So Where are the Animals?

So Where are the Animals?

I had an interesting discussion with a visitor to Florida the other day. He was wondering where the dangerous animals were, especially snakes. In Florida we have rattlesnakes and cottonmouth (water moccasins, whatever you want to call them). And gators of course, and bears, and wild cats. I gave him the best explanation I could, based on my experience with the wildlife of the region.

Animals, I explained, are where you find them. I can go out in my kayak and try to get wildlife photos for hours and get nothing, and come home and find a snake hanging off a tree in my back yard (yes snakes climb trees). Of course just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. Pygmy rattlesnakes, a Florida native, hide like expert snipers. They are the one snake that I’m the most worried about, since you can’t see them until you disturb them. And when they get disturbed, you don’t want to be around them.

Alligators are just about anywhere. You’d think they’d stay in the swamps, mangroves and marshes, but no, they go walkabout quite frequently. They cross highways, lounge in swimming pools, and (my personal favorite) make life difficult for golfers, among other typical things they just do. They stake out territory, and once you find them you can relocate them rather easily. But a lot of them just seem to be random wanderers. I’ve never found them overly aggressive, but sometime they’ll try to crawl into your canoe or kayak. Maybe they think it’s some kind of floating log, maybe a floating log with lunch on it. Snake will do this too, by the way.

Bears and wild cats I have yet to encounter in Florida. I treat them with great respect. They will mess you up. For most people, the best bet for seeing a bear is just driving through central Florida. Seeing a wild cat is pretty rare, since they’ve been pretty much wiped out.

So if you visit Florida, just be aware of your surroundings. It’s not a scary place infested with deadly reptiles. The worst thing in Florida, as in much of the rest of the world, is the people. Be more sacred of them.


Animals, Meat and Diet and my Vegan Friends

As I explained recently to a friend who was concerned about animals being harmed on farms. She was particularly outraged about dogs being slaughtered in China. “What about cows in the US?” I asked. Of course she wasn’t happy about that either. But the bulk of her outrage did seem to be reserved for the “evil Chinese” eating dogs.

Now as far as I’m concerned, being a meat eating omnivore and not about to change in a significant way, cows, pigs, chickens and ducks lead a mostly horrific life in most parts of the world where they are raised for food. The same with dogs, cats, birds, even fish and frogs. Animals live horrible lives in places where they frequently encounter humans, and even when they don’t, their lives aren’t all that wonderful. Eat and be eaten is the way of animal life in nature. Farms and ranches raise animals for our consumption. That’s not going to change soon. And our diets aren’t going to change in any major way in the near future.  So animals got a tough life no matter how you look at it.

I wish more people would realize that while we eat animals, there’s no law that says we have to make their lives miserable.  And I would pay more to make sure they lived in a pain free and fear free environment, as much as possible. Caring for animals isn’t a weakness, and it’s not silly, or unmanly,  it’s visibly respecting all life. And yes I’d like to save all the kittens and puppies, but we all know economic forces make that task, even for our pets, impossible. But the drive for profit shouldn’t be used as an excuse for various forms of animal cruelty that are endemic to factory-scale ranching and farming. Too many people have tolerated economically-rationalized cruelty to animals for too long, and I think the world would be a better place if we started pushing back on that style of production, and the mentality to desires to use it.

Work on the Scow has Begun!

I’m joking of course. I call her a scow because she’s quite a dirty little girl. It took 3 years of disuse to put lichen and scum all over my sailboat, but I’m thankful to say that now I’m cleaning the poor little thing up. And she needs it.

My father (bless his 92 year old soul) has been “working” on it for months, of course. This really bothers me for couple of reasons. The first one concerns his well being. The floating dock where my boat rests is connected to the shore by a very broken-down walkway that could break or fail in some way whenever anyone walks on it. (Yes fixing this is yet another project around the house – that’s the subject of another post.) There is a real possibility of a plank breaking underfoot or the attachment at the shore breaking free. But I’ve had no luck in trying to get him to stay off the dock. What can you tell a 92 year old man? And even if he is listening to me when I warn him, chances are by the next morning he’s forgotten everything we talked about the day before.

