Friday, June 26, 2009

The Tragic Face of Tortoises on Crack

I hit my local drug pusher today, the produce department at Raley's. Between the cauliflower, cabbage, and crack, I completely forgot the other C: collards. Treppie started marching around the kitchen, then doing his annoyingly annoying attention-getter: scratching at the storage drawer under the oven. He will pace back and forth, making that (did I mention annoying) clangy scratching sound for hours unless I deflect him by putting him outside or....drugging him. With crack.

Uhm, in case you haven't read my other posts referred to tortoise crack, I am actually talking about that sugary goodness others know as corn on the cob.

Mike is still spending some time most afternoons exploring the couch and throws. Yesterday, he was on the couch when Karen stopped by to pick up some things. She sat down next to him to visit with us for a while. When she'd been sitting there for 5 minutes or so, Mike started bobbing at her because, can you imagine? She wasn't paying attention to him! The nerve of some people! So, she started petting him. As long as she pet him, he didn't bob at her or give her Stink Eye, the fading gleam of which can be seen in this photo:

Someone I know, a Canadian who became a U.S. citizen last year, just bought his first house (well, he and his wife did). I thought I'd knit them a little something. I came across a website that had designs for wash/dish cloths among which were a maple leaf and a U.S. flag. "Poifect!" I thought. However, I'd stayed away from knitting these types of 'embossed' patterns before because my brain just couldn't track the different instructions for each of the inside design rows (the space between the side, top and bottom borders).

So, before leaping in to make the CAN/US set of cloths, I thought I'd try one of the patterns first and make myself a washcloth. I grabbed the dwindling ball of leftover discontinued sky blue Cotton Ease, and made myself the Liberty Bell. I found the pattern easy to read and make, and whipped it out in one evening (if your evening ends around 1:15 in the morning).

Unfortunately, my gauge is really tight, so instead of making a 9" x 9" cloth, mine came out 8" x 8". Which is fine, but I wanted the larger size for these gift cloths. So, I added 8 sts, 2 each on the side borders, and 2 each to both sides of the inside space, and I worked two more rows on the top and bottom borders (and realized after I was done that I should have knit 3 more rows instead of 2, as the finished cloths are somewhat rectangular rather than square), and ended up with cloths slightly bigger, 10" x almost 10".

I decided to knit the leaf and flag cloths in red, figuring it was a better color for dishcloths than white, which could start looking grungy without being occasionally bleached, and blue seemed silly for a Canadian maple leaf.

These patterns were designed by Emily Jagos, and can be found at her Designs by Emily website.

(Looking at them, you can tell how much my gauge and consistency in making well-formed stitches is affected by the amount of pain, range of motion, and function (or lack thereof!) of my hands on any given day - these cloths were knit on three consecutive days, one cloth a day. Check out the samples on Emily's site - nice and neat!)

Now, back to work I go on a kitchen towel...

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Blogger Martha said...

Very cool dish cloths!
I'm glad you have had some enthusiastic company. Sid is such a cute boy. No doubt it was very entertaining to have Mikey and Sid together. Now if only Sid could vacuum as well as wash the dishes....

7:09 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Indeed! I keep offering to trade the lizard for the dog, but Karen won't let me have my choice of dogs. She keeps trying to foist Ginger off on me for some reason...

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Kevin R Brown said...

From your website (a source Wikipedia links to):

"...Not only that, but even the nicest, gentlest of burms can become killers, even when not very one Colorado family found out when they came home and found their 14-year old son dead after being constricted by their 8 ft free-roaming Burmese. It doesn't even have to be a snake let out by its owners - snakes are masters of escape, especially when kept in flimsy enclosures or enclosures that haven't been secured properly, as a Florida family found out."

This, frankly, is ridiculous. The article that quote comes from yields solid advice on thinking long and hard before doing something as profound and involving as buying a Burmese Python, but the tone is suggestive that these animals are some sort of abominable monsters that consume/attack people on a whim.

As evidence for this, you continually refer back to ONE instance where an apparent attack without provocation occurred. This, apparently, is sufficient to condemn every Burmese out there.

That's as absurd as citing one instance where a St. Bernard attacked a person without provocation as proof positive that ALL St. Bernards are just mindless killers.

