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Rules Lawyer

“Anyone may attend Society events provided he or she wears an attempt at pre-17th century clothing, conforms to the provisions in Corpora, and complies with any other requirements (such as site fees or waivers) which may be imposed. At business meetings and informal classes, the requirement to wear pre-17th century dress may be waived. All participants are expected to behave as ladies or gentlemen.”

-The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. Organizational Handbook April 2001 Edition (revised June, 11 2009), page 4.

I am not a snob. I think. But I feel that since these are the only rules that must be followed to go to an SCA event, it is not hard to follow it. I recently uncovered my very first T-Tunic, and it was two things. 1) Very tight (it must have shrunk over the past 11 years....) and 2) not all that period. But what it was, was an attempt. A great attempt? No, but an attempt none the less. Heck the rule does not even say that I have to have period chairs, tents, feast gear, or hair cut. The SCA is (for good reason) way less strict than Civil War reenacting, let me tell you. So why then do we not enforce this rule at Pennsic?

Some would say, “Well Pennsic isn't really an SCA event.” Yes it is. I paid my SCA dues, have to be authorized to fight by the SCA, and paid to enter the site using my SCA membership. Awards are given out that hold precedence, and the whole thing falls under insurance that the SCA has. So it is an SCA event. It may have some weirdnesses to it because of its size and scope, but it is an SCA event.

But people feel fine walking around in a modern Utility Kilt and nothing else. Or 18th Century pirate gear. Heck, look at the photo of the Mayor from the site book. I could be wrong, but nothing about that outfit said pre 17th Century. I do want people to come to Pennsic. I want to hang out with people and have fun. And I don't care about mundane tents (except maybe in certain places like Royal encampments) or plastic jugs, or fake walls. Those aren't in the rules. But an attempt at pre 17th Century garb is one of them. So if you can afford that leather thong, you can probably also afford a few yards of cotton and fashion yourself a T-tunic or bog dress or whatever.

Heck, I would even concede that within your own camp you can do what you want. If you lounge around your campsite in shorts and tank top, fine. But in the food court, battlefield, or merchant area, please try to follow this simple of rules.

Can this be enforced? I don't know. But if we don't at least try, I am not sure what message we are sending about our mission statement....  You know that one that (I believe) is attached to our non for profit status.

Them be fighting goals

First some backstory as to why this has been on my mind:  At Midrealm coronation a few weeks ago I was (jokingly) given to another Pelican for a month.  This was all said in good fun by my peer, but I ran with it, immediately cutting up the other Pelicans's (Master Straum's) steak, carrying some of his gear, and just generally being an overzealous protege.  So it kind of stuck.*  But Master Straum does not have the reputation that he does for doling out tasks for no reason.  So I have been given some assignments during my time with him.  Being his only protege (he is a knight and has squires) it has been interesting.  One of the things on my to do list is to read some books on strategy. This has gotten me thinking about where I want to go with my fighting in the SCA.

I have only been an authorized fighter for little over a year now and I will probably never be great.  Decent?  Sure.  But not great.  I am a herald first, fighter second.  I like that.  But still, I now have some goals I want to fulfill.  Some are short term, others long.

1)  Have a more period look to my armor.  I have a new helm that helps start this process.  Will this be done in a year?  Probably not, but I would like to eventually get a set of armor that makes people go, "Nice!"

2)  Be good enough to get an AoA level fighting award.  I don't play the game for the awards, but this would be a benchmark of my fighting and how people view me as a fighter.

3)  Become a marshal.  My research into period heralds has shown that a period herald had many duties that marshals fulfill in the SCA.  So if I want to better myself as a herald, I should become a marshal. 

4)  Become baronial champion.  Several reasons for this.  First, it would be cool.  Yeah I will admit it.  Friggin cool.  Second, it would give me a small taste of command, since the baronial champion (in Cynnabar at least) has some responsibility for commanding the rest of the baronial fighting force.  And lastly, it would be something different for me.  

