Saturday, August 28, 2004
In domesticity once more
Or, You can lead a girl to bread but you can't make her knead

It's nice to be back. The sparkle of Pennsic has receded, but never the memories.
On Monday I found U-Bake (check about 2/3 down the page), a bulk foods and frozen-baked-goods store. This is not unlike the bulk foods stores you find in central WI, run by slightly liberal Amish or Moravians (well, liberal for Amish or Moravians, anyway), with bagged cake mix and cornmeal and generic jello and peppermint sticks. (Do the Amish really eat that much jello?) Except it's FULL of frozen baked goods, among them small bread loaves you can thaw for a couple of hours and then bake for 20 minutes. Can you imagine anything better for me, someone who loves the smell of fresh bread but can't be bothered to actually mix any up? (Or if she does, she ends up with something dry and grainy and nothing like an actual loaf of bread. Much as it may smell like one.)

So the apartment has smelled particularly lovely this week. Even better now that I've put away the tent...!

Mom & I went to see Garden State, which was even better than I expected. Mom thought it was only so-so. Zach Braff (who also wrote and directed) plays a prescription-drug-numbed actor who goes off all his meds when his mother commits suicide and he's called home to New Jersey, where he falls in love, negotiates a bitter relationship with his father, and begins to open up to the possibilities of life.

I liked his character so much that when Natalie Portman, who plays the love interest, first showed up onscreen, I murmured "Oh, good", glad that he was going to get a cute girlfriend. Shallow of me, I know...but you should hear how my male friends talk about Natalie Portman, ever since her turns in the Star Wars movies. One of the guys in SCA choir had also seen the movie and gushed over the Natalie Portman character as "adorable, opinionated, tender-hearted, exactly the woman I want to marry..." And that was the least physical-beauty-oriented comment I'd heard in a long time.

This weekend: busy, but at home. Last night I went to La Paella, a Spanish restaurant that I've been trying to get my mom to visit with me for ages. The tapas were amazing. Overall the place is a bit seafood-heavy (there were no entrees without fish or seafood) but the tapas made up for that. I don't know that I'd go back just for fun; there are too many wonderful restaurants to visit in Madison. (Why yes, I have been reading the Isthmus Annual Manual, why do you ask?) But I'd still recommend the food.

This morning: took my Walkman down to the Farmer's Market on the Square and listened to Public Radio while shopping for veggies. The Market never seems to change (not since the booth selling squares of fudge disappeared, when I was in my early teens, anyway). The smells of dill, basil and sticky baked goods still intoxicate me. I bought beautiful leeks, sweet corn, squeaky white cheese curds ("There are cheese curds/that make our tummies happy in the Northshield..."), adorable little yellow potatoes, and the round yellow cucumbers I used to get at the Cameron Park Market in La Crosse. Just eat 'em with salt and pepper. YOW good.

There is now leek and potato soup on the stove, which I am willing myself not to eat much of since I'm meeting Eithni and Iohanna for dinner at The Dardanelles on Monroe St., then going to an ice cream social/havdalah at Temple.

Tomorrow: going to Caer Anterth for their Post-Pennsic Pity Party. Dahrien invited bardic types; I'm bringing Chandler and possibly more. It's also finally time to sit down with Viscountess Astrid and teach her kumihimo (which she called "kumihuminahumina" in an e-mail); she wants to use it as her A&S project for entering Crown Tourney in October. I adore Astrid but slightly doubt whether she can sit still long enough to make a braid on a marudai...! Well, it doesn't matter, she doesn't have one. We'll do a show-and-tell on mine and then explore some stitches she might like to learn.

To my disappointment, I just discovered that Dave Gray died in January 2002. This is a little shocking to me. The summer after I was in library school, when I was spending my time working 20 hours a week and staying up late doing Internet chat, local guy Dave had a cable access comedy talk show that addicted me, for no good reason I could ever figure out. He was a big, nasal fellow who would alternately flirt with and verbally abuse callers, who used to accuse guests of being "gooped up on the gop" or maybe "gopped up on the goop" depending on his mood, who made a joke out of the fact that every foreign accent he tried to do ended up sounding like Herve Villechaise, and who thought it was funny to give out his pager number on-air, set it to "strong vibrate", and clip it to the front of his co-host's pants. The straight-man co-host would jump every so often and Dave would laugh and say, "Hey, buddy, you got the crotch buzzer thing going out there in tv-land, dial this number!" and he'd make the tech post the number again.

I thought the show was the funniest thing ever. One week I even went down to the studio to be part of the (extremely small) studio audience, and ended up being filmed emerging grinning from the men's restroom for the opening sequence. I still have the video of the last Dave Gray Show--I kept it so when he made it to Saturday Night Live, I'd be able to say I watched him on cable access. Maybe I'll have to pop that in for old times' sake. Rest in peace, Dave.

