Take your philosophy where you can find it…

For the quote challenge this week the Original Sarah gave us this: ““Never put a sock in a toaster.” –
Eddie Izzard.

I have to admit that I haven’t thought a great deal about this particular quote; it’s such good advice that I just thought, “well of course, that makes sense. Who who wants toast that tastes like sock?”

So, I don’t have any great, long post in response to this quote, so I think I’ll just mention a few  other words of wisdom and advice that I have found helpful over the years.

“Never lick a frozen fence post, not even on a triple dog dare” – The Christmas Story

“It’s better to have loved and lost than live with a psycho for years”  _ The Big Dog

“Forget a word to the wise, it’s the stupid that needs them” – Bill Cosby

“Never bring a knife to a gun fight”

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; Courage is als0 what it takes to sit down and listen” – Winston Churchil

“If you can make another person laugh, you have made the world a better place” – Michael Hugo Fletcher (my Dad).

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke

“It doesn’t matter what you think you deserve, what matters is what those that wrote letters for you think you deserve” Tur””laugh an Grannda Fihr

“It’s not enough to be able to pick up a sword. You have to know which end to poke into the enemy.” Terry Pratchett

“Do, or do not. There is no try” – Yoda

“It aint easy being green” Kermit the Frog

I could keep going, but I have to get some dinner. Take your philosophy where you can find it.

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Do more than curse the darkness.

It’s already Friday? Good lord, where did the week go?  It seems like just yesterday that I posted the quote for this week’s challenge. I distinctly remember thinking that  I would have plenty of time to write my post about it before the weekend. Seems I might have been a bit optimistic about that. Well, there is no time like the present, so it is time to get to writing.

For those of you that need a reminder, this week’s quote was this, “Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness”, from the inspired pen of Mr. Terry Pratchet (Just an aside, if you have not read his Discworld series you have missed some of the most entertaining and thought provoking fiction you could ever hope to find).

Before I get to my thoughts on this, and why I like it so much, I need to admit a couple of things.
1. I get angry a lot. When I get angry, I tend to do, and say, some really stupid things.  I don’t really like this about myself,  but it is true.

2. Over the years I’ve worked diligently to learn how to…if not let go of the anger, to at least channel it into productive activity. And, finally,

3. Sometimes, even when I’m not angry, people that don’t know me well think that I am angry because of my demeanor and, admittedly, odd sense of humor

With those admissions made public, let’s move on to the subject at hand.

The simple fact is that all of us have things in our lives, or in our hobby, business setting, or in the world in general that we think should be changed. Things that we wish were different, or more fair, more just, whatever. Depending on what the situation is, we sometimes feel that as badly as we want the situation to be different there is nothing we can do about it. When we ( or at least when I) feel that the only thing we can do is talk (rant) about the problem, that is what we do. We talk. We wish. We rant. In other words, we want the light, but all we do is curse the darkness.

Let me tell you something, cursing the darkness never, ever, get’s the light turned on. The light comes on when people (including myself, I need to be very, very clear that I’m just as guilty of this kind of behavior as anyone else) stop cursing  the darkness and doing what is necessary to get the damn light on.

Now, the first step to getting  the lights  on, the first step in making a change in whatever situation you want to change, is as simple as realizing that all of us can do more than just talk. We can act. True,  in a lot of cases, we can only act in very small ways, but WE CAN ACT. We, all us, can act.  And, if enough of us act,  if enough of us do something as simple as light a candle, we can light up the world.

At this point, I want to tell you another secret: once we realize we can do something as small as lighting a candle, it gets a whole lot easier to light another candle. A whole lot easier to do something more, maybe something a little more difficult. The more you do, the more candles you light, the more you can do. Trust me, I can speak to the truth of this from my own personal experience.

Now, occasionally, you will find that simply lighting candles isn’t enough. Yes, it does change things, but the darkness, or the situation you want to change, is going to require more action. More direct action. The light of a small candle is a start, but sometimes in order to bring great change, you need more than light. You need fire. Fire not only provides night, but it also burns things (situations, buildings, etc) down,  so that rebuilding can take place. That, my friends, is when you put down the candles, and apply the match to the flamethrower.

