A small thing within arm’s reach

A cross-stitched 4:3 video test pattern on beige fabric.
Test pattern

I spent a lot of my childhood around test patterns and it feels good to be back around them. I stitch a bit and go through phases. The ones I eventually finish are sayings, composed in Illustrator and exported with MacStitch, typically delivered months late to the recipient. The ones that have been going on for years are film and video stills, including a giant portrait of Nog from Deep Space Nine (RIP Aron Eisenberg) and a city scene from Blade Runner. I stitched a scene from The Thin Red Line that I had a blurry photo of on my phone.

Over the winter break I stitched everyone their Christmas gifts because I spent all my money on gas. My hand crunched up into a claw at the same time that Dustin started to recover from his various workplace-related repetitive strain injuries. He was heading to a job upstairs in the media library, where he could continue to live out his Gerry Todd dreams.

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First time? No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.

As I use everyone’s favourite search engine to find appropriate images for this post, it returns local search results first, including film showtimes. My favourite film of all time, Airplane!, is playing in a Toronto theatre this week. I text D to see if we have any Garbage Day plans. I am generally oblivious when it comes to today’s date. Last Wednesday, February 14th, when we ran into a friend and she asked us if we had plans, I responded “taking out the garbage” because it was a Wednesday. It has been Garbage Day since then. We live in one of those weird zones where garbage pickup happens every week and I do not pay for parking.

Today I am to write about something I love. I am almost more nervous about writing about something that I love than any other topic. I want to do the things I love justice, and as I generally lack the vocabulary to describe the feelings that floor me. I give up before I try instead of stammer as I attempt to confront the point. Tonight I will write about Airplane!

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the Dallas Cowboys

I like my job so much because we all take our work seriously, but most of us don’t take ourselves seriously. I love my colleagues for their collective sense of humour. I had my second performance appraisal recently, which went well because I’m happy to smile and laugh my way through it. When asked to name what I was proud of in the last year, I named the cat and dog calendars I made, raising over $2,100 for charity. I was given a listserv for my totally SFW dad jokes (“welcome to 1999,” my highschool pal Victor said, correctly) though that technically happened in 2020.

At the same time, I drove some pioneering work in Canada, took part in making some meaningful improvements for trans folks on campus, and was invited by my professional hero to be on a panel of archivists and librarians at my first academic conference in a long-ass time. When asked what my professional development goals were, I asked my manager if she remembered that scene from The Simpsons, in which Homer tells his new boss about his aspirations:

Homer Simpson bashfully looks at his boss, Hank Scorpio.
“Now, you tell me the truth. What’s your real dream? Your real dream!”
“Um, someday I’d like to own the Dallas Cowboys.”

I think I want to go to engineering school.

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A frat house is no place for a kitty

For ten years, I worked in a turkey-shaped concrete building that took up the whole block and sank two stories into the ground. The majority of the library’s entrances are on the second floor, suggesting those uninitiated to the institution should probably just keep walking instead of figuring out how to get in. Two slight slopes, enough to satisfy ball-fetching dogs, curve down to meet the bottom of the windows on the first floor. As he returned from his break, my colleague informed me that there was a cat downstairs in the tiny valley, understandably anxious because he didn’t know how to get around the building. He bounced off angled exterior slabs and wide staircase rails, posed for several photographs, and eventually I caught a long enough look at the tag on his collar to punch it into my phone. “Ugh, everyone keeps calling. It’s my boyfriend’s cat,” the sleepy voice on the other end replied, “he’ll come back.”

I went up back upstairs to open the department for the day, and one of the student workers learned from Facebook that a cat managed to enter the building through the revolving doors and was presently evading capture in the library.

A small tabby cat with white legs walks across a stone patio in front of a concrete wall.
Frat house cat, December 2013
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Centre of attention

An orange cat walks through a garden towards the camera.
Smooch outside the Tranzac, May 2016.

One of the perks of my old job that I genuinely miss was the spring-through-fall walks through downtown Toronto, which got increasingly longer the closer I got to the end. As much as I love the UW campus for its groundhogs and the time I saw over one hundred ducks in the pond, it doesn’t have campus cats. My previous library, a behemoth at the edge of downtown, was within minutes of Rufflecat, Smooch, the white one on Dalton, the fluffy beast who lived in the front yard on Brunswick, and the frat house cat who came in through the revolving doors. Kerry Clare knows all of these cats, and I am writing this post because I signed up for My Blog School, through which I hope to get better at short-form writing.

I feel like I am very good at writing emails to elsewhere on campus, firm but empathetic. I feel safer when I think I know my audience. When it happens, I am happy with my academic writing. I accidentally let my Twitter account lapse in deactivation mode, sending a few thoughts other people seemed to like into the ether. I have not posted to this site in 18 months. I want to get better at writing in public.

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