We shall see...


*NOTE:  Anyone who thought Midair and I had a falling out, that is not true.  If we had a problem, we would not have made it a big deal in front of people.  We would have dinner and discuss it.  This really is all in good fun.

A journey

In September of 2010 I interviewed for a job at Meijer.  I showed up in a shirt and tie.  I thought about wearing a suit, but I knew there were no management positions open, so I thought it would look a little ridiculous.  The guy who interviewed right before me was in blue jeans (with some stains on them) and a T-shirt that told you his music preference.

My car had broken down a few days before and the bus did not go all the way to the store, so I waked a few miles from the nearest stop.  I knew calling and rescheduling would look unprofessional and I needed to be employed.  During the interview with Marcy and Colleen I recall a few things.  I recall them being impressed with my education.  I remember them saying that several of the standard interview questions they had to ask were dumb. I also remembered them asking where they think I would fit in best.  "Oh, well I think I have a good rapport with people.  As an educator I have often worked with large groups and with individuals.  So something in customer service would fit me best I think."  

They put me on third shift.  In charge of the inventory.  Which meant a lot of time in the back room. Away from people.  I had to lie and tell people that I was excited to have a job.  "A job is better than no job at all," I said over and over again, wanting to believe it.  I felt like a failure.  I had a college education.  I had worked in the professional world.  I was used to $30,000 a year with benefits and more vacation time than you can shake a stick at.  Now I was part time, making $8.45 an hour, no benefits, and no time off in the foreseeable future.

After about two months I remember seeing the bills that were coming in that we had to somehow pay.  I told my wife I had to go to work early.  Another lie.  I cried in the car.  I just sat there and wept, ashamed of my job and how pathetic I was.  I had to do something.

I got very lucky.  In January I applied to be in management.  I began eating lunch with my boss and my boss's boss.  I made sure I was not just the overnight IA, but Matt, their friend.  I told jokes, listened to their stories, and began reading books that they were reading.  So when the time came and an opening occurred, both of them suggested me to the Ben, the store director.  By April I had moved up to lower management.  With it came a significant pay raise and a feeling of self worth.  

Now I am getting ready to move up again.  My new boss is being transferred.  They asked me to apply for his job.  I interviewed with a woman with possible mob ties to get it.  This Sunday I will move up the rung again.  It will mean a lot of hard work on my part, but it also means better pay and a better looking resume.  

In some ways my journey upwards has been very short.  To go from the newest peon to Lines Leader in charge of five departments and 70 people is not too shabby.  In other ways it has been a long journey.  I knew people were watching me, so I had to be on my A game as much as possible.  And even now I will have some people watching me to see if I succeed or fail.

All in all, I am very lucky.  My wife has been so supportive of me during this time.  She was encouraging and any feelings of inadequacies I had because of my job were never because of her.  I have lately begun to go to church, and I can't help but think it has been part of the reason for my recent success.  Not that I think God said, "Well you showed up on Sunday, so now you get your reward," but rather that going helped me feel better about myself and allowed me to see that God was still there and loved me.  That never hurts your chances, I feel.

Weirded Out

Several times I thought “I should blog about this or that” over the past few weeks. But, I never got the gears going, subbing the long posts on my blog for quick ones on Facebook. Then I listened to Weird Al's newest CD and I knew I had to write about a song. From there I thought about Weird Al and the post changed to this:

I remember the first time I heard Weird Al. I was in a car listening to some CDs while in Middle School. My friend and I were sharing a pair of headphones and he pulled out a CD that had a mock up of Jurassic Park on it, but with a man's shadow replacing the T-Rex. It was “Alapalooza” and I was instantly hooked. I began to listen to more and more songs written by Al Yankovic and finding out who this guy was. I remember waiting with anticipation for MTV to play his video: The Saga Begins for the first time. But I never really stopped to wonder why I was fascinated with him until now. Even after getting over my filk phase, I still love this guy and what he does.