The other reason I don’t like him working on the sailboat is practical. I want to keep the interior clean and safe, as well as the exterior. Shortly after we got the boat, he drilled holes through the cabin wall to mount a compass on a crude piece of aluminum. I’m just glad the holes in the cabin aren’t too big, but the placement of the compass makes it hazardous to anyone scrambling around on the boat during operation. A slip next to this kluge could cause a serious injury. I keep thinking about him mounting something inside the cabin and drilling a hole through the hull under the water line. If you had seen his last attempt at fixing plumbing in the house (resulting in $500 plumber’s bill) you’d know why this worries me.

At any rate, over the last few days I’ve been out their scrubbing the dirty scow down, getting here sharp and clean enough to take out for a shakedown cruise. Just take a glance at the grime I’m dealing with!



So stay tuned friends! Soon I’ll have it out on the Gulf, and that should be some great fun!

How do I Tell Real News from Fake News?

With Russians poisoning social media against challengers to Donald Trump, and propaganda being thrown out by everyone from your over-ambitious prepper to your local anti-vaxxer patrol, determining what is real news and what is fake has never been more important. While we all have our favorite methods, and many different methods work, I use one method consistently because it’s so fast and easy. To demonstrate, let’s use a news headline I saw today on my Facebook page.

Russia and Iran just responded to Trump’s Syria strike with a terrifying ultimatum

Now the original post came from Occupy Democrats. So, let’s just say you see something like that on your Facebook page. Now, it doesn’t matter if you are a Trump supporter or a Hillary supporter, a Republican or Democrat. It’s YOUR DUTY to determine if this is fake news before you spread it around or scoff at it. So click the link and go to the source of the headline. While reading the article I saw a quote.

“What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well, …”

I then copied the following and put it into my favorite search engine (because god knows, people are politicizing them too).

“What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with ”

My search engine found several other websites containing the exact quote. Now here’s where you’ll have to work.

I then went to five of these websites to see why the search string of text was being picked up and I found the exact same quote, and glanced through the accompanying articles enough to see parity with the original article. So in this case Occupy Democrats disseminated REAL NEWS, not FAKE NEWS.

What if it had been fake news? I might have found the quote, but it may be attributed to someone other than who/where the original poster indicated. It may include MORE material not included in the original post (this is a favorite tactic of Fox News, by the way). I may not have found the quote at all, anywhere. That would be very suspect.

Now this method is quick and dirty and not perfect. There are many ways to tell real news from fake news, but the responsibility is yours. This is just one method.

The Tropical Storm That Wasn’t

The weather in my area of Florida has been rather mild the last few years, in the way of major or tropical storms, so when word of tropical storm Collin came to the coast, I saw a variety of interesting reactions.

First there were the people stocking up on goods of all kinds for fear of damage or a major power outage.

Then there were the folks (probably already with stockpiled supplies) who hunkered down and decided to play it by ear. From my point of view, this seemed to be the majority decision.

And one more group, one that I always find the most fascinating.

Animals often react to incoming storms by hiding, going to their burrow, finding a place to roost, finding a way to endure the coming weather. At my place on the canal, the land crabs were on the move, looking for higher ground, literally. I found the critters in the trees in the yard. They were waiting for the tide to rise and it did, maybe a little over two feet higher than its usual high point.

High winds aside, that high tide was pretty much the only bedevilment delivered by Collin in my corner of Pasco county. So, if you happen to be camping or vising the Sunshine State and you notice the beach crabs climbing the trees, you may want to get ready for heavy weather.


Beware of tricksters sending out emails that “welcome” you to using Windows 10. Many, if not all of them, are crafted by virus distributors who want you to download a dosed copy of windows or something else. If you’re having difficulty deciding if an email is official, try reading this article – How do I verify that an email message is REALLY from Microsoft?

