1/29/2014 Curmudgeons Day

No surprises on the weather front. It’s cold. It’s been cold, and it’s staying cold. The cats have stopped going outside. I think people are beginning to remember that cold can be dangerous. I am just happy that we live in places where the houses and infrastructure is built to handle it. The problem with Hurricane Katrina was that the levies were built to withstand a level 4 surge and they got a level 5. We up in New England may give the folks in Georgia and Florida a hard time about not dealing with 3″ of snow, but we have Snowplows! Our houses are designed for this! We have experience with it. We have mittens and hats, for goodness sakes. I am getting REALLY tired of the people who are dealing with the odd weather and saying “So much for Global Warming! heh heh” It’s incredibly complex, that’s why we call it Climate Change. It’s going to be Weird Weather for a while, and that’s going to be hard for people who are getting what they aren’t used to dealing with, everywhere. On the other hand, probably because of the wood-stove going in the kitchen below, my room stays at a cozy 50º, and I am loving it. (The hallway outside my bedroom is around 40º.) I spent last Thursday finishing the scrolls for Birka, while Willow packed up the van. She games on Thursday nights, so Friday morning she helped Kat dye her hair because her roots were coming in blonde. They tried a new brand this time, and it’s blue-black like Superman’s hair. Very dramatic. Even before it was dry we headed up to Manchester. As Staff, Kat was allowed in to set up at noon, although we didn’t get there that early. Merchants had to wait until 3, but they let us empty the van, then the girls went out to the storage place, picked up the bins of Gold Key clothing and racks, and Kat started setting up Gold Key. DSC00911    Gold Key is the office that loans clothing out to new members. Back (forty years ago) when I did it, it also included the care and training of new members, but that’s been split off into another office, so all Kat does is get people out of their modern clothes and into garb. This is the biggest non-camping event in the SCA, I’m not sure about the final numbers, but they ran out of tags at 1800, and we might have hit two thousand this year. It was the 25th Birka. We brought five bins of garb from home, and another 10 or so from the storage- and people brought more donations in during the event, so we will probably have to buy more bins. I’ve suggested to Kat that we start tagging them and getting rid of the ones that don’t go out. But that’s her decision. I’m experiencing that cognitive dissonance that happens when you realize that your “child” is the one who’s in charge. I know it intellectually, but find it easier to leave her, because she’s got a 20+ year habit of deferring to me, which makes my suggestions seem like instructions, making my suggestion of tagging the clothes a lot more difficult to deal with than if it came from anyone else. I feel that I have good ideas, but at the same time, I know that she can totally handle it, and do it well (and may know some things I don’t know, since my experience is decades old and on a totally different scale). DSC00913  So having muffed helping Kat, I went over to our tables in the Expo center, to discover that Willow had single-handedly set up our tables. She let me put up my books. I decided not to put up my ceramics, and she decided not to put up her silks, and that allowed us to take them home Friday night and not have to do fit them in Saturday (thank goodness!). The Expo Center at the Raddisson is a concrete box. Yes, it holds all the hundreds of vendors with marvelous wares- but it’s loud (the acoustics are terrible), the floor is concrete, and my feet started hurting horribly. It’s strange, I spend Birkas these days going back and forth between hating it and thinking I should just quit the SCA, and loving seeing my friends and all the cool stuff. This year we were tucked into the back corner again. Do the pictures give you the idea of the scale of this room? It’s huge! (Next year I think I’m going to ask to be put closer to the rest-rooms!) I also had the problem I have at Pennsic, I know so many people that just trying to walk across it takes even longer, because I bump into two or three old friends I must greet (which is easier on the way back from the privy than heading there)! DSC00918 DSC00917 I will say that “garb watching” is a pleasure at Birka. Everyone puts on their best, there’s a ball, Baronial and Royal Courts, and even a fashion show. There’s also an arts display, classes, meetings, a whole room dedicated to Middle Eastern dancing called (Birkastan), as well as fencing, and heavy list fighting. I have never seen these. Like the war, there is so much more to do than one person could possibly manage, even without talking to friends. On the costume front, this year the queen put out a challenge that people should dress in garb inspired by sports teams. I was a bit horrified, but the