11-18-2015 Occult Day

DSC02190Yup, it’s fall- trees are bare, days are NOT long enough, and it’s pretty bitchy cold! I’m planning on taking a break from the letter writing around 2, when I hope it will be warmest, to go out and transplant the surviving herbs from the window boxes we brought back from Pennsic. The mallow is actually blooming, which is a bright spot in an otherwise dim landscape.

I’d meant to go down to the hotel on Thursday, but since it was a two hour drive (and I needed gas) and sunset is at 4:30, I had to get out by 2:00 to not be driving in the dark. Willow had been feeling a bit better and offered to run the trash to the dump and go to staples to print the name tags Kat had designed.
Kat had been trying to help me by making me a new skirt (most of mine are showing their age). I have collected some black fabric with metallic gold printing to replace my old skirt that was blue with gold celestial patterns. “Only” five years of wearing and washing will rub off the metallic gold ink. Back in the 90s, during the height of the Celestial fad, while Lisa was gathering celestial cloth for her quilts, I made the design for this skirt. Five tiers, the first 5″, second 6″, third 7″, fourth 8″, fifth 10″, so it’s a yard long (to my ankles). Each tier is gathered into the next, adding about a third again to the length of the previous tier, so while the first only needs to be 60″ (to go over my hips), and I think we used 90″ so we could gather it into the waistband as well, the next will be around 120″, the third, 160″, the fourth 260″, so the hem on the last tier would be around 346 inches, or nine and a half yards. You can see why I was thrilled to have Kat offer to use her ruffler to do it.
Sadly, when I explained the process, all I wrote down was the depth of each tier- each needs both top and bottom seam allowance, and that the first needed to be 60″. So Kat went over the 90″ strip three times regathering to get it down to 60″. So when she went to put the 120″ piece on, there wasn’t enough room. I am SO embarrassed! She worked so hard, and I’d explained it wrong. Now we need to go get more fabric, or take out all that gathering. I will have it for the holidays, but not for the con. I feel badly about frustrating Kat like that.

I was printing out the handouts for my classes (RúnValdr and Palmistry) HP has built so many “attention” verbal notices into my computer printer connection that I ending up screaming at it, so shrilly that the girls came downstairs to check what was going on. It says (sweetly) “Excuse me, HP Officejet 7610 needs your attention.” I don’t mind that. If I’ve set up some printing and have gone into the next room while it runs, I don’t mind being called back to handle a paper jam or being out of ink. But I was forced to reset the printer for each separate item to say “yes, I know I’m out of cyan: Print black only”. That’s better than the last printer that wouldn’t let you print black only when you were out of a color. But it kept saying it and you have to click the pop up window before the computer will let you do anything else, and it gave me separate “excuse me”s for paper jam, and when I opened the computer to deal with that, it had to tell me the door was open, and when I put in a new cartridge it had to tell me that it was a HP cartridge. I’m not surprised that they always tell me when they detect I use a off brand cartridge. The HP cartridges are more than $20 each, and for a buck more you can get one of each color plus the black if you use the “remanufactured” ones. It always says “excuse me” and the box warns that I won’t get as good printing. This time it told me it was the right one. Well DUH! THEN it blocked me from other commands until I responded to “excuse me, do you want to collect your HP rewards now?” NO, I want to print my fliers! (Once I did check the so called rewards- it’s something like we’ll give you $50 off getting one of our $500 machines. Whoopie!) It was the sweet, polite voice saying the same damned thing over and over and blocking me from getting anything done that pushed me over the deep end! I thought seriously of naming the damned printer Dolores Umbridge, after the sticky sweet, yet sadistic, teacher in Harry Potter. But one doesn’t want to give power to things one doesn’t want to attract. The kids helped me vent and calm down. And did errands for me.
