For this week’s Video Lunch, we are going back to school. I grew up near Dover, PA. If you’ve heard of this sleepy little town, it is most likely because of the lawsuit Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. The short version is: school board includes intelligent design (alongside evolution) in the curriculum, ACLU sues claiming that teaching ID violates the establishment clause, tax payers are ordered to pay over a million dollars.
I wanted to talk about the specifics of the case and the arguments for and against including ID in school curricula, but that $1,000,000+ bill just overwhelms me. Keep in mind, that is just what they paid to the plaintiffs and their attorneys; that doesn’t include the substantial bills for their own counsel. Everybody involved should have had enough sense to not take this so far. How could either side justify bankrupting the school district over this issue? Everybody would have been better off (especially the children) if they replaced all the science requirements with episodes of South Park.
For this week’s Video Lunch, we bring you a python that keeps Kosher.
A while ago, Israeli model Orit Fox did a photo shoot with a python. Things took a dramatic turn when the snake decided that he’d had enough of that shit and tried to take a bite out of Fox’s oversized chest. According to some outlets, the snake died of silicone poisoning. Frankly, I don’t believe that part. But the snake totally did bite her on the boob and we have video to prove it. Enjoy!
We all know that vultures eat rotting carcasses, but we at Animal News get to chow down on Video Lunch!
According to Himilayan Raptor Rescue, Asian vultures are going extinct. As is often the case, humans are to blame. This time, however, people are killing the vultures with kindness. That is, kindness for other animals.
Sick and dying livestock are given a drug called “Diclofenac” that acts as an anti-inflammatory and painkiller. It is very effective at easing the pain of ailing farm animals. Unfortunately, it is also quite toxic to vultures. Raptor Rescue claims that vulture populations “have declined by a staggering 99.9% in the last 15 years,” primarily due to this drug.
Vultures are not pretty. In fact, most people find them downright revolting. But they are an essential part of the ecosystem. Without them, rotting carcasses would pile up, creating a serious disease threat and also feeding a growing population of feral dogs.
So what can you do to help protect the Asian vultures? You could donate to Himalayan Raptor Rescue. But if you were feeling more adventurous, you could go parahawking.
Parahawking is the act of paragliding with birds of prey. Raptors are experts at using thermal vents for lift, so they can be used to guide paragliders into the right air streams. And the best part is that the Parahawking company donates a portion of their profits to vulture conservation. Actually, the best part is probably that the hawks will land on your hand while you are paragliding. But conservation is a close second.
For this week’s Video Lunch, we bring you a cute little rodent with a side of “oh no!” This video has been floating around the internet and even became popular enough that The Mail Online did an article about it.
I don’t have anything more to say about it except that it could be viewed as an allegory for the perils of freedom and an illustration of the similarities between love and hate.
“If you love it, set it free. If you hate it and want to see it eaten by a hawk, also set it free.”
While Kristin obsesses over the Florida Python Challange (or “Snake Jihad”,) another insane Florida animal hunt is this week’s Video Lunch.
But before we get to the main course, we need a bit of an appetizer. It is possible that some of our readers are not familiar with noodling. Noodling is a form of fishing, in which the fisherman enters the water and puts his hand into dark holes and other likely hideouts for catfish. The catfish bites the intruding hand, either because it is pissed off or hungry, and then it becomes a battle of strength and will to decide whether the fish is caught or escapes. Sure, sometimes there are snapping turtles or snakes in those holes, but only sissies shy away from thrusting their limbs into the murky unknown. These women are not afraid:
So that’s noodling. Get in the water, shove your hand where it might get bit, and get ready for a fight. Just a few points about noodling before we proceed to the actual story for today:
1. Shirts are optional.
2. Country music is not optional.
3. The ladies in that video seem to have pet deer; this is also optional although not advisable since at least a few men have been gored to death by their pet deer.
In Florida, one of the few states where noodling is legal, some guy has decided to take things up a level. First, he isn’t keen on getting wet, so he just lies on the dock. Second, instead of going after catfish, he takes on tarpon. Tarpon is an interesting choice because they can get to be 8 feet long and 280 pounds and they are prized as game fish because they put up a fight like a sleepy child at bedtime. (If you’ve never been a babysitter, you may be surprised to know that it is the sleepy children who are most insistent that they don’t want to go to bed, but it is true.)
What!? After all that wrestlin’ he let it get away? I bet he doesn’t even have a pet deer!
This week’s Video Lunch has a very tabloid-esque feel to it. But what do you expect when an unidentified animal carcass washes up on the beach in California? But don’t take my word for it, watch this stunning* news clip!
*News clip may not actually be stunning.
Not too long ago, a similar discovery was made a hundred miles south of Seal Beach, on a beach in San Diego. Some claimed that it was the carcass of the famous chupacabra. Based on the photographic evidence, I suspect that the San Diego discovery was actually made by an art student. The recent discovery is far more toned down (without a bleached blond mohawk or strange staring eyes.) Perhaps the same hoaxer has realized that less is more and has gone for a more subtle approach this time.
