with gleeful anticipation.

Or not. I'm sort of a fickle shopper sometimes.

Just ran across this site: Not Fooling Anybody, a site with pictures of fast-food restaurants and other commercial buildings that have been badly adapted into some other business. Pizza Huts that became insurance offices, Greek restaurants now selling sushi, cleaners that have changed hands and taken the easiest possible route to changing their name. I never really thought about this phenomenon too deeply, but it is sort of interesting what happens when a franchise builds a building to their own specs, and then times change and some other business needs to make use of the same building.

The one that comes to mind in Madison is the building hosting the UW-Madison Space Place on Park St., a sort of astronomy workshop and field-trip destination for kids. Fifteen years ago, it used to be a Ponderosa Steakhouse, and it still has the characteristic two-story pseudo-Western facade. You wonder to what use they've put the steam table, or the lighted menu by the door. In any case, you will notice that the Space Place has no photo of their building on their website.

I'm still absorbing 12th Night in Nordskogen--will write more about that soon. I'll have to do it this week, otherwise my memories will be overwritten by 12th Night in Tree-Girt-Sea, which I hadn't intended on attending (I am way scared to drive in Chicago) but, now that I have had two offers of transportation, I just might go. There's a bardic pre-revel Friday night as an added attraction. It's looking likely.

Now--off to do some more kumihimo. I received my marudai in the mail from my friend Dunstan, who I will get to thank with a big hug this weekend if I go to Tree-Girt-Sea, and did my first braid on it over Sunday and Monday nights, practically without thinking. It's just beautiful to use. I'm wondering what made me linger in the world of cardboard for so long.

Monday, January 05, 2004
Egg Cuber: possible uses
Guest contributor: Colin (quoted from his e-mail with his permission)

What to do with cubical eggs?

The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Well, first and foremost, they won't roll off the cutting board while you're slicing them.

You could use them to make a Deviled Castle for a protein-rich subtlety.

Ovo-lacto vegetarians could paint spots on them and use them as dice just to piss off all their vegan friends.

It's obviously the predecessor to the cubical watermelon, although those spherical carrots are just as obviously a step in the wrong direction...

For the obsessive-compulsive person in your life, you can slice them and put them on saltines and there aren't any little cracker corners extending out past the edges of the (normally round) egg slices...

And, most importantly, if you swallow them whole, you're less likely to choke on them as they don't block the airway as effectively.

More later, I'm sure. Ohh, yes...

Colin Blackthorn

Sunday, January 04, 2004
From the Items I'll Never Use Dept.
Or, It was an irony purchase, okay?

I was at World Market in Madison earlier today, as the snow was beginning to fall in earnest, spending more than I should on items I mostly didn't need, when I spotted a small gathering of these items:

View 1
View 2

Those are scans of the box. The Egg Cuber itself is an unremarkable item of slightly orangey/transparent acrylic. High-tech it ain't. I don't care; I can't figure out why I would want to use it.

What I like about it is the box (done in copy/photos that look like they were designed the old-fashioned way, with ink, colored pencils, a camera and mucilage for paste-up), and--of course--the fact that this product exists for no apparent reason. All it does is take a perfectly good ovoid hard-boiled egg and give it six distinct sides. Even the box doesn't explain why I would ever want to do this or offer a serving suggestion, though it does thoughtfully give step-by-step illustrated instructions, complete with a nice tip about refrigerating the cuber before...ahem...cubing.

If you want your own Egg Cuber, you can get one here, though you'll have to pay a whole dollar more (not including shipping/handling and tax) than I did. Use it in good health.

Thus far my vacation from work has been nice; technically I've only been off for one day, since I wouldn't have worked New Year's Day anyway, and the rest has been the weekend. I slept shamelessly late on Thursday and Friday. Thursday I had an excuse; I spent New Year's Eve at Kudrun's with her and Vettoria, sucking down excellent homemade white chili, playing the psaltery (in duet!), then talking until 1. Friday I was just sleeping. For fun. 'Cause I can.

Saturday I drove to Madison for Jararvellir's Yuletide Moot. It was held in a pair of cozy rooms at Edgewood College, where I got to relax, chat, play games, listen to the Music Guild, and dance with Jaravellir friends. I went partly because I had nothing else going on, partly because I want to get to know the group better since I will probably be moving there in a few months.

It only took an hour or so for it to feel like home. People greeted me with hugs and had lots of leisure time to sit and chat. Along with Niklaus, I helped a nice lady with tuning her Zippy Zither, which is an authentically-shaped, mass-produced plucked psaltery that was apparently made by J.C. Penney's in the 1960's as a toy. It has a nice little sound (not as loud as my baby but then, the zither is much smaller and thinner). I think if you can find one in good shape, perhaps on eBay as linked above, a Zippy Zither would make a nice period-esque instrument for people in the SCA.

Later, I had some nice conversations with my "bro" (Owen's newest student), Roberd MacCormaic, with Baroness Eithni, and with Tristan der Facheltrager (wow, am I a good speller or what?). I got to borrow Roberd's herald baton to use as a prop when telling the scorpion story. You know, no matter how little interest I have in being a storyteller, I appear to have developed some expertise in telling the scorpion story. Not that I'm professional about it, not that I really know what I'm doing, not that I can keep from giggling during the story or ignore interruptions effectively, but that I seem to be getting into the drama of it all. I would never have thought I'd enjoy pulling an imaginary schlager (the herald baton) out of its imaginary scabbard (hanging from my apprentice's belt), at least not quite as much as I did.

The potluck feast was lovely, and then Thea led dancing and I got to play the Miscellaneous Jararvellir Music Guild Tabor, which is much nicer than any of the elderly Miscellaneous Jararvellir Music Guild Tambourines (which weren't there anyway). I'm not used to playing a drum with a beater. When the dance would end, I'd beat it on my knee in applause (rather than using my hands, for which I'd have to put down the drum and beater), and my knee reflex would kick in and I'd kick the music stand. At least I never kicked it over. Got to dance a little too, Petit Vriens and Trenchmore; dancing is always satisfying in the purple cotehardie with its 21-foot-circumference hem. When that dress dies, I want to make two more in the same style.

Today I went to lunch with Mom, then shopped a little; when I could tell it was getting seriously snowy, I got on the road to La Crosse. Some slightly hairy moments ensued, but all was fine by the time I got to the interstate.

In other news, a nice woman named Melanie has written to say that she agrees with my assessment of Spotted in France from my Books page. She also says that there is a woman in Illinois who does one-hour dramatized adaptations of books, who is going to do this book in a couple of weeks--and that she heard about it from someone who saw my review on the Books page! Woohoo! I'm influential! (Wasn't that the dream of librarians awhile back, to influence people's reading habits for the better? Well, I guess it still is at public libraries.) Thanks Melanie!

Not much planned for the next few days. Some thinking, walking, sewing, packing for Twelfth Night (I bought some silk long underwear for 12th Night, I'm going to be cooooozy!). Choir starts up again Tuesday night. Among other various and sundry odd things, we're singing my very favorite piece ever, William Byrd's "Ave Verum Corpus" (midi here). Looking forward to it.

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