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Hmmm...Marian and I were loading our groceries at Gross Out when a man on a bicycle cruised by. He stared for a second and then shouted in a sarcastic voice: "Ah, yes, Islam, forcing nine-year-old girls to marry forty-year-old men on penalty of death for mumble mumble years!"

I looked up from loading, and stared at him. He was thirty-ish with short brown hair and a scruffy beard. I looked around, puzzled. No obviously Muslim folks anywhere in the lot. I turned my puzzled (Quizzical, Bemused?) expression in his direction.

I gotta admit, my puzzled stare is frequently interpreted as threatening by other people. Anyway, he took one good look at me and pedaled away as fast as his little tootsies would go. 

I was wearing a hat that looks a bit like that hat customarily worn by the former President of Afghanistan, so maybe he took me for a refugee or immigrant.

But...Marian was there, and she didn't even have a hat on, much less a headscarf or anything more modest. So that hat, all by itself, apparently convinced Mr. Ignoramus that I was a muslim. 

Honestly, folks, if you're gonna be a bigot and shout it out to the world, at least know your stuff. Willful ignorance is nobody's bliss.

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Here's a little forsoothly for ya.

Gather round, all, and hear my words. I, Ambrose, Knight and Baron, Viscount, and Squire of old to Dublin, do tell now two stories. Let no man doubt the truth of these tales, for I was there and saw the fields upon which they happened. (It may be that the words I report were not spoken with such eloquence upon the day; I follow the example of Herodotus, Father of History, and make true those things which should have been...)

I sing you of the deeds of Sir Dublin, Baron and Knight. In his deeds of valor unmatched, in humors bold and virtuous, in the legends of his life unleavened by lies, I tell you true: here is a man of An tir and Summits, who may stand unashamed in the company of any.

Long ago it was, and far to the south: Sir Dublin strode the field, Roachy Crest upon his helm, a pike in his hands, sneaking...er, searching the edges of the field for Western foemen.

Whence came that foul roche that sat upon his helm, as it were a crest? And by what foul spell did it dance and sing, distracting friend and foe alike? I know not, nor I deem does any man now living.

It came to pass that certain Knights of Western fealty were at rest beside the trunk of a great Tree; and Sir Dublin came upon them at unawares, and approached them from behind.

Alas! That roachish Crest upon his helm, rocking side to side as he approached his foes, must needs have felt some twig or leaf against it brush; and waking from its torpor, began to sing and dance as was its wont.

“Slay him!” warbled Westies, and charged the Hero, intent, it would seem, upon his demise. Sir Dublin stood, and struck, and slew the enemy Knights ere they could approach.

Save one; that one drew back his mace and made a mighty blow---and slew not Dublin, but the singing Insect that had so taunted him.

That night, the Knight who slew the beast did drink and dance and brag of his great deed, and all there feted him, Monarchs and peasants alike. Gold he gained, and great gratitude for his deed.

Was it Western King that so rewarded the Slayer of the Roach? Or some other Monarch?

Two years passed, and it came to pass that another great field was fought, upon the Ground Where the Roach Died. This field had before been known as the Field of Pigs, and as the Place of Never-ending Wind.

For the wind blew there, and never steady in its course, came from all directions, severally or all at once. And when the wind blew from the west, it carried to the assembled armies the odor of a Great Farm of Swine. And it was very foul.

On that field Sir Dublin strode, strong if squat, and bore up the surcote and banner of his newest rank: Prince of the Summits was he, and led a mighty force to the aid of the King of An tir.

It came to pass as the battle swept back and forth across the land, that An tir’s mighty army gained most of the field; and for that time, the Western King and all of his host were pent within their own Castle, and they valiantly defended the smashed Gate thereof.

Mighty Dublin, Warrior Prince, led the Muster of his realm into battle, driving the Western host deep within its own redoubt. But the Western King, clever and cunning, brought forth fresh troops to the battle.

Step by step the Host of the Summits retreated, beset by Dukes, Knights and Footmen three times our number and more. As we fell back to the gate and beyond, His Highness turned his back upon his foemen.

Did he flee? A pox upon he who thinks it! He stepped backwards into the line of the foe, and made as if to strike us, his own men.

The foe, thinking him one of them (Cynagua, perhaps?) strode to the breach and to the fight...and Dublin, ever clever, called out: “Stand your ground, O men of the West! Hold the gate, for the enemy brings many more men to the field, and we are like to be o’erwhelmed!”

