Thursday 28 January 2010

One Who Stops The Flow Of Water

Followers of mine on Twitter will know that the geckos have had some issues settling in. Specifically, Mokele had not eaten anything since she arrived in her new home. She spent the first three days up the polystyrene wall!

Then on Wednesday morning one shoe dropped - there was gecko skin all over the tank and Mokele was looking a bit dishevelled. She was (and still is!) shedding. As the amount of skin seemed disproportionately small compared to the amount she had lost, we think she must have eaten a little of it.

In any case, the advice for reluctant gourmands seemed to be to get some baby food and mix it up into a slurry. So last night Paul and I went to Tesco and spent a good 15 minutes in the baby food aisle discussing whether 10% chicken was better than 8% beef and which meat tasted most like mealworms (I like to think we worried the other shoppers...).

And tonight - success!

This is Mokele actually taking slurry from the syringe (she did lick up the little bead of food at the corner of her mouth later). You can see where she's still shedding along her flank.

The plan of action is more slurry tomorrow and get them up to full strength before heading back to live food (possibly live food coated in slurry).

As an aside, I have decided that it isn't just dog and cat owners who become obsessed with their pets' bowel movements - Paul and I have had long chats about the consistency of the little lizard poopies we're sieving out of the substrate...

Saturday 23 January 2010

The Geckos Arrive

This morning we brought the geckos home. The tank is nice and warm on one side and room temperature on the other side as advised. It was a scary journey home with them - if I could have driven at 10mph all the way I would have done, not least as we had to contend with traffic for this afternoon's London Irish rugby match at Twickers.

So here is Hastur the Unspeakable One, named by Paul and specially selected for her yellow colouring. She seems the quieter of the two, but we shall see if she settles in well:

And this little girl is Mokele-Mbembe, "one who stops the flow of rivers". It seems highly appropriate that she fell in her water dish as soon as she got home. She's definitely more curious about the world at the moment:

The tank will be big enough for them for the next few years, and after that we may invest in one of the actual furniture-like tanks. They are already showing their different personalities - Hastur slunk off to hide under a cactus and Mokele started plotting her escape. She's currently asleep at the very top of the cage under the lamp!

They didn't seem too fussed about eating. Paul dangled a couple of waxworms (the gecko equivalent of a McDonalds meal) in front of them but they weren't interested, so we'll let them get over the shock of being woken up, shoved in a plastic box, driven 20 miles and plonked in a new home and try to get them eating a bit later.


Sunday 17 January 2010

Decorating The Nursery

Paul and I had an exciting day today, getting ready for our new arrivals. We thought long and hard about pets, and settled on leopard geckos, as Paul fell madly in love with this little chap back in September:

We've been to Pets-Or-Meat and bought the terrarium and some of the other kit. Doesn't it look good? We'll be going back next Saturday to get the geckos themselves.

The substrate will go in soon (we're just seeing if we can get the temperature up to optimum with the heat rock, but I expect we'll need a heat mat too), and some bits and pieces for them to climb on. We've checked out all the food we need to get, along with the food for the food, and have a small arsenal of ungents ready to deal with any veterinary eventuality.

We saw one of the prospective pets passed out in her water dish today. Hope it was nice and cool for her!

Friday 15 January 2010

The Word "Penis"

Today I had to teach one of my classes about sexual characteristics. It involved mentioning the word "penis". This turned out to be a huge problem. See, apparently the word "penis" is embarrassing, and represents a filthy and depraved organ of the body. Previously rather brazen young men and women were reduced to giggling children, one of which was so appalled by the mention of the word "penis" that she covered her face with her hands. I found myself conjuring the spirit of my mother-in-law (a primary school teacher) and joyfully trilling to the class: "Penis is not a dirty word!!"

Doesn't help matters that when I try to search for good, copyright-free images to use to teach students reproductive anatomy, all the useful sites are blocked by Websense at work for being pornographic, e.g.:

Can't access that at work. I wonder if that means I'm not allowed to draw the diagram freehand on the whiteboard for the students either?

This strange double standard that we have though: these teenagers are probably more worldly and more exposed to sex and sexuality than ever before, and yet they cannot cope with a simple anatomical word. Some of them are old enough to marry, vote, buy alcohol and be killed in Afghanistan, but the word "penis" renders them incapacitated with the giggles for several minutes at a time.

My local GP practice has a nurse, who refers to a urine sample as "a tinkle" and a cervical smear test as "rude stuff". I think my greatest fear for my students is that, despite my efforts, they will become at best coy medical professionals who embarrass their patients with playground terminology (like my nurse), and at worse rather uninformed adults whose own shame could lead to ignorance (and probably far too many babies for them to cope with).

Suppose the religious right would blame it all on snakes, women and apples, but I wish we could all get over the idea that penises and vaginas are something dirty that must never be discussed even within the confines of a biology lab.

What do you think? Am I finally turning into my too-much-information high school biology teacher, who advocated eating placentas and carried around a stick of celery in her labcoat pocket?
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