Saturday, June 30, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the bingo hall...

It had been ages since I played bingo with my friend Val, the Bingo Queen.  So, when she asked me if I'd like to go on Friday, I didn't hesitate.  I had bought my own dabbers since our last outing, and I was looking forward to cracking the seals on those puppies.

Val and I played one game starting from 4 pm.  Then our respective menfolk joined us for the second game starting at 7 pm.  All told I was at bingo for six hours.  That's quite a lot of bingo.

I'll spare you the tension: we didn't win one red cent.  We gambled every which way from Tuesday: the regular book games; the "specials"; the X,T, and L bonuses; the Toonie Pot; and lots and lots of Balls.  What did we have to show for it at the end of the day?  Bupkis.

(I just looked up the meaning of "bupkis" to make sure I was using it and spelling it correctly, and discovered that it is derived from a Yiddish word meaning "goat poop".  That sounds about right.)

I remembered from our last visit that the bingo hall contains a small cafeteria.  I was going to need to put some dinner in my belly at some point.  I figured I was covered.  When we arrived, around 3:30 pm, I took a spin through the food vending area to see what was on the menu.

Greasy, breaded fish filets and limp fries in steam trays.  Also, some kind of dark meat cutlets, identified as "Salisbury steak", sitting in a sauce of caramel-pudding-like consistency and colour.  If that was any kind of steak, I'm Justin Bieber's mom.

I hoped very hard that this was the dregs of the lunch menu, and that there would be something fresh come dinnertime.

6:30 rolled around and there was a break between games.  I moseyed on over to the cafeteria, and guess what was sitting in those steam trays?  The same food that was there when I last took a peek, 3 hours previously.

Fortunately I discovered that they would make a BLT to order, if I was willing to stand and wait for it.  I was.  Actually, it was a darn good sandwich.

I'm surprised by how much tolerance I had for bingo this time around.  Oddly, because I wouldn't have considered it a "skill", my ability to play bingo has improved.  It's not as confusing or as stressful as it used to be.  I can even carry on a simple conversation while keeping up with the caller.  I won't necessarily be paying attention to the pattern we're aiming for, but Val keeps an eye on my cards.  Even reading them upside-down across the table she can tell better than I how close I am to a win.

There's something meditative and comforting about marking off the numbers with nice round, bright circles of coloured ink.  It's aesthetically pleasing.  I always pick a dabber colour that will complement the colour of the cards.

Next time Val said we're going to go to a different hall that's less crowded.  Fewer players = a higher chance of winning.  We've been to the other hall before, around 2 years ago.  Their cafeteria was better.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Annoyingly Vague Post

There's some top-secret stuff going on at work.  I'm in on the secret, but I can't talk about it with anyone, even here under my pseudonym, just in case.

Sorry to be vague.  God knows I'd love to spill my guts, but all I can say is that there's a lot at stake, and it's stressing me out.  The one thing taking up most of the real estate in my head right now is something I can't share.

The Big Computer Project is still lurching forward from one delay to the next.  I'll hear from my project manager that the data guy says the data is all good now.  So I'll log in to the test site to check it out for myself, and sure enough, the data guy hasn't got a sweet clue.  Data guy likes to skim my e-mails, and more often than not he misses one essential detail that makes the difference between "all good" and "are you kidding me here?"

I'm doing a lot of deep sighing, sometimes with my eyes closed for extra serenity now.

Nothing else is really registering deeply with me at the moment.  I'm sleeping alright, putting healthy food in my belly three times a day, talking to people, and taking in various forms of entertainment, but I'm not all there.  I feel like part of me is in suspended animation, waiting to find out how all the top-secret rigamarole is going to turn out.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Wedding

My sweet cousin, who I still think of as an apple-cheeked toddler, got married on Sunday, to a nice, young Jewish lawyer.  I wore my fancy dress.

The whole event went smoothly.  In fact, I was shocked by how well it went, considering that my family can be a bunch of drama queens.

The bride was gorgeous, the decor was classy, and a live band raised the roof all night.  This was the first party I've ever been to where the dance floor was packed before the appetizers were even served.  The food was good, especially the mini-burger hors d'oeuvres.  What more could one ask for?

If I had one complaint, it would be the seating arrangements.  My uncle is involved in the family business that I work for, and I got stuck sitting at the Professional Contacts table.  I was across the table from a work friend of mine and her boyfriend.  The rest of the table was filled with people I see enough of at work.