(It was true; a host of An tirians was there, just out of bowshot, preparing to charge. ’Twas Sir Daegar led them.)

But even as the Westies backed up to hold their broken Gate, Prince Dublin turned upon them. He struck and slew as Western footmen floundered, flustered and frustrated. We of Summits’ Muster pressed them yet again, and Dublin, mighty Prince, returned into our midst; unscathed—indeed, untouched.

Did Castle West then fall? Did fail the stout and lordly defense of the Western Host? Did the King die, or did he escape?

These are tales for another day. ’Tis Viscount Dublin whose deeds we celebrate today: Knight, Baron, and Sheriff of lands untold and people unnumbered.

Good Gentles All, I remain your Loyal Servant,

—Viscount Ambrose, Knight and Baron


Apr. 8th, 2015 06:13 pm
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Report on My Norwescon Experience.

I knew it was going to be a busy weekend, since I had scheduled 7 panels and a reading. That doesn’t sound like much: 7.5 hours over three days. In the context of a science fiction convention, it’s a lot.

First panel was “Broadsword Basics” for which I was the moderator. We had 60 (sixty!) attendees. I was not prepared for a Thursday night panel to draw like that. I had three other panelists. (Bill Gruner, Norman Moss, Joseph Malik. More on that guy later.) We had to rotate through the attendees in three groups, both because of the size of the room and because of the # of wasters we had on hand. (For the uninitiated: a waster is a wooden broadsword) I invited Sir Daniel and Randal the Redoubtable and set them to work helping with teaching and marshalling. There was no time for any fancy stuff: I was pleased that we managed to teach something *resembling* proper stance and footwork plus the mechanics of a flat snap to a significant number of the attendees. Between setting each group up, getting them moving correctly, and making sure that they were all (barely) a safe distance apart, I got a good workout in. I was sweating and puffing pretty good by the end.

Next, I had my turn to read some of my fiction to random strangers. In this case, one random stranger. Marian came along to the reading, and at the end I was reading to a few people who came to hear the next guy. But my original audience was Marian and one random fellow. I read the partial chapter from Saráyi about Peter the Bastard in the aftermath of a battle, and the fragment from Saltarae II bearing Arrenji’s analysis of modern America. Then I read the duel scene and the Birth of Saráyi from “Medusa”. Everyone applauded politely at the end.

The next day, Friday, I assisted at ‘One on One Combat for Writers’ and ‘Universal Rules of the Fight’. I contributed my fair share to the success of both of those panels. Later that day: ‘History of Jousting’. My knowledge base is the pre-joust era, about 1100-1300. I did my fair share of the lifting in that panel as well.

Saturday I had three panels: ‘Norse Sword, Shield, & Spear Tactical Combat’. I was a safety marshal in that one, except for a couple fine points that I inserted into the instruction. ‘Roman Legionary Tactical Combat’ was a similar panel, but I got to be a “barbarian” and attack the trainees’ testudo.

WELL. Not really, of course. Nobody was in armor, so we barbarians were mostly hitting shields and ‘touching’ open targets with the wasters. We did this twice, with two different sets of trainees. Both times I grabbed Sven Redbeard and we flanked the formation, ‘killed’ a bunch of archers and then...yeah, I bet you’ll have figured this next part out. At the exact moment when, in a real battle or an SCA fight I would have become a spinning and running tornado of steel death, I had to say: “Stop. You can’t actually hit these people.” So I got ‘shot’ by tennis-ball-throwing ‘archers’ both times.

That was a little frustrating, but there you go.

My final panel of the weekend, later that day, went well, I think. That was ‘Adding Authenticity to Historical Fiction & Fantasy’. I actually learned a few things in this panel. Lots of stuff from all the panelists about distances traveled in a set time-frame, the potential weight of backpacks, (How much weight *could* Sam Gamgee have carried?’) And interesting cultural tidbits and food related customs. Inns and hostels in various countries. Very Etc. What to serve at the Inn. How much can various animals carry and how fast can they travel, and how much food and water do they need. Et cetera.

For that last bit, it turns out that the US Army has a pamphlet you can get for free, and it has all that info in it.

