A Call for Contributors

Greetings –

This is an open invitation to SCAdians who have Non-Christian personas to aid me in an on-going project.

I hope to feature a series of articles here on my website – Ouyang’s Desk – regarding the portrayal of religion in SCA personas/research. This includes garments, accessories, names, bardic, and other outward active portrayals, as well as research that might be presented for display.

I am interested in showcasing what are modernly minority religions, whether or not they were minorities in period or in a person’s region of interest. The fact that they are minorities now means that the majority of people do not have a good working knowledge of that religion and its symbols and other indicators. I see this primarily with Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but it could also be applied religions considered “pagan” by period, Christian authorities.

For example – while interfaith marriage in Judaism was historically frowned upon (as it was in many religions), the concept of being “ethnically Jewish” is a Nazi concept, stemming from historic antisemitism (see the Nuremberg Race Laws). To assume that all Jews everywhere in period were the same is erroneous and problematic – Judaism in period, in terms of foods, dress, and culture, was not a monolith. Middle Eastern Jews, Spanish Jews, English Jews, even Jews in northwestern China had the same religion, but differed in terms of dress, music, food, and other aspects of culture that were informed by their ethnicity and region.

There is also thought and discussion to be had regarding the portrayal of a culture wherein which the dominant religion is not one that the individual personally practices or adheres to. Religious practice also changes over time – so someone who identifies with the same religion as their persona is going to observe differently than their persona would have.

Lastly, in terms of oppression and other issues, how do we balance respect for history with recreating “only the best” of the middle ages, when events and issues like pogroms, inquisitions, and the Crusades, mean something entirely different for non-Christian personas?

Please consider this an open invitation for you to share your thoughts on this subject with a wider audience. I’d ask that you include information about your persona (SCA name with any titles, time period, region, etc.). Ideally, articles would be 500-2,000 words in length, and include citations if necessary. If you’re interested, I encourage you to reach out so we can start working together to make the SCA a more informed and inclusive experience for everyone.

If you have any questions or would like to contribute, I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours in Service,

The Honorable Ouyang Yingzhao

    Posts in your inbox?! The future!

    It was requested, so I have added a way to subscribe to new posts via email. Emails will only send when there is new content, and you know me – I don’t post every day. Three posts in March (including this one) is rare! My personal goal is once a month.

    Anyway, check out the form over there in the sidebar and enjoy!



    What Not To Say To Volunteers

    Master Thomas Paumer, current Meridies Parchment, and myself, a Former Meridies Parchment

    Congratulations! You have just been entrusted with an office/official role related to the logistical workings of the SCA. Whether it is chatelaine, seneschal, signet, class coordinator, event steward, or any of the other sundry jobs or responsibilities, thanks! Good for you! 

    But I want to warn you.

    Someone is going to come up to you during your tenure, probably toward the beginning of it, and you’re going to have a conversation along these lines:

    Them: “So you’re the new Person Who Does This Job?”
    You: “That’s right!”
    Them: “I’m sorry.”
    You: “…”

    I wish I knew what to tell you to say to people who do this, but I have no idea. Instead, I want to talk to the people who say this to people who volunteer to help make the SCA, you know, work.


    YEAH, YOU.

    Guess what? Volunteering for an organization is hard enough to manage when one has employment, family, and non-SCA obligations to fulfill. But when your reaction to volunteering is to pity a person for taking on a task or role, or to belittle volunteering and volunteers, you’re NOT HELPING.

    We are an organization that, without volunteers, would not exist. Stuff would not get accomplished. Events would not happen. Even local get-togethers would not happen.

    So please, please, please, stop being condescending, or trying to find dark humor in volunteering. I realize that some of this might come from you having had a negative experience when you held a similar role or responsibility, and I get that. And if that’s the case, by all means, share the wisdom of your experience without belittling the choice someone has made to volunteer. But that’s another issue we have – Information Transfer. Offer to help make the experience better for the people who do the job after you. There is no reason why a new officer/person with a responsibility should feel like they have to reinvent the wheel.

    Instead of giving a volunteer your “pity,” try saying “Thank you for taking on this difficult job. I did this job a while ago, so if you need any help or advice, feel free to reach out.”

    Or maybe, “I appreciate your service to our local group/kingdom/society. Thanks.”

    I would say “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” but NO. Sorry. That’s not going to fly. Because volunteers need support. I’m not talking about cookies from the Crown, I’m talking about grassroots, local support. These people are your friends. A simple thank you from all your friends gives someone the edification and endorphins that they need to be able to keep going.