results were incredible. One viking gown had an applique’d bear on it- then we noticed the runes around the top said “Boston Bruins”. (Willow remarked that sometimes it’s hard for her to remember that everyone doesn’t read runes.) Another woman had an incredible Elizabethan in orange. Later I found out that this was in deference to some team that wears orange and white. I had no idea that the gorgeous red, white and blue outfits Xavier and Maria were wearing were for the Patriots- until I spotted the decoration on his coif. The rest were equally as subtle, not intrusive at all. Heart of Oak shop Nearly the first thing I did was to take delivery on the reproduction necklace from the Hadleigh Road Anglo-Saxon grave that I bought from Elinor Strangeways. She’d made it for an Arts and Sciences display, and then let it go to me (insert avaricious chuckle here). Ekke has made her a new “stall” with a “tile roof” that hides the lights over her beautiful beads- displayed in sea shells, and with appropriate Roman graffitti on the front of the tables. It’s very cool. This is the SCA at its best. Eleanore   Elinor was inducted into the Order of the Laurel at court, and they set up the booth for her vigil on the other side of the glass at the back of the Heart of Oak booth so that if a customer had a question she could help them. I don’t know if it happened, but I thought that was cool too. Also cool was that another apprentice made sugar paste beads- each a different flavor. They also passed out Roman “lunch boxes”, since the hotel wouldn’t allow them to have a table with refreshments for DSC00946those who came to congratulate Elinor at the vigil. Technically I suppose visitors are supposed to be sharing their wisdom about the responsibilities of Peerage, but frankly, by the time they get around to elevating anyone, you can be pretty sure they’re already doing the job, and pretty darned well! Certainly Elinor has been! LoR for Elinor's elevation by Amanda Poirier-Kratz    I was invited to be the representative of the Ladies of the Rose to speak for her, and I tried to express how she embodies the joy of learning and the sense of fun that is so important in the SCA. I’m not actually sure I managed to convey that. I am toying with the idea of writing a blog post about it, because having considered it, I now am convinced that it’s one of the most important aspects of the SCA. We have to both love the history and accuracy, but also embrace the absurdity of doing it now, and especially the “good-parts-version” the SCA does. Another fun thing that happened at her elevation was when they gave her a Laurel medalion. It was hung on a string of beads- contributed from her many students in bead-making. (If you’re not in the SCA, the Order of the Laurel is an award for excellence and teaching of Arts.) Anyway, when the giver mentioned that this included a 9 year old boy, a juvenile voice in the crowd objected indignantly: “11 years!” The king and queen broke up! DSC00944 That was at Royal Court, at which Maria and Xavier, who have been our Baron and Baronessa (they’re Italian), stepped down and Dorio and Joscelyn were made the new Baron and Baroness of Stonemarche. They are particularly interested in new members and have started a custom of inviting all people at their first event to come forward as the last action of court. I am reminded of how new cubs were introduced to the pack in the Jungle Book, and find it hard not to call out: “Look well, O Wolves!” DSC00979Each Birka they do a tour for first-timers, to show them all the many things at Birka and where to find them. They start out at the Gold Key, which makes sense, as many of them probably have to borrow garb. The same room also contains the Heralds table, where you can get your device/coat of arms registered, and lost and found. After explaining this, they surprised almost everyone by having an impromptu court, and giving Kat the Order of the Furisine- the Barony service award. She was dumbfounded, especially as she had seen the scroll being worked on, and while she did note that it looked like her- she figured it was another “small angry woman in purple” when done in proper medieval style, one person looks much like another. But Willow had made it for her (I did the calligraphy). Willow did the humerous portrait, including Peripigelium and her hair ribbon, several cats in the border, and at least one of the knot-work roundels is the “seal of Rasselon”. She was taken quite aback and later compared it in her blog to the Bill Cosby Noah Routine. “Right!” But I get ahead of myself. Let’s see, Friday afternoon we set up, we ate dinner in the tavern there- I have to say their “Mountain of Potatoes” (with cheese and bacon) is a great dish. I have no idea why other restaurants don’t have that. I had a steak and cheese without the bun and salad. Then at 7 they let everyone in. Despite the “security” checking to make sure that everyone who came in had the silver bead that was this year’s tag, and that they had garb on (just