In music news, I have an audition for the UW-Madison Madrigal Singers next Tuesday evening. Wish me luck. This is the same group I was part of while in grad school, 1993-1995, and I really loved it. If I get in, it'll mean I have to quit SCA choir until next summer (MS meets Tues. and Thurs. 6:30-8:30; I can hurry over to the Union right afterwards, but I'll still only get 25 minutes in with the SCA choir). This thought is a little depressing since this past Thursday night, when we had 15 people show up at SCA choir, after which we all went out to dinner together to celebrate one choir member's birthday and had a wonderful time. At least I know the soprano section won't collapse without me...but it's a fun group and I'll miss it. If indeed I pass the audition. We'll see, I guess.

Saturday, August 21, 2004
A triumphant war
Or, Best...Pennsic...EVER.

I'm writing this about 24 hours after leaving site, after 10 hours of sleep, no breakfast and no exposure to the outside world except what we encountered at rest stops on the way home last night. (Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is rather good, I discovered.) So I hope the reader will pardon me if this has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it. I have to get it all down in one place before the mundane world invades.

Seraphina, Iohanna and I traveled to Pennsic last Saturday, in a minivan crammed to the gills with our stuff. I already knew Iohanna would be wonderful to travel with, but Seraphina was a revelation. She is this assertive, cheerful lady fighter with an open mind and heart to everything. She is delightful, and I use the word "delightful" in the way my mom might: she is someone with whom I thought I had nothing in common, who turned out to be enormously funny, interesting and even someone I think I could learn from. Not to mention that she has a perspective on Jararvellir that goes back further than mine or Iohanna's, and is more steeped in the personal lore of the members of the Barony. Ah, the things Iohanna and I heard in that minivan...!

I had a schedule that I'd cobbled together from my few personal Pennsic committments, the class and activity schedule on the website, and my scant knowledge of evening bardic circle activity plans. Did I follow it? Not 100%, but I got to two of the classes I'd wanted to attend (one on the music of the Convivencia, and one on language change in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, both of which were very good and piqued me to do additional research). And I accomplished absolutely everything I wanted to accomplish.

One of those mandatory things was Sunday's Opening Ceremonies. In preparation, we always march as Northshield to Midrealm Royal, stand outside the gates, and sing with the other "sons of the dragon", Calontir and Ealdormere. For the past two years this has been in light rain, so the march was then slightly up the hill to the Barn where thousands of people would be crammed into the worst acoustics in the Known World, trying to hear two kings begin an amicable war. This year, no rain threatened, so it was again on the battlefield in front of the fort, as it was at my first Pennsic. This gave us additional marching/singing time, so we made the most of it.

I was listening intently to the allocation of allies. While we didn't win in the end (I hope I'm not giving anything away there; the Midrealm never wins Pennsic) we had a spectacular list of allies. King Giovanni of the Outlands even mentioned his love for Northshield as the inspiration for his putting the forces (admittedly small) of the Outlands at the disposal of the Middle this year. We cheered wildly.

Bardic circles I attended:

