1-27-2017 Chocolate Cake Day


This has been a quiet week. We are getting ready for Birka, and doing the normal stuff. The storm Jonas didn’t get up this far, although I hear that it caused a lot of trouble further south.  I was somewhat amused to read that only the women senators had shown up. “As we convene this morning, you look around the chamber, the presiding officer is female. All of our parliamentarians are female. Our floor managers are female. All of our pages are female.”
Today it looks like March out there- most of the snow has melted.  I have to assume we will have snow during February and March, but, you know, it’s New England weather, who knows what it will do. Just so long as we don’t have a huge storm for Birka. 1500 people come from all over (even flying in from Europe) to get this unique collection of medieval stuff. I think Pennsic probably has better, but it lasts two weeks, not a day and a half. I think they said that this is the biggest event in the East, and the third or fourth biggest in the SCA. It’s weird. This time I didn’t do the program cover- forgot to volunteer in time.  Maybe they’ll use the picture of Olaf from last year, and it’ll be mine again. The picture of Olaf I took last year and had in last week’s letter was borrowed (with permission) for the obit on the East Kingdom Gazette. If I’d thought to do it in time, I’d have drawn that up as a cover image.birka 2004


Birka-2010I’m trying to finish a dress I’ve been working on for, oh, about five years. It’s linen, but I wanted to make something with jewels, since we sell jewels, so we’d like to inspire people. So, I’m busy sewing pearls onto the brocade panel, and when I’m done with that- I want to put on some large glass jewels on the pattern as accents. . I’m not sure, I think it weighs about 15 pounds at this point, and may get up to about 15 pounds. DSC02399 It’s certainly NOT authentic- because anything with that amount of jewels would only be worn by royalty, but then again, we may inspire a customer or two.  I have to admit I’m a bit slowed down. I seem to have caught the bug Willow had this week, and am feeling very drained.DSC02393
I never did manage to figure out how to make an on-line auction for Yansuf’s Shadowmaker, so we’ll put it out on the table and let people bid there. The main point is to get it to someone who’ll love it, and get Mark some money.

Willow’s car is still at Winkles. I’m not sure what’s going on over there, but since we haven’t been moving, we haven’t really needed it either.
Yesterday we went out to see Dr. Quirbach. Willow’s so sick of being exhausted and in pain that she’s willing to see whether drugs will help. He suggested Cymbalta, and knowing that it’s frustrating to pay for something that may or may not work is looking for some samples to get her through the experimentation period. After that, they’ve added a social worker who hopes to find some program to help pay for it (assuming that they work). It would be nice, but we know it’s a dice roll.
Since we were going out anyway, we stopped at Blake Brothers for a small order to fill in gaps in our silver stock. It’s strange- you can have 500 pieces, but if your trays look “depleted” (picked over) people won’t even look, and you’ll miss the sale. I haven’t been over there for a couple of years. I don’t seem to have a good instinct for what will sell and what won’t, and Willow says that I get so excited that if I go we spend an extra hundred dollars, which may well be true. I do like the pretty shiny things, and many of the pieces I picked ten years ago are still in the trays.
This time I got a length of chain that I need to put clasps on. It’s been years since we’ve found chain that actually looks like links and isn’t some weird pattern. We tried ordering on line once, but while it said it was silver, it turned out to be silver plated, and that was annoying. This is attractive, but I’m going to have to assemble the chains, and that’s extra work.  I’m guessing that while silver prices were high, they just stopped making so many chains and now that the prices are coming down again, we may be able to get some. I hope so- people like being able to get an affordable chain on which to hang a new silver pendant, but they don’t like the ones we’ve got now.
Kat from Hobbitronics (across Bow Street from us at Pennsic) is coming up from Maryland and “crashing” here to save the hotel cost. I’m still a bit freaked out when I realize people will get hotel rooms for an SCA event. I know, we are now older- I would no longer be comfortable crashing on the floor in a dorm room, and sometimes there aren’t enough people in a local group to host all the visitors from out barony, but the SCA I “grew up in” was all about staying with friends- and strangers who became friends. I have become an “old person” who is confused by the changes in the world, and not entirely comfortable with some of them. I think mostly it’s because I feel like I don’t know what’s going on. When you’re young, you accept that- you know you’ve got a lot to learn. But when you’re old, you’re supposed to “know it all”, or at least the stuff you have to deal with regularly.  I was hoping I could just relax and “go with the flow”. Ah well.
Apparently what was wrong with Willow last week was some sort of a nasty bug that’s been going around. Since we almost never go out, we don’t know where she could have picked it up. Maybe germs from a shopping cart handle? That’ll teach us to wash our hands more often! I may or may not have it- I woke up with my mouth tasting like I was sick. So I took a big spoonful of the turmeric honey I mentioned last week, and immediately got quite nauseous. But maybe I shouldn’t have taken a large dose on an empty stomach. It does suggest taking it with milk.  I am waiting to see how it goes, but am keeping my metaphorical fingers crossed. Tonight my guest on the New Normal is a prolific author, Taylor Ellwood. Sadly, I have felt so attenuated I haven’t read any of his stuff- only looked at his you-tube channel. I’m feeling under-prepared.

