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So, tomorrow is my birthday.  It's one of those big, even number, milestone birthdays.  I have the rest of the week off to celebrate and do non-work stuff, like shopping and sewing.  But to get to tomorrow, I had to get through today.

Today was extremely good to me.

Questions got answered, problems got solved, and tasks moved onto completion.  Before lunch, I had to deal with a department meeting where the big service award winner was going to be announced, and I was on the list of candidates.  It's a cute bit of theatre, and it doesn't take long, but it's not like I was going to win  To get on the list, one has to win quarterly service award, and I'd gotten two individual and two team nominations & wins this past year.  It's not an especially hard barrier, as most nominations are promoted to wins, but getting someone to nominate you can be hella hard, especially for those who work in operations.

For what it is worth, I simply told the admins who were so effusive in thanks over the miracles I routinely performed that nothing says thanks like a service award nomination. Two of them took the hint.

So, I'm one of about 20-30 people who qualified (including my co-worker for whom many of you know my assessment).  I'd reviewed the list and determined who I thought was going to win and who I was rooting for.  I know dang good and well that there is always some politicking going on in the background, and there is an element of luck in being declared the winner.  So, I stood and I waited for the senior VP to crown the winner, so I could get back to work and then go to lunch.

And then she dropped the plastic tiara on my head, declaring me the winner for 2011.


Somehow, I got the rest of my pre-lunch tasks done, and I spent much of lunch trying to get my head back into focus.

But post-lunch, there are more distractions: the deliveries started.  My loving family, knowing I had the day off tomorrow, sent cookies, and chocolate, and flowers, and balloons.  I shared the cookies, hid the chocolates, and left the balloon and flowers at my desk.

I could go all navel-gazing on my birthday this year, but really, why? OK, I'll give you the short form: I'm far fitter and healthier than I was 10 years ago.  I'm still driving the same car, but I can better afford a replacement than I could when I initially bought it.  I own a house, and I can support my finally dwindling debt.  While I may not have my dream job, I do have a job that lets me flourish.  I'm not in a committed relationship, and really never have been, but neither am I trapped a "better than being alone" relationship.  I've traveled internationally, survived a tornado, and been made staff by two cats.   Pretty much, I get to live my life on my terms, and I think that is a good thing.
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I recently joined an early music ensemble in the SCA.  They've been around for a long time, and I've had my reasons for not joining before.  One of the big reasons (in my mind) was that my modern string instruments would be annoyingly out of place in a mostly recorder ensemble.

Music geekery )
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Well, that was somewhat surprising.

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Two foreign entries were nominated, and Pixar/Disney was shut out.  I right about Kung Fu Panda 2 and Rango getting noms, and Puss in Boots pulled it off.  Rango is probably going to get the win;  Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots are both Dreamworks releases, so they may split the vote.  KFP2 could win, as a sort of consolation for the original film; it didn't have a chance against WALL-E.  I doubt either foreign film will win, as they don't have the box office.  On that metric, KFP2 has the win, hands down.
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This has not been a great year for movies, and positively pathetic for animation.  I saw several films this year, but I am hard pressed to remember most of them:  X Men First Class, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part II, Puss in Boots, Sherlock Holmes, all of these are franchise films that kind of blend into the timelessness of memory with the other iterations.  Even Cowboys and Aliens wasn't all that distinctive.

Here's the list )
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My shopping-fu was strong today.

I got the last copy of FMA 27 at the downtown Barnes & Nobles, the last volume in the series, which hit the stores this week.  Then, I took a sight-seeing detour through Sax Fifth Avenue, and I found the winter coat I've been wanting: warm, knee length, and on budget.  The last was due to the steep Christmas discounts they keep dropping as the calendar races toward the 25th. And thar this is their surplus store, their rough equivalent to Nordstrom's Rack.  It's not wool, but right now I appreciate it's butt-covering warmth more.  Then I took a different route back to my car, which took me past a store which had recently moved.  I've never been in this store, but I stopped on the off chance I might find something for my nephew.  Which I did.  It's even orange, his favorite color.

