One day Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river. “Look at the fish enjoying themselves.” said Chuang Tzu. His friend replied: “You are not a fish, you cannot know if they are enjoying themselves.” “You are not me,” Chuang Tzu responded, “you cannot know that I cannot know.” and as someone else added, Chuang Tzu is not his friend, so he cannot know whether his friend can know that he doesn’t know. Philosophy helps us look at things in new ways, but like exercising one’s body, one should stop when it starts to tingle, but before it hurts.
OK, looks like I haven’t written you since Mischief Night, so it’s been a couple of weeks. My first impulse is to say that nothing has happened except the conference, but that’s not quite true. Since I last wrote, we had Halloween, Guy Fawkes Day, did all the CTCW prep, then we did GO to the conference, all that that entailed, and came home; and since then we have not been as idle as I’d have liked. Let’s see how quickly and succinctly (not my speciality) I can get through it.
When last we left our merry band- Willow was making monkey bread with cheese, onions and bacon. Yes, it worked out pretty well. We made a small one in the monkey bread pan, and a large one in a bundt pan. Monkey bread is usually lumps of dough rolled in butter, so they fall apart when you turn the pan upside down, but the addition of cheese counteracted that some. Next time the sides should be more liberally buttered. Or maybe lined with bacon. Bacon, onions and cheese in bread is a good thing. This is worth repeating.
The next day was Halloween. No, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters… again. Sigh. No kids near here. Also it was raining that night. The little blighters seem more interested in the loot than the experience and I understand they prefer to be driven to apartment complexes where they can knock on doors in a heated, roofed area. Wimps. Where’s the excitement in that?! Willow made a more traditional jackolantern. Kat did hers with the Seal of Rassamon from Doctor Who. John opted not to carve, but helped extracate the seeds from the pulp, and we are carefully hoarding the seeds because they are SO good.
Raye had a little Halloween party, and Willow went dressed as Helga Hufflepuff and Kat went as Rowena Ravenclaw- from the Harry Potter series. Both costumes were from what they had around, so I think they were pretty cool. John and I stayed home, and I rebelliously ate Mac and Cheese because that’s what we always have on Halloween- (starting back when we still ate Kraft Dinner and it was orange), and it was very good. Also, I didn’t put on weight the next day, so there.
John also pulled out and watched Garfields Halloween adventure, so we had our traditions to enjoy. The next day the candy went into a jar in the back hall, and I have been ignoring it.
During the night of Halloween I was busy putting ads into the program booklet. I never seem to leave enough time- probably because I get most of it done in about a day, then there’s about a week where I’m doing small fixes, mostly to formating. (Every little thing you change means that the formatting gets screwed up and needs fixing.) I also played telephone tag over the badge ribbons- we probably ordered too many. I didn’t get a good inventory from Jane until after the order was in. Well, they sell at other conventions as well, and bring us about 50¢ each for Changing Times-Changing Worlds. But the back and forth took up so much time that I had to have the custom ribbons sent to the hotel.
A side effect of all these activities was that I was up until two or three in the morning most nights, and I usually get about 9 hours of sleep a night (to which I attribute my generally better health than those of my age mates). I started getting small pains, aches, headaches, and obviously, fatigue, and hope that now that I am sleeping 9 hours a night again, I’ll be back to normal.
You may or may not remember that John seemed to have sprained his ankle while filling the wood box a few days before Halloween. So he spent most of a week with it elevated, generally wrapped, and with hot and cold packs on it. The swelling went down in a couple of days, but since it still hurt we lost out on most of the help we get from him around the house.
In my enthusiasm for speaking, and excitement about some books I’ve been reading by a folklorist, Claude Lecouteaux, all about the history of the dead in various forms- poltergeists, phantom armies, dopplegangers, fairies, ancestor worship, etc., I volunteered to teach at the Boston Mensa Regional Gathering. Also it was being run by a friend of mine, Diane Gaw, and I think well enough of myself that I figured I was doing her a favor to speak there. I borrowed Willow’s GPS to get me there (having been out the night before, she had no urge to go out again for a few days).
