I’ll try being nicer if you try being smarter!

Archive for October, 2010

In which I geek out over ‘Old Book Smell’

I recently bought a Kindle. I LOVE it. I do. I can take it out and not have to search for my page while I wait for the bus, it weighs nothing and nobody can ever rip out that important page. It’s a perfect solution for travelling, when you don’t know how many books you’ll need, or if you’ll get bored and want to do a book polygamy thing and read a few different ones at once. It’s great and I adore it and I use it every day.

But.

It has no smell. It has no character. Nobody has written definitions in the margins, or underlined any passages that made them stop and think. There’s no way I can accidentally stain a page with coffee or pasta sauce and I can’t dog ear my favourite parts.
Sure, I can make electronic notes of my favourite parts, and have them all conveniently listed together in a file. But? I don’t care. I don’t want them listed in a file. I want to forget about them and rediscover them when I re-read the book and remember why that particular line mattered to me at that particular time.

Is there anything in the world better than the smell of a book?
If you are a nerd like me, then you know the answer is no. There isn’t.
Except……the smell of an old book. Nothing really smells better with age….but books dont’ follow that rule. The older the book, the more amazing the scent. Apparently it has something to do with decomposition and VOC’s, but those don’t sound nearly as romantic as ‘old book smell’. I’d prefer to believe that it’s the combination of all the places the book has been, all the people who’ve read it, the mustiness from sitting in a box somewhere for years. It’s way nicer to think it’s the absorption of the smells of time rather than the inevitable corrosion and breaking down of the paper and ink.

When I was little, I’d go to visit and stay with my grandparents (both sets lived in the same town 2 and a half hours away). A bibliophile from an early age, I’d haul along as many books as my tiny arms could carry. My mom would drop my brother and I off at the bus station in our city, and it would make the milk run through every tiny town and village before pulling into our final stop, making the 2 and a half hour distance more like 3 and a half hours. My brother would have run out the batteries on his handheld video games or whatever, but I was just happily finishing up a book when my grandma was there to pick us up.

After I’d settled in, my grandma would always take me to the same used book store downtown and buy me several old Nancy Drew books.

Always Nancy Drew, always used. I’d try to find ones that had old messages written in the front cover. People’s names and old addresses or phone numbers would be listed, or an Aunt would wish her niece a happy ‘X’th birthday and date it with the year.

My grandma also had a set of children’s books from when my mom would have been a kid, in the spare room that I stayed in. I’ve never smelled books as good as those ones. I have distinct memories of sitting in front of the two shelf bookshelf, opening and closing the books to hear the spines crack and to have that old papery smell waft up to me. I have no idea where those books went, and I’m almost scared to ask. I don’t think I could handle it if I found out they hit the trash or got donated to a Goodwill. I hope they’re in a box somewhere, waiting for me to adopt them.

My Kindle is white. With grey writing on the buttons. Sure, it’s modern and sleek and makes me look oh-so-techno-chic, but it lacks a lot in terms of the beauty of old books. Hell, even new books, but most especially old ones.

Old books just look so gorgeous to me. There’s no paperbacks, and they all had such simple, primary coloured spines with basic font. I don’t know what the covers are made of, but they have a really distinct feeling to them on the fingertips.

And you know what I just remembered? Remember going to libraries and signing out books int he days before everything was computerized? You’d fill in the card with your name and they’d stamp the date that the book was due back. Once in a while in a used book store, you can find those old library books, cards still in their envelopes, and I love seeing different signatures and old dates.

All those in the know about the future of books are predicting that soon, we’ll all be Kindle (or equivalent) drones, reading our books on our electric screens, downloading the books in mere seconds off of satellites from space.

This kind of saddens me. For as a big of a proponent as I am for the Kindle (seriously, I love mine, go buy one), I still need my books. I still need to flip through them, and smell them, and collect them, and curse at their weight every time I move. I can’t imagine a whole upcoming generation not knowing what it is to crack the spine of a new book, or to be amazed at the age of an old one.

I get it, we can’t keep abusing resources unnecessarily and cranking out books, no matter what type of sustainably grown paper they’re printed on with vegetable inks, powered by low impact energy. I knoooooow. I see it inevitably marching to e-reader-ville. I just hope a balance can be struck.

And if not, then I really hope that these smell as good as they claim to smell.

I mean, it's not even OLD book smell

However, I’m no idiot. They’ll smell like crap. Trust me. I know things, I read books.

Window Farms. Dudes.

I really really love plants. Like, an insane amount. Not flowers, but plants. I’m more a foliage nerd than a flower nerd. Flowers are nice, they’re pretty, they’re a great bonus. But I just like foliage too. I have a particular affinity for ferns. I know……my nerd is showing. But seriously, they’re fascinating. They’re 360 million years old for fucks sake, they get cool points just for that. How old are you? Yeah, not 360 million years old.

You wouldn’t know this about me, since my house is completely devoid of them, but this is only because I move approximately 68 times each year and find that moving isn’t very conducive to keeping plants alive. They’re hard to pack and they’re heavy and they fall over and dirt gets in your car and then the dog tries to eat it and it’s just a shit show.

I worked at a flower farm for two summers during university and adored it. I’m pretty sure that if I could have a dream job, it would be just putzing around in a greenhouse. Day in, and day out. I love it. I love the way the dirt smells and the little baby plants and transplanting them and just everything. Plants do something to my brain to calm me down, and frankly, I’m a person who needs calming.

Alas, I don’t own a greenhouse and it would be hard to fit one onto my balcony. This summer, I did have the world’s tiniest garden before we moved, but since it wasn’t my space and I wasn’t going to be around for September to harvest a lot of it, I didn’t put that much effort into it. I had peppers and tomatoes and peas and carrots and cucumbers and celery. There was also a pot of strawberries. Well, the carrots part is a lie, cuz they didn’t do a damn thing. Lazy carrots. But I did plant them. I prefer to know where my food comes from and what was (or wasn’t, hopefully) sprayed onto it.

 

My point is, I like plants but I’m deprived of them due to living circumstances. I also like growing food.

SO. Imagine my JOY when I discovered this then……….Window Farms. I know you aren’t clicking, so let me blab about it and shamelessly steal photos off their website to try to get you as excited about these as I am.

They are what they seem like…..window farms. They’ve created a way to vertically farm food, at a high yield, in your house. You don’t need a yard. You just need a window. You can source your own food, organically, with minimal water and energy usage, using recycled or low impact materials. You don’t need to weed, you don’t need to worry about rain, you don’t need to figure out a way to keep squirrels and raccoons out of your garden. You don’t have to buy, and then consequently lose, new gardening tools each season.

DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDES.

I know I’m kind of a hippie with environmental shit, but even non-hippies have to find this cool. At the very least, it’s super pretty.

You get the idea. There are schematics and technical mumbo jumbo on their website about the irrigation systems and the installation needs. Their website being windowfarms.org.

Just because you live in the city doesn’t mean that your food should have to be shipped to you from 1000’s of kilometres away, covered in pesticides and fungicides and herbicides and other icides and gross hormones and be burning up bajillions of litres of gas to get to you and taste like cardboard anyways. And come on, we all hear about the people who open up their California fresh (ha) lettuce to find black widows or whatever the hell who have hitched a ride. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t happen with this.
On the other hand, just because more and more people live in cities, doesn’t mean that we should be forced to  grow our food further and further away from us, and stress the increasingly limited arable land that we have. Again, I know, my nerd is showing. The window is dead space, may as well use it. Urban agriculture, kids, it’s the next big thing.

Also, look at it! It’s so gorgeous. Now, due to my foliage love, I may be biased. But this is definitely more interesting to look at than the neighbouring apartment building, or your local garbage dumpster.

And how yummy would it be? Even if you’re all, ‘bleh, I don’t want to bother growing food’ you could at least be one of those cool snobby kids with a herb garden. You’d totally fit in with all the people who have their own yoga mats and everything.

