Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Impatient Nation

The results of a poll conducted by Associated Press seem to show that Americans are an impatient lot.

Americans are demanding, too. Half in the AP-Ipsos poll said they refuse to return to businesses that made them wait too long. Nearly one in five owned up to speaking rudely to someone in the last few months when they weren't served efficiently.

— Calvin Woodward, Associated Press Writer

In a way, that explains their attitude over Iraq, which wasn't as "instant" as the White House had hoped. It also explains the drop in Bush's approval ratings, now that Americans are finding that out too.

Names, And Links

What's this about naming or renaming airports after famous people? Can you imagine the hassle of informing numerous organisations about the impending name change every time a national hero dies, maybe once a decade? Or situations where you tell your associates: "I'm flying out of Dr M?" I'm so glad it's just called the "Kuala Lumpur International Airport".

Is it really necessary to have a URL to all your sources, especially when they will eventually expire? Do you have to clean them up or check them every now and then? What do you do about it?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Do Not Pet Snakes

The issues raised in the National Geographic Special America's Deadly Obsession: Snakes is nothing new; after all, it's just an extension of what my previous entry was all about: the average American's ignorance and hubris when it comes to dangerous wildlife. Both involved real snake experts who got careless, and both happened on September 11th, 2001. One died; the other lived. There's even a report of a guy who was strangled to death by his pet python.

Yet Americans continue to buy exotic and venomous pets, and release them into the wild when they get too tough to handle. Buying saw-scaled vipers from Pakistan. Baby cobras. Black and green mambas. Reticulated pythons. Gaboon vipers. King cobras. Taipans.

What strange, warped, heavily medicated or intoxicated mind would consider the above as pets? Playthings? Worst of all, these species aren't even native to North and South America, which already boast some lethal species like the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, cottonmouth, and lance-head vipers. Consider the following:

  • King cobra: Possibly the largest venomous snake in the world. Neurotoxic venom, delivered in large doses, kills by paralysis. Can take down an elephant.
  • Saw-scaled viper: Small, agile and bad-tempered - like most Middle Easterners it shares the environment with. Strikes very quickly. Probably used to kill Ramses III.
  • Black mamba: From Africa. Fastest snake in the world. Aggressive; will stand its ground if cornered. Will bite multiple times. Its neurotoxic venom is deadly.
  • Gaboon viper: One of the largest vipers in Africa. Haemotoxic venom that turns flesh into a soft Slurpee-like consistency is delivered via a pair of five centimetre fangs.
  • Taipan: Native to Australia, and distant cousin of the cobra. Some species carry neurotoxic venom that is far more lethal than their cousins.

All this gives me the impression that the American attitude towards danger is pathological, extending all the way to the White House. I'm sure that Carter, Reagan and Bushes Sr and Jr thought that the two-bit dictators, warlords and extremists they used to coddle were cuddly and harmless too, until they grew too big and too dangerous.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Just Who Is King of The Jungle Here?

This is one of those cases where the American freedom of expression supports a cause borne of a warped sense of altruism: Keeping a pet lion.

This family's case is not unique in the US. Across the country, people buy and keep exotic pets: lions, tigers, bears, pythons, leopards, etc "out of love" and the "spirit of conservation". Most of these animals are rejects left behind after a zoo, circus or animal park goes under, and they go relatively cheap at exotic pet markets.

I won't doubt that some of these pet owners are really serious about their charges. However, all of this pales in comparison with the real significance of these animals in the wild. The big cats keep the number of grazing herd animals in check. That's what they were built for, and nothing else. Everything in the wild was hunky-dory until we humans came along. We found fire, invented the axe, and bred like viruses. We took over the job of hunter-killer, effectively firing the native predators from their jobs.

Keeping wild predators as pets is not an act of love or mercy on our part.

It's an insult.