I was seated next to a "wife of".  She's a very nice lady who always picks an excellent gift for her husband to pass along to me every Christmas.  Her taste in home decor is flawless.  Unfortunately her taste in dinner conversation leaves something to be desired.  She decided that the main course was the best time to tell me the story of her recent bout of c. difficile

As I attempted to swallow a mouthful of chicken, she leaned close to my ear and confided about how it had been "so embarrassing... you know...  it happened in the elevator, at the supermarket..."  I had no idea if she was telling me that she had tooted big smelly farts in public, or if she had actually pooped her pants, but I didn't care to ask.  I'm not terribly squeamish, but I really would have preferred just about any other topic while I was eating.

Later I told my mom, and she said that the last time she had dinner with this lady, she was treated to the same story.  What is up with that?  I'm all for people being honest and talking about the tough stuff, but there's a time and a place.

We all got a chance to do a lot of dancing.  When the first hora dance started up practically the entire room rushed onto the dance floor.  It was so packed that there almost wasn't enough room to form the circles.

Even my 92-year-old buby got in on the action.  When the song was all done, she was feeling a little warm.  The slightly sheer, colourful blouse she was wearing had come with a black shirt to wear underneath.  However, she had forgotten to put on that layer when she was getting dressed.  She didn't realize that she was only wearing one shirt.  She had every button on her top undone by the time my mom and my aunt caught her in the act.  They were both collapsing with laughter as they hastily buttoned her back up again.  My buby also had a chuckle at herself.  We kept warning her the rest of the night: Buby - no more stripping!

Before the night was over there was a sweet table, speeches, slow dancing, fast dancing, and a conga line.  You know it's a good party when there's a conga line.

I think my cousin picked a keeper.  I wish them all the best.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Shoe Museum Photos

I went to the shoe museum. It was kind of disappointing.  I understand that they have to control the environment to ensure that the shoes don't deteriorate, but I'd by lying if I said that being chilled and squinting in the dim lighting was enjoyable.

A lot of the shoes were quite worn out.  I guess I expected that the restoration experts would be able to work miracles.  If I saw some of those shoes sitting on an old tablecloth for $2 a pair at a lawn sale, I don't think I'd be interested; they were that beat up.

Some of them had been worn by famous people, like Elton John and Pierce Brosnan.  I wasn't impressed. I'm not the kind of person who gets excited by being in the same room as one of Marilyn Monroe's stinky old shoes.  I mean, they're just shoes after all.

The space boot that had actually been to the moon and back was neat.  I didn't take a snapshot of it because the lighting was extra-crappy in that area.

Photo highlights of my visit:
(Taken legally - photos were allowed so long as one did not use a flash.)
SQUEAMISH PERSON ALERT: The first description displays my gross sense of humour.

A replica of the oldest shoe ever discovered.  When the original was found, it was still on the foot of a guy who had been naturally mummified.  He didn't look so good in the photos they had posted of him.  He appeared to be made of beef jerky, with the bones still in.  His shoe was made of bearskin, deerskin, and linden twigs.  Apparently they field-tested a replica, and found it to be quite comfortable and serviceable.

Itty bitty shoes for ladies who had their feet bound in China back in the day.  Ouch.

Itty bitty snowboots for bound feet.  Mercy!  Imagine tottering around on ice in these.

I shall quote from the text provided by the museum:

"During the Tudor age, the broad physique of King Henry VIII (1491-1547) set the fashion. Throughout Europe, the style-conscious abandoned the attenuated toes of the earlier period and began to wear broad, blunt-toed footwear known as "duck bills" or "cow mouth" shoes. At their most extreme, these wide-toed shoes could be almost as wide as they were long."

I can see "cow mouth shoes" as the next big trend in retro footwear.  Moo.

These shoes are from the 1920's display.  They are super-pretty and I would totally wear them.

These are French, from the mid-1920's and caught my eye on account of their intricate floral embroidery.  So lady-like!

These are from the Roger Vivier (1907 - 1998) collection.  He was a French fashion designer who specialized in shoes, and is credited with the design of the first stiletto heel in 1954.  Some of his shoes were designed not to be worn, but to be appreciated instead as works of art.  He drove the point home by only making one shoe instead of a pair.

