Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes

I don’t recall where I first heard about Garbology, but it intrigued me enough that I popped it on my holds list at the Toronto Public Library, and then one day there it was waiting for me. And I didn’t really want to read it. Despite its colourful cover, reading a book about garbage would only be depressing, I thought. Thankfully I read it anyway.

And now I recommend it to everyone.

Edward Humes writes wonderfully, and Garbology is such a well-organized book (the editor side of my brain thought about that a lot while reading). He easily shifts from individuals’ stories — the guy who proudly works at the landfill stuck with me — to historical overviews of trash in America. From land to sea, past to future, personal to corporate, Garbology makes you look at all the bits of refuse that surround you in a very different way. It makes you want to reduce your 102 ton personal trash legacy. It made me realize how much I rely on the crutch of ‘oh it’s recyclable’ to not really reduce my waste. The book isn’t a doom-and-gloom party, not at all; there are solutions, ideas, strategies already in place outside of America. (The waste to energy plants are ingenious, IMHO.) A lot of the problem seems to come down to scale. On smaller community levels, or in countries less trash-producing than America, it’s easier to manage. Which means bringing that 102-ton legacy down matters. The first step on that road is to stop ignoring our trash and pretending it just magically disappears when the garbage man takes it away.

A couple of personal waste reduction strategies I’m trying out, none of which are new to you eco-minded folks, but mark changes of habit for this wannabe:

  • Coffee in a reusable mug. In the past, I’ve given myself a pass to be lazy about this (and congratulated myself on not using one of those cardboard sleeves), but I’m kicking my disposable cup habit.
  • Composting at the office! Jen has a beautiful garden and it needs our food lefties. So we’ve just introduced Compie the Vegan Composter, and she’s had her first week at ECW HQ. Next up: figure out my home composting situation. (Toronto’s green bin program isn’t in effect in my apt complex.)
  • No more takeout. How hard it is to walk across the street to the restaurant and just eat there, instead of needlessly filling some single-use containers only to pitch them in the trash half an hour later?
  • Even better: prepare my own food more often & smarter grocery shopping! Better food, lower cost, more control over what I’m ingesting. When I’m grocery shopping now, I’m looking for plastic-free containers, ignoring those plastic produce bags (you don’t need them, I swear), and when I can’t find good alternatives, dropping a note to the customer service dept. I’m lucky to live in a city with a lot of alternatives to the big-box grocery store and with an organic bottled milk option. (Try the chocolate milk. Ridiculously tasty.)
  • Find it, don’t buy it new. I feel like a scavenger hunt ninja when I successfully accomplish a find-it mission. I needed a measuring cup; Value Village had a used one for me. Spatula? Mum’s basement/kitchen supplies. Cheaper and keepin’ it out of the landfill. And this is a two-way street of convenience when we put our unwanted but perfectly good things somewhere other than the garbage can.  My mum’s basement is full of perfectly good old stuff, and what we personally don’t need will be making its way on to the Freecycle listings or to a donation centre like Goodwill.
  • Refuse refuse. I think this tip came from The Zero Waste Home: when someone tries to give you a magnet advertising their carpet cleaning business, or some other doo-dad that you really don’t want and will just end up in the bin, just say no. I kind of felt like a jerk the first few times, but I got over it pretty quickly. When a cashier goes to put a flyer or bookmark or something extra in with my purchase, I just hand it back to the person and say no thank you. One less piece of garbage.

The extra bonus of all this is that I feel like I’m doing something — however small my actions are, I think they are crucial. More important than keeping one magnet out of a landfill, there has been a shift in my way of thinking about waste, about its significance, and that’s something that will affect my purchasing decisions, my involvement in my community, my expectations of government, and my participation in this ‘movement.’

I think the last book I read that inspired me to (try to) change my habits like this was Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.

