Sunday, December 30, 2001

Didn't get anything additional done on the garb today, sad to say, but I did get a lot of other things done: I cleaned up the kitchen, did some laundry, copied/folded/stapled/stamped the White Birch, did the grocery shopping, ripped up a head of lettuce for a salad for the New Year's Eve gathering thingy at Kudrun's tomorrow night, and went out to eat. (Ciatti's. Pretty much okay food, nothing special. I am starting to wonder what the deal is with putting single people at the table nearest the kitchen. There seems to be a conspiracy here.)

My high school friend Christy called this afternoon, to say that she is in Madison until the 10th and wondered if she might come up and visit. Hey cool! I haven't seen Christy in a couple of years. She is a dramatic writing student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and she's the neatest person. She was considering coming up to Ettrick and going to Kudrun's thingy tomorrow night, but decided to stay in town--a pity, because she'd have gotten along great with the Shire folk who are going to be there. Now, she's not sure when she'd like to come; it's contingent on when she can borrow her parents' car. Oh well--we'll still have fun when she comes. And this gives me some time to wrap her present.

Here it is 11:30. I still have to put stamps on the rest of the Birches, then write some e-mail. If I were smart I would have embroidered all afternoon. Geez.

Happy Saturday. I wish I could say I got a lot done today, but that wouldn't be true. I slept until 10, woke up to listen to Whad'ya Know, had lunch, dozed for an hour or so, read for the rest of the afternoon (Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, about the plague year in an English village in 1666, which had very well-realized characters and a surprise ending), finished the White Birch, replied to some e-mail, then talked to my pal Earnan online for a bit. Whereupon it occurred to me that a) I had videos that needed to be returned by 10, and b) I hadn't done any work on Owen's garb ALL DAY.

Bad, bad Jennifer...

So I returned the videos, came back, and cut out the overtunic, then traced the facings for it. I just finished drawing the pattern on the front facings, and the back facings are ready to be drawn. I won't even go into the litany of things that are left to do for this outfit. You know, Willow or no, I don't think I was born to be a seamstress. It doesn't hold my attention enough; I don't get the kind of joy out of it that I wish I did. I should probably remove that from that graphic at the top of my page...*sigh*

Other than strugging with my will to make garb (or lack thereof), it's been a pretty good day. Cold, but golden sunny. I woke up with "Nous voyons que les hommes", a little French Renaissance song by Jacques Arcadelt, running through my head, and had done half of a translation by the time I got out of bed. There are very few things I do in the SCA without meaning to, without effort, but the occasional translation or bardic piece just happens. So now I have a new piece to do at 12th Night in Nordskogen--that and the Italian girl song, which needs to be done in front of strangers, now that it's had a small amount of success in front of friends. (Actually, while Sarra was taking that picture, we were singing Wilhelm's lovely song, "Far Away", which is just as sad and romantic as the Italian girl song. Chalk it up to late-night slap-happiness, I guess.)

Two people have signed my guestbook today: Rob Cockerham at, whose website I burbled over a few weeks ago (yay Rob! Thank you!), and Josi at, who was my 'blog Secret Santa. How cool is this? I barely ever get people signing my guestbook. If you read this page, please feel free to sign the guestbook, and if you want to see who's been there before you, take a look.

Friday, December 28, 2001

Just took a look at what it would take to get me to Des Moines (where Christian proposes staying Friday night before the event). Cedar Rapids took me 5 1/2 hours and this is further, though 100% interstate. But this is in January, alone, at night, after a long day of work. On the prairie, where wind makes snow something completely other, an inhabitant of air rather than ground. Now I'm worried...

Thursday, December 27, 2001
It turns out I wasn't the only person having password problems with Blogger recently. Apparently there was a bit of a hack taking place. Yeesh! What a cold wet feeling when internet security blows up on your favorite web site.

This fabulous human being was my Secret Santa, the random person assigned to send me something from my Amazon Wish List. I'm listening to the gift she sent right now, Undrentide by the Medieval Baebes. Laugh all you want at their name, at the fact that they are a dozen willowy models, or at the fact that this album, with texts based mostly on interesting middle English and Italian poetry, has (again) melodies mostly written by one member of the group. You begin to wonder if this woman is aware that, yes, we DO have extant medieval tunes--if not for the texts she selects (and I see a few that do have other tunes), then ones that these texts could easily be fit to. Anyway, laugh all you want--it's pretty good stuff on the whole. If the Medieval Baebes do anything well, it's atmosphere, and they're getting better at using period-sounding accompaniment, with the exception (thus far) of the second track.

To be absolutely honest, I knew who my Secret Santa was a week ago, and what she was getting me. It wasn't hard to find out. Amazon does have a way to learn which of your wish list items have been purchased for you, and there was only one on mine that had. Then while I was doing a referral review on my website statistics, I noticed that 15% of visitors were linking from; when I visited, I discovered a recent post in which she said she had purchased something for me as part of the Secret Santa thingy. Hmm, posting something to your webpage without a thought that someone who shouldn't see it might find it...who do I know who's gotten into trouble like that...?

Back to the point though: I am really grateful for the gift. It was not something I would have gotten around to buying for myself for quite awhile, esp. since the Baebes have a new CD coming out in the next couple of months which looks slightly more pre-1600 than the past two CDs have been. The best gifts are things you would not have gotten for yourself. If you look at it as a money thing, I didn't come out ahead--in fact I lost a bit, since the item I chose for my recipient cost more than Undrentide did. That's not the point. We successfully spread goodwill around at least a small slice of the Web. I feel all warm and fuzzy...;)

Did all the body sewing on the undertunic for the garb I'm delivering at 12th Night in Nordskogen. That includes hand finishing on the upper arm seams, and hand hemming on the neckline, which I'm almost done with. The fabric I chose for it is just the most incredible stuff. It's fine, substantial cream-colored 100% linen, which I washed with this miracle liquid called Delicare, which smells better than Woolite and has fabric softener in it. As a result the fabric is heavenly soft, maybe even better than the raw silk I'll be using for the overtunic, which I also washed in Delicare. The linen has so much spring to it, it's a joy to sew by hand--and I rarely sew anything by hand. This stuff is like clay--you push at it with a fingernail and it bends to your will, spreads along the bias, and finger-irons without protest. Of course the whole garment is ridiculously wrinkled after all the handling it took. So? If anyone will understand about linen, and what we put up with from it in order to reap the benefits, I think this particular friend will.

Next: finish the neckline, measure the sleeves to figure out how badly the bias has distorted their length, trim one or both as needed, hem sleeves, hang overnight, cut a bunch off the bottom so it doesn't peek out underneath the overtunic, and hem. THEN I move on to the main dish: finish and cut out the cuff embroidery, cut out the body of the tunic, trace facings for the neckline and hem, draw and stitch the embroidery on the neckline facings (front and back--Owen doesn't have long hair to cover up the back neckline), assemble the tunic, and attach facings (that alone will take several days of hand stitching).

All of this has to be done in two weeks. Now granted I have this weekend, New Year's Day, and most other evenings for the next few weeks, except Tuesday and Thursday of the week before the event. I was invited to an event the first weekend in January though--this 12th Night in Lonely Tower in Calontir (Omaha, NE), at the same site where we went to Calontir A&S this summer.

