America’s Just Not That Into Us

Um… hey, Americans?

Why aren’t you visiting Canada like you use to?  Sure, we know you’re having a little cash flow problem at the moment, but if you really, really liked us, you’d still want to find a way to spend time with us, wouldn’t you? We’re only a few miles away.  Texans drive further to the Piggly Wiggly every day than it would take for a New Yorker to come up for the weekend.

According to the people who keep track of this stuff, US to Canada tourism is at a 36-year low !

Why? What have we done?

Haven’t we always been nice? Haven’t we harboured your draft dodgers? Don’t we send you all our best comedians and hockey players and super-models? Didn’t we just spend over $3 million[1] to show your President a good time AND give him free cookies which everybody in the world now wants just because your President bought some? (Seriously, are people totally insane or is it just me?)

So, anyway did the President say anything about us when he got back?  What did he say? Does he like us? Did he say anything bad about us? He said something, didn’t he? What? What was it? He hates us, right?

We knew it. We know you all hate us, don’t you?  A 2007 study said that Americans think Canada is boring!

O.M.G.! Is there anything worse than being called boring?  A relationship can recover from a lot of things, but not boring.

We don’t stand a chance next to exciting, ultra chic New York with our dowdy little matronly Toronto. And how could we ever compete with hotsy-totsy Vegas?

No wonder you can’t stand being around us. We’ve only got Niagara Falls.  Sure it’s got all the kitchy trash of Vegas and a couple of casinos, but no showgirls, no quickie wedding chapels and no Wayne Newton.

 wayne20newton

We don’t blame you for preferring glitzy, glamorous LA or hot, steamy, sultry Florida over our southernmost place: Windsor, Ontario — the genital scab of the country, where the mullet is just now coming into fashion. And it’s not even warm there.

Oh! Is that it? Is it because we’re frigid? Frigid and boring? Is that what you’re saying about us? Is that why you’re staying away?

We are working on it, you know.  We’re all over this new global warming therapy, for instance. So, if it’s beachy you prefer…. well, we could get beachy, we really could.

And how can you call us boring when we’ve got Cirque du Soleil, “the hauntingly beautiful circus full of whimsy and wonder that nourishes the child within you?” Eh? How?

And you’re always saying how clean and pretty we are. Doesn’t that count for anything?

No?

Fine. Stay away. We still have the Japanese and Chinese and Germans and Dutch and those bloody Scots. We’ve got plenty going for us and they know it! And they appreciate us!

So we’ll be just peachy, thank you very much. Will you?

Because every time a frosty wind blows down from the north, you know you’ll think of us. And you know, even as the goosebumps rise on your forearms and your nipples stiffen in the chill breeze, you’ll suddenly be filled with an excruciatingly unbearable yearning for our beavertails. Oh yes you will. 

beaver-tail

 


[1] I know! THREE MILLION. I couldn’t believe it either. That’s just for security and policing. For 6 hours! It doesn’t include firefighters, paramedics, road closures and buses during the visit. Holy crap!

How to be Cool While Dying of the Rhinovirus

Yes, after much bragging about how many years it’s been since I’ve been felled by illness, I now must shamefully confess to having been gored by some stupid viral thing. It’s not bad, but it is annoying. The worst part of it has been that I’ve had no voice for almost a week — well, I’ve had some voice for some of that time, but it hasn’t been my own.

However, being the eternal Pollyanna that I am, I figured if I have to carry this thing around for a while I might as well make the best of it. So, here are some things you might want to consider next time you get sick.