Jane and I have agreed to go back to the Cromwell Hotel again, even though I really hate the way they treat us. They are so “nice”, while they screw us over. I told them that the cancelation penalty clause was a deal breaker. We didn’t cancel after the first time because their “industry standard” clause says that if we cancel a year in advance, we pay them a thousand dollars (and I think $3 thousand canceling six months in advance, down to $17 thousand if we cancelled a month before). I’m perfectly willing to admit that if a cancellation meant that they didn’t have time to rebook the rooms, they’d suffer, but 6-12 months is probably no risk. I told them I’d be willing to accept it if the contract said that all penalties were to be refunded if they did rebook the rooms. Not surprisingly, she had to run the change by their legal department, and when they got me the revision, what it said was that if they rebooked (got paid twice) they’d apply our penalties to any events we got from them in the next 9 months. Sadly, Jane had already sent the deposit and neither of us have the energy to find another hotel, so we’re going to go for it- and clearly, not cancel. I’m just afraid that as I missed the cancellation policy last time around,  I may have missed something else important this time too.
I fear our week has been fairly low key. We got a new laser pointer to use with the kittens. This one is actually sold as a cat toy, and not only makes a red dot, it also makes a smiley face, a star, or a little red mouse. The interesting aspect of this is that Peri won’t really chase the mouse, she will ignore everything but the dot. THAT she really enjoys. I fear that I like watching poor Cruckshanks looking around behind things when we stop pointing it- wondering where the red dot went.  We’ve also seen that the kittens are fascinated by the images on the wii when Kat exercises- especially the penguin game.
We found the missing frying pan! For the last month we haven’t had pancakes (only waffles) because I haven’t been able to find my 7″ cast iron skillet. I like to pour the batter into the 5″ one, then flip the pancake over into the larger skillet, thus cooking two pancakes at once, and since the batter fills the 5″ pan, it forms a perfect round 5″ pancake. Since the skillets are all lined up on the beams, by size, and the middle one has been missing for a month- there’s no other place for it to go. Except apparently there was. We found it on the back porch- where it seems that John had stuck it after burning something in it before Christmas, and forgotten, and since we aren’t out hanging laundry at this time of year, we didn’t think to look out there. Until now. That should tell you how exciting the week has been.DSC02265

Kerensa had a heart attack Tuesday, got out of the hospital this weekend.
Saturday Raven had heart anomalies and was hospitalized. Many tests, but no findings. Still, I think it’s good to look and try and use our medical expertise as well as we can.

I finished reading Ted Koppel’s Lights Out. Having read it, I was rather disappointed. He did convince me that experts consider that a major wide spread failure of the electric grid an inevitability, not simply likely. He also built a convincing case that the authorities who’d be in charge of dealing with that sort of problem won’t have any chance of handling it. One suggested “evacuating” NYC, but didn’t have a plan on how or to where. Another suggested sending in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) “a million a day”, but there are eight million people in NYC, and the people who make survival foods point out that they can’t make them at that scale in advance. They can’t sell them if they aren’t fresh, and until it happens there will be no orders, so they don’t exist yet. Not to mention the simple truth that in order to make canned food, you have to have food that’s been grown, and food grows in cycles. It’s the large version of why I don’t have a 3-12 month supply of food in my cellar. I prefer fresh food. If you have (as the Mormon’s do) a lot of stored food, you have to cycle through it, which means you have to EAT canned vegetables and meat and whatever as a matter of course. I could get and rotate anything we eat that’s canned or pasta, although experience has shown that even a metal cupboard doesn’t keep out rats. The shelf life of white flour is 3-6 months, but whole wheat flour has to be frozen, and the basic problem is that there will be no refrigeration. Or ability to pump water- unless you have a generator, or electronic communication. I am exceedingly interested in what would happen to all the bills that we pay on line- would they just wait and try to catch up when the power comes back on? Admittedly,  not freezing or starving is going to be a lot more important than paying bills or updating websites, but I’m sure every asset we have would be mobilized to fix the problem as quickly as possible. The power would come back, but there will have been casualties before that happens, and almost certainly violence. Even if we did all “Keep Calm and Carry On”, it would be hard.
My take-away on it is that to survive people/communities need to work together. To identify and locate those at risk and also those with useful skills and knowledge, and pull together. I’m afraid that many modern towns (much less cities) are not set up that way. We have divided ourselves into subcultures where we don’t have to deal with the people we don’t care to deal with. We don’t know and take the town drunk or the old people as facts of life. We get rid of them. If he’s right and it’s an inevitability, only the wealthy who can buy themselves a buffer, and “preppers” will get through this well. Once again I fall back on- we need to get to know our neighbors.