This time it wouldn't be just me & Christian--Colin & Charissa would hopefully come (hi Colin!), and His High Coolness, Prince Niklos, has apparently decided to go, so as to increase the fame of the Northshield and see some more of the Known World while he is Prince. Having seen the blank looks on people's faces in Lonely Tower when I said I was from the Northshield, I heartily approve of this idea. "You're from where? Where is that? Oh, in the Midrealm. Yeah, we know the MIDREALM." Uh...that isn't exactly how I personally want to be known. Not in Calontir anyway, where the name "Midrealm" takes on the quality of, if not a swear word, at least something not at all pleasant.

Two things though: a) Will I get all my sewing and embroidery done, with one less weekend to do it in? b) Does Sarra still need a sewing weekend at my place before 12th Night? (Write me, Sarra, I'm still trying to decide if I want to go to Lonely Tower 12th Night.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2001
Funny, I was unable to sign into Blogger tonight; when I did their password-mailing thing, my password came back as having been changed. To something totally different than what I had been using as a password.

After logging in, I changed it to something totally different yet, mused a bit, felt briefly like someone had been riffling through my underwear drawer, figured it had to be a Blogger error, and shrugged. Whatcha gonna do? If it happens again though, I will be reporting it. And I'll be changing my password on a regular basis.

It's been a very, very quiet day-and-a-half. I got some things done that I had wanted to either finish up already, or start already. The new Northshield Bardic College website is up and running. It's no miracle of high technology, but I like the way it looks. Owen sent me much information for the history and archives pages. I hope others will send me additional information. So much of the life of the Bardic College and Bardic Madness, young as both are, took place not just before I was in the SCA, but before I was an active bard. My first bardic circle was only in 1999, and I've only been to two Bardic Madnesses (if you don't count Bardic Madness South last month). I'm a baby compared to so many people and things. So, if this is a way I can contribute, by putting the history of the College out there where those even younger to the SCA than me (and those who were elsewhere, or otherwise occupied, while all this was taking place) can learn about it, then I wanted to do it.

Did some embroidery, got heartily sick of doing embroidery, so I washed, dried, cut out, and began sewing the undertunic for Owen's garb. Sometimes I think I'm kid-like in that way: when faced with a task that I'm not crazy about, I look for something, anything, else to attack first. So I try to use it to advantage, getting other things done that have the same priority or are part of the same project. I have even been known to say to myself in a motherly fashion, "All right, you can't be bothered to do that? Well, how do you feel about spending an hour on this instead? I know it's not fun either, but which would you rather do?" You know, they say it's important to give children choices. ;)

I also began doing short lengths of kumihimo, to give to Raito and Elashava to use as favors. Her Excellency cornered me at Boar's Head when I had just finished a laughing jag with Cassandra; I'm afraid I was a little fuzzyheaded at that moment (and no, I'm not referring to my hairstyle), but I hope I did not embarrass myself too much. She asked if Rochl had relayed her request about kumihimo to me, and I began nodding excitedly; she said, "Oh, she did? So what do you think?", and I had to admit to her that Rochl hadn't mentioned anything to me--I was just excited to hear someone mention kumihimo. Airheaded me...

Anyway, Elashava requested 40 favors of perhaps 10-11 inches each, in gold and black. Luckily, a few weeks before, I had been shopping at Hobby Lobby and found some fabulous glossy nylon crochet yarn, very fine (finer than 6-strand embroidery floss), and had picked up a roll of each in gold and black, as well as one in blue to use with my 12th Night favors. This stuff lasts forever--I made 115 favors, using perhaps a yard for each, and the roll isn't appreciably smaller than when I started. I could probably make hundreds of 10" kumihimo favors from just the two rolls. Better yet, each roll was $1.49.

Of course cost isn't the main thing with these favors. The main thing is time. You thought those hand-stamped, cut, colored, and folded Hare Affaire tokens were time-consuming. Each 10" kumihimo favor takes 1 1/2 hours and up, depending on how familiar I am with the stitch and how diligently I'm keeping to the stitching, and not stopping every few seconds to talk to someone. Plus I have set myself a task to do each piece as a unique piece; I'll be repeating stitches, but doing different color patterns for each one so that no two will be alike.

I'm just looking forward to seeing people with these looped around their belts and pinned to their clothes. What can I say--I'm selfish that way. When I see the Thrones all set up at a Northshield event, the first thing I do after sitting down for Court is peer up between the Heirs' thrones: I want to see the Heirs' box, which Toki made as part of our group project for our first A&S Challenge with Falcon's Keep in 2000, and which sports this compass rose plaque, one of my first woodburning projects. I am always so proud to see it. It makes me feel that I play some tiny, miniscule, but beneficial part in the Principality.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Christmas Eve, and I get an afternoon and day off. Seems somehow unfair after my delightfully empty weekend. To celebrate, I tried to go out to lunch at Buzzard Billy's (had a yen for blackened chicken) but it was closed. How dare restaurants close early on Christmas Eve...? (Kidding, kidding.) So I went to Fayze's instead. The food was okay. I do not really see why people like that place so much.

Then I did a tad of shopping. Found a gorgeous cloak clasp at a new vintage clothing shop, two griffin heads facing away from each other, in a mottled gold color. I immediately thought of using them to replace the broken clasp on my first cloak (the red polarfleece one), but then I thought, that cloak really kinda doesn't deserve a nice clasp, with the shape it's in. Sagging hem, pilled fabric, little melted spots here and there where embers have fallen on it around the Bardic fire. Maybe it's time to retire the polarfleece cloak? Awww...that's somehow a shame. To retire my first handmade piece of garb? Conceived in a fit of pique after I froze my butt off at my first big event (the Pas d'Honneur in Jararvellir, held in a drafty 4-H livestock barn near the Coliseum in Madison in November 1997)? I was so scared to make that cloak...visions of every failed sewing project I'd ever undertaken swam in my mind. I asked my mom to help me with it, and ended up cutting it out alone on Mom & Dad's family room floor while Mom claimed she had never offered to help, she thought I just wanted enough space to cut it out. (This when I was living in an apartment with a larger living room than any expanse in my parents' house.)

Well, it's not like I have to make the decision now. The polarfleece cloak is not for winter; it's way out-cloaked by the wool coating cloak, which I made for Nordskogen 12th Night the first time it was held at Camp Courage. That was two years ago. Hard to believe we're going back in just a few weeks. I'm prepared: got the 50-pound wool cloak, got the flannel chemise, got the boots. Even if the boots are still kinda oogy from wandering through the mud at Armorgeddon.

So anyway, then I stopped by this place that several of my co-workers had said I should visit, a small shop downtown full of tapestry products: Artifacts & Eclectica. Their products weren't any nicer than tapestries I've seen elsewhere, but then now that I think about it, elsewhere was in Toronto, at that huge upholstery fabric shop I visited on Queen St. (I still have those two little tapestry pillow panels with the unicorn scene, and a pillow and trim to go with them. When I find the right person to give them to, I'll put them together.) Large pillow covers were $21 and up, and I started peering at the larger tapestries, thinking that now might be the time to purchase a nice tapestry for my wall.

