Sunday, August 30, 2015

CNE Time Again

The end of summer is nigh.  All the signs are there.  Back-to-school sales, planning for my upcoming FORTY-THIRD birthday (I am so old), and the Canadian National Exhibition.  As per tradition, I went with my aunt.  Since we are both crazy cat ladies, our first stop was the cat show.

Meow, I am a momma cat.  I'm hanging out in this small cage with my kittens.  I really wish that I could send them outside to play.

Mew!  I'm a kitten!  I want to pounce upon and bite all of the things!  What's that moving outside the cage?

Look to the left of the photo above to see the amazing markings on these cats, like leopard spots.  I'm sorry I didn't get a better photo of one of their beautiful coats.

Most of the cats were napping.  Typical.

My blankie is warm and fuzzy.  Snzzzzz.

After the cat show, we browsed the International Marketplace.  The "Magic Lantern" stall was quite enchanting.

We happened across an exhibit of vehicles and other military equipment from WWI.  Although it was interesting, I didn't take many photos because the light was terrible, and almost everything was khaki green on a khaki green background.  However, I did like this poster:

You can tell that this is sponsored by the federal government because the descriptive text is in both official languages, English and Fran├žais.

Then we went to the farm building.  The alpacas were adorable, as usual.

There was a momma Clydesdale with her four-month-old twin daughters, shown here flopped out on the straw:

A moment later, the babies got up and started grooming each other.  Cutie-pies!

We met a friendly cow.  Her name is Charlotte.  Here she is getting her neck skritchy-scratched by an admirer.

Yeah, that's the spot.  

When we had had our fill of furry creatures (and the aroma of their warm poop, which was being blown around the farm building abundantly by dozens of whirring fans), we headed off to the midway for ice-cream waffle sandwiches.  However, our plans were foiled by the end of a soccer game at BMO stadium that exact moment.  Approximately 30,000 red-shirted fans (that's the stadium's capacity) poured out into the fairgrounds.  The midway, which was just ahead of us, became so jammed with humans that walking traffic was almost at a standstill.

Neither of us like crowds, so at that point we called it a day.  Next year, our first stop will be the ice-cream waffle stand!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Living a Life of Luxury

I am NO LONGER a disgusting germ-bucket.  The cold that I thought would last forever is finally gone!

It sure was a long one.  Who expects a cold to last for five weeks?  For the first four weeks I kept telling myself to be patient.  "You just have to be patient, Spark.  This too shall pass."  At the fifth week, I lost patience, and that's when my immune system started winning.  Lesson learned: the way to make a cold go away is to be impatient.  Next time I'm going to start out intolerant and stay that way.

It's lucky for me that my will to live returned just as I was heading into a difficult work week.  I had to cover the desk of a hard-working woman who was on vacation.  I would liken the experience to being a 16-year-old student driver who finds herself in speeding traffic on an 8-lane highway.  It's not that it's an impossible task, it's just overwhelming if you're not used to it.  It was a challenge, but I got through it.  I don't think I would have had a chance if I were still sick.

To cap off the week, on Friday we had some plumbing excitement.  Regular readers will know that my workplace has a history of exploding toilets.  Fortunately, this time the toilets did not actually explode.  They just gave us a geyser show, kind of like at the Bellagio.

Ken and I went for some retail therapy at Yorkdale, the fancy mall.  This is where the super-rich go to pick up their designer everything, from Jimmy Choo shoes to Pink Tartan fringed jumpsuits.  I have a history of feeling decidedly out of place in these stores, as though the sales staff could probably smell my middle-class background and hated me for it.  Ken used to almost forcibly walk me in, and then I would trail around after him anxiously, not touching anything in case I got my immigrant-family-low-self-esteem cooties on it.

After a few years of window shopping, and a couple of decadent purchases (a Kate Spade raffia handbag, a silver Tiffany ring), I got more comfortable in those stores.  I figured out that the sales staff don't hate me, and in fact they size me up as a decent potential customer.  I can stroke the chinchilla fur coats in Holt Renfrew without getting kicked out of the store.

(If you have never patted a chinchilla, alive or on a garment rack, you owe it to yourself to do this.  It is the most delightful sensation.  Their fur is like no other fur; it's so soft that it feels like running your fingers through slightly cool whipped cream that's not at all sticky.  Put it on your bucket list.)