Pick up Garbology; it’s a great read, and an important one.

happy tuesday the 27th to you

Sometimes I am just the worst at blogging. (And by ‘sometimes’ I mean ‘most all the time.’) My poor blog feels very neglected, and for that I am sorry.

things that have happened since last we met:

I finished my Goodreads 2011 Reading Challenge to read 50 books, and as it turns out I read (a) books at work, (b) YA novels, (c) little else. If it was new year’s resolution making time (oh hey it is), I would vow to read a wider variety of books in 2012. Perhaps some for grownups as well as those for YA-loving grownups like me. On my to-read shelf at the moment I have three Canadian-authored recently-released novels, so I think that will count for something if I actually read them. (Yes, I have guilty feelings about working in Cdn publishing but being woefully poorly read when it comes to what is published by Cdn publishers. I watch a lot of TV, okay?)

It is the holiday times, and that means seeing my friends more than usual. Especially the one who doesn’t live here and comes home for the hols. That is just the best. As it turns out, I have a great deal of wonderful friends whom I love and adore a lot. This is not new, per se, but top of mind as I’ve just had an epic brunch (an annual event) and the high-quality friend times are top of mind. Also, the ones with kids tend to have kids who are really nice, charming, clever, well mannered … and I’m only a little bit biased. More procreation, excellent people!

now, what next? I have to make my annual resolutions list, and I think it will include ‘getting my act in gear in various ways so that I can go to this learn-to-surf camp next year’ (which I’ve been dreaming of going to for ages) and in all likelihood ‘stop being such a crap blogger.’ In particular, I feel I have dropped — nay, lost — the ball when it comes to Gossip Girl this season. Where have my posts been? Unwritten.

I’ve had a hankering of late to re-watch season 1 of Gossip Girl. Maybe it’s the thought of how much my dear darling Blair has gone through over the past few years — as we wait for Chuck to rise like the UES phoenix that he is — and, of course, to chart the progression of Blair and Dan’s relationship. Remember the school play in season 2? Flipping classic. Maybe that is how I should spend my remaining holiday days…parked in front of the television. Sounds not bad (and not that unusual).

But before I do that, I have to put together a little announcement for y’all. Hint: it has something to do with a TV show and an upcoming book and a pen name and a devilish anonymous texter . . . and if you have a look at my currently reading list on Goodreads you could probably figure it out.

back to the books

without the vampire diaries to write about (or my other secret, soon-to-be revealed project on my plate) i found myself with an abundance of time this past weekend. how does one feel it if not with overthinking television?

books. books. books.

i finally read the third and final Wolves of Mercy Falls book, Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (whose name I love to say with extra oomph). I had forgotten a lot of the plot details — who did what to whom and why, wolf wise — but nevertheless it carried the same charm and romance and tension and sense of the beauty of standing in the forest (whether as wolf or as human) that I loved from Shiver and Linger. As much as I love Sam and Grace, Cole and, in particular, Isabel are such unusual and well-defined voices that I found myself especially happy to be in their POV chapters. Sad the series is over. And I’d forgotten that these books make me wish I was in love — so heavy-hearted when they end. Le sigh.

What is that saying about books and their covers? I must say that I absolutely abhor the cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Yuck to the max. (Sorry, cover designer whoever you are.) But I kept hearing excellent things about the book. And so I bought it and promptly removed the offending dust jacket and have begun to read it. And yes. Excellent so far.

I am not one to read the descriptions of books — fear of spoilers — so I don’t really know what kind of world I am getting into. But so far: two thumbs up for the main girl (presumably the titular daughter of smoke and bone?), two thumbs up for her bestie, and two thumbs up for setting up a mysterious and intriguing world. I’m maybe three or so chapters in; let’s hope it is excellent straight through to the end as it is the first in a series. Also, me and Vee saw Laini Taylor at a panel at Comic-Con this past July, and I remember her as clever and lovely. So hurrah for that.

