Archive for March, 2010

Going Ape

March 24, 2010

Thanks to Anthony for sending me this one.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In the hours after a monkey on the lam fell into a woman’s pool and then swiped some fruit from her backyard tree, fans of the wily
primate cheered it for avoiding capture.
“Go little monkey, go! No cages for you,” wrote a guy named Jack on the “Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay” Facebook fan page. (There were more than 16,000 fans
of the elusive monkey as of Wednesday morning.)
“I sure hope ‘they’ don’t catch you!” wrote a woman named Kathleen. “Why can’t ‘they’ just leave you alone?”
Why, indeed?
The rhesus macaque monkey has avoided cpture for nearly a year. Authorities don’t know where the animal came from, but some believe it could have gotten
separated from a troupe of wild monkeys in an Ocala-area state park, some 118 miles north of St. Petersburg. Another possibility: the animal could have
escaped from an unpermitted owner.
The creature has captivated people in Tampa Bay and beyond — possibly because of his ability to outwit the humans trying to catch him.
“It’s something that you can kind of cheer for,” said Amy Ellis, a Pasco County employee who has become a fan of the monkey on Facebook. “Every day there’s
so much bad news. He’s kind of like a little hero.”
The monkey was even featured two weeks ago on “The Colbert Report” with host Stephen Colbert poking fun at the creature, who has been shot numerous times
with tranquilizers, apparently unfazed. One trapper claimed the monkey was becoming a “drug addict” because of all the shots.
“You took a monkey on the lam and put a monkey on his back,” Colbert wisecracked.
Wildlife trapper Vernon Yates has tracked the monkey through three counties, and heard reports of it rummaging through trash bins, scaling the wall of an
apartment complex and even hanging out by a pool behind a foreclosed home.
Yates swears it is the same monkey because of its size, coloring and behavior.
“He is an extremely intelligent monkey,” Yates said. “He is very, very street-wise. He knows to check traffic. He knows to look both ways so he doesn’t
get hit by cars. He knows to stay out of power lines.”
Yates said he worries that someone will shoot or kill the monkey. If he catches it, Yates will have the animal tested for disease. If negative, the trapper
will try to find the monkey a home, likely a private individual who has a permit to care for exotic wildlife.
State wildlife officials are also serious about catching the evasive primate.
“That animal is so much quicker and more powerful than people perceive,” said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“That monkey would absolutely tear an adult male up. People have no idea how fierce their bites would be.”
Morse said monkeys can harbor communicable diseases, such as hepatitis and herpes, and can become aggressive if cornered.
On Sunday, St. Petersburg resident Renee Barth got a laugh when she spotted the monkey swinging from a tree in her pool enclosure. She managed to get a
photo — then watched it fall into her pool.
Barth said the monkey climbed out and then took off with some grapefruit.

Well, I have a soft spot for clever little monkeys too, but I sure don’t want one loose in my yard. And joining a Facebook fan club for one (and writing to him as if he can actually read it) and not understanding why he needs to be caught is pretty childish, in my own humble opinion. I wonder how friendly these people are going to feel toward this critter when (not if, when) he bites somebody? Has it really been that easy to forget Travis the chimpanzee, who tore off a woman’s face and hands? And Travis was a “civilized” primate; he hadn’t been running wild for months.
Incidentally, what’s with Kathleen’s nefarious “they”? Next thing you know she’ll be going on and on about black helicopters and guys in dark suits with little gizmos stuck in their ears, talking into their sleeves. Get a life, people, and stop monkeying around.

A Malady for Milady

March 20, 2010

And for milord as well, we mustn’t leave the gentlemen out in the cold, because everybody loves a scary, bizarre malady, right? Come on, say it loud: “Yes, Ghostess!”
That’s better. Now, without further ado, I present to you..Irukandji Syndrome!
If you’re reading this in the US or Europe, you are unlikely ever to encounter this condition, and that is definitely something to be profoundly thankful for. But if you live or vacation on the coast of northern Australia and the nearby islands, well, forewarned is said to be forearmed.
Irukandji Syndrome is the name given to the effects of being stung by the Irukandji box jellyfish. The jellyfish is very small, and its sting is not in itself very painful. Most people describe the sting as something like a mosquito bite. But within five to twenty minutes after being stung, the trouble starts. First there’s severe headache, backache and chest and stomach pain. Then there’s nausea and vomiting, followed by catastrophically high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat.
But the most striking feature of Irukandji Syndrome is psychological: patients experience a strong sense of impending doom. Sometimes the patient is so convinced that he is going to die that he begs his doctor to kill him to get the whole business over with.
The symptoms usually last from four to thirty hours, but it may take two weeks before everything is really back to normal. There is no known antidote to Irukandji venom, but fortunately, with proper supportive medical care, deaths are not common.
The Irukandji has a much more dangerous relative that lives in the same area. The sea wasp, another box jellyfish, is usually said to be the most dangerous of all venomous animals. Like the Irukandji, the sea wasp is cube-shaped, but it is considerably larger, with tentacles that can extend up to ten feet. Unlike the Irukandji, the sea wasp’s tentacles can inject venom all along their length, not just at the tips. And sea wasp stings are immediately and fantastically painful. The pain has been compared to being doused with boiling water.
And sea wasp venom acts fast. Many victims suffer cardiac arrest or drown before they can even get back to shore. If help is not given immediately, death can occur in as little as three minutes, faster than any other venom on Earth.
Fortunately, an antivenin has been developed, and is widely available to hospitals and ambulances in areas populated by the creatures. Even so, at least one person dies of sea wasp venom every year.
As usual, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. During the sea wasps’ most active season, signs are posted along beaches warning swimmers of their presence, and most locals know to stay out of the water. This is lucky, because sea wasps are pale blue and transparent, making it almost impossible to see them in the water. And, since their tentacles are so long, you don’t even have to get very close to them to be injured.
“So, Ghostess,” asks a concerned reader, “I’m scared, but not scared enough to cancel my vacation Down Under. I’ll pay attention to the signs at the beach, but what if I get stung anyway?”
First aid for sea wasp and Irukandji stings consists first of getting safely to shore. (Now you know why they tell you never to swim at a beach with no lifeguard on duty.) Once ashore, vinegar should be poured over the sting and any tentacles should be removed using gloved hands or tweezers. Rubbing the area or applying any form of alcohol will make things much worse. After that, ice packs and antihistamines are given until the victim receives antivenin.
Oh, and tentacles are dangerous even after they are dried-out and apparently dead, so don’t be tempted to fool with a dead jellyfish you find washed up on the sand.
Have a nice trip! G’day, mates!