I had a lovely time, because I taught both Drauger, Disir, and Dopplegangers, Oh My! and Chocolate Casting, I was comped in, and was lucky enough to find an aquaintence (Wil from the Cauldron Farm circle), who was willing to take me as a room mate. By the end of Saturday though, I was pretty wiped out, and I hadn’t mentioned to finish the program book before I came down, I left the RG right after my class. I like to avoid driving after dark, but it was all highways until I was on familiar ground- (although I did take the wrong exit for getting onto the highway because the sun was setting behind it), and got home OK.
I was able to use as an excuse that I was beginning to lose my voice- probably because of insufficient sleep and too much talking. I had such hopes that I could just go to bed earlier and get better. Oh well, hope is a good thing to have.
And then there was daylight savings time. To save time, I will refer you to previous year’s letters for my rant on how much I hate Daylight Savings Time. Thank you.
Monday and Tuesday I continued to fight with the program book. Kat helped me; thank goodness she’s got a mac- Willow is PC only and not as patient with my confusion about the words computers use to describe what you want them to do. Frankly, I have no idea where Kat gets her patience, it’s not a family trait, but that goodness for it! She also helped me generate an invoice form for a college group that came and the college needed an invoice before the group could get the college to pay for their registrations. Oh the new things I am learning to do!
I also found out another person was told by the hotel that the con block was full, but they could find them a room in the hotel. The whole point behind the con block is that they count up how many people in the hotel are there because of us, and count it against our commitment. This was the third time someone had been told that, and I am quite irate. We have had to pay for eight rooms that no one was in because we agreed that our people would take that many rooms. The problem is, that since their desk had been told that the block was full, our people’s names couldn’t get into it, and who knows how many were really there. The hotel offered to check our registration list against their reservation list, but I’m not going to give out the names of our people. That would be an incredible breach of confidentiality! Our registration form has a place to check that says “don’t share my information with anyone”, and most people check it. I am REALLY annoyed about this, but there’s not a lot we can do.
Meanwhile, days before the conference, I’m getting calls and emails from vendors and speakers who want to join us. Why would they even call this late? I need better system of tracking things- found two more vendors I didn’t know we had when we made the room chart. I was able to slip them into the vendors room chart.
Willow went out to Lowell for a gaming event, and that was nice, but also someone ordered one of her blankets and just as she was about to mail it they called back and canceled because they’d just realized how big the dimension (on the description) really were and wanted a bigger one. Stress on stress.
I finally got the program book done Tuesday (Guy Fawkes Day) but not quite in time to get it to Staples. I did try to submit it online, but it turns out the format we’ve used for the last three years is no longer available to them, even though I just plugged in the new info in the program we used last year. John watched V for Vendetta, and we shot off a few fireworks, and tried to have Fish and Chips for supper, couldn’t find any, nor Bangers and Mash. How sad. The next day even face to face Staples couldn’t handle the program book folded 4.25×11, so we took it back home and reformatted it as 5.5 x 8.5. Meanwhile, Willow had driven down and taken Raye to Costco to buy food for the hospitality room. Raye had agreed to run it this year, and we were sure she’d love the new hospitality suite (a board room for “Operations” on one side, and a bedroom on the other). Last year she ran it out of a hotel room they called a suite because it had a sink and mini-refrigerator.
We intercepted Willow on the way back with the reformatted booklet (on flashdrive), and she and Kat headed off to get it in. Our Staples was busy and sent them on to Nashua, Nashua didn’t seem to have the font we used. (Kat wanted to show them how to download it free, but they wouldn’t let her.) It was apparently awful- when they printed out a copy, the new fonts had totally thrown off the formatting I’d spent all day fixing. We’d also decided to take advantage of a sale on Vinyl banners- instead of $75, they were $35. Kat was able to get the logo off the banner program and put it onto the cover of the program at least, but by that time they were so exhausted that they didn’t check it well enough. When we finally got the finished copies, the strange font had pushed the pages just a bit longer, resulting in two empty pages on the back because it no longer fit in the right number of pages. But you don’t need to hear this. At the conference we just apologized to everyone. Far worse was that I’d written Coach where it should have said Crowne on the room designations, and that really confused people!
