Monday, July 24, 2006
I'm sad. (Not terminally so, but still.)

And yesterday went so well.

Friends of mine are leaving their relationship of 9 years. It's not a big surprise, but now it's happened and no one is happy.

I got a talking-to this morning at work (fortunately, from my very kind boss who knows how to put this sort of thing so it stings less) for something I should have known would not fly.

I arrived home to find that my personal e-mail account has been spammed old-style: 950 identical messages entitled "Tiered of been passed over for that promotion?!" arrived mid-afternoon. Haven't had a spam bombing like that in ten years--I thought people had developed easier, trickier, more dangerous ways of irritating others via the Internet since then. I guess there are still some oldies-but-goodies about. I've spent half the evening deleting the messages off the server using Mail2Web because I can't face downloading 950 useless messages via dial-up, then deleting them one at a time.

Somehow I spent $108 at Whole Foods this afternoon, including $30 for a pair of royal blue Crocs (which I don't regret) and $11 for a bag of Ranier cherries (which I kind of do regret, since it turns out they aren't in tip-top shape), plus more-than-I-should-have-spent for a variety of things I should have gotten at a regular grocery store, like milk, brie, shampoo, and "feminine protection". (But...but...they're chlorine-free!) Damn my expensive tastes.

Also: $6 for a pound of salad for a Wednesday noon potluck, only to discover that the WCATY demo tomorrow night is off, so I could have baked cookies tomorrow night after all. Hmph--I may still bake. It makes my apartment smell good.

Oh, and the new book on Renaissance shopping I checked out at the public library, which I then proceeded to not read for an entire month, had a hold on it when I went to renew it today. So they had to take it and route it to the next person. That always feels punitive to me, though I've done nothing wrong besides fail to read the book in my allotted time. You know, you bring it in on time for renewal, with the best of intentions, and it gets taken away anyway. BAD librarian, no cookie (or rather, no book, which is even worse).

On a totally unrelated note: Will someone please tell me why the 245 field always ends in a period, but the 300 never does? More to the point, will someone please tell me why I am still doing MARC cataloging for (part of) a living, when I decided nearly ten years ago that I hated it and would probably never be much good at it?

Gah, I take that first question back; after cleaning out all that spam tonight, the last thing I need is 950 e-mails from random librarians all over the world, explaining ISBD to me...

At the end of the day (literally) I need to remember that it's okay to feel sad when you have a day when things seem to fall in on you, and that it won't take long to feel better, and it doesn't mean you're on your way to a breakdown or need to be on medication. I really, really need to remember that.

By the way: this is a really important (and not at all religiously-oriented) effort to get the UN to send peacekeeping forces to Darfur, Sudan. This is where you can go to send a virtual postcard to President Bush, to try to get him to live up to his moral obligations in this genocide. This is an excellent place to donate money to help with the immediate health needs of tens of thousands of refugees. And this overview (again, not religiously-oriented) is a good place to start finding out why the above links are important, and what else you can do to help.

Monday, July 10, 2006
What's been up? A lot.

Thing One: July 1-4 I was in California for my cousin Josh's wedding. While traveling with family can occasionally get stressful, this was a nice trip overall. My sister brought her boyfriend, who turns out to be a genuinely nice guy who seems gaga over her. Smart, too. And courageous--it couldn't be easy to spend so much time with his girlfriend's immediate family, punctuated by formal gatherings with his girlfriend's non-immediate family.

I don't normally like weddings. This one didn't overcome my bias (I doubt many that I ever attend will) but it had its nice moments. There was one moment that my sister and I both considered tacky, but then, we don't know the bride well and it may be that it was important to her. Josh, who was always the cute kid with the big brown eyes, is now the cute man with the big brown eyes, sans the dreadlocks of his teenagerhood, and with a lot of poise and good humor; I'm glad for him that he's found ways to use his musical talent (he works for this school, and plays trumpet and does custom recording on the side) and a lovely woman who appreciates him.

His older brother Brett (the comedian of the two) is constantly self-deprecating about being known as "Josh's brother", but he's also got a lot of poise and has grown into a nice-looking guy. Brett and his wife Michelle also got quite the gift a few weeks before the wedding--their efforts to adopt a baby finally, and a little suddenly, paid off. There are photos of Ellie Lynn Friedman on her mommy and daddy's website at

We stayed at the Hyatt in Newport Beach, one of the nicest hotels in one of the ritziest towns in the U.S. Three pools, an outdoor amphitheater (where the ceremony was held), and these massive rooms, of which I got one to myself. But I wasn't in it much. Besides wedding festivities, we went to the beach (and I got sunburned for the first time in several years...on my back, in the area I can't reach, after trusting Dad to diligently apply sunscreen on me), had dinner with family on Balboa Island, then walked the boardwalk for an hour, and went to this mall. Josh, Juliet, my sister, and her boyfriend rode the bumper cars on the boardwalk, which was cute but had us all waiting around for them while they waited in line.