  • Sunday night: First at Sternfeld, where an appreciative Constellation crowd had gathered and was hosting a homey circle. A Baroness was handing out small handmade wire pennanular brooches as a bardic token. I was heartily impressed with the talent, the flow of the circle, and the sense of patronage. Then I moved on to:
  • Barony Marche of the Debatable Lands, aka Brion's circle, with which we traditionally open the War Week bardic activities at Pennsic. It was full of wonderful people and hospitality. And I got some snuggle time with my friend Michael, who is married but very supportive of the idea that sometimes a girl would like a hug. ;)
  • Monday night: Northshield bardic circle in N19. A huge success. It was Christian's idea as Bard of the Midrealm to host a bardic circle with each of the regions of the Middle during Pennsic; I believe four of them hosted one (I was at three of these). He managed to de-couple the Northshield bardic circle from the Wednesday night Northshield party, which was the best thing ever to happen to each event, I'm convinced. We weren't trying to compete with the noise and appeal of the annual party, so the circle flowed more naturally and with less interruptions, and had everyone from some star-bard types to enthusiastic Northshield bardic fans. Several Northshielders I'd never heard sing before debuted new pieces or new renditions of favorites. I was heartily impressed and inspired. Seraphina had not been to a bardic circle before and her excited reaction was very fulfilling to me. And my SAI grand-sis from college, Becky, who is now living in Madison and who camped with her husband in Northshield this year, brought out her beautiful voice for a delicate and soaring version of "Amarilli, mia bella" that impressed the heck out of Lady Heir Bridei and out of Owen. (More about her in my assessment of the Northshield party below.) I couldn't leave this circle, even though I had been invited to a private period-music one that conflicted. (Dorigen, if you're reading this, I apologize.)
  • Tuesday night: Midlands bardic circle. I brought Bridei and her retainers, who are kind of household members of mine through Roberd, Owen's student: Sadb Nia, Roberd's wife, and his daughter Ciaran. (Ciaran wins my all-around blow-my-socks-off award for this war. Not only can she balance anything on her head for as long as she needs to, and converse intelligently on any topic, she served Bridei with a will and cooked delicious crepes for her and us one morning. A smarter 11-year-old I have yet to run across.) John Inchingham and Mairi were hosting and this circle lasted later than any other this week, with possibly the most variety in style and emotion that I heard at this war. Many of the same people who had been at Constellation/BMDL and Northshield showed up for this, making for some continuity, and again I was impressed by the quality of performances and by the patronage and hospitality. Not only did they serve spaghetti early on, they brought out homemade ice cream when it seemed time for dessert. I think I like the Midlands spirit. I predict great things for them, in and out of the Midrealm.
  • Wednesday night: Northshield party, not so much bardic. I'll get to that in a moment. I missed the Northwoods-hosted Pentamere bardic circle, but Christian said it went surprisingly well due to a density of attendees with wonderful historical stories about the early days of the Midrealm. I am starting to doubt the cynical assessment that the larger Midrealm is poor in terms of the bardic arts. The bards are there, they just aren't calling themselves that, and aren't meeting up enough.
  • Thursday night: after Midrealm Court, Owen and I went to the Aethelmearc bardic circle. Two years ago I had been to this "circle"--a bunch of chairs set up in an audience format, with a few storytellers with more enthusiasm than talent and a table of crudites. It felt stilted and not very bardic, and they lost people quickly. This year, something happened to Aethelmearc: Gwendolyn the Graceful became Sylvan Bard of Aethelmearc. I cannot say enough about this woman: a voice that fills your mind and heart, spirit as big as the Known World, and some pretty spiffy organizational skills to boot. She made songbooks (I got one!) and got everyone singing, and I discovered that Aethelmearc isn't hostile to bardic at all, they were just waiting for the right person to bring out their own enthusiasm and sense of family. We sat in a circle (imagine!) and singalongs, harmony and giving tokens were definitely encouraged. Owen and I hadn't brought our bardic books but I assured him I now have "Stella Splendens" by heart (I proved it Tuesday night by singing it from beginning to end from memory with Peregrine), so we did that. Listen to this: they sang along. In Latin. There are only three repetitions of the Latin chorus, though the tune does come up in the English repeatedly. Nevertheless on the last Latin chorus, they sang along with us. This boggles my mind! Singalongs in foreign languages among people who have never heard the piece before! Obviously I have completely underrated the Aethelmearc bardic talent and spirit. I will never do so again.

In addition, there was some impromptu Northshield singing around the N19 fire pit after some of these. This was mostly me getting excited about songs I had just learned and sharing them with whoever happened along. I couldn't help it. I was really inspired by what I heard this War at the circles.

Favorite new pieces: Gwen's plaint/paean to being a single woman at War, which really spoke to me. Lucia's "Undefeated", which Wyndreth MUST hear ASAP, a driving "this is a good day to die" war song that garnered thunderous applause whenever she did it. Becky's first Northshield song, which warmed my heart on a cold evening. Aethelmearc's national anthem/togetherness song, "Banners of Scarlet", which I sang once I got back to N19 Thursday night and immediately addicted several people to the tune. I'm forgetting a lot of things that impressed me. I'll try to re-post as I remember them.

Thursday afternoon was the Bardic Exhibition. Having missed a period-pieces bardic circle earlier in the week, I brought out two period things for my performance: Sermisy's "Tant Que Vivray" with my translation of the first verse, and the Italian lauda "Laude Novella" that I learned at the Rose Ensemble workshop in June. I was pleased with the reaction. The rest of the exhibition leaned unusually in the direction of period stories, but with some good variety here and there too, and they were all excellent except for a 25-minute story that I slept through. (Hey, I had gotten something like four hours' sleep the night before. This was not a sleep-laden War for me. Too much to sing, too much to do, too many people to spend time with.)

The Northshield party went over much better than you'd think, if you were in on some of the sniping on the Northshield list about the theme over the last few weeks. The theme was Middle Eastern and some people didn't like the idea of having a "bad genie garb" contest; they thought it was undignified and glorified bad garb. What it turned out to be was a lot of fun and a way to provide under-the-pavilion entertainment during some brief rain. A surprisingly wacky Sir Lars won with his "MC Hafla" breakdancing routine.

We were also joined by a performance troupe called House Ravenspittle, which was bawdy and fun in much the same way the Reduced Shakespeare Company is. Not very child-appropriate, but I was sitting with Ciaran when they made the rated-R warning and made sure one of her parents was hailed to give permission for her to stay. (She got most of the jokes. Kids these days...! They know everything.) I also did some snuggling with my friend Lance from Windhaven, who is always good for a hug.

Then Becky, who is a friend of Lance's from when she lived in Windhaven, approached me with the revelation that she had written a Northshield song. Oh, and as befits someone who has a masters' in vocal performance, she had notated the whole thing in careful ruling and script. I'm so used to people bringing me lyrics and then haltingly trying to give me an aural example of the tune. This was a refreshing change. I was excited and brought her to Owen, and she gave a command performance. I liked it a lot--it had many of the qualities of other traditional Northshield songs, but with a period twist to the melody that impressed me very much.

In my scrapbook I have a picture snapped at our SAI formal in 1992 with my big sis Alison, myself, my little sis Jessi, and her little sis Becky. If someone had told me at that moment that in 14 years I would be at an 11,000-person medieval-themed camping event in Pennsylvania with multiple-music-degreed Becky and she would come up to me to offer me up this gem of a song as her first bardic foray, I would have called St. Elizabeth's inpatient psychiatric department to come pick them up.

Owen also debuted his new verse of "Row, Men, Row" for Prince Hrodir and Princess Giulia, a tradition which involves him leading the entire party in the entire song. About halfway through, Hrodir requested that Lady Katherine from Midewinde and I come up and lead the crowd in the chorus (it had started out a little dirgelike). The drummers who were there for the hafla joined in, and we kept grabbing other bards and bardic fans from the audience and bringing them up to join us at the front. It gained momentum and was highly inspiring.

King Felix stood in the middle of the tent, leaning against a pole, and gave his steely stare to the singers up front, inscrutable as always. I missed an opportunity to make him part of it: Owen said later that I should have come forward and offered my hand to him to join us singing in the front. It would have been a highly symbolic moment. But I was mesmerized by his gaze, and slightly afraid. I do think we taught him something during that performance. I also think that night was when it finally became part of the truth in my bones and my blood, that we are going to be a Kingdom. Owen says there's one more "Row, Men, Row" verse for the transition, and then that's it.

The descriptive word for the Pennsic Choir this year was big. Mistress Anne from Atlantia has a huge following; the choir was perhaps 1/3 Atlantian. Finally, after years of shortages, we had a solid, strong (even agressive) bass section, and a respectable (though largely female) tenor section. She picked fun music that was mostly non-threatening to those without strong choral skills, with the exception of a difficult Lassus piece that she had edited herself (this was still fun, just more difficult). With such a short time and such a large group, it's difficult to direct the subtleties of dynamics and emphasis, so she kind of didn't try. As Christian put it later, she didn't ask for 10 things and get 1. She asked for three things and got them. In the performance, the Choir was loud, it was nothing like perfect, but singing in it was bounteous fun, and the music is still running through my head.

I had an unexpectedly good conversation with Owen Thursday night, surrounding/after Midrealm Court. I wouldn't have gone to that, normally, but he thought I should, so I was a dutiful apprentice and followed along with him, in the hopes of having some good conversation. This also meant I got to see Countess Fina put on vigil as a Pelican, Teffan get her Cavendish Knot, and Giannetta, my friend from Tree-Girt-Sea who directs the Pippins choral group, Laureled. (For costuming, though to me she'll always be a Choral Laurel. There are far too few of those.) The point, for me, was to spend a little one-on-one time with Owen. I feel much better about our apprentice/laurel relationship after that conversation. To be frank, I had been worried; about what, I don't want to go into here. But I feel much better now, and got some additional information on something else, not related to him, that has been piquing my interest.

Late Thursday night I decided it was time to take this additional information and run with it. I really don't want to go into details; my memories still have that tinge of the magical that comes with anything that happens on your final night at Pennsic. I will say I had a wonderful conversation with someone I esteem highly and am very attracted to. I hope if he reads this, he will continue in his thinking process about the possibilities, and maybe smile, and remember what I said to him. There's no rush, there's no urgency, just the possibility of very good things in the future.

No, I didn't get a kiss. Dammit. I did get an open-hearted, blue-eyed grin from him when we stopped the minivan at about 3pm Friday (yesterday) on our way out of the campground, to say goodbye to the Northshield army as they marched back from battle. That was enough for me.