Again- we could blame it on Mercury retrograde, but who cares. The long and the short of it is that delays happened, screw-ups happened, people coped, people came up with clever ways of dealing with the screw-ups, and we all lived through it.
By and large it went pretty well. Kat and I drove down in the van, and Willow stayed to wait pick up the printing and Joanie in her car. Jane and I had planned to go out around 4 to the bank so I could get a signature card for the CTCW account, but while we were both there at 4, and I was able to check in and leave Kat to unload the van, we weren’t able to get out until quarter of 5, and realized that wouldn’t get us to the bank in time, so gave up on that plan.
Raye’s mother came to enjoy the conference and drove her down, and Raye jumped right in and started setting up the room. She quickly decided to make ops the food storage, and the main room the serving area. She also told me that while I could put the raffle display in Hospitality, she wasn’t going to sell the tickets because she wasn’t going to touch money. She is incredibly careful about food safety, and I think that’s appropriate. I was surprised to find that despite the saleswoman telling me that the room off the con-suite on the floor plan was not part of it and had to be rented (so I did), there was a bedroom off the main room that was included. As I learned the first year about always looking through the program book before telling them to print 200 copies, I have now learned to always look at the hotel first, and ALWAYS remember that sales people are there to sell, not help the customer. Kat and Willow and I went out that first night to a diner a half mile away that was very good- and I finally got my fish and chips. The next night Willow, Kat, Joanie and Raye went there. Joanie came down to help Raye but got diverted to the Art show. I thought she could run it part time, but she too was too conscientious and spent most of her time there.
The art show was in the middle of the Vendors room. It had looked too big on the floor plan for the number of vendors we had back in August when the deadline for signing up was, and the theme for this year was Communication, so I figured we’d give an Art Show a shot. Any taping of electric lines over the rug would cost extra, so we put the vendors on six foot tables spaced around the edge of the room (with access to outlets), and the art show in the middle, along with the author’s table, and information table.
When I arrived I discovered the poor people who are assigned to that trying to put up our chart of 6 foot tables with eight foot tables. The conference in the other side of the hotel had used up the six foot tables. We scrambled, put one vendor outside, encouraged the vendors to be imaginative with their use of space, blocked off the extra doors. And Carlos (the table man) showed me a couple other shapes of tables, one called a “serpentine” is a quarter of a hollow circle. We decided to use 4 of those for the art show, and it worked pretty well. I’ll ask about them intentionally as a option next time if we do it again. Not sure Joanie would want to be involved though.
Poor Raye finally gave up. I had to REALLY work hard to avoid coming in and messing with her juristinction. I DID give her suggestions, but found that every time I did, she was already doing whatever I came up with. She’s really good! Sadly, Jane also found it difficult, with the result that I’d ask Raye to do something, and she’d explain to me why not, then she’d walk into the next room and Jane would ask her the same thing, and she’d have to explain all over again- and Jane hadn’t quite integrated the “it’s her space, she gets to say” part.
The final straw was that Raye felt strongly about keeping the place clean- she’d close at 10:30 to get it prepped and ready for opening in the morning, and Saturday night Jane wanted to use the hospitality area for relaxing after classes. They compromised by Jane partying in the area just outside the suite- but Raye had to clean up after them. Then as Raye was trying to pack up everything as the conference finished, Jane came back to get stuff out for a post-con party, (since Jane doesn’t drive at night, she was keeping the room overnight) so Raye couldn’t finish cleaning as she wanted to. VERY frustrating for both of them, but I especially feel for Raye. She’s not coming back next year and I’m going to miss her. Jane’s said she’ll take over running Hospitality, but that means she won’t be available to do much else on the Con-chair end of things. She says she can administrate from there, and maybe she can. We’ll adapt. We always do.
This is a picture of one of Kat’s outfits, in our room (probably taken for her clothing blog). She always looks so good!
What would you like to know about the conference? I did too many classes. I broke up my RúnValdr teaching into four one hour slots: introduction, attunement, practice, and a class on the Runes for anyone who needed it. I also added my palmistry class at the request of the people at the Dowsers convention- and then none of them came. I also moderated two panels in which I was especially interested: the one on how to deal with psychiatric problems if you’re psychic, and how swallowing your resentments can make you ill (they call it “Swallowing Frogs” in Brazil, I love that expression). That’s way too much time taken away from running the conference and left poor Willow as a “Con-footstool” (her term- as opposed to con-chair).