Some days are just plain good.
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Scene 1:  My kitchen, packing lunch and snacks for the day 
Body:   Hey, pack in one of those fancy chocolate bars you won in the raffle
Mind:   No, sorry,  not in the budget for today.  I mean, I'm getting you the fancy egg bacon cheese breakfast, and there's lots of fruit and veggies and a tasty meat sandwich and chips in the lunch bag, so pipe down.
Body:   Yeah, whatever, can we go back to bed and snuggle up under the cat where it is warm…
Mind:   Shaddup.  Work now.
Scene 2:  At work:
Body:   Hey, Mind?  Chocolate.  Now.
Mind:   Huh, what?  No!  Working now.  And you aren't done with that tasty egg bacon cheese I got you for breakfast less than three hours ago.
Body:   You misunderstand.  You've been running me on a calorie deficit.  Our workouts have not been gentle.  I mean, really, those wind sprints last night were not fun, especially when you pushed me way past what you said we were going to do, and we're getting damn near my maxes on the lifts again.  There is a reason why you're walking funny today.  So, let me restate:  Calories NOW, preferably in the form of chocolate, or I sic this migraine on you.  You might want to consider that you left your mobile dose of Imetrix in your other coat.
Mind:    …Dammit.  You want a chaser of ibu with that chocolate?

Body:   Yes, please, preferably with better coffee.  And cook up that slab of beef for dinner tonight, or we do this dance again tomorrow.
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This has been a glorious and gentle decent through fall.  Amongst other things, it has allowed me to look for the winter clothing and gear I want instead of buying the first thing that meets an immediate need.  So far, however, every choice has been met with fail. 

The lovely warm and waterproof Sorel boots were pulled out for the snow that fell on Sunday.  I didn't even get to wear them out the door.  Two of the four snap straps (for pulling the boots up) failed.  Pulled right out of the leather.  This was not a critical structural failure, but still unacceptable for brand new equipment.  I took 'em off, boxed them up, found the receipt, and took them back to REI today.  Now I have to find new warm and waterproof boots before the snow starts flying again.  Last year's boots have had seams fail, so I can't use them for slogging through the slush.

I've been wanting a nice wool dress coat for a while.  I've been needing a warm winter coat that covers to my knees.  I thought I had found one that did both.  Nope.  The "wool" is a fully synthetic fabric (which I did know when I bought it), and I love the cut and the color.  But it is not going to be warm enough for a Minnesota winter, even with layers underneath.  I figured this out pretty quickly after purchasing it.  I didn't return it because itI actually does meet my needs for a spring/fall transition coat. Today I found a coat that meets the length and warmth needs (I do love shopping at REI).  However, it is way the heck outside my budget.

I've got older coats that I can still use this year.  I'll keep an eye on the sales and clearance racks as the season progresses.  I'm NOT going out on Friday.
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I had plans for this evening.  Not great plans, but plans.  Plans totally derailed by a sore thumb.

Now that the days are getting short and the weather is turning cold, the painting and window refurbishment is coming to a halt.  I could probably get a bit more done, but the work I did this past weekend reignited the tendonitis in my thumb and has greatly compromised my grip.  So, it's time to pack it all up until March.

And then I got distracted by another shiny pile of stuff that needed to be dealt with, and a box that could be emptied and dealt with, and some filing, and if I move this I'll be able to do that later, and....

And suddenly it's late, and I've gotten so much done around the house, including playing with the Mighty Hunter, who is now sprawled across my lap.  A surprisingly accomplished evening.
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Festival has been over for a month now, and I have been turning my attention to getting ready for winter.

Meandering over a couple of weeks of puttering. )
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How long have I been doing Fest?  You think I would know to take care of myself by know.

