Thursday, August 29, 2013

CNE Photo Essay

I went to the Canadian National Exhibition with my aunt, the horse lover.  My aunt's first priority, naturally, was a visit to the Horse Palace.  This first picture is of the mounted police's horse stables.  I post this mainly for scale: note the height of the half-doors over which the horsies are hanging their heads.

There was a miniature horse exhibition on just for the weekend, and I was lucky enough to get to meet some of the teeny ponies.  This little fellow is standing next to a half-door that's around the same height as the ones above. He weighs less than 200 pounds.

The miniature horses' little hooves clopped delicately as they walked on the concrete floor.  Some of the families that had brought wee horses to show had also brought their dogs.  You had to look twice to see whether it was a dog or a horse walking on a lead, because they were almost the same size.

Here's a momma mini-horse and her 3-month-old baby.

The foal was for sale for $800.  What?  That's less than some purebred puppies!  I was very tempted to take him home.  He would certainly turn heads on public transit.

Speaking of animals out of context, this bear wasn't feeling well, poor soul.

We met a baby snowy owl with amazing, bright yellow eyes.

Next up, in a refrigerated display case: butter sculptures!  Who recognizes the first one?  Clue: He's Canadian and that big collar is where his space helmet attaches to his space suit.

I have to say, those are the best butter sculptures I've ever seen.

Next up, a one-month-old calf.  He was moving his lips in his sleep as though he were dreaming about drinking milk.

6-month old cow.  My, they do grow up quickly, don't they?

Piggies, or, judging from the themed food at this year's fair, perhaps I should refer to them as "pre-bacons".  Oh yes, there was a lot of bacon to be found in the food building.  Don't tell the piggies.

Turkeys, striking a pose.

Slightly disturbing potato people, "proving" that this vendor only uses fresh-cut potatoes for their fries.  Well, whatever they were made of, those fries, and the gravy, were delicious.

And that is pretty much all there is to tell of the CNE.  I didn't eat anything crazy, unless you count "fries for dinner" as crazy.  (It's certainly unusual, for me at least.)  We didn't ride the zip line.  My aunt bought a hot pack.  I didn't buy anything other than food and water.  There really wasn't anything that I wanted.  Just quality time with my aunt.  Awwwww!  But it's true, we had fun, and then went home before it got dark because we are a couple of old ladies.  :-)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fun Facts

Fun Fact #1:  Rugs aren't worth the trouble.

Years ago, Ken and I inherited six small, Persian-style rugs from his parents' house.  Some of them were pretty, others simply passable.  We had them cleaned and laid them out throughout our little condo.  They added a sense of warmth to the decor.

Recently we decided that it was time to have them cleaned again.  A Rug Guy came to our home, rolled up all the rugs, and took them away in his Rug Bus*.   (*actually a panel van.)  The place seemed a bit empty without them.

I stopped missing the rugs immediately the first time I vacuumed the house without them.  Our vacuum has a thingamajobber on the business end of the hose which has to be switched from one setting to another every time you transition from bare floor to carpet.  It was a huge pain to have to stop every few feet to switch from floor to rug to floor again.  I can't tell you how liberating it was to roll through our entire floor plan without having to switch settings once.

When the rugs came back clean, they went straight into the storage locker.  From there they were donated to a charity thrift shop.  Never again.  If I want warmth on my floors, I will put on slippers.

Fun Fact #2:  Surprise!  The bathroom smells great!

I picked up some environmentally friendly shower cleaner on sale.  The packaging is so minimal that I didn't notice that it was scented.  I used it for the first time this morning and it smells so pretty!  Maybe I should spray it on my wrists and use it as cologne?  I wouldn't have to worry about soap scum accumulation on my arms.

Fun Fact #2.1:  Fun Fact #2 was not a Sponsored Fact.

Fun Fact #3:  However bad your life is, the Weddell Seal has it worse.

I have been watching a lot of nature specials set in the polar regions this summer.  Snow always looks so refreshing when it's hot out.  Anyhoo, I learned about these seals that live in the Antarctic.  For some reason, (maybe they're not very smart), these seals do not migrate to warmer waters during the Antarctic winter.  They stay by the shore while ice builds up around them.  Eventually the ice gets so thick that they have to work at maintaining the edges of their breathing holes.  When the hole starts to shrink due to ice build-up, they widen it by scraping at the ice with their teeth.  According to David Attenborough's voice-over on this special, the Weddell seals spend so much time munching ice that they wear their teeth down, which makes it difficult for them to eat as they get older. Now that's a tough life.  I have spent a lot of time since seeing that nature special wondering about the meaning of a Weddell seal's life.  But I guess each individual seal has to figure that out for his or herself.

