Tuesday, March 22, 2005
My reaction to going condo? Buying furniture.
Or, There's no seaweed in the swimming pool

Yup, I just got a letter from my apartment complex's management, saying that they expect to complete the transition to condos in 2 years. My 2005-2006 lease is fine for the duration, but after that I have some decisions to make. I really did envision being in this apartment for five years, and moving into a house after that. But I didn't want to do that quite so soon! And I don't think I want a condo. I'll have to see what the terms are, I suppose. What a lot of paperwork it will be to get a condo, without any of the benefits of owning a house, except the tax deduction. (That's assuming I ever get a job where I'm actually earning enough to be taxed.) Mom advises me not to say where I am simply out of inertia. I guess I'll need to keep informed about this process.

Sheesh, I hate to leave. I really love this apartment. *sigh*

Last night I stopped by A-1 Furniture to conclude my search for an entertainment center. For $399 I got just about exactly what I wanted, though not without some effort. A highly irritating woman named Rose, who has either early-onset Alzheimer's or just not a brain cell alive in her head, attempted to help me with my order. She was perhaps in her late 50's and wore bright red lipstick and one of those bizarre wraparound Elizabeth Taylor-style pairs of glasses, black lacquered. I knew exactly what I wanted, but this being one of those family-based, full-service, I-can-help-you-with-whatever-you-need furniture stores, she had to talk through all the options with me.

This would have been fine, except she had no idea what the options were. I had studied the Aspen catalog and the entertainment center informational flyers during two visits to the store; she proceeded to inform me of such patently wrong things as the fact that Shaker and Mission were just two names for the same style (uh...no) and that each style is only available in one finish (then why does it say in the pamphlet, "Each style available in a variety of finishes"?). I got her to concede on each of these, then wanted to see samples of the different finishes. She began hunting among the various pieces of Aspen furniture for examples of each finish. I kept saying, "I wonder if maybe the store has a sampler of some kind, maybe a photograph of the different finishes that Aspen gave them?" She would just go into a tizzy of confusion, denying that this could be possible, and keep bending over various bookcases and computer armoires and saying, "This is the Cinnamon finish, have we seen that one yet?" (Yes, over on the item I originally pointed out to you as the one I liked.)

Then at the desk, she spent half an hour looking for the item number in the computer, despite the fact that the catalog had it right there next to the picture of the one I liked, and I had been saying over and over again for about 45 minutes, using short words for clarity, "The one that I want is OM-1005. That is the number of the one I want." She came back explaining patiently that they had changed the number to OS-1005 because the Mission line is the same as the Shaker line, and I had to patiently explain back that Mission is NOT the same as Shaker, using the catalog to point out the different pages for Shaker and Mission. "Oh, oh, okay, let me go back and check then," she said, and it took her another ten minutes and the guidance of a co-worker (who was obviously observing the transaction pretty carefully in case she messed up big-time) to locate the correct item number.

In all I was there for about an hour and a half, for a relatively simple transaction involving two ordered items (so we didn't even have to schedule delivery) for about $560 including tax and delivery. This time I purchased an entertainment center and a headboard for my bed. I (wisely, I think) put off getting a bed/headboard for the spare room, even though there was a really good cheap bed and I probably have room to put a bed in there now. Let's see whether the delivery service is as inept as Rose is. If so, I'm bringing my business elsewhere, much as I hate to do so, now that I've found a furniture store with good prices and selection.

I had a dream Sunday night that I was starting a job as a counselor at Beber Camp, where I went for four years as a camper, one year as a Counselor in Training, and two years as office staff. I was arriving late, which is the experience I had for my first five years there: I went only for second session. It seemed very different to me, so on a lark I visited the website yesterday to see how the actual differences compared to my dream. Surprisingly, my dream was pretty well on-target. The idea of the pool always freaks me out. We swam in Lake Beulah, and my mom did the same before me, when the camp was called Burr Oaks in the 50's/60's. The sensation of being attacked from below by seaweed was one we just had to deal with. But now there's an Olympic-sized pool. Where the hell did they find the space for that?