  1. Referring to your illness by calling it “a cold” or “the flu” is so very common and  pathetic-sounding. Rhinovirus or influenza sound so much cooler and exotic.
  2. Think of this little bout with sickness as an opportunity to shed a few pounds. Even with the rhinovirus you have little appetite, so take advantage and live on soup for a couple of weeks. A new, svelte you is something to look forward to while you’re valiantly trying to find repositories for your excess mucus and/or while becoming overly familiar with the privy.
  3. Sinus pressure plumps up those fine lines and wrinkles in your face taking years off you — and all for free. Make the most of this by moisturizing like mad so you’ll present as young, fresh and dewy. Add some daring, youthful dashes of make-up and people will marvel over your transformation while regarding you with envious suspicion.
  4. Hair doesn’t respond well to viruses. It tends to reflect the lankiness and lifelessness you feel inside. Don’t despair. This is the perfect time to sport a fetching chapeau. What’s cooler these days than hats? Nothing, that’s what.  You might not normally wear one because you enjoy showing off your luxurious mane, but now’s a good time to experiment with some hip, happening headgear (this does not include ball caps). And, a hat has the added benefit of keeping your poor sick head warm and cosy, helping you to get better faster.
  5. It’s difficult to be cool whilst blowing or dribbling snot out of your nose, but it’s not impossible.
    • First, spend the money to get really soft facial tissues so your nose doesn’t end up red and scabby. Red and scabby isn’t cool.
    • Next , find a supplier of cool tissues in cool colours like black or neon pink or charming prints.
    • Blow or wipe your nose with these cool tissues so that instead of looking away in disgust, people will be watching you with interest. They won’t even notice the revolting noises and slime emanating from you because they’ll be so distracted by the cool, pretty tissues.
  6. You will, no doubt feel self-conscious of your nasal, squeaky monotone  voice because you remember how repelled you usually are by the way other people sound when they’re sick. The trick is not to try so hard. The uncool try to keep talking and projecting like normal and end up sounding like Elmer Fudd with a bad cocaine habit. Cool people use this time to be mysteriously still. You sit back with a little knowing smile;  using eye contact, continental shrugs and  an attractive little moue now and again to communicate. People will be astounded at your new listening skills and will want to be with you all the time and will confide all manner of important and scandalous secrets. When you do have to contribute, speak in a hushed whispery voice and be a man or woman of few words.
  7.  A sick but thinner, younger-looking, hat-sporting, husky-voiced you, will suddenly be a much sought-after companion and party guest. Be prepared for a spike in your social calendar. Conventional wisdom says you should stay in bed and rest during an illness, but since when has that ever made you feel better? You just lay around feeling sweaty, grubby and sorry for yourself while you wallow in misery and loneliness.  Take up all the invitations that will now come your way as one of the new virally cool. This will distract you enough that before you know it, you’ll be back to your old, healthy self.

Voila! Now you’re ready to enjoy your next viral infection with verveélan and panache.

black-tissues-1jpg

Coffee & Chocolate

chocolate_coffee

A recent poll in the UK determined that coffee and chocolate are people’s  first and second most common addictions. Alcohol, drugs and tobacco didn’t even make the top 10 list.

An awful lot of people (at least according to this survey) are apparently willing to give up an awful lot before they’d be willing to give up either coffee or chocolate.

This is interesting to me because I never drink coffee. I wish I did because it seems like so much fun and so cool and social and everything. And it smells really good and there are so many hip and happening places to go if you drink coffee. But I just can’t stand the taste of it. I make me ill.

And chocolate? I could live without it — no problem.  I rarely eat it and when I do, it has to be really good chocolate in some sort of interesting format other than just a slab of chocolate. And I really, really have to be in the mood for chocolate or it doesn’t taste right, no matter how good it is. And hot chocolate? Gahh and hurl.

And, at the risk of making you all go “ewwwww”,  I will further confess to enjoying a nice cup or two of green tea in the morning. But that’s not really important to the coffee/chocolate topic …

… Or is it? Is there a relationship between coffee and chocolate and being addicted to and/or being passionate about both?

My informal observations tell me that people who love coffee also love chocolate and that people who are not coffee afficionados are also not overly fond of chocolate.

I know! You’re thinking this could be the scientific breakthrough of the century, right? There’s no telling where such a hypothesis could lead…. cures for stuff….end to global warming…. anything  really…. I’m as excited as you are, believe me.

To continue, coffee and chocolate both contain similar stimulants, coffee in the form of caffeine[1] and strong alkaloids, and chocolate in the forms of theobromine[2], phenethylamine[3] and other chemicals. The chemicals in both coffee and chocolate have the same effects and addictive qualities as amphetamines.