I mean, I know better than to not drink when it's warm and sunny, but when it's cool and rainy, I tend to not drink as much so I don't have to deal with wet muddy skirts in the privs.  Which is exactly what I did on Sunday.  But then I failed to drink enough water when I got home, with predicable results:  I spent most of Monday feeling headachy and nauseated and tired.  The Mighty Hunter didn't mind, as it kept me on the couch, being a Lap.

I've also been slacking in the gym this summer.  I mean, I 'm still getting there 2-3 times a week (plus karate on Monday), but I haven't been pursuing fitness improving  workouts, so Ive been trying to up the intensity a bit, as well as the frequency.  Predicable result:  I'm not getting enough physical recover time in doing this in addition to Fest, so I'm wearing myself out.  The foot issues aren't helping, either

Last weekend was a good weekend at Fest, but I was a bit off my game.  I did a good job, but I wasn't engaging as I needed to, and it was because I was starting to physically wear down.  Other cast members were noticing (and commenting!) by Saturday evening,  and it was obvious to me by Sunday.  Still, I had some fantastic interactions - a little girl who was dragging her parents all over Fest trying to find the Violin Lady, 'cause that's who she wanted to see, and a little girl who was celebrating her 5th birthday, who decided by the time I was done serenading her and "teaching" her to play the violin that I was her new BFF.

Recovery gets hard when I'm this tired.  I don't want to eat, or to eat properly, and then I eat anything because I'm so hungry.  I'm trying - salads for lunch, and a chunk of animal protein for dinner yesterday, but tired often gets in the way of effort.  I did take a day off from the gym for some additional rest. But after a summer of lousy sleeping, I'm now needing a lot more.

Yet, I'm already to do it all again tomorrow and Sunday.  I'll fall over on Monday.
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Dear Mr. Grunty McSlamyourweights:

Obviously, you think the amount of noise you make is directly proportional to the degree you are impressing the rest of us in the weight room.  Well, you certainly did catch our attention.  Impressed?  Not even a little.  A 135# overhead press would be impressive, if you weren't using a Smith machine, bad form, grunting from rep 1 through 8, and dropping the weight with no control at the end of the set.  85# with the EZCurl bar?  Bad form again, again with the grunting, and still no control setting the weight down.  I used to be able to curl that with nary a sound and good form, standing.  The wide grip pull ups?  I can count the plates, I know how much weight you *aren't* pulling.  If you really were at failure, I'd understand.  But every rep, every set, and the fourth time through your circuit?  You're performing, not lifting.

Complaining to the floor manager when someone asked you quietly and politely to stop dropping the weights?  Then introducing  yourself to the assemblage as a *serious* weightlifter, so sorry for the noise?  Dude, until I see you past parallel on a squat, you're nothing but a poser with puffy arms.  And that marshmallow ass you're trying to hide under the baggy shirt tells me you much prefer the leg press.



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Another good weekend at MN Ren Fest.

Oh, it was a very warm weekend, and the dust was horrific.  I'm go glad I have a second chemise now.  Street performance was good (tips a bit better than last year), although I could not get my head as in the game as I wanted to in Saturday, and Sunday I was almost too tired to maintain the pace I had set.  Sunday also got started on a very somber note, remembering the events of 9/11/01.  And, I am being actively courted by Terpsichory, although I have made it clear I am not interest in performing with them at Fest. For the rest of the year, I am quite amenable.

Felix is a horrible tempter.  I stopped by his shop to say hi, and to look over his fabrics, 'cause I know I need to start planning the currant dress's replacement.  However, I found fabric that would be perfect for a forepanel and sleeves for the pink dress.  I think we're going to work out some sort of fabric swap - I have many yards of a dark purple gryphon fabric he really really wants.

