Marcia Barhydt


Chickens in your backyard?

I bet your answer isn’t chickens. Of course, most city dwellers don’t keep chickens in their backyards, but it turns out there are quite a few who do.

Zoning issues for this conundrum have been on the table recently at Toronto City Hall. If you’re like me, seeing news coverage of this problem made you kind of roll your eyes and whisper, “Oh, please.” But, if the chickens were mine and I was planning on inviting them for Thanksgiving dinner, that’d be a whole different kettle of fish, if you’ll pardon my mixed metaphors.

If this zoning change were to happen in Toronto, we’d be joining some other world class cities who already allow backyard chicken farmers – Vancouver, New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Kingston, Ontario. Who knew? I’ve been in all of those cities and I’ve never heard even the tiniest peep from the backyards in any of them.

Protesters could join the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement who promise to stop the building of a new airport in Pickering. Or, there are NIMBYs also found north of the GTA who want to stop garbage being dumped near them. Think of the anti-hens as the cluckers of the group.

Of course, if this zoning change were to be approved, there would have to be discussion and decisions about the rules of keeping chickens. I’d think that City Council would be able to spend weeks haggling out different points of view. Should we allow roosters too? Or would that early morning call be too much for neighbours to bear? But, equality issues aside, what good is a chicken without a rooster? Would your neighbour’s kids be setting up an egg stand in the front yard, kind of like a lemonade stand?

Then of course we’d need rules about the smell. When I was a little girl visiting my aunt’s farm, I had the daily task of collecting the eggs. It is without a doubt the most foul (fowl?) smell in the world.

I have to wonder if it’s chickens this week, will it be ducks next week? And pigs after that? And, I can only imagine the protests that would be yelled loud and clear by the backyard cow group.

I do have a solution for all of this: just as municipalities have garden plots that city dwellers can rent for the growing season, why not lease out some farm animal land too? I think that would be a cluck of an idea.


Hey bedbugs: Bite me!

You’ve probably heard that there’s a bed bug epidemic sweeping the United States. We’ve imported it, like so many other American products, to Canada, and most notably for Women’s Post readers, to the Toronto area.

While these little guys are nibbling their way through North America, we humans are not letting this whole issue go unnoticed, nosiree! We’ve got conferences, summits, and now the suggestion from Ontario MPP Michael Colle that we fire up a bedbug tracking program.

Say what? I have to wonder just how we’d track these tiny creatures, just 4 to 5 mm long (about the length of an unbitten baby toe-nail). Would we all be issued some kind of counter as in click-when-you-see-one? But then, what about people like me who wear glasses to see small objects, but never when I’m sleeping? Maybe I’d track them by counting the bites each morning?

Turns out, we haven’t had this many bedbugs to snuggle up with, in about 30 years. And 30 years ago, we dealt with them using DDT, an insecticide which is now banned because of its high toxicity. So unless we un-ban DDT, the bedbugs are winning. I suspect un-banning DDT is way tougher than un-friending on Facebook.

If you search YouTube for ‘bedbugs,’ you’ll find a treasury of over 3100 buggy videos, covering the obvious hotels to hospitals to the more obscure courtrooms and libraries. I’ll admit to not watching any of these creepy videos; see me shudder at the thought. It might be a better idea to subscribe to one of many bedbug forums available such as bedbugger (give them a prize for a great domain name please) where you can read bedbug blogs that really gnaw into the subject.

There’s a Facebook page for bed bugs, of course, and there’s also a page called The Bed Bug Patch – kinda like Nicoderm for bed bugs? If there are only 32 people who like this page, what does that mean, I wonder?

In the U.S., the bed bug infestation is so rampant that there are now lawyers who specialize in, are you ready for this, bed bug litigation.

I think that instead of spending our tax dollars on Mr. Colle’s suggestion of tracking, we should send him to the Bed Bug University’s Summit 2010 next week in Chicago. Oh wait, it’s sold out! But there is a waiting list and the cost of the entire summit is only $450, a bargain with a bite, I’d say.