Also, both coffee and chocolate are grown in mysterious, south-of-the-equator countries. And, both coffee and chocolate seem to grow disguised as something completely different from what they really are:

coffee-plant

cocoa1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who or what are these two smooth dark strangers afraid of? What’s with the jaunty red jackets? You’d never catch tea pretending to be anything other than what it really is:

 tea-plant1

 Here I am – TEA! Totally out of cognito! Pour water on me and I’m done.

Anyway, let’s get to the important part of this post and conduct a definitive survey.  We’ll settle this age-old question once and for all:  Are most coffee lovers also chocolate lovers and vice versa? Or are an equal amount of tea lovers also chocolate lovers?

Thank you for your participation.

 

 


[1] Caffeine’s function in the coffee plant is as a natural pesticide to kill insects that prey on the coffee plant.

[2] Theobromine can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, as well as contribute to increased production of urine. Additional side effects include loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting

[3] A classification of chemical compounds, most of which are psychoactive drugs. Beta-Phenethylamine is neurotransmitter in the brain, and it is believed to be the body’s natural version of amphetamine.

Measuring Success

The most recent Statistics Canada figures show that women are still earning only 85 cents for every dollar paid to men in a comparison of full-time, permanent employment with “similar labour market experience”. That figure hasn’t changed much in over 10 years.

I don’t think this means, for instance, that a female vice-president of a bank is going to be making 15% less than a male vice-president of that same bank – all other things being equal. What it does mean, I believe, is that there are more women in lower paying jobs and more men in higher paying jobs.

A significant factor causing this ongoing discrepancy, they reckon, is that women are taking time off from work to have and raise children. This seems to hamper their career mobility.

 Is that reasonable or fair?

My employer has a very generous 5-year extended child-care leave program, which I took advantage of. I only got paid for one year of what’s called “parental leave”, but they held a position for me for 5 years. The 5 years are also still pensionable time which I had to buy back when I returned to work.

Of course, I went back to work at the same level at which I left. If I’d been at work during those 5 years of federal government plenty, I might have been able to move up 2 or even 3 levels during that time period.

Even when I was back at work, I was only there for my 7.5 hours a day. I wasn’t able or willing to work overtime or travel (both of which are written and unwritten requirements of many higher level positions). I stayed home when the kid was sick and re-arranged my schedule for PD days or other school holidays. On top of all that, I went back just when the whole staffing freeze roller-coaster began. So, all things considered, I haven’t experienced a whole lotta upward mobility in my career.

Many other women have similar career experiences to lesser or greater degrees and for the same sorts of reasons. Meanwhile, our male counterparts, who may have started their careers at the same time and at the same level have zoomed into middle and upper management positions.

Because they’ve been there. They’ve put in 60-80 hours a week; they’ve spent much of the last 15 years in meetings and hotel rooms; dealing with staffing headaches, prostrating themselves to their seniors; bringing stacks of work home every evening and weekend; not taking vacations.

To me, they’re more than welcome to that extra 15% in salary.

I have never for an instant regretted those first 5 years I was home with my daughter. Even now, I have no interest in climbing any corporate ladders. I don’t want to give up that much of my life or time with my family. 

I’m sure there are women who want it all and are somehow managing to get it all or at least most of whatever all is. But, I would hazard to guess that the majority of women have different priorities.  I suggest perhaps that’s why there are fewer women in politics or in the upper echelons of corporate power and that’s why the male-female salary gap continues to exist.

So, maybe those pay equity figures are misleading? Maybe they don’t represent inequality? Maybe they represent fundamental differences in how men and women perceive success in life?

 Or maybe I’m living in a happy government fantasy land and the Old Boys are still out there slapping women’s behinds and making sure they don’t get any ideas beyond that Glass Ceiling and we should all be outraged?