Well, the nice guy behind the counter came up and started telling me about where each one came from. He was very knowledgeable--didn't confuse the William Morris/pre-Raphaelite stuff with actual medieval designs, like a lot of people might. So I mentioned the SCA and wrote down our Shire website address for him, and asked if we could put posters in his window if we were to have an open house or demo. He said, sure, absolutely. Now that I think of it, I should have asked if we could put one up all the time. I can't think of a more likely place in La Crosse where SCA-interested might show up, at least occasionally. (Though we did get that demo in Caledonia when that woman saw our open house poster at the People's Food Co-op!)

I didn't get a tapestry, but I promised I'd measure the wall space and come back in sometime.

Now it's Christmas Eve and I'm still trying to figure out if I've done everything in the 'outside world' I need to do before Wednesday. After all, everything is closed right now. I have this urge to go hit the Kwik Trip before it closes too. It's one thing to spend a weekend inside knowing if you felt like it, you could pop out to do some shopping, get a haircut, etc. It's another thing when nothing's open and you are stuck at home.

Well, so anyway...from this Jewish girl to any of my readers who may happen to celebrate Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas. And to those who don't: hey, give me a call tomorrow, I'm going to be BORED.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

This magazine looks like sort of a good idea. It's called Oriflamme: the journal of neo-medievalism and popular medievalism. The main page has a rundown of the contents of the last couple of issues. It seems to be a mixed bag in terms of content, with some overlap between it and Renaissance magazine (though, with any luck, better editorial values). They seem to like pseudo-medieval music by The Medieval Baebes and The Soil Bleeds Black, and the editor quotes from Umberto Eco on the main page and likes to tackle academic topics like medieval concepts of the Antichrist. Hmmm. Intriguing. Maybe now I can discontinue my Renaissance magazine subscription, after five years of intense irritation with their typos, oversimplification, low fact-checking standards and complete refusal to even mention the SCA. I'll have to get some international reply coupons and send away for a sample issue.

I can't believe I am staring an entire empty weekend in the face, with absolutely nothing scheduled. I do have things to do, but no deadline (unless you count Twelfth Night, by which event I have to have several projects finished). Tonight I started the weekend by stopping by The Silver Hide-Out again, in downtown La Crosse. Honestly, I'm not on their payroll, but I have to plug this place as a wonderful treasure-trove of silver and precious stones. I have never seen so much gorgeous and affordable jewelry in one place. I got 12th Night presents for four people, plus a silver filigree ring for myself from the $9.95 ring tray (am I a shopper or what?), with a lovely oval cabochon garnet in it. Nearly bought a lovely substantial silver ring with a pink tourmaline cabochon too, but given that I only wear one ring at a time, I don't think I can necessarily justify spending $20 on yet another ring. That won't keep me from going back and gazing longingly at the selection again, though!

In the SCA there is a tradition of giving rings to people you see doing something special, especially in the bardic arts (my main area of involvement in the SCA). I have a small collection of rings I've received, and I've given a few, but I was just thinking that I've never given a ring to/received a ring from those people I feel closest to in the bardic community in the Northshield. A ring to a stranger or a short-term acquaintance seems like a delicate, caring, appreciative gesture--even more so if it's an expensive ring, or if it comes from someone the recipient has heard much of and admires. A ring to a good friend seems almost presumptuous, as if to say, "I like you so much, I want you to wear this piece of jewelry that other people might easily mistake for an engagement ring--and you better remember it's from me"!

Then there are my male bard friends who are married. Much as I admire their bardic work, I would feel very odd giving either of them a ring. Of course I would be honored if they were happy with getting a ring from me and wore it, but then I'd feel like I was on their wives' turf, so to speak. And a single woman can't just turn to a single woman friend and say, "Here, I want you to wear my ring", unless she's trying to ask for a certain...deepening of the relationship....!

Okay, maybe that's my imagination reading something into the ring-giving act that would not necessarily be there. But you can't deny that between friends, there's a significance to that act that goes beyond the monetary value of the ring, beyond the wish to give a gift or recognize talent, beyond the receiving of a new piece of jewelry. Hardly surprising, when you remember that the giving of rings symbolizes the uniting of two souls, in most modern wedding ceremonies.

Compare it to a kiss: in the SCA, many of us trade cloven orange kisses with complete strangers without a second thought--even, often, those to whom we're not at all attracted. But if one of my platonic male friends were to come up to me with a cloven orange, say, someone I've spent a lot of time with in a car or at an event, and feel close to, but have no attraction to, I would politely remove a clove with my fingers, then extend my hand to be kissed. Kisses on the mouth become meaningful when they're with someone you know, unless you've both discussed it and decided they don't have to mean anything. Same with rings.

These are just my musings, my idle observations...I beg readers not to take them as prescriptive. The last thing I would want to do would be to convince others I'm some sort of SCA Miss Manners. Lord knows I normally have no tact and only slightly more in the way of social skills. And those who were present when I got handed my very first cloven orange, at a lovely event at the College of Darkstone (Ashland, WI) in early 1999, know that I am capable of going overboard on that sort of thing. (Hey now! I've been good since. Mostly. ;) )

Thursday, December 20, 2001
I've been thinking about poetry tonight. I've said I'm not a poet, but I do have a strong feeling for poetry and what it can do. Two or three times in my life, I've written poetry in order to express things I had to express but couldn't write in prose--always in times of happiness or longing, not in anger or frustration (those get my sarcasm, not my poetry!). Usually it's been free verse; until I got involved with bardic stuff in the SCA, I didn't have a lot of respect for rhyme. I think this year, I've written the first two rhyming poems that I was actually proud of. (There's something for the end-of-the-year wrapup letter.)

Then something odd happened to me, when I was about to start library school in fall of 1993: I got a job at the Special Collections department at the UW-Madison. I liked the people, I liked the surroundings (plush, newly constructed 9th floor quietude overlooking Lake Mendota), I liked the hours (9 hours a week, no need to be too punctual), and I had no particular affinity for the materials, though I thought it was kind of cool that they had a whole bookcase full of incunabula (that's books printed before 1500). What I really liked about the job was that it wasn't at the State Law Library, which was where I had worked full-time that summer; if you want to hear THAT story, you'll have to ask me. Anyway...

I was not totally clear at the outset what my duties would be. My boss was one of those people who assumes everyone is thinking at the speed of her brain, and did not really stop to clarify. Being still relatively new to the working world back then, I was not inclined to ask questions--I did what she said to do, and uncovered the reasons why as I went along. What I was doing was this: I read everything that came into the Little Magazine Collection from 1993 to late 1995. This is one of the largest collections of English-language poetry and prose literary magazines in the world, with about 1,200 current subscriptions at any given time.

Why was I reading these magazines? Well, I was looking for two things: 1) interviews, and 2) translations. (We did a bibliography of the former for publication in Serials Review, and sent documentation of the latter to an indexing project in Texas that paid my paycheck.) Did I spend most of my time, instead of indexing, reading excellent, mediocre, beautiful, angry, trite, deep, old, new, and thought-provoking poetry and prose from all over the world, from every type of person? You betcha. Therefore I can say in all honesty and pride: for two years of my life, I was striding along with the vanguard of English-language poetry and prose. Can even the most studious English Ph.D. student say that? These magazines are kept in a vault, folks...!