I certainly don’t know “who’s at risk” among my friends. This weekend there was an e-mail from Kerensa “I’m out of the Hospital!” and I had to write and find out what happened. As usual he was sure that social media had gotten the word out, but it was highly sporadic. He’d had a heart attack on Tuesday, but has recovered and got out on the weekend. Unlike his room-made he was very pleased to have recovered so nicely and told me that “everything from now on is gravy”. So that’s better than it could be. Saturday morning I got a call from Lyrion who’d spent a frustrating long time in the emergency room with Raven who must have had some symptoms, but after all day there, they wen’t back home, and then were called back for more tests because there were “anomalies”. I think he’s since been released, and they still have no idea what is going on with him. Lyrion had called because they had tickets to the matinee of the Chinese Ballet, and was hoping we could use them. Sadly, Willow was still not getting far from the rest-room at that point, and we couldn’t. I hope she found someone, I’m sure it was a great show. I suppose that it’s good that after all the time and stress and tests they still don’t have a diagnosis for Raven, so we can still hope that there’s nothing seriously wrong, and he’s just got some atypical readings. As I continue reading What Doctors Feel: how emotions affect the practice of medicine, I am reminded how much an art medicine is, and how hard it is when a patient comes in hoping to be reassured and told how to fix his problem to admit that even with all the technology we have, we are still making best guesses.
For some reason I took out a book called Mythologies by a Roland Barthes. It seems to be a collection of essays from 1957 about how we create modern myths. (That’s probably why I got it) but the essays range from how women are seen, to toys, to Romans in film. I may not read all of them, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read.
For fiction, I have read more of the Pern books: Dragonheart, Dragonblood, and Dragon’s Time. I wouldn’t say that these books on the third Pass don’t grab me the way the ninth Pass (Dragon Riders of Pern, Harper Hall Trilogy) did, but as I was fully eager to fill in more details about that world with the Dolphins of Pern or the Renegades of Pern, this story arc has it’s own appeal. I had wondered why there were no firelizards on the northern continent, and that answered that question. I wasn’t as taken by the latest book which mostly dealt with sending weyrlings and wounded dragon-riders back in time to mature and convalesce, when they needed more fighting dragons. In my opinion the way it was handled in the first books by them deciding “yes, we can do it, but that means you exist twice in the same time, so that stresses you badly.” Frankly, while they told the story of a 14 year old successfully leading a bunch of adults with the help of a talented 10 year old, and I like that McCaffrey ignored neither the problems nor the possibilities, I didn’t think it was worthy of an entire book. There are still questions left open and I’m hoping the answers aren’t in yet-to-be-written books.
I watched the old movie Bell Book and Candle again, the one with the witch’s cat Piwacket. I also watched Oliver which I hadn’t watched in years. Wonderful music, wonderful acting, wonderful choreography! I’ve had the songs going through my head all week, and I don’t mind! I wondered if Mark Lester had done anything since, (apparently he took a 34 year break) and discovered that there’s a movie in production 1066 with him playing Harold! Cool! I also saw that they’re thinking about doing a remake of Oliver! but I find it hard to imagine who they could get to improve on the original cast!
Well, see some of you at Birka. Until next week for the rest of you.

Goldkey@birka2013The quotes of the week have to be the one I’ve seen way too many times on  facebook “Will there be loaner garb available at Birka?” (Do they READ the website before they ask?) and “May I speak to Alva Taylor?” who is getting calls from pollsters almost every night. Mine have mostly dried up- I guess they’ve heard from enough of the “over 60” group. Willow still gets some. I am Really looking forward to not being buried in junk mail about the election. After the primary we’ll have a good 4-5 months to breathe before the conventions, then back to being inundated by ads again. We need campaign reform. Not just the financing, but can we please have some information and not advertisements?