Florida Recap: Part 3

The final installment on my Florida vacation. If you’ve been following so far, we crammed two amusement parks and a day at the beach in the span of three days. The fourth and final day, our flight back to Ohio was scheduled for 8pm. That means we have plenty of time to make our last day in Florida a good one. The weather took a little dip from the previous days. When we first arrived, it was 80ºF. The last day, day before Halloween, it was a chilly 47ºF in Florida! I was quite surprised because coming from a state where it can snow one day and be scorching the next, I expected Florida to have stagnant hot weather all the time. Clearly I was wrong but you know what? Nothing could ruin my day, not even cold weather.

I should start by saying like many people, I have a bucket list. Visiting Japan is numero uno on that list for my husband and I because we are huge anime fans and we love Japanese cuisine. I also would like to go to New Zealand, Ireland and go back to Florence, Italy someday. Besides travel, I also have regular bucket list items. I want a home library someday, I want another dog, I want to be an author’s assistant and I absolutely wanted to not only pet a horse but go horseback riding.

Well, horseback riding got slashed off my bucket list on this last day of our Florida trip. You cannot imagine how insanely happy I was! We traveled to Kissimmee, Florida to the Lazy H Ranch to  participate in the second best experience of my life (seeing a sea turtle in the ocean was the first). We pulled up and was greeted by some fairly loud chickens. One of which was very bold but I’ll come back to him in a second. Previously, we had to send our height and weights to the woman so she could match us with our horses. They were so beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We told her we were from Ohio and my friends from Maryland and soon as she heard Ohio, she told us about the horse she wants to get that lives in Ohio. The horse was white with a blonde name and her name was Blondie. She said the horse was $8000 and she really, really wanted Blondie but was hesitant because, and we learned this, horses from the North sometimes have a hard time acclimated to Southern weather. Also, the insects are different so they may not be able to handle certain insect bites.

So anyway, my horse’s name was Briar. Briar was a rescue horse. She was abused and malnourished and this woman met her and fell in love because even though Briar had been through a lot, she was still the sweetest horse ever. She brought her back to health and now Briar is a happy horse. My husband rode a horse named Cash who was a retired show horse. Acrobatics would do tricks on his back! My best friend rode Ally and her husband rode Chevy. We used these stairs to get on the horses and she strapped us in. Then we got a basic lesson on how to control the reins and off we went. We walked to this conservation area across the street from her ranch and she told us about how Hurricane Irma devastated her land a little bit. Uprooted two trees on her property and she started off with 9 chickens but by the time hurricane Irma passed, she only had 4 chickens left. The conservation park we rode through was known as Twin Oaks and it was a nice hour and 15 minute ride.

I realized that horseback riding is very therapeutic. I could literally do that all day long. Oh! Another thing she told us was if our horses tried to eat grass or bushes to stop them from doing so. Apparently horses will eat until their stomachs explode and even then, they’d keep eating. She said that while we were riding them, they were working and when they were done, they would go out to pasture and eat to their hearts content. Cash actually got loose one time and got into the horse feed and 300 lbs of food. The vet had to come every day for a week and give him an IV to help flush his stomach of all that feed. Crazy! We rode past this lake, I forget the name of it, but she had us guess how many gators were in it. Since it was a lake, we guessed pretty low, about 3000 or less. Boy were we wrong! She said at last survey they counted 30,000 gators in that lake! Just wow. We also saw a lot of eagles soaring while we were riding through and we got to trot which I am so bad at and definitely felt every bit of that horse ride the next day but it was sooooo worth it! I want to horseback ride again!

Anyway, here is the gallery of pictures. Chevy was a super lovebug at the end! Horse noses are so freaking soft and fuzzy and I wanted to stay and cuddle him all day long! Cujo the chicken also wanted attention, to the point that I swear he posed for me for this picture. Such a special chicken:

That’s it for Florida. I hope you all enjoyed reading about the trip in these three posts. 🙂

