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Fact: I slept poorly last night. (No particular reason, just restless.) Hence, I am very tired today.

Fact: I am being considerably more productive today than usual.

Theory: this seems to be mostly because I just plain don't have the energy to overthink and doubt my previous decisions, so I'm just building the system as designed.

There is a lesson in here, somewhere...

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(Warning: diary ramble ahead.)

Intercon was scheduled a couple of weeks earlier than usual this year -- our experimental hotel last year wasn't great, and by the time we found our new site, the only options were this weekend or Easter.  So this year, I got to spend my birthday (yesterday) in high-intensity LARPing.

Let me say first: the new hotel rocks, and I hope we develop a long and fruitful relationship with it.  My initial reaction on hearing about it wasn't so positive -- the only thing I know about Warwick, RI is that it's the home of a certain Ducal pair of my SCA sibs, so I was basically going, "The Crowne Plaza in Middle of Nowhere, RI?  Oy."  I will state for the record that I was entirely incorrect in this -- Warwick is just far enough from downtown Providence to not be "city", but otherwise close.

And the hotel itself was great.  It's *huge* -- we had plenty of space, and didn't even rent the large Grand Ballroom wing.  It's well-furnished and comfortable, and not terribly expensive.  The service was top-notch: friendly, efficient and businesslike.  Even the concession food didn't entirely suck (which is about the best one can usually ask for in concession food) and had surprisingly excellent cupcakes.  So yeah, it's an hour away, but we should totally stick with this place.

Due to the storm, I missed the Thursday evening programming; I skidded in just before the roundtable I was moderating at noon Friday, "Playing to Enable Others" -- basically a session on how to be a generous player.  It was a bit of a BS session, much of it devoted to discussion of what the parameters of "generosity" were in the context of LARP, but it was a pleasant chat.  And I stuck around for the following discussion of "Plotting by the Seat of Your Pants", which gave me an excuse to relate a good war story or two, before striking out to the nearby shopping mall in search of pale blue sparkly nail polish.  (Give it a minute, and that'll make sense.)

I didn't play any games on Friday evening, opting instead to spend a few hours pulling Ops duty.  I'll have to remember for the future that Friday evening Ops is *fun* -- it's exactly the kind of high-intensity whirlwind that I always enjoy, answering questions, giving directions, checking folks in and all that.  I might have to make a habit of that.

Saturday was All LARP, All the Time -- I started running about 8:30am and didn't finish until about 11pm.  I played in three games, all good.

First up was Librarian and Catalog.  I can't go into *too* much detail without spoilers, but the public blurb sums up the high concept well: "The robot Librarian.  The damaged computer Catalog.  An alien artifact.  A chance to confront yourself -- again, and again, and again -- amid the collapse of parallel universes."  16 players, all playing The Librarian.  My version was "Scornful, Disciplined, Ruthless" (Librarian tR), and it was just the kind of focused, intense, totally-not-me character I was looking for.  Suffice it to say, the game is weird but fun, a bit slow to start but well-paced, and high in player agency.  Recommended if it runs again.

Saturday evening was The Inversion of Me and My Room, which I've been hearing good things about for a couple of years, so when it appeared on the schedule a few weeks ago I transferred to it.  I can say *very* little about this game, but suffice it to say it is *spectacularly* weird, trippy and dark, an iconic All The Feels game.  Recommended, but be prepared to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the emotional wringer, and don't expect things to make too much sense before endgame.  (For those who know the game, I played Helmer (family).)  It did leave me with a desire to finally rewrite my game Shards of Memory, which is in the same general category.

The high point of my weekend came in the middle of the day, though.  I had put Librarian and Catalog as my first-choice game, and therefore missed getting into Cracks in the Orb, the Dragaera game.  I decided to wait-list myself for it, and that finally paid off last Monday, when I got in.  For those who know the Dragaera books, Cracks is set something like 500 years before The Phoenix Guards, and includes younger versions of some of the characters from The Khaavren Chronicles.

For those who don't know the series, suffice it to say that the Khaavren Chronicles are a fantasy pastiche of Dumas, specifically The Three Musketeers.  The game follows that, although it also pulls in pastiches of a variety of novels of that vintage.  (Sadly, I can't say which novel *my* character was a pastiche of without major spoilers.)

Anyway, the game was a complete hoot.  My character, Fotheringil, was a foppish Tiassa (with more than a little Khaavren in him) who is a member of the Empress' personal guard.  ("Foppish" -- hence the nail polish, which is actually mentioned specifically in his character sheet -- light blue and white are the house colors of the Tiassa.)  He proved well-connected, and central to one or two major plots.  It's well-written and deep stuff, although I did wind up feeling for the players of my own games -- Lise (the primary author) is every bit as fond of deep biographical character sheets as I am, and the game is *very* intricate, with all sorts of major bluesheets and mechanics, so I had four days to absorb about 30 pages of fairly dense material.  If I didn't already know the source material, I might have had real difficulty with it.