But wait, there is a solution! Bedbugs do have natural enemies – cockroaches, ants, spiders and mites. All we need is some innovative entrepreneur to start a company selling the ultimate anti-bedbug package, a combination of all 4 predators. I bet he could get some start-up money from Dragon’s Den; they’re sure to be impressed with such an unusual idea, or they’ll at least say an immediate yes simply to get the bug buddy out of the studio.

There are companies that sell butterflies to release at weddings; you used to be able to buy lady bugs to combat the aphids in your rose garden; why not spiders to spin up the bedbugs or cockroaches to consume them?

OK, seriously, there are home remedies that worked like a charm for our grandmothers – put your sheets and clothes in the dryer for about 30 minutes, steam your mattresses with one of those hand-held steamers, buy a natural remedy such as Black Walnut or Boric acid powder.

Of all the stressors we have to deal with today, it just seems to me that bed bugs are pretty far down the list and don’t require or warrant all the hysteria, press and dollars they’re receiving.

I’m with Bart Simpson on this one – bite me!

Everyone loves chicken wings

By Marcia Barhydt

How could there be a football game on TV without chicken wings? Or a poker night for the guys? Or any impromptu party for either guys or girls?

This year, however, this culinary treat was severely threatened for the Super Bowl, possibly the ultimate wing event of the year.

According to WSB-TV, “Two storage workers in Georgia are accused of stealing $65,000 worth of frozen chicken wings amid a high nationwide demand for the delicious Super Bowl snack. Dewayne Patterson, 35, and Renaldo Jackson, 26, allegedly used a rental truck on Jan. 12 to steal 10 warehouse pallets of frozen wings from Nordic Cold Storage.”

Ten pallets? I have no idea how many wings a pallet holds, but 10 pallets certainly seems to be a plethora of wings to me.

Don’t you have to wonder just how these two stored those 10 pallets to keep them frozen and in top black market condition? I think this may have been more wings than would fit into my little kitchen freezer. Did they borrow freezers from their pals? Maybe they rented freezers the way you can rent tables and chairs for a banquet. I just think that 10 pallets of wings would be a hefty amount to secretly store and I’m not sure that DeWayne and Renaldo would have been up to the task.

And there’s another question here. Wings come, of course, coated with various sauces: zesty, hot, super-hot, blow-your-head-off hot. Were the stolen wings pre-coated in their pallets of storage boxes? That just seems unlikely to me. So did these two bright bulb thieves also steal the sauces? How did they decide which strength of sauce would be the most popular for their…clients? Do purchasers of stolen wings even have a preference or are they just delighted to have a huge stash of these chicken delights?

How much would you pay for a box of heisted wings? Or a pallet of them, for that matter? Would you buy wings out of the trunk of someone’s car parked at the side of the road advertising “Wings – Cheap”?

Maybe I need to stop laughing at this ridiculous heist, because the brazen theft took place on January 12 and the date of the news article is January 28, so there was some wiggle time there for the sticky-fingered thieves to dispose of their wings in the most profitable manner before this year’s Super Bowl Sunday.

These two innovative thieves did the nasty deed in broad daylight with little concern of being caught – so caught they were. They were later released on $2,950 bond.

The wings, however, were never found. Pass the napkins please.


Calling it quits: Couple divorces after 77 years of marriage

When I think of Italian men, I think of some sultry, dark-haired, very sexy kind of guy. Remember Marcello Mastroianniin, La Dolce Vita, or Divorce Italian Style?  Very sexy, ci?

So, with this sexy image of love in Italy in my mind, imagine how surprised I was to read a short article with the headline “Italian couple seeking divorce after 77 years.”

Huh? It took them 77 years to figure out they weren’t happy? Or maybe he was fooling around, Mastroianni style? Or, or…what could possibly spur a couple to end a 77-year old marriage?