The most interesting person I met all weekend was the above-mentioned Joseph Malik, who is a US Army special forces guy. He is currently serving in a unit which goes to crazy-ass places and tries to stop wars before they start. THAT was a fascinating fellow to chat with. He got a five-day leave to come to the con “as a liason to the highly intelligent geek and nerd community”. His words. He pitched it that way to his CO and got paid leave. “I’m here on your dime,” he said, not really joking.

He told me a story about a mission to Mongolia that involved goats. I intend to tell that story only in taverns and pubs, where I expect to get free drinks as a result.
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A friend found this and sent it to me...I wonder if Zappa's Black Page Drum Solo owes any debt to this?


Additionally, I found a short bio of the composer, by his nephew:

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Yesterday Erika left some stuff she needed for work at home, so I grabbed it and drove over to the University district (which is an area of town I no longer much visit). As I was approaching the store, I was waylaid by two women in middle eastern dress. One was veiled, the other covered except for her face. Their cover-ups and veils were colorful and very fashionable, and the woman whose face was visible wore what looked like fairly expensive sunglasses. ‘Well, that makes sense,’ I thought: ‘Poor people from Arabia or Egypt don’t send their daughters to the US for education.’

These two were armed with clipboards and doing a survey: “Only eight questions, will take just a few minutes. If you have time?”

WTH. “Okay,” I said.

SO here are the questions and my answers:

1. Do you think boys who wear pink shoes are weird?

My answer: “No.” She checked the ‘no’ box.

2. Would you let your son wear pink pants?

Me: “I don’t have a son.”

Her: “If you had a son?”

Me: (shrug) “If he wanted to.” Checked the ‘yes’ box.

3. Do you feel afraid when someone is following you at night?

Me: “Yes, fairly often.” She gave me an odd look; I think I’m not supposed to admit that. I shrugged again: “I’m not as young as I was.” Checked the ‘yes’ box.

4. Will you walk faster or ran away when you see someone following you?

Me: “Absolutely not.” Another odd look; I believe this did not match properly with my previous answer. Me: “That would draw attention to me and make me look like a victim.” Checked the ‘no’ box.

5. Do you think cross-dressing is normal?

Me: “Define ‘normal’.”

Her: “De-fine?”

‘Ah, English not good enough to get that,’ I thought. Having spent a few days in Greece, where I had a similar problem, I empathized.

Me: “Other people have their normal, and I have mine.” This was a non-answer, which she took as ‘yes’ and checked that box.

6. Would you like to have a friend who likes cross-dressing?

Me: “I have several friends who are cross-dressers.” She checked the ‘yes’ box.

7. Do you think coloring hair such as pink or light green is usual?

For answer to this, I displayed my braided topknot, which at the moment is rather intensely magenta, in part.
“Ah,” she said, checking the ‘yes’ box. Note that I did NOT say I thought it was ‘usual’, whatever that means to a sociologist or whatever she’s studying to be.

And finally, 8. Would you like to change your hair color?

Here she checked the ‘yes’ box without waiting for my answer, which I found interesting. (Yes, I HAVE changed my hair color. I kinda like it, though. I’m not sure I’d change it again.)

She thanked me very politely, then I cadged a copy of the survey from her. So the Questions are as they asked them, slightly cleaned up for typos, and my Answers are as I recall them.

Fun, huh?

See ya.
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Last Monday I was working on a job at an office out River Road, near the Albertson’s north of Beltline. I was finishing up by dealing with some rather pesky English Ivy that the customer wants rid of. I had NPR in my earbuds, and the show was ‘All Things Considered’. As usual, I got from that show information (which interested me) and a moderate-to-conservative bias (which irritated me). Probably good to get both interest and irritation out of the media. I will worry if I ever stop feeling that.

Anyway, a pair of (probably) preteen girls came strolling by. They were watching me hack and yank as they passed. They were dressed nearly identically, in sneakers, tight jeans rolled at the cuff, tight jeans jackets rolled at the cuff, and their haircuts were about the same: short but not boy-style.

One of them stopped and said something to me. I stopped killing plants, stood up, pulled out the earbuds and said: “Hold on, start over, please.”

She then said in a mock-serious tone: “Did Burger King satisfy you?”

I looked away from her, processing such an odd question. Shades of Firesign or dada answers flitted around my mind. I’m sure I appeared kinda elderly and vague. Finally I looked at her again and said: “No, actually. I never eat there.”

She gave me a thumbs-up and strode away to catch up with her friend (sister? Twin?).

Th-th-that’s all, folks.

See ya.


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