I see they also re-sided some of the cabins, and built at least one more. Somehow they look less rustic with butter yellow aluminum siding.

But what really gets me is that the camp fees currently include one-way e-mailing (huh? Which way? Is it healthier for a kid to be able to e-mail friends/parents and get nothing in return, or for friends/parents to be able to e-mail a kid and get no reply?) and two-way faxing for each camper! What's so important that you have to fax it instead of mailing it? Mail takes exactly 1.5 days from Buffalo Grove to Mukwonago (I should know, I used to sort the mail). Unless it's different now, I dunno. I'm trying to picture a 12-year-old tow-headed camper running up to the office in shorts and a tank top, breathless, saying, "I just finished these quite substantial changes to my Bar Mitzvah speech, and it's vital that Mom sees it TONIGHT so she can get the notes back to me for a final re-write tomorrow. Can you fax it to her? I'll pick up her reply in the morning, what time do you open?"

The last two weekends have had SCA events for me, but relatively relaxed ones. Owen scared me by calling the Wednesday before Fighter's School and giving me several just-urgent-enough reasons why I should be there. I've never been to a Fighter's School in my entire SCA career. They fight there, for pete's sake. But he seemed adamant, and it was only a two-hour drive to Menasha now that I live in Madison. So I brought up all my painting supplies and sat in the school cafeteria with the other non-fighters and started a scroll blank.

Turned out the reason Owen wanted me there was that my apprentice sisters, Deirdre and Robina, were getting Crwths at Court. That's SIX Crwths Siegfried & Bridei created in seven days, counting the four at Bardic Madness and the two at Fighters' School the following week. I'm glad They saw fit to go on this little Crwth streak.

Anyway, we did have a nice household meeting, and I took Owen to Mongo's (he'd never been) for Mongolian BBQ. I think he has been realizing that he's over-extended himself in a lot of ways, and he hasn't been there for those of us who really do need him. It's good to see him thinking realistically about the problem, and ways to get around it.

(So as not to concentrate solely on SCA stuff, I will mention here that I went to the MLA Partnering for Public Health teleconference, which was hosted down on campus. I may not get to the WHSLA conference this year, so it was nice to see some folks from the Ebling Library (the new we-got-it-all Health Sciences Libraries entity) and remind them that I still exist. Weirdly, I was one of the few people there who had ever worked with public health employees (back during my NAHEC days). The woman who replaced me at NAHEC, Diana, was there too but apparently she has not done much with public health, because she didn't have much to say except that rural PH depts. are thankfully not subsisting on one computer with dialup Internet access anymore! The bioterrorism grants, most of which pre-date 9-11, gave them much more of a technology boost than our l'il grant was able to provide.

I re-constructed Peg's old list of "Why You as a Public Health Employee Need Access to Health Information" reasons, and read it, and I think a couple of the Ebling folks were really impressed. It sounds weird to tell people why they need information, but when you think about it, rural public health folks have NO library infrastructure whatsoever and NO expectation that anyone is going to help them find any information; their way of thinking about their own information needs is scattered and incomplete, to the point where if you ask them how they use information, or to think of a time when they needed a journal article, they go blank. They just haven't been thinking of their information needs as information needs. When you provide a little bit of structure to the idea by naming different situations where they might need information (writing a grant, handing out at a home visit, background research for an article in the local paper, etc.), they come to life--and they get hungry for better access.)

This past weekend I went over to Milwaukee for a music/bardic moot. I wasn't the only one from elsewhere; Fern and Robyyan came up from Tree-Girt-Sea. A pickup group of instrumentalists was going when I got there. I joined in with my psaltery but I'm still not sure I was contributing anything, even when I managed to hit a note that happened to be in the right chord! Robyyan was kind enough to tell me that he thought it sounded good. We did some pickup choral singing but even stuff I knew from the Northshield Choir wasn't very well-known among the crowd there, so things didn't sound wonderful. Much fun was had, though, and I even got to stay over at Dahrien & Mysie's that night, which was fun as always. (Though it was eerily quiet with just me sleeping on the couch, with no one else downstairs at all. I'm used to 25 people sharing the downstairs with me. You gotta watch where you're going when you get up to go to the restroom at 4 in the morning!)