I believe you cited a figure of 13 people total killed in one year in the United States by Pythons. So, if they're so dangerous, unpredictable and savage, and ownership is on the rise, why is that figure so small? People kill other people *hundreds* more times than that each year in your country. Dogs kill their fair share as well.

...So why are pythons being singled out?

I'm always pleased to hear another person advocating for caution and critical thought before buying a python (or any animal destined to live for so long and become so large), but am continually disappointed when those same people wind-up essentially parroting the popular press. Burmese do not grow to '200 lbs' on average or span the length of a bus. They don't *typically* take large prey at all (there are, of course, sensational exceptions - but they are just that. Exceptions), and are no more likely to strangle you just for looking at them than the stranger behind you at the grocery store is likely to pull a gun on you.

Fear of animals like snakes and spiders simply because of their unusualness is still rampant, and given their usefulness as predators of rodents, this is an absolute shame. The only thing more shameful than that fact alone is that there are also still some places, like your own article, that perpetuate that fear by demonizing an animal when - as is most often the case - their handlers/owners, more often than not, are the people at fault.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I'm the first to acknowledge that more people are bitten by dogs every year than killed by large boids. Since the largest boids are pythons, and people are often stupid or careless about how they secure their pythons, it's pythons who make the news, because pythons are implicated in suffication-by-snake deaths. Like the infant killed last week in FL, an article about which you'll find linked to the Burmese Python article at my website.

Big dogs get a bad rap, too, especially pit bulls, despite the fact that there are more dog bites by other breeds, including miniature and toy breeds, than there are by pits. But there is a high correlation, I believe, between the traits that lead a man (let's face it, most pit owners are men or were picked out by men) to get a 'macho' pit are same traits that lead male herp owners to get 'macho' reptiles like the giant pythons, monitors and crocodilians. Not all. But enough to cause headlines.

People do not think when they buy reptile species that grow to be very large and require special handling. People do not think that the cute little hatchlings or neonates they buy will grow very fast so they'll have lots of time to enjoy them as babies and subadults. People who do realize they won't be able to keep a full grown adult think they can easily find people, or zoos or wildlife refuges or parks, who will take their darling precious pet when it gets too big/aggressive/dangerous.

Those are the people I want to dissuade from getting a cute Burm hatchling to begin with. Sometimes it takes a mother understanding both the risks and the lackadaisical traits of her husband and son(s) and/or daughter(s) who are clamoring for that cute little Burm hatchling to put her foot down and put a stop to yet another instance of what will become a poorly cared for snake, or one who gets dumped on a rescue when, at 8 ft, it's "too big", or escapes from its enclosure and tries to snack on the infant in the next room.

People give more thought and due diligence when it comes to buying a car stereo or flatscreen TV than they do to picking what kind of pet to get. Until that changes, there is a place for articles like mine, which stops at least some people from making a bad, sometimes, though not very frequent, but enough to cause cities and counties and states to enact anti-reptile keeping legislation, mistake.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Kevin R Brown said...

Actually, it was that article (and the recent uproar over it) that led me here. The story is only a week old, so no doubt not all of the details are known yet - though one painfully obvious fact is that when one has a *2 year old* in the house, one probably also shouldn't have a pair of predatory constrictors in the house (snakes, as you point out, are not domesticated. They can be tame are are unlikely to attack a person, but a sleeping infant could easily be mistaken for prey).

From the news article:

"The Humane Society of the United States said, including today's death, at least 12 people have been killed in the U.S. by pet pythons since 1980, including five children, The Associated Press reported.

"We've never had a case like this," said Patricia Behnke, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission."

...12 people, total, since 1980.

We don't know that the Burmese last week escaped from a well secured enclosure (that's simply the initial report), we don't know how tame it was or wasn't (we certainly *do* know that the owner wasn't very diligent when it comes to Pythons, given that his reaction to seeing the animal on top of his infant was to run and grab a knife rather than a bottle of alcohol. Color me dubious that someone who knows so little about their pet would know how to build a secure pen for it), etc. In another couple of weeks, when we actually have reliable information rather than whatever sensational tidbits the local news has picked-up on, perhaps we can have the discussion of what this might mean for the potential risks involved in owning a large python.

