Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, December 03, 2021

Bruce Rinker, who runs the Pinellas County Environmental Lands Division from his office at wild-and-wooly Brooker Creek Preserve, has the chops — and then some — to mess with wildlife at its wildest:

“In the cloud forests of Ecuador, there is something called the bot fly. The bot fly is a very big fly with hairy legs. They catch female mosquitoes with those hairy legs and glue their eggs to the mosquito. When the mosquito bites, the eggs of the bot fly are deposited on the victim.”

When Rinker returned to the United States from such a cloud-forest expedition in 1988, he noticed a nasty lesion on his wrist. One night he felt something alive - something alive under the bandage, inside of him.

“I took off the bandage and saw what looked like a tiny snorkel coming out of the wound.”

A tiny snorkel emerging from a wound would alarm most of us. But Rinker knew something about bot flies. For example, he knew he shouldn’t yank it out. The only thing worse than having a bot fly inside of you is having half a bot fly. A broken bot fly, oozing body fluids, can cause serious infection.

“Luckily, I’d just come back from the butcher with a nice piece of sirloin for dinner. I cut off a little piece of the steak and strapped it to my wrist with gauze. A few hours later - actually, about 12 hours later - I felt some movement. The bot fly larvae had traveled from my wrist into the steak.

“Great for dinner conversation!”

Gross-city. But at least he never had a dreaded candiru in his you-know-where:

Anacondas and deadly fer-de-lance snakes and piranhas and bird-eating tarantulas get all the glory, but the candiru, or vampire catfish, is probably the most feared creature in the Amazon.

“I caught this beastie in a dip net,” he says. “It had been one of my life goals to have one.”

The candiru in his basket looks like nothing out of a horror movie. It is about an inch long and hardly thicker than a strand of spaghetti.

“Candirus feed for the most part on the blood of fish. They’ll swim into the gills, throw out their spines to get secure and start feeding.”

A candiru’s philosophy might be described as “any port in a storm.”

“They feed on more than fish. For example, you don’t want to go skinny dipping in candiru habitat. If you are skinny-dipping, you definitely don’t want to urinate in the water.”

A nearby candiru, feeling the warmth and the flow of the urine, might come investigating. They aren’t the smartest fish in the jungle and make mistakes. Looking for a fish’s delicious gills, they sometimes end up swimming up the urinary tracts of human skinny dippers. Once a candiru is in place, spines erected, it can’t back out.

“It’s supposed to be excruciatingly painful beyond belief,” says Rinker, standing outside his office at Brooker Creek. “In fact, there are actually a few documented cases of men taking the most extreme measures to end their misery. They use machetes.”

I think I’ll limit my Amazonian visits to the well-known virtual version.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/03/2021 06:11:51 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Science
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The online world was all abuzz yesterday when publisher Merriam-Webster announced the inclusion of the much-requested word “blog” in their next-edition dictionary. Many bloggers pointed with pride at this development as another example of the mainstreamization of blogs, and the inevitable blog conquest of the world (or, at least, dead-tree media).

I wonder if any of those crowing bothered to pay close heed to the definition Merriam-Webster is currently using on some online properties:

But in face of demand, the company quickly added an early definition to some of its online sites, defining “blog” as “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer”.

This is pretty close to what dictionary.com’s listing for “blog” says; that site is powered by Merriam-Webster.

Is this an accurate default description of a blog? By extension, is there such a thing as a blanket definition of “blog”?

It depends on what we’re describing: The medium or the genre.

At root, a blog doesn’t necessarily refer to the content or the author; it refers to the method by which information is presented on a website. Regardless of what’s being written, blogs tend to have a similar layout and structure, thanks to the widespread use of a small handful of blogging software and services. Indeed, it’s those software and services that triggered the growth of blogging, transforming what was a cumbersome process of maintaining a website/webpage through cumbersome HTML editing to a more elegant backend solution.

(Even this isn’t wholly true, as I’m sure there are some hardy souls out there who reject any fancied-up program and do all their web-logging the old-fashioned Notepad-edited way.)

That is the technical definition. Yet, undoubtedly, that definition is being obscured by what’s most apparent: What’s on the blog’s front page and archives. And that’s what’s being referred to in the hyped-up dictionary definition.