Hey, it's World Water Day today. Most of my readership has never, and will never, know what it's like to have a dearth of water, or to deal with dangerously dirty water. Today, instead of coffee or Coke or whatever, try drinking tap water or bottled water. With every swallow, think of how versatile and perfect water is, how much we do with it, and how many people in the world will never get such a clear, tasty drink of water.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Things are looking up...again
Or, Validation is such a sweet food

A true whirlwind weekend. Friday after work I left for Bardic Madness. When I got there, there were already molto bards hanging out in the lobby, talking, hugging...being a community, you know? It was a wonderful welcome. My site autocrat Adda, her fiance, and several others went on a site tour with me. The hotel is NOT as big as it looks from I-94. Hallways are narrow, stairs are cleverly hidden, and rooms have odd shapes. We had just about every meeting room in the place, including an odd bow-shaped room that looked bigger on the site map, where we held the challenges. That room presented a space challenge. It also got real hot, real fast with everyone in it all day.

The other rooms (one larger, one smaller, both being used for two different purposes during the day/evening) were okay but we really felt the lack of a big ol' populace room. People were supposed to use the lobby/hallways for sitting around and talking; by the second class period, they had discovered the larger feast area which was hosting a class as well as the feast preparation, and were using it for talking/playing games/hanging out. I looked around at it and realized there was nothing whatsoever I could do. The class teacher didn't look happy but was carrying on as well as she could. I owe her an apology.

Another class snafu: the other classroom was also home to Giovanna's laurel vigil, and apparently when Wyndreth went down to teach her class there, the vigil was going strong and loud-ish, so she removed to the nearby guest laundry room...which is about as big as the bathroom I shared with my sister while growing up. (Big for a bathroom, but not for any other use, including a 20-person class.) I poked my head in about 15 min. into the class and was appalled to see Wyndreth teaching while perched on a dryer, with students crammed into every nook and cranny. I said, "My job is to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen!" But she assured me that the acoustics of the laundry room were better for her voice (she had been ill recently) and she really didn't want to try to shush the vigil party. The students seemed to agree, so I reluctantly went on my way, muttering, "If this is the worst thing that happens today, I guess we're doing okay..."

And it pretty much was. We got far behind by the second fyt (by Feast we were four packed challenges behind), basically due to nothing but heavy attendance and copious sign-ups. I made an executive decision that we would NOT change the day's schedule times in any way, that we would have classes and fyts at the same times as in the printed schedule, but we would simply proceed through the challenges in order, and if that meant we were at feast until 10, so be it. (They weren't kicking us out of the site, right? So no big deal.) And it worked.

We removed to the post-revel room by 9:30 and finished the last ten or so challenge performances of the day, and proceeded on to an exciting post-revel, confirming my conviction that the post-revel is a vital and necessary part of this event. The Queen was at the post-revel for about two hours, too.

None of the above (or subsequent) comments really convey how satisfied I was with the event. The good cheer and friendliness was overwhelming at every turn. Everyone rolled with the changes and seemed glad to be there. Even the people who were only there for the laureling, who probably would not have come to the event under any other circumstances, were attentive and seemed to be enjoying themselves during the challenges. Lots of new performers signed up for challenges. We were over-attended at 221 (they only had 210 site tokens!), hopefully making a little $$ for Shattered Oak, which is hosting Crown Tourney in May and can probably use some cash reserves. Every class had 10-25 attendees. The feast was unpretentious but delicious, and filling. (I have got to get the recipe for that cucumber-potato soup.) The hotel did everything they could to keep us happy at every turn, including some pretty intensive electrical troubleshooting when the coffeemakers and fans in the challenge room blew a fuse.