When I would find a poem that seemed to speak to me, I would flip over one of the green index cards on which I was supposed to list interviews, write the piece out with my trusty pencil, read it again, savoring, and tuck it into my pocket. I used to have these up on the side of my closet in my apartment in Master Hall, where in an idle moment I could savor these morsels all over again.

Tonight I was at the public library browsing through a few historical novels, and found a gorgeous untitled poem in a book called A Booke of Days by Stephen J. Rivele. The novel is written from the perspective of an 11th century nobleman turned crusader, and from what little I read, my general reaction was, "Oh gawd, not another earnest sweaty novel about the glory of crusade and how it all crumbles in the end". Not that that's bad! It's just not what I was in the mood for.

But then I found that untitled poem, written in bobbing and weaving free verse, about as like 11th century poetry as my Chevy Lumina is. And gorgeous, gorgeous, pulling at me from the page, speaking of longing and the solace of hands. So I checked out the book, came home, lamented briefly the loss six years ago of my endless stack of green index cards, and typed the poem into a Word document for printout and posting on my closet door. Tradition is a good thing.

I was thinking today of a wonderful poem I used to have on a green index card. It was written by someone who had read the apocryphal story that Herbert Howells was inspired to write his most famous choral piece, "A Spotless Rose", by watching a trainyard from above as the cars were shunted from track to track. If you listen to this piece, you can HEAR the trains go from track to track. In any case, the poet wrote a thoughtful and mellifluous expansion of this idea in Howells' voice, touching on his motivations and hopes for his music. I have no idea what the title was, who wrote it, where it was published, or how any of it went, except that it quoted the title of another of his pieces in the middle of it ("Like as an hart"). I probably won't ever see this poem again, but I put it here on the off chance that someday, someone will see this and send me enough information to look it up again. Either that, or I will be reading my archives and be reminded of this, and maybe, just maybe, I'll go back to Special Collections and start looking through the Little Magazines from 1993-1995 in search of this poem.

Yeah, right. In my copious spare time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Without really wanting to go into great detail, I agree very much with this editorial, called "How to Feel Calmly Patriotic and Yet Not the Slightest Bit Reassured by Bush & Co." I think it points towards something important: the fact that we are not all thinking of the same concept, these days, when we use the word 'patriotism'. For some people, patriotism consists of waving flags and flag-related merchandise and mindlessly spouting hostilities towards "the evil ones"; others claim you must support all the actions and personages of our government during a time of war or national sorrow to be patriotic; still others take a classic liberal stance that patriotism means we must extra vigilant in resisting attempts to abridge our Constitutional freedoms and rights. Or any combination thereof. If I fall into any of these categories, it would have to be the last, but I don't agree that people necessarily have to fall into any of these categories. It's possible to maintain the same brain function we had before Sept. 11, ask the same questions and many more, and still be someone who loves and appreciates living in the United States. I assure you, it is.

I don't have to like Bush. I haven't seen anything yet to make me like him. And I've been watching.

Anyway...! So far I'm having a pretty okay birthday. I started it early last night by taking myself out to The Elite, a diner-turned-Mediterranean restaurant in downtown La Crosse. The food was pretty good, but today my bowels are tied in knots (yes, I'm sure that's precisely the type of intimate revelation for which you read this blog!), so I may not be going back anytime soon. I also stopped by the Silver Hide-Out, a neat-o shop packed to the brim with sterling jewelry and leather products (belts, purses, etc.). The place was so filled with gorgeous jewelry, I didn't buy anything--I need another visit to absorb all of it! The most impressive stuff there was the rings--most designs, they had six or seven of them in different sizes, and many had a medieval style or feel, with cabochon stones and simple settings. There were also earrings, bracelets, and tons of pendants and charms. When I go back, I can think of a couple people I need to buy 12th Night gifts for...hmmm...

Last night I also picked up my Crwth and Willow scrolls from Nordeen Design. They did an excellent job framing them (as well they should have, for the cost). They are my Hannukah present from my parents, who sent a check to reimburse me for them. If I could find the hammer Dad got me in Bismarck, I would put them up on the wall. Oh well--I haven't yet found a frame for the photo of me getting my Willow that Sarra gave me this weekend, so I'll wait until I get a hammer and a frame to put the whole kit and caboodle on the wall.

Tonight I'm celebrating my birthday by, uh, not doing anything in particular. My folks sent me yellow roses at work, and I'm looking at them every so often, but other than that, just going about my business. I'm even tying up the phone line on the Internet, so if anyone is trying to call to wish me a happy birthday, they are out of luck. Tonight I'm answering e-mail, and putting the finishing touches on the first draft of a new page for the Northshield Bardic College website (that link leads to the old page, which really, really needed to be updated). Owen has given me a password to upload the files to his server, which makes me feel quite privileged. I promise not to abuse the privilege by posting blatant "Owen must be Laureled NOW!" propaganda...I can do that on my own website. ;)

Monday, December 17, 2001

Still have no idea what was up with the dizziness this morning. I slept through most of the afternoon, then awoke at 4:30 to Kathy from Nordeen Design calling to say my framing projects are ready (I brought in my Crwth and my Willow to be framed--can't wait to see them!). Went back to sleep for another half an hour; Mom called at 5, having seen this page and wondering if I was still alive. (Hi Mom! I'm still alive.)

I'm happy to say, the room-spinning hasn't come back, but I'm still tired and my head is feeling delicate, with a sort of a roaming neck/shoulder/sinus/headache. I felt sort of unsteady so I took one of the pills the doctor said I should take, which is a variant on Dramamine; still feeling unsteady an hour and a half later. And I still wish I knew what's up. If I'm about to get sick, that would explain the dizziness, and now would be a good time to do it. But I wish it would just happen, instead of threatening to happen.

I'm planning on going in to work tomorrow, unless I'm actively having room-spinning episodes and don't feel I can get into a car. You must admit, if I am going to be subject to dizzy spells, I picked the right place to work (a medical center)!

Now...I'd better toddle off to bed.

Okay, weird, wild stuff this morning:

I was having a dream about driving in Milwaukee (that is, I was certain for some reason that it was Milwaukee, though I was panicked enough that it should have been Minneapolis, where the traffic is worse and the highways are more tangled). I remember I was driving on an elevated part of the highway that went over many other highways and was high up in the air, and I was worried about how I was going to drive straight if I was this dizzy.

Then I woke up, rolled over to look at the clock, couldn't find the clock. Not because it wasn't there, but because I was dizzy and the room was turning. When I finally found the clock, I saw that it was 4:10, and thought, well, this is odd, but I'm just going to go back to sleep.

