Marketing: Snake Venom

When I was in university, my friends and I would occasionally go to the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart and buy some of their face masks. We would then go back to the dorm and, usually with a beverage or two (or more) in hand, do the whole cucumber slices on the eyes thing while whatever moisturising, nourishing, anti-wrinkle (a big deal at nineteen, you know), exfoliating goo did its work.

Aside from these luxuriating events, my skin care routine in those days consisted of soap and sunscreen. This hasn’t changed much other than I now also, occasionally, use a moisturiser other than sunscreen. Thus, I have never purchased one of these face masks to use on my own. However, I do sometimes think about buying one. I tell myself that I’m going to pick out a mask. Then tonight I’ll have a bubble bath, use my mask, pour a glass of wine…

I’m usually in Shoppers, because I’m out of shampoo or I need new nail clippers, when I have this idea. So far, I’ve only ever gotten as far as scanning the face mask selection before I remember I only enjoy slathering goo on my face when in the company of friends. The same rule applies to nail polish. The wine is good too, but wine alone is not sufficient to make the goo and polish fun for me.

All that to say, I was at Shoppers today perusing the selection of face masks. The expected varieties were there: aloe vera, argon oil, coconut and papaya, various citrus fruits and oils, cocoa and shea butter with a picture that looked like chocolate pudding (I was hungry).

Then there was the volcanic ash and blue-green algae mask. At this point, I would have raised one eyebrow if I were capable of moving my eyebrows independently. That brow would not have been alone for long, however, because next I saw the caviar and pearl dust mask. I can only imagine the high-quality pearls that went into this 5-dollar product. Neither of these were my favorite, though.

This was my favourite:

The synthetic snake venom anti-aging mask. Obviously, seeing as the venom is (gasp) synthetic, this mask may not appeal to the all-natural, organic-only community. I imagine ongoing debates about the merits of synthetic vs genuine snake venom are forthcoming. Note, however, this mask is labeled paraben free. Parabens are exactly what I’d be worried about while smearing snake venom on my face.

Yet again, I left the store without purchasing a face mask.


Beer Delivery

Last night I thought to myself, “Self, I might like a beer tonight.”

Self replied, “It’s Monday.”

Me: “So?”

Self: “Do you really need beer on a Monday?”

Me: “I didn’t say I need a beer, I said I might like a beer.”

Self: “Too bad. There’s no beer in the fridge.”

Me: “Oh. Well, that’s easily fixed.”

Self: “Really? Do you really want to get in the car and drive halfway across town to the Beer Store? There are only so many hours between Kiddo’s bedtime and the time you turn into a pumpkin. And weren’t you going to do some writing tonight.”

Me: “Hmm good point, Self. Still, we should get beer sometime this week so we have it for the weekend. We have company coming after all. And it’s Canada Day weekend. If I wait until Friday the Beer Store will be way too busy. It won’t take too long, I’ll still get my writing done. I promise.”

Self: “Whatever you say.”

I told Hubby my plan to go get beer. He was supportive. He did request that I swing by the Shell station on the way home and get some of those garbage tax tags as it’s garbage day and we might be over the limit this week. No problem. I grabbed my wallet and keys.

On my way down the street, I noticed dark clouds on the horizon. By the time I was across the bridge raindrops were falling.

By the time I got across town Armageddon had arrived. Sheets of rain and ice pellets were coating my windshield faster than my wipers could swipe them away. I know hail is common during thunderstorms, but I have a grudge against Nature when she makes me deal with frozen water from the sky in June.

I was seriously reconsidering how badly I wanted that beer. But the Beer Store was in sight, so I pulled into the parking lot. I turned on a podcast and waited for the onslaught to let up. Eventually it did. Sort of. I got beer.

I went to the convenience store closest to the Beer Store. Turns out, they don’t sell garbage tags. There was a Shell across the street. Not the one we usually go to, but if one Shell sells them…it’ll be faster if I just jog over. By this time it was raining again. They don’t sell garbage tags either. I gave up, ran back to my car, and drove to our usual Shell station. I got garbage tags.

I came home soggy. I had a shower, and some tea, and a beer. I didn’t get my writing done.

Which brings me to today. Our Tuesday morning routine went as usual: dropped Kiddo at daycare, Hubby and I went to the gym, I dropped Hubby at work. On the way home, this came on the radio:

Have you ever found yourself sitting on the couch in the evening thinking, ‘Boy, I’d really like a beer.’


Only, you realize you don’t have any beer in the fridge. And you don’t really want to go all the way to the store to get one.

(It’s like they know me)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have beer delivered to your door?

(That would be so great)

As it happens, starting today, the Beer Store in Ottawa will be trying beer delivery on a trial basis. I no longer live in Ottawa, so I won’t benefit unless it’s successful enough for the Beer Store to expand this idea to other locations. My first thought was, “Cool! It’ll be great if that catches on.”