It turns out that jealousy was what put an end to their wedded bliss. When husband Antonio was poking around in wife Rosa’s private letters from when she was a young woman, he discovered a letter Rosa had written in the 1940s to the man who was her lover at that time. If I use all of my fingers and toes, I can figure out that this was an affair carried on while Rosa was married to Antonio. Gasp! This is a complete about-face from the tom-foolery attributed to a large percentage of Italian husbands. More gasps! It seems to be accepted and even promoted that many European men will have a long-term mistress during their marriage. Their wives choose to close their eyes about their husband’s dalliances and remain stoic throughout their marriage.

So, here we have Antonio aged 99 and Rosa aged 97 and she has been busted for an indiscretion in the 1940s, some 60 years ago. Surprisingly, Antonio made his discovery in 2002, a full 10 years before making a decision that he could no longer accept this affair in the long ago past.

To his credit, Antonio moved out of the conjugal home. But then, after only a few short weeks of protest, he moved back home. If Rosa was as confused as I am about Antonio’s protest, she’s made up for it in spades since Antonio moved back. Apparently the couple has been fighting for the last decade and now, enough is enough. On December 16, 2011 they filed for separation.

According to their lawyer, their case won’t be heard in court until March 2012. And once their case is heard, they’ll need to wait another three years of separation before a divorce can be granted. OK, 99 + 3 = …

You know, I understand that sometimes action is really needed. And I understand that sometimes a person really needs to take a stand.  Sometimes we can no longer abide some kind of affront, some kind of denigration, some kind of outrage.

But come on, Antonio, give it up, suck it up, move on. Enough already. Go back to living La Dolce Vita, okay?

This article was previously published on February 10, 2012.

Follow Marcia on Twitter at @Marcia222.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

On the topic of International Women’s Day

When I think of International Women’s Day, first observed nationally in the U.S. on February 28, 1909, I often consider women who made significant contributions to the state of women before the officially proclaimed day.

One of the most influential of those women was Eleanor Roosevelt.

After Franklin Roosevelt was sworn in as president in March 1933, Eleanor began to transform the conventional role of first lady from social hostess to that of a more visible, active participant in her husband’s administration.

Roosevelt encouraged her husband to appoint more women to federal positions, and she held hundreds of press conferences specifically for female reporters at a time when women were typically barred from White House press conferences. From 1961 until her death the following year, Roosevelt headed the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, at the request of President John Kennedy.

Suffrage in 1920 granted already active women the opportunity to expand their reforms even further into the public sphere. Concerning the vote, Eleanor stated, “I became a much more ardent citizen and feminist than anyone about me in the intermediate years would have dreamed possible. I had learned that if you wanted to institute any kind of reform you could get far more attention if you had a vote than if you lacked one.”

Eleanor Roosevelt came to symbolize the independent and politically active woman of the 20th century. The novice political spouse who once said, “It was a wife’s duty to be interested in whatever interested her husband” had traveled a long and sometimes lonely road. “I could not, at any age, really be contented to take my place in a warm corner by the fireside and simply look on,” she wrote in her final years. This vitality lasted until tuberculosis took her life in 1962.

Ms. Roosevelt’s pioneering attitude set the example for women today who continue to dedicate themselves to pursuing equality and each year celebrate International Women’s Day on March 9.

I think that many of us are unaware of what a challenge it must have been before the Feminist Movement for women to pursue equality. When I attended Ryerson Polytechnic Institute from 1961 to 1964 to get my diploma in Business Administration, I was the only woman in a class of over 100 men. Near the end of my final year, 1964, when Corporate Canada was interviewing the graduating class, I received only one job offer, compared to the men in my program who received upwards of 10 offers. I had one recruiter say “Why don’t you just get married?” And this was in 1964.

If I encountered in the 1960s the continuing bias against women of influence, I can’t imagine what Eleanor Roosevelt faced. She pursued her passion to find equality for her female peers against much stronger criticism than I experienced.

