Thursday, February 24, 2005
Free grapes as a sign of fundamental luckiness
Or, The nightmares can start any time now

Countdown 9 days to Bardic Madness. A situation has arisen. My paternal grandfather, to whom I was never very close and who has been ill since around the time I lived in North Dakota, is going downhill. He had a stroke on the operating table in 1997 and never recovered, and now we find out he's recently had another stroke, which is having a negative effect on basic bodily functions. My parents went down to Indiana this morning to be with family and do DNR paperwork. So I am now on alert in case I need to go down there as well--there's no way to know when. Meaning: I spent last evening on the phone with my deputy (Dahrien, you're the best) and my site autocrat, in case I would need to be in Indiana during Bardic Madness. Everyone seems to have everything very well in hand, but I would be sad to have to miss BM (not to mention I'd be sad about the reason I'd have to miss it).

In better news, I went grocery shopping on Tuesday night and someone else's large bag of delectable green grapes made it into my produce bag by accident. Didn't notice it until I got home. I've been having grapes for dessert ever since. I'd rarely buy grapes except for a party situation or to add to a potluck, since I don't eat them very fast and I hate it when they spoil. So this is a treat. Occasionally a person gets lucky for no apparent reason, I guess.

Volunteered on the phones at WPR yesterday. I had to switch my work schedule around and get up early in order to do it, but it was worth it. They put me on a laptop with a phone headset, entering pledges using a new user-friendly system that puts the info right into the main database. No filling out forms! This also meant that I had an internet connection while I waited for the phone to ring! Quel luxe. The pizza from Paisan's was fabulous (though the pesto has a few too many ingredients for my makes for a rather busy pizza), and the classical music host played Carmina Burana for us.

I was talking to another volunteer about Carmina and mentioned I had been in an energetic performance of it in college. This was my senior year, end of winter term, when I was going out with Steve. The volunteer had this wonderful kind way of getting me to talk about my memories. Maybe she works as an interviewer or something. I told her about how after the performance, I was so excited that I ran out to the rehearsal room in the Con where they were giving a reception, and did a running fling into Steve's arms. The volunteer grinned and said, "It's wonderful to have those kinds of memories, isn't it? You'll never forget that performance." I said, "No, I won't, and I bet Steve won't either." And she smiled and said, "How many years has it been since you talked to him?" I laughed sort of guiltily and admitted, "We haven't seen each other or talked/written since graduation." The conversation was a reminder that memories have value as memories, and that we don't need to re-create them or continue relationships just to keep them; they'll always be there.

Chatelaine geekery: what a very nice article about Estrella War as seen by a journalist. This is obviously a guy who allowed his own twinkling of actual interest in the SCA to guide his research/writing. That's usually how the best articles about the SCA get written. Bet you anything he shows up at his local group's next fighter practice.

I heard part of this interview with Seth Green yesterday, while driving downtown before my WPR shift. I'm about to listen to the whole thing. This is the guy who starred in the TV show Greg the Bunny (he played Greg's roommate, not Greg himself, wise guy), and played Oz (Willow's boyfriend) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On my coffee table at home is the complete (short) run of Greg the Bunny on DVD, just waiting for the right time for me to sit down and watch it. You can bet that when I do, I'll have Colleen sitting next to me, cheering for puppet rights.

Friday, February 18, 2005
14 extra inches make a massive difference!
Or, Finally, a use for all those creative(ly spelled) spam subject lines

Site worth visiting: Spamusement, where someone with not very much in the way of drawing skills does one-frame cartoons based on the subject lines from spam e-mails. Someone should have thought of this a long time ago. The comedy potential in those subject lines is an unmined treasure trove. I still think the Feb. 18 one is the best one. But I'm only 1/3 of the way through them.

This week: quiet. Got quite a bit done: some cleaning, some reading, and tonight, laundry. Last weekend I found a queen-size down-alternative comforter on sale at TJMax; I've been sleeping (well) under it this week, and today the duvet cover I ordered came, so I gave it a wash tonight and have just finished the epic struggle to insert the comforter into its new cover. (How do people do that? Maybe they just get it in there and never take it out again.) To my surprise, it fits more or less perfectly (the measurements were not the same, but I figured they wouldn't be far enough off to make a difference, and they aren't) and feels like there's a pretty blue-and-cream cloud settled on my bed.

