Those are Bears!

We both had doctor appointments in C’ville today – I had my Botox, so hopefully the three straight months of migraines will finally stop (pleasepleasepleasefortheloveofGOD) – and as we drove out onto route 15, I saw a large animal walk across the road ahead of the car in front of us.

I said “Polar Bear” (inside joke; come to our filk night at Pennsic), but then…

“Fuck! Black bear!”

A black bear crossed the road in front of us.  I assume it crossed for one of the following reasons:

1.  To get to the other side. Because the other side has food.                                                      2.  Or Chickens.                                                                                                                                        3.  Or easily available bird seed.                                                                                                          4.  That was where its car was parked.

Whatever its unholy purpose, it’s been the first black bear we’ve seen for months.  Hope it doesn’t get run over.


Vultures, 6/22/18

Yesterday, I wandered around the yard, getting the first of the summer blackberries.  I had shoes on, so I went down to the Chicken Vulture Coop and looked in to see what was happening this year.

I saw nothing on the one side (the sky was overcast), but I heard… rustling.

I opened the other door (there are two small rooms, side by side), and I saw two beautiful (well, to me, they are) three-month-old vulture juveniles, one of whom immediately threw up. I closed the door and held my breath (vulture vomit smells truly ungodly, being rancid meat that has been partially digested in two entirely separate vulture stomachs; it’s a very effective defense mechanism).

Yay! Two new vultures! Their odds are good now for making it to adulthood, as they’re too big to be eaten by snakes (nothing else will touch them), and they’re not going to die of cold.  They have moved to the room with a shelf, which means they’re practicing sleeping sitting up (as they will have to do when they join the roost), and we should see them out and about in the next month.  After that, they’ll continue to live with our adult pair throughout the summer, then the adults will start “encouraging” them to leave (by hissing and mobbing them until they don’t want to stay any more). By fall, they should be joining the roost, and the adults will no longer live at our place, but will join the juveniles at the roost.  Which could be a dead tree, a tall structure (like a cell-phone tower), or an abandoned building, but is usually a dead tree.

The adults will come back and stake their claim on the coop by the end of winter, as it is a very good nesting place, even though it is slowly falling apart.  We sometimes get vultures in the old barn, but it depends on the weather – the north wall of the barn has pretty much rotted away, and the roof is starting to go.  Even with those faults, the vultures like it (they usually lay their eggs on the ground, by deadfall or in hollow trees; an old building is often better protection for the eggs), but our main two won’t always allow other vultures to nest nearby.  Too many nests in one area can mean a much more limited food supply, and ours jealously guard their good fortune.

Here’s a picture from last year, of the adults and the one juvenile (from left: male, female, juvenile), sitting on top of the old chimney:

chimney vulture crop 2017Picture by Laura Mellin, 2017

Vultures, btw, have no distinguishing sex characteristics. Even wildlife experts can only tell one of two ways – either they catch the vultures mating, or they perform a necropsy on a dead vulture.  I happen to know ours apart because the male is more chill in my presence*, but when they’re together (which is most of the time; they mate for life, with no side-hustle), the male’s head is more brown/grey/black, and the female’s head is more grey/grey/black. The previous female was more distinctive, as she had lost three toes on her left foot in a fight (we think with a raccoon) a few years before she died.

We have no idea of the sex of the juveniles. Ever.

*Black vultures have no vocal cords; they communicate with grunts and hisses, but most of their communication with each other, other vultures, and (sometimes) me, is done through elegantly complex body language. When they are relaxed, they will communicate by gentle head movements and various grooming gestures on themselves. When they are upset, they will groom each other, very gently.  When they are anxious, they will sometimes “yawn” (opening their mouth wide), and if they feel threatened, they will stretch their wings out to make themselves look more imposing (with a six-foot wing-span, they are).

But that is a massively simplified explanation for very complex sets of movements. I can make grooming movements at them to show I’m not a threat, and I definitely get a sense of back-and-forth, but I can’t understand much beyond relaxed/scared/angry. When the male and I “talk”, he will wait for me to make my movements before he makes his.  The female once gave me the hairy eyeball and hopped in between us – I think I was inadvertently flirting with a vulture.