Woke up at 6:15 to my alarm clock. I had been lying on my back; I rolled 1/4 turn to turn off the alarm, and the room started spinning again. I waited for it to settle down, then rolled back onto my back. The dizziness came back. Immediately (because I'm a medical librarian and I know about these things) I was having visions of acute vertigo plaguing me for the next ten years, making me effectively an invalid, unable to drive, work, or walk. So I slowly, slowly got up, holding my head excruciatingly straight, walked out to my kitchen while holding onto everything that would support me, and fetched my phone book and my calendar, with my boss' phone number and my friend Kristen's. At every second I expected the apartment to start spinning again and dump me on my head, possibly giving me a serious injury, but it didn't.

Safely back in bed, I called the Nurse Advisors, who said I should come in as soon as possible, but I should not drive. No duh. Next I called my boss, who was not at home but I left a message on her work voicemail. Next I woke up my friend Kristen, who was just as nice as could be and came over to take me to Urgent Care. In the meantime I re-assessed my condition every few minutes, but couldn't detect any more dizziness.

The Urgent Care doctor couldn't find anything wrong with me (took temp, pulse, bp, eye-tracking test, peered in my ears and eyes, etc.) but told me to get a particular kind of Dramamine to take in case it happened again, and stay home for today. So I visited my co-workers and cleared the day off with them, got my business done at the pharmacy, then was going to call a cab when my friend Julia, who works at the registration desk right near my area, told me she had gotten permission to punch out and go get her car to take me home. And that's exactly what she did. Wow! I have the nicest friends.

Thus far, no more dizziness, though I do feel more tired than I really think I should (haven't taken the Dramamine yet--that stuff knocks me out, and the doctor said it's okay not to take it until I feel dizzy) and I am stiff from those first couple of hours of the day, when I was moving slowly and stiffly in case the dizziness came back. Basically I am sitting at home, listening to my new Rose Ensemble CD and feeling half guilty about being at home, half happy about being at home. Being at home does mean I have to get some stuff done: embroidery, laundry, emptying the dishwasher. I'm going to hold myself to those--unless the dizziness comes back.

Saturday, December 15, 2001
As I was out & about going to/from the choir gig and concert tonight, I remembered an odd dream I had last night, or more probably, this morning. In the dream, I was at some sort of event--could have been an SCA event (though I don't remember being in garb) or maybe a conference, during the daytime, and I decided to take a walk out by a body of water (river? lake? I couldn't tell) near the event site. Alone, I walked down by the edge of the water. There were some concrete pier-like structures for walking near the water, not unlike the Terrace at the Union on the UW-Madison campus, and there were rocks piled next to the piers that people could walk on if they felt adventurous. I walked out on one of the piers that jutted out from the shore. There were a few people around me, sitting on the rocks or the pier, fishing or just relaxing, but overall the place was quiet.

I saw a duck making a ruckus towards the end of the pier, so I walked towards it, thinking that I hadn't seen a black duck before. As I got closer I saw that it wasn't a duck, it was a loon, and I remember thinking, "Loons don't live in this area". I went closer to it; it continued to splash around and moved away from the pier, out into the water. Without looking down, I walked further out onto the rocks, trying to get closer to it, but it made squawking noises and kept moving further away. I think that's when the postman rang the bell to deliver that package, because the dream ended there. The main point that I remember is that I really, really wanted to see the loon more closely, and didn't really care what I risked to get closer to it.

Very strange. Though I love ducks, I have only seen loons once, when visiting friends in Walker, MN who took me out on their boat on Leech Lake in 1998. The only other loon I have any experience with is Claire, the stuffed animal loon who belongs to a friend of mine, and who is "visiting" right now (he let me take her home). So I am kind of puzzled as to the meaning of the dream.

The Chamber Chorale gig was sort of unusual. We were paid $500 (!) to sing for the CenturyTel employee party, held in a huge room in the La Crosse Center. There were at least 750 people there and the acoustics were NOT conducive to chamber choral music, to say the least! They had us on a high stage and we were miked here, there, and everywhere, but not terribly well--the mikes kept erupting into feedback. In fact it reminded me of an SCA feast situation: we sang during the time after the main meal and before dessert, with everyone talking up a storm and getting up to talk to everyone else, and no one listening to us. If they could even hear us! We couldn't tell if the amplification was doing its job or not. We may never know whether they heard us. A couple times, after softer pieces, we didn't even hear any applause--as though they hadn't noticed we had stopped singing.

Oh well. We were out of there at 8:05 and several of us rushed over to the gorgeous Maria Angelorum chapel on the Viterbo campus, for the Rose Ensemble concert. The theme was "A Slavic Christmas" but it could have been "Readings from the Phone Book" for all the difference it would have made: this stellar early music vocal group, in such magnificent surroundings (and acoustics!), sounded like velvet. That was some of the finest singing of early music I have ever heard. My eyes teared up a few times just at the sound, never mind the actual pieces, none of which I had heard before. I bought the CD, but decided when I got back that what I really wanted to hear was something a little more familiar, so I put on The Cambridge Singers' CD of Palestrina's Song of Songs. It's fabulous music but, G-d help me, the performance sounds kind of dull and soupy after hearing the Rose Ensemble tonight! Nothing, but nothing, before tonight has ever made The Cambridge Singers sound soupy to me. Wow.

Well, so, what happened to my day? I woke up at 9:30, woke up again at 10:30 to the postman who wanted to deliver a package, and then went back to sleep until 2! And the only reason I didn't go back to sleep was the realization that I had to be dressed and ready for the choir gig in 4.75 hours. Haven't gotten much done since then: had a meal (no idea whether it was breakfast, lunch, or something else), turned over my laundry, printed out some White Birch subscription forms for the populace meeting tomorrow, and answered e-mail. Oh, and I did shower. Now it's getting dark and I'm wondering why I thought I was going to accomplish anything today.

Wait, I did accomplish something: I finally caught up with my sleep deficit after last weekend. ;)

Feeling much, much better tonight, you better believe it. Two dear friends wrote to say that they love my music and think the song is great, and are mad at the woman on the listserv for berating it. (Thanks, guys--you know who you are, and I LOOOOOVE you!) To be honest she didn't really berate my work--it was more of a pick-apart, a presumption that she knew more about how the song should scan than I did, and was welcome to change it to fit her ideas.

Whatever. At this point I am due for a re-evaluation of my role as a bard. Do I really need to be a Bard Internationale (to borrow a phrase from Michael Feldman, Producer Internationale), and use this particular listserv as a way to become more well-known, when I don't really know most of the people on the listserv and they don't know me, and when my attention and love at this point in my SCA career are still firmly directed towards my home (and may always be)? No. Right now I think I might work towards being better as a Northshield bard. It seems to be, thus far, what I'm best at.

Anyway. I'll stay on this particular listserv, but I doubt I'll be sending any more of my work that way. If this particular person spoke up about my work again, I can't guarantee I would be able to simply delete and ignore. And it's not worth the aggravation, for the few other comments I got, though they were mostly positive and offered some good suggestions.

Tonight Kristen and I went for our birthday dinner (hers was the 5th, mine is the 19th) at the Back Door Cafe, which is a tiny restaurant (4 tables) in a bed-and-breakfast in Cashton, which (I discovered) is where you end up if you keep driving east on State Road in La Crosse. (I always wondered!) What a beautiful house--we got to look at the lodgings too, as no one happened to be staying there tonight. Full of Christmas decorations, antiques, little personal touches (we noticed a recent photo of a bride and groom in one of the bedrooms), and warm wood furniture. Just gorgeous surroundings.