I love it. It's light and soft and warm and it clashes adorably with my sheets and my pillow sham. (I'm going for a theme now: "any kind of blue-on-white print goes".) It's not like I need help fact, I need more help getting up in the morning. But I had been using the same Sears poly/cotton twin-sized comforter since I was in college, and it was time to have something different.

Tonight I continued my search for the perfect entertainment center. A-1 Furniture is still at the top of my list, though I liked the prices and selection at Don's Oak Furniture too. Everyplace else I've visited has either had a disappointing selection (Finish It!, Steinhafel's, Slumberland) or outlandish prices (Woodworks), or both. I still have the hometown places to visit: Leath, and Rubin's (I hear their discount center is nice). And more big-boxes: Ashley Furniture, and Oak Express/Bedroom Expressions. But that's all the way on the far east side.

It may seem like I'm devoting too much time and attention to this pursuit, and I probably am. But I have the time, and I don't have the money, so I might as well spend the time rather than the money, right? Besides, the shopping is half the fun of buying something, to me.

Bardic Madness is in two weeks. As for the last two years, I'm Provost, in charge of the event. Things are going well. Quietly well. That makes me worry more than if things were going loudly wrong. There's about a week until I start having dreams that something bizarre takes over the event and throws us off schedule in some way. It's never anything that would actually happen, so I wake up more bemused than upset. But still...

I think I become sort of humorless at Bardic Madness. I'm nervous, and I hear both nervousness and blandness in my voice whenever I make an annoucement. I might as well say at the beginning of the event, "You might know me as a fun-loving, friendly person, but that's all going to change for today, so don't crack any jokes around me, I won't get them." Part of it is that when I'm nervous, I can't pay attention to anything, so I miss all the little funny things that happen at Bardic Madness. But part of it is just me, reacting like I do to responsibility.

I kind of dislike that, but not enough to give up being Provost. There's a lot invested in this event on the part of the Kingdom in general, and the bardic community in particular. I like being at the center of that, helping to make it happen. There are other people who could do it, sure...but not yet. It's my turn right now.

Both the events this weekend in the Kingdom are in the Dakotas. It's quiet around here. Not sure what I'll do this weekend. I have a scroll blank in progress, designed from the colorful borders in the El Escorial manuscript of the Cantigas de Santa Maria (the one sold in facsimile here, if it weren't out of print). (More pics from that manuscript here. The style of border is very similar from page to page. This is the manuscript where there are almost comic-book-style interpretations of each song.) Maybe I'll work on the scroll blank. It still isn't humid enough to use real gold, and it keeps getting colder out (hence dryer). So I can break out the Japanese gold paint again.

Iohanna requested my current crop of kumihimo braids to donate to their Stellar Majesties for use as Gulf Wars royalty basket decorations. If I were smart I would sit down and figure out which kingdoms' colors are represented in the batch I have already made, and start doing some braids in colors for the ones that aren't. Maybe that can be tomorrow's project.

I didn't go to Temple tonight. Last week the choir sang, so I went, expecting to see one or more of my parents, and they didn't show up. It was odd to be there without them. But I've got a car and a membership--I don't need them to go to Temple, right? Anyway, it was fun and I fully intended to go tonight, but I looked it up and it was the third grade shabbaton. Shabbatons are when a Sunday school class leads the service (and there's a family dinner beforehand, so everyone's hopped up on brownies by the time they go into the sanctuary for the service).

I actually used to like my own class' shabbatons, but it's never fun if you aren't actually involved. How do I know that? From going to my sister's shabbatons, of course. Hmm...I could have changed in my reactions to kids, since my kid sister was doing shabbatons 15 years ago. You think? Just a tad?

Aaaaah, there'll be more. I'll go to the next one. Unless it's the seventh graders. I find them kind of insufferable.

Monday, February 07, 2005
The Oggz have arrived

That Moot Thingy V was this past weekend. I was at the first TMT; I'm beginning to feel a bit old in the SCA. 7 1/2 years this March. That's kind of a long time in SCA time.