Now that we're official Cartier customers, we have transitioned into dangerous territory.  I thought spending $200 on a handbag was living the high life, but there's a whole other level that we have barely begun to explore.  We stopped in to visit with our friend, the Cartier salesman, who was glad to see us.  He tried to tempt me with a watch named after a French bathtub. (I tried it on and it was awfully pretty).  The price tag was $10,000 CAD.  I mean, wow.  I would be terrified to wear it out of the house.

We also perused handbags.    I had plunked my purse down on the glass countertop while I tried on La Baignoire, thinking that this would be at least slightly impressive.  But the Cartier bags start at 10 times the cost of my little Kate Spade.  There's no comparison.  The salesman leaned forward and asked, with complete sincerity, in a hushed tone of voice, "You mean, you don't have any luxury handbags in your collection?"  He seemed concerned for us, the way a friend might if you admitted that you weren't sleeping well.  How can we say that we're experiencing a proper quality of life under these circumstances?

I have no burning desire to expand my "collection", nor do I feel a need to own a handbag that costs more than the total on one of my paycheques.  However, just for fun, after that, we went to the Louis Vuitton boutique and "tried on" their $ 4,000 handbag with the clever, LV twisting clasp.  You turn the L so that it lines up with the V and when it clicks into place you can open the bag.  Turning the clasp was almost as much fun as patting a chinchilla coat.  The "click" that you could feel more than hear at both extremities of rotation was the most satisfying mechanical sensation I can imagine.

Is there a luxury handbag in my future?  We'll see.  I have a feeling that Ken might have taken this up as a challenge.  Maybe one day.  Or maybe not.  Either way is okay with me.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Phlegm Report

I am still a disgusting germ-bucket.

In case you forgot, because it's been so darn long, I still have this cold.  At least, I think it's the same cold, with a relapse.  Alternately, it could be a fresh cold which has taken over just as the dregs of the old cold were wearing off.  How can I even tell?  I'm not sure.

When you get a cold, does it follow a predictable sequence?  Mine always start with a sore throat, followed by sinus yuck, and finishing up with a nice, crunchy chest cough.  Is that just me, or is it the same for all y'all?

Evidence supporting the "new cold" hypothesis: My symptoms had dwindled to evening-time asthma coughing by four weeks into the old cold, and then I started out with a fresh sore throat last weekend.  The last couple of days have been sinus city.  Today is the first day in a while that I can breathe without feeling like I'm sucking every breath through one of these coffee stir sticks.

(This is something of an exaggeration.  It's not quite that bad.  Only almost.)

I'm hoping to skip the chesty phase this time around.  Because, OMG, I have coughed enough in the past month to last a lifetime.  My abs are ripped.  At this point I deserve to have a turtle-shell six-pack.  (I don't.)

Confession time: I went to game night last night even though I might have been carrying fresh cold germs.  I sincerely hope that I didn't make anyone else sick.  My only justification is that I desperately needed to have a fun evening, for my own mental health, which is not much of a justification at all.  If anyone gets sick from my germs I will feel suitably guilty.  Then again, none of us live in a bubble, and people can pass along viruses before they even start displaying symptoms, so we're all taking a necessary risk every time we go out and socialize, right?  Is that a better rationalization?  Maybe slightly...

I have plenty of tissues.  Ken went to Costco and bought a shrink-wrapped pack of 20 boxes a couple of months ago.  I recall seeing it come in the door and thinking "Overkill!  It's going to take us years to get through all that."  LOL nope.  I am making short work of box after box.  Fortunately, used tissues can go into the compost bin in Toronto, so I don't have to feel quite so bad about all the trees my nose is responsible for killing.

I went for a massage on Friday, and while I was face-down on the table my nose dripped non-stop.  I had to ask for a fresh tissue every few minutes.  My RMT offered to put the trash can under the face-hole so that I could "just let it drip".  Ew, gross.  No thanks.  I should have asked if any of her other clients have ever taken her up on that offer.  Or maybe I don't want to  know.

Anyway, I am worn out, cranky, and don't even remember what it feels like to be healthy, at this point.  I have a challenging work week coming up because one of my staff is going to be on vacation, and due to the recent cutbacks I am the only person who can handle her desk while she's away.  I'm not planning to work myself to death; her work is going to get behind, and she'll just have to catch up when she gets back.  

I can't think of a good closer for this post.  Just, everyone stay well and don't let anyone sneeze on you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Silly Geese etc.