If it hadn’t been for her crusading, there likely would not have been the growth of the desire of women to become equals in all aspects of their lives. There might not have been the Feminist Movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that propelled women forward internationally in all aspects of their lives. And without the Feminist Movement, would there ever have been an International Women’s Day to mark our progress? Not likely.

International Women’s Day celebrates the strides, the accomplishments, the march toward total equality that women have made in the past 100 years. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the early champions, one of the most visible champions, one of the most influential champions. Without Ms. Roosevelt’s pioneering, people certainly would not be enjoying the celebration of International Women’s Day. Her advocacy promoted recognition of the need for equality for women and International Women’s Day reflects many of her hopes for women of her time and women of the future.

Eleanor Roosevelt not only set the stage for women’s equality, she also gave women an incredible role model.

What’s that buzzing sound?

I try to write articles about strange things for Women’s Post because I think they’re just so bizarre that they need to have my acerbic comments. And I hope you enjoy reading about the wacky things that happen in someone else’s daily life.

Recently, I came across a topic that I knew would make a great article for Women’s Post: Underpants that vibrate. In fact, these undies are called Passion Pants. You put these on, flip the switch and go about your daily tasks, all the while being on a slow boat to China.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be challenged to keep my daily routine with such a distraction. What if the pastor from my church dropped in for tea? What if I had to go to a meeting with my kid’s teacher? What if I was invited to dinner with my mother-in-law or, even worse, my own mother?

It seems likely that while all of those tasks and more would be easily within my scope on most days, they probably would be way too much of a challenge on Passion Pants day.

Women, especially mothers, are really good at multi-tasking. Women can talk on the phone and listen to the noise the little one is making in her bedroom and know that when the noise stops, there’s trouble. Women cook dinner, set the table and wash the lunch dishes all at the same time.

But I’m afraid that passion pants might raise the bar on multi-tasking to such a high degree that women will be unable to focus on anything but their knickers.

So, on to the article that spurred this topic. According to the British tabloid, The Sun, a woman wore her passion pants while she went grocery shopping. I’m thinking she may not have thought this whole thing through before she got in her car.

This may not surprise you: the woman collapsed in her supermarket when her vibrating pants made her faint with pleasure. When she fell, she hit her head and the supermarket called the paramedics. When they began to help her, her pants were still vibrating. Her secret was out. The paramedics took her pants off and took her to the local hospital. There was no mention of the expression on the paramedics’ faces.

There was also no information in the article about the reception she received at the hospital. I have to wonder if this was sufficient to put her at the head of the line in the emergency department. I’m pretty sure that it was sufficient to be the buzz of the whole hospital. I just hope she remained unconscious while all the giggling was going on.

I can only imagine the long pause in her kitchen that evening when her husband came home from work and asked how her day was.

The final short chapter in this highly amusing story is a testament to British humour…A spokesman for the ASDA Supermarket said, “We like to think shopping with us is exciting enough already.”

Prison break bozos

On Monday, March 18, two imaginative and daring, if not very bright, inmates of a prison in Quebec took an outlandish stab at escaping the surly bonds of earth by using a helicopter as their getaway vehicle. Can you picture two robbers running out of a bank to a waiting getaway vehicle, except think of a helicopter instead of a car? Doesn’t it boggle your mind? Doesn’t it bring a smile to your lips?

There were two accomplices who hijacked a tourism helicopter and forced the pilot to fly—no, to hover over the roof of the prison, while they lowered ropes to the two convicts waiting on the roof for their imaginative attempt at escape.

If you saw this on TV, you have seen the helicopter taking off with the two guys hanging on the dangling ropes, like two care packages of supplies being dropped to a remote village.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure the prison guards may just have noticed this hovering helicopter going whoop-whoop-whoop the way helicopters do. And since this escapade was in broad daylight, wouldn’t that mean that there would be absolutely no stealth at all to this escape? Wouldn’t that mean that the two escapees may as well have sold tickets to the event?

