Reptile Romance

Alfred, Lord Tennyson famously observed, “In the Spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Unfortunately for us Floridians, it isn’t only male spring breakers who have the opposite sex on their minds at this time of the year. Gator mating season here we come!

Why should the average Floridian care about reptile romance? Well, for one thing, gators are everywhere, and I’m not taking about people who wear blue and orange and hate us Bulldogs.  An estimated 1.3 million gators reside here in Florida, and they populate every one of the Sunshine State’s 67 counties. So, like it it or not, some alligator action will be occurring at a location somewhere near you.

Alligator mating season runs from April through July. The month of April is devoted to courtship with actual mating occurring in May or June. Unlike spring breakers, alligators just don’t pick up a cute gator at the local sand bar and have a brief fling. An elaborate courtship ritual is required. Simply buying Ms. Gator a drink won’t cut it.

How does one know when mating season has begun? Your eyes and your ears will tell you. First, you may see alligators roaming about in search of a mate. Adult alligators tend to be solitary creatures, so effort has to be made to go out and find Ms./Mr. Right Reptile. They’ve been spotted swimming in residential pools and hiding under cars in business parking lots during mating season.The males are more active and territorial during this time, so watch out!

Secondly, you will hear the gators looking for love. A distinct bellowing sound is used to announce their presence to potential mates. This very loud sound is produced in the key of B flat and may be induced by someone playing a tuba. Thus, if you are bored (and crazy) one night during mating season, go out to your local water body and toot your horn. A bellowing chorus may return your greeting. I’d suggest being near a car for a quick getaway once the pumped up gators hear what they might deem is a mating call.

In order to produce a bellow, the gator arches his back, raises his tail, and lets a long roar rip. The sound produces underwater vibrations and also causes the surface of the water to “sprinkle.”  This part of the courtship ritual is referred to as the water dance. Gators may engage in group courtship, so following bellows a dance party may ensue. Whoever’s water beads bounce the highest impresses the females. He’s the man–er, reptile–with whom they all want to breed.

Now these are big gators doing this water dancing. Male gators are sexually mature when they reach 7 feet. Females reach sexual maturity when they are 6 feet. They  have some happy, dancing feet at this point. Cue the water dance.

As is apparently the case with the male of any species, the male gator wants to show off to a potential mate. He will slap the water with his jaw and lift his tail high. Oooh! How manly! But the female gator is not easily impressed. The courtship routine lasts for hours. One tail lift isn’t going to cut it.

Courtship is initiated by the gators rubbing and pressing each other with their snouts and backs. Hmm! And I only pictured Eskimos rubbing noses. The gators then move on to head-slapping, wrestling, and attempting to submerge each other. Nothing makes me swoon like a handsome guy trying to keep my head under water or pinning me to the floor–not!!! All this rough housing leads up to the actual reproductive act which, according to the experts, lasts only a few seconds. Maybe the gators should’ve toned it down a bit during the hours of courtship ritual.

All this alligator activity typically leads to the female being in the family way. I doubt she finds out she PG by the rabbit dying because she’d have eaten the rabbit before any test could’ve been done. Ms. Gator becomes a maternal reptile (doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?) and prepares a mound nest several feet high. She then deposits between 32 and 46 eggs in her nest which she stays around for the 63 to 63 days it takes for them to incubate. And where’s the baby daddy? Who knows. He’s apparently had his spring fun and moved on.

Hatching occurs in mid-August to early September. Baby gators, with faces only mommy gators could love, arrive to become members of Florida’s state reptile population. A few years down the road, they’ll engage in the same behavior and produce their own offspring. It’s the circle of life!

Just WONDER-ing: Have you ever seen a gator up close? Do you think baby gators are cute? Is it hard for you to imagine a gator being romantic?

 

 

 

 

 

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Reefer Madness

 

You may scratch you head and wonder what Florida legislators were smoking when they passed certain bills. One of those pieces of legislation would undoubtedly be the bill that has been the talk of Florida’s 2019 regular legislative session; it addresses what the legislators’ constituents are allowed to smoke. And what, pray tell, is that? Marijuana!