The bad guys have been using the Windows 10 lure for a while. Here’s some more examples of the trick.

Fake “Windows 10 Free Upgrade” emails deliver ransomware
Fake Windows 10 Upgrade Emails Hide Ransomware

You may find dozens of articles about this problem with a simple search in your favorite browser. You may also find a variety of methods that will let you verify the sender of an email, so you can tell when a non-Microsoft entity is trying to trick you.

If you are thinking of downloading and installing Windows 10 and you current operating system is prompting you, follow your operating system directions and links. Do not use any suspect link in an email, and verify an email link is official prior to clicking it.

Late Night Visit Ends in Tragedy

I cleaned up the blood this morning, using Tilex and paper towels. Other evidence of the encounter I had already removed in the dead of night. Blood stains on the wall still remain, but I’ll attack them with some cleaning chemicals shortly. I’m sure I can get rid of the spots or at least disguise them.

I had to serve an eviction notice of a sort over the past few days. Last night, around 2 a. m., the notice was served in a sudden, mechanical format that left the evictee in a somewhat damaged condition. Draining essential fluids, the little beasty ran around the kitchen and the pantry which he had called home for several days, until I caught up with him. Using a dust pan and a rolled up newspaper (an imported newspaper, one from a little town in Wyoming where my family owns property) I coaxed the unwanted tenant into place and showed him the door. Knowing the resiliency of a rat is phenomenal at times, and having had past experience with the little monsters crawling under the house before expiring from their wounds, I pitched the soon-to-be corpse into the bushes next to the canal. I’m sure he made a tasty post-midnight snack for one of the many wild creatures that call this property home.

My 90+ y.o. father was blissfully unaware of the encounter. He didn’t notice the blood on the floor or the wall  (I should have cleaned it up last night, but I was afraid the noise I would make might wake him up). If he had noticed I doubt he would have cared.

The creatures are getting into the house through a cat-flap in his room. While he has assured me that no animal can get in, since he blocked it with a card board box, I know differently. This is the second rat we caught this season. Two rats, however, are much better  than the rat kingdom that I discovered when I made the monumental decision to move in with my aging father.

Many tasks around the house are now beyond his measure of a man. His physical state does not stop him from trying to do them anyway. Tasks I now prevent him from attempting include removing concrete from a section of  the yard that is slowly tipping into the canal, moving bags of concrete and mixing them to cover the concrete and level it off, and crawling onto the roof to remove branches. All of these tasks and more I have easily assumed.

But it is tasks that he still can do, imperfectly, that give me the most grief. Cleaning anything is one task I can’t trust him with anymore. Dishes are routinely covered with a grey slime that dries like glue on china, silverware and glass. Sponges I purchase for use in the kitchen I routinely find in the bathroom, or discover him  using to scrub the toilet by hand (he does not use toilet chemicals for the job). And there is more, of course, like the chemical warfare he will wage on any insect he finds in the house. Ants result in piles of powdered ant poison on counter tops, dinging room tables, carpet and kitchen sink area.

His penchant for chemical poisons almost killed him three years ago. This was before I moved into the home to act as caregiver. A friend of his called me up and said he discovered my incoherent father babbling in his chair in the living room, sweat streaming from his face, and called the ambulance. The hospital discovered his liver had developed “an abscess” that resulted in a week in a bed with another older fellow that called me names and told me to clean up his basement whenever I was there (he confused me with a son or nephew, I think).

When I visited the home during his stay in the hospital I discovered the sad fact that I had been paying more attention to my own life than I could afford. I lost my mother 5 years ago, and I suspected there would be issues, but there was no way I could push any kind of caregiver idea or even occasional visits from healthcare workers to make sure he was ok. No, he said, he was fine. But the truth is different.

I cleaned the house from top to bottom while he was in the hospital, but I did not move in or assume a role as his family caregiver. Other incidents had to happen before he could be talked into my presence, again, in his home, for a protracted period of time. What were the incidents? That’s for another post. This one is long enough.