ETA: for added fun, one of the major mechanics in the game is Social Dance (which allows you to remove the stain of Dishonor, and gain insights into your dance partner) -- which is represented by dancing, in this case the Belle Qui Pavane.  I offered to teach it, and pointed out to the GMs that it would be *totally* in-character for Fotheringil to teach everyone this new, fashionable dance form.  So I wound up teaching the dance in-character, and called it each time it came around.

But it was great fun -- I achieved nearly all of my game goals, including getting the girl.  I got 7/8ths of the way towards achieving my *big* goal, and I take fair pride in that: the goal was genuinely hard, and I only realized late in the game that finishing it would have required playing some fairly specific politics an hour or two earlier.  Suffice it to say, the rest of it involved strategic wargaming, and that's an area that I'm moderately good at.  As it was, I got close enough to support my personal headcanon of making progress towards the goal a bit further down the line.

After Inversion wrapped at 11pm, it was off to party.  Sadly, I'm not well-connected to the Intercon party scene, so I kind of had to crash Nuance's traditional Intercon birthday party.  (Which underscored how nice this hotel is.  Her party was originally right next to my room, so I was a bit concerned about sleep; however, as that grew a tad out of control, they moved it to one of the below-ground game spaces, far away from guest rooms, which was a pretty great choice all around.)  And then an hour at the traditional Intercon Dance Party, which is always one of the highlights of my year -- where else can you find people boogying in an eight-foot-tall inflatable T Rex outfit? -- and finally bedtime much too late.

As for today, I decided to skip Closing Ceremonies -- maybe the first time I've done that in 20 years -- in order to get home before the roads got too bad.  Hope everything finished off well; in general, it was a fine con, and bodes well for the future...
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Almost done with a *very* long weekend at Arisia. Generally been a great time -- worked hard, got to spend lots of time with friends, and have had a lot of fun.

But I'll call out tonight's unexpected joy: the Hamilton Sing-Along. Exactly what it sounds like: something like 80 people in a room, with the Hamilton soundtrack playing, folks scrolling the lyrics on a big projector, and a little bit of floorshow from the folks who've done this before. It wouldn't have occurred to me that it's a show that *can* work for sing-along, but while it's a bit challenging it turns out to be a blast with a crowd like that.

A particular ridiculous joy behind the cut:His Royal Yellowness )
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The annoying cough I've been dealing with for a week finally turned into a full-on, OMFG, now-I-see-why-everyone's-so-draggy Monster Headcold yesterday.  Between that and last night's difficulty sleeping, I've been wandering around going, "Grarh" all day.

So there were some helpless giggles when Spotify, quite of its own accord, decided to kick up "All We Want to Do is Eat Your Brains" for my listening pleasure... 
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They say that to understand somebody, you need to walk a mile in their shoes. This time around, a mile would be challenging, but I don't really need that far.

Wednesday morning, I got hit by a vertigo attack -- quite suddenly, while brushing my teeth. That's nothing new: I believe this is my third time around on this particular guitar, and while it's annoying and inconvenient, it's not especially earth-shaking. It cost me some spoons, but I got through a fairly productive day, only crashing when I was done with work.

Yesterday morning, though, I woke up and it was ten times worse than I've ever had it before. Sitting upright was work, standing took real effort, and walking was a slow and careful process. (I mentally pegged it as Davey-grade vertigo.) The dizziness was bad enough that I couldn't even keep food down, suffering two bouts of vomiting before 9am. That got me down to the doctor's office. The conclusion was that, no, this isn't anything different, just a much worse version of the same thing.

(Sidebar: conventional vertigo is caused by, essentially, a bit of schmutz floating loose in your inner ear. Between that and the kidney stone, I'm concluding that all of my ailments are caused by grains of sand in the wrong places.)

Anyway, she prescribed meclizine, which I gather is basically a more modern version of dramamine, and that underscores that, in a fair sense, what I have here is persistent motion sickness. I've never really grokked motion sickness -- having grown up in my father's little four-seater plane, I got trained to deal with *serious* motion quite early, so while I've known it was a thing, I've never really understood incapacitating dizziness. Yesterday, I got to experience it; not a pleasant experience.

It's easing a *bit* today -- say, only four times worse than it's ever been before -- and between that and the meclizine I'm at least semi-functional, if moving very slowly and carefully. But it's taking its own sweet time to pass, so folks should note that my plans for the weekend are now highly in doubt. I'll regret missing Falling Leaves, but unless I feel a *lot* better by tomorrow morning, it's not going to happen...
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One surprising highlight from 50 Year doesn't seem to have made it into many accounts -- I think our encampment was particularly well-placed in this regard.

Okay, you know fireflies? How they can make a summer evening a bit more magical? Now imagine sitting in camp, looking into the trees over the creek next to it, watching something like a hundred fireflies blinking *per second*.