John helped me load the van. We took most of the goods, and by taking out the third seat had room for 8 boxes of science fiction books for Ed and Morwena. I was pleased to discover a bin at the bottom of the stack that contained a bunch of stuff for the con- including the missing box of badge DSC02194ribbons (and a stapler, blue tape that’s OK to use on hotel walls, my clipboard, etc.). Last weekend when I’d gone through and inventoried it, I discovered that we had the inspirational ribbons (community), informative (I can sign, Veteran), and the funny ribbons (My ribbon is better than your ribbon) that when we sell them at 3/$2 pays for for the ones we initially wanted: (Speaker, Vendor, Panelist, Co-Chair, Author, Saturday only, etc.). I found all but the required ones, and if you aren’t tagging the speakers and dealers- having the amusing ones seems odd. Also, I remembered last year I had those mailed directly to the hotel because I’d remembered to order them so late. If I sent for them last Sunday, I’d have had to do the same, and I didn’t want to do that again. I knew I had them, but didn’t know where. Apparently they were in the great hall in a bin I’d forgotten existed. This year I consolidated all the registration stuff into one bin, so we’ll lose it all or none of it.
At the end of the con, Jane took a box with 200 of the funny ones to take to the cons she sells at during the winter. If she sold all of them, that would raise  $100. And there’d be a lot of happy people with fun ribbons.

When the girls got home, Kat helped me disassemble the computer, and pack it up to use at registration. I’ve pretty much decided that I want to get a little computer (I think they’re called notebooks?) rather than hauling the whole imac around. Sadly, while you can get a PC for a couple of hundred, it looks like it’s nearly a thousand for a mac, even refurbished. And I think I need a mac to be able to transfer the files. Or maybe not- but I can deal with that later. Would I be better off learning to handle both a PC and a Mac? I don’t know. I imagine it would be very frustrating to try to get the files I like from one to the other. At the same time, I have a hard enough time trying to figure out how to use the mac. Either way, it would be easier to carry around that the big computer.
Even with help, I did NOT make my departure deadline, so I called the hotel and asked if I could cancel my Thursday night room, and I could. Yay. So I relaxed. I’d hoped to make something to donate to hospitality and this let me do it. A day or so before we’d opened a block of feta to crumble on our salad and found it to be far more strong than our usual brand, so I took that and made a spanakopita- spinach pie (eggs, cheese, and spinach between layers of filo dough). It was pretty good, and well received. Had I not been late, I wouldn’t have been able to bring that, and I find baking calming, so that was nice.
(nearly) First thing in the morning, I headed down to the hotel, and somehow missed the exit. Good thing I hadn’t been arriving in the dark, I could have ended up in Connecticut! When I got there I discovered some of the chaos that Jane and the others who’d come in early had been dealing with since the previous night. I mentioned last week that the hotel was closing as soon as we left? When I got in, I went to the door by the ballroom where we’d decided to put Registration, and unloaded the computer and bins of stuff that went there. At that point, Niffer (short for Jennifer) came in- a friend from up here in NH who had decided to volunteer in exchange for getting in free. She totally set up reg while I went to unload the rest. (First, I visited the restroom, only to discover the one of the toilets was “out of order”, and another was full of feces- and boy did it stink! I was able to get them to flush, so clearly no one had been in to clean. This did NOT improve my mood.)
Gabrielle, Maryalyce’s daughter, had come watch the Cabochons tables for me, so all I had to do was get the stuff into the vendors room and set up. I knew the hotel had a weird floorplan (many people called it labyrinthine) from previous visits. The best way to get the stuff down to the lower level was to go into the atrium and trundle it down the hallways because what’s ground level on one side, is a floor above ground level on the other. There was a four-step flight of stairs from atrium level down to the function room leve, and it “met Americans with Disabilities Act” requirements by having a lift (which was broken) and a carpeted ramp that was half as wide as the stairs, but wide enough for a hotel luggage cart or wheel chair.  You could take a cart down the ramp, but only if you had two fairly strong people one on either end. Last time I was there I’d seen someone in a wheelchair get dumped at the botton of the ramp because ramps aren’t really supposed to be at the same angle as stairs. Stairs (the internet informs me) are 37º, ramps should be 4-8º, as we discovered when we built one for Fitz’ chair. We could take the three steps in a yard, he needed 16 feet. They have another ramp- we call it the “ramp from hell” that seemed also to be a boarded over stairway. You could, if you worked at it, push your cart up it, but if you were old or infirm, you’d be in trouble, and I wouldn’t want to try it in a wheelchair. The hotel sales lady seems to be confused why they won’t let us go through the service route, but they never have done, and it’s a moot point now.