If you’re a caregiver to an elderly family member, how do you cope? What is your survival strategy when they don’t want your there and are not bashful about letting you know? What are YOUR horror stories?


Employee Compensation is More Than Salary

Employee compensation is the reason you can attract people to work for you, so let’s get that out of the way at the start of this post. Your quality as an employer and as a company is determined in your employee’s eyes — in a large part in most business and organizations — by compensation for the work that they do. They spend a good part of their lives providing you with labor – they get up for you, they drive to work for you, the eat lunch at their desks for you, work on breaks for you, and they worry about you. The worker literally gives their lives to the employer, and most of the time this is not an even exchange. Many employers do not appreciate the sacrifice made by each employee. Labor is routinely short changed in this relationship, and we have been taught that this situation is good for business. Maybe it is, but it’s not good for society. If you think otherwise then you probably don’t want to bother reading further.

Most people in today’s economy work to support themselves and their families. While conventional wisdom states you should work in a field doing something you like, usually it’s only the luckiest among us who work purely for personal satisfaction, are employed because they wish to perform a service, or work for reasons unrelated to monetary compensation. For those who work to support themselves and their families, compensation is a primary concern.

Changing employee salaries can have very real consequences for the employer. Monetary compensation represents a feeling of self worth and can motivate or de-motivate employees, so it’s important for businesses to examine rate of pay on a regular basis wether or not the company is profitable.

If a company is not being profitable, then the workforce is one of the areas that often gets selected for an adjustment. The employees may see it coming if they notice a lack of sales or a slow down. If they have not noticed or can’t see it because of the type of business or industry, then the owner or department manager should make an announcement concerning the economic viability of the company well before any changes are made. When employees know there is an issue then they are less likely to be resentful over a reduction of the workforce or salary adjustments. Honesty is appreciated. On the other hand, surprising your workforce with layoff notices or sudden pay cuts will almost surely engender negative feelings. One problem, lack of profit, can be compounded all too easily by lack of motivation, resulting in a downward spiral.

When a company is profitable and does not increase compensation for the workforce the result can be resentment, high turnover rate, low production, poor quality, and industry-specific issues. While companies can tell employees that current conditions do not support raises for the workforce, if this continues for long (consecutive years, for example) then your employees might suspect they will never get a raise. If the company is expanding or showing noticeable growth, employees may begin to wonder what they have done that makes them unworthy of a raise. Resentment begins. While an employer may say “The benchmark wages for the industry are just what you are earning,” or make similar statements, the truth is that the company has made it policy to not share profits with employees, but will be more than happy to share misery when it comes around. Employees know this because it has been done in the traditional pattern of business for many years.

Fairly to provide bonus compensation during the “fat times” has a de-motivational effect on your labor force. Highly trained individuals and high performers may start looking for work elsewhere. Some employees may stop trying, or may decide minimal effort is required to stay employed. After all, the employer is providing less than optimal pay in the current condition of the company – it’s very easy to rationalize. Failure of the company to invest in raises — or provide bonuses — will be seen as lack of appreciation, and it’s hard to gauge exactly how this will effect your labor force. It’s probably safe to say it won’t enhance sustainability in the long run, unless you think it’s desirable to treat people like disposable parts. If that’s the case your employees will pick up on it and treat your company with somewhat less than full loyalty.

Every business has to create a policy that works for the employer and the employee. There is evidence that small annual raises don’t do much for employee motivation, but a small raise might be seen as better than no raise at all during hard economic times. Small annual raises (1-4%, for example) may or may not help you retain the workforce, and will probably do little to motivate employees. If your company can afford to do more then it will probably pay off in the long run. Raises at 7% and higher can make a visible difference in a person’s life, resulting in positive feelings of appreciation and motivation. While their next raise may be smaller, 3% for example, for the employee who appreciates last years raise it may not be a de-motivating factor.