It was like nothing I've ever seen -- my only points of reference come from movies, frankly, the sort of glitteriness usually associated with fairies. On Sunday evening the bunch of us walked right up to the edge of the wood and watched for a few minutes, entirely rapt...
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(As usual for when I've attended something long, I'll be posting some random reminiscences.)

Being held at a 4-H Fairground, SCA 50th Year was just about the most animal-friendly event I've ever attended. It was interesting noting my own reactions: several times during the first couple of days, I found myself going something like, "Oh, come *on* -- you're not seriously telling me that's a service *goat*" before realizing that it wasn't relevant. (The "lap goat" was, in fact, quite popular.) There were animals all over the place -- indeed, Zeus the Cat (from Camelot) held court in the EK History Booth for much of a day, drumming up attendance as people walking past would have whiplash of, "Ooooh -- kitty!"

But the biggest difference was the horses. I suspect this was the biggest Equestrian event in SCA history: the site has a large Equestrian Arena and a *huge* barn, and there were dozens of horses in attendance. Opening Ceremonies were punctuated by several passes of real, no-shit *jousting*. (With breakaway lances to keep anybody from getting killed, but it was still spectacular.) I'll need to remember to update my usual SCA-demo spiel to reflect the fact that yes, there now *is* jousting at least occasionally. (Although it's still not exactly common around here.)

The most magical moment came one of the evenings, though, and drove home one of the big differences from Pennsic. At the War, you learn to tune out the constant but annoying sound of golf carts, from Security riding around. At this event, there was none of that. Instead, one evening just after dusk, Security came riding up *on horseback*. Countess Meggie was practically beside herself with squee at the sheer rightness of it...
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One of the interesting side-notes from my trip to 50 Year was that it provided an accidental experiment in the usefulness of my CPAP.

About 18 months ago, Kate convinced me that I probably had a touch of apnea. (She described the noises I was occasionally making when I was sleeping, and they were pretty tell-tale.) So about a year ago I got a CPAP, and I quickly decided that it was at least a little helpful -- I felt slightly more rested when using it. So I've been utterly faithful about it ever since, and have used it every night since I got it.

But I realized, when I was packing for 50 Year, that I had no good way to *power* the bloody thing. I have a big battery, but it puts out DC, not AC, and while that's a solvable problem, I couldn't deal with it in the hours that I had left to prep. So I decided that it wouldn't kill me, and I'd just do without it for four days.

That was illuminating. Granted, it wasn't a perfectly controlled experiment by any means: I was sleeping on an air mattress, in rather warm and humid weather and (most importantly) without Kate, so my sleep patterns were a bit disrupted. But I would have subjectively sworn that I was getting at least six hours' sleep a night. By the second day I was running on pure adrenaline, and by the third I was comatose on my feet. It was startling: I sometimes think of myself as tired during the day nowadays, but I haven't felt that sort of bone-deep *exhaustion* in the past year. The contrast was vivid.

So the moral of the story is that the CPAP is *not* optional -- I'm going to have to be consistent in bringing it with me on trips from here on out. And I am now *especially* keeping my fingers crossed that the Airing project works out -- while I'm likely to continue using the conventional CPAP at home, I would love to be able to using Airings when traveling, especially when camping...

Five Years

Jan. 20th, 2016 09:56 am
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(No real content, at least yet -- just marking the date in my head...)
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I've been attending Arisia from the beginning, and been to nearly all of them, but I've always been strictly "arts-track", in SCA terminology. Some years I've run LARPs; most years I've been on piles of panels -- I quite enjoy both.

But this year I only got into one panel (well, two, but one conflicting with the Ball), and was genuinely concerned of finding myself at loose ends: I don't really have a "posse" any more, and it's too easy to get lost in the crowd. So I decided it was time to jump into volunteering; it was a lot of fun.

I wound up splitting my time. I spent nine hours on-call as deputy Press Liaison -- when press showed up, getting them to go through all the paperwork, answering their questions and sending them on their way, all of which was low-impact fun. But mainly, I spent 16 hours at Arisia Headquarters, basically Volunteer Central. This got described to me as the center of the whirlwind, to which my reaction was, "Hey, I'm a serial autocrat -- I like whirlwind". And it was a blast: lots of activity, helping folks solve problems, with occasional pauses of working through the paperwork.

Of course, I still had to get in some arts-track time. The Renaissance Ball, was, as always, pretty great -- despite getting the sub-optimal slot of 5-6:30pm, we had a solid 50-60 people on the floor the entire time: enough to comfortably fill the place. It's always high-energy, full of new folks learning the dances with the help of a bunch of experienced people. And my one panel -- Feats of Memorization -- went surprisingly well for 10am on Monday. The three of us represented three different traditions: me with Masonic ritual, Grim talking about period poetry and bardic arts, and a fellow focusing on a combination of Talmud and trivia contests.