Florida Recap: Part 2

Following Islands of Adventure, we went into the next day bright and perky. One of my goals this trip was to see a beach; put my feet into the ocean. Orlando is in central Florida so there’s not a lot of beaches around. My friend and I googled a bit beforehand looking for some beaches that were close by that we could go splash in. We ended up coming across Cape Canaveral National Seashore which happens to be a national beach park that stretches for many miles. It’s undeveloped as well which means no building beach front properties on this stretch of beach; very natural. It’s about a 1 hour 20 minute drive from Orlando so we got a good headstart in the morning. I usually read on long trips in the car but I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and ended up sleeping the whole way there. By the time we got there it was a little cloudy but it was still a nice and toasty 80ºF. When you first get out of the car, you can hear the beach even though you cant see it. There’s a wooden ramp built up this hill that leads to the beach. There was a sign with beach rules with the very first one being “Know how to swim.” I don’t know how to 100% swim but I didn’t plan on going out deeper than what my feet could touch. We get to the beach, strip down and slowly inch forward to the tide. The water was warm but cold to our bodies initially. You know how you always have to acclimate to a body of water cause your natural temperature is so much warmer. But once we were in, we were in! The waves were so fun to splash in (and get knocked over by) but even though we had sand in all kinds of places and a mouthful or two of saltwater, it was one of the best days of the trip.

Later on we decided we were hungry. Naturally, after splashing around in the ocean, we wanted seafood. We went back to the suite to shower all the sand out (and believe it was A TON of sand, probably half the beach) and then went to a seafood joint I found through Google that had really good reviews. When a local, eat like the locals do! And man was the food fan-freaking-tastic. The restaurant was called Winter Park Fish Company and I got the best fish and grits of my life. If you’ve never had this food combination, you’re missing out. It was seared mahi-mahi over sugary cheesy grits (which btw, I never put sugar in my grits but oh my goodness gracious), with this spicy lobster gravy sauce drizzled on top and brussels salad on the side. My husband had fried snapper fish and chips with these powdered sugar hushpuppies. I wish I could order the whole menu and take it home. We found out the owners live half the year in Florida and the other half of the year in Costa Rica so they always have fresh fish. Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Florida, make sure you eat here! Here’s some pictures:

We settled down for the night after dinner to prepare for the next day. We went to Busch Gardens Tampa which is a theme park/animal park. There used to be an old show on TV with Jack Hanna who would talk about animals and animal welfare and I remember he would always host these shows at Busch Gardens. You all know I loved animals so I got great enjoyment out of the animals more than the rides although Cheetah Hunt was a pretty fun ride as well as Montu and Cobra’s Curse. Walking through to get to the actual Cobra’s Curse ride was really cool cause there was a couple of boa constrictors inside and it was all dark and stuff talking about serpent gods and what not. When we’d rode every coaster and seen all the animals, we decided we were hungry and went and got Jamaican food this time. Here’s a picture gallery from Busch Gardens (and me and my best friend just cause):

Tomorrow will be the last part of my Florida vacation recap. It also happens to be my most favorite day so I had to share it in it’s own post. You’ll see why. 🙂

Florida Recap: Part 1

I’m finally getting around to talking about Florida. Partly because I’m drawing a blank on what to write about today which also has to do with the fact that my reading slump was murdered yesterday when I binge read The Trouble with the Twelfth Grave in just under 4 hours as well as started a new book right behind it and can barely think of anything else. So, over my biscuit breakfast, I give you Florida.

A few months ago, my best friend presented me and the husband with a proposal of joining them in Florida for a vacation. You see, her parents own a timeshare and offered her the use of it. Since the suite sleeps six, she figured it’d be fun to have a bit of a group honeymoon. She got married last year and they haven’t exactly honeymooned yet so this was to be sort of a mini honeymoon. One of the days of the vacation, the 26th to be exact, was my husband’s birthday so I asked him if he wanted to go to Florida for his birthday and he initially said he’d think about it. When a man tells you he’ll think about it, that can mean months to years. I ended up making the decision for us considering I would be the one finding flight deals. I ended up finding our tickets for about $200 bucks but I bought them as 4 one way tickets instead of 2 round trip tickets. You’d be surprised at how much money you can save when you buy like that!