Exactly twelve hours later I was sprawled across my bed here in Madison, wondering at the whirlwind and the music and the possibilities and the joy that was Pennsic this year. It hardly seems possible that I'm home again. We left before most people had even begun to pack (Seraphina has to get her parents' minivan back to Appleton before tomorrow morning). The trip back was so speedy, and so full of wonderful conversation, that it seemed like an extension of Pennsic. Waking up this morning in my bed (though comfortable) has only been acceptable to me because I still feel close to the event, still in touch with my memories. I'm sure it will hit me, probably when I'm eating pizza and watching the Summer Olympics sometime in the next 24 hours, that I'm no longer in that magical place and that life has to go back to its normal mundanity now. But the memories and the inspiration and the possibilities raised at this Pennsic will fade slowly, if at all, and will always be a source of joy for me.

It wouldn't have been hard for this Pennsic to be better than the last one. My last visit to, say, the local post office was better than last Pennsic was for me. But I could never have known how genuinely, astonishingly good this one would be. I feel blessed.

Now: the long unpacking/laundry process begins. I've never been so thankful to be jobless; I may be able to get a big portion of this done in the next day or two. In the meantime I am beginning to be happy to be home. The shower this morning was delicious, and I even lay in bed in the late morning as the Indian teenagers who live below me blasted their music, and thought, "How nice for them, they have fun music they enjoy..." and not "Razzum-frazzum thin wall construction, I'd better bang on the floor". I hope this feeling of goodwill lasts awhile.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
With iced mocha in hand, I take up keyboard to write you...
Or, Countdown four days until departure for Pennsic

Longish entry today, with some things I've been needing to get off my chest for about eight months now. Fair warning. ;)

I just went for a nice long walk in what looks like the first day of fall: overcast, breezy, about 64 degrees. I love it. If Pennsic is anything like it, I'll be (literally) one happy camper.

Took my normal walk, up Lorraine and down to University and back up Craig and Brody, with one addition: a loop around Kettle Pond. I think the Madison Parks District has forgotten Kettle Pond exists. The gravel path is so overgrown that in spots I had to trample the weeds down in front of me, and the pond is completely filled in with swaying rushes. It's still a nice little place, but I think next time I'm going to wear long pants instead of shorts--I have a few scratches to show for my trouble.

There are five bids and 22 views on the book I'm currently selling on eBay. I'm amazed. It wasn't that good. Not that I want to discourage people from bidding! But the bids have already gone about $1 beyond what I paid for it used at Scholar's Haven. Not bad, considering I had to list "The History of Vanity" twice and am still waiting for the winning bidder to pay or get back to me, ten days later. (Negative feedback is impending if he doesn't contact me by Thursday at midnight.) Bryson's star must be rising, I dunno.

It's hard to believe I'll be at Pennsic on Saturday. Last night I did my annual perusal of the class listing and found lots of things I want to go to: 14th century sleeve design, gilding, Hispano-Arabic song, sgraffito tile-making, quilting and patchwork.... Of course I was constantly conscious of the fact that I'll only manage to get to a small percentage of them. This is my vacation, after all, right? And I've already got committments: Christian is hosting a bardic circle for each of the regions of the Midrealm, on consecutive nights; the Northshield one conflicts with one I was invited to a couple of months ago, but avoids the usual problem with the NS circle conflicting with the NS party. (Drunken Viscounts, while fun, are not conducive to an organized or self-contained bardic circle.) We'll see how that works out.

Then there's Known World Choir rehearsals/performances, Northshield Court, and several concerts I want to get to; I haven't missed the Debatable Choir concert in all the (three) years I've been going to Pennsic. And the Bardic Exhibition. And other miscellaneous bardic circles. And shopping. SHOPPING! Can't wait.

Now I don't know how I'm going to fit it all in, and still have plenty of relaxing-under-the-Northshield-pavilion time. How does this vacation book itself up so much before I even leave?

Anyway...packing has begun. I'm not bringing kitchen-y type things (not that I have much) because Iohanna has agreed to share hers with me, including her cooler (she has one of those 5-day ones; I'll spring for ice). I'm trying to keep the amount of stuff somewhat down, since we're traveling with three people and three tents (one is a pavilion) in one minivan. Iohanna gets to determine how things are packed--it's her vehicle. But I don't want to cause space problems for her.

We've agreed to do grocery shopping once we get Pennsic and have the rest of our stuff unpacked. But my problem is that I never eat enough at camping events, so I have to purchase food that will really tempt me, that I know I'll definitely eat, which means shopping at gourmet stores and such, rather than at Wal-Mart once we get there. So I have one grocery bag-full of food specialties. I promise, that's it--just the one!

