Reptiles and Amphibians: Slimy Yet Satisfying

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They can be slimy. They can be small or quite large. They can have rough or smooth skin. They are cool to the touch. Some have legs. Some don’t.

What are they?

Reptiles and amphibians, which are also collectively known as “herptiles” or “herps,” from the root word herpetology, which is the study of reptiles and amphibians.

Reptiles? Amphibians? People really have these as pets?

Yes. In several countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, herptile ownership is increasing. Focusing on the U.S, statistics show that reptiles and amphibians are rising in popularity.

According to a survey conducted from 2003 to 2004 by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), the population of pet reptiles in the United States was 9 million. Their survey from 2006 shows that the reptile population increased to 11 million, and in 2007 it rose to 13.4 million.

Currently, the numbers from the American Pet Products Association‘s 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey show that 62 percent of American households own a pet of some kind, with 4.6 million households owning a reptile and there being 13 million reptiles owned.

Why would I want to own a herp as a pet?

“It’s a unique pet, and it’s always a conversation starter because most people don’t have one,” says Scarlett Valdez, a Central Michigan University junior from Cass City, MI, who owns a ball python.

Owning any type of pet can be beneficial for a person’s health. However, reptiles and amphibians are particularly good pets because they are virtually allergen-free.

“With any animal, including reptiles and amphibians, you learn responsibility,” says Rachel Whittaker, a CMU sophomore from Saint Johns, MI.

Herps do require responsibility, but they are well-suited to today’s busy lifestyle.

“The benefits of having them as pets are that they are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of attention,” says Chelsea Derks, a CMU sophomore from Hesperia, MI. She has been the owner of a turtle for about 16 years.

In general, herps are easy to clean, and many breeds are able to be handled. They are also relatively inexpensive, although there will be a big initial investment buying a vivarium, buying the pet itself, and paying for the light and heat it may use.

“Keep in mind that they can be very, very expensive if something goes wrong and make sure that you’re willing to take the effort to fix the problem if one arises,” says Valdez.

Specialty vets who treat herps and other exotic animals can be difficult to find and charge more than regular veterinarians.

What advice should I follow if I decide to become the owner of a reptile or amphibian?

Every herp species is different, but there are some that are suitable for first-time owners, such as leopard geckos, bearded dragons, corn snakes, and ball pythons. Many species, however, have several considerations prospective owners need to watch out for, including:

  • laws and regulations
  • how large the adult herp will become, and how much space it will require (a good example of this is the Burmese python, which is often bought as a pet for children but can grow to be between 12 and 16 feet long)
  • how long the herp will live, since many have quite long life spans
  • what the herp will need to eat
  • the herp’s temperature needs, since they are cold-blooded animals
  • its lighting needs, because many need exposure to certain types of light for vitamins and for their natural biological clock
  • humidity, since herps in the wild are used to conditions with varying levels of moisture
  • the amount of care and maintenance the herp will need
  • whether or not it is a species that can be handled
  • the health risk, because herps can carry the bacteria Salmonella that can be transferred to humans without proper hygienic practices

“Keep in mind that they can be very, very expensive if something goes wrong and make sure that you’re willing to take the effort to fix the problem if one arises,” says Valdez.

Specialty vets who treat herps and other exotic animals can be difficult to find and charge more than regular veterinarians.

“Definitely do a lot of research first. Find out what you’re getting into. Find out what the size requirements are, what it’s going to be eating,” says William Garland Jr., the owner of Garland Exotics in Mount Pleasant, MI.

So herps really can make good pets?

If the owner is prepared to take the responsibility that is needed, and is knowledgeable about the needs of the herp they decide to get, being a herp owner can be a fun and rewarding experience.

A Video about Central Michigan University’s Safer Sex Patrol

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The Safer Sex Patrol, a group run through Central Michigan University’s Volunteer Center, is responsible for distributing condom and abstinence kits to local bars. This is done in an effort to decrease the number of STD’s and STI’s (sexually transmitted diseases and infections). Carly Davidson, the group’s student coordinator, comments on SSP’s activities and their impact on the CMU and Mount Pleasant community.

A Review of National Geographic’s video story “Substance to Stop Oil From Sticking to Birds?”

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This is a great video on the National Geographic website, titled “Substance to Stop Oil From Sticking to Birds?” It explains how in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill, scientists are developing a compound that could help birds and other wildlife in oil spill areas by keeping oil from sticking to their feathers and hair.