We left that Thursday, the 26th. I worked half the day and my husband was off. I get home to make sure he finished the list of things I told him to do to prep for our leaving (he was off after all), and then we made sure the cats had enough food to last until Monday, that Turtle was fed (cause he can go without eating for weeks), and off we went to the airport. We landed in Florida around 8PM. My friend picked us up and took us to suite. Oh, btw, it was really nice going from 50ºF to 80ºF; from seeing fall colors to palm trees. We dropped off our stuff then went back out and had a hibachi dinner for my husband with gong banging and lit cupcake included. He was so adorable.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we headed out to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure. I’ve never been here before so it was very exciting. We went about an hour after park opened because we did not want to wait an hour or more to ride some rides. We started at the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster. I have to be honest, I haven’t rode a rollercoaster in years so there was a high probability I was going to to scream. And scream I did. You know how rollercoasters start off slow going up that first hill and then build speed once it hits the downward slope? This one didn’t do that. Halfway going up the hill, I’m sitting her having a conversation with my husband, asking if he was excited and what not when all of sudden we go warp speed and whatever he was saying got cut off by my screaming “holy shit!” and then laughing because I tend to laugh at my reactions. That was a good adrenaline rush to start the day. From there we went to the Spiderman ride which was a super cool 3D simulation ride and we got to be in the front car so felt every bit of those special effects! Those 3D glasses were legit! From there we rode the Kong Skull Island ride which is also a 3D simulated ride. That one wasn’t as cool as I though it was going to be.

After leaving Marvel and Jurassic Park came Harry Potter World. We spent a good amount of time traversing the castle (Hogwarts). They did a really good job building that massive place. They even had the talking portraits which looked completely real! The ride in there was 3D simulated where you start by playing Quidditch and then you’re trying to escape dementers who are after you. Very fun! After leaving the castle, we got some butterbeer which tastes like frozen cream soda and traversed Diagon Alley. After Harry Potter, we walked through Morroco and then came upon Posiedon’s Fury. This was a sort of 3D guided walk where decisions are made based on a series of events. There was this one part where the guide opened this gate and all this water come splashing down and for a second we thought we were going to have to walk through the water but then the whole room, except the floor, started spinning really fast and created this crazy water tunnel. It ultimately led us to Posiedon’s final battle against his enemy and it was really cool. The final ride we rode was Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall. This was another one where what you prepare for in your mind is not what actually happens. I thought we’d slowly go up the tower and then drop. Nope. We shot up that tower so fast it stole our breaths and then we dropped just as fast! All four of us were cracking up and it was definitely a good thing my husband took his flip flops off cause he defnitely would have lost then. After that, we left. We had authentic Hong Kong cuisine that night and prepared ourselves for the next day’s outing which I’ll talk about tomorrow. 🙂

Ending this post here with a picture gallery. Scroll over the pictures for captions:

What Goes In…

Good morning my friends!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a funny story and I feel like we all could use some laughs. As you all know, last weekend, my husband and I went on vacation to Florida with my best friend and her husband for a nice, relaxing getaway in this fancy suite. I still plan to talk about that trip… eventually. I always have so many thoughts in my head. I’m totally contemplating writing about Poldark tomorrow to convince all you lovely souls that you should watch this show. We’ll see.

So while we were driving to Canaveral or Tampa (I can’t remember which), we recounted stories of the past. You see, my best friend and I have been friends for almost as long as I’ve been with my husband (upwards of 10 years). I met her in a video game called Final Fantasy XI and we pretty much connected instantly over our love for being mages in this game. About two years into playing the game, we all got it into our head that we should have a meet up. I live in Ohio and she lived in Alabama at the time. We were all poor college students at the time so airfare was too expensive. We got it into our heads that a road trip would be fun. My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, drove a 1993 Honda Civic Hatchback. When we informed my mother of our plans to drive to Alabama in his car, she wasn’t a fan. I remember we had an argument about it because she wanted us to pay for a rental car but hello, poor college students, we could basically only afford gas. I ended up caving though when she offered to pay. I mean if my pennies aren’t being used, I will so take you up on that offer! I was poor, what can I say, haha.

We got a rental car, to my boyfriend’s (husband now) dismay. He was very attached to his old car. Then we packed up and drove 13 hours to Auburn, Alabama. He did most of the driving because I was quite nervous to drive back then. I didn’t get my license until I was 20 but driving in general freaked me out especially considering I was learning on a manual and not an automatic. Have you ever been on a long drive? It can be quite fun. I read or slept during most of it. A lot of people have motion sickness whether they know it or not but man, the best reading time for me occurs on long trips in the car.