The meal itself was a little mixed. The appetizer (portabello mushroom filled with garlic and breadcrumb herb filling) was excellent, but the salad was glopped up with this dressing with a very strange texture--kind of waxy and sticky, if that makes any sense. It stuck like glue to the greens and turned the whole thing into an indistinguishable mess. I wouldn't have even taken notice of the dressing, but Kristen talked it up beforehand, saying how wonderful it was, and the waitress claimed she couldn't even tell us what was in it because the owner had found it in a 110-year-old cookbook and they might someday want to market it. Good luck, guys...

The tenderloin medallions were marinated in a delicious wine sauce, of which there was far too little, and were tougher than any steak I've had since I made the mistake of eating at the Hungry Peddler on Filet Mignon night. They were served with bland red potatoes and carrots. I must say, the appetizer and hot cocoa were really good, but as for the rest of it, I think I might rather go to Stockmen's in Coon Valley.

This weekend: not much going on. I hope to get a lot done in terms of current SCA projects, and maybe even tidy up a little around here--the layer of fabric scraps and other assorted textile fluff on the carpet is getting thick enough that I'm having trouble walking! Saturday night we have a Chamber Chorale gig, and then I'm going to the Rose Ensemble concert--I've heard a lot of good things about that group. The Chamber Chorale lent them our mailing list so they could market their La Crosse concert, and in return they're comping us 15 tickets and saving the last pew for us, since we will be rushing over late after the CenturyTel gig. Then Sunday is the populace meeting for the Shire of Rokeclif. If that's over in time I might go to the Hannukah play at the synagogue, but I'm still deciding if I want to do that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

I'm irritable tonight. I sent my song about the Italian girl in love with the King to a listserv to see what people had to say about it. Got some nice comments, some constructive comments, and two extremely long letters (on-list) from a woman who seems to have appointed herself the micro-analyst of every syllable in my poetry and music. She did this to a poem I put out on the list (to be fair, so did someone else, that time), and now she has done it twice to "Notte a Palermo". I finally wrote a letter (on-list) to her, saying that for a variety of reasons, I am not up to this level of analysis of my song, and now is not the time for me to continue with this pursuit. I also said, "No offense, but it's a bit much." (Those who know me well will be gasping at my restraint. ;) )

This person has a sort of flip all-knowing attitude, as though she feels her long bardic experience allows her the right to pick apart other people's work for fun. I am willing myself to believe that it isn't the fact that she's a Laurel which makes her feel she has this right, that if she were still a Lady she might also have this attitude. A person has to believe in something, I guess...

Now, recognizing that my URL is in my .sig file on messages to that list, I don't think it behooves me to go into additional detail about this person here. (Been burned once on that count.) It's enough to say that I hope I am not overreacting. To be absolutely truthful, that song means a lot to me on a personal level. Maybe I'm just not ready to revise it. Maybe I am too thin-skinned when people take something I wrote and start replacing entire lines. Maybe I'm a prima donna who believes her crystalline voice (cough, hack, gurgle ;) ) can overcome whatever scansion problems her song might happen to have. Maybe it's an indication that I am still very early in my bardic career (which I am) that I have not yet figured out whether I write songs so I can sing them, or I sing my music so I can share what I've written. (Personally I think it needs to be the first. With all its weaknesses, my voice is better than anything I could possibly have to say in a song.)

(Having realized that, maybe I'll go cry now.)

I was going to share Boar's Head memories, but I don't think I feel like that right now. I don't like being irritated at the world, or feeling hurt by people who did not mean to hurt me. I KNOW I'm overly sensitive. I also know I'm not changing one word of that song to suit her ideas of good scansion. Call me petulant, please, I deserve it. Call me immature and prideful. Tell me I have the emotional maturity of the 13-year-old girl in the song. I know I do. That's why I wrote it.


Maybe I'm going to sleep. I've never really caught up on sleep since this past weekend; 6 hours of sleep a night is not truly enough, and cumulatively, it can't be good for me. It may even be part of why I'm irritable.

To end on an up note though, Act II has a new kind of microwave popcorn out: Kettle Corn, which is meant to emulate that popcorn popped in boiling sugar syrup in copper kettles that you find at fairs and amusement parks and such. It lacks that properly charred taste, though, that says, "I've been popped in boiling sugar syrup in a copper kettle". What it resembles most is the lightly sweetened popcorn they sold in France in the movie theatre we went to in Tours with my French class. I bought it imagining the salty, artificial-butter-flavored-yellow-stuff taste of American movie popcorn--and got a rude awakening when I attempted to eat it! Eleven years later, I find I sort of like the flavor; it was simply the unexpectedness of sweetened popcorn that made it unpalatable in France. Now, it tastes like a nice lightly sweetened breakfast cereal. Don't worry, I won't eat the stuff for breakfast. ;)

Sunday, December 09, 2001

As I usually do after a wonderful and overwhelming SCA event (in this instance, Boar's Head in Milwaukee), I'll start with notes surrounding the event (how was the travel, how was the post-revel, what I've been doing since I got back) and follow up soon with actual event notes. 'Cause, you know, events can be (like I said) overwhelming. You want to digest them a little, then regurgitate when processed. (Oh, that paints a lovely picture, doesn't it?)

It goes without saying that Sarra and I had a nice trip. We didn't get lost at all, not even when we stopped in the Dells on the way home today for lunch. Something strange happened: we accidentally went to a vegetarian restaurant in the Dells, called the Cheese Factory. Now this information was nowhere on the signage; it just looked like a cute family restaurant. It wasn't until I noticed all the TVP (textured vegetable protein, essentially fake meat) and tofu and imitation chicken flavored stuff on the menu that I began to get suspicious. Luckily Sarra wasn't offended to have been taken to a place where she would not get meat with her meal. (This is Wisconsin, remember--many people would have been offended.) She had mushroom stroganoff, and I had moussaka in which the TVP was completely superfluous--why is it that cooks don't learn, what we REALLY want out of our moussaka is more eggplant? If you take out the meat, why not replace it with another layer of eggplant? What a concept. I shouldn't complain though. It's been years since I've been to an actual vegetarian restaurant. Wait, I never did make it to that one in Madison everyone raved about, before it went out of business. So I guess I never have. Anyway...

Sarra bought both of Master John of Inchingham's tapes at the merchants'. We listened to both on the way home. The first one, which I know mostly because Herr Janvier from my home Shire of Falcon's Keep sings most of it, was largely familiar to me. (It has "Shopspur", the only song I know of that glorifies my very first SCA skill: shopping.) The second had a lot of suprises--a song about mythical creatures dancing the "Border-bushka" in the border of an illuminated scroll, a song about Master Thorbjorn from Jararvellir that I hadn't realized was Inchingham's, and a wonderful long spoken-sung saga of Prince Dafydd ap Gwalchmai (the first Prince of the Northshield) and his quest to "wake the sleeping bear" and muster a critical mass of Northshielders to fight at Pennsic 25. I need the words to that song--I didn't get everything, but had a few clouds-open-up moments: Dafydd proceeds to where the oak is split and ragged, and finds the daughter of the winds who turns around the fortunes of his quest. (Duh: he stopped by Shattered Oak, the Shire in Eau Claire, and talked to Wyndreth. She turns people's fortunes around just by talking to them.)