On Monday Gov. DeSantis  signed into law a bill repealing the ban on smokable medical pot. What (reefer) madness is this? Remain calm. As a result of this legislation, Mary Jane (a slang term for marijuana) will not be freely available for any Mary or Jane to smoke. Recreational use of marijuana has not been given the green light. Admittedly, marijuana is commonly known as a recreational drug, but all that has been approved by this new Florida law is the use of MEDICAL marijuana in smokable form here in the Sunshine State.

And why was this law necessary? Good question. Back in 2016, Florida voters overwhelmingly (71%) passed a constitutional amendment approving the use of medical marijuana. Nevertheless, a 2017 law which aimed at carrying out the amendment banned the use of medical marijuana in smoking form. As a result of this law, the state of Florida was sued; the lawsuit alleged that the law contravened the express will of the voters in passing the constitutional amendment. Unsurprisingly a circuit court judge found the law to be unconstitutional. The State of Florida, being a good steward of its citizens’ money (NOTE: sarcasm font in use), took the decision up on appeal.

What’s the big deal about the form of marijuana being used? If a patient is medically approved to use marijuana, can’t he just take it in pill form rather than smokes a reefer (a slang term for a marijuana cigarette)? Arguments have been made that, since marijuana smoke contains some of the same elements as tobacco smoke, smoking pot may be harmful to your lungs. According to a May 2018 post by Angela Morrow, R.N.,  burning marijuana leaves and buds can produce 50% to 70% more carcinogens than tobacco cigarettes. Holy smoke!

While the argument that smoking marijuana is unhealthy for your lungs might hold water for healthy patients, somehow I doubt that a terminally ill patient will be concerned about long-term hazardous effects of smoke on his lungs. He’s going to be dead before the condition of his lungs becomes an issue. And, even if hazardous smoke is a side effect, there isn’t a medicine out there that doesn’t have some side effects. Just read the warnings inside the packaging of the medicine you legally purchased at a reputable pharmacy. (Hint: It’s that folded up paper inside the packaging that gives critical health warnings in microscopic print.)

Key to understanding the smokable pot situation is that it is MEDICAL marijuana which has been approved by the Florida legislators. Medical marijuana is a physician-prescribed treatment which uses marijuana obtained from a legal (approved) vendor. Peter Patient is not going to be buying joints (dried cannabis in rolling paper) from Dan Dealer on the street corner.

The medicinal use of medical marijuana is now legal in a growing number of states. To no one’s surprise, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have sanctioned the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Using marijuana medically is an example of there being nothing new under the sun. Long before the plant’s medicinal use here in the U.S., other civilizations used it in that manner. In fact, marijuana has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. For example, cannabis is one of the fifty fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.

Despite its long history of medicinal use, marijuana has not been approved by the FDA. It is classified as a Class I drug meaning that it is deemed of no medicinal value. The possible risks of marijuana use have thus not been assessed in clinical trials because of this classification. Therefore, claims that pot’s chronic use might lead to addiction and impairment to attention and memory have not been the subject of government studies; these claims, as a result, have neither been substantiated nor debunked.

Why use marijuana at all? Well, the short answer is “because it works.” The mind-altering ingredient marijuana contains is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for you chemistry buffs). THC stimulates cannabinoid receptors in the brain resulting in reduced pain and increased appetite. Marijuana can reduce nausea during chemotherapy, improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and reduce chronic pain and muscle spasms.

Medical marijuana is used to relieve symptoms only; it’s use is not to treat or cure the underlying disease. So, assuming marijuana may be beneficial in relieving negative symptoms in patients, must it be smoked in order to get relief? There are several methods for using cannabis including smoking it, eating it in baked goods or edible items, taking it orally in a synthetic pill form (the “little yellow pill”), and rubbing it on in a cream form. According to Kevin R. Murray, R.N./B.S.N./O.C.N., a clinical cancer research nurse at NIH (a/k/a my Baby Boy!), smoking marijuana allows the marijuana to go immediately into the bloodstream. It is diffused from the lungs directly into the bloodstream. Other methods of use take much longer to achieve results. I imagine that patients in horrible pain are looking for quick relief and might prefer the smoking method for that reason even if carcinogenic smoke is involved.