Anyway, I drove to the door by the C atrium, to discover a sign on it reading: “This door is not available, please use the lobby doors. We apologize for any inconvenience.”  I figured the door probably worked, but not the gadget that let you in with your hotel key card. I went to the more distant door that leads to the atrium (although that one has no loading ramp). There was the same sign! I got angry. Did they expect us to carry all that stuff down the ramp from hell? Went through the lobby, down to the atrium where a few of our people were setting out the hospitality food. Since there was almost no one in the hotel except us, (and they’d closed the restaurant) they told us we could put our own food out, instead of serving it in one of the rooms as we did last time.  There were some hotel maids in the corridors and I asked them about the doors. They looked confused and didn’t answer.  I tried the doors, and as I thought, they did open from the inside. I was really inappropriately cross, and vented about having the only way in made impassible. Honestly, I shrieked, then I was embarrassed, and apologized to everyone who saw me blowing up like that. They had been dealing with it since the night before, and told me not to worry about it.  The one good thing about it is that my embarrassment lasted all weekend and helped me keep my temper when I got stressed again.  As I suspected, we could use those doors if someone opened them from the inside for us, and I checked the key card device and that was what didn’t work. Had they been more specific with their sign, it would have been less annoying. If they’d had a freaking doorstop to prop it open during loading it would have helped. We kept using broken bits of pavement as doorstops, but the pressure crushed them.
As I said, other (typical) problems had arisen. They’d given us dimensions for the function rooms, and Lois, who was organizing the vendors, had worked out how to fit ten tables into the Southampton room. Sadly, the dimensions they gave us were wrong. So they’d switched the vendors into Hampshire, and we fit. Next problem? the room was fairly dim (no one was replacing ceiling bulbs) and I think there was only one outlet in the room. I never did put up our lights, just pushed the tables around to best catch the spots from the ceiling.
Having missed the exit, I got there at 11, and in theory, the conference started at noon. I’d put my palmistry class in the odious first slot, so I didn’t have time to set up, and Gabby had to do it without me showing her how we like to do it.  I felt a bit guilty at deserting her like that, but she did fine. Jane was already set up- mostly her spices. When Ed and Jeanne got there, they discovered their tables were covered with the boxes of books I’d brought- and of course, they’d brought enough to cover them. Usually Ed doesn’t sell any books he’s been given at that event, but I told him to try, so he could reduce the amount they had to carry home. I saw their car when they arrived! It was full then! Over the weekend he went through all the boxes and set aside two full of hardcovers he didn’t think he’d be able to sell. Jane has a place that she thinks will take them, but couldn’t fit them into her car, so they came back and I’ll try to pass them on to her at Birka.
Eventually things came together, people started arriving. Niffer took care of Registration. We found the recorders and put in the batteries- but the didn’t seem to work well. Brian checked and discovered that what looked like fresh boxes of batteries were the original ones that had come with the recorders, that had been stuck in the boxes the replacement batteries had come in (the brands didn’t match). Niffer ran out for some first thing in the morning, but grabbed AAs by mistake, so Doug ran out and got AAAs. On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure that even the simple directions that Brian wrote were able to instruct our teachers on how to turn them on and off. I had a hard time with it, and some people simply forgot to turn them on. Brian took the recorders home with him and will attempt to get as many workshops off them as possible. We have no idea how many that’s going to be. I really would have loved to have had a full set because we had a great line-up this year.  Oh, and Brian, too, had a computer crash last year and lost last year’s recordings, but he found the original ones from before he cleaned them up. (He takes out all the bits like “is this the right button? Is it on?” and “oh, we’d better turn it off, how do we do that?” from the recordings of the panels and classes. Makes them sound much better.)