We make it to Auburn and decide to plan out our trip. One of the main things I really wanted to do was go to the Georgia Aquarium. I had never been to one before and had heard nothing but good things about that one. I’ve been to the Baltimore Aquarium since that trip and I actually think that one is really cool as well but Georgia has whale sharks that swim over your head and that experience is truly something else. Another spot we hit up was the Columbus, GA mall. My friend wanted to take us because she said it’s a highly rated mall that we must see. I’m not much of a mall goer myself. Too much temptation to spend money I don’t have but It was something fun to do as a group.

The best thing about malls is mall food! Especially he Japanese fusion types of food. If you ever walk through a mall food court, chances are, there are a few people from each stall handing out samples. I can’t remember what the husband ate but me and the best friend decided to split a Japanese meal. They usually consists of you choosing rice or noodles with one meat and a side or pay extra and get two sides. Sides range from plain vegetables to egg rolls to crab rangoon. I believe we got noodles and some teriyaki or bourbon chicken with some veggies. On top of that, we all decided that we all decided we wanted smoothies form Orange Julius. If you don’t know what an orange julius is, let me explain it to you. It’s not quite a milkshake but not quite a smoothie either. It consists of mixing orange juice with milk and adding vanilla and ice. A creamsicle essentially. When you go to Orange Julius, you have the option to choose different flavors. I think we chose raspberry.

We all get back in the car to drive back home and I’m sitting up front with my friend while the guys are sitting in the back. We’re all just talking away when I start feeling really thirsty. I get my husband’s water bottle from him and start drinking it. The feeling doesn’t go away… My friend notices I’m quiet and asks me if anything is wrong. I just keep saying I’m thirsty. So I keep drinking water and trying to listen to the conversation. Next thing you know….

I bend forward and vomit all over the passenger seat floor!

I give my friend credit. She didn’t even brake! There were crickets from the testosterone gallery behind us because everyone was taken by such surprise. I lift my head up, grab the bottle of water, take a sip and state, “I feel better now” and smile; cause that’s just how I roll. My friend’s brother looks at my husband and goes, “Did she forget to tell you something?!”. Poor guy looks at me all shellshocked like, “Did you forget to tell me something?!” We get home and my best friend proves why she’s my best friend. She goes in the house and grabs cleaning stuff and just starts cleaning up my vomit like a champion. Didn’t even phase her. The funniest part? It wasn’t even her van. She borrowed it cause it would fit the whole group! I felt less bad cause I vomited in someone else’s van instead of hers. I’m horrible, I know. Mall food and Orange Julius doesn’t mix well for Nel. (Hey, I rhymed!)

So moral of this story, get all season floor mats in case someone has a case of sickness in your car so you don’t ruin your carpets and what goes in must come out somehow.. eventually. 😉

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Are their food combinations that you know for a fact will not agree with your stomach? Let me know in the comments below!

The Power of Nature and Tech

So I was late to work today.

But what I saw on the way was pretty intense. Last night, most of Northeast Ohio experienced a pretty, heavy duty storm. There was lots of rain, thunder, lightning and wind. I like when it storms in the fall mostly because the wind becomes a natural leaf stripper and makes cuts how many times we have to blow and rake leaves. I was watching Poldark (my new obsession) and watching the cats because my jerk gets a little bit of anxiety during storms, when my friend texts me and tells me her power when out. She lives out by where I work; about 45 minutes away. She told me luckily they have back up generators at her house but it didn’t sound good out there. And I wondered if my husband and I would lose power as well but there wasn’t much flickering going on really. Then about 15 minutes later she tells me a tree fell on her boyfriend’s truck. And I’m like, “Are you serious??” and she says yes and send me a picture. He drives a heavy duty pick up truck and this tree split his cab in half. I told her I was really glad it didn’t hit their house and thank goodness for insurance.

This morning, I’m driving to work and I see a few branches down here and there in the small town of Boston Heights and the back roads of Hudson. It wasn’t til I hit Aurora that it all came into stark reality. I saw a tree being barely held up by power lines, and almost every house I passed, there was a tree downed in someone’s front yard. I’m slowly getting to the intersection that takes me to the one main road to work and I swear to God all I saw was a wall of dirt coming. If there wasn’t people behind me, I would have stopped just to marvel at the sight. The wall of dirt was half the size of a two story house. I mean it was nothing but dirt and roots and it was the biggest downed tree I have EVER seen. Big ole pine. There was a woman in rubber boots walking around out front and I just felt so bad for her because not only did the tree fall and ruin her day, but it landed on her neighbor’s house which I can imagine only made the day worse. The circumference of that tree was literally staggering. I hope no one got hurt but I can only imagine the sound that tree made as it was falling and when it actually fell. Now more than ever, I told my husband, the trees around our house need to come down as soon as we can afford it.