It gets better. The helicopter then landed in a nearby field to let the dangling dorks get inside the helicopter. Then the chopper flew to a local hotel parking lot, a mere 50 kilometers from the prison,  where a getaway car was waiting. Wouldn’t it occur to you that landing a helicopter in a hotel parking lot might also generate just a tad of attention? Maybe that’s just me.

They left the chopper pilot there in the parking lot with his face covered. As soon as they left, the pilot called for help. That’s another thing I think the crooks didn’t think through: It must have taken only a few seconds for the pilot to remove the face covering. I think I’d want to truss him up in order to slow him down. Maybe that’s just me.

My sides are hurting from laughing so much.

The outcome of this brainless expedition was of course that the two inmates and their two accomplices were located within hours and arrested. They are facing nearly two dozen charges, including armed hijacking, breaking and entering and aiming a firearm at police.

Following their first court appearance, Crown lawyer Steve Baribeau said that the prosecution will oppose bail for all four suspects. “You’re talking about an escape from a prison—one of our institutions—in a helicopter,” he said. “It’s special.”

Special? Special? This entire bumbling attempt at freedom is so much more than just ‘special’, Steve. It gives brand new meaning to the word ‘special’. How about ‘unequalled’, ‘matchless’, ‘incomparable’?

Or wait, I know, how about ‘incredibly stupid’? How about ‘one of the most misguided laughable news events to amuse us this week’?

My favourite sentence of the CTV News article? “After their court appearance, the suspects were taken back to the prison, surrounded by a convoy of police cars.”

My mind can’t comprehend how many police vehicles were in that convoy. I bet there were more than enough to make sure the jailbirds didn’t escape again.

I wonder what kind of new job the prison warden is looking for now?


Do You Want Some Barbershop With Your Doughnut?

Tim Horton’s is as Canadian as you can get. It’s a headquarters for business meetings, social meetings and even dating meetings. Canadians love to go to Tim’s and love the social life there.

Now, one Tim Horton’s store has a special happening to entice you into their Oakville store: a group of men who sing Barbershop a Capella have started spontaneously crooning during their visits to Tim Horton’s. Imagine if you scurried through the freezing winter air and shook yourself as you opened the door to a Tim Horton’s near you and thought, wow, what’s going on here?

What’s going on is an Oakville group known as The Entertainers. They are men singing Barbershop and have been Barbershopping for the last 44 years. It’s their habit to sing at their local donut shop every week following their rehearsals. What’s outstanding about these men and their group is that a videographer taped a Tim’s performance and posted it on YouTube a couple of weeks ago on January 7. Since then, the video has had—are you sitting down—206,000 views.

We all love to see spontaneous things happen, don’t we? It makes us feel that we’re part of something special. So imagine sitting in a coffee shop and suddenly this group of men starts singing out loud. It’d certainly get my attention.

It’s a beautiful little serendipity to experience during your ho-hum day. There is magic and there is a wonderful warm feeling that you’ll take away with you after you’ve lingered too long over coffee just because this was such an enchanting moment.

Some people might wonder if this could be a publicity stunt. Now, come on. Ditch your attitude by listening to a group that probably makes big bucks singing for free. Singing just for the pleasure of singing. Singing because it feels so good.

Perhaps the generosity of this group of singing for free just highlights how much more rewarding our days might be should we all adopt this attitude.

The original YouTube video that garnered 206,000 views of this wonderful group featured them singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King.

Yeah, I can.


Curly fires spies

Here’s another story of weird news that leaves me shaking my head.

I’ve just read about The Psychometrics Centre, a Strategic Research Network of the University of Cambridge. The first thing I had to do was to look up the meaning of psychometrics: “Science of psychological measurement. Psychometricians design and administer psychological tests both to generate empirical data on mental processes and to refine their understanding of measurement techniques and the statistical analysis of results. Major concerns include test reliability and validity and standardization of results.”

In other words, Strategic Research Network = a new kind of spying. It turns out that Michal Kosinki and David Stillwell of the Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge could accurately predict, with varying degrees of success, whether someone used drugs, smoked, had divorced parents and leaned liberal or conservative.