Sing Along With Me!

March 14, 2010

I am not making these up. These are actual titles of actual folk songs, some of them quite ancient.

Andy’s Gone With Cattle (This is an Australian ballad about a young man going off on his first cattle drive, apparently.)
Blancheflour and Jellyflorice (Blancheflour is a beautiful young maidservant in love with Jellyflorice, the son of her employer. Their names sound like pancake mix and sticky candy.)
Blink Over the Burn, Sweet Betsy (Did Betsy get a hot cinder in her eye? If so, it’s going to take a bit more than a blink to soothe that burn.)
The Castration of the Strawberry Roan (That is just plain weird and sinister too.)
Fanny Power (Would make a great theme song for Buns of Steel.)
Give Ear to a Frolicksome Ditty (Yeah, that’s a very frolicksome title.)
Gonna Keep My Skillet Greasy (Try SOS pads.)
Hallelujah I’m a Bum (At least you’re happy with who you are, even if you’re nobody.)
He Went to Sleep – the Hogs Ate Him (Now I know never to go to sleep in the pigpen.)
I Wanted a Kitten to Love Me (But all he did was scratch and bite me and leave dead mice in my bed.)
I Will Bow and Be Simple (You have lots of ambition, don’t you?)
The Lean and Unwashed Tiffy (What or who is Tiffy?)
Let Simon’s Beard Alone (I didn’t touch it!)
Lumps of Pudding (Maybe a little less Blancheflour would have prevented the lumps.)
My Word, You Do Look Queer! (How flattering.)
Never Throw a Lighted Lamp at Mother (How about unlighted ones?)
The Squid-Jigging Ground (I’d love to se squids do a jig.)
There’s an Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse Tonight (Probably that’s because Andy’s gone with cattle.)
When the Ice Worms Nest Again (Ice worms? *looks apprehensively into the freezer*)

Irony, Irony…

March 7, 2010

Thy name is irony. As my loyal readers (hi, you two!) know by now, I am keenly interested in names of all sorts: their meanings, their appropriateness on a character, and their humor.
What do I mean by their humor? No, I’m not talking about the kids everybody’s brother-in-law’s podiatrist’s second cousin’s friend swears they know that are named Orangejello and Lemonjello. If even half of those stories were true the country would be overrun with gelatin-themed people. Snopes.com has an interesting article
about this phenomenon, which is far older than the internet and includes other alleged names besides the Jello twins.
No, I’m talking today about names that have an ironic twist to them, names which are either deliciously apt or stunningly off the mark. A few examples, and I’d love to find more, so if you have any (none of the tried-and-untrue on Snopes or in that mass e-mail your ex-roommate sent you last Friday) do please send them along:

Larry Speaks: He was Ronald Reagan’s spokesman during the mid-eighties.
Storm Field: A TV meteorologist in NYC. Storm was/is his actual first name, not a silly nickname bestowed on him by the station.
Mrs. Screech: A singing coach in Canada. I picture her as a terrifying, witchy lady beating time with a long pointer, and if her student misses a note, she’s not above rapping the poor kid on the head with it.
Steven Streem: A urologist. Cross my heart. No, really. He must come in for a lot of laughs from his peers. *rimshot*
Dr. Plack: A dentist. Doesn’t he ever feel a bit persecuted, what with all the talk about getting rid of Plack?
Cheryl Burns: A woman in Florida who, several years ago, killed two of her sons in an arson fire. Was she only fulfilling what she saw as her manifest destiny? Why didn’t her lawyer explore that avenue?
Angelo Buono: One-half (with his cousin Kenneth Bianchi) of the imfamous serial-killing duo known as the Hillside Stranglers. In Italian, of course, his name translates directly into “good angel.” Some people have no ambition to live up to their names, unlike Dr. Streem the urologist, who used his name to great professional advantage.
Ralph Kevorkian: He was the pilot of TWA’s ill-fated Flight 800, which crashed off Long Island shortly after take-off in July 1996. I did a little research and Kevorkian is apparently a not-uncommon Armenian name, but here in the US it’s mainly known because of suicide-doctor Jack Kevorkian. This connotation probably gave conspiracy theorists hours of fun as they tried to find a more sinister explanation for Flight 800’s downfall.

Me, I’m just waiting to hear of a vegan animal-rights activist named Bambi Hunter, or a colleague of Dr. Plack’s named Phil McCavity. I’ll keep you posted!