There's a lot of behind the scenes politicking going on - as usual - that I'm trying to keep from affecting me.  So far so good, but I kinda want to know what my long-term standing with Festival might be.  Replacing my dress is not cheap, and I discovered that my Catskills have started to fail.  The seam along the sole at the toe has spit, and the only chance for fixing it is re-soling the boots, and that's not going to be cheap. The boots are coming up on 10 years old, and they don't fit they way they should any more because my feet changed shape since I bought them.  I've been toying with  getting a new pair as a reward for keeping the weight off, but I bought a violin this year instead.  I don't want to spend a several hundred dollars on new costuming to find myself cut from the cast.

My elbows are holding up very well, now that I am remembering  to brace them daily.  My feet, however, hurt hurt hurt.  I skipped karate last night because I knew I would be agony by the end of class.  I'm sticking to the stationary bike (and I hate the stationary bike) for my cardio, just to give my feet a break.  It's annoying, as I actually want to be running a couple days a week.  I think a trip to the podiatrist is in my future.
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Weather-wise, Saturday was just about perfect. Maybe a bit warmer and sunnier than the absolute ideal, but for mid-August? It doesn't get much better than this. My costume still fits (any weight gain seems to have gone into my shoulders and chest, so I'm filling out the top of the bodice more noticeably) and I didn't forget any of the accessories. I sounded pretty good on the street, and tip-wise, I had my best opening day ever, and best opening weekend. I was surprised by the number of people who came looking for me. Not a huge number, but not the point. They like me! My grid spots got changed a fair amount from last year, and it really affected how and when I set up elsewhere on site, and my grid could change again for next week.

Sunday wasn't quite as good. The weather wandered all over the place, from rainy and damp to sunny and warm. Their weren't has many people, and they were dang near impossible to engage - they just did not want to play. Still, it was a pleasant day, even if it was mostly over by 4, and I gave a sort of mentoring/master class to the grandkid of a crafter. I’m trying to get names and numbers of some recording people, so I can record a CD.

I also got many examples of the power of first impressions. This is the fifth year I've worn the currant dress. I was still asked if it is new, and by people who should know better. I wonder what will happen when I have to replace it within the next few years. I wonder if I should go for a completely different color again, although one that will match the fore-panel - there's a lot of beadwork on it.

So, while the performance and play aspects of this weekend were fantastic, anything touched by management was not. I have no doubt that the people in charge are doing the best they can with their limited resources and chaotic environment. That doesn't mean they are successful. Really, if they were dealing with us individually, it was fine, efficient, and pleasant. Anything that affected the cast or Fest as a whole, complete disaster. Parking and the buses were a mess. Communication concerning comp packages and passes was a mess. Last minute changes to parade and office hours, a mess. It feels like the whole operations is run on a frayed shoestring with understaffed, undertrained, and underpaid temp help. There are people who are clearly in charge of their own little departments, but no one seems to be talking to anyone else, and no one seems to be in charge of the whole mess. A fine example of getting what you pay for.

The wisdom of taking off Monday paid off. I woke with a migraine level headache (although not a migraine). My right hip was still hurting for reasons unknown. My feet still hurt - I'm going to have to start icing them daily after Fest. My left elbow is already starting to complain, so I'm going to have to keep up with the braces. My fingertips are only marginally tender, and the calluses have already noticeably thickened. So I spent the morning stationed on the couch with coffee, cat, and a weekend's worth of TiVo. Laundry got done, but that was about it for household chores.
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Work was dang near a complete loss for productivity today.

My work computer has been having problems printing under a *very* specific set of circumstances. I finally bothered the tech crew with it, and after fiddling with a few settings, my tech took a look at where my computer was in the hardware upgrade cycle. It's in the next batch, so he just moved it up and replaced it today.

So the morning was a loss as he got it all set up. Then I had to go through and tweak it back to my preferences, and there went the entire morning.