The news clip also mentions the Montauk Monster, a similar carcass that washed ashore in New York in 2008. No scientists had a chance to examine either the Montauk Monster or the recent California creatures, but based on the photographs, it has been suggested that what washed up in Montauk had been a raccoon. One of the keys to that identification was the long “fingers”, which are also a prominent feature of the Seal Beach discovery. So perhaps this is just a partially decayed raccoon carcass. They have raccoons in Southern California, right?
What am I asking you for? I have the internets right here. Yes, there are raccoons in SoCal. Also, there are raccoons in Germany where they were introduced by a farmer in one location and escaped from a fur farm during WWII in another location. Some former soviet socialist republics also have raccoons because they were introduced for fur hunting. In Japan, there are wild raccoons because everybody and their mother wanted a pet raccoon because of a popular cartoon show. The Japanese love cartoons more than reason itself. And what happens when pet raccoons inevitably escape? Let’s ask Rascal:
Hey, maybe Rascal Raccoon fell out of that canoe and his body washed ashore on Seal Beach, that’d explain everything.
For all the times we’ve mentioned it on the Podcast, it is amazing that we hadn’t posted the following video earlier. So often our conversation has drifted to the topic of a couple dozen Japanese giant hornets killing 30,000 honey bees in a single attack. It is this sort of insane destruction that makes the Japanese giant hornet the stuff of nightmares. They are terrifying monsters and that is why they are so awesome and so appropriate for this week’s Video Lunch.
But something we never mentioned was that the native Japanese honey bees have a bizarre defensive mechanism that helps them fight off the hornets. If the bees can capture an advance scout hornet, they will engulf it and vibrate to raise their body temperatures, killing the hornet by overheating it. A recent study has shown increased activity in a specific section of the bees’ brains when they are engaged in their defensive ball, perhaps acting as a timer so the bees know when to turn down the heat.
I particularly enjoy the Gone With The Wind style shots of the dead and dying bees writhing on the ground.
Asians have a reputation among Westerners for their exotic tastes. Everybody knows about shark fin soup and dog meat, but that is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. Alert readers have informed us that porcupine is on the menu in much of Asia. The meat of these rodents is so prized that native populations have been greatly diminished. Demand in Vietnam is so high, that the Pennsylvania Game Commission has recently established bag limits for porcupine hunting in an effort to prevent a black market from developing.
Of course, Asians are not the only people who eat rodents. In South America, the guinea pigs are a common dinner choice.
But porcupines aren’t as soft and cuddly as guinea pigs. And that means they are less easy to kill and eat. If I lion can’t eat a porcupine, then people shouldn’t either. So instead of having porcupine for dinner, let’s have it for Video Lunch!
If you listened to the most recent podcast, you know that a new species of eyeless springtails has been discovered in caves around 6,500 feet (nearly 2 kilometers) below the Earth’s surface. What we didn’t tell you is how springtails got their name or the fact that they are found almost everywhere. We also didn’t tell you that the researchers in the Krubera Cave used cheese as bait to catch them. Now that sounds like a delicious Video Lunch!
When we originally reported the story, we referred to the springtails as insects. We were wrong. (That’s the last time we trust an article from MSNBC.) Springtails do have six legs, but there are a few small differences from insects. Insect abdomens are divided into eleven sections, but springtails have six or fewer abdominal sections. Also, springtails’ mouthparts are internal but insect mouthparts are external (as anybody who has ever been bitten by an ant may have observed if they were not too busy cursing their faces off.)
Also, springtails don’t only live in caves; they live all over the world. Almost everywhere there is decaying plant matter, there are springtails. According to Wikipedia (which is apparently more reliable than MSNBC,) springtails are one of the most numerous of all macroscopic animals, with as many as 100,000 individuals per cubic meter of top soil. So if you know where to find topsoil, moss beds, tufts of grass or woodlands, you should be able to find springtails. But many of them are less than half a millimeter long, so you just have to look REALLY closely.
Oh, and why are they called springtails? Let’s have a look. (And watch for the face-plant at the 1:40 mark.)
Well, I am absolutely livid with the Smithsonian Natural History Museum youtube channel. I poured my heart and soul into this week’s Video Lunch and they had the nerve to disable embedding! If that doesn’t make you angry enough to boycott the Smithsonian entirely, you can see the video I was going to post on youtube. My post was going to be awesome. It was all about how flesh-eating beetles are used to clean all of the remaining tissue off of skeletons for exhibition in the museum; hundreds of thousands of beetles living in a closet doing a job that is too delicate (and disgusting) for humans to handle. But they went and ruined it with their “rules.”
So, I’ve slapped something together about Bill Shatner.
If you listened to the most recent episode of our award winning* podcast, you know that Koko, the famous sign language using gorilla, is a pervert. Aside from a sexual harassment lawsuit related to her “nipple fetish”, she also had an encounter with Star Trek star William Shatner. Let’s hear the story in his own words, shall we? Wait, is that Eddie Izzard at the 37 second mark?
*The podcast has not won any awards, literal or figurative, real or imaginary.