A benefit of the new Florida law is that restrictions on the use of smokable pot have been put in place. Medical marijuana may not be smoked in a public place or in a private business subject to Florida’s cigarette smoking ban. The medical marijuana must be purchased from a state authorized vendors, so there is control over the quality and content of the product. (You don’t know WHAT you are getting in a purchase off the street.) Patients may only have a certain amount of marijuana in their possession at any one time, and they may not purchase over a certain amount during a set time period. Minors may only smoke medical marijuana if they are terminally ill and two separate doctors, one who must be a pediatrician, say that it is the most effective treatment.

So, while it may be a mad, mad world out there, reefer madness, at least when it comes to medical marijuana, is not occurring. Florida legislators have merely authorized the use of marijuana in smokable form for patients who have had this form of treatment prescribed by their doctor. While this system may not be perfect, no system is. At least the system as allowed under the new Florida law is compassionate towards those in great pain. Forget reefer madness. Isn’t it a worse madness to deny reefers where needed to relieve such suffering?

Just WONDER-ing: Does allowing marijuana to be smoked for medicinal purposes put Florida on the slippery slope to authorizing its recreational use? If you were in great pain, would you be willing to smoke medical marijuana if it would relieve your suffering? Would you be more confident smoking pot purchased from a dealer on the street or from a state-approved vendor?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dashing Through The Snow

It’s March which means spring will officially start this month. So why is “Dashing Through The Snow” playing in my head? Shouldn’t I be thinking about playing in the sand with the spring breakers descending upon the beautiful Emerald Coast? Nope. I’ve been captivated by a sporting event. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has just concluded!

For those of you who are geographically challenged, the Iditarod Trail is located in the 49th state of the Union, Alaska. If you have never been to Alaska, let me assure you that it is one COLD place. I was in Alaska for a cruise one summer, and it was necessary to wear winter clothes while there. I can hardly imagine what winter weather would feel like.

The Iditarod Trail is one of the first four U.S. National Historic Trails designated in 1978. Historically, it was used for all winter travel. Need mail or groceries delivered or gold and furs hauled out of town? Dogs sleds using this trail provided the means of conveyance. Iditarod is now a ghost town. The settlement was likely doomed by its name. Iditarod means “far distant place” in the indigenous Athabaskan language. If it’s that far and hard to get there, who really wants to go?

Today dog sledding is popular in Alaska for recreation even if it isn’t necessary for grocery and mail delivery. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is THE sports event of the early spring. Competitors from far distant places such as Norway (from which the 2018 champion hails) and Sweden travel to Alaska to take part in this sporting event. The annual competition involves a field of over 50 mushers and around 1,000 dogs.

What? You don’t think dog sledding is a real sport? Why sled dog races were a demonstration sport at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. If it’s showcased at the Olympics, it must be a sport, right? Let’s just say animal rights groups are none too keen on the “sport.” With greyhound racing having being banned, can sled dog races be far behind?

While Iditarod’s a dog race, humans play an integral part because they drive the sleds. The driver of a dog sled yells “mush” and is referred to as the musher. So the story goes, French drivers would yell “Marche!” to their dogs which is equivalent to the driver commanding the dogs to run. Marche sounds similar to mush which is a shorter word and easier to spell. So, VOILA! We have mushers.