My second thought brought me back to university, and I realized we were all probably better off that it took considerably more effort to get our hands on alcohol than it did to get a pizza. I can probably continue to survive without beer delivery.

On the other hand, if the liquor store got on board and we could get delivery wine…ok, ok I don’t really need that either. The list of reasons to leave the house is getting pretty small as it is (thanks, Amazon).

Cricket Candy

I recently came across these in a candy store:

Cricket and larva candy? Much too real looking to be appetizing, if you ask me. Turns out, that’s because…

…they are the real deal. The other green meat?

They’re a popular item, according to the lady working behind the counter. I opted for the saltwater taffy instead.

U.S. Navy Gets with the Program? Not Really

When I was eighteen and in my first year of military college I, along with all the other first-year naval cadets, travelled to Halifax for a ‘look at the wonderful career that awaits you when you graduate’ field trip. The trip included a tour of one of Canada’s ‘new’ submarines (new to Canada, to be more precise). This was in the spring of 2001, which happens to be around the time women were first allowed to serve on Canadian submarines.

Though I don’t recall anyone asking his opinion on the matter, the submariner giving our tour was happy to share all the reasons women on submarines was a bad idea. Among his chief arguments, which all seemed to center around space and privacy, was the size of the bathroom. I can’t remember his exact words, but it went something like this:

He pointed to the head, “Isn’t even enough room there to close the door and sit down to do your business. I don’t see how that’ll work for ya.” I can only assume he was referring to the females of the group.

I looked at the head. It was narrow. I could see why our tour guide would have trouble closing the door. I didn’t have exact measurements, so hard to say, but the head looked narrower than the diameter of his midsection by my estimation. I was, however, pretty confident I could sit down in there and ‘do my business’ with the door closed.

I kept my thoughts to myself. Something told me this guy wasn’t particularly interested in a debate of the facts. Anyway, I never had any intention of becoming a submariner (I admit, I like my personal space. I also like seeing the sun once in a while). The event was filed away somewhere in the Irking Experiences drawer of my brain.

Sixteen years later, after being thoroughly entertained by Stephen Fry in Last Chance to See, I decided more Fry could only lead to more entertainment. I decided to watch the documentary Stephen Fry in America.  I was right. It was entertaining, for the most part. However…

In the first episode, Stephen gets a tour of one of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines. He asks whether women serve on board the vessel. As of the filming in 2008, they did not. The U.S. Navy was one of the only Navys in the world that still banned women serving on submarines.

The reason Stephen was given when he asked? A lack of separate bathroom and berthing facilities.

Can you say flashback? My irking experience from 2001 came flying out of the drawer, along with a lot more emotion than I remember feeling about it even back then. I wasn’t exactly yelling at the television, but I was telling it off a little.

At this juncture I feel I must point out, compared to any Canadian sub (probably compared to subs from any other country), a U.S. nuclear sub is the fricking Ritz. If every other country in the world can figure out how to make it work…I was miffed at Stephen Fry for not asking the obvious question.

Putting the swankiness of U.S. subs aside for a moment, here’s another personal anecdote:

The summer following my submarine tour, part of my training included three weeks on a boat called a YAG. Here is the inside layout:

There were no separate women’s bunks, and certainly no ladies bathrooms. On some boats, the students hung a curtain across the center when they needed to change. Guys on one side, girls on the other. On mine, we didn’t bother. We faced our bunks and kept our eyes to ourselves. When things were feeling particularly crowded, some of us also mastered the art of changing our clothes inside our sleeping bags.

I won’t pretend this is my favourite living arrangement. It also wouldn’t work for everyone. But it did work for us. It worked because it isn’t the number, or layout, of bunks and bathrooms that makes the difference. It’s respect and trust. We trusted each other and we respected each other’s space and privacy, limited as it was.

During the summer of 2003, I spent about five weeks on a frigate. There were separate berths for men and women, and men’s and women’s heads. If I had to do one of those summers over again, I would choose the YAG in a heartbeat. On the YAGs we spent most of our time on the upper decks in the fresh air and sun. On the frigate, unless you worked on the bridge (as an engineering student I didn’t), you spent most of your time in dark rooms with a variety of interesting smells.

In 2011, I spent seven weeks on another ship (this one was civilian and, by that time, so was I) off the west coast of Africa. I was the only woman on board. I did have my own cabin. I did not have my own bathroom. Neither of those things defined the quality of the trip. On that trip I learned the importance of good food to a person’s overall physical and psychological wellbeing, and decided I really don’t want a career on a boat (actually, I figured that out in 2003, but sometimes I need to learn things twice). A story for another post, perhaps.