And I wasn't the only person satisfied. Not only did I see tons of people grinning, crying, laughing, etc. at the event (Shava caught a lot of this in her event photos), I've read a dozen accounts of the event via e-mail and on LJ, all glowingly excited and inspired over what they saw and heard at the event. (Chatelaine heartwarmer: the newbie from Rokeclif whose first event this was, posted to the 'Clif list saying how amazing it was.) I also had a lot of people come up to me at the event and tell me how much fun they were having, which I thought was nice. But the best thing was to feel the electricity at the post-revel and know I helped create this. Easily the best bardic post-revel since the Bardic Barracks.

I won't even go into the amazing performances. So many people impressed me mightily. I didn't have as much of a problem with concentration as usual (though I am still muddled about a lot of stuff, and constantly forgot what the next challenge/patron would be) and got to hear and enjoy quite a lot.

Things I might think about altering in the future:
--12 challenges is getting to be a bit much, at least when we are in a populous area and have a lot of enthusiastic attendees. I might experiment with 9-10 next time we do a 'big attendance' BM. (I'm thinking of South Dakota for next year, so this kind of change might get postponed until after that. Or maybe not! It depends on the location and the level of enthusiasm in the region.)
--Limiting signups to 15 performances per challenge was not only a good idea, it was not enough of a good idea! 12 challenges with 15 performances each is untenable, just plain not do-able in a single day. The only reason it wasn't a disaster this year was that we had no hard-and-fast ending time to the event and could just keep going until we finished up. This isn't an option when the site isn't a hotel. I might look at a limit of ten in the future.
--In general, BM's success is biting it in the butt. Even with caps at 15 we had complaints that if you got there after noon, there were no spots left in most challenges. With caps at 10 it will be worse. I want to keep this an inclusive event. The way it is, it is skewed towards early arrivals who sign up for 5-8 challenges apiece (and often duck out on them without erasing their name, meaning others who didn't get to sign up don't even get their spot). General reform is probably needed. But I also need to keep gearing challenge practices to the size of the event (as well as finding better ways to predict the size of the event). It's a whole set of conundrums.
--I need to get square-footage numbers for the challenge room before I approve a bid. A simple thing, but it could have helped prepare me.
--Signage is a huge issue in maze-like sites. Adda and her fiance did a wonderful job but I doubt anyone could have prevented all the confusion, esp. with the hotel's meeting rooms spread at the very far opposite ends of the site, on the "Garden level" (=basement). With other confusing sites I will probably need to be even more insistent that we need copious and readable signage. (It's not something local groups usually think of on their own, in my experience, or they assign it to someone who does only room signs, no directionals, in 14-point type.)
--I need to pay more attention to site characteristics in advance, visiting when I can. I didn't this time, and probably should have.
--I have got to insist on more available classrooms at sites. Squeezing classes into multi-use rooms is less than ideal at best, and at worst, it's going to alienate my teachers. Yes, I know I disliked being pushed on this when I was site autocrat to Etienne's Dance Seminar Provost. But I am beginning to see his point.
--We also needed a room dedicated to general populace use. I knew this, but also knew the site was unable to provide it.
--I think I might need more advanced feedback on challenges from people who are experienced with this event. I need to expand my short list of people who get to see the draft challenges. Aside from the sheer numbers, we had a slight flow problem in that the popular challenges were stacked in a couple of the fyts. Some of this was not predictable (who knew Consonant Capers would get 15 people signing up?! I honestly figured on 4-5), but some could have been, with some extra feedback.
--A site autocrat probably should not be a fellow bard. I made friends with Adda and I believe I successfully introduced her to the fun of bardic activites, but her dedication was to the event and her Shire, not to any social ties she might already have had within the bardic community, or to the specific event activities she might personally have found fulfilling. This is what helped make her successful as a site autocrat. She was absolutely amazing and I wish I could take her with me to every future BM, but I doubt the hosting groups would be too charmed with that. ;)

I also had a snugglebunny for the weekend, quite a cute one. A very talented bard and someone I have been idly thinking about for awhile, and who, it turns out, has been thinking about me too. I stayed up entirely too late with him and enjoyed every minute of it. We don't know where it will go, but we're thinking we'll enjoy the ride. Really, truly enjoying a relationship would be a nice thing.