Here's another video, which doesn't mention the ice holes, but it does show cute seal babies:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bubbe Update

Last month, Elder Bubbe's residence was flooded.  All the seniors had to be evacuated to a nearby hotel, where they lived for a week until the residence dried out and had power restored.  Bubbe, true to form, regarded the event as an Adventure Vacation.  She's back at home now, and busy as ever.

I visited Bubbe after work on Thursday.  She's allowed to have dinner guests in the common dining room.  The rule is that Dinner Starts at 5:30 pm On The Dot and one mustn't be late!  The last time I went there I was delayed at work, and then I had to eat really fast to catch up with everyone else.  The kitchen staff is keen to serve all the courses, whisk away the dishes, and kick everyone out of the dining room so that they can go home.

Bubbe is assigned to a table which she shares with three other senior ladies.  When she has a guest, the staff sets aside a separate table for her, but she always insists on squeezing me in on a corner at her regular table.  I don't mind.  I don't need a lot of space, and her table-mates are good company.

Patricia has a plummy British accent, and most of her stories start with "During the war..."  She used to live on a largish estate, with horses.  Elizabeth is a friendly local.  Francis used to be a social worker.  Bubbe is the oldest among them by far, at 97, however she doesn't like to let the other residents know her age.  The younger seniors avoid making friends with the senior seniors, because they figure that just when they start to get attached to you, you'll up and die.  Sad, but true.

Dinner was potato-onion soup, followed by fish sticks with corn and french fries.  The portions are modest.  For dessert one could choose one of fruit cocktail, applesauce, or stewed prunes.  Bubbe went for the applesauce, because it makes her pills go down more easily.  At one point I looked over, and she had stuck a big, white capsule into the top of her applesauce cup, as though it were a maraschino cherry.  If I'd been prepared, I would have taken a photo of it.

After dinner we went up to Bubbe's room.  Despite the fact that we had just eaten a three course dinner, topped off with a cup of the world's most watery coffee, she immediately offered me refreshments.  I said that I was fine.  She managed to restrain herself for all of five minutes, but then she just had to put the kettle on, and go digging in her cupboards for biscuits.  She laid out a plate with a variety of cookies, biscotti, and chocolates.  I guess the habit of being the hostess has not worn off yet.

I noticed she had a project in her knitting basket.  I asked what she was making.  She showed me this pattern, which she is executing in sage green yarn.

OMG - so 80's!  This was the back of the pattern.  It actually looks pretty good once you add arms.

As usual, Bubbe was wonderful company.  She's clever, funny, and down-to-earth.  Before I left she had me promise to register on a particular website so that we can play Scrabble online.  I don't know what she's doing to be such a super-senior, but I hope she keeps doing it for a good while yet.

Friday, August 9, 2013


Life is full of surprises.  After a couple of bad surprises in a row, it's easy to forget that there are good surprises too.

Yesterday I discovered something unpleasant in the server room at work.  I went in there to tidy up a few things, and realized that it was in a much bigger mess than I'd realized.

Several years ago, at my work's old location, I didn't have a proper server room.  The most important computer, the one that kept the whole business up and running, was on a folding table in a storage room.  It wasn't the greatest set-up.  For example, someone's mouse would quit on them.  They'd go looking in the storage room for a spare one, they'd find one that "no one was using", and they'd steal it for their PC.  Yes, you have guessed it, they stole the mouse from the server.  People also regularly borrowed the boom box that "no one was using" - the source for the hold music on our telephone system.  Fortunately no major damage was ever done by these sneaky thieves.  But it wasn't ideal.

What was handy about having the server in the storage room was that I had a lot of shelving on which to store my extra computer bits and pieces.  I had everything organized in labelled boxes, and in bags within the boxes.  Every different kind of cable you can think of, adaptors, spare whatchamawhoozits, it was all there, and I knew where it all was.