You know it's going to be a good weekend when you go to hang out with your friends on Friday evening and they cook up a hot pan of s'mores dip.  This is dangerously good.  Marshmallows toasted over melted chocolate; cookies take the place of tortilla chips.  Can you imagine the scent wafting from that pan?

Mmm, delicious calories...

You know it's going to be a good weekend when you run into a friendly chihuahua on the subway and befriend him.  Then it turns out that he and his human are taking the same streetcar as you, and while you are standing and holding on to a pole, his little tail tickles  your fingers intermittently for the entire ride.

Aw, adorable, teeny doggie butt.  He was such a good boy.

It was a good weekend because we went to Toronto Island, where it is unbelievably beautiful and, outside of the amusement park area, serene.  We walked along this path:*

This was the view to the left:

OMG, island-dwellers are so lucky.

This was the view to the right:

Hi there, CN Tower!  *waves*

There is a business on the island that rents bicycles to tourists.  You can get a regular bike, a bicycle built for two, or this type of Flintstones-inspired vehicle:

The ones with two seats for grown-ups and a kiddie basket on the front are actually the smaller model.  You can get one that is twice as long, and wider.  I didn't have my camera ready, but Ken and I saw one roll by holding a family of nine: two adults and a kid on the front bench, two adults and two kids on the back bench, and two toddlers in the kiddie basket.

Hence, there are signs on some of the paths that you won't find anywhere else in the city:

Further down the path, we hung out with a big crowd of geese, who stayed in cliques depending on their type.  All the Canada geese stuck together.  All the white geese stuck together.

And then their were these guys, who must have had one parent from each group.  True love (or lust) transcends feather-colour.  Ken says that mixed-race kids are always the best-looking.  That might be because he is mixed (half Japanese, half white mutt).  Or maybe he's right!

Finally, we found a perfect sunflower.

What more could one ask for?

*Hot tip: in case this is new to you, click on any photo to see a high-res version.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Open Letter to the Author

Dear DarcKnyt,

Thank you very much for sending me a draft of your novel to read/critique/edit.  I am enjoying it.  This is a big relief to me, because I am always afraid, when reviewing a friend's art, that I won't like it, and will then be stuck in the awkward position of choosing between honesty and making my friend feel good.  Who ever wants to tell their friend "Don't quit your day job."?  Thanks for not putting me on the spot!

You will find my notes to be a bit weird, maybe.  As per your request, I am using MS Word's commenting feature to mark up my version of the text directly.  I am doing this on an Apple computer.  MS Word's commenting feature is a bit buggy on the Mac.  In other words, if I attempt to do anything other than straight-up add text to the document, the program quits on me.  It doesn't throw an error, or say "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."  It's just suddenly not there on the screen anymore.

Things that will make MS Word vanish, in my experience so far, include:

  • trying to "delete" any of your text.  I know this is not supposed to actually delete the text, just change the font to the strike-through version, but that doesn't happen.
  • clicking on the "italics" button.
  • clicking on the "highlight" button.
  • looking at the screen the wrong way.
  • forgetting to click "save" after making some changes.
Therefore, if I think you need to cut out a word or two, I have to type "cut this" instead of striking out those words.  This is why some notes do not take the form that you might expect.

That being said, there are not many notes, because your novel is so well-written!  I am a little less than halfway through, and it's an easy read.  The plot is galloping along, but I don't find it confusing to follow the twists and turns.  The characters are well-enough described and distinguished that I can keep them separate in my head, even when it's a trio of very similar guys that we met all at the same time.  Also, the action scenes are clearly choreographed, so that I can keep track of where everyone is mid-battle.  Nicely done!

There is the odd little oops here and there.  For example, that time that the main character confirms that he has no cell reception whatsoever, and then his phone rings.  He even has a conversation with the person who called him about how he has no cell phone reception where he's standing.  So, hmm, a little tweaking needed there.

But mainly I want you to know, as you scan through and view my notes, which show up in stern, teacherly red pen, that in fact the corrected bits are a tiny percentage of my reading experience.  At least 95% of the time I've been reading I am completely absorbed in the storyline, not looking to pick at it or make changes.  Where there is nothing written in red, if I didn't want to interrupt my own suspension of disbelief, I would have been writing "Nice!" and "Woah!" or "Scary!" and also "LOL!" with full sincerity.  I just wanted to make sure that you knew that.