Partly it is because he is, in my opinion, a great musician. He can hear what trends are popular in music and exploit them to show us what really makes up the songs we listen to day in and day out. He does not just find words that fit into a song he filks, but he also finds a story that makes perfect sense with the song itself. And then there are his original songs, which show that he can do more then use others work. Albuquerque, Skipper Dan, Why Does This Always Happen to Me, and Your Horoscope for Today are songs I could listen to time and time again.
 

And lets not forget his signature instrument: The Accordian. Go ahead name me two other great accordion players.... Right. I thought not. He takes an instrument that has the street cred of a Enron CEO and made it something to be appreciated. His polkas are among my favorite songs.
 

But still this was not why I buy his albums. It is because Weird Al was the first geek I knew that was proud of being a geek. Not just proud, but successful at it too. I know now that others (like Dr. Demento) blazed the trail that Weird Al would follow, but still he was my first. In his loud shirts and funky hair, the guy said, “This is me. I may not be mainstream. I am neither cutting edge or classic. I am just me and I am happy with that.” Or at least that is the vibe I got from him.
 

I discovered him at a time that I was entering young adulthood, where my awkward, geeky tendencies stood out in a small school. But Weird Al was there to have as a role model. He was a geek's geek. And for that I am thankful.
 

Happy Fourth of July everyone.

Old News

So there appears to be a shift to online editions of Kingdom Newsletters.  Personally I think this is a great move and wonder why it has not been done sooner but at least it seems on the horizon.  (Latest I heard it was that it was in the "planning phases.")

But this is what baffles me.  From a BoD memo dated March 22: "The newsletters will be on a single website (with a link from www.sca.org <http://www.sca.org/> ), and site viewing will be password protected. Kingdoms cannot post their newsletter on their kingdom website as newsletter access will remain tied to membership and only Member Services can confirm membership." *(emphasis mine)

Why does access to the newsletter need to be tied to membership?  I understand that before it was something that had money put into it in the form of paper and postage, but I would think this would mean that the operating costs of a kingdom newsletter would come down drastically.  Who does not already own a computer with internet connection who would not be a chronicler?  No new server space is needed since it is going on the SCA's site, and I can't believe the newsletters will take up that much space.  What super secret information is there in a newsletter that we don't want nonmembers to know?  When group websites (when maintained properly**) are more valuable then newsletter, why tie it to my fee?

Here is the main thing:   I don't know a single person who said, "You know why I paid my dues?  I really wanted a copy of the newsletter."  They pay them because events are cheaper to go to, they want (or feel the need) to hold office, they want to get authorized (in some kingdoms this is law, but I am not sure if that is Society wide), or they feel obligated to support the organization.

Am I wrong?  Is there a good reason to only allow members access?  If so, let me know what I am missing.

*http://www.midrealm.org/chronicler/Latest_from_BoD_March22_2011.pdf

** I have said so before and will say again that my current barony has a wonderful, up to date website that helped me learn about the barony and what was going on.

Is there a Doctor in the house?

I have always been a Sci Fi Geek.  I don't have one particular focus that I know all about while ignoring the rest.  While I would say my Star Trek knowledge is the most well rounded, my ability to know the back story of IG-88 or the plots to most classic Sci Fi movies is pretty good I feel.  There are very few Sci Fi shows that have been on in the last few years that I have not watched most (if not all) of.  That is except for a time and space traveling Doctor.

I know the basics of the mythos, but try as I might, I could never get into it.  I knew the show Dr. Who was important in the world of Science Fiction, but the idea of that many seasons of back history was daunting.  This is the same reason I don't read comics.  I would want to know it all, and lets face it the history of Batman goes back pretty far.  X-men is even worse, considering how many titles are currently running. 

2005 saw me graduate college and start on my Masters.  This was no time to pick up a new series, especially one that I was afraid would bring 40 years of episodes (some which are missing) crashing down on my head.  However, try as I might, I have started. I read up on the basics of the doctors up to the 2005 incarnation and have been watching some reviews of them to get the necessary bits that I will need in order to feel comfortable. 

