Back to the Grown-Up World

I had a great time at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida over the weekend with my sis. I really felt like a kid again. A very tall kid. A very tall kid that loves roller coasters.

Here are some highlights:

Top 5: Rides at Disney World

Guess what? I am off to Disney World tomorrow with my sister to celebrate my big birthday that might or might not have happened a few weekends ago. Disney is almost like a second home to me, as I go there every few years to feel like a kid again.

Here are my top 5 rides of DW, Orlando:

5. Spaceship Earth – Epcot


Classic journey through time. It describes advancements in technology through the ages and focuses on different cultures and their contributions. The silly animations at the end, that include your own faces predicts what the future may have in store for us. Classic!

4. Big Thunder Mountain – Magic Kingdom


This mild roller coaster sends passengers through an abandoned mine site in Wyoming, Montana, Utah…etc (not sure where it’s modeled after). It’s so silly and the line is never that long. I usually end up on the wrong side of the cart, and my neighbour usually slides into me, crushing me against the hard plastic by my hip. Yay…

3. Space Mountain – Magic Kingdom


One of the first roller coasters created at Disney – it’s totally in the dark and quite jerky. But a good jerky. Another classic Disney ride.

2. Rockin Roller Coaster – Hollywood Studios


Starring Aerosmith – you have to get to their concert asap, and they have ordered you a ‘stretch limo’ to get there. I won’t spoil the very beginning of the ride – but it is soooo crazy! Then you speed through loops, upside down and through the dark to the concert venue.

1. Expedition Everest – Animal Kingdom


On this awesome ride, you are in search of the mythical creature the Yeti in the Himilayan Mountains. There is evidence on this coaster of ripped up traps, paintings of this elusive creature and shadows hinting at its near proximity to your cart. The best part in my opinion, is when the cart takes you backward through parts of the track. I loved it so much I had to wait in line twice to do it again!

Happy riding!

Famous Wild Dolphin “Beggar” Killed After Illegal Feedings and Pettings

This is disgusting – why are people such idiots?!
By Brian Clark Howard of National Geographic News in Ocean Views on October 4, 2012

Boaters feed Beggar the dolphin illegally in this photo taken by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

Boaters feed Beggar the dolphin illegally in this photo taken by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. Photo taken under NMFS Scientific Research Permit No. 15543.


(Updated 10-5-12 at 11:48 am with info on stingray barbs.)

This week, ocean advocates were stunned when a Florida woman was caught riding a manatee. Fortunately, that animal was unharmed, but another Florida marine mammal was not so lucky (it might be time to alert Drew Curtis’ Florida feed on Fark). Late last month, a wild bottlenose dolphin named Beggar was found dead in Sarasota.

Beggar, who was about 20 years old, has long been one of the most famous and most studied of wild dolphins around the world. Scientists have logged many hours observing him, and have published papers. YouTube is full of videos of Beggar made by boaters. This was made easy because, unfortunately, Beggar had developed a taste for human food, thanks to lots of folks who fed him illegally. (Bottlenose dolphins usually live between 30 and 50 years.)

It is illegal to feed or approach wild dolphins under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, and violators can get up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation. But enforcement is a challenge, given the huge size of coastal areas and the limited budgets of government agencies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has prosecuted three dolphin harassment cases in Florida in recent months, but studies suggest many more go unreported.

According to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Beggar spent much of his time right off-shore, where he was frequently approached by boaters. Many petted him and tossed him food, often junk food like hot dogs or even beer.

As a result, Beggar mostly stopped foraging on his own, and he started hanging out in one small area, instead of roaming more broadly. He also essentially stopped socializing with other dolphins.

“By feeding Beggar, people changed his behavior and put him at an increased risk from boat strikes. It also appeared that other dolphins learned similar ‘begging’ behavior by watching him interact with humans,” the aquarium said in a statement.

Aquarium technicians performed a necropsy on Beggar’s body. Although they were unable to determine a definitive cause of death, they concluded that his altered behaviors were most likely to blame for his demise. They found evidence of past injuries from boat strikes, including old puncture wounds and broken ribs and vertebrae. He was dehydrated, possibly from eating an unnatural diet. He also had fishing tackle in his stomach, as well as squid beaks–but according to the scientists squid aren’t normally consumed by dolphins in that area, suggesting he was tossed some “sushi.” Beggar also had two stingray barbs embedded in his flesh, which may have contributed to his problems.


Picture of Beggar the dolphin

Beggar the dolphin in happier days. Photo taken by Sarasota Dolphin Research Program under NMFS Scientific Research Permit No. 15543.