From that point on, I experienced road closures. Thank goodness for technology let me tell you. If it wasn’t for GPS, I probably would have drove in circles lost. I texted my boss and let her know I was going to be late and then turned on Google Maps to try and help me find some kind of route to work. I was probably rerouted about 8 or so times because of physical police car barriers or signs like these:

I eventually made it to work and since I listen to NPR, heard about the thousands of people without power in two counties. My old man friend at work was talking about how his sisters from out of town were calling him asking him if he was okay and his response was just like him. He told her, “Yeah we might be two or three days without power but the people in Puerto Rico still don’t have power and probably won’t for a year.” Talk about putting others before yourself right?

Nature is a beautiful but dangerous thing. I think Mother Earth is a little pissed at us for ruining the environment but hopefully we can turn some things around with all the amazing, sustainable, helpful tech that keeps coming about. If you happened to be in this area of crap weather last night, I hope you and yours are okay.

Happy Monday everyone.

Mexican Long-Nosed Bat

In the spirit of Halloween passed, today’s endangered animal is the Mexican long-nosed bat or Leptonycteris nivalis. For starters, not much is known about the range of this species. The Mexican long-nosed bat is reported to be seen in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as Mexico and Guatemala. The reason the range is not specifically known is because scientists have not been able to pinpoint the migratory pattern of the species. Population size of roosts can range from zero to 10,000 individuals in a single year but it is suspected that the overall general population of the species is definitely declining. Fun fact: When you think of a flying creature, it’s usually a bird however, bats are the only mammals that can fly.

The Mexican Long-nosed bat is named exactly that for a reason. It’s muzzle is longer than the average, American bat species and it has what’s known as a noseleaf at the very tip of it’s muzzle. In order to explain the noseleaf’s function, we have to start with echolocation. Echolocation is a form of communication that certain animal species use to orient themselves with their surroundings. It’s a form of sonar which consists of the animal emitting calls out into their environment and receiving information back in the form of echos or sound waves. This enables the species to navigate their surroundings without actually “seeing” where they’re going. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “blind as a bat” that’s because bats have poor eyesight and rely heavily on echolocation. The noseleaf on the Mexican Long-nosed bat, focuses the echolocation calls emitted greatly enhancing their view of the world so to speak. Other distinguishing features of this species from other bats is its size — about 2.75 to 3.75 inches in total length with a 14 inch wingspan, and it has a 3 inch long tongue. The coloring of this bat varies between gray and sooty brown and they have long, fluffy fur.

As previously stated, the Mexican Long-nosed bat can range in roost size up to 10,000 individuals. When it’s time to eat, the bats will emerge after sunset and feed on flower species that open at night such as agave, cacti and century plants. This species not only drinks the nectar, it also consumes the pollen because the pollen is a high protein source and provides vitamins and minerals that keep these bat’s fur nice and shiny. The Mexican Long-nose bats are adept fliers and are able to hover and feed at the same time like hummingbirds because of that long tongue. This species will follow the flowering periods of agave. They start North, in the US states and then migrate South to Mexico in winter most of the time. Breeding season occurs between October and December in Mexico. A single offspring is usually born around April and May, will nurse for about a month and is able to fly by five weeks. Average life span of the Mexican Long-nosed bat is about 15-20 years.

In 1937, the Mexican Long-nosed bat species was discovered in a cave of the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park in Texas. Today, that’s primarily one of the only locations you can see this species as there is a protected sub-population in Emory Park of Big Bend National Park. The major threats to this species are human disturbance and destruction of their habitat as well as agave harvesting; the bats main food source. This is critical because an agave plant only flowers once then it dies and it takes 10 to 20 years to get to the flowering point. Another threat from humans stem from ranchers who have vampire bat problems. Yes, vampire bats are real however, the Mexican Long-nosed bat often gets confused with the vampire bat pests and ranchers tend to kill the many instead of the few. Conservation of this species is an ongoing process as researchers and scientists try to conduct surveys to understand the ecology better in order to put into place programs to keep the species from declining into critically endangered territory. If you ever find yourself entering a cave, be mindful of the potential disturbance and stress you can cause bat species. Best practices for viewing bats are waiting for them to come out versus going in to see them.