I also failed to eat a mid-morning snack, so by the time I went to get lunch, I was headache-y with hunger. Eye strain from a too-strong prescription and fiddling with the screen resolution didn't help. I also chose the wrong food to eat for lunch (I should have gone with the salad), and by mid-afternoon I was teetering on the edge of a migraine. Thank goodness to ibuprofen and caffeine, and then a brief nap when I got home. But my concentration was shot, and I got nothing of substance done.

I think I'm ready for tomorrow. I repackage my music so I'm only bringing out what I'm playing (although I'm really tempted to bring out the new books, just to pet them). The spare strings and the hat pass seed money have been transferred to the new case. I've got a hundred + buttons in the chest, and the basket is mostly packed - just have to toss in tomorrow's lunch. I just need to pack up my change of clothes and lay out the part of the costume I drive out to Fest in. Meh, Ive been doing this for years, if I forget something, I can improvise and cope, just as long as I don't forget my violin (I actually did that once, forgot to bring my violin out with me, I think during my second or third year with Terps).

I'm thinking about sign for my hat pass: "Music Tutor, Lessons in Fyne Music." Yes, no?

Parking at Fest has changed *again*, and again, at the last minute. This one isn't management's fault, directly, but as the quarrying of the site continues, they are going to have to come up with better solutions in a more timely manner.

I should go to bed. Tomorrow morning is going to come way too soon.
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I've been nearsighted since junior high school. My eyes got progressively worse straight through college, finally stabilizing sometime in my twenties. While I am not epically nearsighted like some of my friends and family, I flat cannot function without my glasses.

I've started getting mild, but daily, eyestrain headaches. And I can't do close work while wearing my glasses. So, I trotted myself off to the eye doctor to update my prescription for my deteriorating eyes. From the verbal interview, she thought it might be time to introduce me to bifocals.

Nope. Turns out my prescription is too strong. In the last year, my eyes corrected a half diopter. Both eyes used to require at least 5 diopter corrections. Now, the weaker one only requires a 4.

I'm still nearsighted, and I still can't function without my glasses, but it is kinda nice to not be quite so nearsighted.
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Ren Fest opens on Saturday, and I don't think I have ever been this prepared.

The currant dress needed extensive refurbishment. The gold and white trim had become quite dingy. After washing everything ('cause that fabric still bleeds), I used a bleach pen on the trim. Very time consuming, especially removing the excess bleach gel when done, but it really brightened the look. I also topstitched the tabs and the shoulders of the bodice, something I should have done when I originally made the bodice. The hem of the skirt required extensive repairs, which I neatly accomplished with grosgrain ribbon. I might be able to get one more season from the skirt, but it is showing signs of wear where the violin case rubs against it.

I have to make a new chemise, maybe two. I did a handful of promotional events this summer, and at Dress Press I noticed that the fabric had completely frayed along the front of the yoke. There is no repairing this, at least not in ways where a "fyne lady" such as myself could wear in public. I've already completed a new yoke. It's the sleeves that are going to take time. If I make new ones, I'm not going to be done by Saturday. I'm probably just going to cut the sleeves and skirt out of an old chemise - much faster.

D still have to deliver the new toy chest for my tokens. He volunteered to make one, as a practice project on the wood router he bought for his basement renovation. The old one will last a bit longer, but I don't think it would survive the whole run.

I have five new book of fiddle tunes. Clearly I won't have any new tunes from these books prepped, but as I start perusing them, I might find a few I've had requested before, I might find some more that I can have ready to go by the end of the run, and there is always next year (I hope). I'm really looking forward to playing through the tune; the Mighty Hunter is less enthused.

Extra strings have been ordered, 'cause at least one will break during the run. One of those gig certainties. The new violin is sounding lovely.

I have lots of safety pins for the buttons I give to the kids. I think I have enough buttons for the run, but I'm going to have to come up with a new token for next year.

I've got breakfast and snacks figured out, but no idea what I'm going to do for lunch, as I don't want to make sandwiches, and Fest food is not in my monetary or caloric budget. Maybe some now and then, but not every day, every week.

