Tag Archives: Florida

1.21 Gigawatts: Giant Snails do Demo in Florida

african land snail

-Sarah Keartes

South Florida residents have begun a battle with public danger in the form of . . . snails. Giant Snails, to be exact. Precisely when the thousands of Giant African Land Snails invaded the Sunshine State is unknown, but the new neighbors are posing real problems for the local flora, fauna, and—architecture?

Not only do these snails grow to approximately eight inches in length and consume more than five hundred species of plants, but they can also eat through plaster and stucco, which provides the calcium needed for shell restoration.

Unknown to most, snails feed using a radulae, tiny (or in this case, not-so-tiny), toothy organs. No chewing necessary—the teeth on a radula (which can number in the thousands) are used to tear, grate, and grind, and are replaced as they wear down. Some species of snail also produce an acidic secretion to break down calcium sources like the shells of other mollusks.


Florida certainly has a knack for accumulating visitors. In fact, about one thousand people move there every day. Why Florida? Perhaps it is the promise of low taxes, competitive school districts, and affordable housing—perhaps it is the allure of the beach. For Florida’s most recent set of squatters, it is most certainly the weather.

Native to east Africa, the giant snails thrive in warm climates, and have already settled their brigade of mobile homes in Barbados, the Hawaiian Islands, and India.

What have the southerners done to combat the hungry home-wreckers? Enter the snail-hunters. The Agricultural Department of Miami-Dade County has a staff of fifty dedicated to nothing but slimey search-and-destroy.

“Nearly one thousand snails per week are being rounded up” using a bate made with iron phosphate, Denise Feiber, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told BBC.

Is the mollusk mass-murder really necessary? This question has caused some conflict among the locals.

“They’re huge, they move around, they look like they’re looking at you … communicating with you, and people enjoy them for that,” Feiber said. “…But they don’t realize the devastation they can create if they are released into the environment where they don’t have any natural enemies.”

A fertile Land Snail can lay up to 1,200 eggs per year, and can live up to nine years. One snail becomes over 10,000 before it bites..no wait…grinds the dust? It’s certainly a problem that needs solving, but I can’t help but cringe at the thought of sending 117,000 (and counting) of them to an oozy grave.

This isn’t the first exotic invasion Florida has had to face. A recent invasion of Burmese pythons sparked “The Python Challenge.” Sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the challenge presented locals with the opportunity to “competitively harvest” Burmese pythons. In other words? After paying the $25 entry fee, and signing the extensive waiver, locals plunged into Florida waters to wrangle and kill the exotic snakes—hoping to nab the $1,500 grand prize.

Sure, we’re thinking up creative ways to deal with new “pests,” but the underlying problem behind these exotic “invasions” lies within our own exotic pet trade, which makes up a multi-billion dollar black market industry in the U.S. alone.

The US Department of Agriculture has already confiscated illegal Giant African Land Snails from commercial pet stores, schools and private breeders Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio, and Michigan.

As officials continue to round up the sunshine-snails, the fate of the far-from-home mollusks and closer-to-home drywall remains to be seen.

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Fun in Florida: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter & Disney World

-Brianna Huber

When I learned that my family would be going to Disney World over winter break 2012, I was thrilled.  It’s rare that I get to travel anywhere outside of Oregon and Washington.  Before a trip I took with my mom to Disneyland in winter 2011, I hadn’t been on a plane since my eighth grade trip to Washington, DC.  The only time I’ve been out of the country is when my family went to Victoria, Canada.  Florida is the farthest I’ve ever traveled from home, and even though the trip had some complications here and there (like my whole family getting sick with food poisoning and our flight home being diverted to Portland) it was a great experience. This blog will include some of my photos from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney World.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was like walking into a book.  I was greeted by a train conductor and a replica of the Hogwarts Express before venturing onward through the streets of Hogsmeade.  The ride through Hogwarts castle, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, was so much more than I expected.  I figured I was in for a mellow tour through the castle, but that was just while waiting in line.  The actual ride was a fast-paced, immersive thing where I flew across the Quidditch pitch, got spat at by Aragog, and was nearly smashed by the Whomping Willow.  I think a Dementor tried to steal my soul, too.  It was pretty intense.