The mall (described as the least exclusive in the area) was full of designer shops, of the type carrying items I can neither afford nor fit into, with a few more "normal" stores scattered here and there. Wonderful food court, though. The Gianduja gelato was worth any family angst I might have experienced on the trip. Wasn't worth the plane rides and time spent in airports, though. I have had enough of those for a few months, at least.

Upon my return late Tuesday night, I promptly panicked: Warriors and Warlords was staring me in the face. I did what unpacking/packing I could, and squeezed in some laundry. I had to get a full 8-hour day of work in on Wednesday, since it was my only day at work that week. Then water aerobics. Then finishing packing. Then...leave for WW at 9 am Thursday!

Thing Two: This was the best WW yet, in my opinion, but it didn't start out that way. I arrived stressed-out at about noon, managed to put up the tent, unpack, and change by my Info Point shift at 2, then stuck around that area for my 5-7 pm Porter shift. (Note to self: Whole Foods minestrone soup sucks cold. It tasted like it had been preserved in vinegar.)

But then, ah, then, was the opening bardic circle. Sarra is a wonder: she had worried about being in charge of bardic activities, but she did a beautiful job of organizing and hosting. All the little touches were there: lanterns for the host table, songsheets, tons of quickbread in three flavors, a propane torch so we could actually SEE each other (way to build community!), and even a basket of little flashlights in bright colors, for people to read lyrics. Everyone seemed to feel comfortable and glad to be there. It was a perfect bardic circle.

When I'm old and can't remember who my loved ones are, or why I used to dress up in funny clothes on the weekend, I will remember the smoke and the moon lighting the edges of the clouds and the dewy air falling on my hands and the sound of laughter and the voice of my student leading a song, and wonder how I got so lucky in life, to have that little slice of pure happiness.

The Friday and Saturday night bardic circles were equally good, though not as stainless; there were unavoidable scheduling quirks. For example, we were supposed to start the Bard of Jararvellir competition an hour after Court; it got to be 10:15 or so and not only had Sarra been detained in the Barn with vague warnings that she shouldn't leave, but Baroness Eithni was nowhere to be found. Owen went over to check what was happening, and when he came back, he announced to everyone that Baroness Eithni would be here when she was done being on vigil.

I thought to myself, "No, he probably meant she's visiting with Hrodir at his vigil for the Chivalry. She'll be back when she's done being AT vigil, not ON vigil." It took a few seconds to dawn on me that Owen had not made a mistake. There had been a Court after the Baronial Open House, and Eithni had been put on vigil for the Laurel! As I mentioned to a friend later, I think the Laurel is probably well-timed for her; her first AoA-level arts award, which she got just in the last few months, was not. (No complaints here--problem resolved!)

Her elevation (I hate that word...if someone is of the quality and character to be made a Laurel, the ceremony cannot elevate them, just recognize them. But "recognition" isn't used in this context, unfortunately.) took place at Saturday evening's Kingdom Court. I was attending, standing behind the Baronial throne, so I got to see and hear everything. I believe I finally stopped weeping about ten minutes before the end of Court. It was a lovely ceremony. Eithni seemed very composed through most of it. The scroll--a slab of stone about three feet long, 3/4 of an inch thick, and a foot wide, with ogham lettering and appropriately Pictish carvings (she was Laureled for her research in Pictish culture)--broke her composure, though. Her heraldic froggie was right on the top, tongue sticking out. She sat down suddenly and laughed her head off. We all needed a giggle.

I went back to crying when a few of the Jara Choir members started singing Chandler's arrangement of the Jararvellir Fight Song. I know it by heart; I tried to sing along from behind the throne, but my voice kept catching in my throat. But it was so good to cheer for Jararvellir and know that we were cheering for someone who personifies, represents, and cares for the Barony so well.