And they can accomplish this all from your “likes” on Facebook! And incidentally, this Psychometric Centre page on Facebook, which I often use as a barometer of success, has only 375 “likes”. I’m not sure that small number will add a lot of credibility to this whole weird concept.

The study took the Facebook “likes,” which stay embedded in a social network page, of 60,000 volunteers in the United States. It looked at “photos, friends’ status updates, pages of products, sports, musicians, books, restaurants or popular Websites. The volunteers had from one to 700 likes each, with the average at 170.

The team was able to predict with 95 per cent certainty what race a person was, 93 per cent for gender, 88 per cent for sexual orientation, 82 per cent for religion, 73 per cent for smokers and 60 per cent for divorced parents.

Their findings? “The best predictors of high intelligence include ‘thunderstorms,’ ‘The Colbert Report,’ ‘science’ and ‘curly fries,’” the study said. “To be honest, we were mind blown when we saw the results for the first time,” Kosinski told Lesley Ciarula Taylor, news reporter at the Toronto Star.

Oh, really.

So, what does it mean if I love thunderstorms but hate science? And don’t even get me started on Stephen Colbert. And if I like straight cut fries instead of curly fries, am I suddenly not so smart anymore? What kind of science do I have to like? The science of psychological measurement perhaps, or would that be too incestuous?

Or what does it mean if I like curly fries and I am Stephen Colbert? Has anyone asked Mr. Colbert this important stuff? Does he realize that his quest for stardom has just been moved ahead several points with these survey findings? How does he feel about curly fries?

Graduates of Cambridge University have won a total of 65 Nobel Prizes, the most of any university in the world. But Kosinki? Don’t buy your ticket to Sweden just yet.

The social scientist in Kosinki imagines a day when a person’s Smartphone will be able to predict what they want far more accurately than a spouse, something he finds exciting “but also creepy.”

Creepy. Right.


Bic Pens – for women

There’s finally a pen designed for women. I came across a video of a segment on the Ellen DeGeneres show and as always, with her wide-eyed innocence, she really put this bizarre product in its place.

Come on, a pen for women? Because we have more delicate, tinier hands than guys? Because we’re not able to wrap a couple of fingers around a great big guy-pen? Maybe it’s so that the good people at Bic can make pink, girlie-girl pens. Nope, that’s already been done. Although at this moment, as I look at the pens in my pen cup on my desk, I see no pink ones. I’ll have to go to the Bic store and pick up half a dozen so I never run out.

Seriously, what kind of baloney is this eye rolling marketing scheme? Are there really still guys on Madison Avenue who think this kind of marketing will appeal to any of us? I understand that there are still lots of products designed for women and lots more designed for men. I’m not looking for all of us to be identical here. But when it comes down to a product that’s so unisex, I’m appalled. And so, apparently, is Ellen. Have a look at her video here.

I wish I could bring some company to their knees and make it a joke at the same time just like Ellen does. There’s no greater put down than having people laugh at you, or at your pink pen.

I’m not alone with my shock over this foolish marketing. Shoppers have taken to the reviews section of Amazon to write hundreds of snarky, and often sarcastic, “reviews” of the pens.

“Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever),” the reviewer wrote. “I had despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner, though my men-folk assured me that I ‘shouldn’t worry yer pretty little head’. But Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like calluses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”

“My drawings of kittens and ponies have improved, and now that I’m writing my last name hyphenated with the Robert Pattinson’s last name, I really believe he may someday marry me. I’m positively giddy. Those smart men in marketing have come up with a pen that my lady parts can really identify with.”

Reviewer Dan Kaufman wrote, “Men, don’t stand for this. Aren’t there enough products specific to women already? First it was tampons, now these pens? What other products will I have to suffer the indignity of being unable to purchase just because I’m a male person?”

Come on, Bic. Hire someone with half a brain for your new products department. Find someone who’s not a total sexist, someone who actually has contact with women in today’s world.