Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Feet Hurt and Toilet Update

Because it's important to write post titles that sound ever so inviting.

Good news!  The plumber I consulted about the toilet problems at my work assured me that no one's life is in danger.  The toilets are not going to go off like grenades, driving chunks of porcelain into some unlucky person's frontal lobe.  Although there is a dramatic noise when the bowl cracks, there's not enough pressure to cause a bona fide explosion.  Any bits and chunks that detach from the bowl will simply fall to the floor.  Phew!  That's a relief.

My feet hurt because Ken and I walked halfway to tarnation and back again today.  We have reached that phase of it's-not-yet-spring-but-we're-all-dying-of-cabin-fever-let's-go-out-ANYWHERE-WILL-DO so we ended up visiting two different conference-centre shows back to back.  Neither one blew our socks off, but it was better than bumming around the house.

The Green Living Show sticks to an eco-friendly theme.  I thought it was pretty neat that Samsung sponsored free admission for anyone who dropped off e-waste at their booth.  Exhibitors fell into a few basic categories:

  • Educational: This is how you recycle your old car tires.  Use less toilet paper.  Teach your kids about wood.
  • Selling Things:  Water filters.  Essential oils body butter. Other water filters.  Sprouting kits. YOU CALL THAT A WATER FILTER?  THIS IS A WATER FILTER.  Tie-dye yoga pants.  Water filters.
  • Selling Food:  Organic coffee.  Organic milk.  Organic chocolate.  Organic chocolate milk.  Organic milk chocolate.  Green sludge in a cup, and variants thereof.
It was busy, and felt busier because the show space was set up with unreasonably narrow aisles.  There wasn't much of anything there that I haven't seen lots of times before.  It was okay, though.  At least we got in for free.

The Artsy-Craftsy Show was more promising and therefore more of a disappointment.  I have been there once or twice before.  It seems like such a good idea, in theory.  One of a Kind!  Who can resist the chance to support local artisans while searching for unique treasures?  Unfortunately, it's gotten a bit predictable.  Truly unique designs are thin on the ground.  Things there are a lot of include:
  • Artisanal jams.
  • Hunks of homemade soap that look like they were chopped with an axe.
  • Whimsical infinity scarves.
  • Ornaments made of fused glass.
Can you picture it?  Ken summed it up as "stuff white people like", which is pretty accurate in terms of both the vendors and the customers.  There was a smattering of brown people, and quite a lot of French being spoken by artisans from Quebec and northern Ontario, but that's the extent of the diversity.

We didn't buy anything at the Artsy-Craftsy show.  But we did get out of the house!  We got fresh air and exercise!  We got a little sun on our pasty hides!  (At least the face parts.)

We did pick up a box of 12 fair trade, organic, gluten-free, beef-free, non-radioactive chocolate bars at the Green show, for half price.  Yum yum.  (I'm not sharing.  Get your own.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Now Hiring: Hydraulics Engineer

My African violet is so pretty today.  (Here are the buds of these blossoms three weeks ago, where it is pictured fourth from the top.)

So what's new in Sparkland?  Oh, you know, the usual litany of work drama and not much of anything else.

Things that have happened this week at work:
  • Someone, not part of our company, was invited into a closed-door meeting with the goal of eventual cooperation between their business and ours.  This someone promptly brought confidential and distorted information out of that meeting to another someone who shouldn't have heard it, causing a major poop-storm.  As is typical, although I didn't cause the problem, it fell into my lap initially to be dealt with. This took the form of trying to placate an almost hysterical colleague.  It was way more drama than I ever want in a day, and not any fun at all.
  • There has not yet been a flood.
  • In lieu of a flood, there was a water outage, forcing us to close the business for the better part of a day due to NO TOILETS.  
  • That evening, when the water came back on and the cleaners were doing their thing, a toilet exploded.  Seriously?  This is the second time that's happened in our unit!
So, like, from a health and safety perspective, what the heck am I supposed to do about this?  I Googled "How to prevent a toilet from exploding", but I couldn't find anything.  Fortunately, we were lucky again and no one was hurt, but...  One time is a fluke.  Twice makes a pattern.  It's the company's legal responsibility to take all possible precautions to prevent anyone from being injured.

(I'm not sure how much force was behind the explosion: whether it was enough to embed a chunk of porcelain in someone's skull [I doubt it/hope not], or "only" enough to cause lacerations.  I'm going to check in with the unlucky cleaning lady on Monday to get her eyewitness report.)

So, what protocol can I possibly implement that would be effective?  Call a bomb squad to come flush all our toilets after every water outage and before we open our doors to staff and customers?  Buy a protective body suit for staff to wear while doing a post-outage "flush sweep"?  

I was wondering if there's some way to rig a system to pull the flush levers while standing outside each bathroom door, and I actually figured out a way that might work for the stall setup, but couldn't picture it for the single-seaters.

I'm going to take it up with a plumber next week, and see how far that gets me, but if anyone has any bright ideas I'd be happy to hear them.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Big Melt

The roof over my workplace is a flat, black field of tar.  Every winter it gets hidden under a permafrost of ice and snow.  And every spring, just like the roads, it expands, heaves, and opens a delightful variety of leaky spots.

It has become so predictable that on Friday, when I saw rain in the forecast for Saturday, I rolled up my sleeves and cleared out the storage room that tends to get the worst soaking.  All my extra boxes of paper stock and other water-sensitive stuff came up off the floor, or moved into the conference room.  The shipping boxes may look ugly squatting in a corner of the conference room, but I have 1,000 branded tote bags in stock for next month's trade show, and I am not going to see them mildew, no sir.