Most employees know the relationship between company profits and salaries. Regardless of company edicts or traditions that are designed to prevent this information from becoming public knowledge, many employees discuss compensation and raises with each other. Satisfied employees help to sustain positive growth and profits. De-motivated employees are more concerned with finding a path to better compensation that does not include their current employer. By understanding the psychology behind salary increases and employee compensation, you can prevent unnecessarily high turnover rate and help create a self-sustaining workplace environment.



Contrast Hydrotherapy

Most people have heard the “old wives tale” about how unhealthy it can be to move frequently between very hot and very cold spaces. This rapid change in environmental temperature is either healthy or unhealthy, depending on the source. The science behind the idea is called contrast therapy. When it involves water it’s called contrast hydrotherapy. Is this kind of therapy useful? Is it unhealthy or healthy?

I first encountered the idea while researching sanitariums. One of the rooms in a sanitarium I studied was devoted to “water treatment.” Intrigued, I read more. I learned that contrast  hydrotherapy has been in use for a long time.

Many native people have traditions like the Native American sweat lodges. A sweat lodge uses heat to force the body to perspire. Some cultures add cold water to the mix.

Ice baths are used by some societies to treat illness. We use ice baths today to protect the brain from damage during surgery and other treatments. People who have drowned in icy water have been revived long after what would normally be a fatal period of time with no oxygen, and have experienced little or no ill effects from their experience.

Clearly, there is something at work here.

When your body is cold your skin contracts. Capillaries, arteries, and veins in your skin shrink and begin to collapse. This forces blood to leave the skin and other tissues where it may have collected in a circulatory eddy and join the larger tributaries of the blood stream. When your skin is hot the opposite occurs; migration of plasma and red blood cells move from the core of the body to the skin and extremities. The invigorating effect experienced by the individual is no fantasy.

If you read old medical texts you’ll find many claims about this kind of treatment. It seemed to be used a lot with the mentally ill, with the elderly, with people suffering from paralysis and similar mobility limiting conditions. It must have been horrifying to be subjected to this therapy if you did not understand what was going on (sometimes it was used as punishment as well). Some modern therapists still use this therapy to treat injuries, and it can be effective in the hands of a professional. I’ve tried it myself and can certainly say it is invigorating, if nothing else. I also discovered by accident that if I subject myself to an icy bath during Winter, when I remove myself I don’t seem to mind the cold so much. The effect lasts for weeks after the ice bath. Is that just me, and my imagination, or have I stumbled on to another use for contrast hydrotherapy?

It is worth noting that during my studies I found nothing to indicate that moving between hot and cold areas does any damage to the human body, aside from making you momentarily uncomfortable.

Have you ever tried temperature contrast therapy? What was your experience?


Please stay tuned for fresh content plus links to my content archive.

Hi and thanks for stopping by.

I was doing some research on education today and came upon some troubling and sad statistics. I’m not really surprised of course. Who would be, if they spent only a few minutes examining our popular culture? Or 10 seconds on YouTube?

The information I found came from several sources, including Gallup and various Universities from around the country. Here’s the take-aways that made me want to cry a ham sandwich of sorrow (from Psychology Today.)

  • According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 68% of public school children in the U.S. do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. And the U.S. News & World reported that barely 50% of students are ready for college level reading when they graduate;
  • After leading the world for decades in 25-34 year olds with university degrees, the U.S. is now in 12th place. The World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. at 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly 50% of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are foreigners, most of whom are returning to their home countries;
  • 18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a Gallup poll;

You can find many more sad facts at Psychology Today.

For some reason I find the last one I listed as the most troubling.

What do you think? Has the U.S. lost its ability to compete due to the flashy pressure of pop culture distractions? Are we, as a nation, so unconcerned with knowledge that we’ll go dancing and skipping into a future ruled by idiots? Will everyone outside of the U.S. start to use the term “American” as slang for moron, like they use “Texas” as slang for “mentally disturbed?” Only time will tell I suppose. I guess we’ll know when they replace water with Gatorade to irrigate our crops.