I could give you a blow-by-blow, class by class description of the con, but if you wanted that, you would have gone. Generally, I will say that Jane suggested that this year we only run 3 classes and one panel at once, and we did that (with an occasional class in the room where we had the labyrinth and the concerts). No one seemed to mind that, and the general feeling all weekend was warm and welcoming. We still are no good at advertising, so there were only about 60 people there, so classes were small, but the intimacy may have been good.
Mary Kimball, the wife of one of the speakers ran the hospitality (food). It wasn’t meals, but generous healthy snacks that allowed people to deal with the fact that there was no restaurant in the hotel, and still not have their blood sugar crash. Several people donated food- like my spinach pie. I particularly was taken with Starwolf’s chili cheese cornbread with bacon! Let’s just say I did not bother counting carbs over the weekend. She had some chicken and tuna salad and rolls, and some luncheon meat, chips and salsa, a few sweets (there were home made chocolate chip cookies Saturday night). And always Jane’s special coffees. I forgot to bring out my tea, which I’d brought with me- it stayed under the table in the vendors room. As Willow says, people often forget drinks. The hotel did have a hot breakfast Sunday morning, although they didn’t tell us it was there and we didn’t discover it until about 9. Frustrating!
We had two concerts this year- Chris and Katie LaFond did one on Friday, and Jenna Greene and Kellianna did another on Saturday. They were supposed to be one hour and two hours but both ran long, I guess they were having a good time. Someone came and had to grab Jane- she had a healing working scheduled for the end of the concert, and she missed the song Chris played for her. On Saturday, I did a class scheduled against the concert- I figured there might be a couple of people who would rather learn something than go to the concert, and there were four of us. I didn’t want to make any of the teachers miss the concert.
Just before the concert Rob had done a class “midwifing Deity” about where spirits (tulpas?) come from, and he came in after mine and we finished creating or calling up a Spirit of the Con. We actually couldn’t come up with a better name for her than “Conny”, and I am looking forward to making an image of her. She presents as a middle aged woman. She wears glasses pushed up on her head like a tiara, and carries a bowl for healing or offerings, and a tablet of some sort (whether paper, wax or computer is in the eye of the beholder) and wears a carry-sack in which there are other tools available, represented by the top of a bottle sticking out the top. She will protect our people, and help us accomplish our goals, and we will offer her service, and maybe the occasional bit of what we are having. That night the people relaxing in the hot tub gave her her first liquid offerings. (Before the night clerk came and told them to get out, the pool closed at eleven!)
Classes were also over at eleven and we spent the hour after that socializing in the atrium, confident that we were the last people in the hotel. Well, not quite. The clerk came and yelled over the balcony around 12:30 that there had been a noise complaint and he was going to call the cops if we didn’t shut up. I had already gone to bed, but heard about it a LOT the next morning during breakfast. When I went up there had only been about 13 people left, and I tried to talk to all of them. Not one of them had heard any “first warning”, although the clerk claimed that he’d given one.  On the other hand, as I tried to talk to as many of our guests as I could, I got story after story about the desk clerks messing up reservations, keys not working, hotel phones not working, no hot water,  the elevator- which we had specifically asked about when booking the hotel, had another of those “not working, we apologize for the inconvenience” signs. They had excuses, which if we were there singly we’d probably have accepted, but since we were together we were able to see that they kept changing their stories, so they were just blowing us off. I can understand that if the hotel is about to be demolished, they don’t want to waste money on maintenance. But while the hotel is accepting guests, they should get what the hotel advertises. Some of these are safety issues. Some are just business practice. The clerk may have been alone Saturday night, but he had no call to verbally assault and threaten us like that. There was also one report of another couple screaming at each other in another atrium, so he may have confused two noise complaints. Who knows? But courtesy is required.