Friday I ran around trying to get the recordings going, also helped Brian with it once he got there. It really helped that Jane found a volunteer who distributed and collected the recorders for the second two days. I ran things here and there, looked for people, got the staff to put the thermostat up and down, looked for a screen for the power point presentation when that didn’t get there, answered questions, took turns at the registration (mostly Willow handled that), tried to provide support for volunteers when we had them, ran the raffle (we need someone else to run that). It was SO great to have Raye running hospitality, Brian running the recordings, Willow covering registration and the vendors, and Joanie running the art show. The more people we add, the easier my life gets.
Willow and Kat did their best to keep me off my feet and from having to talk too much, my voice really did almost quit on me. Willow ran out several times, to get more milk or other food for Raye, for donuts- because she runs something called Coffee and Philosophy in the first time slot for people who wake up slowly and like to talk while they do, and when she picked up the programs, the banner hadn’t been done either, so she ordered one at the local staples (quick while the sale’s on) and picked it up. She folded and stapled the program booklets. She brought in Chinese food Saturday night. It’s a pity that she has to put so much energy into MY project to make it go.
The good news is, several people have offered to step up and take positions of responsibility. Jane and I went into this hoping that we could start it and have other people take over, and it’s beginning to happen. If we can spread the work, it should not be so overwhelming for anyone. I look forward to being able to just go and teach and attend.
By Sunday afternoon, I was limping pretty badly, my voice was pretty much gone, and I decided whether I had to pay for it or not, drive in the dark or not, I wanted to sleep in my own bed. So we convoyed home, and I made it. As I’d planned, I did sleep for about 12 hours straight that first day, and 9 hours a day since. I’ve already started updating the website for next year, and consolodating my notes from the feed back session.
One bit of “one more thing” that happened was that many months ago we bought a half a pig from Shema up at A Sacred Place. No problem, it got slaughtered and sent to the butcher, and Shema was holding the frozen stuff while the butcher smoked the bacon and whatever else was smoked. Then on Saturday my cell phone rang. It was Shema. She’d had the pigs for her slaughtered last week, and the butcher was delivering them Monday. She had to get the pork out of the freezer Sunday, and would bring it to the house. Luckily John was there. He took delivery, and told me about it. Quite frankly, Monday I didn’t have the energy to walk downstairs to look at it. Tuesday however, I started processing the lard. Chop it up, put it in a big pan, and skim what rises, then strain and pour the lard into the crock. I checked the internet and saw a suggestion that one do it 7-8 pounds at a time in a crock pot. I’d set aside the leaf lard- the harder, milder tasting stuff to put in another crock, so I decided to try it with some of that. (By 10 at night I probably still had 15 pounds to chop up, so I put it into the cold room, and just started the crock.)
I have to say that the crockpot system works well. It may be that it contained only leaf lard. The lard that was made with the back fat as well has turned into kind of a grey slime, but when I get lard off of it, it does turn white. I’m told that it has a stronger flavor- so we used it to fry some potatoes, and it’s fine for that.
As of this evening, we have achieved Cracklings. I wonder how long they will last? (how well can I hide them?) The lard crock is about half full- I’ve been profligate- throwing away some of the less appealing lard. I’m so glad that what we process now doesn’t have to last until next year for all our cooking, salves, lubrication and other needs. But I need to get to bed- my voice is still not back to normal. (I think at least some of it is psychosomatic.)
Also this weekend our friends Chris LaFond and Kate got married, they’ve posted some lovely pictures. It’s Honour’s birthday, and our friends Bear (Cochran) and Lee got married the previous week (see what happens when I skip a week?). Friends have been traveling (Kiaya to Texas, Steffan and Elspeth to Florida) and coming back home, the world turns.
We are searching for a charity we feel won’t keep most of the money we’d like to send to the victims of the Typhoon. I really haven’t read or watched much these last two weeks, so I think I’m just going to say goodnight and hope you weren’t worried when I didn’t write.
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach