Happy Halloween ….

With my nose buried in work, I nearly forgot to wish you all a Happy Halloween!

I’m not doing anything much for the occasion. I missed out on last weekend’s festivities, so I’m keeping it a bit low-key this year.

But have fun, whether you’re out in costume (or watching other people in costume!), giving out candy or receiving it.

I Heart Clothing Swaps

I can’t resist turning this post into a Girly Service Announcement …

But I now officially LOVE clothing swaps.

Last night, I went to a friend’s house for one of her clothing swap extravanganzas. I’ve been before, but each time I go, they just get better and bigger.

Allow me to give you the reasons why you should either go to one, or organize one:

1. It’s the perfect opportunity to get rid of some of your old clothes. Got old t-shirts, sweaters, shirts, skirts or pants that you no longer wear or don’t want, but are taking up room in your closet? If someone you know decides to offer up their home for a clothing swap, it’s the perfect excuse to stuff all those duds into a huge plastic bag and cart it over to your friend’s house. Unless you suddenly grow attached to all the clothes you plan on throwing out, you never have to see them again.

2. You can find new pieces of clothes without even opening your wallet. It’s almost in the same vein as patiently going through racks of clothes at Winners or Value Village. If you wait long enough, something in your size will eventually appear from a huge mound of clothes, calling your name. It’s weird how you think you won’t find anything, and you end up carting back a bag full of clothes. And you don’t have to pay a cent.

Plus, you’d be surprised what some people bring. Some items of clothes still have the tags attached. Someone at the swap I was at last night got rid of two pairs of Prada pants. Two! If they were anywhere near my size, I would have tried those on. And you don’t have to limit it to clothes – some people bring almost-never-worn shoes.

3. Picking up clothes can also be a democratic process. At the swap I was at last night, if more than one woman wanted a piece of clothing “advertised” by the hostess, they all took turns rolling dice. The one with the highest number won. I personally would like to see a clothing swap where decisions were made via Rock, Paper, Scissors. (It might be long, but possibly interesting …)

And even if you don’t get what you want, there is sometimes a good chance that the piece of clothing you wanted this time around may turn up at the next clothing swap.

4. It’s great for meeting new people, and catching up with old ones. Really, who doesn’t like an excuse for a social gathering with munchies, wine and conversation?

5. It’s usually in the name of a good cause. Whatever clothes left over aren’t necessarily tossed in the trash – usually it’s carted away to a local charity.

So as the weather gets colder, if you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to amuse yourself indoors when winter hits, and a plain old wine-and-cheese party just won’t cut it, consider this an alternative.

Besides, I just remembered – I’ve still got a couple T-shirts and a pair of jeans I’m willing to contribute! Someone, please hold one again soon!

The Generation Gap, In An Elevator

I just went downstairs to get some breakfast before I start my day (yes, it’s almost 11:30 a.m., but that’s neither here nor there) and I think I just witnessed sociology at its finest.

I got on the elevator, which stopped on the third floor of my building. A bunch of older ladies – whom I’ve worked with in the past – got on. The elevator descended, stopping again, but on the second floor.

The doors opened, and a bunch of young cats – three tall, gangly guys and a petite girl, barely mid-20s – stood there. Looking. One of them kinda looked glassy-eyed and had this goofy half-smile on his face.

It was probably only about eight to 10 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. It was the longest I’d ever seen a group of people decide whether or not they wanted to board an elevator. Either the little green arrow above the elevator (signalling the direction) didn’t work, or it didn’t occur to them to look.

One of the women (who I know) said, “This elevator is going down,” which sprung the foursome into action.

I watched them while the elevator took its short voyage down to the ground level. I guessed whatever they were talking about before they boarded the elevator was the subject of conversation, because during the ride down, none of them said actual words – they just made sounds, a couple of them snickered, and one of them making a gesture, scratching the scruffy stubble under his chin.

The elevator made it to the ground floor. The doors opened. And the trio of youngsters just stood there. I remember saying in a normal tone of voice, “You can get out now – thanks,” but I think it was overshadowed by a couple other people saying, “Get out.” I shook my head at the delayed reaction as I went to the food court.

On returning, I saw the same four people. Whatever they had to do was done pretty quickly, ’cause there they were, going back towards the elevator.

Man, I thought. What would be the chances of being in the same elevator?

I was about to find out.

I was sort of behind them, so as I waited – and the elevator arrived – I heard one of them pipe up, “Oh, I hope we get some angry people on the elevator like last time,” one of them said sarcastically.

Maybe they knew I was there when we boarded. Or maybe, like the “down” arrow for the elevator the first time they boarded, they were possibly oblivious.

While the elevator doors closed and the car began its assent, one of the guy’s friends answered, “If they do, just make a Mr. Bean face,” and the first guy said to the effect of, “Yeah, just remind them they work for the Ministry of Truth for Canada,” or something like that.

Then the doors opened, and they left.

I was about to say that it must be a condition of my older age, ’cause after I encountered them the first time, I guess I couldn’t get over their delayed reaction and I was immediately making mental judgements. I wondered, how many years in age, hours spent listening to high-decibel, ear-splitting music on MP3 players, and joints smoked separates me from them? Good grief!

And then on the way back up, listening to them call the people in the elevator “angry”, that kind of annoyed me a bit. They weren’t angry in tone at all when they spoke. They wanted to leave the elevator, and that quartet of mini-hipsters just stood there like they had all the time in the world.

I guess it also speaking to our conditioning as office workers – always moving quickly, rushing around because our daily lives depend on, and are determined by, a schedule. The same schedule. Every day. All year.

So – if I were to assume the kids weren’t just being snotty after the fact – I can sort of see both sides of the coin.

Too bad either group – who have since had their snarky remarks about the other – won’t see it as such.

Thanks, Mayor … I Guess

Last night was the big vote for Toronto City Council.

I suppose – as a potential future first-time buyer who doesn’t drive – I should be somewhat grateful, as the land transfer tax was actually modified (thanks, Coun. Grimes).

But truthfully, this still sucks for those who are affected (translation: millions of homeowning drivers … or driving homeowners, take your pick).

On top of which, the land transfer and vehicle registry tax will only generate $175 million in revenue for next year, instead of the $356 million that was forecast. It’s gonna be really interesting to see how this all works, considering there were a few other corners that could’ve been cut to help this cash-strapped city.

For a couple of city columnists’ views, check out Sue-Ann Levy’s slightly snarky debrief and Royson James’s take.

Plumpynut Saves?

Earlier this evening, I caught a news piece Anderson Cooper did for 60 Minutes, on this pre-packaged food called Plumpynut (you can also see the video on the Web site).

It’s a peanut-based paste, made also with milk powder, vitamins and minerals – the equivalent, Cooper says in his item, of a glass of milk and a vitamin supplement. It’s used to give some sort of nutritional sustenance to feed malnourished kids (in the case of the news piece, the kids were in Niger).

From what the TV piece suggests – while it obviously can’t be given those past the point of no return – if given to malnourished kids, Plumpynut helps give them appetites, much-needed nutrients, and a fighting chance of sticking around a bit longer.

One of the people interviewed in the item, a doctor working at a health clinic in Niger, was asked various things, including the issue of peanut allergies, which is prevalent in Western nations. She said they didn’t see it – food allergies aren’t nearly the problems they are in developed countries.

In a quick search for news articles I just did, there were about seven references to Plumpynut in the last three and a half weeks.

But checking Wikipedia, apparently this stuff was formulated in 1999 and I suppose has been in use ever since, as a way to rehabilitate famine and hunger victims.

Why are we just hearing about it now? Or maybe other stories have been done about this, but this is just the latest instance.

Either way, interesting. Just thought I’d share.

Random Question of the Week

Apparently I’ve not been keeping up with my bloggerly duties of posting frequently so the few of you guys who visit here have something to read.

Truthfully, I haven’t really had anything particularly pithy to write about, which I guess defeats the purpose of writing frequently, to practice one’s writing. But I feel like anything I write – just for writing’s sake – will be lame.

So until I think of something witty to write, here’s a random question (which is, I admit, shallow and vacuous, but it’s the best I can do):

Is it really, really wrong to be attracted to someone whose face is nondescript, but is well-built from the neck down?

I suppose this warrants an explanation. (What’s that? You don’t want one? You’re getting it anyway.)

Friday night I went out with a friend, to this monthly event. Standing at the bar, I let my eyes wander and pause on this table full of guys. One of them was (I think) one of the organizers. One of the other guys I saw sitting there, I could swear I know or met him several years ago – so let’s call him Familiar Guy – and I’m sure I saw him at an event a month ago. but I figured he didn’t remember me, so I let it go.

The other thing to understand: the place we were partying was the “basement” level of the bar. It’s small, so when it fills with lots of people, it gets really hot.

At one point, I remember glancing over to see Familiar Guy get up to leave the table, and even though he was wearing a plain white T-shirt – which was understandable, given the warmth of the party space – I was gazing at probably one of the nicest physiques in the place.

Hell, who am I kidding? It was the nicest. And it was hard not to stare.

He didn’t have a bodybuilder or beefcake build or anything. But he had what I like to call the “Walk into a lampost/bookcase (or any solid structure of your choosing)” physique. Luckily when I saw him, I was not moving.

But his face? Eh. That didn’t mean I wasn’t looking over when I could, until he left.

This is the second time this year I’ve met someone like that. The first time was at a friend’s rooftop patio several months ago. I actually got to talk to the other guy. He seemed nice, and smart. Again, tall (which gets the silver library bell of approval from me – ding ding ding!) … with an ordinary face. But nice build. Luckily I was focusing on talking, otherwise I probably would have dribbled down the front of my shirt.

(Come to think of it, I have a theory about the part of the country these guys are from, but I’m not saying here. You’ll have to ask me about it.)

So here I am, conflicted. As an adult who considers herself just ordinary looking, I’m thinking, whatever happened to being attracted to one’s personality? And the fact that cool people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes? I’m supposed to be a bit above the esthetically pleasing by now.

Besides, when I’m talking to people who look like that, the part I’m verbally communicating with is above the neck!

And yet. Le sigh.

So go ahead, leave an answer to the question. Let the condemnation begin. I’m going to go smother my shame in some vanilla ice cream, if there’s any left in the house.

It’s Coming …

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids 3, that is.

I’m squealing like a schoolgirl inside.

This is most awesome news, second only to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings playing the Phoenix the previous week.

November is going to be the best. Month. Ever.

If for some reason you don’t see any posts here for the next month, you’ll know it’s because I’ve burrowed deep into my parents’ basement, rifling through dusty schoolbooks and cheap $5 diaries in search of elementary-school literary gold.

Monday, November 19, boys and girls.

Get ready.

"Where’s My Garbage Can?"

Imagine my surprise when I arrived to work this morning, and sitting under my desk was my recycling bin …

And an itty bitty black bin attached to it. And no garbage can.

“Where’s my garbage can?” was the first thing I asked.

I soon found out the answer: our workplace had implemented this new system where all employees now have to separate their garbage and recycling and toss them into the appropriate bins.

Some people reading this – whose workplaces may already be doing this – are probably saying, “So? Big deal.”

To be honest, I grumbled about it for five minutes, but once I did it a couple times, I didn’t really think it was an enormous deal. But I’ve heard other people grumbling about it all day and shaking their heads.

I don’t think it’s the idea that’s bugging people so much as the way it’s being carried out.

For example, apparently there was an e-mail sent out about it a few weeks back. I don’t remember seeing the e-mail. Then again, I’m sure most corporate e-mails that get sent out through the office are generally ignored, so I don’t think I was the only one who missed it.

Secondly, there are stations around the building. But the complaint there is having to get up and walk over to one of these stations everytime you have something that’s not paper, that needs to be thrown out. Me, I don’t mind, because I like getting up every once in a while to walk around and stretch my legs … and I also bring my lunch, so I have a Tupperware container to toss out my chicken bones. But, as might be the argument going around, if you have a fruit peel or a coffee cup, you either have to get up and go to the recycling station, or you have to stuff it in the itty bitty bin and hope it gets emptied.

