Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thoughts of the Week

1)  I have a favourite pair of comfy pants and a favourite comfy shirt that I wear around the house.  I bought them from different stores at different times.  They both developed holes this week.  :-(  What is up with that?  *sulks*

2)  On Thursday I was exposed to undercooked chicken, courtesy of a catered lunch at my workplace.  Among the other dishes, there were cubes of meat that had obviously been cooked on kebab skewers.  I took four.  Because I'm kind of paranoid about food that I haven't prepared myself, I cut them in half before I ate them.  The last one was red inside.  Not pink, not ambiguous - full-on raw.  Then I couldn't remember if I'd checked all of the other pieces.  I felt a little nauseated and nervous.  So did the people around me, who'd been merrily eating away without a care in the world until that moment.  I Googled "salmonella" and found that it normally has an incubation period of 6 - 72 hours.  I am now at hour 73!  And I'm fine!  Take that, salmonella.

3)  I've been doing a lot of hiring at work recently; I've filled three positions in the past month.  In one of my latest interviews, one of the candidates had worked for a fancy retail store with a three-syllable name.  She consistently mispronounced the name of the store throughout the interview.  Wow.  Just, wow.  Well, that was an easy way to eliminate a candidate.  (And yes, English was her first language.)

4)  Relative to my husband and parents, I would describe myself politically as a left-leaning moderate.  However, the limits of my leftiness have been tested recently by our free, promotional subscription to the Toronto Star, Toronto's lefty daily newspaper.  Every year or two they drop it off on our doorstep for a couple of months gratis, and then they call and try to talk us into a continued subscription.  Ha!  Not happening.  I just can't get with their point of view.  For example, they wrote  an article about a "Pumpkin Parade" that's a tradition in a neighbourhood park.  It used to be that people would show up with jack-o-lanterns to display, everyone would admire them, and in the morning city workers would show up to remove all the pumpkins from the park.  The city says they will no longer pay for the clean-up.  The citizens are pouting.  Hey, I have an idea: clean up your own mess!  Everyone who wants to contribute a pumpkin can write their name on it with a marker, and in the morning they're responsible for returning to the park to dispose of their pumpkin. Remember kids: it's your job to clean up your own toys!  Are you guys with me on this?

5)  I don't know who curates the contributions to The Meta Picture, but a lot of them really tickle my funny bone.  Like this one.  Or this one.  And this one.  Have fun!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Toner Bomb

I work with a woman; let's call her Stella.  Stella was using one of our fax machines when it ran out of toner.  She retrieved a fresh bottle of toner from the supplies cabinet, gave it a little shake, and installed it in the machine.

The machine said "I am out of toner.  Give me toner."  Stella said "I just gave you a bottle of toner."  The machine said "Give me toner or I will not perform any further duties."

Stella reasoned that that particular bottle of toner must be faulty, so she retrieved a different bottle from the supplies cabinet, gave it a little shake, and installed it in the machine.  The machine said "I am all out of toner.  How do you expect me to print anything for you when I don't have any toner?"  Stella said "I have just given you a second, brand new bottle of toner.  What more do you want from me?"  The machine answered "I must have toner, woman.  Give me toner or give me death."

Stella retrieved the third, and last, spare bottle of toner from the supplies cabinet.  As indicated on the instructions, she gave it a little shake and installed it in the machine.  The machine said "Why do you deprive me so?  All I ask for is a little toner so that I can do my job.  Do you delight in my empty cartridge?  Are you mocking me?"  Stella said "I promise you, I am trying to give you toner.  Can't you acknowledge the new bottle I just put into you?"  The machine wouldn't answer her.

Stella, according to her version of the story, then presumed that she must not have shaken the bottles of toner with sufficient vigour to activate them.  She removed the third new bottle, replaced the lid firmly (she claims), and then shook it very vigorously.

The lid flew off.  The plastic dispenser under the lid also flew off.

A huge plume of super-fine toner dust exploded into the copy room and spread out like a mushroom cloud.  Stella froze.  The haze of particles swirled lazily, and slowly began to settle.  Stella paused for one moment, in the evil inverse of a well-shaken snow globe, and then ran from the room.