So between all that, and some good hangout time with [livejournal.com profile] metahacker, Berek, and my friend Katie from Minneapolis, this was one of my best cons in years. And the moral of the story seems to be that my tastes in SCA activities transfer to other places...
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As a lot of you know, I am the possessor of a lot of Stuff. Among that Stuff is the most idiotically large comic-book collection of anybody I know, which I've been accumulating since 1977. Not collecting -- just buying, reading, and putting in boxes. I don't know if anyone reading this aside from Kate has actually seen all of it. Yes, you're thinking, "That enormous pile of longboxes in your old basement? I remember that!" No, that's only the stuff after 1991 -- there's another 37 boxes that have been in storage for a dozen or so years. All told, it's somewhere north of 30,000 issues.

Anyway, as of last week I have finally begun the project that I've been putting off for 25 years: merging all of the comics into a single run, then separating them into three piles: Keep, Discard, and Maybe. (Maybe == "think about it again in a later pass") The goal for this pass is 10% Keep, 50% Discard, and 40% Maybe. So far, a couple of boxes in, I'm at least within spitting distance of those targets.

I'm mildly amused that I can get most of the way there by applying the simplest and dumbest of all metrics: do I actually *remember* this story? If I don't remember it at all, then odds are it wasn't good enough to be worth keeping. A truly prodigious fraction of the Marvel and DC of the past 40 years fail that cut, which is why I've dropped DC entirely and am steadily trimming back the Marvels. I mean, sure, some of the comics were just *bad*, and those are easy to discard, but it's depressing to realize how many were such cotton candy that they left no impression whatsoever.

Anyway, the sorting proceeds apace, and next week I should hopefully be able to start the other half of the project, the part that has delayed this so long -- inventorying the whole mess so I can begin to sell the discards. I will, of course, be doing that in Querki: it's a delightful little stress-test of the system. (My usual offhand guide to the maximum size of a Querki Space is 50,000 Things, and I've always been clear that this is in order to be large enough to hold all my comics. It's arbitrary but makes sense to me, the same way the size of a CD was chosen to be large enough to hold Beethoven's 9th.) Then I just have to figure out the most practical way to sell it...
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... really, really sucks sometimes. I dearly wish it would just let up, even for just a few months, to get some time to breathe...
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The past three weeks have been basically a hash as far as Querki is concerned. Between the five-day trip to visit in-laws, the six-day trip for Origins, and last week's vertigo problem (which seems to have finally resolved itself on Sunday, knock on wood), with only a few days between each, I'd simply gotten out of the habit of getting things done. The result is that, instead of coding, I spent all that time designing -- that is to say, massively over-thinking everything. And when I started to implement the over-thought designs, I simply tied myself in knots.

On Monday, I finally cracked that: instead of trying to get every detail Just So and building from the bottom up (which was incredibly unsatisfying, since it meant that nothing was actually functioning), I finally grokked that I was screwing up, and went back to my usual development style: top-down, getting skeletons functioning as quickly as possible and then fleshing them out. The result is that I've made more progress on Notifications (the current project at hand) in the past three days than I have in the past month.

And getting things working has shone a bright spotlight on the places where my designs, while fine ideals, are too elaborate for the first draft. Get it sufficiently functional first, enter UX bugs as necessary where the workflows need improvement, but keep moving. (Today's realization was that, yes, the display of Notifications *should* be a popup pane the way that FB and G+ do it, to avoid the workflow interruption of a separate Notifications Page. But getting the bloody things functioning comes first. When I have time to go do some serious jQuery hacking, I can make the workflow prettier, but I don't need to spend those two days on gold-plating right now.)

The moral of the story (which isn't news, but I need occasional reminding): don't navel-gaze. Design is good, but only to the point where I broadly know how it's supposed to work. Once that is done, write out the Tasks and start slamming them in. The resulting code winds up every bit as good, and it's one heck of a lot faster...
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Got back yesterday from spending almost a week in Ohio at the Origins Game Fair -- I tagged along with [livejournal.com profile] mindways, as I did two years ago.

It was a generally interesting time, although I was more of a fish out of water than usual. Arisia and Pennsic are both huge, but I usually feel like I have a built-in social circle, since I know at least a few hundred people at each. This time, I was coming in cold, and was reminded of the fact that I get rather shy when tossed into a huge crowd like that. Fortunately, gaming encourages interaction, and Darker knows lots of people there, so I met quite a number of folks.

The trip itself was uneventful -- Delta continued to fail to impress me, as it generally has over the past 10-15 years, but at least nobody lost my luggage this time. We shared a room with Darker's friend Trey, a game designer from Texas; that worked out reasonably well, although rather reminded me of living in a dorm room.

Rooming with a couple of pros was interesting. Since my roommates were both game designers, most of the people I met were as well. Towards the end of the con, I discovered that one of the people I'd been playing with several times was the author of the popular recent game Walk the Plank; in passing, we casually wound up chatting with the author of Pirate Dice. It was a curious experience, being the token "end user" in the crowd.