Do I know anybody who has actually used this system? No. Are they paying me or have any idea I even care about this system? No. I just think it is insanely cool and want one, like, yesterday. Of course, they don’t ship to Canada. This aggravates me to no end. Canada is not some weird land mass in the middle of nowhere that is really difficult to get to. We aren’t Easter Island, people. Just ship it. On their website, they claim it is simply too time consuming and expensive to ship to Canada. Time consuming? Um, fill in the waybill and call FedEx. Expensive? Jack up the price, we’re used to it up here. We know that we get charged more on everything than our friendly neighbours to the south.  Anyways.

I dont know. I’ve never blogged about a product before. Mostly because the vast majority of things I see make me think ‘oh my god, we as a society wasted resources, energy, time and money on THAT?? We chopped down trees and polluted water for a fucking Snuggly?’ This didn’t make me think that. It made me geek out. I’m in love with this idea. And as soon as I know I’m going to be living somewhere for more than a few months at a time, I am so setting one of these up.

It’s never going to replace a real garden and getting your hands dirty, but I love it nonetheless for it’s enviro greatness and space efficiency and general amazingness.

Stay tuned for the painfully detailed day by day progress on my window grown parsley, if and when they decide to ship or distribute to Canuckistan.

Awwwwwww yeah. It’s a riveting life, folks. 

 

 

Smelly pig time.

Man walks into office, greets me with, “Bonjour Madame”

I respond in kind with, “Hello, how are you?”

Man glares at me, while my coworker happens to respond with, “Bonjour.”

Glare immediately melts into instant joy, happiness and rainbow-shitting puppies.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh!” He exclaims, literally TURNING HIS BACK ON ME. He shifts over the five feet between my coworker and I.

“So THIS is the bilingual one!!” he says in English, just clearly enough for me to hear.

His wife walks in and makes the grave error of opening her mouth and looking at me, as though she was about to speak. Luckily, her husband quickly prevented her from wasting her time and energy on a stupid anglophone such as myself. “No no, THIS is the bilingual one!” he said with glee, like a kid who had just dressed themselves for the first time. He was prouder than proud that he’d managed to find a fellow french speaker.

She gave me a look as though I eat babies, but first, beat them up a lot beforehand. She quickly joined her husband on the french side of the desk.

They conversed in french, laughed all jolly-like, then took a seat to wait for their appointment.

As they were walking away, I MAY have said to my coworker, en anglais, ‘Ohhhhhhh, IIIIII get it! I don’t get the privilege of being spoken to cuz I’m a useless english speaker! My bad!’

I got the ‘shut your mouth, Talea!’ eyeball bulge from her, and just a shocked expression from mes amis francais.

I’ve had it with this fucking city. Seriously. The level of incompetency here that is accepted for the tradeoff of letting the french run amok is disgusting. You are literally hired here based on language skills, not job skills or work ethic. It’s disgusting and I’m done with it. You want to treat me like shit because I’m not fluent, then please, suck my balls. They’re allowed to be snide to me and I’m done just taking it.

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

So…….background story time. Yesterday, the bilingual coworker was sick.  Amongst other raucous pranks we pulled, we set her screensaver to come up after 1 minute of inactivity and to scroll the message, ‘Tu es un cochon puant’ across the screen. This means, ‘you are a smelly pig’. It was an inside joke from before. Anyways.

SO. As Monsieur et Madame Douchebag were leaving their appointment, my decidedly NON-bilingual coworker sat down at bilingual girls’ desk and the screensaver popped up.

She loudly stuttered out, ‘Tu…es….un…..cochon’ JUST as the couple was behind her, about to leave.

The gentleman (using the term loosely here, people) stops and goes, ‘Quoi??’ then starts blathering off in french, because she (as far as he is concerned) has just called him a pig. She at least didn’t get to the ‘puant’ part, so he didn’t know that he was on his way to being called a stinking pig.

She sat there stunned, as she doesn’t understand a single word of french. She then just smiled and told him to take care.

************

Sidebar: Yes. I am fully aware that this blog is turning into an ‘OMFG I hate Ottawa’ blog. Whatever. Deal with it. When I stop hating this city, you’ll stop hearing about it. Or, eventually I’ll move. One or the other.

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