Last year was the worst flood in five years.  The ceiling tiles were saturated to the point of collapse. At eight o'clock in the morning I found myself shovelling the ceiling (which had turned into a kind of thick, lumpy porridge) into garbage bags, using an actual snow shovel.  Is that in my job description?  Of course.  Everything is in my job description.

In other getting-ready-for-spring news, I bought a new pair of shoes.  I didn't actually want to replace the shoes I keep at work to change into from snow boots or rain boots, because they are so cute!  But they were, despite being quite sensible flat lace-ups, hurting one of my feet.  (Probably because I bought them half a size too small because they didn't come in half sizes and the size up was too roomy.  Fie on you, shoes that do not come in half sizes!  I turn my back on your for evermore.)

Determined to find shoes that fit properly, I visited Walking On A Cloud.  I was willing to spend mucho dinero to treat my feet right.  I tried on a few pairs of shoes that were reasonably cute.  But they didn't fit right, mostly on account of being too narrow in the toes and the heel.  I don't get it.  My feet are not shaped like loaves of bread.  Yes, they are a bit rectangular, but a B width has always been sufficient.  Anyway, I thought: forget about style, maybe I should just bite the bullet and go full grandma.  After all, I only get one pair of feet, right?

These are arguably cute, in a hipster kind of way.  But they didn't fit either.  The right shoe was just a touch too small, and they didn't have the next size up in stock.  My mind boggled: how was it that I was in a store full of fancy orthotic shoes, willing to drop over $150 for one pair, and I couldn't even find anything that didn't pinch or flap in the wrong places?

I finally found a pair I liked in SoftMoc.  They don't have crazy arch support.  They don't try to cradle my achilles tendon.  But they're definitely cute, and they definitely fit.  They're roomy and flexible, which is basically what I wanted.  Guess how much they cost?  $60.  Yeah!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Green Bin

It's the time of year when nothing much happens.  Everyone is either physically or metaphysically sick of winter (or both).  The people of Toronto are spending as much time as possible huddled in our fleeciest pyjamas, waiting for spring.

So far, the only sign of anything green outside is my condo complex's new Green Bin.

Huzzah!  Finally!  For years I've wished that I didn't have to throw my compostable waste in with the rest of the garbage.

I've been living in an apartment or condo for the past 15 years, so a backyard compost pile wasn't an option.  I did look into indoor worm composters.

But even if I had space for the large plastic bin the worms live in (it would have been a tight squeeze), one also needs time for care and maintenance of the bin, and space to harvest the compost.  It was all just a bit more than I was willing to take on.

Fortunately, the Green Bin program has arrived to rescue me from environmental guilt.  It's even better than composting. You can put stuff in the Green Bin that wouldn't be compostable, like meat, and kitty litter.  Even diapers and ladies' sanitary products are accepted.  

Each household was provided with a plastic bucket (with a lid and a handle) to collect Green waste in.  You line it with a used plastic grocery bag.  Whenever it gets full or stinky, you tie the top of the bag and walk it to the main Green Bin, near the garbage pickup area of the condo complex.  It's less convenient than simply throwing a bag of trash down the chute, or even taking out recycling, which requires a trip downstairs to the recycling room, but it's not terrible. It only takes two minutes for me to walk to the Green Bin.  Then you just slide open a hatch on the top, drop in your bag, and you're done.  It'll be worse in the summer when the bin will stink to high heaven, but at least I don't live right next to it.  There are are a couple of condo units that are literally adjacent to the bin, and they will not be enjoying the aroma in a few months.

Do you compost?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Happy March!

We did it!  We survived February!  We all deserve a hearty pat on the back.

Are you ready for spring?  I am.  So are my houseplants.

Would you believe that I trimmed my plant forest in December?  The monstrous aloes are under control now, but the other plants have surged in to take up all the available sun-space.

Many of my plants are adoptees from my 98-year-old grandmother.  People bring her plants as gifts, and she isn't up to taking care of all of them, so she passes the older ones along to me.  The pink one, the coleus, is from her.  (Actually all of the plants in this photo are from her.)

Coleus fuchsia is a happy-making colour, especially when sunlight turns the leaves into stained glass.  It's a lively plant; it has been trimmed many times, but it never quits growing back.  And, after living with me for around 4 years or so, it surprised me recently by flowering for the first time.

Amazing!  Teeny purple flowers looking like baby shoes came out of nowhere.  I mean, think about it.  They're made of re-organized dirt.  It's pretty incredible.

The African violet is getting ready to bloom again.

So is this plant, whose name I might have known once but have forgotten:

Its flowers are big and floppy, have around five petals, and are orangey-red.

Even the old spider plant has produced a baby spider.  I'll prepare a pot for it soon so that it can put down its own roots.  I bet my mom would like to adopt it

Everything is growing, including my hair.  Do you maybe remember that last winter I decided to grow it out from a very short pixie cut?  Well, the bottom layer is down to my shoulders now.  This morning I decided to play with it.  I've never tried doing a French braid on myself before, so why not now?  Here are the results:

Not bad for a first try, I think.  Now I just need to get some flowers to grow out of my head and I'll be bee-yoo-tiful.  Maybe if I just sit in the sun for a while...