Tonight’s Forecast

Is for it to be frickin’ COLD! Here is the 2 hour window that I usually am working outside, 8-10 PM. Well, tonight calls for a constant wind of 15 mph, with an air temperature of about 39 F. Greaaaaat. And then factor in that wind, and we’re looking at 30 F for the entire time.

Oh my goodness.

I was just outside trying to finish up putting on the Christmas lights on the house, and I had to come inside, it’s getting that bad. So as you can see, definitely not looking forward to my time outdoors tonight. I guess we get what we wish for sometimes. Tenfold.

But of course, perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much. I could be up in Chicago or New England like some of my friends. Or maybe in CALIFORNIA where it’s 80 degrees!

Stay warm my friends! Back to attempting to put up the lights!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

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The Good Stuff: Welcome, December!

I just needed to give an official welcome to December! Look at that weather forecast! I think we can finally wave goodbye to sweat-inducing afternoons and evenings and finally look forward to sweater weather. I don’t think it can get any better than that. No rain in the forecast, and highs in the comfortable 70s! I can live with lows of 40 for a few days… as long as the afternoons are crisp and beautiful!

Aside from the weather, with December comes Christmas and New Years. Of course, it’s always great to get a few days off of work, but I am looking forward to just being with everyone. Friends will be in town and we will go out. Then there’s shopping, cooking and eating! And let’s not forget seasonal beers! (I will be picking up a strictly seasonal six pack this weekend for future Beer Corners!)

But alas, December has only become so special for me only as recent as last year, when I started falling for the most incredible person in the world, my best friend and future wife. So of course, we’ll always have our special time in December when we fell in love and she came to surprise me, and our first date!

So as 2010 winds down, we’ll keep the writing momentum going here at The Heap. We’ll keep the tweeting, and we’ll keep living life and enjoying every little aspect.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

A Little Off the Top

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After a six month hiatus, your periodic post of humanity’s most questionable moments. Today, my home state of Florida provides the rather sad and disturbing material for our latest examination of bad, bad ideas.

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Wednesday morning, a Burmese python attacked and killed a 2 year old toddler in Sumter County. The large constricting snake bit and then strangled the kid to death. Definitely a tragic story.

Here’s the news release from tampabay.com:

— An autopsy performed on a Sumter County 2-year-old girl determined she died of asphyxiation after authorities said she was squeezed and bitten by her family’s Burmese python Wednesday.

The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Families are investigating. It’s unclear if any criminal charges will be filed over the python incident, but if so it likely will not happen this week or next, said Paul Magrino, a homicide prosecutor for the Sumter County state attorney.

“The autopsy was only done this morning, and there’s still some additional investigation to be done,” Magrino said Thursday. “Generally speaking, whenever you have the death of a small child in a home under circumstances that demonstrate something other than natural causes, it certainly has to be investigated.”

Shaiunna Hare was in her crib Wednesday morning when deputies say the 8-foot-, 6-inch python escaped its enclosure and entered her room. It repeatedly bit her and squeezed her to death before her mother’s boyfriend, Charles Darnell, awoke and found the snake missing.

Darnell, 32, called 911 around 9:40 a.m. and sobbed as he reported the snake had strangled the girl. He freed her, deputies say, by stabbing the snake with a 6-inch knife and meat cleaver.

Deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers got a warrant to enter the home and removed the pet python and a 6-foot boa constrictor. The python was treated at a veterinary hospital, commission spokesman Gary Morse said, and is being held as evidence until the investigation is completed.

Darnell did not have a state permit to own the python and could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

The Department of Children and Families removed two other children from the home after Wednesday’s incident, said DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner.

The agency also visited the home in May 1 after a complaint was filed that Darnell and Shaiunna’s mother, 19-year-old Jaren Hare, alleging drug abuse and physical abuse of the children. An investigator visited the home and noted that Darnell was agitated by DCF’s visit and admitted smoking marijuana, but the home had running hot and cold water, was clean and had food, and there were no immediate dangers inside the house. The case was closed June 12.

“I have no doubt if my investigators saw something of concern, whether it was an abused cat or a dangerous dog or some animal that posed a hazard to the children, we would pursue that,” Hoeppner said. “I do know the investigator observed and documented one of the snakes.”

When a photo of officers carrying the snake from the home was published Wednesday on tampabay.com, the web site of the St. Petersburg Times, readers posted anonymous comments questioning the health of the snake, speculating on its size and wondering if it had been starved.

It was just a skinny snake, not starved, said Morse. “It was in good health,” Morse said. “The snake was well-fed and well taken care of for an 8-foot, 6-inch python.”

Magrino said its too early to determine whether Darnell and Hare could be charged with a crime. If charges are filed, “It could be anything from perhaps child neglect to a (manslaughter) homicide.”

Emily Nipps

Python swallowing a sheep

That’s what a Burmese python looks like after swallowing a pregnant sheep whole. You can bet it would have done the same to the little girl as well. Apparently in the 70’s there was a case where one of these pythons swallowed an 8 year old boy whole. Wow.

Warning: Video is Graphic. Do not play if you don’t want to see it.

And that video is of a small snake. Look on youtube for the 12 footer. It takes out a goose. Wow.

What in the world is a 8 foot python doing in the same house as a little kid? The facts are these. The snake has had an “escape” history. The owner did not have the appropriate permit/licenses for owning an “exotic” animal. The guy and the 19 year old “Baby’s Mama” are drug users!

What the heck is this guy doing with exotic animals? And you’re telling me that all he might face is a misdemeanor? I understand that it was an accident. But this tragic event as well as the chimpanzee attack a few months ago bring the issue of individuals owning animals that aren’t normally domesticated again to the critical spotlight.

Should “exotic” animal ownership be illegal across the board? While local laws do say a permit is needed, it is clearly not being enforced to the degree it should have been. Sales of these types of animals needs to be controlled and limited to people who already have a license.

But of course, we ALL know that most of these animals are obtained illegally anyway. The penalty for importation and distribution should be stiffer, let alone the penalty for possession. It baffles me that this guy is only going to basically get a slap on the wrist.

The Heap’s take: There is no reason why any unqualified individual, permit or not, should have access to exotic animals. A license should only be granted after AMPLE education and hands on experience and care of such animals. However, this extends to certain animals only. Snakes would be allowable, but something like a Burmese python would not. Exotic animals that are deemed to be stronger than men should not be allowed under ANY circumstances. Chimps and other primates, wild cats and dogs, etc. should not be allowed to be owned at your home, no matter if you have a license to do so.

Please vote in my poll!


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Click-It or Ticket: For Real This Time

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We have this annual campaign in Florida (Interestingly enough, in JUNE). Apparently, cops are supposed to be looking for people who aren’t buckled up to give them a ticket.

For the past few months, many of the morning talk shows on the radio have been discussing this at length. To be honest, I always thought that it was the law. Apparently, the only way to get ticketed for a seat belt in Florida is after you’ve been pulled over for another infraction. Interesting.

So now, the police can pull you over if they suspect you are not using your seat belt. The State’s sophisticated research has indicated that the new law will save over 100 lives in the course of a year, not to mention many more serious injuries. This, therefore, reduces healthcare costs that state and local governments have to fork over in serious and fatal accidents.

I’m sure that the fine at 30 dollars a pop goes to a good cause… or perhaps just to Uncle Sam.

In the first day of enforcement, there were over 200 reported citations in the Bay Area. 200!

TAMPA – Buckle up or pay the consequences.

More than 200 motorists found that out the hard way today.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies, out on patrol to enforce Florida’s new enhanced seat belt law, wrote 203 tickets by the end of Operation Belts or El$e,” Deputy Larry McKinnon said.

Some who received tickets were angry; others were blasé or thankful, Cpl. Ed Raburn said.

Deputies have been working for about a month to alert people of the new primary seat belt law. But many haven’t paid attention, Raburn said.

“I hope at least these people that we touch this morning will get the message,” he said during the law enforcement operation. “As it hits you in the pocketbook, it tends to make more of an impact.”

The new law lets law enforcement officers pull over vehicles if they see a driver or front-seat passenger not wearing a seat belt. Before today, authorities could hand out a seat belt citation only if motorists were stopped for another moving violation.

The law says people have to wear seat belts the way they are intended to be worn. If a person has a belt that goes over the lap and shoulder but isn’t wearing it properly, he can get a ticket, too, Raburn said.

Passengers younger than 18 also must wear seat belts.

Those exempt from getting citations include people certified by doctors as having medical conditions that cause the use of seat belts to be inappropriate or dangerous.

The cost for a seat belt violation is $30, but court fees could push that total to between $93 and $119, depending on the county. The fines are $101 in Hillsborough County.

One beltless driver ticketed today, Bob Clarke, called it an intrusion into his personal life and ability to make a decision.

But another man ticketed, Bilal Bell, said he understands why investigators are stopping people for not wearing seat belts.

“If it’s the law, it’s the law,” he said. “No deviation from it.”

During today’s operation at the intersection, deputies made one arrest. After pulling 27-year-old Norma Garza over for driving without a seat belt, they charged her with giving a false name to law enforcement and driving with a suspended license.