Male Nipples & Other Vestigials

Growing up, we had 3 books in our household: a bible, a German-English dictionary, and a big honkin’ Family Medical Guide – fully illustrated.

medical-book

I used to spend hours with that medical book convincing myself I had everything from diphtheria to polio to lock-jaw to ectopic pregnancy.  At first,  I’d tell my parents about it, but they were always less than sympathetic, so usually I would just suffer in silence, leaving scraps of paper as bookmarks in the medical guide so people would know what I’d died from.

I’ve never lost that fascination with medical stuff. I should be a huge fan of Grey’s Anatomy, House, ER and such, but I’m not because I’ve also never lost the ability to imagine myself into a disease. And these shows feature some weird scary-assed diseases. So that’s probably also why it’s good that I never went to medical school. That and the fact that I rather dislike sick people.

So mostly I content myself with keeping up on medical news. Aside from the odd Ebola scare (that was a tough couple of weeks) or a Creutzfeldt Jakob outbreak (which was one thing I smugly knew I didn’t have), a lot of medical news just involves more drugs or vaccines being pumped into the market.

I like to see what’s going on with stem cell research and therapy, too because it’s always good to know there may be hope for a lot of these things to which one might be susceptible.

And, one of my favourite medical topics (and gee hasn’t it taken a long time to get to the point today) is vestigial structures in the human being.

These are things in or on our bodies that seem to have no purpose; such as nipples on men, the appendix, ear muscles[1], goosebumps[2], body hair, the coccyx (the last remnant of our tail days), facial muscles[3] or wisdom teeth[4]. Vestigials are very controversial because they were used by Darwin as proof of human evolution. Creationists have funded tons of research to prove that all these so-called vestigals do, indeed have a purpose.

At one time evolutionists had identified 180 vestigial structures in humans including the tonsils, the thymus gland, the pineal gland and the appendix – all of which are now known to have some very important functions.

It was only in the last year that the purpose of the appendix was discovered. It was once thought that it was just a shriveled up sac that used to help humans digest cellulose from things like plants and tree bark and as humans became more carnivorous we stopped needing that organ. After blithely yanking out kids’ appendices for decades, they now know that the appendix is a store-house of good gut bacteria that will release its stuff when necessary following a gut-bacteria killing illness like cholera or dysentery.

Male nipples aren’t really vestigials. They’ve never had a use as far as anyone knows. Nipples are formed in the 3rd or 4th week of human development with the fetus is still androgynous. Sex hormones come into play around week 7.

In some other mammals the male sex hormone then suppresses the whole male nipple thing, but not in humans.

male-nipples

Both male and female babies are born with perfectly good milk ducts in their breasts. Males retain this gland but it doesn’t develop unless stimulated by estrogen. Some male babies are born with enough of his mother’s estrogen is his system to actually pump out some milk (it’s bizarre enough to be nicknamed  witches’ milk).

In theory it’s possible to provide enough estrogen stimulation to an adult male to produce lactation – it’s been done a couple of times. Who knows where this could lead in the future?

 men

 


[1] We still have ear muscles that used to be used to move the ears, like a cat’s, and do nothing now.

[2] Goosebumps were useful when we were covered in hair so they’d perk up our body hair when we got cold adding a layer of insulating air between hair follicles. Or, perking up the body hair when we got scared, making us look a little bigger and fiercer to scare away enemies.

[3] We still have the face muscles that used to hold up our heads, like they do in gorillas, but now we just use them for facial expression.

[4] Wisdom teeth are left over from when we had much bigger jaws and needed extra teeth to chew raw stuff. That seems like a pretty lame explanation to me, but that’s the best anyone could come up with so far.

Not My Vacation Slides

beach

Since I’m not going anywhere interesting this winter and my co-worker,  Uma, has no blog, we thought we’d share Uma’s recent vacation to El Salvador.

I know what you’re thinking.  When she first announced her intended trip a couple of co-workers who are actually from El Salvador were astonished, to put it mildly. They said things to the effect of, “Are you insane?”

They might have been referring to the 12 years of civil war (1980-1922).