If you would like to learn more about bat conservation, feel free to visit Bat Conservation International (BatCon) for more information.

(Source: Texas Parks, Arkive)

Superhero Showdown

There’s a podcast I frequent by one of my favorite authors. It’s called Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing and live streams every Monday on Youtube. It features indie authors giving advice and experience with marketing their books. They often feature other authors on the show as well. Three weeks ago Nalini Singh was featured on the podcast (which was SO AWESOME!) and last week the focus was on how authors can get their books into libraries and the process libraries go through to receive books whether you’re indie or traditional. The featured author was actually a librarian as well as an author and he was discussing his new book that he said was in the superhero fiction/urban fantasy genre. That sparked a little bit of a debate in the live chat about what readers consider superhero fiction vs. urban fantasy and how hard it is to find “true” superhero fiction cause it’s being drowned out by urban fantasy. One viewer got quite heated about the subject. It got me thinking about the characteristics and qualities of a person for them to be considered a superhero. In this post, I’m going to discuss definitions found on Google as well as what I personally think.

When the term superhero is used, the images that automatically come to mind are Marvel or DC Comics heroes; i.e. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, SpiderMan, Thor, etc. These are heroes we’ve all grown up with. They have quite an extensive universe as evident by the hundreds of comic books, television shows and movies. However, can we consider a different fictional character as a superhero? Is the definition of a superhero as broad as I think it is? Let’s take a look at some definitions around the interwebs space.

A simple Google search produces this definition:

“A benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers powers, such as Superman”

The one right below it comes from Merriam Webster’s dictionary and states:

“A fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also :an exceptionally skillful or successful person.”

These two definitions are quite similar. One implies only a fictional character while the other suggests that a superhero doesn’t necessarily have to be fictional as long as they are skillful and successful. The individual I mentioned above, who got heated during the conversation stated that a superhero is “a costumed crime fighter with super powers.” That narrows it down a bit more specifically with the words “costumed crime fighter”. Now as specific as that definition is, it got me thinking about some of our costumed superhero favorites. For example, the Green Arrow is a costumed crime fighter but he literally has no super powers. He’s just “exceptionally skillful” with a bow and arrow and he’s rich. Hell, even Batman doesn’t have any super powers nor does Iron Man. They’re just highly skilled in tech and they’re rich.

Now, if we look at a character out of an urban fantasy novel, to keep it simple, they’re usually a shapeshifter, a vampire or a witch (or some type of magic user) wouldn’t you say? To take it step further, they are usually in a situation where they’re fighting a villain who has superpowers or some type of non-human super trait that allows them to fight one another. Usually, they are trying to save the human race in some form or fashion even if the human world is governed by these supernatural creatures. The only trait these fictional characters are missing is the costumed part of the definition. Let’s look at the definition of supernatural shall we?:

“(of a manifestation or event) attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.”

Looking at that definition, would you agree that a supernatural character is not the same as a superhero? But does that not contradict the superhero definition? For example, Superman is not even human. He came from a different planet entirely with powers that are not of scientific understanding or the laws of nature as governed by humans of Earth. But then someone like Spiderman is considered a superhero because his powers can be explained through science, i.e. he was bitten by a radioactive spider who’s venom manifested inside of him turning him super human. Then we look at characters such as witches and wizards. They are a bit of both wouldn’t you say? Some are born with power yes, but they still tap into science as well as nature in order to enhance the power they already have or to draw power into an object making it more powerful.

I asked my husband what he thought of the difference between superhero fiction and urban fantasy (after explaining urban fantasy to him). He stated that he believes that urban fantasy characters can be considered superheroes. He thinks of superheros as people or creatures, who participate in vigilante acts that protect the human race or race of species in general. When looked at it that way, I can agree with my husband that at the end of the day, whether your powers come from science, magic or an alien universe, a character can still be considered be a superhero – costumed or not. I’ll end with this definition from Stan Lee:

“A superhero is a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way a normal person couldn’t.”

