Friday, August 29, 2008

Sheep and Pigs: The Last Word on IFLA

It's amazing how much I can forget in such a short period of time. For example, I can't remember which session I was in during the IFLA conference when I heard the bleating of a sheep right behind me. I almost jumped. Why was there a sheep at the World Library and Information Congress? I have never seen a sheep librarian (but I have met some sheepish ones). But, sure enough, there was a sheep sitting right behind me. Any sheep farmer sitting in my chair would have said, "Yes, sir, I reckon that's a sheep right behind me."

I considered glancing around to confirm this, but then the bleating stopped. Soon, I heard the distinctive deep guttural grunting of a pig right behind me. Where had the sheep gone and why was there a pig in it's place? I wondered about Animal Farm. Could this be it? Was it Napoleon the pig? Were we about to be overthrown by a collective of disaffected farm animals?

I was so disappointed when I discovered that I had been listening to the bleats and grunts of a sleeping librarian who was clearly suffering from sleep apnea. Imagine being able to sleep during sessions. This would be fantastic, as C. pointed out. What an enviable skill. Think of how much extra sleep one could get, especially during boring sessions. I have to work on this, but I think I need some sort of alarm system in case I start to snore.

OK, so I am moving offices today. The packing starts now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I am taking care of business today, so that I can free up my calendar for tomorrow, when I move offices, again. This will be my fifth office here (actually, it's my sixth, if you count temporary moves). So, that's probably all I am going to write today.

Wait, a few days back, I cycled past a colleague who was being ticketed by the cops for cruising through a stop sign. Later, he told me that the ticket was $110. It made me doubly glad that I took a different tactic when this almost happened to me a few years back.

Why is it that I am acquiring allergies as I age? Suddenly, I am sneezing up a storm in the mornings and using lots of tissues. My eyes are so itchy, I want to rip them out of their sockets. Why? Why? Why?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Instead of a rant about the arrogance of Stephen Harper and his selfish, childish reasons for breaking his own law about fixed election dates, I will talk about some recent reads. No reviews, mind you, just quick notes. I have no energy for reviews, as I think I might have to read a 56 page document for my half-day meeting today, so a quick sentence or two is all I will commit to.

1) Three To See the King by Magnus Mills - I liked this very much, but not as much as The Restraint of Beasts or All Quiet on the Orient Express. Mills has a very simple style, but his messages are certainly deeper. If you haven't read his books, I would suggest that your go with The Restraint of Beasts. It was short-listed for the Booker. It is bizarre and deeply comic.

2) Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer - At times, this book is absolutely hilarious, to me anyway. Some knowledge of dysfunctional communist regimes might enhance the experience. Previously, I had read Fischer's The Collector Collector and pretty much hated it, so I wasn't sure about this one. Under the Frog, too, was shortlisted for the Booker, back in '93. I have another of his books on a bookshelf, so I might get to that someday.

3) Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King. I enjoyed Truth and Bright Water, One Good Story, That One, and Medicine River, but this one is probably the best of the lot. I've met the man on two occasions and he is a good chap. He will be running for the NDP in Guelph in the next election (which could come at any time, despite the law for fixed election dates. Thank you, Mr. I-want-to-control-parliament-like-a-control-freak Harper).

In progress:

1) The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston - The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is one of my all-time favourite books, and I am looking forward to reading The Custodian of Paradise someday. For some reason, Navigator sat on my bookcase for years before I finally got around to opening it. I am enjoying it, but not as much as Colony or Human Amusements. One of the things that really grabbed my about The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and Human Amusements were the father figures who are absolutely hilarious. Still, this is a solid and interesting novel and worth reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I've Been Jesused

It finally happened. Yesterday, one of the Jesus Freaks here handed me a brochure called Good News. When the door-to-door Jesus salesmen and saleswomen come calling, I normally slam the door in his/her face. It's difficult to do that at work. Not that I care if anyone is religious. You can be crazy about god, speak in tongues, go all weak in the knees, and faint in a rapturous heap on the floor for all I care. Just keep it to yourself, please. I wonder if she was on break when she handed out her junk mail, or if she did it on company time. Hmmm.

I do have to describe the brochure to you. The front features an image of two men reading a book, which I gather is the bible. Judging from the smiles on their faces, I would have guessed that it was either the Happy Hooker or The Story of O. The two chaps are rendered in a 1950s children picture book manner, if you know what I mean. In other words, they look cheesy as hell.

Inside, we are treated to a drawing of Jesus (in red) looking an awful lot like Brad Pitt in Kalifornia, but without the baseball cap. There's also an image of a person sitting on the ground in front of a robed man (maybe Jesus, maybe not). The thing is that the person's head is at genital height, making it look as though he is about to service Jesus. To make it more convincing, Jesus has placed one hand on the chap's head, as if to guide the kneeling chap along in his task. Maybe it's a new spin on baptism.