The Bardic Barracks are never anything but fun. Dahrien and Mysie (the hosts) had circles under their eyes this morning, but seemed happy: she was in charge of Feast at the event, and he was her go-fer, so they both ran themselves ragged at the event. (It was a fabulous feast. I knew it would be.)

I had a really good conversation with Drust about performance styles. I had mentioned that I thought "I Love My Love" might be done as a duet, with the man as the narrator/lover and the woman doing the Maid's parts. So then I told him how I have done it in the past as a solo: the narrator is matter-of-fact and unobtrusive in the beginning, while the woman is sorrowful and disturbed. Then at the end when we return to the narrator's voice after the lover returns, she sounds fairly normal at the start of that verse, then I make my eyes all big and my voice goes from quiet and normal to loud and frenzied during the 2nd and 3rd lines of the last verse, going towards the really high notes, and you realize (or you do if it works) that the narrator has been telling her own story in the third person. She is the Maid in Bedlam and the reunion never happened: you have merely had a peek into her fantasy life. Her lover is never coming back. Of course, you can't do that if you have the narrator and woman's voice sung by two different people. Oh well. I'm open to new interpretations.

It's fun to discuss this kind of thing with someone. Drust has a lot of potential as a bard. He's smart, observant, detail-oriented, friendly but not without a sense of irony, passionate about the SCA, and has a romantic streak a mile wide--and he can sing (and will only improve as he gets more confident). This is the first time I've had this thought: I think he would someday make an excellent apprentice if I were ever to become a Laurel. (But I figure he'll probably be one of Owen's by that time, just like I'd like to be.)

The post-revel seemed shorter than some, I think because site didn't close until 11 (and court didn't end until 10:45) and I don't think we got back to Dahrien's and Mysie's until midnight. It was nice though, even though there were a half-dozen people I wished were there. Of course all you really need for a real Northshield bardic circle is Dahrien, Owen, and a handful of good listeners. I did my new piece about the Italian girl in love with the King; it got some good reactions, but I waited too long to do it and silliness had set in by that time, and there was some shtick going on about those wool hats all the Nordskogen guys seem to have.

It's okay; silliness is fun, and anyway I had run the song past Sarra and Owen earlier in the day for more focused feedback. They both really liked it. Owen said he thought this was exactly the type of thing we needed more of, and that my piece is an excellent example of it. In fact he said that twice, emphatically, in almost the same wording, which sort of freaked me out because Owen so rarely repeats anything, for emphasis or any other reason. He did point out the scansion irregularity in the second-to-last verse, which I justified by singing that verse for him with the little creative rhythmic change in it, and he said, "Oh yeah, I forgot, you can do that kind of thing. It takes me hours of thought to come up with that kind of rhythmic variation, and you can just do it off the top of your head." I grinned so hard my cheek muscles hurt. The guy can really give a compliment (among his many other talents).

More information on the actual event, including the class I taught, Court stuff, Northshield Choir activities, helping out some newbies, singing "Riu Riu Chiu" with way talented people from Tree-Girt-Sea and points east, etc., when I write next.

Tonight, we had the La Crosse Chamber Chorale's annual Advent Hymn Sing. I must admit, after a great event like this, having spent so much time with so many wonderful friends, I wasn't enthusiastic about standing like a robot in choir and singing Christmas music. In polyester garb no less! (Let's not go into how I feel about the La Crosse Chamber Chorale's women's uniforms...) I only got about 5 hours sleep last night and I was tired. But the concert was short (only about 50 min.) and afterwards, I went to the reception and my friend Kris was there with her husband, and they gave me a gift of a bunch of candles in honor of the first night of Hannukah! (I don't think they got the concept that there are particular candles in a particular type of candleholder that you light for Hannukah. They gave me votive candles, floating candles, candles in little clay pots...hey, it's the thought that counts!) It made me feel good, esp. since this I think this is the first year of my life that I won't be doing Hannukah with any of my family, not even slightly early or late or just one night. It's all me this year. Sigh. Makes me slightly lonely.

But only slightly. Along with the regular Hannukah prayers, while I lit the candle tonight I said the "Shehechyanu", the prayer that thanks G-d for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season, which is always said on the first night of a Jewish holiday. It's my family's favorite prayer, I think because it's such a nice and simple sentiment: we're glad for where we are right now. (Also there's a wonderful Debbie Friedman version of it that we all love.) And I didn't have any problem tonight, feeling glad for where I am right now. I have my friends, my family, my largely nice job, my comfy apartment, my pursuits in the SCA, and my dreams. It works out for me, or at least it has been up 'till now--no matter how many times I might think I am heading into a brick wall, or not making the kind of progress I should be making. I enjoy life and that's what matters.

Oh yeah, I also have Claire, Owen's loon stuffed animal. We had a discussion with her this morning and Owen said she had decided to come home with me again until 12th Night. I concurred, even though I couldn't hear her voice. She's a stuffed animal. I'm going to take his word for it. ;)

Sunday, December 02, 2001
Getting edumacated: on a whim, while eating some of those yummy coconut/konjac jelly cups I got at the asian grocery on Park St. in Madison, I went to Google and did some searches on coconut gel and konjac. Basically I just wanted to know what they were. I had just opened a jar of coconut gel cubes, tasted one, and decided it was vaguely yucky and that I would defer judgement until another day. Yet they taste fabulous in those jelly cups. What's the deal?

Here's the deal: Coconut gel (aka nata de coco) is the waste product of bacteria on the surface of coconut juice or coconut milk. It's not made of coconut at all, not even in the sense that cheese is made of milk--more in the sense that cheese mold is made of milk! This is the somewhat fibrous, jellylike juicy stuff that is in the center of the jelly cups, that takes on the flavor of the jelly around it. I could not imagine how one would get that stuff from coconuts. Well, now I know. And I kind of wish I didn't.

Even more do I wish I didn't know that the Canadian government has recently banned all jelly cups with konjac, because they pose a choking hazard. Not just for little kids, mind you, but for everyone. Apparently only the kind with konjac in them are being banned. Some additional looking around on Google gave me the impression that konjac, which comes from some kind of tuber and is mixed as flour into liquids to turn them jellylike, is being touted as a miracle fiber-rich food in some alternative medicine/food supplement circles--not a lot, but a few.

Now, it makes sense that something jellylike, about the size of a creamer container, that one must suck out of a small cup with enough force to create a wind in the room, might sometimes get accidentally inhaled. But since every asian jelly cup I've ever had has been approximately the same size as the konjac-containing kind (and they're only banning the konjac ones), I can only assume that it's not the size, it's the ingredients: that jelly cups with konjac are less likely to dissolve or slide out of the windpipe under pressure, and more likely to remain where they are and asphyxiate the hapless consumer.