Didn't hit any significant restaurants, but was reminded that, as city-center markets go, Columbus' North Market is right up there among the best. It has lots of interesting and high-quality food stands, especially:
  • Jeni's Ice Cream -- at least as good as anything in Boston, with a vibrant sense of experimentation. Their Bangkok Peanut was a particular favorite, described as "Pad Thai ice cream", which is bizarre but kind of accurate. (I don't often come across spicy ice cream, but it totally works.)

  • Firdous Express -- a fairly normal middle-eastern food joint, but their Low-Carb Salad wound up my standard lunch for the trip. (Greek salad with shwarma on top, dressed with tzatziki. Yum!)

  • Holy Smoke BBQ -- possibly the best pork ribs I've ever had: cooked to the point where not only was the meat super-tender, even the bones wound up soft and gnawable.

  • Taste of Belgium -- because very little beats a well-executed, fresh-made Belgian waffle: crisp, hot, gently covered with caramelized sugar.
Most of you probably don't get to Columbus very often, but if you do find yourself in town, it's well worth wandering there and getting some food.

The purpose of the trip, though, was to play board games, and I seriously got my fill. This is going to run a little long, so I'll put the details of what I played behind cut tags. Thanks to Darker for his listing of what he played, and his pointers to the relevant BGG entries (he was taking notes and I wasn't). Comments and questions welcomed, especially while the games are fresh in my mind...

Spirit Island: the point of the trip )

Argent: the Consortium )

Paradox )

Cataclysm )

Commedia )

Alchemists )

Smash Up )

Subdivision )

Castles of Mad King Ludwig )

Cavum )

The Duke and For the Crown )

Fairy Tale: A New Story )

Hanabi )

Noir )

Monopoly Deal )

Fealty; Innovation: Figures in the Sand )

There are probably one or two others that I'm forgetting, but that's most of it. Questions and comments welcome...
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[A friend asked in their own LJ how everybody was doing. I responded with the following, more or less, and it occurs to me that I should post it as a diary entry here...]

Busy. Scary-busy. OMG busy. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I love what I'm doing, and (somewhat to my surprise) still think I stand a decent chance of winning. OTOH, 20 months of working on my own is *way* too much already, and there is little hope of having co-workers for at least another year. And I've been sufficiently snowed under with work and Responsibilities that I've had damned little time to actually have *fun* with people. So the sense of social isolation is acute, and I desperately want to be done with more of those Responsibilities. Trying to force more fun-social into my life.

Deeply relieved that my elliptical machine is finally repaired (after two months of hassling the company -- another few days, and you would have been treated to some *very* irritated rants about their customer service), so I am beginning to get enough exercise again. That proves to be important to my sanity in many ways -- not just the exercise itself, but a forced 45 minutes of brain-candy TV while I do it (which is relaxing), and unpacking boxes afterwards (my usual cool-down, which is weirdly fun, organizing and weeding my prior life).

Other than that, decent. Still fighting a cough from a cold three weeks ago, and generally tired, but looking forward to spring. Kate took me to NYC for the weekend to see Book of Mormon, which was delightful -- every bit as good as I'd hoped. Also discovered an interesting Basque restaurant in NYC, and discovered the awe-inspiring culinary experience that is Eataly. (Which is kind of an Italian food store, but is the size of a small shopping mall -- it not only carries every kind of Italian foodstuff, but has five restaurants and innumerable counters inside. Any shop where you can buy a glass of good wine to drink while you browse, and then get a gelato for the road, is a *great* shop.)

Married life is still great -- evening cuddles are probably the main thing holding me together, and I quite enjoy the fact that Kate so enjoys my cooking. She is actually going through my immense cookbook collection and requesting things, with the result that I've cooked more *variety* in the past year than in the rest of my life put together. We have, of course, begun a Querki Space where we are keeping track of dishes as I make them, with ratings, notes and shopping lists.

So that's me. How are you doing?
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So this past weekend was Arisia, which I did pretty full-immersion. (It's not Kate's cup of tea -- too big and crowded -- so I was on my own for it.)

Overall, it was a good time. Three of my four panels were great, which is a perfectly fine track record. (The "Hellboy's 20th Anniversary" panel was kind of doomed from the start -- having that geeky a panel at 10pm Friday is an uphill battle -- but was pleasant enough.) The SCA Ball was a blast as always, with 50-75 people up and dancing, and AFAIK having fun.

The food trucks (this year's new idea) weren't a complete success, but better than not having them. (I failed to get lunch at them both times I tried -- they were out of food by the time I got there the first time, and the line has half an hour long out in the cold the second time.)

The Masquerade was good, and the half-time show better than usual -- it turned out to be the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers doing a tour of historical dance styles, using a Doctor Who framing story as the excuse. Lots of fun to watch -- I hadn't realized that Antonia had become so much the headliner for the troupe, but she's become a truly excellent performer.