That’s a resume-builder, that one.  Yup.

They do like being together; if they were humans, they’d probably be considered co-dependent, but I like that they’re so affectionate.  There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.


There is a Downton Abbey mattress pad.

I’m not a fan of the series. To be fair, I only watched three episodes.  My mother and I watched the pilot together, as I was in London when it debuted.  Neither of us found it appealing. It’s all a bit too much “watch the servants being treated badly! Watch rich people behave just like they’re in a modern soap opera, but somehow classier!” for me.

(BTW, the secret to being classy is the accent.  Makes everything sound more posh.)*

But really? A mattress pad? I’ve seen the fake jewelry, and the tree ornaments, and even the “accessories” (a cheap wooden wine bottle box with the logo, and a picnic basket are the only ones I remember). I guess you really can slap a logo on anything and someone will buy it. That’s a bit sad, really.

I just don’t understand the USA’s infatuation with Britain.  I mean, I get the whole “my ancestors came from Blahblahblahton-on-the-Wold, so I feel a deep connection to everything Blah-related”, I do. We all like to have a connection to our past.  But I don’t understand Anglophilia.  You guys fought us “English pig-dogs”*** off with the help of the French, so why aren’t you lot Francophiles****? Most Americans don’t even know who Lafayette is, let alone that without his help, you’d still all be speaking… English.

Okay, bad example.

But I mean, we burned down your White House.***** (We didn’t burn down a church full of people, though, that was the Nazis in WWII). And before that, we taxed you guys with all sorts of unfair taxes.  You guys hate unfair taxes, right? Right?? Also, your ancestors that came to America for a better life were the servants and beggars of the Downton Abbey world.  Your forebears would have been sneered at and turned away at the scullery door.

Unless, of course, your great-great-great grandfather went to the US, made a fuck-tonne****** of money, and you sent your daughters back over to England to marry aristocrats so your grandchildren would be nobility (but not you, of course, you’d still be scum, and not invited to parties).  This really only worked for about 50 families, tops.

Nope, aristocracy isn’t to be admired, it’s really not.  It caused inbreeding, haemophilia, and the Hapsburg lip.  Also intense confusion for regular people in the US before WWI, as the Russian Tsar Nicholas, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and England’s King George V were cousins, and all looked kind of like each other (first picture, Tsar Nicholas on the left, George V on the right, second picture, George V on the left, Kaiser Wilhelm II on the right):

Image result for george v of england Image result for kaiser wilhelm 2

Spooooooky.  And an excellent reason not to admire aristocracy; they’re all inbred up to the eyebrows.

I’m still somewhat at a loss over the mattress pad in particular, since I remember beds in grand houses as having mattresses made of horsehair, unpadded metal springs, and terrifying unidentifiable lumps that sometimes moved of their own accord. Sheets, far from being soft and fancy, were made of a kind of linen that is usually reserved for making tents, and were more exfoliating than a ten-minute sandstorm. You might have a fireplace in your room, but more often than not, the chimney flue was closed off, and if you tried to light anything, you burned the carpet that had been laid under the grate. Warmth was sometimes provided by a single-bar electric heater, but more often by a rattling old radiator that gave off 2 BTUs an hour*******.

Comfort is not really an English thing, especially for the upper classes, who regard terrible food,  awful beds, and rock-hard furniture as “character-building”, along with freezing-cold rooms and a layer of ice in the toilet bowl in the winter. Comfort is for people who didn’t go to the “right” schools.

Anglos non! Vive la Franco-Americains!

*Except Donald Trump. He can buy as much gold-plated furniture as he wants, but he will never seem as classy as an English upper-class accent.**

**It’s called ormolou, Donald.

***Mind you, English pig-dog bites can be pretty nasty.

****Fans of France, not James Franco, though he’s pretty hot.

*****Not my family personally, though I’m sure they’d have been fine with it. Also, not the Canadians, Donald.

******Metric; about 1.75 US fuck-tons.

*******BTU: British Thermal Unit. An often talked-about, but never actually seen form of heat.  We think it looks like a hedgehog crossed with a pangolin.  That way, at least you can feel slightly amused as you wrap yourself in ten blankets and attempt to not lose limbs to frostbite.