And at whom is the musher yelling? His dog team, of course. Siberian huskies are the favored racing dog. Each team in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has 12-16 dogs on it. Dogs pull the sled side by side in pairs. At least five of these dogs must be on the towline when the sled crosses the finish line. The lead dog is a crucial choice for the musher. All the dogs naturally want to be the lead dog because, as they say, if you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

Dogs can be temperamental athletes. French competitor Nicolas Petit was forced to withdraw from this year’s race despite a several hour lead after he yelled at one of his dogs for engaging in a dog fight. Apparently the rest of the dog team did not take kindly to the admonishment; they all simply refused to move. Plopped down in the snow and not budging, these ticked off canine athletes had a great view of the scenery, i.e., other teams passing them by and leaving them in the snow dust. Ultimately, the dogs had to be hauled back to the previous checkpoint by snowmobile. I guess they wouldn’t go forward or backwards.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a real marathon. In fact, it is WAY longer than a marathon. The trail is approximately 1,000 long and covers some rough terrain. In this year’s race 52 mushers faced the challenge of going over two mountain ranges and the frozen Yukon River before heading up the Bering Sea Coast. A total of ten mushers withdrew during the race for various reasons.

The actual trail alternates between a southern route (used in ODD years) and a northern route (used in EVEN years). Over twenty checkpoints along each route allow mushers time to rest and pick up supplies. Drop bags of supplies are flown ahead to each checkpoint. The supplies might include extra booties for the dogs, food for the mushers and the dogs, and items needed for sled maintenance. Yup, the dogs probably won’t budge if they aren’t feed either.

The 2019 race began on March 2 in Anchorage. This start was merely ceremonial. An official restart of the race was later held in Willow, Alaska, 80 miles north of Anchorage. The race, which lasts 8-17 days, ends when the last musher either crosses the finish line in Nome or drops out of the race. Nome is a Gold Rush town, making the mushers desire to go for the gold literal as well as figurative.

While dogs pulling sleds isn’t that high tech, technology was definitely a part of the 2019 race. Sleds were equipped with GPS trackers so officials could keep up with competitors’ locations. Live video was also streamed from checkpoints along the trail. So, while you may not have been able to travel to a far distant place to watch the race, technology allowed you to view it from the comfort (and WARMTH) of your own home.

Weather is a huge factor in the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race. In 2015 and 2017, the race had to be re-routed due to lack of snow. Regardless of which route the mushers race on, freezing temperatures and whiteout conditions may pose challenges.

Weather is not the only challenge either. Mushers have to run the gauntlet of “Moose Alley.” The first hundred miles of the trail past Willow is an area with a large population of moose. These large animals are particular fond of the rather level ground of the trail and like to hang out there. The presence of a moose on the trail is a hazard for dog teams. One year a couple of team dogs were killed and several injured when a sled in the race turned a corner to come face to face with a pregnant moose who was not in the mood for company. The moose was ultimately shot by a musher. Moose meat, anyone?

The winner of the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was Alaskan native Pete Kaiser who crossed the finish line in the wee hours of Wednesday, March 13th. Defending champion Norwegian Joar Ulsom claimed second place. Kaiser’s win paid big. His prize? $50,000 and a new pickup truck, presumably for hauling his sled and dogs from point A to point B to practice for or to compete in the next race.

While it would be cool, literally and figuratively, to attend the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, I’m not sure I’ll ever attend one. I moved to the Sunshine State for a reason–to stay warm. Thanks to technology, I can still enjoy the Alaskan wilderness scenery from across the country where I am safe from an angry moose and blizzard conditions. Maybe I’ll  eat some Moose Tracks Ice Cream and a Blizzard while watching the race just to add a touch of cold.

Just WONDER-ing: Would you want to be a spectator at the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race? Why or why not? Do you think that dog sled races constitute animal abuse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again!

Back in college, doing a time warp meant dancing with friends to some great music from “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” While dancing in college was fun, doing a time warp as an adult is not. The real horror today is the older, working me having to live through a time warp each spring when my body is tortured springing forward with the change to Daylight Saving Time. Beware! That horror looms ahead this weekend on Sunday, March 10.

Actually, the horror is even worse for me, a grammar and spelling Nazi. I am forced to watch the term Daylight Saving Time constantly being misspelled. There is only one “s” in the entire phrase “Daylight Saving Time.” Apparently no “savings” exists–well, at least in the name. There is no such creature as “Daylight SAVINGS Time.” If it is savings you are after, go to a bank.