Due to the laws of aerodynamics, a considerable amount of black toner cloud was sucked from the room into the hallway, in Stella's slipstream.

By the time the dust cloud had settled, there was a big, BIG mess.  Toner all over the floor, the walls, the surfaces, the copy machine, the papers that were spread out on the file cabinets.  The layer of toner under the epicentre of the explosion was thick, splashed out in an uneven star shape, as though there had been an actual fire that had burned its mark into the floor.

Of course it was my responsibility to deal with the problem.

First I called the technician that services the machine.  He said he'd get there as soon as he could.  (That turned out to be 2.5 business days later.  Nice service, guys!)

I also called the guy who runs our cleaning service.  He said "Hey, no problem, I have a shop-vac with a HEPA filter.  We'll have you ship-shape by tomorrow."  (You can't use a regular vacuum to clean up a big toner spill because the fine powder will sift through the bag into the motor and break it.)  I felt extremely relieved to learn that he could help me.

I came in the next morning and the room looked exactly the same.  I called the cleaner and he said "We had a little problem with the shop vac.  I think I have another one in storage. I'll try again tonight."

At this point I was desperate to get the situation cleaned up.  The mess in the hall was getting tracked all over the office, and we were missing the use of the copy room.  You can't sweep toner (it's too fine) or clean it up with water (it turns into black paint), so I did the only thing I could think of.  I went to the store and bought a 32-pack of Swiffer (TM) dusting cloths.  Then a co-worker and I put on masks and rubber gloves and went down on our hands and knees to Swiffer the floor.

We used up the 32 dusting cloths in pretty short order.  We managed to clean up a little less than half of the mess.  My mask wasn't very well-fitted.  I had a sinus headache that evening, and I sneezed toner dust for a few hours.

Thank heaven, my cleaner's second shop vac did the trick.  I arrived the next morning to a perfectly clean copy room.  Apparently I needn't have bothered with the Swiffers.  However, in case you ever run across a similar situation, they are pretty handy at picking up toner.  I just wouldn't recommend them for the scale of the explosion in my particular case.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Grand Tour

Today I met a girlfriend at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  We timed our arrival to coincide with one of the gallery tours.  The website said that it would be one of the following: African; Canadian; Contemporary; or European.  Luck of the draw!  Good enough for me.

As it turned out, they had lots of volunteers on the schedule for today, so we got to choose between all four tours.  My friend elected to view the African art.  I was game.  I'm always happy to learn something new, about any subject.

The tour guide seemed warm and friendly.  That was encouraging.  She brought us into the gallery and explained that the entire collection was donated by a man by the name of Murray Frum.  Then she told us a bit about herself while we milled about in the gallery entrance.  A couple of people wandered a few steps over to a case to admire some terra cotta figures.  Our guide said "Those are the terra cotta figures."  Yes, thank you.

Okay, moving along...  We stepped into the gallery proper.  She gestured at some masks hanging on the wall.  "Those are masks," she told us.  "They were used in rituals."  Huh, sounds interesting.  Tell us more!  She peered at the printed explanation on the display.  "These are from the Ivory Coast," she read to us.  "They are from the 1700's or 1800's."  Er, fascinating.

She brought us over to a sculpture of a male and female figure.   Can you guess what she told us next?  "This is a sculpture of a man and a woman.  The man is touching the woman, symbolizing that they are connected."  One of the visitors asked "Why is the man's torso represented by a rectangle and the woman's is more detailed?"  "Because," our guide told us, brilliantly demonstrating an example of 'begging the question', "his shoulders are squared off."

The rest of the tour continued in the same vein.  For the most part, our guide seemed satisfied to lead us around the gallery, pointing out the obvious.  "This chair is decorated with shells."  "This mask has three noses and four eyes."  She would have been the woman for the job for a tour group comprised of blind people.