When I went to talk to the General Manager about it on Sunday morning, he was very defensive and dismissed all my complaints. He referred to the clerk as an “ex-employee”. I asked if he’d been fired, but the GM said “no, his shift was over.” Someone later overheard him saying that we couldn’t do anything about it because the hotel was closed. I am pretty sure they are transferring employees to other hotels in their system. I am VERY unhappy with him. He actually told me that he only wanted two things, for us to leave the hotel, and “to get to the end of this conversation.”  “You just want me to shut up and go away?” “I didn’t say that, I said I want the conversation to end.” Right. Clearly he had no intention of doing anything about the multiple issues, so I went to registration. When I got there, I discovered that the door was unlocked- it was supposed to be locked for security until we got there to watch our stuff (my computer)! I checked the vendors room. It was also open, and they weren’t there yet.
We are, indeed, pursuing this with the hotel chain. The liaison was supposed to call me back today, but I guess she’s still trying to find out how much the hotel is willing to concede. She said the manager was an “exemplary” employee and she found it hard to believe my report, luckily I have witnesses. It’s the rudeness, security, and health and safety issues I think are worth recompense. Many of the others who were there are quiet eager to back me up, although Jane’s a bit worried that since hotels talk to each other if we do push it, they may tag us as complainers and not rent us another venue. Maybe not within that chain (Choice), but there will be others. I was ready to say that we would boycott that chain anyway if they don’t show some good faith effort to make it up to us! The ramps were bad, but having the lifts not working was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and frankly, a significant portion of our attendees are hobbling around on canes, if not (this time) in scooters. I would LOVE to sic the Civil Rights devision of the Justice Department on them if they continue to try to blow us off. I heard recently that taking an aide away from someone who did better with it, was like taking a wheelchair away from a cripple because it allowed him to get around. Disability protection is one of the ways we are much better off now than we were when I was a kid.
But that was just some problems with the hotel. Most of the con was great- the best so far! My perspective may be skewed because so many people worked so hard on it this year. From the first Jane and I had planned to make it become a community effort, and I feel like it’s finally happening. The first year we did just about everything ourselves. This year Lois handled the vendors, Kathy did the program book, Niffer ran reg (except for attending five workshops- I handled it during Chris’ concert and Tracy’s Labyrinth presentation, and while I was putting the feedback form up on the website. Someone else took the other two slots.) Doug handled security and drove people to the train station, and generally wandered around doing anything needed. Brian made the new website, and has set up the recording so that it’s easier- battery and cord issues notwithstanding. Mary did both the food and the raffle. Maryalyce handled the healing room, did four classes, and beforehand made up 60 “swag bags” which contained CTCW notebooks and pens, herbs, crystals, coloring pages and crayons, and other goodies she got people to donate. People loved them. And at the end, she volunteered to become a co-chair in charge of social media/advertising etc. She also came on the New Normal tonight when I realized last minute that I had forgotten to get a guest for this week. Wonderful woman!
Mostly I only had to do my classes and panels and greet the speakers as they came in. Luxurious leisure! Next year Jane and I will only need to do the programming and I’ll update the blog. (OK, we still need to  find a treasurer/accountant, but it all seems to be going well. We had a good time, and to be entirely honest, I feel better than I have in a year or so. I can honestly say that I feel noticeably less depressed than I have been. Yes, I’m tired, but I actually feel like cooking, cleaning up, doing art, and studying, rather than vegging out, as I expected to after the con. I’d been finding reading non-fiction hard, and my focus and memory were obviously impaired. I feel more alert as well as in a better mood, and with the timing, I can only assume it has to do with how well the conference went.

