Monday Meandering.

So, in yesterday’s post I was blathering on about my desire to get back into my pre-Gulf Wars routines. I didn’t mention writing in this blog in yesterday’s post because, frankly, I had gotten out of the regular habit of doing so long before Gulf Wars. However, I really want to get back into the habit of posting here.

I think part of the reason I had fallen out of the habit of writing and posting here is due to the fact that I am not really sure what I want this Blog to be. I have an easier time stating what I don’t want it to be:

1. I don’t want it be nothing more than a collection of links to other sites.
2. I don’t want it to be mindless drivel, or, worse, ….
3. I don’t want it to be a rant Blog. I don’t want to be continually ranting about something here. Unfortunately, I can, and often do rant a lot. I am fairly good at it. I’m a cynical, sarcastic smart ass, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But I don’t want to be known for ONLY being a cynical, sarcastic smart ass.
4. Finally, I want this place to be more than a mere recounting of my day to day activities. For the most part I find my day to day activities to be quite boring, and I would guess that most people would find them to be equally boring.

Now, a lot of the blogs I read regularly are dedicated to a particular theme, or interest. So, I got to thinking about my main interests.  I read a lot of SCA  related blogs ( Or at least blogs written by a lot of people I know in the SCA). I also have begun reading a lot of jewelry related blogs as I have become more and more interested in learning to make different kinds of jewelry. I also read  a ton of blogs and websites relating to books, as I am and always have been an avid reader.

So, with all that in mind, I guess I’ll be writng about books, jewelry -or, more accurately, my attempt to learn to make jewelry, and the SCA. I’m not sure what Cormac’s Corner will end up being, but I look forward to finding out.

Day 2 of Habit Rebuilding

It is Sunday night, and I feel good. I have no real reason for feeling that way, but I also have no real reason for not feeling good. Since feeling good is less work than feeling bad, and since I am by nature a lazy person, I have chosen to feel good

I finally feel that I have gotten back on my non-Gulf Wars schedule. One week of a week long SCA event can, and does, really miss with a person’s schedule. The first week back was the hardest; I was so sleep deprived I was literally falling asleep at my desk. My corporate overlords do not find that to be acceptable behavior, so it was a rather challenging week.

By the start of the second week, I had managed to get caught up on my sleep; I was no longer sleeping at my desk. It was all the other aspects of my regular life that were still out of wack. I had fallen off my diet during war week. Now, I didn’t go hog wild, or anything like that while I was at War, but I had stopped consciously thinking about what I was eating. During the week in Lumberton I had gotten out of the habit of thinking about what I was eating.

During the week at Gulf Wars I had also lost the habit of tracking my spending. Several months ago, in an effort to be a bit smarter about financial matters, and in an effort to find ways to save money, I had started recording all my spending. I didn’t do that at Gulf Wars. Now, this was not a big deal for the first half of the week, because I quite literally didn’t really have any money to spend. However, once my paycheck and quota bonus checks were direct deposited, and once I discovered that most of the merchants would in fact take my debit card, I went kind of nuts.

I had also gotten out of the habit of engaging in a daily goal setting and review. Such daily sessions were, and are, a ritual I had been building in my life since last October. I have found it very, very, helpful in keeping me on track and moving forward toward achieving my goals. Normally the Daily Review and Goal setting is the last thing I do before going to bed. I review the days “Get It Done” list to see what I did get accomplished that day, and what I did not. Then I create the “Get it Done” list for the next day. I didn’t do any of that at the War, and by the time I got home, the habit I had built for five months was gone.

Now, not doing my daily review, not paying attention to my diet, and not tracking my spending, none of these things were a big deal while at War. I mean, it’s my vacation. People are allowed to be a little lax on their vacations. Right? No, the real problem lies with the fact that I didn’t start doing them again when I got home. I let my lack of self discipline at war carry on, and that is, not acceptable. I really wish I could claim that I wasn’t aware of what I was doing, but I just don’t lie that well. I knew what I was doing – or, more accurately, what I wasn’t doing. What I can say is that the fact that I wasn’t doing what I new I should be doing was bugging me. It was like an itch that wouldn’t scratch. Day by day, the feeling of something not being right kept growing.  Kept getting more annoying.

This weekend that feeling finally got to be more annoying than I could deal with. So, I dealt with it by rededicating myself to doing all of those things again.  I started yesterday by recording what and when I eat. I didn’t spend any money yesterday, much to my surprise, but I did start recording  expenditures today. Once I’ve finished this blog post, I’ll do my daily review and set my goals for tomorrow. A small start, to be sure, but all great things start small. All of the “self improvement” literature I’ve read says that it takes 21 days to build a habit. I guess today would be day 2 of the habit rebuilding program.

So, it’s been a week…

So, it’s been a week since I got home from Gulf Wars. In fact, it’s just short of 1.5 hours of being a full week since I got home. I should have written about the War sooner, but the fact of the matter is that I had to recover first. By the time I got hone last Sunday I was so sleep deprived I was starting to halucinate a bit, which hadn’t happened since I quit drinking all those years ago. I have quite literally spent the last week sleeping as much as possible. By yesterday I was ready to do the Gulf Wars laundry and start getting organized again.