Think that is it for the horror for me? Nope. The official time for the time change is at 2:00 a.m. Raise your hand if you are normally up at this ungodly hour. Hey, I cannot even last until midnight on New Year’s Eve, so me staying up until 2:00 a.m. to set my clock forward is laughable. Don’t tell the time police, but I merely set my bedroom clock ahead an hour before turning in for the night.

Thankfully, my cell phone automatically resets to Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. That saves me from having to figure out how to accomplish this feat with my phone. And while I know how to manually set the clock forward on an old-fashioned clock with an actual face and hands, that doesn’t mean I do it. I neglected to fall back with one of my clocks. No harm done; it will be on the correct time when the clock strikes 2:00 a.m. on Sunday. One less clock for me to reset.

And if the time change itself isn’t enough to create a time warp, consider that the time changes at different points across the country. Someone in NYC will set his clock ahead at 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time, but someone in Chicago will not set his clock ahead until 2:00 a.m. Central Time. A Hollywood star (who is likely to be up and still partying at 2:00 a.m.) will make the time change when it is 2:00 a.m. Pacific Time. The bottom line is that all clocks are to be changed at 2:00 a.m., but that change occurs at local time and is not done simultaneously. Confused? Welcome to the time warp!

Daylight Saving Time, which I’ll refer to as DST (reducing my chances of slipping up and typing “Savings” instead of “Saving”), will remain in place until November 3, 2019. This seasonal time change runs from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November. I’m sure I won’t remember the specific time frame, but thankfully calendars have this information printed on the appropriate days in March and November. I can, however, remember spring forward and fall back. It’s great to fall back in November, but you’ll eventually pay for it in March.

So how did we get sucked into this time warp? Blame the Canadians! Those in the Thunder Bay area in Canada first tried this concept back in 1908. It took some time for the concept to catch on though. Germany and Austria were the first countries to use DST eight years later in 1916. They weren’t trying to copy the Canadians, they were just trying to minimize the use of artificial light to save fuel for the war effort. The two countries turned their clocks ahead one hour on April 30, 2016, two years into World War I.

Uncle Sam started doing the time warp in 1942. As with Germany and Austria, an ongoing war spurred the U.S. to make this change. At the height of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a measure to observe year round DST. But, of course, it wasn’t called DST; it was cleverly called “War Time” and remained in effect from February 2, 1942 until September 30, 1945.

DST has been known by other names as well as DST and “War Time.”. In England there’s BST (British Summer Time). Germany has Sommerzeit (“Summer Time”). The summer time designation is more appealing, at least to me. Use of DST (or whatever you call it) makes for longer summer evenings. Who doesn’t want lazy summer evenings to last longer?

The concept of DST has spread around the globe. Approximately 70 countries (around 40% of countries worldwide) do the time warp. Now, in addition to knowing where Carmen San Diego is, we need to know what time it is where she is located.

So, here in the U.S. we’ll all be springing forward this weekend, right? Wrong. It would be too convenient for their to be uniformity in the treatment of time across our great nation. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 affords every state or territory the right to opt out of DST. Two states (Arizona and Hawaii) as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have chosen not to do the time warp. I have no heartburn about Hawaii and island territories opting out. These locations all probably operate on island time anyway, so they are already special cases. And, if I happen to be in those exotic locations, I’d be on vacation and don’t really care what time it is anyway; you go on vacation to avoid being a slave to the clock.

Is having DST worthwhile? The goals of DST are to save energy and to make better use of daylight. The latter goal seems to be met. There are more daylight hours in summer evenings for recreation and enjoyment. But is energy actually saved? Probably not enough to justify the torture of putting American through a time warp. From January 1974 to April 1975, the U.S. observed year round DST due to an oil embargo. Only a “modest” energy savings was reported to have resulted.

DST or not, I’m wondering if anyone really knows what time it is. Even if the hands of the clock aren’t touched, I often feel like I’m living in a time warp. How can I be a Mimi? Wasn’t I just a coed at UGA dancing to Rocky Horror’s “The Time Warp” just last week? Like it or not, I’ve sprung forward into the future.

JUST WONDER-ing:  Does it take your body much time to adjust to a time change? Is the use of DST justified? Should it be abolished?