Such an Amazing Weekend!

I had the bestest times evah! This past weekend was amazing, and informative, and just all-around cool.  I’m a shy person (I cover well, but trust me, I am really shy with strangers), and I was anxious before going to the Frolic, since I don’t really feel like I’ve added anything new to my skills for ages.  Not that anything like that was required to go.

But everyone was lovely!  I got to meet people I’ve admired for a very long time, and who have added huge realms of knowledge to my personal skills base, and… I’m rambling.

But it was so cool to meet everyone. You are all the best.

I also handed over my latest project: The drawn-out design for a patterned coverlet for the tester bed in the Row House at the Jamestown Settlement and Museum, embroidery to be done by volunteers in the Costume Shop.  I adapted the design from a cushion cover, and set it up so that the only stitch required was back stitch/running stitch (I wanted it to be easy).

This is the coverlet on our guest bed – a full-size mattress:

DSCF4473 - Copy
1600-style coverlet design

And here’s a close-up section with size comparison:

1600s embroidery design
coverlet embroidery pattern by Laura Mellin

Whew! I’m pleased with it.  There are extras and changes I made, as I always like to play with design even when I’m following a particular piece.  There are bugs and snails here and there, I changed a flower and played with the others to fit the monochrome style.

Also, Noel, I have a couple of pictures of our vultures!

We’ve known for several years that if we put out a container with water, our vultures will happily drink from it, rather than going down to one of the streams nearby (near, but not close).  I think they like to be able to drink closer to their nest. This year, Bob suggested we get a plastic kid’s pool, as last year we noticed that the juvenile vulture liked to stand in the water, as well as drink from it. So, Bob found a cheap one at the store, and we filled it.  And waited.

It turns out, we didn’t have to wait long!  The vultures started drinking from it almost immediately, but then one day…

“It’s hot!  This looks nice!”DSCF4463 - Copy

“Bloop! Got your nose!”DSCF4464 - Copy

“Aaaaahhhh! Refreshing!”DSCF4468 - Copy

“Now… a little session on the sunny deck to dry out!”DSCF4471 - Copy

They are the cutest; I love them.  I’ve been leaving the old chicken coop where they nest  alone, since the female is a little shy still, and I don’t want to stress her out.  We should know soon whether nesting was successful, as the flying lessons will begin with building up their muscles, like this exercise session from last year:

DSCF3435 - Copy

That is the female watching, and the juvenile practicing.  It still has a little bit of a fluffy ruff, and some fluffy bits of feather here and there.

So, awesome weekend, thank you to everyone who was so nice and friendly (I loved your jackets and clothes, and everything!), thank you to JYF and Cindy, and Chris. I love you all, and I show my love by posting pictures of vultures. *heart*

This is faintly disheartening…

“Cool”, I thought. “Zulily has a sale of Wonder Woman stuff”.*

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting quite so much stuff done by men, for men (and women who like looking at cheesecake images of heavily sexualized women) (not as many of those as guys, because, feminism). I wanted more “Super/Divine Power/Goddess”, and not so much “Boobs/Boobs/Men don’t understand that women’s bodies don’t actually bend like that/Boobs”.

In a genre where a lot of men think women don’t belong (sci-fi, comics, the internet), we suddenly have a superheroine that doesn’t make us think “oh, yeah, that character exists only for men to drool over and be rescued by the menz”. Even though there’s a lot more unpacking that can be done with Gal Gidot’s portrayal of WW, she, and the women who were Amazons, finally became inhabitants in a space that was created by women, played by women, and appealing to women. It hurts to know how seldom women get that.

And as a woman who has loved sci-fi, comics, and the internet since I was a kid, who went to Cons and made costumes, and wanted a female hero that was as good as, or better than, the male heroes around her, this WW is precious. I want girls to grow up loving the genre and not be forced to cosplay male characters because men still assume that women “just aren’t into that sort of thing”.