The event is always laid-back, with only fun-type activities planned (chair jousting, a hand-kissing contest, mead wars) and lots of food. People do a lot of sitting around and working on A&S projects, talking, or playing games. It's also an indoor campout, with all the white carport tents from W&W put up inside the site so people have tents to sleep in. It's been a few years since I stayed over; I decided to go all out and stay both Friday and Saturday nights. Eithni, being a kind and sweet person, put Alissende and I up with her carload in one big tent--or we would have had to sleep in the hallway. (It's good, in several different ways, to be a friend of the Baroness.)

Two nights on my Grizzly Big Cot made me wonder how I managed to sleep on it at Pennsic for three of the years I went. It's only marginally better than sleeping on the floor (and I did quite a lot of that at Trivia, so I draw on recent experience here). I honestly have got to look into getting a good blow-up bed for the camping season--my current one is three years old and had a slow leak at this past Pennsic.

I felt a little manic all weekend. This was fine when I was doing music stuff with Alienor and Ciara and Alissende and whomever else wanted to join us; I had energy, and taught some wonderful songs. I brought out my plucked psaltery and Ciara played with it, and we learned some stuff from Rose Ensemble workshop binder. "Giu per la mala via" was just scrumptious with one on a part; Alienor and Ciara are excellent sightreaders. I was reminded how angelic women's voices can sound--no men required. Then Chandler came up and we did "Rest, Sweet Nymphs", and I didn't want it to end, slow and long as it is. Funny, I never knew what a gorgeous alto part that piece has. I started out sightreading and got quickly addicted. It's been running through my head ever since.

The manic-ness stopped being useful at night, though, when I found I was bouncing around uselessly and talking up a storm after the bardic circle. I felt jittery and my leg was bouncing; Corrinne noticed it and was making jokes about my having Parkinson's. (I don't.) I thought it was an odd thing to joke about, especially considering that I think Corrinne is mundanely a nurse. She'd had a bit to drink, I think. But also our acquaintanceship has sort of been based on jokiness, ever since we met at TMT I. I have no problem with that. I just wish I could have relaxed a bit more at the event.

Lily, the mildly irritating but radiantly cute nine-year-old who tags around after me at every Autumn Rose, was there and became the ringleader of a crowd of young kids from at least five different SCA groups. TMT, despite the abundant alcohol, is definitely a kid-friendly event; the kids just get packed off into the tents to sleep before the drinking starts. And we have a kid-friendly King. Lily bested King Siegfried at chair jousting (an adult pushes an office chair, with a child on it holding a pool noodle) and got called up in Court as His Chair Jousting Champion. He gave her the Northshield Pool Noodle of State (appropriately, yellow in color). I think she thought she was being punished at first, but she seemed to look prouder as Court went on. There are pictures of all of this in the Unofficial Northshield Photo Gallery at

Two nights on the uncomfortable cot + not much sleep to begin with + no shower for two days meant that when I got home yesterday at noonish, I was already yawning. I'm mildly ashamed to say that I slept for most of the afternoon, then went to sleep at my normal time that evening. I suppose I must have needed it.

Yesterday (hmmm, on a Sunday? Maybe the apartment office had it) my box of Oggz came. These are plastic eggs about 4 1/2 inches tall, white, made of that soft rubbery stuff baby dolls used to be made of when I was little (I can tell because they smell the same), with LEDs inside that morph from color to color continuously. A woman had one at the Trivia awards ceremony, and I couldn't stop staring at it. So last night I plugged them in right away, and they were charged enough by bedtime for me to keep one by my bedside, where it turned my room fun colors all night. Tonight I might put all three around my room, and see if I wake up in the middle of the night scared that aliens have landed. I'm already planning to use them as nightlights at camping events. Plugging them in may be impossible at some sites, but they have "off" switches, so I could bring them with me, switch one on every evening and let the charge drain overnight, then use a different one the next night. I mean, I have three! They won't last through Pennsic, but I can supplement with glow sticks.

I just went for a walk. Yes, in the snow. It's not coming down heavily. It felt good to move around; I think I was still mildly stiff from sleeping on hard surfaces this past two weekends. Since I started working at the end of November I haven't been taking many walks. The twin problems of a) cold weather and b) darkness after work have made walks impractical, but it isn't that cold right now (only about 30), and really I'm not afraid of my neighborhood in the dark, I just normally prefer to walk in sunshine. Darkness has its own appeal.

