Chaos Attraction

Meeting Ada Lovelace

2018-12-16, 8:25 a.m.

This year I had three people express interest in going to Dickens Fair. Two bailed because it’s too expensive and the third had to go to a funeral and Mom decided last year she was bored with it.

Fine, I’m going by myself then! Jackie gave me tons of free one-way passes on BART if you only use them on weekends through December 31, so I drove to the nearest BART (an hour away), then took BART out and then took a shuttle ride to the Cow Palace.

I would like to point out that I did all of that in my Dickens outfit, which felt kind of strange to be out in regular public in. I buttoned up my coat and didn’t put the bonnet on until I got onto the shuttle with people dressed far more strangely than I. But on the way back it was pretty funny for that reason. I also briefly popped into a Joann’s to pick up safety eyes and the outfit was commented on. “Oh yeah, I left the bonnet out in the car.”

Dickens was lovely as ever. I think Mom is annoyed because she didn’t find much she wanted to buy. Well, some years I do and some years I don’t. I found a present for someone this year there and that’s all I got besides food, but you know what, that’s fine. I don’t have to blow shit tons of money at every damn craft fair. And with something like Dickens or RenFaire, you go for the experience.

(Note: a girl behind me in the bathroom line apparently goes to all the same events I do, and she was all, “We need something to go to between January and June,” and I was all “they probably don’t have any because of rain.” But that said, you could still do something in March...I think the steampunk convention goes then? I should try that one.)

I decided that this year since I didn’t have others coming along, I’d spend more time doing things I wanted to do that so far others have not. So I skipped the shows in the Victoria and Albert--I think I’ve pretty much seen them all-- and saw a guy’s magic and tricks act that was very good, and watched the Victorian and Albert Christmas tree presentation--she received ornaments of the two of them and hung them on the tree, with her higher of course. The dresses even matched! But mostly I hung out in the Adventurer’s Club for a few hours, which is something nobody ever wants to do when they come along with me.

The Adventurer’s Club is usually putting on some kind of interesting salon events. This year I attended a scientific presentation, a mutual interview between Michael Faraday and Countess Ada Lovelace, and an hour long fashion show. I also attended the Christmas salon hour for a while before biology overtook me and I finally had to cave in and leave and find the 1830’s privy. To be fair, they were reading aloud from a play and that was...a bit slower.

The fashion show seemed to have come from what I am guessing is various attendees in super period costumes being asked to come in and be judged. Two of them (I am guessing they might be related because they had very similar facial features) claimed to be from Sweden and Denmark and thus had a massive dramatic hate-on for each other and glared and lunged and made rude gestures at each other. That was my favorite part. Alas, neither of them won.

The scientific presentation was a hoot--they brought in various skulls/dead animals/props and reenacted how electricity works, how piranha fish eat you in 3 minutes, and how a certain spider kills you. This was all done by what I think were all supposed to be very prominent scientists of the day.

However, the thing with the Adventurer’s Club is that they have various people playing famous people of the 1830’s in there. And I was really touched by the Faraday/Lovelace conversational half hour. Faraday was apparently of the lower classes and had to self-educate himself, compared to the privileged upbringing of Ada. (Towards the end someone in the audience asked if Faraday would be willing to tutor Ada, she asked him, and he said he didn’t feel that he was that good in math because he was self-taught. A mutual tutoring was agreed upon.)

I can’t say I know enormous amounts of information about Ada, but she sounds cool. (She is also portrayed by a redheaded Renfaire actress I really like and think is cute, so that probably had something to do with it. That girl is great fun.) She talked about never knowing her infamous father and only knowing that her mother was very mad at him, and steered her into math and science and away from poetry, and she never even saw a portrait of the guy until she was about to be married. She talked about how few women there were in science* and how exciting it was to work on math, and what it was like to get to know Charles Babbage and how she originally seemed to find him kind of bunky until she realized where he was going with that.

* note: during the earlier scientific presentation, one girl was bugging the shit out of her friend to join in, saying that “Lady Lovelace would be very disappointed in you!” for not doing it. It eventually happened.

So it was kind of almost like meeting a celebrity in the past. I really was touched.

Oh, btw, the Dickens Fair has a TV Tropes page. I did not know this.

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