Deputies during the operation also issued tickets for improper window tinting and failing to show proof of insurance.

In Hillsborough County, more than 160 people didn’t wear a seat belt and died in crashes since 2004, deputies say.

Gov. Charlie Crist signed the Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law last month. It is named for two teenage girls killed in accidents while not wearing seat belts.

Marchetti, a Durant High School junior, died after being ejected from a car in a crash near Tampa three years ago.

Slosberg died in a South Florida crash 13 years ago.

Florida joins 26 states that have laws for primary enforcement of safety belts.

Wisconsin recently became the 30th state to enact a primary seat belt law, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The law is expected to bring Florida millions of dollars in federal funds for statewide transportation projects and save millions more in health costs.

Similar legislation failed for nearly two decades in Florida, in part because of concerns by some minority lawmakers who feared the tougher legislation could lead to increased racial profiling by police.

(TBO.COM – Josh Poltilove)

Let the arguments begin. Is this law another swipe at civil liberties as many are claiming? Others have understood it to be a government conspiracy to raise more money. Also, is this possibly setting up the State for lawsuits? Some of the objectors to the new law state that a seat belt can actually be hazardous in certain situations. I’ve read about cases where restraints caused a more serious injury, not to mention pretty much assuring a drowning death if a vehicle becomes submerged.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. Like I said before, I thought it was the law in the first place. I don’t like the arguments where people say it infringes upon our free will as motorists. The action of not using the seat belt endangers one’s self. Do we really need to have a law dictating what we can or cannot do to ourselves? The counter argument is that driving is a privilege, not a right, and therefore subject to the overall supervision of higher authorities. Yada Yada Yada.

But really, only 30 dollars? That’s not much of a deterrent at all! Thus the conspiracy that it’s just a government ploy for more of our money! Just enough to be a slight annoyance… but not enough to deter the restraint REBEL! Take your chances wisely.

So, just as a friendly warning/reminder from The Heap to all in the state of Florida, and to those planning on coming down for summer vacation- use your seat belts!

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FTDO: “Summer Days”

The first afternoon thunderstorm of the season is rolling in. I am watching it here from my office. It is absolutely magnificent. The sky grays gradually, gradually… until it is frighteningly dark.

But right now, there is only a slight, but continuous breeze, and the sky can’t decide if it really wants to aquiesce to rolling clouds. It’s bright for a second, and then dark, only for the outside world to brighten up again. I think the storm will win this battle, as it will for the next few months.

But only for a 15 minute window. The sun always makes a comeback.

I never try to run through the rain… unless lightning is striking 10 feet away. What a serene scene. The snow amplifies this feeling exponentially.

So welcome to the first T-Storm of the Summer. I’ll be watching and listening from the inside.

2009 NCAA Football Preseason Polls? Already?

You can leave it to the unnaturally addicted college football addicts to already begin speculating about the 2009 season. Alas, only a mere 3 days after Florida was crowned the AP and BCS champion, the boys at Rivals.com already have a preliminary Top 25.

We all know how useful preseason polls are.

Nevertheless, it is great to see Notre Dame in the mix! (Scroll down to 23). Realistically, I feel that it is an appropriate ranking. This team has the potential to be good. Really good. And as the description (and many ND haters) will point out, the schedule is quite favorable. See Nevada, Washington, Washington St.

Could this be the year we finally beat USC? With the development of top recruiting classes finally beginning to materialize, not to mention the strong possibility of another top 5 recruiting class, I think we will at least have a shot. But again…. it always depends on what happens with the defense.

Well, here’s the list. Florida at number 1. Not a big surprise. I mean God Tim Tebow is coming back. And of course, Texas and USC are right up there in the mix after winning ther respective bowl games. LSU being ranked so high is a bit surprising, after having a disappointing season- though they whipped GT in their bowl game. And according to the list, the 2009 BCS buster? Boise State. We’ll see if they go undefeated similar to Utah this year, and clamor for their shot at the title game.

