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Wednesday, Nov, 26, 2014
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Date of Issue: November 09, 2006

Sandscript

Gift ideas for the holidays, plus reflections

Here's a wonderful gift idea for the fisher folk in your life as the holidays approach.

According to MacDaddy, the manufacturer, "The Million Dollar Lure is crafted in just over 3 pounds of glimmering gold and platinum, then encrusted with 100 carats of diamonds and rubies (4,753 stones to be exact). This extraordinary Big Game Lure is more than 12 inches in length. The $1 million lure is designed to catch world-class fishermen and fish alike."

Yep, you read that right. A $1 million plug.

Comments from the Web site included the following:

"I'm, I'm ...wow ... why? It just seems pointless ... anyone who buys this should be shot - several times."

"How sweet would it be to bludgeon Paris Hilton over the head after reeling her in with this bad boy?"

"What an obscenity. This thing could rebuild New Orleans."

 

Don't shoot that gator just yet!

There are an estimated 2 million alligators in Florida. Once near extinction, the hard-skinned reptiles have reproduced in a flurry in the past few decades, and only limited hunting for the skins and meat is allowed by state officials.

A more widespread "taking" of gators may be in the offing. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are scheduled to discuss a more relaxed view of alligator hunting when they meet next month.

However, a widespread misdirection was broadcast last week about just who can do what to gators.

"The FWC has completed a survey to measure public attitudes about the FWC's alligator management efforts," according to the agency. "The survey revealed that some Floridians would like the agency to consider reclassifying alligators from ‘species of special concern' to game animals, and relax prohibitions against property owners removing nuisance gators.

"The FWC has taken no action to adopt those suggestions, but will hear a staff report about them during its Dec. 6-7 meeting at Key Largo. If FWC commissioners direct staff to proceed with those suggestions, the process likely would take several years and require a great deal of scientific scrutiny and public input."

Alligators, especially in the spring, tend to get frisky and have attacked people and pets near their freshwater habitats. The attacks have apparently prompted the change in people's minds regarding the big critters.

Don't plan to open fire any time soon, though.

 

Can you see me now?

Add elephants to what is called an "elite group of animals" that can recognize themselves in mirrors.

According to the journal Nature, researchers placed an "elephant-proof, jumbo-sized mirror inside the enclosure of three female Asian elephants at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The team used a still camera on a roof to observe the animals over a period of five months.

"Upon entering the yard, all three elephants ran to inspect the mirror. The elephants, named Happy, Maxine and Patty, immediately investigated the surface by sniffing and touching it with their trunks - even attempting to climb the mirror to look behind it and kneeling down to look under it.

"They didn't display threatening behavior such as trumpeting, which might have been expected if they saw the images as intruder elephants.

"Later, the animals used the mirrors to inspect their own bodies - peering inside their mouths, for example. At one point, Maxine used her trunk to pull her ear close to the mirror for inspection.

"When a white mark was placed on Happy's face, she knew to investigate herself rather than her reflection. The concept of mirror self-recognition is defined by animal behavior specialists by four stages: making a social response to a reflection, examining the mirror itself, repetitive behavior around the mirror, and self-directed behavior.

"The elephants' behavior showed all four stages, although only Happy passed a definitive test of the fourth phase, called the 'mark test'. A white cross was surreptitiously placed on Happy's face without her noticing. When she then looked in the mirror, her response was to touch the mark on her own face, rather than reaching out to inspect the mark in the reflection."

Apparently human babies "do not recognize a mirror reflection as being themselves, but typically learn this by the age of two." Other "critters" who have figured out about mirrors - beside humans - include chimpanzees and orangutans, as well as dolphins. The researchers believe that only high-intelligent mammals have the ability, and predict killer whales could also share the trait.

On a personal note, my not-so-intelligent little dog has found that a good way to keep track of me while he's lolling around in the bed is to watch me in a mirror. He doesn't seem to see himself in the glass, though - the first and only dog I've ever had that displays that ability.

Of course, he also has bitten me more than any other dog I've every had. I wonder what all that means ....

 

Going native in Africa

Eco-folks have been touting the "back to native" approach to growing things in Florida for years. Native, non-exotic plantings are more hardy, more friendly to other parts of the ecology and generally better all around than exotic vegetation.

So with that philosophy, it's not hard to understand a new study from Africa that touts the natural plants as a terrific source of food for the hungry.

Again from the journal Nature, scientists have come up with a host of native vegetables that offer all sorts of nutritious benefits to help fill the 300 million hungry bellies in Africa.

"The most popular vegetables in Africa - sweet potato, cassava, peanut and plantain, for example - have been imported from aboard," according to the journal. "Such crops are suited to the climate and help to generate money as well as feeding the local population. But the authors argue that any native plant with good potential ought also to be encouraged."

No. 1 on the veggie hit parade is something called the moringa tree, which has been likened as "a sort of supermarket on a trunk. Without the benefit of any domestication, it provides extremely nutritious leaves, pods and seeds, and a tasty horseradish-flavored root. It also produces a fine oil for lubricating delicate machinery or for lamps, wood, skin salve, traditional medicines and even a means to purify water. In the latter, the seeds are thrown into cloudy water in place of expensive alum to settle the silt."

I wonder where we can get such a tree - oh, no, wait, we aren't supposed to like exotics in Florida, are we?

 

Sandscript factoid

I've been in a Randy Wayne White re-reading frenzy for the past few weeks, and find that his Southwest Florida-based novels just get better with each reading.

If you're starting to hunt for something to get that special person for the holidays, don't forget Capt. White. In fact, "Twelve Mile Limit" has a number of pivotal scenes that take place in Bradenton Beach and on Perico Island. Although the topic is one of those which scares the bejeezus out of me - being lost at sea - it's definitely a compelling read.

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