Plus, the grammar is all screwy. For example:

"Sin leads, to hell, but God loves us." - What's with the comma craziness?

"Then on the third day after his death - God raised Jesus back to Life!" - Life gets a capital letter, for some reason. The use of a em dash between death and God is wrong. It should be a comma.

I'll stop with the editing, because there are too many other errors to continue.

So, she handed this brochure to me, and I had to restrain myself from saying something that I might regret. I took the badly folded home-printed flyer from her, and said:" I probably won't read it." That didn't seem to bother her at all. And, the truth is, I did read it, but it had the opposite effect: it added to my conviction that those who proselytize are morons and should go to hell for wasting our time.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I have to say that with my laptop still out-of-service, and having been almost completely severed from the web most evenings and for much of the weekends, I have survived better than expected. So far, I have experienced no sleep disturbance, delirium, shakes, hallucinations, convulsions, panic or anxiety, nausea, fever, or tachycardia. Thank god.

Of course, the Olympics were on, and I am a big fan of that event, so I will have to see what happens now that we are back to our regularly-scheduled programming of crap, crap, and more crap.

Speaking of the Olympics, I have a difficult time believing that those tiny Chinese gymnasts are all of age for Olympic competition. Some of them look like they are ten years old and there seems to be lots of evidence that at least one is only 14. When I first saw a video of them clustered around each other, I thought that they looked like a litter of kittens. Someone observed that one of the gymnasts was missing a baby tooth, although I am not sure I believe that.

Younger gymnasts have the advantage of greater flexibility and agility and are less prone to injury, so I have read. Children are also improbably strong. My three year old can do a sort of Iron Cross with little effort.

China faked part of the opening ceremonies and has been guilty in the past of using underage athletes, so I think that this ought to be fully investigated. As expected, previously-available documents have suddenly been removed from the web. I guess this means that my blog will now be blocked in China, if it wasn't already. How to I find that out?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dancing Librarians

I chose a slightly blurry photo so as to keep identities secret. It seems like there is some sort of circular bunny hop happening.

I have more, but my laptop, despite a new battery ($157), is not healthy. It won't charge or maintain a charge when powered up, and the battery drains twice as fast as it should, even when plugged in. When shut off, it sort of charges, but the battery light goes out or flickers. Damn computers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Four things.

1) Michael Smith - I've been listening to former decathlete Michael Smith's Olympic track and field commentaries on the CBC. Generally, I think he is a good commentator and clearly knowledgeable about the athletes and the events. But, man oh man, this dude needs a dictionary. He has a penchant for making up words and improperly using others. He made up a doozie the other day, and I wish I could remember what it was. During the women's pole vault competition, he said that the bar had hung there "precociously for a moment." I have to think he meant to say precariously.

2) Usain Bolt - He is amazing, but I have to confess that his 100 metre victory left me a little disappointed. I really wish he had finished the race, rather than just jogging across the finish line. I wanted to see what he could really do. The 200 metre final was much better, since he finished the race properly.

3) Shattered - When a world record is broken by a mere 100th of a second or two 100th of a second, it has not been shattered, despite what commentators might say. One hundredth of a second is inconsequential. It may be a new world record, and it may be cool to see, but shattered, it is not. Broken, it is.

4) Michael Phelps - It's all been said, but I am glad not to have to follow his diet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

J'ai tombé

Walking along Rue Saint-Jean with C, we watched a man tumble to the ground while intimately entangled with his bicycle. As we approached, he said, quite calmly, "J'ai tombé." I half expected him to add "and I can't get up," but he didn't. Naturally, I was shocked at his grammar. He ought to have said "Je suis tombé." Avoir is the wrong auxiliary with this intransitive verb.

Similar errors occur in English. My father, for example, will utter such grammatical abominations as "I done steaks last night," in reference to his bar-b-queuing prowess, or "I haven't ate anything today." My sister, similarly grammatically-challenged, often says things like "I seen mom yesterday" and "I should have went to the store."

Naturally, I am familiar with Stuff White People Like, and have no problems admitting that I am guilty of point 99. But, as it turns out, the use of the incorrect auxiliary verb can be found in the Québécoise dialect. Evidently, the lower the socioeconomic status, the greater the likelihood that être will be abandoned in the passé composé of certain verbs of motion. I suppose this man's early evening drunkenness might indicate a certain socioeconomic status, but that is no guarantee.

We helped this man, clearly quite inebriated, to his feet with the assistance of another gent, who inquired after his health. The fallen man, now temporarily on his feet and looking rather wobbly, said "an accident is an accident", but I cannot remember if he said that in English or in French. We continued on our way, leaving the man of unknown socioeconomic status to attempt to cycle while plastered to the gills, as my dad would say.