Rivals.com 2009 Preseason Top 25

1. Florida
The Buzz: The potential exists for all 11 defensive starters – and each of their backups – to be back in 2009. And with QB Tim Tebow returning, the Gators will be prohibitive favorites to repeat.
2. Texas
The Buzz: QB Colt McCoy‘s decision to return means the offense again will put up a ton of points – and the running game should be better in 2009. The secondary could be a strength, but the front seven needs some tweaking.
3. USC
The Buzz: The defense will undergo an overhaul, from the coordinator down to the players. But the offense could be truly explosive.
4. Oklahoma
The Buzz: If quarterback Sam Bradford, TE Jermaine Gresham and DT Gerald McCoy go pro, this ranking will drop. If all three return, OU will battle for the Big 12 – and maybe national – title.
5. LSU
The Buzz: QB Jordan Jefferson‘s performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl provides hope that the offense will be more consistent. The linebacking corps needs to be rebuilt.
6. Ohio State
The Buzz: You have to figure the coaches will unleash quarterback Terrelle Pryor, which will jazz up the offense. The defense will be fine even without CB Malcolm Jenkins and LB James Laurinaitis.
7. Virginia Tech
The Buzz: The Hokies look as if they will be the class of the ACC. The defense always will be good, and if QB Tyrod Taylor becomes a better passer, the offense actually could be dangerous.
8. Alabama
The Buzz: The offensive line could have some questions and there will be a new quarterback, but depth should be better and there are some talented skill-position players on hand.
9. Boise State
The Buzz: QB Kellen Moore can become a star. If the Broncos can get their front four on defense settled, an undefeated season is within their grasp.
10. Oklahoma State
The Buzz: The Cowboys should have a deadly offensive trio in QB Zac Robinson, TB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant. The defense, though, has some work to do.
11. Georgia Tech
The Buzz: The Yellow Jackets were surprisingly good in coach Paul Johnson‘s first season, and Year Two in the triple-option offense could lead to big numbers. The defense should be fine.
12. California
The Buzz: Jahvid Best may go into the 2009 season as the nation’s best running back. Coach Jeff Tedford needs to settle on a quarterback and the linebacking corps must be rebuilt.
13. Penn State
The Buzz: QB Daryll Clark and TB Evan Royster return, though there are questions about the offensive line, the receiving corps and the secondary. The front seven on defense could be outstanding.
14. Ole Miss
The Buzz: Coach Houston Nutt changed the culture around the program, and if Tim Tebow goes pro, Jevan Snead will be the best quarterback in the SEC. There is a lot of skill-position talent around him, too.
15. Oregon
The Buzz: The Ducks will need to settle on a quarterback and do some tweaking in the secondary. But the rushing attack again should be the team strength.
16. Florida State
The Buzz: The defense has a lot of potential, if the coaches can find some safeties. The offensive line actually could be a strength. But the passing attack must improve.
17. Utah
The Buzz: The passing game will be a huge question. But the defense returns a lot of key players in the front seven, and the Utes will be able to run the ball.
18. Georgia
The Buzz: Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are gone. But it’s not as if the Bulldogs’ roster is bereft of talent. The offensive line should be much better, as should the defense.
19. Kansas
The Buzz: On paper, at least, the Jayhawks look to be the class of the Big 12 North. The return of QB Todd Reesing means the offense should be one of the most productive in the nation. But the defense must replace three starting linebackers.
20. Texas Tech
The Buzz: No Graham Harrell. No Michael Crabtree. A rebuilt offensive line. A tougher schedule. And the same old defense.
21.Iowa
The Buzz: Yes, star running back Shonn Greene is gone, but the defense again should be tough. The offensive line should be stout and there still are some good backs on campus.
22. BYU
The Buzz: Replacing four starters on the offensive line is the top priority for the Cougars, whose defense should be much better.
23. Notre Dame
The Buzz: Hey, calm down there, all you Irish haters. Notre Dame has talent, the schedule is navigable and a staff shakeup should help on the field.
24. USF
The Buzz: One of these seasons, USF will start fast and finish strong. Next season will be the final go-round for quarterback Matt Grothe, who must cut down on his mistakes.
25. Oregon State
The Buzz: The Rodgers brothers mean the offense should be fine, and coordinator Mark Banker always seems to find answers on his defense.

Hurricane’s a Comin’ I

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Well, this update will primarily affect all you Florida heapsters. out there. I know that here in Tampa we has a history of being teased by hurricanes. We all remember the numerous “hurricane days” we’ve had like in high school, only to have perhaps some of the most perfect weather of the summer. I really don’t think that will be the case this time around. So if you are on the bottom half of the peninsula (primarily the keys or west coast), you might want to check out you local news source’s website, or flip on your tv for updates.
Here is Tampa’s source: TBO.com.
Here is the National Hurricane Center.

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Here’s a nice map detailing the oncoming threat. I’m technically not under an advisory yet, but I’m sure that will change in the next 12 hours or so. This is the 11 am advisory, and new ones come out every three hours. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be a manic updater on this, I mean, it is gorgeous today! An I mean, I won’t have to do the trash for a day (probably tuesday)! But, as things change, I’ll keep you all posted.

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