The epic Cleaning of the Tent-Bottom continues apace. I have three sides cleaned, which leaves me just part of one side and the center, which I can probably get done tonight. All there is left to do on Bridei's chemise is to set in the sleeves, which I can definitely get done tonight, and then deliver to her at Pegasus tomorrow, since Mom & I are going to hear a speaker in Waukesha tomorrow night and I won't be at Jararvellir fighter practice/social as I normally would.

It's at times like this, when my mind is full of SCA stuff, that I think back to how different things were when I was working. I am unbelievably lucky to be able to take this time off, but little things prey on me sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if I am meant to be a librarian, and I contemplate whether I'd be happier doing something like barista-ing or working in a bookstore.

But then I have these vivid memories from my last job, of buying and cataloging books and getting people just the information they need, of smiling, walking through the bookcases and realizing how much of that collection had been put together by me (I'd estimate about 97% by the time I left), and feeling a real sense of ownership. That sense of ownership wasn't encouraged by my boss; in fact it was discouraged: early on she reprimanded me for casually calling the HRC Library "my library", even though I was the only one who worked there 40 hours a week and everything there was my responsibility. And I felt so generally discouraged towards the end of my time there that it was hard to feel good about what I was doing. But I still managed to feel proud every so often. And it's that feeling that I really miss. I built something good and useful, and I gave people a good service that they needed and valued.

I still think it's criminal that I had to leave. I realize I've never gone into detail about why I left, here on my webpage. There is, or was, a reason: my boss forbade me to mention anything about work, the library, or my co-workers on this webpage. Setting aside whether this was legal for her to do (many people have assured me it's not, if I didn't sign a contract before beginning work there that specified secrecy), it was a genuinely unkind gesture from someone I would have thought had more benevolent thoughts towards her employees. She had usually seemed nice.

Unfortunately, 3 years into my time there, what had been a slight trend on her part against considering my needs, feelings, or opinions, became a tidal wave. She turned completely against me. On the pretext of addressing a slight tardiness problem, she put me on probation, gave me a menial task to do in the HSL first thing every morning so it was clear to me that my contributions weren't valued, then set everyone in the department to observing my every move. One morning I was held up in the HRC after putting my jacket away, by a patron asking a question. (Keep in mind, that's what I was hired and paid to do: answer questions from the general public.) My boss called half-an-hour later to say I had been observed coming in late to the HSL and would be fired if I were late one more time.

At the end of the day I went home and cried, while the realization came over me that I was being forced out. I would not be allowed to fulfill the terms of my probation; sooner or later, 15 seconds on the wrong side of someone's not-quite-synchronized watch would be held against me, and I would be told to clean out my desk. So I prepared a resignation letter, then proceeded to spend my last few weeks doing a beautiful job of tying up loose ends, documenting procedures, and providing excellent service to my patrons.

My boss' reaction to my resignation letter was, "I had hoped it wouldn't come to this". A thousand replies fought in my mind for a moment, and then I smiled at her and said, "That's very kind of you to say," which was as close as I felt I could come to "No, you hadn't, but hey, thanks for trying to pin the whole thing on me one last time." I told her I would be saying more in my exit interview, but the company doesn't allow live exit interviews, and when the forms came in the mail I just looked at them. There was no way I could say everything I felt in six ruled lines on a form. So I never sent them in.

I've told individuals all of this, but this is the first time I've put it all down in writing. I'm still intimidated but no longer constrained not to mention my co-workers or boss in my personal 'blog. Even so, it took me eight months for the intimidation level to go down enough for me to post this to my webpage.

Note to managers everywhere: management by threats and intimidation only works when the worker has no choice but to keep the job (support of a family, health benefits, etc.). Increasingly you will be confronted with people who have strong enough self-esteem and enough options in life that they will quit when they feel sufficiently oppressed. Best to consider some healthier management strategies before that happens, or you will find yourself hiring on a constant basis.

Since then I hear that things are even weirder in that department. I hear the cross-training is being taken to insane lengths, requiring everyone to do just about everyone else's job; someone who was hired after me has been promoted to Team Leader so the boss doesn't have to come to staff meetings anymore. Two positives would be the folks who replaced me, or rather one who replaced me and one who was hired for a similar position that was posted just before I quit. I know and respect them both and I'm sure they're doing a good job of serving the HRC's patrons and maintaining the collections. But overall I think the department is being somewhat mismanaged. I hope things get better soon or they may be headed for bad times.

