Wake Up And Smell The Tiger

Siberian Tiger Français : Tigre de sibérie Ita...
Not something you want to meet in a dark alley. Or anywhere.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On those days when you’re fed up with your job, it’s always wise to remember that it probably doesn’t rank as one of the worst in the world.

Consider the folks who are currently developing a pest repellent based on… tiger dung. Indeed, rank is probably the key word here. Leave aside for the moment the issue of checking the product for, um, accuracy, (*Sniff. Sniff. Gag.* “No, Mike, we need a touch more half-digested wild pig in the mix, I think.”), there’s also the problem of collecting comparison samples.

Max: Right, time to muck out the tiger enclosure. Shall we draw straws again? Remind me, who got the short straw last time?
Bob: Joe did.
Max: Of course, yes. And why isn’t he here?
Bob: Because he now has a very short arm. And less than 10 toes.

Given the hazards, why is anyone going to the trouble of developing tiger dung based repellent? Apparently, just the smell of tiger droppings keeps things like wild goats away from farms in Australia — in spite of the fact that goats and tigers don’t ever meet in the outback. If the repellent can be proven effective over the longer term, it will be a billion dollar industry.

Of course, any serious gardener knows that the use of scent is an important tool in pest control. Dog hair, spread liberally around your vegetable patch, is supposed to scare away rabbits and squirrels. I can’t verify this claim personally; I made the mistake of reading this tip out loud once, and my dog made off with the clippers. She was muttering something along the lines of “I will *not* be made to look like a poodle for the sake of a few carrots!”

Hunters know all about smells as well. Wander into any hunting supply store and you can buy bottles meant to make you smell like a bear, a deer, a pheasant, or even a skunk. If you prefer all-natural scents rather than synthetic ones, you can buy a bottle of racoon urine. I’m not sure I want to know how racoon piddle is harvested, although I suppose those racoons you see in commercials and movies could be subject to random drug tests as part of their contracts.

It would be nice if scents for agricultural pest control caught on. We really need to find alternatives to chemical pesticides; especially if that something doesn’t involving having to introduce a foreign species. The cane toad in was brought into Australia to eat beetles that were attacking sugar cane crops; so far the toads have eaten just about everything *but* the beetles, possibly including pets and small children.

You and I might find a use for scents in our daily lives. For example, keeping an empty wallet in your foyer might ward off door-to-door sales people. Keeping a pile of coffee grounds at your cubicle desk might suggest to your boss that you are too caffeinated to approach safely. You could also rub yourself with money before heading into the bank to apply for a loan; after all, bankers never want to loan you money when you don’t have any.

Of course, there is always the danger that the ruse will stop working after a while, or backfire. Your boss might have consumed more coffee than you have on your desk and thus be able to ignore the smell.

The consequences for animals ignoring their noses are more dire; think of a pair of those wild goats in Australia.

Bess: Look Marge, I’m telling you there are no tigers in… Oh sh-!

You’ve Been Warned

English: A warning sign with an exclamation mark
Life needs more of these in useful places. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We live in the age of the legal arms race.

On one side, lawyers like to launch lawsuits against companies whom they say have failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions for their products. For the most part, this is a valuable service, and the legitimate lawsuits keep companies (or individuals) accountable.

Of course there are also plenty of spurious lawsuits, launched primarily to drum up business for a lawyer or a fat claims check for the complainant. So on the other side, you have companies employing legions of lawyers to review product licenses or owner’s manuals, and rewriting them to cover every eventuality.

This means you get software license agreements that are up to 18 pages long, just for a simple game installation. Or you get manuals with warnings like:

“The first step in using your seatbelt is ‘Enter the vehicle…'”

Or how about this sage advice?

“If a fire starts while you are refuelling … leave the area immediately.”

Rather than reading obvious advice in my car manual, I’d like warnings about less obvious situations in my life. Here’s my list of Things I’d Genuinely Like To Know Before It’s Too Late:

  • The FedEx guy will be here two hours early with that important I-can’t-not-take-this delivery. Grab a shower now.
  • Your Internet access will cut out suddenly today at 10:45 a.m. Don’t forget your online application is due by 11 a.m.
  • That blue pickup truck is about to cut in front of you.
  • That’s not the winning lottery ticket.

Or even better:

  • That is the winning lottery ticket.
  • That house you’re looking at buying is the dead man’s gun of real estate. Avoid it at all costs.
  • The next question you get will be really stupid. Prepare your “polite smile face.” It’s much better than your “Did you just say that?” face.
  • The doctor is lying when he says this will “pinch a bit.”
  • Turn down the heat on the potatoes now. Your child is about to do something that will keep you too busy to deal with a boil over.