Tonight I stopped by A-1 Furniture, which is on Stoughton Road across the street from Reference & Loan, where I work. It's been staring me in the face for three months, so I decided it was time to stop in. There are a couple of things I'd like to buy: a new entertainment center (my TV is dangerously large for the audio stand it's currently atop), and a bed for the second bedroom. Putting aside the expense (I'm just plain not making enough money to buy furniture, though I could dip into savings), each item would necessitate a bit of work: I'd have to unload the contents of the audio stand and the bookcase which are both sitting where an entertainment center would go, and clear out the center of the second bedroom enough to put a bed there and make it useful. It's of no use if it's so hemmed in with boxes that no one can get to it!

Prices at A-1 seem great; if I play my cards right there, I can get an all-wood entertainment center, a queen bed set, and a rather nice headboard for under $1000. (That's if I decide I can afford to do this at all, but that's a separate question.) They'll deliver and assemble for a ridiculously low price. And I could probably get financing without much trouble. But I should really shop around and see what's available elsewhere. Anyway, the shopping part is the fun part, if you ask me.

Still no luck getting the Plow and Hearth website to take my gift certificates. It's a job for the phone, I think. I'll get to that soon. Eventually I will have my Cottage Rocker. My current plan is to go with Navy; I like Red too, but it might show stains easier. The red plaid also attracts me, but my couch is navy/red/taupe/green plaid and I am leery of mixing plaids. I mean, I'm not Master Hector, right?

Anyone know what to do with Meyer lemons? Two smallish Meyers were the same price as one large regular lemon at Brennan's. I like to keep a lemon in the fridge because fresh lemon juice tastes better for tea, lemon/wine pasta sauces, and lemonade than the stuff in the lemon-shaped plastic bottle. Generally lemons last for 2-3 weeks in my fridge before they start to shrivel. So it's not a horribly expensive habit. I understand that Meyer lemons are the new hot fruit right now. But I don't know what makes them different, except for the fact that their rinds are more orangey-yellow and they're smaller. The Splendid Table has a nice interview from 1998 about them (I guess they're not as new as I thought) and Melissa's discusses them here, with a few recipes on the same page, but I'm still a bit at a loss. I'll have to set my inner reference librarian to thinking about this one.

Overall I feel okay right now. I'm hoping things calm down in my brain. Paul wished me peace; this isn't peace, this is energy and effiency, which is not at all the same thing. I don't know if I'll ever get to peace.

Thursday, February 03, 2005
I'm wearing a skirt my mom gave me to sell on eBay about four years ago. Long black crepe with white pin-dots and a fluttery quality. I just couldn't sell it. Of course to set it off, I'm wearing my only set of heels, some little 1 1/2 inch Kenneth Cole ones I picked up at TJMax in the summer. Uncomfortable? Yes. (I've never been able to wear heels.) But not a big problem while sitting, which is mostly what I do at work. I packed alternate shoes for later in the day in case I needed them (I didn't, until I was walking around downtown prior to choir).

A man filled in the Request More Information form on the Northshield website last week, asking for more info on behalf of his father, who is a recovering alcoholic. Specifically they seem to want to be reassured that there will not be overwhelming pressure to drink in the SCA. I do have a friend in the group he'd be joining, so I can ask about the tendencies of the local group members. But the plain fact is that, like any socially-based hobby group (esp. in the upper Midwest), there is going to be alcohol and it is going to be anywhere from difficult to easy, based on the personal background and inclinations of the individual concerned, to stay away from it.

Me personally, I don't drink (for philosophical as well as health reasons...and no, it's not a religious thing; have you ever seen Jews at a Passover seder or on Purim? You're commanded to get drunk). I have felt about as much pressure to drink in the SCA as I did in college, which is to say, enough to make me feel occasionally mildly uncomfortable, but never enough to scare me or make me feel I needed to leave the event/postrevel. (Oddly, the most pressure I've ever gotten was last week at Jara social, when Michael St. Christian discovered I have never had a drink and began vowing loudly and repeatedly that he was going to get me drunk or die trying. That verged on impolite [especially with how much he repeated it], and I intimated as much.)