Sunday I woke up ungodly early to be back in Madison to pick up Mom at 8:30; we then went on to Munster, IN where my father's family lives (actually my mom's family once lived there too, but the last two that lived there have moved in the last 5 years to Scottsdale, AZ). My grandfather's funeral could have been so much more meaningful. The conservative rabbi in that town is a moron. There was very little specific he had to say about Grandpa, which is ridiculous--yes, he was a reticent guy who didn't talk about himself much, but he lived in that community for his entire adult life, was in WWII, led many Jewish organizations, ran a successful business for 40 years, etc. and most of this got no more than a cursory mention in the morass of generic "He was a very good provider and now he is with God, may he rest in shalom" comments. Not to mention that the rabbi’s speaking style is reminiscent of someone talking to a roomful of autistic children: slow, over-pronounced, ponderous.

We are lucky in Madison that we can attract the best when we need a rabbi. Madison attracts people like a magnet (it got me back, didn't it?): interesting cultural scene, natural beauty, vital political and university culture, great schools, etc. Munster, IN apparently has no such qualities. Anyway...

It was nice to be with relatives on Sunday. I don't have a whole lot in common with any of my relatives, but they're genuinely nice people. And they have increasingly interesting jobs: I found out a few weeks ago that my uncle Rick sold out his share of the lumberyard over a year ago and bought a bagel/coffee shop called Bagels 'n' Beans (Wow! It has a pretty nice webpage, complete with pics of my uncle!), which is apparently doing well—and no wonder; we got to sample the bagels and other goodies a lot on Sunday. Next visit, we'll have to go see the shop. Uncle Rick looks better and seems more at ease than I have ever seen him. Seems like he's having fun, which is not really something I expect of my dad or his brothers--they're hard workers but not normally known for being fun guys, no offense.

And one of his sons, my cousin Josh, who has a trumpet performance degree, is running the music program at a large Jewish day school in California and doing lots of side work with local synagogues (guitar, songleading) and trumpet gigs. And he's engaged (to a very nice young woman named Juliette Friedman, who is not going to have to change her last name when she marries Josh Friedman!) And he cut his dreadlocks! It's the end of an era.

I did some catnapping during the Shiva service Sunday night, but I was hidden beside the bigscreen TV and I don't think everyone noticed. My aunt Carol (Rick's wife) did poke my mom and whisper, laughing, "Look Bonnie, your daughter is deep in prayer." Sort of typical for her to point things out like that. Oh well.

My sister (who had been ill the night before with a migraine and spent some time at the local hospital) and I went to bed early, and I slept like a log all the way through her leaving for the airport early yesterday morning, and through when I was supposed to meet my mom to go back to Madison. Oops. We stopped at Edwardo's Pizza (mom's favorite) for lunch and then went back to Madison, where I crashed on the family room couch for three hours rather than going home and/or checking my e-mail as I should have. I suppose I must have really needed the sleep. I didn't get home until 8:30 and then I spent four hours whittling my e-mail account down from 450 to 250, and chatting with a friend. My sleep account is still not charged back up. No chatting tonight, I don't think (esp. because I have an MLA teleconference tomorrow afternoon and need to work 8-11:30...oy.)

In the end there wasn't any other way to do this weekend. I got the full benefit of an event that recharges my spirit and makes me unutterably proud of myself, my friends and my Kingdom. And I was able to be there for my grandfather's funeral and spend time with family. As I sit here yawning, I really think I wouldn't change a thing. However, I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend!

Tonight: more e-mail plowing, and lime shortbread cookies, since I'll be exhausted Wednesday night. The cookies are for Thursday night when mom & dad are hosting a Shiva at their house. So I won't be at SCA choir this week. Sing well, guys.

(The first batch of cookies just came out of the oven. Lime Zingers from my new Better Homes/Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies. They're good, if a bit strong on the lime flavor. I doubled the recipe and I think I must have added something wrong, because they were supposed to be cut-outs, but even after refrigeration, the dough won't stand up to that. So I just did them as little round pats, each to be decorated with lemon cream cheese frosting and a couple of curls of lime peel. They're quite good if I do say so myself.)

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