Or they might have been concerned that El Salvador is subject to significant earthquakes, volcanic activity and hurricanes. The 5.7 earthquake of 1986 resulted in 1500 deaths, 10,000 injuries, and 100,000 people left homeless. In 2001 two 7.7 earthquakes in January and February killed over 1,000 people and destroyed over 20% of the country’s housing. The latest volcanic eruption was in October of 2005.

Natural disasters aside, El Salvador also experiences one of the highest murder rates in the world and is considered a hotbed of gang activity since thousands of Salavadoran gang members were deported from the US in the mid 1990s.

But, Uma is an adventurous sort and went anyway. Tourism is still in its infancy in El Salvador so she got a really good deal ($1,000 Canadian all inclusive –  flight, accommodation and meals). Maybe Uma is just cheap?

There aren’t many nature-themed tourist destinations in El Salvador such as ecotours or archaeological monuments. There are museums and surfing, however:

surf

This is the only photo that’s not one of Uma’s. Although Uma did surf, I guess no one took pictures.  This photo is from Lonely Planet.

Uma did climb a volcano:

volcao

She said she’ll never do it again because it took hours and hours and she almost died from exhaustion.

volcano

Here she is wondering how she’s going to get off this damned volcano now that she’s almost dead from exhaustion.

Whenever they left the resort, the group was accompanied by heavily armed police.

guns

Uma says the female police were particularly gorgeous.

girl-police

And, although they were smaller than their guns, they were also very serious about their jobs. They don’t like tourists getting murdered by gangs. Good to know.

There isn’t much in the way of wildlife in El Salvador for some reason, but the scenery that isn’t covered by volcanic rubble is beautiful.

 waterfall

And the resort was lovely.

resort

 resort2

The most important area of the resort.

bar

The sad part is that El Salvador is still one of the poorest countries in Latin America with 31% of its population living below the poverty line. Many of the people live in shacks by the side of the road like this:

huts

Egads! Maybe if we all spend our next vacation in El Salvador we can help boost their economy a bit, eh?

Uma loved her vacation. The accommodations were great. The people were charming and fun. The food was perfect; the drinks abundant (even though there was no Crown Royal). She and the entire gang she went with had a fabulous time.

the-end

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Uma is happy to answer any questions about this trip or check out El Salvador Tourism.

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RED ALERT!!  There will be another Ottawa Blogger’s Breakfast (brunch) on March 7th. If any Ottawa area bloggers would like to join in who have not yet received notice of this, please send us an email, with a link to your blog, to: bloggersbreakfast@gmail.com and we will send you the details and add you to the mailing list.

Exposed

There was a question on someone’s blog recently about what sort of guidelines, if any, we have when posting things to the internet. I wish I could remember whose blog it was, but I can’t. I’m old now and I read a lot of blogs – those are my excuses. But please identify yourself so I can give you credit for having this question rolling around in my head for the last week or so.

I’ve also been keeping in mind Gabriel’s very comprehensive post on the internet privacy fallacy.

Anyway, what I started to answer to the first blogger’s question is that I wouldn’t share anything on the internet that I wouldn’t share with a large face-to-face group of strangers — as a general rule of thumb.

I know I’m going to get lots of hell for this because I’ve already had this discussion in person with some bloggers who vehemently disagreed, but one of the things that always leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable is when people post pictures of their kids on the internet.

I totally understand the desire to share your children’s adorability with your blog friends, I really do. And I have pictures of my daughter on my Facebook and she has tons pictures of herself on her Facebook. For some reason I think Facebook’s less accessible, but I know I’m probably wrong. And my daughter’s almost an adult and not quite so vulnerable. And I monitor the sorts of pictures she posts pretty carefully.

Anyway, I regularly see gorgeous photos and videos of people’s beautiful children on their blogs. The kids are happy or sad or sleeping or doing stuff like playing with their pets or frolicking in the snow,  dancing and singing around the living room, jumping on their beds, having temper tantrums on the kitchen floor or enjoying a bubble bath. And they’re innocently lovely and funny and touching — all of them.

But, I can also see how some, maybe even all, of these photos/videos could be taken and used for purposes that aren’t innocent and lovely. In addition, people often have enough information on their blog to make the children easily found if someone really put their mind to it.