The War was wonderful. We had, I believe, the highest numbers since Katrina. The crew I traveled with arrived on site Saturday a little after noon. This was the first time I had been to Kings Arrow since Larry had cut down so many trees down. I was shocked at the changes to the site. It looked so different, but I quickly found I liked the changes. You could see so much more of the site, and I liked that.

We had a smaller camp to set up this year because Luca, Gresch and Cherie were not able to attend. We spent a couple of hours setting up camp, and then made the traditional post camp set up run into Hattiesburg. It’s strange, but no matter how carefully you pack,  you always forget something and you have to go to either Sam’s, or Walmart, or both.

Sunday morning was opening day.I took off early down to the Watch House to find Ariadne and find out what shifts I’d be working. As Iwas heading back to camp Sir Bart drove by in a golf cart and asked for some help with a project. Important tip, before agreeing to help with a project, find out what the project is: Sir Bart’s project was moving every porta john on site off the road by 5 feet. Now, most of the porta johns are set up in groups of two or three, and we discovered at the second group that we should both knock  and announce our presence loudly. I hope the gentleman we …disturbed, has recovered.

This was a very low stress war for me. I did volunteer a couple of days at Troll, and I enjoyed that as I always do. For the first time I also volunteered several shifts for the Watch. That was was very different, and it allowed me to see a different face of the War. The best part is that it also allowed me to meet several new friends. I plan on doing more again next year.

I could tell you about each day of the war, but I honestly don’t remember them all that clearly. I do know that I spent a LOT of time doing what I do best, hanging out and talking with people. I remember Wednesday clearly, because that is the day my paycheck got direct deposited in my bank account and that meant I could finally hit the merchant area. I got a bit stupid, bought a lot of jewelry making supplies: beads, wire, tools, more beads, more wire, more tools. I had a ball.

Friday was memorable because of Morgana’s Elevation. I’ve seen several elevations, for all three Order’s, and they were all moving in one way or another, but Morgana’s was the most moving one I had ever seen. It was  clear night. The voices of the ladies that sang, the hankerchiefs that were distributed, the testimonials of the Laurels, Knights, and Pelicans, and most importantly the testimonials of the populace, they all will stay in my memory for a very long time.

Court on Saturday was also special. Well, I always thing Court, at any event, is special, but seeing Gellis and Gida get their Court Baronies, and seeing the announcement of Caedmon’s elevation were memories I’ll treasure forever.

All to soon it was Sunday morning and it was time to pack up and come home. I was ready to leave, but about ten minutes after getting home I was ready to pack up and go back again.

This week, I got nothing.

Sweet jumping Jesus, it’s already 1:36 PM on Sunday after noon! Where in the hell did the last week go? How in the name of all that’s holy, or unholy for that matter, did it get to be Sunday already?

Bah! There is no use in trying to figure out where the time went; I just need to accept the fact that it is Sunday, and I haven’t yet written my response to Sarah’s quote challenge. So, with that admission, I’m going to do something I don’t normally do, and admit that I don’t have the time or energy to respond to this. I’m going to decline a challenge. Mark your calendars; this doesn’t happen often.

Sorry folks, but this week, I got nothing.


The Joy of Lists

I would really like to write a long, coherent post about one of the things that are currently occupying my attention, but that is not going to happen. There are simply to many things going on in what passes for my mind. If the sheer number were not enough, I have conflicting thoughts about several of those items. So, instead of the long, coherent post I would really like to post, I’m just going to make a rambling, disjointed list of thoughts, and feelings.

  • The best coffee that a person can buy is not found at Starbucks or other high priced coffee bars, it is found at Dunkin Donuts (I have no conflicting thoughts about this).
  • I truly love the SCA and just about everything it stands for.
  • Sometimes I am completely disgusted by the same organization.
  • Sparkly vampires are not, in fact, vampires.
  • Edmund Burke wrote, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. I think that would be more effective if re-written as, “All that is necessary for stupidity to triumph is for smart people to do nothing.”
  • We have had a rather major shake up in the structure of my work place. I have a new boss, and she is not the same as the old boss. This is both good, and bad. Bad, because of feelings of loyalty to my old boss; good because of some remarkably good changes in my work environment and new opportunities for me.
  • I can’t believe that it is less than ten days to Gulf Wars. That must be a mistake I simply have to much to do before the War.
  • I can’t believe that it a whole ten days to Gulf Wars. I desperately need a week with 3000 or so of my closest friends.
  • I quit playing World Of Warcraft a couple of months ago and have spent most of the time I used to spend playing making jewelry. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed making jewelry, but I do miss the social aspect of playing a massively multiplayer on-line game. Someone should create a game where I could both make jewelry that exists in the real world and where I could occasionally blow the living hell out of something just for the fun of it.
  • The Winter Olympics were cool, but curling is not really a sport.
  • I’m bloody sick of winter. Snow sucks. Bring on the heat.
  • Recent discussion on the Gleann Abhann list about raising period poultry has reawakened my interest in keeping homing pigeons.
  • I REALLY need an operating vehicle. It doesn’t have to look good, just has to run reliably.
  • I REALLY don’t want to have a monthly car payment again.
  • Snow sucks.
  • The music of Bob Seeger can soothe a troubled mind.
  • Caprica is a much better show than I thought it would be.
  • People, even people you know well can surprise you, and that is a good thing.
  • People, even people you know well, can surprise you, and that is, sometimes, a bad thing.

In the words of Porky Pig, that’s all folks.

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.

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.