People always get emotional when children are the victim of an animal attack. This is a shame too; it's only logical that if a Burma was going to mistake a person for prey, it would be an infant.

I don't have a problem with your article overall. I appreciate the words of precaution. I just take issue with the one specific segment I quoted. Where is the evidence that evn the 'nicest, gentlest of burms can become killers'? Where is the evidence that they can escpae from well-built enclosures? It's not in the statistics, certainly. Cherry-picking two news stories doesn't establish much credibility at all.

Burmas aren't such a problem that anyone needs to try and 'scare' potentially poor owners out of buying them. Even in the hands of complete imbeciles, they can be (and obviously have been) perfectly fine house pets, due to the intelligence and (on average) reluctance to strike at anything that is not obviously prey.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

As long as pet stores and unethical breeders continue to sell giant boid species to people who are not fully cognizant of how big they get, how strong they get, and how fast they do so, I will continue to put the facts out there.

When I used to do education/science/environment events, I had a series of silhouette images of various popular reptile pet species, and some lengths of thick craft yarn cut to the length of the adult of the species, because I learned through the years that just because someone nods their head indicating that they understand just how big 10, 15, or 18 feet is, they really don't until they walked the free end of the yarn out the full length.

So, my articles on burms and boas have been up at my site since I first launched it, and existed before that in printed caresheet form, so the original article (which has been revised from time to time) dates back to 1992. Nothing has happened since to change my mind about their continuing to be part of my collection of herp care articles.

Marshall Thompson, the actor who played the veterinarian on the old TV series "Daktari" said, "There are no dangerous animals, only stupid people." I've long said we're spaying and neutering the wrong species, but until such time as we can completely eradicate stupid and careless, and ensure every baby is born with a healthy measure of common sense, I will continue to caution people about a species that may be inappropriate choices for them, be it mammalian, avian, reptilian, or amphibian.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Knot said...

Why is it that they blame the animals every time someone get hurt or died. I know more people are maimed and killed by dogs than large pythons like you said Melissa! Mostly, everything we know the opposite is true or it's false. Why can't the media try to put out information that is correct for once?

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Knot said...

Well, I got another recipe for you. It's called basil pork, chicken, or beef. Those are the three type of meat they make this dish out of, but I believe pork is the king in Thailand, or Asia for that matter. lol

Now before I tell you how to make it, I have to tell you that this dish cannot be made properly without chillies. It wouldn't taste the same and it wouldn't be called by that named if you didn't use chillies. How hot you like your chillies is up to you. Personally, I like harbinero or Thai chillies, ( mine really hot) but you can use jalapeno or others if you prefer it a little milder. So here we go: first chopped up about three cloves of garlic and some chillies in the food processor until they are minced. Add the extra virgin olive oil onto a skillet and heat it on high until you can see a little smoke rising from the skillet and then add the minced garlic and chillies. Stir it well...don't let them burned... until the chillies give off a pungent aroma...enough to make you sneeze. I warn you that because you are cooking the minced chillies in a hot oil, you are going to sneeze uncontrollably depending on hot the chillies are. The hotter the chillies the harder you sneeze! lol After the chillies gives off of a nice aroma and infuse it's flavor into the oil, add about 1/2 lbs of minced pork, chicken, or beef (your choice) and add about 2 table spoons (more or less) of fish sauce and about 2 table spoon of oyster sauce. Stir it so the meat doesn't clump together until it is done cooking. Now, you can add as little or as much fish sauce as you like depending on how salty you like it. Then turned off the heat and add a handful of fresh basil leaves and stir until the basil is wilted. Served over white rice and with one or two fried eggs (optional). There are other variation you can make this. You can add some green beans that has been cut about 1/4 inch thick and add it to the meat just before it is done cooking and until the the green beans are cooked but still has a crunch to them, and you can use thinly sliced meat rather minced meat if you prefer that. IF you are using sliced meat make sure the meat is cut thinly so it cooks fast and make sure to cut against the grain so it doesn't become tough when you bite into it.

That is all! I know you are going to have fun with this dish! lol

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Knot said...

Oh, I'm sorry Sidney died! I read your Twitter page. I just want to offer my sympathy!

8:49 AM  
Blogger Knatolee said...

I love the knitting and that is ONE HAPPY TORTOISE!!!

5:07 AM  

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