Even if that’s unlikely to happen, the thought of what these charming photos of children could possibly be used for gives me the heebie-jeebies. And, okay maybe I’m being unnecessarily paranoid and the chances of someone finding your particular photo out of the zillions of photos on the internet might be really, really slim. And probably your kids are exposed to more weirdos in their every day life than they ever could be on the internet. But still…

People do troll the internet looking for what they see as provocative photos of children. And their idea of provocative could be anything – even just a certain smile. Who knows?

A while ago, friend just back from a family vacation, posted photos of her young kids swimming. She put them on flickr and marked them private to share just with friends and family. One day she noticed that those particular photos had over a thousand hits each. Creepy.

I don’t know how people find this stuff or why. My recent “infrequently touted harbinger of spring” photo (which is most definitelyNOT my child, by the way and which I will not be linking here) is seeing more activity each and every day than all my other blog posts put together ever have. What the hell? It’s a slightly unzipped coat. That’s also kind of creepy.

So, those photos you post of your kids on your blogs — would you hand out 500 or 1,000 or more copies of those same photos to a random group of strangers at an airport, for instance? With your kid’s name and home city stamped on the back?

What are your thoughts/rules/experiences with this?

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RED ALERT!!  There will be another Ottawa Blogger’s Breakfast (brunch) on March 7th. If any Ottawa area bloggers would like to join in who have not yet received notice of this, please send us an email, with a link to your blog, to: bloggersbreakfast@gmail.com and we will send you the details and add you to the mailing list.

7 Steps to Eternal Youth

Since it’s MY BIRTHDAY  TODAY….

100candles

(somebody call the fire brigade)

 …… I thought this would be a good time to share with you the secrets of my eternal youth.

When I tell people how old I am they always say, “What? You don’t look a day over 22!”  Okay, they don’t actually say that, but I can tell by the way they say, “Oh ya?” that this is what they really mean.

So, before I reveal all, you might first want to determine if you even need these secrets. Maybe you’re already eternally youthful and have secrets of your own to reveal.

The test is as follows: Tell people it’s your birthday and tell them you’re 10 years older than you really are. If you’re turning 40, for instance, tell them you’re 50. People always feel obligated to tell you that you look younger and they usually subtract a few years from the age they actually think you look. So, this is the only true way of determining how old you really look to others. (Don’t do this with people more than 20 years younger than you because they won’t have a clue).

People will say, “Wow I thought you were maybe 35,” in which case you’ll know you really do look younger than your age. Or, they might say, “Wow, I thought you were maybe in your early 40s”, in which case you’ll know you look older than your real age and will need to read and absorb these tips for staying young:

  1. Delay taking on adult responsibilities as long as possible or even avoid them altogether. This includes marriage, parenthood, mortgages, car payments, any other debts and thereby also avoiding a permanent, pensionable job (aka death knell).
    • Stay in school for as long as possible
    • Travel to, and live in a lot of different places
    • Collect experiences rather than stuff
    • Live your life like you’re working on a biography. No one is going to want to read about your sensible new dinette set or your great split-level house in the suburbs or how you counted down the days to retirement.
  2. In that same vein, and/or if you’ve already plunged headlong into the drudgery part of being a grown-up;  rewind. Remove anything from your life that’s causing you a lot of stress. Stress ages you faster than almost anything else. So, if you have too many bills or your job is making you miserable or you spend too much of your time fighting with your partner, or you have too many toxic friends, it’s time to find a way out.
  3. You are what you eat. You eat crap, you’re going to look like crap. You spend all your time depriving yourself of good things, you’re going to look deprived. Eat what you really enjoy and take the time to really enjoy everything you eat. Then you’ll look and feel happy. Happy is youthful.
  4. Attitude. Don’t think of yourself as whatever age you are because no matter what it is, it will sound old to you in your head and that will affect your attitude. Convince yourself that you’re 10 years younger than you really are and conduct yourself accordingly. Have fun and feel love.
  5. Laugh every day and smile a lot. Yes, they say laughing and smiling scrunches up your face and causes wrinkles, but it actually lifts every muscle in your face way up high, so it’s kind of like an isotonic face-lift, the effects of which accumulate. And it’s free. And smiling and laughing are good for keeping your innards young, too.
  6. Keep moving. Sitting behind a desk or a steering wheel or on a couch for more than 50% of your day will allow old age to find you and settle on you like one of those big, heavy, woollen ponchos.  Staying upright and mobile keeps Senor old age off your ass/shoulders.
  7. Use your brain. Yes, everything was better in your day, but that day is long gone. Find out what’s going on NOW. Read, learn new stuff, explore, question, debate, think — engage your grey matter.