It is a “documentary style video story” (Mark Briggs, Journalism Next, p. 213-214). The story is short and to the point, with the length being 4:50. It only gives background information that is relevant, then dives right into the story.

This story mainly focuses on one person, Robert Lochhead, professor of polymer science at the University of Mississippi. However, I don’t think I would call it a character-driven story, since the main subject of the story is not Lochhead, but rather his work in the development of the anti-oil compound.

There is somewhat of a narrative structure.

  • The beginning: Explains the purpose of birds’ feathers and how birds are negatively impacted by oil spills
  • The middle: Gives background information on the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill, traditional methods of containing oil at the surface and the new methods that were tried on Deepwater Horizon, such as chemical dispersants
  • The end: Explains Lochhead’s work with treating oil with soy lecithin and demonstrates lab trials comparing feathers dipped in untreated and treated oil; ends on the note hoping for advances with this compound within the next year so it can be ready for the next big oil spill

The first sound the audience hears is some natural sound of waves hitting a beach, which coincides with an image of a flock of birds on the beach. The voice-over starts right away, explaining the different functions of birds’ feathers. These were fairly effective in getting my attention, though I think the producers of the video could have done better.

The story is mostly told by a voice-over narrator, though Lochhead and Steve Murawski, the head of the joint analysis group for the Deepwater Horizon spill, make appearances and tell some aspects of the story. A couple of still photos, microscope photos, and an illustration are also used for further details.

There is a good variety of shots within this story. Some sequences are used, like going from a close-up of a person’s face to their hands as they are doing something, but not exactly the “five-shot sequence” that Briggs describes on p. 218 of Journalism Next.

The b-roll was of a few different things, such as people cleaning oil off of birds, and of Lochhead and his colleagues working in their lab. There is some natural sound, such as the sounds of the birds on the beach and of the wildlife activists cleaning the oil off of the birds. It gives the audience a sense of place and gives the story more dimension.

The producers of the video did use lower thirds to identify Murawski and Lochhead with their full names and their positions. I thought that the transitions were appropriate, they were just dissolves and they were paced well.

The overall pacing was just right for me, because the different shots were on screen long enough for the narrator to explain them, and then when she changed topic new shots appeared. It all flowed together very well.

The only slightly jarring thing about the video editing were when the still photos were used, but they were used also with a zoom effect so it still seemed like part of the video.

Overall I would say that I liked the video. It was very informative, but not so technical that I couldn’t understand it. Because of this, I would say that the video achieved its goals of informing the audience about this new advance in oil spill technology and environmentalism.

If this had been my video, I think I would have interviewed more than two sources. I also would have talked to some of the activists who were helping clean the animals to gain their perspective on the issue.

Photo Shows Extent of Damage in Saito, Japan

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One photo that represents an example of good photojournalism is featured in a story titled “Certainties of Modern Life Upended in Japan” on NYTimes.com, which was published today.

The photo conveys information about Saito, a village in Japan that had been destroyed by the recent earthquake and tsunami. The caption also explains what the person in the photo is doing, which is searching for survivors.

It shows the vast impact of these natural disasters by giving a portrayal of the fact that where there was formerly a village, there is now nothing but mud and debris. The photo expresses a sense of desolation that the people who had inhabited Saito or surrounding villages must feel.

This photo also expresses the unpredictability of nature.

The photo follows the rule of thirds, since the rescue searcher is slightly off center in the middle third of the picture. It avoids any mergers that could distract from the main subject of the picture. The photo also shows great depth of field, since everything from the foreground through the background is in focus.

Anorexia: Juliet Robboy’s Story (MiamiHerald.com)

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This audio slideshow, titled Anorexia: Juliet Robboy’s Story, is about a young woman’s struggle with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder in which a person starves themselves. The slideshow details Robboy’s history with anorexia, her previous attempts at recovery, and what she hopes to be her ultimate journey to recovery at the Renfrew Center of South Florida.

Robboy’s story does follow a narrative style.

  • Beginning: The context of Robboy’s eating disorder, including how it started and how long she has had it.
  • Middle: Robboy checks into the Renfrew Center and begins recovering.
  • End: Robboy reaches the final level of the recovery program and is trying to decide if she will continue rehabilitation.