I was encouraged to learn the U.S. Navy finally decided to incorporate women into their submarine fleet in 2010. I was not encouraged to learn how they are redesigning their subs to accommodate women. Some of the changes they are making are as follows:

1)         “…adding more doors and washrooms to create separate sleeping and bathing areas for men and women and to give them more privacy.”

2)         “Sailors will be able to connect their masks into the emergency air system at the side of passageways, instead of overhead.”

Ok, these are fine. Actually, I’m a little surprised no one thought no. 2 was a good idea before now. But these:

3)         “…installing steps in front of the triple-high bunk beds and stacked laundry machines.”

4)         “Every submarine…was designed with the height, reach and strength of men in mind, from the way valves are placed to how display screens are angled…

Screen angles? How short are they expecting these women to be? And did it really take women on board for someone to think an adjustable screen might be useful? Or were all submariners prior to 2010 between 5’10” and 6’1”?

I would not be at all surprised to learn that on many military submarines there is a lack of the respect and trust necessary to make them a comfortable environment for women (or anyone). If that is the case, the ratio of men to women is not the cause of the problem and no amount of gussying the place up for women will fix it. In fact, it could make things worse. I can already hear men (and women) chiding each other for using the ‘lady step’ to get up to the top bunk.

As it happens, in 2003 I had the top of the triple-stacked bunks (they’re not unique to subs). It wasn’t that high. The second bunk makes a perfectly fine step. And I’d bet money the guys were stepping on that middle bunk too. Unless they joined the Navy after leaving the NBA, in which case they might find life on any boat, let alone a submarine, a little cramped.

This is not to say these submarine redesigns should not be happening. I’m sure there are lots of improvements that could, and should, be made to submarines to make everyone’s life on board easier and more comfortable. But need it be the equivalent of moving the outfielders in closer when the little ladies come up to bat?

Give these women some credit. They are serving on the old, manly submarines (not to mention space staions) at this very moment. And I bet they’re getting the job done.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention…or Maybe Laziness Is?

In a post some time ago I referenced the book Last Chance To See in which Douglas Adams does some globetrotting with a zoologist named Mark Cawardine hoping for wild sightings of various endangered species.

I loved the book, so my interest was piqued when I found a documentary on Netflix of the same name, with the same zoologist. Only this time, he’s travelling with Stephen Fry. As I find Stephen Fry to be pretty high on the entertainment scale, I watched it.

Normally, I would say books always beat television. There is a level of detail and nuance in books that, despite the visual capacity of television, always seems to be lacking in movies and TV shows. When it comes to learning about certain endangered species, however, there is something about the visual aspect that can’t be replicated with written words. After watching this documentary, I’m convinced I should have become either a zoologist or marine biologist. I’m not really sure what I was thinking with all this engineering and creative writing stuff.

Sadly, there are only six episodes in the documentary. If you were only to watch one, I recommend the last episode, Blue Whales, for shear wow factor, but if you’re more in the mood for a laugh try the second episode which includes a visit to a chimp sanctuary. There’s also the first episode, Farting Amazonian Manatee. But for now let’s talk chimps.

As we all know, thanks to popular culture on the subject, chimps are a lot like humans. In fact, Mark Cawardine admits he’s not particularly enthralled with chimps for this very reason. They can be petty and vindictive, and bully one another just like humans do. Not that other animals are always nice to each other. Far from it. But at least their brutality tends to be rooted in survival instinct rather than malevolence.

Mark seems to change his mind by the end of the episode, though, when the chimps also exhibit some of humanity’s more admirable qualities. They take orphaned chimps into their fold with great affection when the conservationists fear they will be rejected.

Maybe the cognitive ability for the good qualities comes with the capacity for the bad? We’ll leave that philosophical rabbit hole for another day.

Another tidbit of knowledge common to us all, is how ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. A certain tool or task seems impossible, or at least not worth the effort, until there is a need. Then, lo and behold, we build the tool and find the way.

In the book version of Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams has a great monologue regarding the humble beginnings and later advancements made by monkey-kind in ‘twig technology’. Advancements which led to the world we live in today. You can also hear/watch him deliver this speech on YouTube: Parrots the Universe and Everything. The entire presentation is worth your time. Douglas Adam’s at his best.

Back to television’s Last Chance to See. During Mark and Stephen’s visit with the chimps, the rise of twig technology can be seen in its early stages.

Fruit and carrots are being tossed to the chimps. There is much chatter and excitement from the chimps as they scramble to get their treats. Except, they don’t all scramble.

A carrot lands just out of the reach of one, rather large, lounging chimp. He could get up and take all of one step to get the carrot. Leaning over might even do the trick. But does the chimp do either of these things? No. He grabs a twig (already in reach of course) and uses it to retrieve the oh-so-distant carrot.

That’s right. Thanks to the affinity for tools found among primates, this chimp was saved the effort of taking one whole step to reach his food. Chimps really are a lot like humans.