go over to Gold Key and get some, Kat even stored their coats for them!), a few people got through without. People in modern clothing was bad enough, but there was a guy in a Nazi uniform. Some people just don’t seem to get that the SCA doesn’t cover ALL historical periods. We were across from the trim people, and Willow spotted some lovely wide, woven trim in the pink and green most of her wardrobe is made, and got some. The other thing she wanted this year was a comb. I found a smaller armetal serving platter. Back in 1975 I’d gotten the BIG one, and while it was useful for 35 pound turkeys when we were raising them, it’s not so useful now. There was a man selling honey, and I was also sucked in by someone selling used books across from Heart of Oak. (I avoided the main booksellers, really I did!) I got some bone thread winders from Patraig, and some windiga hooks, I got two jugs of honey, and picked up more “Two Knives Curry” at Auntie Arwens. DSC00978 It was pretty cold and I’d brought my Saxon coat. I’ve been wearing it even though I haven’t finished putting the black rabbit fur trim on. Rabbit has become VERY hard to find these days. Tandy doesn’t even have any; I couldn’t even find any at the WAR! I found three small ones Friday, then Saturday I found some large ones for such good prices, that I couldn’t resist getting three- even though only one was black. They also had a sheepskin in gray with dark tips. Willow immediately fell in love with it. What else? I got some note-cards, and a couple of beads from Elinor that glow in the dark (remember what I said about combining humor with authenticity?). We picked up a couple of new pens at Tinkers, also I was given a rose shaped piece of beeswax, so we really mostly got appropriate swag for our personas. Willow didn’t get much because she’s saving for her trip to Florida, and Kat didn’t get out of the Gold Key. That’s not entirely true. They tried to close down Gold Key between 4 and 7 (during court), I’m not sure that this wasn’t so she could GET to court, but it didn’t work. We’d be told she should go to court, and I had to go to speak for Elinor, so Kat went with me. But about ten minutes after we got there, one of the people who’d borrowed garb tracked her down and pulled her out of court to give it back, and once she was back, she was busy until we packed out. Kat AoA Avelina and Kenric managed to keep the Birka court under two hours, which is a major feat, and it was a relief that they didn’t pull Kat out of Gold Key to give her an award. But as I was heading over to see if Kat could use some help breaking down, I encountered them heading over to Cabochons to give her an Award of Arms. (Apparently they didn’t know we had two daughters, and no one had told them she was at Gold Key.) So we grabbed Willow, and all went over to Gold Key again, for another “drive by” court. At the Baronial Court, they’d referred to Kat as “Lady Ælfðryð”, and while she noticed, she didn’t think it would be polite to correct them. People have been assuming she had her AoA for years. Well, now it won’t be a problem. I am thrilled that she’s made her own place in the SCA, and people have noticed! Daffð had had a horrible time trying to pronounce her name at Baronial court. (I really don’t see what the big deal is Alf thryth. He’s got a thorn in his name too!) But the Kingdom herald, while having no trouble with her name, was put off by her arms: “Per Pale Potenty, purpure and argent, a panther argent, spotted purpure, and incensed proper, and a pimpernel purpure.” I’d have described it as per pale potenty, purpure and argent a panther and pimpernel, counterchanged, and not bothered mentioning the incensed, but there’s not accounting for heralds. Aelfthryth AoA As usual, at 8, (and a bit before) the merchants cleared out of the Expo center like something from Oz. We were pretty much done by 9, and Kat was done not much after, Trevor and his friend helped us carry the bins to the cars, and it was a good thing we had left some stuff home. We took both cars because the Gold Key has to come back to be washed. Apparently things are not set aside when they’re worn, but put back, so there’s no knowing what’s been out and what hasn’t- so everything has to be washed. What with the donations during the day, it was nearly impossible to fit everything in! Willow rocks at car packing but even I was impressed. We grabbed a quick supper at the Chinese Buffet and came home and “crashed”. I had every intention of spending the next day resting and that’s what I did. I believe that scheduled relaxation days are the key to not getting sick. Monday I was back working on the usual stuff- mostly the CTCW website, my website, the show. Tonights is a call in for free readings. I’ve been asked to speak at the Mensa Regional Gathering again, and Feast of Lights this weekend. The girls are just too wiped out to go, and Willow has to rest up for Florida, so I’ll be going alone. Yesterday Willow took Smokey back to his vet to look at his eye. The oral antibiotics seem to have done the trick, I wish they’d tried them last year. Smokey is relatively cooperative about taking his medicine- especially when bundled up in a towel.  