Needless to say, I checked the list with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency safety hazard alert and my brand of jelly cups is listed right there (Konjac Coconut Jelly Assorted, from Sheng Hsiang Foods). Great. I have a little less than one bag left of the stuff. I wonder...yes, a quick search reveals that the US Food and Drug Administration has issued a similar recall warning. Their original import alert warning, from August, confirms my suspicion that konjac-containing jelly cups (unlike, say, Jell-O) don't dissolve or break up immediately when placed in the mouth, increasing their tendency to get lodged in the windpipe if inhaled.

Well, this is SO appears I have put together the whole story on konjac/coconut gel jelly cups, simply by using the Internet and documenting what I found. You learn something new every day...or you do if your brain is engaged.

Very quiet weekend. I slept in both days; yesterday I did some embroidery, did dishes/laundry, and went to Winona to meet up with Kudrun and Cybele. We had a nice dinner at a Chinese buffet, then went to Winona State University's campus for the Messiah Sing-In. It turned out it wasn't just a sing-in--the first half of the concert was given to six separate choirs, to do a piece each (3 university choirs, 2 church, and 1 high school). Which meant the entire front half of the somewhat small auditorium was given over to choir members, who had to have someplace to sit. (It also meant that the entire soprano and alto sections of the University Concert Choir were trying to change in the 3-stall bathroom near the auditorium. C'mon, you couldn't change in your dorm rooms?)

We sat down close to the back, under the balcony, lamenting that we wouldn't be able to hear as well. Soon a small squirrely boy of about 5 and his mom came and sat on the other side of us. He never stopped squirming or talking during the whole concert. The seats are tiny and squooshed together, so even with a seat between me and this child, he still invaded my personal space regularly. The woman in front of us gave him a reindeer-shaped button cover to play with, which turned out to be a mistake since he was so excited by this gift, he could not stop asking questions about how it worked, what he should do with it, etc. Frequently he would drop it, then scuttle under the seats to retrieve it, feet kicking in all directions; twice he kicked over my water cup. The third time, during one of the participatory choruses in the Messiah, I had put my foot on the other side of the cup to prevent him from kicking it over; encountering my foot as resistance, he kicked harder, and I firmly pushed his foot a few inches along the floor away from the cup. Whereupon he looked up at me with utter astonishment: what is she doing touching me, limiting me? I was almost afraid he would grab his mother and tell her I had kicked him--and I'm sure she would have believed him.

His mother, during the entire concert, had made no effort to quiet him or keep him in his seat; she seemed to be one of those permissive, creative moms. She would look into his eyes and mime the conductor's motions, the violinist's bow along the strings, the pianist's dancing fingers. She would move her finger along the staves on her Messiah score with exaggerated rhythmic movements. She would point out to him on the program which piece was being sung (and if this kid could read, I'm the Queen of the Midrealm). I'm sure in 15 years he will be an energetic, creative music major at a top school. If he's not in jail. In the meantime, he utterly ruined that concert for everyone in his immediate area.

Not to say it was a total loss. It was nice spending time with Kudrun and Cybele (as always), the choirs were really quite good, and the soloists in the Messiah were excellent. They even had us sing along with a few of the solo parts, which was neat because I always get bored by them--they seem to go on forever. This way we got to join in.

Today I did some MIDIs for the Northshield Choir webpage, did some more laundry, worked on my 12th Night tokens a bit, listened to music, and cut out/put together a sloper of Owen's tunic (using that beige harlequin drapery fabric with the fleurs-de-lis that I got for $1 a yard somewhere...hope he doesn't like it, because I used it all up on the sloper, cut in four different directions, and I'll be marking on it in purple!). Hard to believe the weekend is over. Next weekend: Boar's Head, and staying at the Bardic Barracks. Yay!

Saturday, December 01, 2001
I just signed up for this Secret Santa service, aimed at people with personal webpages/weblogs, which uses your Amazon wish list to get a random person to send you a gift. Of course you have to have an Amazon wish list (and they ask that you have something on it that's under $15) and a personal webpage in order to participate. You sign up, and on Dec. 10, they send you the name/URL/wish list address of the person you will be buying for. I don't really know how they ensure that everyone is going to spend the time/money to actually purchase something for someone else. Maybe it's like one large chain letter--you participate knowing that if you don't, you can't get the return, but if you do, it's still not for sure that you'll get anything, much less $50,000 in ten weeks!

I suppose I won't worry over how they ensure people will participate. Once upon a time the Internet was about flinging goodwill (and a whole lot of other things, but we won't go into that) in random directions, and hoping people would respond to it. If no one does, well, that's life. But if someone does, that's a little bit of extra sparkle that makes you think, hey, things aren't 100% bleak out there.

I have been scraping up a whole horde of good websites lately. Some highlights: a Californian named Rob Cockerham (really) finds how much stuff is inside contained items like shaving cream, travels to Minneapolis and Bulgaria as well as Burning Man, desecrates public sculpture and signage all over the world, and takes amazing and surprising photos everywhere he goes. This is that laid-back, friendly, down-to-earth guy you meet on the train to Barcelona, in the library at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, on the Skyway in Minneapolis, or on the beach in Boston a little after autumn has set in, who's all alone and toting a laptop and asks you, "Do you know where I can get access to the Internet?", and you strike up a conversation and enjoy it a lot, but then you leave to make a phone call and when you come back, he's gone. His travelogues are addictive: full of quizzical wit, enjoyable complaints, descriptions of his friends and fellow travelers, and photos, photos, photos. This guy is not a luxury traveler; you get a sense for what it must be like to worry daily about logistics: finding a friend who lives locally, finding an ATM, finding a place to get bottled water in Morocco, finding out what the exchange rate is, finding cheap lodging (and dealing with its little irritations), and above all, finding Internet access so he can post his activities. But he manages to insert plenty of wry, understated descriptions of the cities he visits. And the photos speak louder than anything. (And he's cute, but I wasn't going to say that. Oh, too late! I did.) takes the Evil Overlord concept two or three steps further. People write in the inconsistencies that irritate them about movies, including:

  • On medieval peasants: "Medieval peasants always have filthy faces, tangled hair, ragged clothing - and perfect, gleaming white teeth. (cf. Braveheart, any Robin Hood movie)."
  • On music: "Many musical instruments - especially wind instruments and accordions - can be played without moving the fingers."
  • On sex: "All beds have a special L-shaped top sheet, which reaches up to armpit level on women but only to waist level on men."
  • On women: "Women will always have shaved legs and armpits, even in caveman movies."

And the site sorts them so you can read them. Simple but fun to browse--go and enjoy.

Going to do the Messiah sing-in in Winona with Kudrun and Cybele tomorrow evening, that is, if it doesn't snow. I'll be driving alone to Winona and meeting them for dinner. This'll be my first time in Winona, which I hear is a nice town. It hasn't snowed here yet (though my eyes/ears in Minneapolis, including James the Incredible, say there's a foot of snow on the ground there). That's only 2 1/2 hours away. All we've gotten here is rain. Oh well--the warmth and life of Handel's masterwork will negate the cold ugly rain.

Note to self: Keep embroidering! Keep embroidering! The whole thing has to be done by Twelfth Night in Nordskogen!

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