Around the corner on Rue Cartier, a car ran a red light. A split second later, the police cruiser behind him at the traffic lights flipped on his siren and sped round the corner on the wet pavement, straight into a mature maple tree. I didn't realize that a police car impacting a Québec tree could be so loud. The violator got away clean and the police officer called in for assistance. I wanted to take a photo of his wrecked car, but thought better of it. It was quite impressive, really. One wheel was completely off the car and there were bits of tree everywhere. I was happy not to have been walking too close to that zone.

The third accident was mine: Earlier, I spilled red wine all over my Programme de Poche and my name tag. Of the three accidents that day, this was the most grievous. Wasting wine is a sin.

I know, you are still waiting for photos of dancing librarians, but I still cannot use my laptop. You will just have to wait a while longer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Smart Casual

On my way to the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Québec, I noticed that the dress code for the Cocktail Reception and Fun Night was listed as "Smart Casual". Oh, the horror, the horror. There are just too many things wrong with that. For one, the word 'smart' reminds me of the superlatives my mother would use when describing the ugly sweaters my aunt liked to give me every year at Christmas. "That's a smart sweater," she would say. I quickly learned that smart equaled ugly. These sweaters languished in my closet for years, unworn.

But, if you are ancient, then 'smart' somehow becomes a good thing and the old people in our society start using the word 'smart' in conjunction with 'outfit'. No boy or man would ever want to be seen in anything resembling an outfit. Informing a man that he is wearing an outfit is emasculating. Add the word 'smart' to 'outfit' and you might as well kill him where he stands. It means that his life is over. He has failed.

Once you are a senior, you are permitted, for some bizarre reason, to wear outfits. You know: velour tracks suits or matching polyester jacket and pants and shoes with those velcro fasteners. I guess if you have to bend over for more than a few seconds to tie your shoes, you risk death at certain ages. My dad also started to wear ill-fitting baseball hats even though he doesn't watch baseball and went his entire life without a baseball hat.

So, I hauled a black vintage suit jacket with me and donned that for the night of fun. I did not look smart, but I think I passed for casual.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back from Quebec with Damaged Lungs

(The bad news is that my laptop is in need of some repair, and this is hampering my web access. I hope to have this fixed soon).

While in Quebec, I almost made the decision to become a smoker. Why not? I asked myself. Everywhere I went, I was forced to inhale someone else's second-hand smoke: while walking down the street, while sitting on benches, while eating on patios, even in stores because people smoked in doorways and the smoke wafted in like a grey plague. Before I left for Quebec, I was becoming more and more irritated with smoke in Toronto, but Toronto has nothing on the cigarette madness in Quebec city. The whole place is cancerous.

My other observation is that the food was not as good as I had remembered from my previous visits. I can cook steak way better than any of the steaks I had there. Even the filet mignon, ordered from a gluten-free menu at a resto on rue du Petit-Champlain in Quartier Petit Champlain, sucked. I did have a couple of nice glasses of wine and a really great sangria, thankfully.

But, by far the most bizarre sight was a pod of dancing librarians. In my entire career in this female-dominated profession, I had never seen librarians eager to hit the dance floor. But, at this World Congress, filled with delegates from Africa, Iran, Iraq, China, Russia, all parts of Europe, Oceania, and dozens of other nations, this was happening. I have photos to prove it, and if my laptop ever recovers, I might even share some with you. Whether or not I tripped the light fantastic (or fandango) will forever remain a secret.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Je suis à Québec

Hey, there is free wireless here, even during the conference sessions. This could be very dangerous.

The train trip was fine, and went fast, partly because I was travelling with three colleagues, one of whom brought about three pounds of red radishes as a snack. I am not sure about you, but radishes are way down my list of good train snacks. I won't bore you with a list of the pounds of food I carted along with me, but I remember looking at those radishes as I bit into a nice hunk of dark chocolate and felt sorry for her husband, who vocally pondered the necessity of taking red radishes on a train. Poor man.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

We interrupt this vacation to bring you a special presentation of:
Spadina Spadina Station

If you have travelled on the Toronto Subway system, you will no doubt have heard the station announcements, such as:

"The next station is Spadina, Spadina station." Soon thereafter you will hear:

"Now arriving at Spadina, Spadina station." (or, occasionally "Now arrivin' at...).

I just clued in that my son (age 3 and a bit) has assumed that the names of the stations were 'Spadina Spadina Station' and 'College College Station'. We have conversations like:
Him: Is this our stop Daddy?
Me: What station is this?
Him: Osgoode Osgoode Station.
Me: No, it's not our stop yet. We are getting off at St. George.
Him: St. George St. George station?
Me: Yes, St. George St. George station.
I find this particularly hilarious. Je vais à Québec. À plus tard.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Dudes, I will be ignoring my blog for the next two weeks, unless I suddenly get the urge to post a recipe for tripe fritters or stuffed liver. There is a possibility that I will hop on a wireless network in Quebec City, but don't hold your breath.

I hope that the remainder of your summer is grand. À bientôt.