The vet no longer wants to have his eye taken out, but does recommend he be seen by a veterinary opthamologist. We’ll have to go down to the Boston area for that, and I can’t seem to get them to say whether they think it’s for Smokey’s comfort, or the people who have to look at them, or because these days doctors always refer patients to specialists, no matter what it’s going to cost. (“That’s not our problem, our job is to offer the maximum care.”) The Nashua practice is really irritating because they always talk baby-talk to the pets. We are spoiled by our local vets who understand that the amount of medical care you get may be determined by your budget. Also, I think they trust us that we can tell when an animal is in pain or not. I got a chance to watch a lot of “videos” while doing the calligraphy. I watched one documentary on Einstein, and one on Newton (deep dark secret- he was an alchemist!). I watched August Rush (twice I liked it so much). I watched Foodmatters, another plea for us to start eating more healthy food. One of their experts suggested that we should consume over half of our food raw. Really? I’m sure there are a lot more healthy enzymes and the vitamins don’t deteriorate as much, but 51% of everything we eat raw? How would you even figure out how much that was? I watched the Peaceful Warrior. It promoted being more aware and present, but the protagonist was a gymnast, and frankly, it was worth watching just to watch him do the gymnastics. Also watched Northanger Abbey, a story that I’ve never warmed up to, because the heroine is so terribly silly.  I finally watched the Mark of Zorro, the silent Douglas Fairbanks movie on Sunday- because it’s silent, you actually have to watch it. I also watched a 1985 version of Pygmalion, with Lynn Redgrave with a bonus short film of Androcles and the Lion (another George Bernard Shaw play) starring Billy Connolly, which was a lot of fun. I liked that in that version of Pygmalion, they made it clear that Eliza had a good ear and was really working at it. In My Fair Lady to a certain extent it looked like Eliza was fighting Higgins, understandably, but still. Kat took got a British sit-com called Black Books about a couple guys running a book store. It was pretty funny. Kat points out that just about everything she watches now is British. I finished reading the American Girl books about Kaya, the native American girl. It just makes me sick to think about how badly people have behaved toward each other, just because they have defined them as “other”. Worse, apparently some people are still removing children from their families in order to see that they get a “civilized” and “Christian” up-bringing. I am sure that they think that they are doing good, but didn’t we settle that you can’t force your culture on other people a long time ago? Willow and I agree that Julie’s stories just didn’t have the same power as the stories of the earlier American Girls. Kaya got captured and escaped through the snow, she rides through a forest fire, and learns a lot of self control. Julie arranges a fund raiser to build a nest for a hurt eagle. Not as exciting at all. Courage has come downhill. I was seriously impressed by how respectful they were of the indigenous religion in the Kaya books. At no point did I get any idea that they were implying that her impressions of the spirit world were inaccurate. Nor did they portray them as factual, they just stated what happened. I liked that. I haven’t finished Salt, Sugar, Fat, but it’s kind of depressing, so I may not bother. I have started both Goddesses in Older Women, (Jungian showing how myths can help us understand aging), and  Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in our Capsized Culture. I’m loving how the author presents the hard truths, but also gives us techniques for finding hope. The way to hope is to try, I think. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change OUR world, and if each of us does that the cumulative effect will be amazing. I probably spent far too much time on the computer this week. I try to get off, but there’s always something fascinating to learn on it. I have to wonder, is watching a presentation that tells me what I want to believe any different than playing on-line solitaire? It is more challenging to expose myself to something that challenges my current thoughts- but just because it’s not what I think doesn’t mean it’s right. I don’t need to believe what those who disagree with me think, I just need to be open to the possibility that they know something I don’t, and to see if I can work that into my understanding. Ah well. Until next week, Virginia Tchipakkan “Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought” –  Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

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