That’s it.

In conclusion, don’t get into the rut of societal expectations if you want to maintain your verve, panache, joie de vivre other French things for a long time. Live outside the box.

You May Already Be an Idiot!!!

I don’t know if there is something similar in the rest of the world, but in North America, everyone with a mailbox has at some (or many) point(s) received a giant, colourful envelope from Reader’s Digest bursting with the good news that they are a guaranteed winner to receive a grand prize, as soon as a bunch of stuff happens.

Inside the envelope is a long letter from the President of the Company himself, telling you the amazing news over and over whilst carefully not telling you that you are an actual winner.

Also in the envelope is a reply form that wants you to search through the myriad of other documents in the envelope for secret stickers and super prize number guarantee labels which you have to affix to the reply form.

Then there are pages and pages of advertisements for magazines or gadgets which you have the golden opportunity to purchase at deep, deep discounts through this offer only. There are usually more stickers included with this. You just paste the sticker related to whatever you want to buy on the reply form.

Then there are 2 return envelopes. One with a big red YES and one with a big, black NO. If you’re buying something you stuff everything into the YES envelope. If you’re not buying anything you stuff everything into the NO envelope. It’s a fun 10 minutes of pre-school entertainment. And then maybe you’ll actually remember to mail the thing away. And maybe you won’t. Nothing could be simpler. Barrels of fun for the cost of a stamp.

Of course, some people find these things so annoying they just pitch the whole tree-killing mess into the recycling bin as soon as they see it crammed in their mailbox.

And then there are the people belonging to the Slack-Jawed Yokel family tree who always choose option “D” (“D”for D’uh, I wish they wouldn’t lick the envelope so tight)

Option “D” apparently involves believing Reader’s Digest is secretly hypnotizing them with their shiny array of stickers, forcing them to buy thousands of dollars worth of products to prove their worthiness or something before Reader’s Digest will give them the thousands of dollars that are already theirs according to the big bright envelopes with the “fancy cipherin” they keep getting in the mail. After a few years of not winning, Part II of Option “D” involves one or more Slack-Jawed Yokels getting “real riled” and instigating a law suit.

I didn’t even know there was an Option “D” until Canada’s dubious “investigative consumer show,” Marketplace, uncovered Reader’s Digest’s diabolical plot to fleece the fantastically stupid.

As with most things, the US was already way ahead of us and has settled Reader’s Digest v. Slack-Jawed Yokel  law suits in 32 states to the tune of $6 million. Canadian Slack-Jawed Yokels now want their 15 minutes of look-at-me-I’m-a-moron pie.

Reader’s Digest says over 75% of people respond with the NO envelope. They have awarded over 22 million dollars in prizes to more than 105,000 winners across Canada through its Sweepstakes since 1962. And, 75% of those winners responded with NO envelopes.

Most of the other 25% probably really wanted the stuff they bought because they do offer some good deals on subscriptions. But, if you’re one of those who accidentally bought 8 or 9 thousand dollars worth of magazines and are waiting for Ed McMahon to show up with your big cheque, please call Marketplace’s Wendy Mesley. You may already be a Goler. (Please, please click the Goler link — the Golers are the funnest Nova Scotia thing ever).

sjy1

Beyond Guacamole

avocado

I love avocados. Not just because they taste and feel so pleasant to eat, but also because they’re so damn freaky.