The very first shot is actually a text slide, followed by two others. These explain that Robboy started experiencing anorexia at 15 years old while running cross-country, and describe how she has been in and out of treatment centers before Renfrew without success.

I believe that the first photo does give the essence of the story. It is a shot of Robboy from the back, getting dressed to go exercise at Renfrew. The viewer can see her shoulder blades and spine jutting out, and how thin her arms are, thus giving a good visual of what anorexia looks like.

There are a good variety of shots, which makes the storytelling more interesting. There are dissolves between each photo, giving a sense of movement. It does work well with the audio because Robboy tells her story at a fairly moderate pace. The pacing of the slideshow itself worked well for me.

The captions sometimes repeated the content of the photos, such as in the two shots where Robboy is being monitored by Renfrew staff members while and after she eats. However, they mostly acted as supplemental material, such as in the shot of Juliet using a pay phone. The caption explains that patients at Renfrew are not allowed to use cell phones.

All of the important people in the photos were identified by name, and in some cases by relationship or position at Renfrew. The most striking aspect of the photos was how they detailed every facet of anorexia, from the physical to the social to the emotional.

The last image seems to provide a conclusion. It shows Robboy jogging. It seems to suggest a sense of running away from anorexia toward a more positive future.

The audio in the slideshow comes from music and from Robboy herself. The music serves as an intro and exit for the slideshow, and Robboy gives a narrative of her story.

I believe all of the parts of the slideshow work well together.

  • Headline: Gives an immediate sense of what the story is about.
  • Photos: Depict Robboy’s experiences at Renfrew.
  • Captions: Give more information about the photos.
  • Audio: Robboy’s voice also narrates her story.
  • Music: Provides introduction and conclusion.
  • Transitions: Dissolves between photos keep the story moving.

I enjoyed the slideshow because it gave an authentic depiction of what it is like for a person suffering from anorexia. I disliked that Robboy’s voice was the only voice; the story could have more depth with more people contributing.

Robboy’s narration and the photos worked very well together. The music did not seem to work as well with the slideshow; it is a very mournful sounding saxophone, but the tone of the story seems to be more positive than the music.

If this had been my slideshow, I would have done a couple of things differently. I would have interviewed more people and included their voices. I would have used different music or just not have used music at all. I also would have included natural sound, since there was not any in the slideshow.

Overall, this was a good slideshow. It was informative but also inspiring to see a person who has struggled so much finally trying to move forward.

Travel and books from Gadling, Jacket Copy

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I chose to read two of the blogs from news sources that I follow on Twitter. These two were Gadling, a travel blog, and Jacket Copy, a blog about authors and books from the L.A. Times.

Gadling is not written by one person. Several travel reporters contribute to the blog. Jacket Copy is written by multiple reporters as well. These mostly come from a group of five regular reporters.

Gadling covers a wide variety of material regarding the travel beat. The blog itself says it covers travel “news, stories, deals, and tips.” Definitely the information that travelers, myself included, would want to read.

Jacket Copy, aside from having a clever title, covers the book/author news beat. Following a wide range of writers and books (from Jane Lynch of Glee to Jimmy Fallon to Peter Criss of KISS), the blog gave relevant information to its audience as well.

According to Mark Briggs, good blogs should:

“regularly publish high-quality posts”

“write effective headlines”

“participate in the community”      (Journalism Next, p. 55)

I found that both blogs used these principles to their advantage. They also frequently incorporated photos and video, adding to the depth of the posts.

Both included a comments section. Jacket Copy had fewer comments than Gadling. Gadling had a great deal of comments on some stories, such as this one. Most were relevant, though some got a little out of control. I even noticed some appeared to be removed or moderated, though I was confused because they were still visible, just strangely lightened and difficult to read.

I enjoyed these blogs. Gadling was extremely informative, though sometimes posts were a tad too lengthy. Jacket Copy’s posts were of a good length, but the layout was not as interesting as Gadling’s. Both had good use of links, and I gave both a thumbs-up for having lots of pictures and videos.

If they were my blogs, probably the only things I would change would be length of some posts and layouts.

Both are great, and I recommend them to anyone interested in books and travel!

Pit Bulls are not all bad

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Contrary to the stereotype in popular culture, pit bulls are not simply “fighting dogs”, mean, aggressive, etc. A well-known breed is the American Pit Bull Terrier.

My first post

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This is the first post of my blog for my Online Journalism class, JRN 340.