    When you say “I’m sorry” and yet still want to have events to go to, feasts to eat, pretty scrolls for awards, tourneys to fight in, classes to take, or any number of the other things that we do in the SCA, you’re just being entitled and, frankly, whiny.

    You can either do the work or support the people doing the work. You can’t not do the work and also disparage the people who are doing it.

    Oh, you want some references and stuff? Here. Here’s some documentation.

    Managing Volunteers: A Good Practice Guide, by Citizens Information Board (2008) -PDF

    Tipping the scale – Unconscious Barriers to Community Engagement, by Brett Powell at TEDxChemungRiver – YouTube

    The Third-party Model: Enhancing Volunteering through Governments, Corporations and Educational Institutes, by Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Lucas C. P. M. Meijs, and Lesley Hustinx, (2009) – Journal article

    Inter-Library Loan

    Hey y’all. it’s been awhile. You look great! <3

    I want to talk about libraries and interlibrary loan.

    So first off, libraries are still crazy-relevant, even if you live in a small town and have weird research interests.


    Because of Inter-Library Loan.

    So when I think about ILL, I imagine covert library agents, usually wearing super nifty spy-gear, comparing legers and exchanging notes in seedy underbelly places. It’s very noir. In reality, it’s run by computer systems like WorldShare and iLLiad that link up the catalogs of various libraries so you can easily tell who has what and ask if they will pretty-please-with-sugar let you borrow it for one of your patrons.

    From the patron side, this is what you do:

    1.Fill out a little form (usually online, but sometimes still paper) telling the librarian what you want to borrow. 

    PRO-TIP: Double and Triple check that your library definitely does not have this item. Also, if the item is less than a year old, considered a textbook, or is a ebook, most libraries won’t/can’t lend it. Also, make sure it’s available from libraries near you – or at least libraries in your same country. Worldcat is GREAT for this. So do your homework before you fill out the form.

    PRO-TIP #2: Include AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU CAN. Publication date. Place of publication. ISBN. OCLC number (which you can find on Worldcat). The more information you provide, the easier it will be for the librarian to find what you’re looking for.

    2. Give the form to the librarian.
    3. Wait.
    4. Receive book.
    5. Read book. (If needed, ask the librarian to request a renewal at least a week out from the due date.)
    6. Return book on time.

    From the librarian side, this is what it usually looks like:

    1. Patron fills out form.
    2. You search for item in your ILL client.
    3. You find the item and a list of libraries who have it, along with how long they take to respond and whether or not they charge for ILL.
    4. You make a big long list (usually 5-10) of libraries you’re going to ask.
    5. Submit request.
    6. The first library in your list receives the request and decides whether or not they want to/can lend the item. If they say no, it passes to the next library in the list.
    7. When a library says yes, they click the appropriate buttons in the client, package the item, and mail it.
    8. Item is received at the borrowing library – stuff happens to it to keep track of it – and then the patron is notified that the book is available.
    9. Patron borrows book.
    10. Patron returns book on time.
    11. Book gets more stuff done to it to de-process it it, buttons get clicked in the client, and the book is returned to the lending library.
    12. Lending library receives book, checks it back in.


    I use ILL for titles that are 1) to expensive for me to purchase, 2) for a quick reference to see if it is useful/worth purchasing.

    Some libraries have a small fee associated with ILL, but this is just to cover postage. Some lending libraries charge (my most recent ILL cost me $10), but libraries tend to ask the “free” places first, and will ask you (the patron) about a charge ahead of time.


    On Non-Western European Shade

    (WordPress is broken. This will be cross-posted to my site there as soon as I can get my host to fix it.)

    Two years ago, Northshield went through a meme craze with the tag “We Are Northshield.” This was my submission.


    At the time, I hadn’t fully committed to a Chinese persona. (And frankly, I still cling to the whole Time Lord thing because there are far too many interesting things to research to nail oneself down, but I do admit to having my TARDIS stuck in 8th century China.) But now, my Chinese name is registered as my primary. So that happened.

    I say all this as an introduction to an issue that has been bubbling under the surface of SCAdian culture for some time now – the inclusion of non-western European personas/research.

    Years ago, it was Japan. Japanologists struggled to find acceptance within the SCA, and are pretty well established now. The Ottoman Empire, various eras of Persia, and even Mongols have found a niche.

    But there are still people who sneer and eyebrow and even go so far as to speak to non-European personas about how they’re presence is ruining their game.

    Pardon me, m’lady/m’lord One True Century.

    Until we can document time machines (or Time Lords, for that matter) in period, you’re not going to convince me that the 9th century Norse folks or the Picts aren’t ruining your game any more or less than me and my bevy of beautiful Tang Dynasty ladies, or the fabulosity that is Ancient Egypt or the Oyo Empire.