So how is it going? Not bad.  The 2005 run does a good job of slowing explaining the world to new watchers, while still leaving some mystery in.  The pacing of the episodes can be a little odd (going from tons of action to none at all in a blink of an eye and then staying that way for the rest of the episode until... BAM! Action again....).  So we shall see.  Perhaps I have finally caught the bug.  Now if you will excuse me, I have to practice my Dalek impression.

Valor

Let me tell you about my brother. I hope you will indulge me here.

When my little brother (okay once he was my little brother, now he has buffed up and is just younger) was in the fifth grade a shy girl was constantly getting picked on. Though my brother was one of the youngest in his class, he was also one of the biggest. He went up to the teacher one day when the rest of the kids had left for some activity. My brother asked to be moved next to the girl. When the teacher asked why, my brother responded with, “Because those boys won't pick on her if I am next to her.” The teacher did move Brennan and the ridicule stopped.

My brother did not play on the basketball team until his senior year. Up until then you would find him in the stands yelling his guts out as one of Elsberry's biggest fans. But his senior year he decided to join. We come from a town small enough that this is possible. My brother was not the best player on the team, but he was its heart and soul. When my brother was on the court, he was there to not just play ball, but to be a sportsman. If a member of the opposing team fell during a play, my brother would be the first to help him up when the whistle was blown. If someone was not sinking their free throws, my brother would be there to boost the guy's spirits. NBA players take note.

Now this is not to say my brother did not have his faults. Even while I was at college, news of his exploits reached me. I would tell them here, but they are.... well if you really want to know, ask privately. But still, all in all I am a very proud older brother.

So imagine how much pride I feel in knowing that Sgt. Brennan Lagemann was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor by General David Petraeus. He made sure a fellow soldier's body was recovered and was able to keep the rest of squad out of harms way while clearing IEDs in Afghanistan. One family got to bury their son and not just an empty casket because of him. Other family's might have been spared the pain of losing someone. My brother is being pretty humble about the whole thing. He told me that it was not a big deal. It was just his job.

Love you Brennan! Do your job and then come home.

Godzilla (1954)

While randomly surfing the web, I came across a wiki completely devoted to the Godzilla series.  I am ashamed to admit that the only Godzilla I had seen to that point was the terrible 1998 movie with Matthew Broderick.  I felt I owed a movie that is so important to cinema, and science fiction in general, a watch.  I went into it expecting to be bored.  I often watch a movie while doing other things, so a movie with subtitles makes this harder. Still I wanted to watch the original so I could judge the movie as the director originally intended it.

At first I had to stop and rewind as I missed bits of dialogue, but I found myself well rewarded.  What I got was a movie that was deeper than a guy in a rubber suit crushing buildings or horrified Japanese crowds screaming and pointing at the sky.  The movie really said something about the times. Here was a nation that had seen the only use of atomic weapons in war.  So a movie about an irradiated menace worked well.  The threat of radiation being left behind by a creatures that could also crush your house without a care in the world was just the tip of the iceberg.

This was followed up by a debate on the ethical responsibilities man has to science.  Should they kill a unique creature?  Should they use such a powerful weapon?  Should the Oxygen Destroyer have been researched at all?  Does its possible future uses for good outweigh its negative implications?  Is it ever Ok to break a promise?  Is an evil deed justifiable if it removes a greater evil?  What responsibility does an individual have to his ideas?

I am sure most people who read my blog have already watched the movie several times.  But if you are like me and just thought it was a cult classic that only worked in its era, give it a watch.  This is a movie that stands besides "The Day the Earth Stood Still" as classics that must be watched.  While some things are dated, the themes presented are as relevant now as they were in 1952.