What are your thoughts on superheroes in fiction? Do you believe the definition is cut and dry or is it more broad? Do you have any favorite non Marvel/DC characters in a fictional universe that you would consider superheroes? Let me know in the comments below!

Rafflesia

Today’s endangered species is focused on the biggest flower in the world: Rafflesia magnifica aka the meat flower. Now before you say, “I could have sworn I saw this flower in a botanical gardens!”, I assure you, you’re wrong. This particular species is only found in one location in the world. That’s right, if you don’t already live in the Phillipines, you’d have to hop on a plane and fly to the Mt. Candalaga mountain range in Compostela Valley to see the few of these that are left. Although this species is only found in such a small area, all species of Rafflesia are listed as vulnerable or endangered in some form or another.

What makes Rafflesia so unique is that they look like your average flower but have very distinctive differences. Rafflesia do not have stems, roots, or leaves. Your average flower has a system right? The roots pull nutrients and water from the Earth, up through their roots where it then gets turned into chlorophyll, glucose and other compounds a flower needs to grow strong and have vibrant colors. It also pulls energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Rafflesia don’t do any of that. Even though their coloring is brilliantly vibrant, it’s not due to the sun or nutrients from the Earth. Rafflesia are actually parasitic plants and the only way for them to grow is from leeching off one particular host. The only host that can create a Rafflesia flower is the Tetrastigma vine. The Rafflesia spreads its root like tentacle things under the tissue of the Tetrastigma vine and absorbs the sap until it matures. It literally starts out as a piece of tissue and is completely dependent on this grapevine relative in order to grow into a flower. The flower itself is characterized by its five-petalled formation, that can grow to be 5 inches or more in diameter, and also by it’s smell. Rafflesia do not smell like roses, let me tell you. They are called the meat flower for a reason. If you want to smell death, just walk up to a Rafflesia. They smell like rotting corpses.

Rafflesia magnifica are listed on the IUCN list as critically endangered. This particular species was discovered in 2005 and was listed as critically endangered in 2008. The major threat to the species is habitat loss to banana plantations. Scientists who went out to survey the area found a few clusters of Rafflesia magnifica but were only able to record males of the population. Not much has been recorded about their reproduction or life cycles because people can only recognize them when/if they bloom. Another threat to the species is ethnobotanical and illegal collecting. Ethnobotanical collecting is when humans collect plant species in order to study it’s uses to the local culture. Sadly, no conversation efforts have been put into place for this species. Maybe through spreading more awareness will the plight of this species come to light.

(Sources: Feat.ImgIUCN, WWF, Gaia)

Why #1

So this is going to be a bit of a personal post but I need an outlet and what better place than my blog right?

Last night my husband gets a phone call from his brother asking for advice about getting a car started. My husband is very well versed in all things Honda related. He can diagnose a car problem but the sound or by no sound it all. It’s quite fascinating to watch. Anyway, the brother’s “friend’s” car wouldn’t start and he asked for helping in how to get it going again or if it was a lost cause and a tow truck would be needed. My husband declared that it was probably a dead battery and just needed a jump until a new battery could be purchased. He then offered to come jump the car battery with our car. We fully expected his brother to say no because the last time this happened, he said exactly that. Instead, all giggly, he said yes, if you don’t mind, help would be greatly appreciated and the phone call ends.

The giggling is not something I’ve ever heard and I’ve been around for at least 10 years. So of course, I look at my husband and ask him if his brother was high (he doesn’t do drugs but that’s my response to people who act out of character)

He goes and helps then comes home. I asked how it went and he tells me it was what he thought, a dead battery. Then he goes silent. I can just see the things that are weighing down on his mind in that instance. I don’t say anything however because sometimes you need to let people get their thoughts and feelings together before they say what they’re thinking.

Later on, before we lay down for bed, he asks me, “What should I do about my brother?”