Bird shoe.  Awwwk!

So there you have it!  Shoe museum: done.  Once was enough.  I'm discovering that I'd like to hang out in the Art Gallery of Ontario for a few hours every week.  But shoes?  I'd rather just go shopping for them.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Go Team Go

My stay-cation has been restful, however not very exciting.  I have been doing a lot of sleeping, some shopping, socializing, and that's about it.  Pleasant times, but nothing substantial.

I've been checking my e-mail every morning and working from home around an hour each day, in order to keep some time-sensitive projects on track.  There are some meetings that I'm going to be attending when I go back to work, and I need to talk to my boss about how we're going to approach them.

My workplace is divided into regular staff and fancy professionals.  The regular staff is there to provide services to the professionals, so that the professionals can make money, and pay their overhead fees, which cover the staff's payroll.

My boss's approach for many years was:  The professionals are the geese that lay the golden eggs.  Give them whatever they ask for to keep them happy.  They are not employees, so we can't order them around.  They could go work elsewhere if they chose to.  If they are demanding, so be it.  If the staff don't like it we can also go work elsewhere if we choose to.

As of the past few months, things have changed.  For reasons which I won't get into, the company can't afford to give the professionals everything they want anymore.  The professionals, who are used to being asked "how high sir?" when they tell us to jump, aren't happy with this.  And my boss is not feeling sympathetic.

I can see the professionals' point of view.  They're used to receiving a certain level of service for their overheads, and no one consulted them about a change in the unwritten contract.

I can see my boss's point of view.  Times are tough, and everyone is having to buckle their belts one notch tighter.

The problem is that my boss appears to want to fight things out with the professionals. He's frustrated because they don't want to change.   He's tired of placating them and giving in.  But instead of approaching things assertively, he's gotten aggressive with some of them.  And he's encouraging the staff to do the same.  When an employee "takes a stand" or "holds her ground" in a conflict with a professional, he's on the employee's side, cheering and waving pom-poms.  And everyone's getting into it.

It feels like living on a reality TV set, where everyone is encouraged to take sides and dig in their heels for a good, sweaty struggle.  Some people are enjoying the juiciness of the drama.  The employees are understandably gleeful at getting a chance to tell off the professionals.  The professionals are not going to take this lying down.

People.  Keep your shirts on.  Has anyone ever heard of the phrase "solution-oriented problem solving?"  Say it with me!  There, I knew you could.

There is nothing to be gained from the type of confrontations I've witnessed thus far.  Fighting fire with fire is only going to burn down the office.  There must be a way for us to converse about the situation as mature, reasonable adults, yes?  Fortunately my boss is open to strategizing with me on possible approaches to these confrontations before we stage any more of them.

I don't like reality shows on TV.  I certainly don't like the feeling that I'm living and working in one.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Adventures in a Nutshell

What, you may ask, has Spark been up to lately, when she is not working and/or eating bagels? (Oh, sweet bagels, how I missed you...)

A few things.  Such as:

I took my mom to a concert for her birthday.  We didn't rock out.  This was an event in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  The choir of an Anglican church sang hymns and ritual favourites such as God Save the Queen. An organist struggled through Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance.  We sat as still as possible in the old wooden pews, trying not to make them squeak, and sweated like professional wrestlers because there was no air conditioning.

I went to the Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  I didn't know much about Picasso.  To me he was that guy who painted an ugly cubist woman with a big nose and both eyes on one side of her face.  As it turns out, he painted in a range of styles throughout his career, and when that got boring he took up sculpture.  There was so much to see that I only got through 5 of the 7 rooms in an hour, and after that I got art fatigue.  I'll have to go back a second time to see the rest.

I have one message for anyone who might be attending that exhibit:
It is crowded.  You want to get up close to the artwork to get a good look at it.  However, if you stand right behind me with the toes of your shoes touching the heels of my shoes, when I turn to move to the next painting I will step on you.  Nothing personal, but please, if you can read this, you're standing too close.

I've been shopping online at LL Bean, and I'm officially hooked.  They offer the best selection of colours.  Most stores in malls only have two or three trendy colours on the rack each season.  I find this depressingly boring.  I need variety!  My latest acquisition is this in "bright capri" (their fancy name for "blue"), and it is my new favourite shirt.

What else is going on?  Well, I have this upcoming week off for my first staycation in a while, so something is bound to happen.