Florida weather is even more temperamental than Oregon weather.  Torrential rain will come on in a matter of seconds, last for about twenty minutes, and then disappear for the rest of the day.  I took this photo during the second half of a downpour with a brief pause in the middle that my family and I used to run from under a covered doorway and into Honeydukes.  The rain started again the second I passed through the door.

This roller coaster was in one of the ‘lands’ adjacent to the world of Harry Potter and was based on the Incredible Hulk. It’s probably the coolest roller coaster I’ve ridden in my life. “Expedition Everest” in Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a close second. There were two Harry Potter-themed coasters, but they were both closed the day we were at Universal Studios due to nearby construction.

There was a skywriter above Epcot.  I have never seen a skywriter in real life before then, and it brought out my usual sense of childlike wonder.  I didn’t get to read the whole message because some clouds moved in front of it before it was finished.

No Disney World photo essay would be complete without Epcot Center, or as I like to call it, the giant golf ball.  There’s a ride inside of the ball that takes you through the history of human knowledge with animatronics.  I just missed getting a photo of “Michelangelo” painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and still haven’t gotten over it.

At the end of the night at Epcot, there was a spectacular fireworks show.  Apparently it could be seen every night around 9pm from one of the top floors of our hotel.

That’s the first half of Disney vacation in a nutshell.  I look forward to sharing my adventures at the space center with you soon.

Home Exchange: Traveling on a Budget


-Emily Fraysse

The daydreams of lounging in a villa on a sandy white beach in Barbados or skiing to your hidden log cabin in the Swiss Alps could become a reality. And that reality is only a percentage of the price through home exchange. Ultimately, it is “you stay in my house while I stay in yours.”

There are two types of home exchanges: hospitality exchange and home exchange. Hospitality exchange means that the family who lives in the house allows others to stay at their home simultaneously at designated times. The benefit of this, besides the social aspect, is the in-house tour guide. Home exchange happens when each party switches houses completely at a time that is convenient for both to swap.

While many people can be leery about swapping houses for multiple reasons, the number of reasons why you should take the plunge exceeds those. It can be a scary concept to stay at someone’s house that you’ve never met before or allow others to stay at your house, so the exchange relies on mutual trust. With thousands of successful house exchanges per year, the exchange is rewarding in more than one way.

The swapping works best for people who have an alluring home to offer and those who are okay with having strangers living in the house and touching valuable items. Once you’ve found a potential host, get in contact, exchange information, and be clear about your expectations before the swap occurs. After all the nitty-gritty details are finalized, I’m sure you’ll feel less like you’re living in a stranger’s home and more like living in a friend’s.

So, now where would you like to go?

Home Exchange programs to look at:

Home Exchange

Love Home Swap
Trade to Travel
Home Link
Intervac Home Exchange

Some of my personal favorite spots:

Watamu, Kenya

Noosa Heads, Queensland

Whistler, British Columbia

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Buleleng Tejakula, Bali
Pecatu, Bali

Kilalloe, County Clare

Amelia, Umbria


Ko Samui, Surat Thani

United Kingdom:
Lewes, East Sussex
Beadlow, Bedfordshire

United States:
South Beach, Florida
Battery Park City, New York

Image from http://blog.barterquest.com

Strange Highs

-Sam Bouchat

An odd and disturbing story has been floating around the news and internet, prompting grimaces, PG-13 gossip, and zombie-outbreak fears.

It happened in Florida—a man later called the “Causeway Cannibal” was seen, naked, lying on a Miami causeway with another naked man. Police arrived to the scene to witness 31-year-old Rudy Eugene gnawing on the face of his companion. When told multiple times by police to stop, and refusing to do so while providing only a short growl in the officers’ direction, police were forced to fatally shoot Eugene to get him to cease his ministrations.