Lastly, when I arrived this morning, there were these itty bitty blue bins with wheels (in my case, two, ’cause I must somehow have a bigger carbon footprint than anyone in my work unit), which each had a pen and a sticky thing with the name and the number of the maintenance company who works for us, plus a little brochure about how the recycling stations work. An issue that always comes up time to time in our company is how we sometimes can’t afford certain things, and how we don’t have enough money.

Um … I don’t know how much it costs to separate garbage as opposed to just dumping it … but how much did it cost to buy all those mini blue-bins? ‘Cause our company isn’t small. There’s, like, 2,000 people in the building. One of my co-workers already heard this crazy rumour those little “awareness” bins cost $10 apiece. It’s probably not true … but wouldn’t the black bins and brochures have been enough? I’m just sayin’.

I’m sure over time, people will get used to the system and just separate their garbage out of habit.

Or, they might do what one person did when they threw out the plastic cup holding their sundae – spoon, gunk and all – into the organic waste bin …

Elect not to care as a sign of personal protest.

Swinging the Axe

So on October 22, Toronto city hall will vote on whether to cut services and implement new taxes in order to raise more money to pay down the city’s $400 million debt.

Two issues in particular are a $60 fee to register a car or motor vehicle … this is on top of the $74 people already pay to do this.

The other issue – which is the big source of contention – is a land transfer tax, which is music to the ears of whichever councillors are in favour, because of the money this would apparently bring in … but yet another burden on people buying homes. Not to mention a major obstacle for first-time buyers, as well as wannabe first-time buyers like me, who may have to think of coughing up yet another several thousand dollars, in addition to the money being saved towards a downpayment.

Not that I’m a fan or even a reader of the Toronto Sun, but I was alerted to a column by Sue-Ann Levy, who sat down with Coun. Mike Del Grande – who’s a chartered accountant by profession – and poured over the city’s 2006 annual financial report to see if there were any cuts that could feasibly be made, instead of the ones Mayor David Miller is proposing. I think you’ll be able to find it here.

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with everything on this list – and I’m sure neither would any of you – but I do agree that there must be some other places to look for cash before shaking down honest, hardworking taxpayers.

I mean, if a journalist and an accountant councillor can find these, why can’t the mayor?

"Does It Expire?"

A couple afternoons ago, a work-mate of mine mentioned she had a bit of a headache coming on and asked me if I had any Tylenol. Normally, I don’t, so I said no. I added, though, that one of my other co-workers probably did, as he always seemed to have a mini-pharmacy in his desk for whatever ails. So my friend asked my co-worker.

I quickly remembered asking this co-worker for a couple of Tylenols once, and when I took the bottle, noticed the expiry date on the bottle had passed.

So then I quickly quipped, “Hopefully they’re not expired.”

My co-worker then told me hard pills apparently don’t expire – because, well, they don’t really break down (until/unless ingested) and that the expiry dates on the bottles are really just for pharmaceutical companies to cover their behinds in the event of litigation. Probably the only exception to this, he added, were gelcaps, since they’re partially liquid anyway. The friend asking for the Tylenols for her headache qualified this.

I remembered this again today when my mom – recovering from a really nasty cold left over from Thanksgiving weekend – jokingly mentioned how she’s had this small jar of Vicks VapoRub for so long, she’s been unsure whether or not to throw it out. I mean, there’s still VapoRub left in the jar, so it’s nowhere near finished.

She tried this evening to see if she could read the label for the expiry date, ’cause she’s pretty sure the jar is as old as I am, possibly older. I even tried looking at it. We can’t make anything out, saved for a couple of faded 2’s, only because the writing down the side’s been all but rubbed out, probably by so many people handling it just to open the jar lid, and probably by age. So it remains one of life’s tiny mysteries in my house.

This got me to thinking: somebody should do a show – or at least a four-and-a-half minute YouTube segment – called, “Does It Expire?”

I mean, you’ve got “Will It Float?” on Letterman, and “Will It Blend?” on the Internet. I mean, why not? I think it would totally work. People have done experiments on the shelf-life of fast food from McDonald’s and such. Why not medicine?

Or alternately, someone should just hold a contest to see who owns the oldest jar of Vicks VapoRub still currently in use …

I’m just sayin’ …