History of Harassment

In order to better understand how people are interacting with wild dolphins, and putting them at risk, Katie McHugh of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program conducted a study on Beggar in 2011 (the program is a partnership between Mote and the Chicago Zoological Society). In 100 hours of observation, McHugh saw:

  • 3,600 interactions between Beggar and humans — up to 70 per hour;
  • 169 attempts to feed him 520 different food items — from shrimp and squid to beer, hot dogs, and fruit;
  • 121 attempts to touch him — resulting in nine bites to people.

McHugh concluded that “Beggar was not a healthy dolphin.” She also noted, perhaps unsurprisingly, that when NOAA law enforcement officers were nearby, people left Beggar alone.

Stacey Horstman, a dolphin coordinator with NOAA Fisheries, said in a statement late last month,”Beggar was a local icon and tourist attraction for over two decades, and the results of this necropsy are a reminder of how people’s actions are harmful to wild dolphins. There is a common misconception that feeding, touching, and swiming with dolphins is not harmful and that they don’t get hit by boats. We are concered about how frequently the public and anglers continue to feed wild dolphins, as Beggar is just one of many wild dolphins in the southeast U.S. that have been fed by people and learned to associate people with food.  Responsibly viewing wild dolphins is crucial to their survival and we are asking the public for help so dolphin populations stay healthy and wild for generations to come.”


Picture of hooks and line taken out of Beggar the dolphin

Hooks and line removed from Beggar’s stomach during a necropsy. Photo: Mote Marine Laboratory


What You Can Do

If you feel bad for Beggar, there are some things you can do. Check out these tips on how to view wild dolphins safely, without putting them at risk. If you see someone feeding or harassing a wild marine animal (or trying to ride it), tell NOAA authorities immediately (check this page for your nearest division office).

Finally, do not feed wild dolphins. It may provide a quick thrill, but you are putting the animals at risk, and you could easily get bitten.


Brian Clark Howard covers the environment for National Geographic. He previously served as an editor for and E/The Environmental Magazine, and has written for Popular Science,,,, Yahoo!, MSN, and elsewhere. He is the co-author of six books, including Geothermal HVACGreen LightingBuild Your Own Small Wind Power System, and Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater.

Read another example of a group of idiots:

Bison Fury

Weather Win: Part 2

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I get 2 weeks of March Break, not 1 like most Ontario teachers. But I take full advantage and am very thankful for it.

And as I have realized, may people don’t know what this holiday is.

My boyfriend from Vancouver calls it Spring Break. But, when I think of Spring Break, I think of going to Daytona Beach, Florida to party in February with all the other university students (which I did not do).

It’s a week (or 2 in my case) for students and luckily teachers to have off to recharge and relax after 2/3 of the school year has been completed.

PLEASE look at how lucky I am weather wise again this week:

I’m hoping that Friday and Saturday will improve as we get closer to the weekend, but I cannot believe how gorgeous the beginning of the week is going to be.

The curse from my father and sister seems not to have passed to me. Every time they asked for vacation time, no other employee around them would ask for the same week – guaranteed rain.

Thanks Toronto for making my staycation sunny and warm!

Top 10 USA


I just saw an article on the site touropia promoting the top ten tourists attractions in the USA and was curious what my “score” would be for attractions visited.

Here’s the list:

10. The White House. Ok, haven’t seen it, but I am sure I will some day…

9. Denali National Park. I dream about going there, does that count? It might actually be in the works for next summer. A trip starting in Alaska, through Alberta, all the way down to Grand Teton National Park.

8. Las Vegas Strip. Check! It was quite spectacular, so lively and colourful.

7. The Florida Keys. Soon I bet. I have been to Florida about 9 or 10 times, but never further south than Naples.

6. Kilauea. CHECK! Loveeee love loveeeed it! I took a geoscience course in Hawaii a few years ago and studied the volcano in detail.

5. Niagara Falls. Check! I live about 1.5 hours away from them and have been there countless times, although mostly on the Canadian side of the border.

4. Golden Gate Bridge. Check! Loved San Francisco and was able to walk across the bridge on a nice sunny/windy day. What fun!

3. Yellowstone. CHECK! Just got back about a month and a half ago. Sigh….can I go back right now?

2. Manhattan. Check! I’m on a roll now. New York is one of my favorite cities, and I cannot wait to go back on a long weekend to make friends with the city again.

1. Grand Canyon. Not yet. Does the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone count? I’ve heard it’s just as spectacular. Maybe I will have to include a visit to the canyon next summer…

Six out of ten, not good enough! Time for me to go ‘splorin!