On the way home I turned on the radio and got a couple of hours of “return to the real world”. I find it difficult to understand why people would be so wretched to each other. They must be in great distress to want to inflict such pain on other people. On the way down I heard reports on the Heroin epidemic in New Hampshire. Apparently 300 deaths are a marker of a huge number of addicts. They mentioned that majority of these addicts usually start with pain medications then move on to heroin. Yet none of the things they mentioned as ways of trying to stop the epidemic addressed Why do so many people need pain relief? You take pain killers because you hurt. You are addicted to not hurting anymore. Find out why they are hurting, and help with that, and they’ll stop going after drugs. We have two year waiting lists for housing, and towns are slicing the tents of the homeless to make them go away. We train men to make it possible for them to kill other people, but don’t give any re-entry retraining when we muster them out of service, and then won’t help them with the wounds they got serving in our armed forces. We would rather spend more money to see if people are taking drugs than we spend feeding the ones who do, and don’t seem to realize that if people were better fed, housed, and didn’t have medical needs they’d be able to work and not cause problems. It’s not just kindness, it’s wasteful to try to make people who need help suffer. Why do we do it? Protestant work ethic? Wealth is proof of God’s favor? Usually what is kind is also what is most cost effective, but we have to make it hard to get help to “force” people to try to do without the help. This is BS!
I was appalled to hear that the Governor of NH, a woman, a Democrat, has joined others in blocking refugees coming in. Excuse me, it’s a freaking two year process to get accepted as a refugee! Anyone who is coming in now, has probably been waiting for years already, and has jumped through all the hoops. We can’t stop a terrorist from getting in- they’ll have some clever plan. We can stop families, children, old people who have had their homes and lives destroyed from finally having a safe place to stay. For Goodness sake, can we be the people who will show them that Americans aren’t the jerks the terrorists portray us as being? Can we NOT be that way please?
Some people thought Sanders was ducking the question when he pointed out in the debate that some of our foreign policies had had unintended consequences, and we needed to be careful to look at the long term. This shows me more than anything that he is someone who will not just do whatever is going to make him popular when the mob is demanding a foolish action, but will look at long term results.
Facebook has been full of reminders of how the US popularly turned their back on Jewish refugees fleeing Europe in the end of the depression. Can we not be wiser now than we were then? Can we not learn from our mistakes? And can we freaking give up on dramatic gestures that don’t make us safer but are designed to make it look like “attempts are being made”. You want to make the world safer? Go ahead and go after the real crazies, but at the same time, try to help the people who are the population who’s suffering sends them off the deep end. This is like chemo and other “heroic” therapies – let’s kill as many of the cells as we possibly can, and hope the patient survives. How about you build up the immune system instead, and let that heal the body?
I was thinking about evolution and how one set of sea lions where size gives males an advantage when they fight over the females got so large that they started crushing the females during mating. Presumably this will result in the survival of either sturdier females or smaller males being the ones who’s offspring survives. I think it’s pretty clear that being willing to beat up weaker people, take their stuff, and force them to work for you is an evolutionary advantage for awhile. We’ve managed to breed ourselves a population of right bastards who run things because the nicer people let them. But at some point, it can’t keep working. If you keep taking, without concern for say, the following generations, there may be no following generations because you’ve fouled your own nest beyond survivability. At some point the nice people have to do things that lead to survival of the species or we’ll die out. It’s a damned pity we have the ability to take so many other species with us. I choose to believe that we can right the situation before it’s too late. There are so many examples of good people working hard for peace and to clean up the environment- did you know there’s an international Climate Change conference happening? We can make things better.

Not having been here, I can’t say much about what the kids have been up to- I know Willow had hoped to come down, but has had a few wretched Chronic Fatigue Syndrome days of pain, dizziness, weakness… just the “usual”. She felt better enough to cut out some fleece for blankets today, so that indicates some improvement. Usually around now orders start pouring in for Christmas presents.
We’ve started thinking about the holidays- remember we do an open house the Willow's fleeceweekend before Christmas so that people can drop in when they have an hour or two free. We know everyone else wants a piece of you, but would lobe to see our friends and feed them cookies anyway. We’ve decided that maybe it’s time to get new flannel nighties- and garish holiday sweaters. And she posted this image which shows that she’s organized her fleece stash.

It’s late and while I haven’t talked about what I’ve read (not much) I think I’ll close anyway. I’d say tomorrow is another day, but technically, this is the day after I started writing, so … well that can get confusing. In my mind the next day is always AFTER I’ve slept. Right?

until next week, remember, I wouldn’t be sending you this letter if I didn’t like you.

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Albert Einstein