But above all, this Arisia reminded me of just how much I enjoy good, hearty folk singing, and how much I've missed it. Mind, I grew up musical -- I've been going to folk festivals since I was 3, and was singing on stage in elementary school. I don't do it a lot in the SCA because I'm not deeply into period music, but I do always enjoy a good bardic circle.

This past weekend, I was wandering the hallways late Saturday evening, when I heard some music coming from the elevator lobby, of all places. It turned out that a bunch of folks (a mix of Sassafrass, Stranger Ways and friends) had sat down and simply started to have fun; they waved me over and I mostly listened, since I didn't know most of what they were singing. Then they decided to wander over to the filksing, so I tagged along.

The filksing reminded me of several things:
First, at a filk I can turn off my Laurel brain entirely, and sing more or less anything I like.
Second, I have a fairly large songbook. (Which turns out to be hard to access via Google Drive, but I managed.)
Third, I'm a better-than-average singer. Not great by any means, but I've had more training and practice than most filkers.

So that was a hoot, and I sought out the filk room again Sunday night. This time around wasn't quite as much of a success -- it was unmoderated, and I quickly began to realize that, in that environment, the people who aren't quite as good *and* don't realize it wind up dominating the time. But I still had a decent time for a while.

(The award for "Demented Filk of the Weekend" was introduced by asking the audience, "Who here likes the Muppets? Okay, who likes Babylon 5? Great -- who likes both?" And then he launched into a rendition of "Rainbow Connection", replacing the word "rainbow" with "Vorlon" throughout. The result is wrongity-wrong-wrong.)

Anyway, after I couldn't cope with any more of everybody jumping over everyone else (around 1am), I wandered outside -- only to discover that a bunch of folks had preceded me out to the lobby, and set up a jam session instead. *That* was a complete blast. There were half a dozen instruments or so, and a dozen-plus singers; the consensus rule was that we would mostly focus on stuff that at least much of the crowd knew and could join in on. I wound up spending about an hour and a half going, "I really should go to bed now, but this is *way* too much fun" -- I knew most of the songs, and this was an environment where I could just jump in and belt them out.

So the upshot of this is to remind me that I need to make more of an effort to find the bardic circles, filks and jams, and join it. As mentioned above, Google Drive has proven to be a problematic way for me to maintain my songbook (which was a single long text file, much of it 20+ years old), so -- me being me -- I am in the process of transcribing it into a new Querki Space. I'm about halfway through that now, and expect that I'll begin to put more effort into collecting again once it's done. In the long run, it may turn out to be a decent candidate for Querki's crowdsourcing features, when I get around to those...


Nov. 8th, 2013 08:36 am
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Endless waiting, endless delay. So many distractions, all of them important, but each one another little delay.

And then the excuses end.

Change the number. Check it in. git pull. Compile. Go.


It is hard to express how utterly *terrifying* it is to expose the system to the light of day, after more than a year of planning. I am so horribly conscious of the fact that this is barely 10% of the vision -- how limited the functionality still is, and how many bugs there are. But we're definitely up to the point where it is *useful*, if far from a work of art yet, so it's time to start getting other folks' input.

I'll be inviting a few folks to join in my own Spaces today, and beginning to slowly upgrade people to full-User status. (The difference is basically whether you can create your own Spaces.) It'll be gradual over the next month -- ideally a couple of people a week -- but if you'd like to kick the tires, please drop me a note (or comment here) and I'll add you to the list.

(And a voice in the back of my mind is cackling maniacally -- "IT'S ALIVE! MY CREATION IS ALIIIIVE!".)
jducoeur: (Default)
Yet another transition in a year that had been full of them. Mostly expected, but still -- it's been busy.

I sold Jane's car (the Matrix) to Jesse and Rachel a few months ago. And the tow truck came to take my car away this morning:
Bye, bye...
This one was *not* expected, but wasn't a deep surprise either. I brought the car in for inspection in September, and it failed spectacularly. There was the usual stuff like the brakes getting low. There was the less-usual but to-be-expected stuff like the timing belt nearing the end of its life. And there was the not-expected stuff, like the wear on the axle. (Which, admittedly, was partly due to me putting off some service earlier this year due to cashflow crunch.) All told, they quoted me $4700 to get the car back up to full snuff -- way more than my usual cap of $3000/year on maintenance.

And the truth is, we don't really *need* two cars. I'm working at home; Kate's working on the T and hates driving anyway. So we had already started to discuss dropping back to just her Honda when my car died (plus probably a ZipCar membership for the occasional need); this just accelerated that plan.

I put it off until after the honeymoon, but I called WGBH on Monday, and the process of donating my car proved to be near-trivial so long as I had the title and there wasn't any lien on it. The fact that the car was out of inspection and didn't drive well was considered totally ordinary; indeed, my impression was that, given that the battery, engine and tires were still fine (that is, it is still *possible* to drive it), it was considered better than average. I don't expect it to be worth a ton, but it seems to be win-win all around: WGBH gets a bit of money from it, I get a tax deduction, and they arranged to haul it away.