I love Lovecraft-genre short stories, too, and I have a number of anthologies and collected stories.  And there’s nothing I hate more than reading that a man thinks that there are no good female writers in the genre.**

I remember how much I was into all the same things the boys were into. I also remember the sexism, the harassment, the creeps, and the men who just dismissed my point of view because I was a girl, and “girls don’t get this stuff”. I cut my eyeteeth on John Wyndham (look him up), Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein, and Lovecraft. As soon as I knew how to read, I was drawn to horror and sci-fi.  I still am. I love a good Charles Stross novel, or John Scalzi.  Hell, I even think Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters International series is fun. I re-read books over and over, savouring the good bits, picking up anthologies just to read a particular short story again (Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette’s Mongoose, The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward, and Boojum are among my favourites, found in various Lovecraft-themed anthologies). But every time I think we have moved on from this nonsense, it just comes back around again.

Wonder Woman is not a fucking Pin-up.

*I’m not linking. I refuse.  There’s some good stuff, if you want to find it, you can do it.

**I’m looking at you, S.T. Joshi. Twenty-one stories and only four by women?  Weak.

This is how “I’m going to quit smoking!” goes.

(That’s a link to #19 is probably the closest, helped right now by my attempts to cut down on the amount of anti-anxiety stuff I take.  For me, smoking isn’t about the nicotine rush, it’s entirely about the break I get to take where no-one will come near me and I can perform a soothing, repetitive task for 5-10 minutes (depending on how fast I burn that sucker down to the filter).  I’ve tried to substitute other things, and I’ve tried just taking the break, but neither work.  The flick of the lighter, the inhale and exhale, and the occasional attempts to blow decent smoke rings, they’re all part of the soothing process.  It even has a built-in time limit, which is great, because I know how long I can absent myself.

No, it doesn’t make sense to anyone else except other anxious smokers, and yes, I know the downsides.  I tried nicotine-free vaping, but the clove “juice” smell was nauseating (as is calling vape liquid “juice”. eurrrggggh).  Also, there’s no built-in end to the vape, and the need to check my watch/phone for the time just throws me back into anxiety.

I smoke when I’m stressed, such as this week, where I’m trying to put together new jewelry to sell at 12th Night (I’ll be selling jewelry at 12th Night!  I have lots of Czech glass earrings, only $2/pair!), or over Christmas, when we had family.  Or, further back, before Gardiner’s Muster.  Or Jamestown.  Or, or, or.  There’s always something, especially now that getting sick has a catastrophic effect on my energy levels, and all I can do is read on the sofa and sleep 10+ hours a night.  My list of things that I want to do (including, but not limited, to: Finishing that Damned Jacket, new patterns for RH!, hey, I had a book idea, and oh, I have no income, I need to put this jewelry stuff on-line so I can get funds) is getting so long that just revisiting it can trigger panic (short-lived, thank the holies, but still quite unpleasant), and an inability to do anything, as everything is important.

Smoking is so much more than nicotine – if it was just that, I’d save $50 and buy Marlboro lights (ugh). It’s calming, it’s a stress-reliever, and it keeps me sane, especially when I feel overwhelmed by noise or crowds.  I used to be able to keep it to Pennsic, but in the past three/four years, it’s become harder and harder to let it go, even for a week.  Even when I hate the taste and smell of old cigarettes (technically they’re cigars, but we all know they’re cigarettes, Djarum), even when I chew masses of gum to get the taste out of my mouth, even when I know they’re so very, very bad for me, they’re essential to my mental health.

I don’t drink to excess (I hardly drink at all; months will go by without a taste of alcohol), I only take the drugs I am prescribed, and I don’t go in for dangerous things – I’m generally pretty risk-averse. I wish Parkour was as calming, I’d be in much better shape (I’m thin, but flabby).  But it’s not, and I can’t find anything else that works that magic.

Pity me, but don’t lecture me.  I know what I’m doing, and I know the risks.

I run into things

I have massively poor proprioception. The big fancy word simply means that I run into things. A lot. I can’t tell where my body is in relation to furniture, people, or random door frames.

At any given time, I am sporting two to five bruises, mostly on my legs. Before Bob put night lights in the bedroom, I managed to walk – at full speed – into the wall right next to the bathroom door. I thought I knew where I was, but nooooo. I rattled an expensive print in its frame (and left nose prints on it), and skillfully bruised both my chin and my forehead.

