Snakes Are NOT Slimey!!

I don’t know why this fallacy upsets me so much, but it does.  Now, I am not a huge fan of snakes – or reptiles in general, for that matter.  But I need to take a moment to step back in time to explain.

When I was 14 or 15 years old – and being the huge animal lover I am – I decided it would be a great thing for me to begin volunteering at my local zoo.  I applied, was accepted and then “assigned” to the reptile keeper.  I need to stress that working with reptiles was not what I had wanted and even had second thoughts about the whole volunteering idea.  I much would have preferred to work with felids (cats) and preferably neonates (babies).  But, alas, no.  So I spent the next four years working with reptiles.  Not exclusively, after a while I was able to help other keepers – or even the reptile keeper, when he  had swing duties.  (Swing duties refers to helping cover other departments when that keeper was sick or on vacation.  If you ever see a job advertising a Swing Keeper you’ll know what they are referring to.)

Anyway, back to the reptiles.  I worked with all the snakes (all non-venomous) as well as various lizards, turtles and alligators and crocodiles.  I have personally handled all these animals.  (Yes, all.)  And I can tell you from experience that snakes (or any of the other reptile species I worked with) are not slimey!  Snakes are actually dry and soft.  I have never seen or heard of a slimey snake – unless it was sleeping in the water bowl.  Their scales are quite shiny and when the sun hits them just right, can appear iridescent.  And I think this is where the notion of “slimey” comes from.

Photo by Damien Farrell

There are some species that are quite beautiful.  For example, I worked with a Rainbow Boa (also called a Slender Boa) named Baby.  She was the most beautiful and docile snake in the zoo.  She is the only snake I would not hesitate to pick up even today.  As you may have guessed, the Rainbow Boa gets its names from the amazing colors in sunlight – producing a rainbow-type coloration.  The photo to the left is one of the best photos I could find to illustrate this point.

Fast forward to the present.

Since it has been so many years since I have worked with reptiles I am quite hesitant around them again.  Most reptiles give very little indication when they are distressed.  So one minute everything seems fine, then next you are  trying to disengage their mouth from your person.  Reptiles tend to have very small brains compared to their weight and strength.  For example, an alligator has a brain that weighs 8.4 grams, where even a squirrel’s brain weighs 7.6 grams.  I find it terrifying that these animals can be so large and massively strong and yet so stupid.  (For anyone interested a viper has a brain weight of 0.1 grams)  I bring up the issue of brain weight because many scientists believe that the brain-to-body mass ratio will give you a rough estimate of intelligence.

So now, I am happy to watch these animals but much prefer a barrier between us.  Working with them, I think, has offered me an insight that I can’t quite explain.  I seem to observe them on a different level.  Maybe one day I will understand it and be able to articulate it better.

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Super Bowl? Forget that – I’m watching the Puppy Bowl!

I have a confession to make.  And it may not come as a surprise but I don’t really like sports.  But as Super Bowl Sunday approaches, those of us who do not like sports but want to get in on the action have a wonderful alternative – the Puppy Bowl.

Animal Planet started the Puppy Bowl 7 years ago as just a filler item.  But it has blossomed into a full blown event!  And the wonderful thing is that they are using shelter puppies in order to help raise awareness to the rich resource of you local shelter.  The goal is to get animals adopted.  And I think this is a great idea!  They even do little “starting line-up” introductions.

I am having a lot of problems trying to figure out how to get the line-up (or any video for that matter) for this years bowl on the blog – so click here to see the current line-up.  But once the game starts, it is just dissolves into a few balls of puppy fluff as they play and chase one another.  How adorable is this?

And to those of you who do not know, I am an “animal” lover.  Which means I adore all kinds of animals from cats and dogs to birds and even reptiles.  But no worries, I understand there are people out there who are more cat lovers and I respect that.  So do the folks over at animal planet, so be sure you don’t miss the wonderfully cute Kitty Half Time Show.

This is the only video I was capable of getting embedded but it really doesn’t give you the full idea.  But I will keep trying, so feel free to check back and see if I had any success.

Be sure not to miss Puppy Bowl VII Sunday February 6, 2011 from 3 – 5 PM, EST on Animal Planet.

Pathetic. . . or is it just depressing?

Going to the doctor is bad enough.  But then their endless penchant for running late and forcing you to listen to a television at top volume is pushing it, in my opinion.  However, I would like to share with you something that was said on this intrusive waiting room TV.  The station playing was our local news station, Bay News 9.  By the way, I am utterly thankful that it was not FOX “right-wing – it is news because we say so – even though we are lying” News.  But I digress.

Now, Bay News 9 seems half way decent.  They cover mostly local news and offer weather every ten minutes – “on the 9’s”.  Prior to one of these weather reports the meteorologist said – and I quote, “Klystron 9 – The most colorful television radar.”  Um, really?  Have we sunk so low as a society that we no longer care about content or accuracy as long as it is “colorful”?  Have we dissolved into a nation with ADD (or ADHD) mentality, needing to have a kaleidoscopic and quick moving world to keep our attention?

Sadly, I think the answer is yes.  Our education rates close to the bottom in all the areas of reading, math and science (33, 27 and 22 respectively – out of 33 by the way).  Who is ranked the highest?  Finland with scores of 2, 1 and 1 – Korea beat them out for the number 1 spot in reading.  Ok, lets bring it closer to home, how about our Canadian brothers and sisters?  Canada ranks 3, 5 and 2.  But those socialist commies have no clue what they are doing, or so we are told.  (By the way, all these lists and many more can be found here.)

Maybe I am overreacting.  Why not now look at some other scores?  Let’s do it, I have not reached the correct stage of inadequacy yet.  Adult literacy ranking according to the OECD – #9.  Health Care Quality – #37.  Women’s Rights – #17.  Life Expectancy – #29.  Journalistic Press Freedom – #32 and that is with Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands being tied for 1st place.  Political Corruption Index – #17 (no surprise there).  And I will finally stop with the Environmental Sustainability Index – #45.

People, especially right-wing politicians, try to whip the population into a patriotic fervor – “America is the best!!  Woo-hoo!!”  Well, the above statistics tend to poke a few holes in this argument, but then, when do fact ever stand in their way?  We may still be a world power but it is simply due to our size and our busy-body attitude of having to stick our nose in everyone else’s business.  We have our hands in cookie jars globally and most of which are out of simple self-interest.  We have become the bumbling bully, the Bluto of the cosmos.  We want to help South Africa for diamonds and the Middle East for oil.  Our government couldn’t give a rats ass for the people of these nations or the governments they instill.  That is what upsets me about the whole Egypt situation.  The US Government doesn’t really care whether they develop a “democracy” – especially since Bush proved even that can be bought.  I feel we can deplore the violence and offer guidance, sure.  But when the people themselves are shouting “We hate America”, then maybe our presence and especially our prominent pushing is causing more harm than good.

I am not saying Mubarak isn’t an asshole – maybe he is – but so was Bush and we were unable to uproot him from his 8 years squatting in the White House.  But then we didn’t think about throwing Molotov cocktails.

This has been a long and winding post – for which I apologize.  The point I am making is that we have not made progress or enjoyed world respect since the time of Kennedy.  In fact we have slipped rapidly downhill.  This does not have to lead to the bleak and dreadful existence I have alluded to, but it will require a lot of hard work and innovation.  We have to stop thinking only of ourselves and our instant gratification, our gas-guzzling SUVs and our HD TVs.  We have to pull ourselves out of this self made rut, respect one another and show a little courtesy.