And in the re-read department: The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I’m reading a beauteous edition from Melville House, part of their Art of the Novella series, and at the suggestion of Lucia (from Heroine TV and her book blog Raspberry Cordial) who is (was?) re-reading it herself after many moons. I read The Awakening in university English class, probably when I was about 19 or 20 or something — as in, what oddly feels like yesterday and a million years ago at the same time — and I remember it making an impression. The idea of this woman waking up and coming out of the fog was somehow so realistically rendered as to be incredibly powerful.

What else should I read? I’m doing one of those Goodreads reading challenges: I have to read 12 more books before January. (so please recommend short short bookies.)

Recommendations welcome!


i am vair vair tired. it is 9:30 pm! but i wanted to tell you two things:

one — the PC calm tea is really gooood and does the trick.

two — one was not what i actually came here to tell you.

three — i did a Keep Toronto Reading video and you can watch it at since i know you will be wondering, the pink polka dot hairband thing I am wearing in the video comes from JCrew. it stays in my hair for about one hour. then it slides out and makes me annoyed.

four — my post on Klaus is up at and it features a picture of my #1 tru love Elijah.

five — is it lame to go to bed at 9:30?

Philip Pullman on Libraries and much more

I came across this speech (via The CCBC’s Twitter feed) that Philip Pullman gave in support of libraries in Oxfordshire (where they are being closed in great numbers). Apparently the speech is making the internet rounds, and I am glad. Pullman is, besides the author of one of my favorite book series His Dark Materials, a very wise and just man — his essays are always drawn from ideas of humanism and rationalism, I find myself agreeing with him and thinking about things that were sort of slipping past me in the speed of the day-to-day.

Anyway: among his wise words in this speech about libraries, and the detrimental effects of our economic system, is the following passage about reading, which I think just captures it perfectly:

And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?

Read the entire speech here: Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value. | Blog | False Economy.

books, books, books

I am in the midst of a book reading bonanza! It’s been a while since I’ve read purely for pleasure — not for my book, not for-work books — and I am doing my best to make up for lost time. Most of the books I picked came from Julie Plec‘s reading recommendations that she made during that epic VRO interview: Vampire Academy, Uglies, The Hunger Games, The Book Thief. (Also on her list: The Help, Fallen.) Vee from also mentioned Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series in one of her answers in the interview I did with her & Red for Love You to Death. Double-whammy recommendation = must read. Anywho, onwards, to my mini reviews of what I’ve been devouring these past few weeks:

* The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008): Of the group of books, this is one of two that I think everyone should read. Set in a dystopian future, the story follows Katniss Everdeen — a brilliantly written heroine if ever there was one — as she fights for survival in an impoverished colony. I don’t want to say anything, really, about the plot because reading it without much knowledge about the world you’re entering makes everything about it such a revelation and adventure. Part of a trilogy (the third book comes out in a few weeks), I have the next book, Catching Fire, on hold from the trusty Toronto Public Library. My complaint about this book has nothing to do with the content of the words on the page but with the printing. The paperback edition I bought was SO cheaply manufactured with ink barely legible on multiple pages. C’mon, Scholastic, you can afford better production values than that. Especially on a book selling kamillions of copies. Step up yo game.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield (Simon Pulse, 2005): I think if I hadn’t just finished reading The Hunger Games, I would’ve enjoyed Uglies a lot more. But since there are some basic similarities — the teenage-girl in a dystopian future thing — I found it hard not to compare Tally to Katniss and the adventure storyline in both stories. That said, there’s a lot to enjoy in Uglies and it was definitely more captivating than I imagined it would be when I passed it over multiple times browsing thru YA fiction. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here: questions about body image dictating self-worth; the environmental perspective on our present-day society, the “Rusties,” and how we treat natural resources; and how certain superficial concerns can distract us from what’s really going on under our pretty little noses. Definitely worth a read and I’ll likely continue the series, which also includes Pretties, Specials, and Extras. SmartPop books has a collection of essays on the series, Mind Rain, which I may read too!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2009): Side effect of reading this book — really wishing you had a dreamy werewolf to fall in love with. Poetic, romantic, and strong, Shiver also centers on a strong female protagonist — Grace — who has been fascinated with the wolves who linger in the woods behind her house since she was a child. Sam, he’s one of those wolves. I fell in love reading this book and can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the trilogy, Linger. The author keeps a very charming and entertaining blog, which includes an interview with the cover designer for her two books in the series. I love these kinds of posts! Again, my only problem, Scholastic, was with the production value of the book. I treat my books rather kindly but as I neared the end of the novel, the cover was detaching itself from the guts of the book, looking to escape from the glue that bound it there. It’s too bad because otherwise it’s a good-looking book — with that cover and blue, not black, ink. Fancy that.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Razorbill [Penguin], 2007): Doesn’t the girl on the cover look a little like a younger Angelina Jolie? A little? Well, regardless, the thing I like most about Vampire Academy (and presumably the series as a whole; I just started book #2) are the complexities of the world — there are different kinds of vampires, half-human/half-vampires, class systems and a monarchy, and magic! At the heart is the bond between two best friends that bridges some of those divides, and the nature of that bond allows the narrative to move from one girl’s perspective to the other’s in a way I really liked. Also: there’s a simmering romantic relationship for one girl that I can really get behind. There are five books out in the series already, with another coming in January. We’ll see how Frostbite goes, but I can see myself happily hanging out with the gang at St. Vladimir’s Academy for all six. It’s not a series that’s going to change your world or anything, but I really enjoy spending my time in its universe.