The night blindness would be enough on its own to cause me issues, but with the clumsy, it just gets slightly comic, if painful.

What the hell, bruises and wounded dignity heal.

Just don’t be surprised when I curse and start rubbing my shin.

I Can’t Do It, I Just Can’t.

I keep trying to watch the “Twilight ” movies; Bob’s youngest granddaughter loves them, and they made a ton of money, and women all over the US have been endlessly creepy about the male stars.

Oh my God, I hate them. A lot of better writers have written reams about why the movies suck so very, very bad, and there’s not really anything new I can add, but I have to add it anyway. I’m a decade late and a Pentagon’s  budget-worth of dollars short, but whatever.

The writing is bad. Not much of a stretch to say. Kristen Stewart is more wooden than a Pacific forest, again, hugely original, I know. I have a friend who has a theory that women over 18 who love the books and/or the movies have unsatisfactory relationships, and I can kind of see why. The only way the relationships could seem romantic is if you’ve either never had a good relationship, or you’ve not had any relationships at all. Again, not really news to anyone who has been following popular culture for the past ten years.

I love the “Harry Potter” movies, even though I’ve never read the books (and probably won’t, barring being stuck at a hotel with nothing else to read). I didn’t see any reason (at first) why the Twilight movies would be different; after all, movies often don’t bear much resemblance to the books they’re based on. Get a good director in, a couple of re-writes, and lackluster stories can become quite entertaining.

I don’t really care if I think they suck; I’m definitely not the target audience for this stuff. I’m not in the position of being jealous that an inferior writer managed to create one of the blockbuster hits of our time.

(If I ever managed to write more than a blog post, I’d have a leg to stand on. As it is, hey, if she can do it, maybe I can, too.)

But one thing I must speak to, and I speak to it from a position of strength. People who are deeply, intensely in love don’t act like that. Even if one of them is fighting against it, people in love act like they’re in love, dammit! Even if they’re trying to hide it from everyone, they can’t help being obviously, madly, in love.

The thing that drives me crazy is that neither Stewart nor Pattinson seem even vaguely interested in each other. Taylor Lautner runs rings around both of them without even trying. If I was at a party, and I was trying to figure out who was in love with whom, I would never believe that Bella and Edward were engaged. If you told me they were in the throes of a love affair for the ages, I’d laugh disbelievingly. Jacob in the middle of a miserable crush that makes him cry himself to sleep every night? Oh, totally, poor guy. But those two? Nah.

When you’re in love, deep, true, believing it will last forever, love? It shows. You can’t hide it, it’s like trying to hide a klieg light with a sieve. You glow, even when you’re trying not to with all your might.

People who are in love should expect so much more from a relationship than depressed glances and manipulative crises caused by a complete inability to think logically. When you love someone, it shouldn’t hurt all the time. If it does, something is seriously wrong.

And we should want better for our young people – remember, Romeo and Juliet aren’t role models, they’re a cautionary tale. Bella and Edward aren’t romantic, they’re sad. Vampires might be cool when you’re a powerless teenager and you’re afraid of never being loved, but real love is so. Much. Better.

So much.

But Then I found Rapier…

The day rapier fighters moved into the barony, my life changed forever. I didn’t know it at the time, mind you. I barely noticed.

At first, I was just interested in learning how to fight. There was no way I could ever have fought armored; even if I managed to get the knights to talk to me (a feat in itself), I could never have been any good. But rapier, that I could learn. It even looked like the stuff I grew up on, and the books I loved (at that particular point, The Lord of the Rings and the Amber novels). I might have been short, fat, and almost entirely sedentary, but I wanted to swing a sword.

So, rapier held some promise as a skill I could learn. It took me a little longer to realize that I had found a bunch of guys that laughed at my jokes and actually seemed interested in the things I had to say. They were funny, and clever, and cute, and they liked girls. And not just for dating, but as friends. It was life-changing for me (in more ways than one).

It was the laughing at my jokes that first won me over, though.

I had found my tribe.