    (By the way, your silk Gothic fitted gown is gorgeous. Guess where sericulture was invented and refined before it made its way to you along a trade route that had been in existence for over two thousand years before your persona was even a glimmer in your mother’s eye.)

    That’s not even touching the point that while you, so entrenched in your Tudor or your 14th century wherever, have a veritable cornucopia of established, published, and verified research at your disposal, while we

    – have to scrape and struggle as we blaze new trails;

    – desperately search for English sources and translators for the non-English sources;

    – battle myth, “traditional,” and a dearth of citations; and,

    – do experimental archeology pretty much every time we pick up a needle and thread.

    We are brave for trying new things. For searching for nuggets to chew on and broaden the horizons of the SCA. For not wanting to do what has been done, but wanting to learn new things and share them. For trying to find a way to incorporate the equivalent of heraldry and sumptuary law into a system not equipped to handle us. For teaching new things to enrich everyone’s knowledge and experience.

    Does this make us better than you?

    Nope. Not saying that. Definitely do not want to get into a merit-judging match here.

    But it does not make us lesser.

    Shade is for lounging, not throwing.


    PDF vs EPUB for Comfortable Researching

    I need to replace my Kindle.

    It’s a first generation Kindle Fire which my husband bought for me for my birthday several years ago. I love it. I never thought I would like a Kindle, but I used my Fire all the time to read, watch Netflix, and even play the occasional stupid game. I even loaded PDFs for school onto it so I could do my readings on my lunch break without having to lug around a bunch of printed out PDFs.

    The trouble with PDFs on a Kindle is that you have to move around the screen in order to read everything, especially if the text is formatted into columns.

    After talking with Mistress Una the other night, I got the idea that it was probably possible to convert PDFs to EPUB, which is a much friendly format for e-readers. This would mean that you could read your journal articles and other PDFs (like the free MOMA books) in comfort wherever you read other things on your preferred e-reading device.

    A quick Google search turned up a Digital Trends article, How to Convert a PDF file to EPUB, which offers a few different options. I played around with ePUBator on my phone, but if there is a way to tell it where to save the converted file for easy retrieval, I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ve used Calibre for other e-book management features, so I’ve got that flagged as the next one to try.

    New Things

    I’ve added a few new things on the site in the last few days.

    Thing the First: The Tang Dynasty page in the Epic Timey-Wimey Garb Project has been updated with my research.

    Thing the Second: I’ve also added Construction notes for Tang Dynasty garments. Right now this is very female-centric.

    Thing the Third: I started configuring an archive of scribal stuff (awards, etc.), and I finally launched it today. It’s by no means complete – there are some descriptions missing, and I haven’t loaded in all the images yet. But it didn’t make sense to keep sitting on it. It’s the Scribal Archive link in the main navigation menu. This is basically an image gallery with descriptions of items I’ve made while doing this crazy scribal thing. As I continue to add to it to keep it updated, I hope to add more specific information about materials, etc.

    Things That Aren’t Scribal – The SCA Reference Desk

    Mundanely, I’m a librarian.

    That sounds really weird, because I feel like I’m a librarian no matter what I’m doing. It’s just part of who I am, you know? I just do it. At work, yeah. But in restaurants, cars, random conversations at home. Someone says something. I look stuff up. I share said stuff. It’s just me.

    I’m like a bending robot, only my bending is librarianship.

    In order to do librarian-stuff for the SCA that extends beyond helping friends who ask me stuff, I created a tumblr: SCAReferenceDesk.

    There’s some scribally stuff there, but there’s also a fair bit of heraldry and other random topics. I post things I find (like free ebooks and other cool sources) but I also answer questions.

    On the Scribal Desk

    Pinning Illuminations

    I really, really like Pinterest 1. For lots of reasons.

    I may or may not stalk people’s Pinterests boards so that I get to see when someone goes on an illumination-pinning splurge.  If I did do this, I would follow these boards:

    Scribal Scribinations
    Medieval Illuminaria
    Illuminated Manuscripts

    Lastly, I own a collaborative board for people to pin to.  If I re-pin illuminations, it is always to this board: SCA Scroll Inspiration/Sources

    But one of the easiest ways for me to get frustrated with Pinterest is when people do not pin responsibly.  Thankfully, when looking at pins related to manuscripts and illumination, most pinners are pretty responsible and actually pin the image where it lives in a library’s digital collection, or at the very least include a title and folio citation in their description.

    Let’s look at some examples!

    Continue reading “Pinning Illuminations”

    1. If you don’t know what Pinterest is, here is an explanation in plain English.