I've been asked to run the archery tourney again. I've already got a crew lined up and ready to go - they have really enjoyed working the show and want to do so again. Only one has a contract this year, and the others want day passes and maybe some comps (casualties of the entertainment realignment). I get paid (I don't make tips when I'm running the show), but I also make sure my team gets something. The old site has now become part of the active quarry, and I haven't been able to vet the safety of the new field.

I have really effective new sunscreen. I have all new makeup. I know where my elbow braces are, and I'm learning to love tiger balm.

I should "repackage" all my sheet music into new page protectors. I should clean up and oil my boots. I need to get my hair trimmed.

There is a smattering of car maintenance I should do, but nothing vital.

I think I'm ready!
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I'm waiting for an estimate on a new roof, gutters, and back fence. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to finance all of this. Actually, I know exactly how I'm financing it, I just don't know what the ratios are, 'cause I'm waiting for the estimate.

Just as an aside, the Mighty Hunter is currently chasing her tail around her toes.

I'm trying to reclaim part of the RV parking spot for yard. I want to raise it back up to the level of the rest of yard, and to grade it so it drains into the ally, not towards my house. I'm in the processes of digging out that entire area and roughly sorting the dirt back towards the house, the crushed stone towards the ally. Sand in going back into the yard fill, just above the layer of clay I'm not digging through, but under the soil I'm moving I'm still going to have to bring in a couple cubic yards of topsoil. I'm planning on renting a tiller to churn up the whole mess, including a the contents of my compost (which has sprouted a very robust volunteer squash I haven't discourages because it amuses me). And I need to get this done before the snow flies, which in MN (especially this year) could be sooner rather than later. The ongoing wet weather has hindered my progress.

And I have Fest looming over my weekends starting in three weeks. My contract arrived last week. I'm done refurbing my costume, and almost done with the new layer of bling. I have new music learned, and I will be ready to go just as soon as I order new strings, and maybe a new toy violin. I don't know about the archery tourney, though.

That big old ash in my back yard? Still standing, even after more soaking rain and additional high winds. My ivy trellis, however, snapped in half with yesterday's storm. That's going to be fun removing.

So, yes, I have a plan, and I'm executing it. But I really don't know what I am doing.


Jul. 18th, 2011 11:07 pm
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A few years ago, I fell in love with Neutragena sunscreens. Then they started mucking with the formulas, and now I'm not so fond of them.

I've tried a couple variations of the Aveeno line, most recently a baby formulation. It did an acceptable job of keeping my skin from getting burned, but it moisturized my face into grease and breakouts.

I can't wear any of the above formulations on the skin above my eye line as they inevitably run into my eyes, stinging horribly.

This weekend I tried the Bullfrog brand, toted repeatedly by the Jara archers for its sunscreen and no-stinging-eyes properties. I even dared and applied it to my forehead. I figured that the Archery Championship was the perfect time and place to test the effectiveness of this suncreen: no shade, mid-day sun, and so muggy that I was guaranteed to get suncreen contamination in the sweat that would inevitably run into my eyes.

No sunburn. No stinging eyes. Oh, I like this. I think I need to get a second bottle no there is no chance of running out during Fest.


Jul. 16th, 2011 12:02 pm
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The original plan was go get up with the sun and do some more earth moving before the day got stinkin' hot, and maybe a little yard work. Then come in, shower, breakfast, and either work on refurbing my Fest overskirt, or glaze some more window panes before heading out for the afternoon.

Yeah, not so much. The RV parking spot is more of a pond at the moment. There is water in my basement, and the sump pump is active. That was a lot of rain at 4 this morning.

I've managed to get some dishes done, but the Mighty Hunter is insisting that the correct course for the day is on the couch, all snuggled up next to me. I bought a book yesterday that I've been waiting to be released for almost a year. I think I will indulge her, until I have to go out for the afternoon.
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