I'm going to miss it: that was a *sweet* car. Horribly overpowered for my needs -- I'd bought a V6 on the theory that we would tow a trailer to Pennsic, only to quickly decide that that was a bad plan -- but it drove magnificently. I suspect I'll never find another that I consider quite so intuitive and comfortable. But the truth is, I'm a lot less car-centric than I used to be.

Of course, there's also a small pang for the license plate, which I just returned to the RMV an hour ago:

It was beat up and rusty, but it's the plate I'd had pretty much since Jane and I got married, so it carried its own strange sentimental value. (Right down to the quarter-inch-thick stack of expiration stickers in the upper right.) The screws had rusted too badly for either me or the tow driver to unscrew them, so he dealt with the problem through the simple expedient of ripping it right off. It's going to be weird not having that number, given how deeply I've got it in my head.

Of course, I am still a creature of tradition, and I have my priorities. (And Kate indulges me, at least in moderation.) So the Felding Taxi Corps tag has been transferred to our Honda. (Its fourth car so far.) The yellow has practically faded to white with time, but it's still one of my favorite reminders of simpler days gone by, and the little services that I've always considered most important. Ultimately, I think I consider that the signifier of "my car" more than anything else...
jducoeur: (Default)
After almost a year and a half of planning, Kate and I formally tied the knot on Saturday. Here's a long ramble about it.

I think some folks got confused by the fact that we signed the legal paperwork back in June (at the public party), but we never considered that the real wedding -- that was a mundane convenience, mostly so I could get off of the terrifyingly-expensive and relatively incompetent COBRA plan and onto Kate's insurance. (There's nothing like being on BCBS of Florida for a couple of years, via COBRA with all of its "we will happily cut you off if you don't follow all the rules precisely" to make you appreciate a nice ordinary BCBS of MA plan.) We were always clear that the real wedding was going to be this one.

The wedding was semi-formal and deliberately posh. We had decided very early on that we didn't want the traditional reception -- a big room full of people with assigned seats, all staring at the bride and groom at the head table, sounded pretty hellish to both of us. No enforced dancing, no rubber chicken, and for *god's* sake no DJ -- having to yell over the music to talk to people is one of my least favorite activities. Instead, we wanted essentially a fancy cocktail party. My personal vision was a sort of gussied-up Buttery party, and that's about what we got.

The site was the Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum down in Providence -- basically a smallish civil-war-era mansion. The rooms are all ornate to the point of almost comical, but the result is that the whole experience felt very luxurious. The photographer had a hoot with all the paintings on the wall: towards the end of the day, she took to asking folks to pose under the paintings, mimicking them.

(The photographer, Meghan Moore, was a great deal of fun. She's neither terribly serious nor terribly traditional, but interacted quite well with our informal environment, and helped the photos be less of a chore than they usually are. Recommended.)

Us being us, the food was arguably the most important part of the whole experience. Blessedly, Kate managed to find an absolutely fabulous caterer in Russell Morin Catering. It wasn't cheap -- frankly, the moral of the story is largely "you get what you pay for" -- but the food and service were both top-notch. The menu (which was elaborate and extensive) was designed around the cocktail-party idea: our hard-and-fast requirement was that everything should be edible with the plate in one hand and a fork in the other. Kate and I are both fond of small plates and variety, so we wound up with five appetizers and six entrees, each one a few bites. Aside from a few minor quibbles (not enough chutney per plate for the Chicken Masala), it all went off smashingly.

And the staff of Morin's were as good as their food. We got a highly experienced coordinator (Cat), who effectively acted as autocrat: her job was to keep track of everything, make sure it was running exactly as we wanted, and troubleshoot as needed. (She wound up doing the on-the-spot construction of the cake, for example.) Besides her, they sent a dozen staff -- six cooks and six waitstaff -- so everything went super-smoothly, passing food out and unobtrusively collecting plates throughout the evening. Several folks specifically remarked on the great service. So between that and the food, Morin's gets a big thumbs-up from us.

As for the cake, that was pretty much the first thing we decided. Before the site, before the caterer, before anything, Kate declared that Laura's carrot cake was her ideal of wedding cake. Fortunately for us, Laura agreed -- and proceeded to produce a much more elegant (and large) cake than we were expecting. So we made it the main focus of the dining room, and everyone got to admire it throughout the wedding. (At least until shortly before the cake-cutting, when the six-inch-tall marzipan figure of me decided to take a header off the top of the cake.)

Kate's dress was an elegant emerald green (she was strongly of the opinion that she looks terrible in white), cut in a roughly turn of the century fashion. Made by John, of course: he did his usual brilliant job, and she looked lovely. I was in a more-ordinary tux, but with a nice black-and-green tie and cummerbund set to echo the dress.