All right, I feel better now, to be out of there! But I still miss the I went on a virtual visit to "my" books/videos, here. It was fun to see so many things I remember cataloging, shelving, and checking out to people. As my Collection Development professor used to say, it's not enough for a prospective librarian to love books: you have to love people, too, and want to bring them the information they need, in whatever format they can use it. But that doesn't preclude loving books, or being proud of a collection you built with your own hands, especially if it's useful to patrons. I hope I'll always have some collection development responsibilities in my job(s) in the future.

Didn't get the job at the Dictionary of American Regional English. *pout* But two have opened up this week, one that I'm not qualified for but would sorta like, and one that I KNOW I can do and would really enjoy, but for which I'll probably be in a pool of several hundred applicants. I'll apply for at least one before leaving for Pennsic.

Okay. Time to get out the Dobie (tm) and dishpan, and do some tent-bottom-scrubbing!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Sometimes I can be most productive by staying at home
Or, Decaying vegetable matter begone!

Today I did several things: sewed on the chemise I'm making for Bridei, scrubbed the bottom of my tent, and...oh yeah, that's all I did. It hardly seems enough to fill a whole day, but sadly, or happily, depending on how you see it, it did. I now have two finished sleeves, entirely handmade, to show for it. The rest will probably be machine-done, but think how many people will take the hand of the first Queen of the Northshield. Will they want to see hanging sewing machine threads on the ruffles at her wrist? I think not.

I have about a quarter of the tent bottom done. Why does it need cleaning? Because it rained steadily for most of last Pennsic, and when I took down the tent there was a whole ecosystem growing and dying under there. I let it dry out for a month or so in my last apartment's garage after coming home, thinking, well, dried vegetable matter must get to a point where it's so dry, it's just plain dead and can't support mold even if it gets wet again. Wishful thinking. Even with a tarp under it at W&W this year, life was definitely growing at the end of three days. So it has to be cleaned off completely (and completely dried) before I leave for Pennsic in a week and a half. I'm using dish soap and water, with several spritzes of bleach-based all-purpose cleaner in each dishpan. With any luck, I won't have to do this every year.

So that was today. Productive and hard on the hands. Yesterday sounds more pitiful, but was actually sort of fun: I decided to do something new and go down to the High Noon Saloon on E. Washington, a newish live music venue, where two filmmakers and a two-person music group were presenting "Post-Capitalist Love Songs". Isthmus even did a small article on this, so I figured it would be, well...something.

It was that, at least. The films were rough but occasionally interesting. The promised "Strip Mall Trilogy" couldn't be shown because they needed a video projector, and apparently their technology coordinator's skills stopped at a used elementary school film projector and a screen made of a patched bedsheet purchased at a thrift shop. So we saw a two-minute gem made up of shots of one of the filmmakers' backyards during a summer when he lived with a Latvian rock group (guitarists kept appearing and disappearing). The other filmmaker put together a sort of 21st century pre-history made up of short vignettes. An example:

2034: First Contact, or, The Third Sex. A man is positioned over a woman in bed, both covered by a sheet. She says, "No, put it in the middle hole." "Middle hole?" he asks, mildly confused. "Yeah, no, the middle...hold on, I'll help..." and she reaches down and guides him. Next shot: she's lying covered by the sheet from the waist down. For some reason, there are fleshtone foam crescent-shaped covers over her chest. There is a puddle on her midriff, and she says, "It's funny, it doesn't even look like yours." "But I just made it," he says, still only mildly surprised. "Yeah, I know," she says. That's it.

2063: Second Contact, or, The Fourth Sex, is even briefer: A woman is positioned over a man in bed, both covered by a sheet. He says, "No, put it in the middle hole."

Funny, sure, but that was pretty much it for the intentional comedy for the evening.

Roommate, a band fronted by this guy, consisted of Kent (who plays a keyboard he holds like a guitar, programs rhythm tracks on his GameBoy, and likes to change shoes and take ibuprofen on stage) and Evelyn (who plays the musical saw while looking like she's observing aliens landing in the back of the room). For all my complaining, I did find them fun sometimes; I liked this song about River Phoenix more than I thought I would.

High Noon is definitely not finished on the outside. They're hemmed in by construction (theirs or Wisconsin Power & Light's, who owns the rest of the block, it's hard to tell) so you have to follow hand-lettered signs through a maze of chainlink fences to get to the main entrance. Once inside it's very nice, though not set up for films (they had to put black sheets up over the windows). I do have to say this was the first time in my life that I didn't get a cherry in my Shirley Temple. *pout*

This past weekend I went to Green Bay for the local group's Newcomer's Day. I stayed with Balthazar, a genuine SCA foodie, who wouldn't dream of sending off a crasher without a white-linen-and-silver breakfast. Really! He has a lovely little house which used to be his grandmother's, and the backyard easily goes 200 yards away from the house, towards trees, so they set up lots of pavilions and tents and activities, and even with perhaps 60 people there, it was quite roomy.