We all politely stuck around for the full half-hour.  This lady was so sweet, none of us wanted to hurt her feelings.  We wandered around a bit and read the display blurbs on our own.  They weren't much more help.  Most of them gave a country of origin and a two-century approximate time-span, and that was about it.  Some of them described the materials as "hair" or "plant fibre" without specifying whose hair/fur or what type of plant.  I guess no one knows.

Once we were released from the tour, we wandered around the Canadian gallery, which was a much more satisfying experience.  There's nothing like a room full of snowy Group Of Seven paintings to make one look forward to winter.  (So white!  So blue!  So brilliantly sunny!)  Then we went to the cafĂ© where my friend had a coffee and I had the world's best banana chocolate chip muffin.

My friend and I plan to go back to the AGO again soon.  (My mom gave me her second membership card, so I can get myself and a guest in free anytime.)   Next time I'll offer to lead my friend on a tour.  "This is a painting of a woman.  It's in a gold frame.  It's pretty old, so she's wearing a big hat."  :-)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sick Husband

Ken has had a mild cold for the past few days.  He only had a sore throat and fatigue, and I thought he might bounce back pretty quickly, but unfortunately it has moved down into his chest.  When Ken gets a chest cold it triggers his normally dormant asthma.

When Ken's asthma comes on it can do so quickly and with a vengeance.  I have spent all morning listening to his coughing fits with close attention, trying to determine whether he's catching his breath again or whether I should dash to the phone to call 911.

Of course I called the pharmacy as soon as Ken's coughing fits started sounding like a drowning sea lion.  We had been careful to ensure that he had repeats left on both of his asthma medications.  Hey guess what!  He's been healthy and asthma-free for too long!  Since his remaining prescriptions were first written in 2009, the pharmacist can't fill them!  For the love of...

Given the choice between taking a cab to the closest urgent care centre (an Ontario government invention which is halfway between a walk-in clinic and an emergency room) or calling the MedVisit house call service, Ken elected to stay at home.  So now we wait for a travelling family doctor who will come by to assess Ken anytime between 1 pm and 10 pm.  I'm really hoping it's sooner rather than later.

It's pretty cool, and heaven knows I'm grateful that all these services, including the house call, are covered by OHIP (the Ontario Health Insurance Plan).  I just hate hearing Ken struggle to breathe.  It's so frightening.  Stupid College of Pharmacist regulations - why can't they just sell me a damn inhaler?

UPDATE:  Big shout-out to the travelling Dr. Rabindranath and our local pharmacist.  Ken is now medicated and feeling much better.  :-)

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Yesterday I visited my 96-year-old grandmother.  She never ceases to amaze me.  Her memory is at least as sharp as mine, and she's funnier than most stand-up comedians.

My grandmother signs her e-mails "Love, Bubbe".  Bubbe, or buby, or bubby, is a Yiddish word that doesn't have an official English spelling.  My other grandmother goes by Buby.  My mother has an odd habit of spelling it "Bobby".  Anyway, I was texting someone that I was visiting Bubbe, and my phone auto-corrected it to "Bubbles".

If you knew my grandmother, you'd understand why this is hilarious.  Bubbe is the least ditzy person you can imagine.  Sharp as a tack, practical and down-to-earth, she's just not the type of person you would nickname "Bubbles".  It's funny like the time I texted that I was on my way to a massage and got auto-corrected to "massacre".  Ah, nothing relaxes me at the end of a long day like a good hour-long massacre!

I haven't visited my other grandmother (Buby, or Bobby, as you prefer) in a while, not since my mother told me that they've been having trouble getting her to bathe.  Buby/Bobby has three daughters looking in on her almost daily, plus live-in caregivers.  She's batty enough to defer basic hygiene, but lucid and eloquent enough to resist all the stratagems everyone is using to try to get her clean.  I'm not sure what the next step will be, but I think I'm going to put off seeing her while she's stinky.  She's got lots of people paying attention to her.

Bubbe and I had a good time together.  I showed her my CNE photos, and then we figured out how to program speed-dial numbers into her new cordless phone.  She's good company.  I hope she doesn't decide to stop showering anytime soon.