Anyone who's ever had to look after a fair-sized computer network will realize that you can accumulate a lot of extra accessories in a very short period of time.  For example, let's say a printer goes to the big network in the sky.  You order a new printer to replace it.  It comes with a USB cable that connects the printer to the PC.  However, the old USB cable from the old printer still works just fine.  So you use the old one.  Same thing goes with monitor cables, power cords, mice (mouses?) and keyboards (included when you replace a PC), etc.  Not to mention that every item comes with a box full of packaging (bags, styrofoam, cardboard, instruction booklets, CD's, twist ties, bubble wrap, warrantee statements etc.).

You have to keep on top of that stuff or it'll add up pretty quickly.

When my server was in the storage room, everything was sorted neatly.  When we moved a few years ago, all my nicely labelled boxes were transferred to the new storage room.  And my servers were transferred to (*trumpeted fanfare*) a proper server room!  The new storage room isn't located next door to the new server room.  So what did my contract I.T. guys do with all the stuff I listed above?  They threw it into cardboard boxes in the corner of the server room, all higgledy-piggledy.   When a box got full, they just started a new one.

When I got into one of the boxes yesterday and started digging through it, I was stunned.  I thought that at least they were keeping the network cables in one box, the power cables in another, etc.  But no, there was no order to be seen.  I started pulling out fistfuls of tangled cables, multiple copies of identical driver CD's (you only need to keep one, if that), dusty spare parts, a surge protector with a dead beetle stuck to it....  I even found new things, inventory that I didn't know I had, because it was buried under old stuff.  Nothing major, maybe $150 worth, but still.

I called the contracting company and the woman on the service desk was adequately horrified by my story.  She apologized sincerely and offered to send someone help me sort out the mess.  I told her that I wanted to do it myself because I want to see exactly what I have in those boxes so I can decide what to do with it all, and update my inventory.  Those lazy guys who couldn't be bothered to stay organized are going to get in sooooo much trouble!  This is actually a good thing - it gives me a bargaining point for our next annual meeting to discuss their monthly fees.  If I can embarrass the sales guy enough he won't feel that he can bump up our rates.  Silver lining!

To balance that, here's a good surprise.  A temporary employee who just started has pleasantly surprised me.  He's only here for a couple of months to cover someone's medical leave, but he's caught on fast and is fitting in with the team like a hand into a glove.  He told me that while he was unemployed he spent some of his time writing letters to Canadian and American troops overseas, to encourage them.  Isn't that sweet?  He's one of those chronically under-appreciated people who is good-hearted and smart but doesn't look like he just walked out of GQ.  I (and my team) are super-happy to have found him, and he's obviously thrilled to be with us.  I wonder if I can find a way to keep him on once my other employee comes back from her medical leave?  We'll see.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Leopard is In

Yesterday I went for a walk and I took some pictures so that it would be like taking you guys along with me.  Are you ready?

The first stop was at my favourite shmata store.  Look at those prices!  Sun dresses for $6!  Hoodies for $13!  How could you go wrong?  Okay, I'll admit it, you could still go wrong.  But I did pick up a nice pair of pink sweatpants for my couch potato act at home.  They were a steal at $10, and they are very comfy.

I walked past the William Ashley store.  They may be snotty and overpriced, but they're not above using a pun for a window display.

Since I was in Yorkville, I took some notes on the latest fashions.  Stripes are still in.  Even basset hounds are wearing them.

Also, inexplicably, leopard spots are in.  Here is a sweater that says "Love" backwards and forwards, with three-quarter length leopard-print sleeves.  Is it just me, or are fashion designers getting desperate?  I mean, it seems like they'll do anything to produce original clothing, regardless of whether or not it actually looks good.


The mall is under renovation.  I guess they think this is cute.  Kind of a chick-lit book-cover style of shopping encouragement.  Ladies!  Don't let your enthusiasm be dampened by the scaffolding!

Here is the leopard look for men.  Are all you guys  paying attention?  I expect you to study the mannequin and make sure this look is in your wardrobe for Saturday night on the town.  Or maybe even casual Friday at work, if you're feeling bold.

I did not buy any leopard print anything.  I did manage to finally spend the rest of a gift certificate that I've been carrying around since my last birthday.  (It's almost my next birthday.)  I bought a new cardigan (fuchsia, summer weight) because I am of the opinion that I can never have too many cardigans.

Finally, I stopped in at the library, where I discovered another pun.  IMHO this one is better than William Ashley's.  I approve.