Baroness Leaina and Baron Dagr did what I thought was supposed to be a mock court, and called me in (I was in the middle of a fingerloop braid; Elspeth was kind enough to hold the strings for me when I went up). Balthazar was heralding and I believe he called me Elaine Halvah. That's a new one on me (though I do enjoy a nice pistachio halvah, if the truth be known). So then he started reading a scroll and I realized this was not a mock court. I received a Bo-Tii's Wing, which is about the same thing as Nordskogen's Silver Snowdrift, an award for service to the Barony by someone who lives elsewhere.

Do you realize that I now have two Baronial awards, neither from a Barony in which I reside? (I did technically live in Windhaven while in college, but wasn't part of the SCA while there.) I needled Eithni at general meeting Sunday night about Jararvellir not having a similar award. She's going to ponder it. There are plenty of people who would deserve it.

Anyway, attendance at the Newcomer's Day was very good. There were perhaps 12-15 local newbies. Also, I was really pleased to see that Skerrstrand's seneschal brought down a carful: three newbies and Lady Anne, not a newbie, but interested. It was great to see them all, only a week after Woodland Romp.

During the open activities period (why didn't we have one of those at my first event, which was an Althing and Newcomers' Seminar held at the student union at UW-Milwaukee?), I led a bardic circle, where quite a few (mostly female) newbies attended and sang along. I think there are some new bardic addicts in Windhaven. (My evil work there is done...!) There was also archery (told you this was a big backyard), rapier, armored fighting, calligraphy/illumination, sewing, and some other quiet stuff that I couldn't see because my back was to that area and I was having so much fun leading the bardic circle, I couldn't turn around.

I kind of had to lead the bardic circle that night too. It worries me that some bardic circles might not be bardic circles if I didn't lead them. Obviously there are other "bardic instigators" (Ingus, Charissa, Dahrien, etc.) but it seems like recently they haven't been around when the bardic circle is supposed to happen. I used to think Owen was being a snot (sorry, Owen) when he wouldn't show up at various circles, or would hover in the shadows and only participate briefly. But now I think he must have been feeling a bit like I do. I don't want to be invaluable. I would like to think the bardic community can function without me. No one will ever accuse me of being shy and retiring in the SCA--I do adore the spotlight--but it's not noble to grab it constantly, even if something everyone wants to happen (like a bardic circle) might not happen if I don't.

Right now I worry about this on a personal level, but say I were to get Laureled, which I do realize could happen sometime in the next 20 years or so. The worries would be even worse. I'd worry that I was fostering some sort of "only Laurels can make a bardic circle happen" mentality. Our current Bardic Laurels do a relatively hands-off job of leading the community; I think at least one of them would deny she leads in any way. Bardic Laurels in other kingdoms sometimes run the show, sometimes not, and sometimes look ridiculous trying to lead, and sometimes end up alienating others. How would I figure out what's right for me to do--what will seem noble, giving, chivalrous as opposed to greedy, without simply deciding to clamp my mouth shut? When leading is motivated by a desire to stand in the spotlight, isn't that wrong? And when you're supposed to be an example to others, a peer of the greastest in the Kingdom, does that mean you have to stop grabbing the spotlight just because it's fun?

Ach, you'd think I was Catholic or something, what with the guilt and the worrying.... Anyway, officially, I'm not running bardic activities at any other event this calendar year. Except for pre-planning for Bardic Madness next Spring, my remaining 2004 committments are non-bardic. Three official and numerous unofficial bardic coordinator jobs since February are enough. I want to see my friends seize the leadership position a little.

I'll still be singing at the circles, though. I don't think I could stop myself.

In non-bardic news, I'm now doing some fingerloop braiding, having had a brief introduction at an event recently. Kumihimo experts like Makiko Tada believe many kumihimo braid types began more than a thousand years ago in Japan as fingerloop braids, and were then moved off the hands when braiders added more threads and devised a separate stand. Fingerloop braiding is better known as a 15th and 16th century Western European technique, though. There's a recent Compleat Anachronist issue about fingerloop braiding (#108) which has really good directions and history.

I find it to be a lot of fun, but woke up yesterday (after doing five braids Saturday and two Sunday night) with a huge throbbing blister on the side of my right ring-finger's first knuckle, where I put a lot of pull on the thread. It feels better now, and should develop into a nice callus, but I've learned my lesson: pace yourself with your new favorite hobby!

Funniest line heard about kumihimo recently: a braider with a completely portable wooden hand-held braiding setup had someone come up and ask her, "How do you know when you win?"

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