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Date of Issue: April 06, 2006

Sandscript

Springtime thoughts, horseshoe crab love, new 'cottage' industry

Spring has finally sprung, although you wouldn't know it after the weekends hoped-to-be last cold front passed through and dropped temperatures into the 40s in the region, and the low 50s here on the Island.

As winters go, we've seen a mild one. Near as our records indicate, we had one night of temperatures in the high 30s, and lots of moderate highs through the coldest months of January and February.

Just remember what it's like to have to wear a jacket come next August and September, when temps never seem to drop below 90.

 

Springtime thoughts of horseshoe crab love

Horseshoe crabs are spawning this spring, and scientists are looking for our help in counts and locations.

Full-moon high tides are a good time to watch for the dinnerplate-sized critters. Anyone who spots a spawning location or lots of crabs should contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, research.myfwc.com/horseshoe_crab, e-mail at horseshoe@myfwc.com, or call toll-free to 1-866-252-9326.

"Biologists also want to know how many horseshoe crabs observers count and whether the horseshoe crabs are spawning," according to the FWC. "Researchers said horseshoe crab harvests are too high in some states. To manage the species more effectively, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission requires all Atlantic coastal states to identify horseshoe crab spawning beaches."

The prehistoric crabs, more closely related to spiders than mollusks, are a useful creature for scientists. "

"Research on the compound eyes of horseshoe crabs led to better understanding of the human visual system, and horseshoe crab blood is useful in the biomedical industry," according to the FWC. "A special substance in their blood is a component in testing for bacterial contamination in human blood and commercial drugs. In addition, manufacturers use the material that makes up the horseshoe crab's shell (chitin) to make contact lenses, skin creams and hair sprays."

There have been some problems of overfishing of horseshoe crabs in the Northeastern Atlantic states in the past few years, and the accurate census numbers are needed to come up with a population base and location analysis.

Female crabs are generally larger, and will attract one or more male crabs in a kind of train as they crawl along in the water. Most of the crabs seem to work their way into the shallows - I've mostly seen them in the bays - and they then burrow partly into the sand, where the eggs are laid and fertilized.

Keep your eyes peeled in the next few weeks and give the scientists the benefit of your local knowledge. One spot I've noted the crab orgy is Prices Key at the mouth of Palma Sola Bay, and off Gilligan's Island near north Perico Island, but I'm sure there are many, many more crab bordellos out there.

Good luck in your hunt.

 

Happy birthday

It seems hard to believe that Apple Computer will celebrate its 30th birthday Saturday, and no, it's not an April Fool joke.

Two college dropouts, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, started the fledgling company with a do-it-yourself computer kit. The pair followed with the Apple II micro-computer in 1977, then kept advancing with the Apple IIC, then Apple Macintosh products.

The Apple "core" belief was that the simpler the system, the better for users. Eschewing the more complicated operating systems of rival IBM, the pair came up with a basic operating program based on pictures rather than numbers and letters, a system that was the forerunner of today's Microsoft Windows programs.

With only a few blips over the years, I've almost always used Apple products. Sure, I've been in the minority as far as computer users are concerned, but the desktop and art programs that Apple has always excelled in have always been in the forefront of the computer age, and that's most of what I've been doing for all these years.

We even used the Apple IIC back in the mid-1980s when there were no computers delegated to the gang in Tallahassee with the Florida Legislature. Can you imagine having to type bill amendments and draft legislation on an IBM Selectric typewriter today?

Apple has about a 4-percent share of the worldwide PC market today, but its entertainment products - can you say iPod? - have given it a huge revenue stream. It had revenues of $14 million in 2005.

Not a bad birthday gift, eh?

 

Post-Katrina cottages are stylin'

Somebody finally got their act together and came up with a pretty elegant little cottage that is cheap to build, quick to construct and able to withstand 140-mph winds - perfect for the reconstruction efforts along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts after Hurricane Katrina.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the "Katrina Cottage II" is the brainchild of noted urban planner Andres Duany, a principal in the design and construction of famed Seaside community in the Florida Panhandle. Englewood contractor Home Front Inc. is the builder of the cottages.

Their version is a larger model of another cottage unveiled in January.

The Katrina Cottage II has 770 square feet of living space and a 330-square-foot sleeping loft. It has a metal, pitched roof, a front porch, a small kitchen and bathroom with a stand-up shower - no tub.

The original Katrina Cottage was 330 square feet, with a sleeping area for four, a 100-square-foot porch, bright yellow paint and a design that is in keeping with the grand mansions of the Northern Gulfcoast - just on a smaller scale.

The price of the smaller version was pegged at about $25,000, which I understand is about the price of one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers. It can be built on-site in about two days, or pre-fabricated and moved to a homesite.

And it looks nice, too, and is not a temporary home.

Something that's only 770 square feet sounds temporary, you might think.

Hey, it's all in how it's laid out.

I've spent more than seven years living in an 800-square-foot apartment. It's got a weird layout - the bedroom is elevated and triangular, like the bow of a boat - but its wide-open design of the kitchen flowing into the living room makes it look much bigger than it is. The office is also more than big enough for all of the piles of paper I accumulate every week.

The place seems especially spacious compared to a 430-square-foot beachfront apartment I had before I moved into the more spacious digs.

Could a family of four be happy in a 770-square-foot house? Probably not.

Could a couple be comfortable in 770 square feet? Of course.

A buddy just sold a bayfront mansion on Longboat Key. He, his wife and teenage daughter had eight bedrooms, nine baths, including his-and-her master bathrooms that are about as big as my place. He said he had to make a conscious effort to remember to go through and flush all the toilets once a week, since hardly anyone went into some parts of the house.

New urbanism, which Duany touts and is evident in his Seaside project, is all about maximizing the space you've got. These little cottages that will apparently begin to appear soon in Mississippi and elsewhere do that maximizing in an amazing way.

Like was said earlier, somebody is finally starting to think.

 

Sandscript factoid

From the Herald-Tribune article by Nicole L. Reber regarding the Katrina Cottages comes this comment:

"In a country where the average new house is around 2,500 square feet, homes of less than 800 square feet are jarring concepts for sure, but in the hurricane-prone Southeast, size doesn't matter in the aftermath of a high-category hurricane. Katrina and the resulting levee breaks caused more [physical] damage than the terrorist strikes on the World Trade Towers, ultimately generating the need for some 70,000 homes - of any size.

"'Katrina's not going to be the last hurricane,' said Mississippi Gov. Haily Barbor. 'We need builders who can rebuild - not merely build - great neighborhoods.'"

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