You see, last night solidified our suspicions that he’s not being faithful. He’s not married and therefore didn’t make a forever commitment. However, it doesn’t excuse the fact that what he’s doing right now is fucked up. Yes, the f-bomb is required. My response to what he should do, besides punching his brother in the face, is conflicting in and of itself. On the one hand, if we spill this information, we would most definitely be inviting a world a drama into our lives that we do not want and definitely don’t need. On the other hand, there’s that niggling thought in the back of our minds that it’s not our place to spill private information to another individual when it’s not our information to share. At the root of it all, all we can think about is how much he’s hurting the woman who loves him and is mother to his children as well as the fact that he might have this disillusioned idea that we’re okay with his extracurricular activities which is so far from the truth it’s disgusting. The main reason we are, essentially, pretending we’re okay with this is because he suffers from PTSD and we don’t want to make a sort of sensitive situation more volatile.

I’ve always prided myself on being that person you can come talk to about anything and I won’t judge. Well, that’s a bit of a lie. I do judge internally if you’re cheating or doing anything else that’s slimy and nefarious. How can I not? We’re all raised on what we know to be right and what to be wrong and cheating is 100% wrong. If you are not happy, you need to figure out how to walk away instead of continually hurting a person who cares for you and will walk through quicksand to get to you. I know it’s not always as simple as that but keeping secrets is like dumping lighter fluid on wood and hoping that the fire won’t explode in your face when you finally add that tiny spark to the mix. The only conclusion we could come up with is to give the man an ultimatum. Communicate your feelings, even if they’re miserable, to your woman because if you don’t we are going to. We can’t lie for someone who is willingly doing stupid shit, family or not.

This happened to me before with a friend. That time I made my position very clear. She preferred to be ignorant of her man’s extracurricular activities and telling everyone close to her that we don’t know what we’re talking about; she knows him. I will listen and hear you but the minute a person chooses to imply that I’m the liar in the conversation, I feel like I wasted time and energy trying to help fix a problem that a person is content with not fixing. So I walked away from that friendship and I would do it again because I don’t want that level of toxicity to poison me.

Is there a line I’m missing when it comes to this stuff? Are we doing the right thing or is it the wrong thing? Have you ever been in such a situation? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below.

Endangered Categories

I planned to write about another animal today but I realized I never made an initial post outlining the IUCN categories that animals are placed in based off their population size. Today, I am going to share these categories with you so going forward you can understand the threat level animals, and sometimes plants I talk about, are facing.

EX – Stands for extinct. This means that there is no trace or evidence of this species being alive anywhere in the world anymore. Either habitat loss, hunting, hybridization diluted the original DNA, or anything else you can possibly think of that caused this animal/plant to cease to exist. Think dinosaurs.

EW – Stands for extinct in the wild. This means that you will not see this species anywhere in its natural habitat assuming said habitat has not been destroyed. If you want to see the species alive somewhere, it’s probably in a zoo or wild life refuge that focuses on trying to breed the last individuals and grow their population in order to release them back in the wild. This also means they are working to restore the habitats as well because you can bring the population back but if they don’t have a thriving place to live, it won’t help them in the long run.

CR – Stands for critically endangered. This means the species is endangered of going extinct in the wild or extinct completely. Not all animals do well in captivity so sometimes they are at risk of skipping the EW step and going straight to the EX step. One of my very first posts was for the Northern White Rhino. There is only one individual in existence. His status is critically endangered because he still lives in a very, very protected wild.

EN – Stands for endangered. This means that the species population is declining rather quickly and at the rate it’s going, the species may have to be listed to CR. Lots of monitoring and surveys begin at this step in order to figure out why the population is rapidly declining and analyze what steps need to be taken to ensure the species doesn’t hit the red.

VU – Stands for vulnerable. This means the species numbers are doing okay but because of certain human activities or climate change, for example, the populations may become affected over time. Reproduction rates are monitored here to make sure offspring are being born and surviving. The risk of endangerment is evident but it hasn’t quite reached that point yet.

NT – Stands for near threatened. This is similar to vulnerable but it’s a projection of what could happen in the future if the rate of activities and habitat trends surrounding the species continues.

LC – Stands for least concern. This means the population is thriving, the habitat is thriving, there is no reason to focus on this species because it’s doing well enough on it’s own. Think deer or hey, humans.

There is also the DD category that’s not listed in the picture but that means not enough data has been collected in order to assess which category a species fits in.

I hope you find this post informative. I mainly focus on species that are EN and up. However, I haven’t actually talked about a species that’s completely extinct. Would that be something you all would be interested in? It won’t be dinosaurs I’m afraid but I can talk about some species that have recently gone extinct if that sounds cool. Let me know in the comments below!