I just think it's such an individual thing. Yes, you're going to find alcohol at SCA events (some more than others, and I can warn him about that to some extent). After all, brewing/vintning are valid sciences in the SCA, practiced at official SCA meetings. But will he feel pressure to drink? Will he feel the temptation to drink? Will a well-meaning ignoramus hand him a bottle of cordial at a bardic circle? Will he one day dip into a stew with some undercooked red wine in it and find the craving re-ignited?

I can't say, and I don't think anyone else can. I plan to advise the person to be honest and open with his group and with the friends he makes in the SCA, and hopefully he will not have a rocky path, just one where he must exercise his own willpower and stay sober in the same way he has to outside the SCA, whatever that way may be for him.

In other news: I had a strange dream during Trivia, while sleeping on the living room floor. I was working at some miscellaneous non-library company doing paper-shuffling, and there was this guy who was a consultant for the company, who was a fairly well-known actor/director but was trying out another career. He and I hit it off in the way instant-best-friends-and-possibly-more do. He would come to my cubicle when I wasn't there and leave me little notes telling me how much he liked me.

So far, not so strange, I know. The odd thing is that I knew his name (Dario Po), which is not normal for me in dreams. The even odder thing is that I Googled the name and there is indeed an actor/director by that name, who has directed plays in Israel and California. That's about all I can find out about him, but he does exist.

So I'm pondering telling this story to my Trivia teammates (who will make fun of me no end, I'm sure) and asking if they can search the question/answer file to see if Mr. Po was mentioned in a question during the time I was asleep. That's all I can come up with as an explanation: that I might have heard it while asleep and incorporated it into the dream.

They will SOOO make fun of me. When I was on computer duty and found that the answer to a question was simply the word "F**k" (the name of a band), I ran out to the living room to make sure the phone people knew the answer, and stopped dead in my tracks, realizing I was not about to call this word out to a bunch of men in a living room. So I said coyly, "You're not going to make me say it, but it's F-star-star-K". Of course we got our answer in and it was correct. But the Whitewater boys were laughing at me for the next hour...!

The CAPHIS election ballots have been mailed. This is my second and last time doing this. I did much of the label-slapping and all of the stuffing at Trivia this past weekend, where I was able to usefully combine the tasks with manning the computer and doing question database entry. Scott, one of my favorite of the team member boy-guys (to use my sister's old term for people of the male persuasion), sat down at one point and helped me stuff for a couple of hours. No one else offered, which didn't offend me (it wasn't their task, after all, and Trivia is their vacation time). But it was very companionable to sit and stuff with Scott.

Tuesday morning I took the whole mess to be sorted, stamped, sealed, and sent. The fellow at the mailing company was very accomodating of my odd little job (smaller than most jobs they get, I'm sure, and less businesslike). He was also darned cute, and the first time I saw him he had one of those cool black wool topcoats on. Mmmmm...even my dad looks neat-o in his wool topcoat. Of course once we got to his office I saw the big framed photo of him hugging a slim leggy blonde. *sigh* That's the way it always seems to go, isn't it?

Last night: very productive. Dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, even toenail clipping...! One of the teenagers from the apartment below me was finishing up her laundry as I started mine. She can't be more than 16 and was wearing makeup of the type you see on over-eager 12-year-olds (heavy, sparkly and strong on the bright colors). She casually mentioned that she was off work that day, and had gotten a lot done during the day. Good for her, but exactly why isn't she in school? She is always very cordial to me, which is nice, but isn't enough to make me overlook the fact that her family is always blasting Indian pop music with the subwoofer turned up to 11. (They woke me up this morning at 8:30.) What might be enough to make me overlook that disturbance is the fact that she cleaned out the dryer screens. I thought I was the only one in the building who did that. It was a very pleasant surprise.

Today I raided the R&L CD collection and listened to the New York City Opera performance of Leonard Bernstein's Candide while I worked. I've only seen it once, in the Wisconsin Union Theater while I was in grad school. But I have the Broadway cast cassette and adore the music. I am very tempted to work up "Oh, Happy We" as a duet with some tenor friend of mine among the Northshield bards; it's funny, sweet and not difficult to grasp on one hearing, without knowing the context of the show. But it's got just enough post-1600 references to bug me. (Did they have yachts back then? What about pink champagne?)

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