But not all blog content is alike. Nearly a year ago, I pondered this subject:

Count me among those who have a dim view of the teenage angst blogs… There’s nothing wrong with them per se, but I don’t really like to lump them in with sites that are more structured and focused on things other than people and events that mean absolutely nothing to the world outside of a clique of friends. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making distinctions in the blogosphere based on substance. In fact, it’s a little ridiculous to group Blog A and Blog B together only because they’re both created and maintained through Blogger, yet their content and purpose are completely different; frankly, I don’t want my site to be associated with some 12-year-old kid’s journal of daily rants.

Regarding my desire to not have my work here compared directly to blogs that are more journal-based, I’ll add that the converse is true: I’m sure many people who produce deeply personal, introspective blogs would resent being equated with what I do here. In both cases, no one wants to announce to a friend or acquaintence, “I’ve got a blog”, and get a response along the lines of, “Oh yeah, my 12-year-old niece has one of those she shares with her friends”, or “Well, I have a lawyer friend who does a lot of networking that way”, or any other assumption that would come with what’s perceived to be the “typical” blog.

The word “personal” is pretty loaded in this context. A lot of professional organizations, like Jupiter Research and The Poynter Institute, utilize blogs as a way to communicate their message. It’d be a stretch to call them “personal”, and, again, hard to compare them to a typical LiveJournal site (generalizing, sure, but probably on the mark).

Mixing up the medium — a specialized and fairly easily-identifiable website — with the genre — personal diary, photoblog, punditry space, or any other writing focus — is to be expected. It happens in other areas too, and conveys just as false an impression: Comic books, for instance, are considered to be synonymous with children’s reading material regardless of content; that’s the equivalent of assuming all paperback books must be mystery novels, or all movies must be documentaries. The risk run is in enshrining these attitudes, and unintentionally limiting the medium purely through public perception.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/03/2021 06:00:55 PM
Category: Bloggin', Media
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Having grown up within a stone’s throw of West Point, you hear a lot of oddities about the Academy on the Hudson. Among the more famous ones was that various ghosts, including that of one-time cadet Edgar Allan Poe, haunted the campus (although it seems that Poe’s ghost actually spooks Virginia’s Fort Monroe).

While surfing through Blog Explosion earlier this afternoon, I came across a blog (I stupidly didn’t bookmark it) that reminded me of one of the other peculiarities about the place. Thanks to the longstanding grudge against one Benedict Arnold, students at West Point don’t eat eggs Benedict for breakfast — they eat “eggs MacArthur“.

Too bad the “Benedict” in those eggs doesn’t refer to America’s favorite traitor. Besides, isn’t two and a quarter centuries kinda long to hold a grudge?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/03/2021 05:24:51 PM
Category: Food, History
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Are we wage-slaves ever truly free? Not in a qualitative sense. But I’ll gladly take a day off and call it liberation, in the most non-severe way.

Not that I’m under particular hardship at work; I like most aspects of the job, and my coworkers are great. That said, I’ll take my breaks where I can get them.

So what’s the agenda for this grand day of leisure? Nothing extraordinary. I’ve already gotten a few extra hours of sack time, which is award enough in the short term. To the extent that the rest of the day is planned:

- I was hoping to get some tanning time in today, but that’s not looking promising. Forecast for today is supposed to be for 70 degrees, which would make it just tolerable to lie out in the sun. But currently, it’s more like 60, and with the clouds, I don’t see that changing much. The weekend is supposed to get to the low 80s, so there’s always that as a backup.

- I’ve been listening this morning to Radio Tarifa: “Fiebre”, the disc I picked up yesterday. It’s turned out to be a nice purchase; good mood music.

- For lunch, since I’m in the neighborhood, I think I’ll go for some Asteroids and pizza.

- I had thought about hitting the movie theater this afternoon to catch Closer. But as it happens, my alma mater is showing Twilight Samurai early this evening, and since I can catch Closer anytime, I’m heading to campus!

- It’s First Friday night in St. Pete again, and for once, I’m completely in the mood for it. Will it top last month’s edition? I sure hope so.

This’ll do. But I’ve got to come up with something more creative for next week’s day(s) off. Nothing like actively burning off vacation time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/03/2021 11:25:30 AM
Category: Florida Livin', Movies
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