When and if you decide to reach for the flamethrower,  you need to keep a few things in mind. To begin with you need to remember to be very careful where you aim the fire. Yes, you can make great changes, but if you are not careful, you can also cause a lot of harm. So, pick your target carefully, focus the fire narrowly, and do not lose control. When you lose control a controlled burn becomes a wildfire and that does no one any good.

The next thing to keep in mind when you ignite the flamethrower of your actions to change the world is that a lot of people have worked very hard to get the world nice and dark, and they will try to put out the fires of change. Yeah, I know, as hard as it is to believe some creatures; slugs, cockroaches, professional whiners, etc, like to live in the dark.

Finally, remember that no matter how careful you are, no matter how tightly you focus the fire of your flame thrower, there will be consequences you were not expecting. Yes, you will make great changes, and you will create a great light, but it is possible that some people you didn’t intend to will get scorched along the way. It is probable that you, yourself will be singed a bit. When that happens don’t try to hide from it. Apologize, profusely, to the innocent bystanders and do whatever you have to in order to make things right with them, and apply aloe to your own burns. Once that is done, take a look around, and decide if you need another candle, or another tank of fuel for your flamethrower. Just don’t fall back into the dark.

Don’t curse the darkness.

My friend Kat tagged me to come up with a quote for this week’s quote challenge, and since I never (well, almost never) turn down a challenge, I’ve spent the last hour or so thinking about the quote I’d use.

There are so many inspirational and thought provoking quotes to chose from that the task of picking just one is not as easy as I had thought it would be. Should I go with something philisophical? Would something from a song or movie be better? Should I delve into my library and come up with something from a book? Or, should I turn to the words of the few political leaders I have admired?

Well, it was easy to eliminate the words of politicians. There just are not that many I can honestly say I find to be inspirational. Songs and movies were somewhat harder to eliminate as sources. There are literally thousands of those to chose from ( Trust ,me, I keep a file of memorable quotes called Words of Power on my lap top and turn to it often).

In the end I chose a quote from a book; one that I find humorous and thought provoking at the same time.  I chose a quote that I find useful in several different settings. I chose one that  “speaks” to me, and sometimes I wonder what it says about me that I find this quote so powerful. With that introduction, I guess it’s time to reveal the quote;

“Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness” Terry Pratchet ( in Men at Arm )

I’ll write my thoughts on this later this week, and since I don ‘t know her, and therefore am interested in learning more about her, I tag the Original Sara to respond to this  quote

It doesn’t terrify me, I just don’t like it, usually.

You know, I’m constantly reminded that life happens even  when you are not paying attention. For example, I was not paying close attention last week when Kat put up the quote for the week’s quote challenge. I make no excuse for my tardiness in this matter. I simply resolve to pay more attention this week.

So, to the quote:

“Experience teaches us that silence terrifies people the most.” ~ Bob Dylan

Now, when I first read that, my initial thought was, “Bob, I do love your music, but after all the drugs you’ve pumped into your body, how can you remember anything you’ve been taught?”

But, that line of thought didn’t really address the quote, so I sat back, lit a cigarette, and thought about it some more.

The first thing I thought was that silence doesn’t terrify me, but I have to admit I don’t like it much. I can’t concentrate in a silent room. When I’m reading, writing, working on any kind of project at all, I need some kind of background sound. As I write this the television is running in the background. I’m not paying any attention to it, but it’s on. Later this evening when I’m assembling components for the Gleann Abhann chains I’m making, I’ll have Pandora Radio playing in the background.
When I try to work without that kind of auditory distraction I end up thinking more about the lack of sound than I do thinking about whatever I’m working on. I tend to get distracted more easily, and I actually spend less time working on the project at hand. However, if I turn on the television, or even better a radio, I can focus better. In fact, I can focus so well that often hours will fly by before I realize how much time has passed. This of course is a good thing, because during those times when I’m really focused I find that I get quite a lot progress made on whatever project I’m working on.
I don’t really know why this is. I think the background noise allows me to block out thoughts of everything but the specific project I’m working on. I know it doesn’t make any kind of logical sense, but it works, and you don’t mess with what works.