The victim, 65-year-old homeless man Ronald Poppo survived. According to Wink News, a Florida news network, he was hospitalized “with severe injuries, with his nose, mouth, and eyes torn off his face.”

Doctors later suggested that both men were under the influence of a new drug: bath salts. Bath salts, termed that way because they can actually be purchased in many gift shops as bathroom accessories, are designer street drugs, mainly methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). They can be picked up in small shops all around the U.S. as bath salts, labeled “not for human consumption.” For this reason, they are not outright illegal.

How was it discovered that they make you paranoid, hot, and prone to severe and violent hallucinations if consumed or snorted? No idea. But we’ve seen in the past that humans are nothing if not disturbingly creative when it comes to getting high.

Remember the hand sanitizer epidemic? Kids were supposedly ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels in an attempt to get buzzed. It gained media attention after six Southern California teenagers were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning last April. And that’s not even the weirdest of it.

It’s one thing to show stuff into your mouth to try to get high. Hell, people even crush stuff up and snort it into their noses. But I for one thought the eyeball was off-limits. How wrong I was.

Three words: Vodka Eyeball Shots. They exists, and they’re happening. Young people are taking shots of vodka and slamming them into their eyes in an attempt to absorb the alcohol faster, falsely believing that the membrane of the eye has the ability to absorb alcohol and get one drunk. According to USA Today, not only does doing this NOT get you drunk, it can also cause severe and permanent damage to the eye.

But all this is nothing new. Glue, aerosol cans, magic markers, toads—it seems nothing is off limits when it comes to the human attempt to get wasted, if the many, many videos of people trying these things out on Youtube is anything to go by. What I wonder is how these trends even start.

8-foot-tall Lego Man Beached in Florida

-Neethu Ramchandar

He’s an 8-foot-tall, 100- pound fiberglass “Lego Man” who was recently found washing up to the shores of the Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Fla.

And apparently, He’s the newest beach bum in town.

On October 25th, this Lego Man caught the attention of many when Jeff Hindman lugged it to shore during his morning stroll. Lego Man’s  unexpected arrival was documented and shared with the world through YouTube as spectators dropped by.

The Lego Man, standing nearly a head above his finder, had no note or explanation attached, but his shirt read “No Real Than You Are”.  Initially it was speculated that this was a PR stunt by Legoland, however those rumors were denied by Julie Estrada, a company spokesperson  speaking to the Los Angeles Times.

Rather the statue was created by a Dutch artist named Ego Leonard. The Sarasota Police report explains that the name was inscribed on the back of Lego Man’s shirt. Leonard’s website, although mostly in Dutch,  explains that he believes he lives in a virtual world.

“A world that for me represents happiness, solidarity, all green and blossoming, with no rules or limitations.”

The website shows pictures of the Lego Man around the world as Leonard has also dropped the statue onto the shores of Zandvoort, Holland and Brighton, England.

Online he also asks viewers to share with him what they think is beautiful in their worlds, and he displays pictures and stories of those who have responded. The website even has a link to purchase Lego Man’s “No Real Than You Are” shirt.

For now, the Lego Man remains in the custody of Sarasota police. He will remain there for 90 days under the protocol of lost goods. Only if his owner comes forward will he be released. The Sarasota Herald- Tribune reports that Ego Leonard sent them an email speaking as though he were Lego Man.

“I am glad I crossed over. Although it was a hell of a swimm,” the email said. “Nice weather here and friendly people. I think I am gonna stay here for a while. A local sheriff escorted me to my new home… In case people want to take me on new adventures, just that you know, I have been invited to stay here for 90 days, everybody is welcome to show me all the beautiful surroundings while I am here.”

If Lego Man is not claimed by Leonard within the 90 day limit, he will be released to Hindman who claims that he plans to sell the art piece on Ebay.

Photo taken by Jeff Hindman