You can’t just decide you feel like eating avocado because chances are there’s never a perfectly ripe one around exactly when you want one. At the grocery store they’re either all in a big over-ripe pile or in a big, green, hard-as-rock pile.

So you buy a green one and wait. It could take a day; it could take 5 days. You never know when the avocado will decide it’s ready to be eaten. Wait a little too long and it’s all slimy and brown. Don’t wait long enough and it’s all hard and woody.

If you’re really in love with avocados you can buy one every 3 days or so and then you’ll have a pretty good chance of having a perfectly ripe avocado on hand close to the time you actually want one.

And when it’s perfectly ripe, there’s almost nothing better. Creamy, buttery avocado in guacamole;  on a sandwich;  in sushi;  in a whole variety of salads; in place of mayonnaise in egg or tuna salads;  in gazpacho; or straight up with a little lime juice.  Mash it with lemon juice, salt & pepper and spread on warm toast. Make great ice cream, milk shakes or smoothies.[1]

salad

 If you only want half an avocado one day, slice it in half around the pit with the peel on; twist and separate the two halves. Loosely wrap the half that still has the pit embedded in it in some wax paper. As long as the pit is in the fruit you can save it like that for a day or two. I only found this out a short while ago and wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.

The pit apparently has magical preservative powers or something. And, speaking of which, what’s the deal with that pit anyway? It’s huge.  It’s got to be good for something besides sticking toothpicks in and suspending over jars of water to make it grow into a tree, right?

Well…if you cut it open, you can sometimes get a milky substance out of it that becomes red when exposed to air. The Conquistadors used this stuff as writing ink way back in the 16th Century. You can, too.

pit

Anyway, because of that large pit, avocados are considered something of an evolutionary anachronism, according to wise Internet resources.

There is no animal large enough to eat avocados and disperse its seeds by pooping it out all over town like they with other large fruits. Not since the Pleistocene era have there been animals large enough to poop out  avocado pits. If humans hadn’t taken over the cultivation of avocados they’re now be as extinct as the Giant Ground Sloth – a famous pre-historic avocado lover. 

ground-sloth

 There are almost 300 calories in one avocado with 75% of those calories coming from fat and yet avocados are said to help promote weight loss! How could this be? I don’t know, look it up. This is not a scientific blog.  I have heard, though that it has something to do with the fact that they’re very high in monounsaturated fats.

The avocado fruit, tree bark and leaves are toxic to most animals and can be unpleasant for people with latex sensitivities.

The Aztecs worshiped avocados as a sex and  fertility fruit. The word “avocado” comes from the Nahuatl (Astecan) word “ahuacatl” which means testicle.

Aztec virgins were confined indoors during the harvesting of the testicle fruit so they wouldn’t be accidentally deflowered by them or something.

 I reckon Aztecs either  had much smaller avocados back then or testicles have shrunk a great deal over the centuries and that’s why Aztec guys always wore those long robes instead of jeans.

aztecs321

Centuries later, people consider avocados to be an aphrodisiac and a remedy for erectile dysfunction. Nice, god-fearing people were once forbidden from purchasing or consuming avocados out of fear of becoming raging sex fiends. It’s true.

And finally and most interestingly, the Spanish word for lawyer, “abogado” (or avocat in French or avvocato in Italian or even advocate in English) comes from the same root as the Aztec word for testicle. 


 [1] If you have any new and exciting avocado recipes, I’d love to hear about them.

UPDATE: I wasn’t going to include this recipe initially because it sounds unpalatable to me, but I’ve been told by others that it sounds amazing, so here it is. A variation on key lime pie using avocados and much, much easier:
Avocado Pie
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 medium sized Hass avocado
  • 3 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • heavy (whipping) cream, whipped without sugar
  • graham cracker pie crust made with brown sugar (use recipe on box of graham crackers)

In a blender mix milk and avocado thoroughly and then blend in the lemon juice. Pour this IMMEDIATELY into the graham pie crust as it sets very rapidly! Add unsweetened whipped cream ontop and refrigerate for a few hours. (This pie is so sweet to start off with that unsweetened cream works well).