My second thought on the subject dealt with silence among people, or groups of people. Again, it doesn’t terrify me, but again, I don’t like it much. If I am in a group of people I’d much rather be talking with them than sitting in silence. I’d much rather be hearing their stories, or learning what their thoughts on a particular subject are and why they have those thoughts. I genuinely like most people (someday I’ll write about those few people I don’t like) and I like learning about people. Now, you can learn a lot about people simply by observing them, but you can learn so much more about people by talking to them.

My third thought went in a slightly different direction. There are times when it is good to be silent. When you are in a theater watching a movie, at Court during an SCA event, or a business meeting of your SCA group (or business meeting of any other organization you may belong to), or to be really broadminded, when other people are talking shut the hell up and listen to what they are saying. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had to bite my tongue in the above situations to stop myself from saying something like, “Excuse me, I know you two are enjoying your private conversation, but I’m trying to listen what the King is saying ( or the Seneschal, or a character in a movie, etc) so would you kindly STFU, please?” OK, I admit it, I have done more or less exactly that on a couple of occasions, but not nearly as often as I have wanted to. This is not rocket science folks; when someone else is talking, you listen, you don’t talk at the same time.

So, those are my thoughts on Bob’s quote. I hate to disagree with the man, but my experience is that silence doesn’t terrify me, I just don’t like it much, except when it is time to be silent.

Let’s talk about Candlemas….

Let’s talk about Candlemas. I don’t have anything particularly interesting to say on the subject of Valentine’s Day, the Winter Olympics, and I don’t have the vocabulary to talk about what a magical feeling it was to watch the Saints win the Superbowl last week, so I think Candlemas is the subject for the day.

Of the four events hosted by Grey Niche each year, Candlemas is the one dedicated to Arts and Sciences. The event is a single day event that features a lot of classes and a regional A&S Faire. This year, in addition to those activities there was also an Apprentice Challenge competition. There is usually no scheduled fighting activities, though there are often classes relating to some aspect of SCA fighting. The event is always held the second weekend in February.

This year’s Candlemas was autocratted by Mistress Vashti and Mistress Arielle, with the feast being handled by THL Zhara. Due to the fact that the entire Kingdom of Gleann Abhann has had an unusual spate of bad weather for the last three weeks, and due to the fact that more snow storms had been forecast for the weekend, we had a fairly large turnout for the event. Right at 10o people past through the Troll station.

The day started when we arrived at the Singleton Community Center about 7:45 AM. M. Vashti showed up about ten minutes later, and we were able to access the hall and class room areas. While Turlaugh set up the Troll station, I helped get tables set up for the A&S competitions, and get the class rooms set up. Once that was done, the events of the day moved quickly.

My class, the Theory and Importance of Site Tokens was at 9:00 AM, and I had a whopping one person show up to take the class. That was actually a good thing since I had never taught the class before. It was a nice, relaxed atmosphere to practice the presentation for the first time. I thought it went well, and afterward Karl, the one student, said I made effective use of my visual aides.  Positive feed back is always a good thing.

I spent the rest of the morning help work troll and doing what I do best, which is talking to people. I saw a lot of people that I hadn’t seen in months. That, for me, is always the magic of an SCA event; talking to people and seeing friends. I’d be very hard put to tell you what I talked about with all those folks, but I can tell you immediately, that I had a good time and that I enjoyed the conversations immensely.

Court was held right before feast, and, as usual with a Grey Niche single day event, the feast was held at lunch time. There were three notable things that occurred at court: Lady Alysia was awarded the Valiant Heart, Lady Johna was admitted to the Order of Denial, and (this should not have been a surprise, but it was) Baron Dagan and Baroness Mahsheed announced that they were stepping down at Beltaine. I hate that, I truly do. Dagan and Mahsheed have been truly wonderful in the role of Baron and Baroness of this group.

The feast was excellent, and the entertainment during feast was truly memorable. His excellency Baron Otto entertained the audience by playing his flute. Duke Sir John the Bearkiller and his “Crunk Boy Chorus” performed the filk “As Period As I Wanna Be”, and His Excellency Dulinn performed “Agincourt”, a truly hilarious filk to the tune of The Battle of New Orleans.

After the feast the classes continued until 4:0o PM. The last activity of the day was announcing the winners of the various competitions. The Apprentice Challenge and the Regional A&S Competition Champion were won by Her Excellency Anastacia (I probably mis-spelled that) from Grey Niche, and the Baron and Baroness Choice was awarded to Katrinka Whitehair from the Blue Flats.