* The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf, 2005): Read this book. Please, please do. I generally shy away from historical fiction. I am not attracted to stories set in wartime. I don’t particularly find this book’s cover appealing. But I am so so so grateful for the recommendations to read this book — thanks Julie Plec and KIRBC‘s Jen Knoch! I know I’ll re-read it in my lifetime. The characters are so memorable. The writing is full of life and humor and personality. It’s such a strong story — there are not enough compliments I could pay it. So, give it a try. I was hesitant for maybe the first 10 or so pages. Then I just didn’t want to put it down.

And now I am looking for more recommendations! I have some stuff on hold at the TPL — the next books in these series — but sound off below if you have suggestions to add to my TBR pile. I’m also spending more time over at GoodReads if you care to hang out there. I like seeing what my friends are reading, browsing lists, and following authors. That’s how I discovered Maggie Stiefvater’s charming blog!

bloggin’ on books

Over at the ECDubs HQ, I have the pleasure of working with one Jen Knoch, principal blogger over at the Keepin’ It Real Book Club. On her site she reviews SO many books I wonder how she ever has time to read them all, and this month has been posting a video a day with book recommendations from her blog readers as part of the Keep Toronto Reading campaign. Genius! I linked to my video about The Torn Skirt a little while ago, but Evan Munday’s video out-videos all videos.

Since one blog ain’t enough for JenK, she’s also working on the Books on TV blog. Learn all about Jen’s watching habits here!

calhoun recommends

the U.S. edition's cover

the Canadian edition's cover

Over on the very excellent book blog, The Keepin’ It Real Book Club, you can watch me and loads of other people (new videos every day!) recommend a book as part of the Keep Toronto Reading campaign. (I enjoy that i have a giant claw hand coming to get you in the video’s default screencap. Hilarious.) The book I recommend is The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey — which astute Gossip Girl viewers will remember Jenny Humphrey reading earlier this season in Dan de Fleurette. But that’s not why I am recommending it (I do not get my reading list from Little J). I read this book nearly 10 years ago now when it came out in Canada, when Little J really was Little. Watch the video to find out why I love it — well, one minute of why I love it. Jen K, the main mastermind behind the blog, is still accepting submissions if you’re interested in recommending a book! As she so punnily ends the post, “Get spotted giving a 1-minute video! Email me: j.k.knoch[at]”

The web clips for tonight’s episode of The Vampire Diaries are here and here.

The trailer for Gossip Girl‘s next episode, Dr Strangeloved, below — and remember there’s no new episode on Monday. It’s back on the 26th.