Change of Pace

So two weekends ago I went to the regional Heraldic Symposium. Wanting to get to know the heralds more and contribute to my new kingdom, I wrote up a class that I was pretty excited to teach. Some heralds at a previous event seemed intrigued by the idea, so I made up an hour long course covering period approaches to vocal heraldry, focusing on being a fighters personal herald. Thirty minutes would be devoted to background (handout included) and the last thirty would be a roundtable discussion on how we could apply the information to the Current Middle Ages. I knew I taught in the first slot, so attendance might not be great, but no big deal. I also could not get any time off of work because I had used it up visiting my brother earlier in the month. No problem. Visiting my brother was worth it. So I left work at 7:30, met up with my car pool, rode to the event, paid my site fee, and set off to teach at 10:00. No one came. Not one herald. The only other class going on at the time was a beginning scribal class. I know that there were heralds there, but none came to my class. I did not know them well enough to drag some in. Needless to say I was disappointed. My baroness was encouraging though, and knowing my work schedule suggested a comfy couch to catch a few hours sleep so I was not completely dead when I went in to work that evening.

Still it sucked. I feel that if I taught the same course in Calontir I would have had some attendance. Yet here I don't warrant a single student. Firstly, it seems that vocal heraldry is not taken as seriously here. Are you loud? Be a vocal herald! Made mistakes? We expect those out of vocal herald! Grrrrr... I even had one person amazed that Calontir has heralds at most of its tournaments. Added to that is the fact I am not known here. I hardly get to go to any SCA events, so no one outside of the barony knows me, let alone knows me as a vocal herald. I will say that my barony has been very supportive. I have heralded baronial court at the local Wassail (our Christmas get together), headed up tournament heraldry at Grand Tourney, and was called on to do announcements at 12th Night. All of these were sponsored by the Barony and it feels good to know that they feel confident in calling on my services. So I guess I just need to get known more.

To that end I am going to make it a point to go to at least one event a month. This would have been standard in Calontir, but I have stagnated (my own fault) in the Middle. March is easy as our Barony is holding its annual dance event. Now I just need to find one for April and May.

Of course there is still the matter of my job. My current hours mean I can only go to events that are close and I will have to do so on very little sleep. But that is the sacrifice I am going to have to make. As of right now I know I will be a Team Leader (more money, more responsibility), but I don't know when this change will happen (two days? Two weeks? The decision is up to Corporate). Heck, I don't even know what department I will be in. Once that gets ironed out I can start looking at my hours and planning accordingly.

But I will, so help me God, go to more events! I feel like a fake having a Calon Cross and then slowing down my service. I had an excuse when I first moved, but not any more. I just have to make an effort.

What the hell, for $800

Note:  Not wanting to get to confusing, I will be giving a computer human characteristics, including using "he" and describing his abilities using words that aren't true of computers, but gets the point across.

Watson.  I am sure you have all heard of him.  If you haven't, here is the big deal:  IBM labs created a computer that could play Jeopardy.  They then pitted the computer (named Watson) against Jeopardy's two biggest champions.  The computer had to obey the rules of Jeopardy (no outside help, had to answer in the form of a question, etc).  In the end, it won.  Big time.  This has been big news (just stumbled upon ANOTHER article dealing with it) and there is this common theme:  Is this the moment where humans become inferior to machines?  The answer, of course, is no. 

First the computer did have some help.  It could not understand the spoken question, so it got the questions at a text file.  It could then read and analyze this file before the contestants had finished hearing the first few words of the question. 

It was also programmed to do one thing.  Just one.  Heck, they couldn't even move it out of the lab.  The Jeopardy sound stage had to be moved to his location.  So when Ken Jennings goes back to being a poster child for the Mormon church, Watson stays at the lab.  While Ken can know what it feels like to win and lose, Watson just knows that he has a variable that is higher than Ken's.

Lastly, and this is the big one, Watson did not make himself.  Nor was he created by a computer.  Man made him.  So if a human wants to thank their high school teacher for inspiration, we must remember that Watson owes all of his knowledge to some programmers.