The ceremony was intentionally informal: similar to the one in June, although with a bit more meat to it. We had my parents welcome Kate, and hers me; each parent had a flower to present, which all got added into the bouquet. I largely winged my vows (I had thought about a number of elements, but hadn't scripted it), but I'm told they were nice. My wedding ring was designed to echo her engagement ring, with a swoopy motif and tiny emeralds. (Her wedding ring is small and unobtrusive: the focus remains on the engagement ring, which we put a lot of effort into getting right.)

Later in the evening, we managed to be slightly surprised by the toasts, mainly in that Aaron did the sweet and sincere one and Kate's brother Chris did the gently snarky one. (We had sort of expected the other way around.)

On the downside, we managed to have perfectly wrong timing in terms of illness. I came down with a miserable headcold last Sunday; on Thursday, just as I was starting to recover, Kate got it. So she basically got through the day through the miracle of Sudafed, but still managed to look better than she felt.

On the upside, the weather was magnificent, better than we had any reason to hope for at the end of September: a clear day, with the high in the 70s. This meant that everybody could spread out onto the estate's lawn, and we could do all the posed photos outside. While Lippitt House was large enough for us to have coped if everyone had to stay inside, it was more pleasant not having to do so.

The whole thing was necessarily small: the site had an upper limit of about 90 people and we figured that 70 was around what would comfortably fit. Since half of *that* was family, we could only invite a few dozen friends. (Which was about a hundred fewer people than I probably would have invited, given my druthers, and was the motivation for the June party.)

Unsurprisingly to me, we *wildly* overbought the alcohol. Kate of course wanted a good selection of excellent wine, and I of good beer; it wasn't until the rehearsal dinner on Friday that we realized that we had about a bottle of wine per person. Given that most of our friends aren't exactly heavy drinkers, we wound up bringing about half of it home. But that's fine: we only bought things we like, and so are now basically stocked for some time to come.

Stepping back: Friday evening, despite the fact that we didn't have have a rehearsal per se, we still had a "rehearsal dinner". This was a smaller affair, almost entirely close family, and gave everyone a chance to finally meet. It went very well, and I was surprised by some of the social pairings that developed. (For example, my Uncle Len and Kate's Aunt Linda apparently spent half the evening discussing educational policy, which turns out to be a serious passion for both of them.)

The location for that dinner was Bacaro, an excellent and unique restaurant that Kate discovered for my birthday this year: this was our third time there, and it's become one of our true favorites. Bacaro is a "salumeria", specializing in all sorts of Italian salamis and meats, and their coolest gimmick is the menu. While they have a conventional entree menu, they also hand you what amounts to a giant sushi menu of small plates when you sit down, with dozens of options. (The first time we went, I ordered *far* too many of these -- we walked away gorged but happy.)

For the rehearsal dinner, we didn't want to deal with the chaos of individual ordering for 20 people, so we designed a preset "family style" menu for everyone. Fortunately, both families are fond of the "flying forks" model of eating, so we simply got each table a big charcuterie board, three pizzas (incredibly yummy -- we hadn't tried their Pepperonata pizza before, but Kate and I both loved it), three salads, and three entrees, and let folks dig in.

It all went great, and bodes well for the families integrating nicely. We let everyone sit where they would, and they all mixed it up well, getting to know each other. I suspect that there will be more assorted family gatherings in the future.

I'll probably have other reminiscences from time to time, but those are the high points. It was delightful, and I'm immensely glad that we put in the work to get exactly the day we wanted. But I think we're both glad to have it done -- to be able to kick back, simply consider ourselves Real-And-For-True-Married, and be done with the wedding. Photos to come...
jducoeur: (Default)
+ Yesterday was [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite's annual apple-picking outing. I'd been iffy about attending, given how wedding-busy we've been, and the weather as of Saturday evening looked dreadful. But it seemed more plausible on Sunday morning, so I gave it a shot.

Turned out to be an absolutely *fabulous* day for it, possibly the nicest weather we've had in a number of years of doing that. Driving out was almost surreal: grey and drizzly for the first half-hour, but then a knife-sharp line across the sky and crystal-clear blue after that. So I got some social, and a small bag of apples, and a lovely morning out.

So there, weather.com: she clearly bribes better deities than you do.

- During lunch, I noticed at one point that I was slightly sniffy and scratchy, but didn't pay it much mind: Kate's allergies have been completely terrible for the past couple of weeks, and I figured I was having a bit of the same.

Not so much. On the drive home, I went from "I feel slightly sniffly" to "OMG, I must lie down now". Over the following hour, my sniffles bloomed into a right proper, knock me on my ass headcold. Doesn't seem to be anything more serious than that, but I'm a complete zombie today. At this point, my highest priority is to get mostly better before the second half of the week, when it becomes majorly inconvenient...


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