And just like that, there was nothing left but the clean up, and a return to this modern world. Still, for roughly nine hours I was in a better world, with good friends, and I was having a great time. One can’t ask for more than that on a cold Saturday in February.

Looking for a new project

The first day of February, 2010. Jeez, I can’t believe how fast time moves the older I get. When I was a kid, the nine months of the school year took approximately three years to pass. These days nine months seem to go buy in 9 hours. It gets a bit annoying.

February will be a busy month. I have two SCA events I have to attend: Candlemas and Fighter’s Collegium. Candelmas is the first; it is February 13. Candlemas is not exactly my favorite local event; it’s a one day, class intensive A&S event. I prefer weekend events, but it is a LOCA event, and because my group is hosting it, I will go. Hell, I’m even teaching a class, and I will work the event. I think it is important for a group member to support all of his or her local group’s events. I’ve ranted far to often about members not supporting their local groups, so I can’t skip a local event without being a hypocrite.

The class I am going to teach is: The Importance of Site Tokens. I have every site token from every event I’ve attended in the last seven years. Most of them are not all that impressive, some are very impressive, and some are frankly amazing. They are all important, though, not because of what they are, but due to the memories they cause to surface when I look at them. Those three ugly beads on a piece of plain string are a tangible, physical reminder of the very first event I ever attended, Beltaine 2003. Holding this cast metal arrowhead on a cord brings to mind the first ever Hunt For the Prize, the Gleann Abhann live weapons event. This length of finger-loop braiding in black and gold cord? It’s one of many, many tokens my friend Sasha made for the first event I ever autocratted. Yeah, all of these site tokens are special, and when I’m having a bad day, when I’m in a bad mood, I’ll often take a few minutes and just look at my collection of tokens. I’ll pick out one or two, and think about the event where I got them. I’ll think of the tournaments that were fought, the people I met, the stories I heard, and the stories I told. After a few minutes of such reflection I will feel better. I’ll be in a better mood, and therefore better able to deal with whatever I need to deal with.

So, yeah, I think site tokens are important. As an autocrat, I think they should, in some way, reflect the theme of the event, and (this is important) I think they should be cheap. Cheap, however, doesn’t have to mean ugly. While I value all of my collected site tokens, I think that often they are afterthoughts for an autocrat that is dealing with all the other aspects of planning an event. This is unfortunate, because with just a little bit of thought, a little creativity, (don’t forget, our organization’s middle name is “Creative”) truly magnificent site tokens can be found for very little expense. So, that’s what my class is going to talk about: the importance of site tokens, and some cheap, creative ideas for making them.

The last weekend of the month is Fighter’s Collegium. That is going to be held at King’s Arrow Ranch in Lumberton. Not really my favorite site for any event other than Gulf Wars. However, the Grey Niche Gate Construction Crew is going to use that weekend to, hopefully, finish our camp’s Gate. It will be an odd event for me because I will not have any meetings I have to attend, nor any real responsibilities other than to hang out with my friends. I think I’ll have a very good time doing just that. The only thing I have to decide is whether or not I’m going to stay on site, or in a hotel. At this point I’m leaning toward staying in the hotel – the cabins at that site are just not all that impressive.

In other news, I’m looking for a new project. Very shortly I’ll be done with the fund raising project for the Grey Niche Gate. Once that is done, I don’t really have any big projects to work on SCA-wise, and I need one. I get bored when I don’t have a project, and frankly, when I’m bored, I tend to do REALLY stupid things. I’d like to another job for the kingdom, and I’d like to autocrat another event. I would really like to autocrat another kingdom event, but my group only wants to use a site that will not allow us to camp, and they (the group, or, more precisely, the members of the group that show up to vote on event bids) don’t want to travel to better sites to hold events. Since a kingdom event almost requires a site to have both a camping area as well as cabin’s on site, it’s kind of pointless to submit another bid for a site at Piersol. So, I either need to find another local site we can afford, that has cabins, camping areas, a kitchen we can use, a feast hall, good parking, etc, or, I need to find another group that would let me autocrat. Somehow, I think the second option would be easier to do.