Reading in Bed

who’s in a bad mood who’s in a taxi turning the clock back avoiding a fight with this man he is meeting stands in the lobby counting his questions in the neon light sinking under the river the sewer line touches the edge of the suburbs back to the beach where a family is waiting on rumors of summer lay out a blanket

bring something to feed the birds

with all the luck you’ve had why are your songs so sad you sing from a book you were reading in bed and took to heart all of your lives unled reading in bed

(from knives don’t have your back, emily haines & the soft skeleton

flashlight dream

over in the county of hastings, where i spent my long weekend, the local rock station played “Roxy Roller.” We immediately took to it and Clazza’s found a video of it and I’ve discovered that it was a Juno-winning song for Sweeney Todd, a glam rock band from Vancouver (a phrase I haven’t written before) and then was covered by Suzi Quatro. That’s the version we heard on that super rock long weekend. A quick look at the lyrics suggests that our heroine, Roxy, is a hooker: Roxy Roller / Five-bob job / She gets bubble-gum on her knees / Down between the seats. Oh Roxy Roller.

Sharelle blogged about this a while back but I’ve taken to using it so shall mention it here. Musicovery — for when you are tired of your own music or can’t think of what the fuck to listen to. It provides ya with songs by people you forgot you liked and songs by people you really should like.

Musicovery is a pretty little webradio application that allows users to select the music they would like to listen to based on various parameters. Click a point in the “matrix” of the calm/energetic and dark/positive axes to determine the mood of the music you want to listen to. Also select by genre, decade and popularity. A click in the neighborhood of “calm” and “positive” within the “electro” genre spawned a pretty little organic blossom of…wait for it…calm and positive electronic music

While I’m pilfering Sharelle’s blog, let’s mention the Thomas Allen pulp fiction cover stand-ups. I think they are marvy and may have to get myself his book, which Sharelle tells us is called
Uncovered. More at Foley Gallery.

In our town of Flinton, Clairey, S’rain, and I went to a flea market, which was more like a trunk sale with some perma stands. A lot of mason jars on sale, but also a dried-grass parking lot full of cassette tapes and books. Two copies of Paula Abdul’s remix album Shut Up and Dance (i already have it so didn’t get it), a million Heart tapes, Chris Sheppard, George Michael…. S’rain went for the Corey Hart and early Michael Jackson. Claire found a Fred Astaire CD. I added to my Dylan Thomas collection and now own two recordings of Under Milk Wood, this one a BBC production with Richard Burton. I listened to the first half last night and it’s quite magical and funny. Funnier than I remember. As far as I can tell, it’s the 1954 recording but you can hear the 1963 one here. Also for 25 cents apeach, The Ice Age (Margaret Drabble) and Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov). Plus three not-so-torrid romance novels for cabin reading. Flipping through one, Dearest Traitor, for the naughty bits, I came across the best-ever whispered sweet nothing. Our heroine Georgina is being overpowered by the ferocious Stephen. He reaches up under her sweater and says something like, “Your breasts are soft and supple, warm like a kitten.” I urge my boob-caressing readers to try this out on a lady friend in the near future. PLEASE. If you can keep a straight face.

And I’ve finished Hairy Potts Numero 7 so feel free to discuss the ending with me whenever you please. I felt compelled to read it as fast as possible but must admit that I don’t really care for any of the characters and was accordingly not that invested. Also I had le grand pleasure of telling Claire what I would have included in the last book if I were J.K. and was right on track with most of it. Minus the crap epilogue (crapilogue). And the bit about a character called Crissy Calhoun riding in on her horse Thunderbuckeroo (borrowed from S’rain) to save the day by leading Dumbledore’s Army and the Death Eaters in a spontaneous yet perfectly synchronized dance routine that unites them all. And you best believe we’d have a laser light show with all those wands, jazzing it up. Quite the show.

Now reading Daniel Handler’s Watch Your Mouth. The cover is AWFUL but the text is molto bene thus far. I guess that’s one more point for not judging a book by its cover.

Well that’s enough for now. wouldn’t ya say?