The Baronial Bard competition did go on as planned, just a couple of hours late. As outgoing Bard of Jararvellir I got to run it. There were maybe ten performers, three of whom qualified to win since they reside in the Barony. Eithni and I went off to the privies (sorry, but it was a long competition) and conferred. We were in agreement, and the new Bard of Jararvellir is Jose, Chandler's brother, the one who used to sing in the Temple Choir with me. He's a promising new bard with a ton of talent and I'm very glad he's participating in the SCA these days.

Saturday night the Smith's Challenge was the focus of the bardic circle. The smiths, as a group (there are perhaps six that usually come to WW), challenged us to write and perform a piece that they could "smith to"--meaning, they could pound on metal to it. The array of prizes, to go to one winner, was incredible: a handmade knife, a wrought iron tripod set with a grill, fire tools including a roasting fork with its own stand for when you get tired of holding the meat over the fire, hand-turned wooden bowls, steel dishes and utensils, and more that I'm forgetting. The smiths obviously took the challenge seriously, but told us that they had expected three or four performers, after which they figured they'd be back in their encampments having a beer.

Fourteen performances, much serious deliberation, and nearly three hours later, the smiths could not agree, and broke their own rule against dividing the prize: they gave part of it to Dorcas Whitecap from Calontir, and part to Demaia from the Midrealm. It's interesting to me that the winners were not from Northshield, but I don't think it means anything; certainly most of the performers were, and a lot of fantastic performances came from them. So the Northshield showing was nothing to be ashamed of. Incidentally, I didn't enter, but Dahrien called on me to help in singing a canon-type piece that I had given him some pointers on earlier in the day, so I did get to perform.

Besides the bardic activities, it was just generally a good event. I relaxed into it and never felt overtaxed by the heat. It helped that my various meetings from 9:30 to 2:00 straight on Saturday turned out to be held in the same shelter--way to save my feet the walking time. The Brigid's Flame meeting was well-led, and it was nice to see the others in the Order, together for the first time. (There are two more now, though--my friend Toshikage for his work in Western martial arts and Japanese culture, and a smith named Copin).

Oh, and when I checked at about 2:15, my second painted plate (I got pictures; I'll upload them soon) had three bids in the Silent Auction, two from people with shiny hats on their heads. The top bid at that time was $25, about $5 more than I paid to make it. For my own ego, as well as for some information about how much people are willing to pay for such an item, I'd like to know how much it finally went for and who got it...maybe I'll contact Greta and see if she keeps the bid sheets. I'll give her some unpacking time first, though...!

Sunday morning I had intended on leaving about 11, but I packed in a leisurely fashion and had some nice conversations with various people who stopped by to say goodbye, and got on the road about 1 pm. When I got home about 3:30, I moved my stuff out of the car, called Mom to say I was home, chugged some water, and showered (aaaaaaah...nothing like that first shower after a camping event, even one that has showers; you get so sweaty packing up) before...

Thing Three: I headed over to the Sunday evening concert of the Madison Early Music Festival. Today was the first full day I was able to be there. So far I'm impressed with the event as a whole, and of course the music (how could Spanish early music be a bad thing?), but not as much with a couple of the teachers. In one class I was trying to explain that I wanted to improvise harmonies to the monophonic tunes we were practicing, but two of the teachers did not seem to understand what I was saying.

Maybe I don't have the right vocabulary, or maybe I was in a post-lunch tizzy and wasn't being clear, but when two professional musicians don't seem to understand the word "homophony", I suspect the problem lies at least partially with them. This website tells me I was using the word properly, but one of them kept saying that ornamentation was inappropriate for Sephardic music, which is a) debatable, and b) not what I was asking to do. I ended up re-stating myself one time too many, and I think the teachers were a bit irritated with me. Well, sorry, folks, but I paid quite a bit to attend this workshop, and the only reason I asked was that I didn't want to do anything historically non-documentable, or logistically problematic for the other singers or the instrumentalists. In the end I wished I'd just done whatever harmonies came to me in the moment, permission be damned. I'm good at it and no one's ever asked me to stop in other contexts. So there.

*juvenile pouty face*

Otherwise I'm really enjoying the Festival. One nice thing is that a few other SCA folk are participating: Christian d'Hiver, and Melanie du Soleil, friends of mine from instrumental and choral music activities in the SCA. We got to have lunch together (the Mediterranean Cafe) and hang out a bit. It's good not to be alone, and to have someone to trade WW gossip and stories with (Chris wasn't at WW, but Melanie was).

Now: to sleep, where I must go if I'm going to be up for Tom Zajac's fascinating Llibre Vermell class at 8:30 tomorrow.

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