Or, as I’m sure all parents would agree, an all purpose:

  • Your child is about to do something.
  • Windows is about to summarily close every program you have open, and then pretend nothing has happened. Save your data now.
  • You will have a 2 a.m. craving for sour cream and onion potato chips. Buy some now, when there’s, you know, daylight and everything.
  • There is only one cashier on duty at this megastore, and they’re out of potato chips.
  • That bedpost is much closer than your toes think.
  • The mayonnaise in that egg salad sandwich went off this morning.
  • That razor blade is dull.
  • The person who used this sink before you ran the water until it got really hot.
  • There is no toilet paper.
  • Relax. Your train/plane/bus will be departing two hours late, so you don’t need to kill yourself getting to the station on time.
  • Turning on that appliance will blow the breaker.
  • In spite of the forecast for sun, it’s going to pour rain all day.
  • It’s not going to be a tax refund this year.
  • A pipe has been leaking water into your dining room ceiling since about 9 a.m. The accumulated water will break through right around dinner time.
  • This page will run out of space for this pos-

(Not) In The Pink

English: Shelves with pink girls toys, Canada 2011
Gee, which aisle am I in? It’s so hard to tell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In general, I am not an Angelina Jolie fan. I see her face far too often in the tabloids at the grocery store checkout, and usually the news about her has been, well, weird.

One Jolie headline, however, raised my estimation of her a notch.

Supposedly, she offended her in-laws by refusing to dress a daughter in the pink clothes they bought. I’m not advocating offending your in-laws (this will only come back to bite you at Christmas), but I’m glad to see someone else striking a blow against the The Pink Conspiracy (TPC).

I’ve been aware of TPC for some time now, but have only just worked out how big it is, as I have children to shop for.

Let’s start with children’s clothing. Early on, you have a choice of blue, green, or even white sleepers for a newborn son. For your newborn daughter? You have a choice between pink, light pink, and lighter pink. Frankly, I’m not sure why manufacturers bother wasting dye on newborn clothing — making them all spit-up coloured would be far more practical.

Fast forward a year and the boy’s range expands to include red, khaki, tan, plaid, brown, black, and even dark purple. On the girl’s side of the rack, there’s still pink, light pink, and lighter pink. Oh yes and the odd pair of blue jeans, but these must include: A) pink stitching, B) embroidered flowers, C) embroidered hearts, or D) all of the above. Also rainbows and unicorns.

The girl’s clothes are also decorated … with bows, frills, ruffles, beads, ribbons and sequins. I think this explains why all the great masters of painting throughout the ages have been male. Mothers have been too busy hand washing their daughters’ togs to have time to learn the art; girls avoided it because oils and acrylics really mess up good beadwork.

Toy stores are just as bad. In the boys section, you have cool things like Lego, and action figures, train sets, and athletic equipment. A boy will, from an early age, gain an intuitive understanding of building and engineering principles, geometry, motion and systems design. And possibly light sabres.

In the girls section, you will find dolls, tea sets, miniature appliances like vacuum cleaners, and makeup and hair care kits. A girl will, from an early age, gain an intuitive understanding of … housework. Of course, all of these toys will be various shades of pink. Unless they’re intended for the 9-11 year old set, in which case they will be pink *and* sprinkled with glitter.

It’s around this age that researchers begin testing boys and girls to see what cognitive differences there are between the sexes. Most will point to the results — which show boys scoring higher in math and science — as proof that males are biologically hardwired to be better at them. I figure that girls have the same abilities at birth, we’ve just had our fuses blown by too much exposure to pink. Seriously — try walking down the Barbie aisle of your local department store without sunglasses, and see what it does for your retina.

TPC carries on into the teenage years and adulthood, only by this time clothing and makeup (the only toys left for women) come in a wider variety of colours, such as coral, rose, peach, salmon, blush, carnation, and fuchsia. Progressive retailers, hoping to compensate for, um, biology, attempt to design “female friendly” products, such as pink computers, pink cars, and even pink power tools. The most common element in the universe is supposed to be hydrogen, but given the seemingly limitless supply of the stuff, I think it really must be pink dye.

In many ways, The Pink Conspiracy is just as restrictive as corsets and foot binding, just more subtle. It’s still all about being dainty and gentle, dreamy and perhaps even vapid.

Of course there’s one sure fire way to halt TPC — and that’s if all of us moms stopped buying pink things for our daughters.

And if that ever happens, I’ll be tickled, well, you know… pink.