Monthly Archives: September 2009

Gator Attack Way Too Close to Home

This past Monday, Diane was out house-hunting. She checked out a listing for a house that was interesting in part because it was close to a park. After looking at the house, Diane went over to the park to have a look at it, too. This was Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg, Florida, near I-275 and Gandy Boulevard. She took Ritka, our Vizsla, walking with her. Diane and Ritka were near the water’s edge at about 4:30 PM when Diane saw the water churn. She immediately called to Ritka and started moving away from the water. Ritka’s usual behavior is to run ahead, and that’s just what Ritka did. Diane, though, slipped on the slope and fell to her hands and knees, perhaps in part due to the slip-on “Crocs”-like shoes she was wearing at the time. The churning water was, indeed, a sign of a gator making a lunge, coming out of the water. The gator didn’t connect with anything on his first lunge, but he grabbed Diane’s left calf with his second lunge.

Diane turned and grabbed the gator’s jaw to discourage it from ripping her calf muscle. The gator then released her calf, but when it snapped its jaws shut the second time, Diane’s left thumb was caught there by a tooth. She says that she didn’t care to play tug with a gator, not with just her thumb as the part in the middle. She reached over with her right hand and grabbed the gator’s eye ridge. Diane says that after maybe 30 seconds to a minute of this standoff, the gator opened his jaws, releasing Diane’s thumb. Diane released the gator’s eye ridge. She says that she briefly had considered trying to hold the gator’s jaws closed and using Ritka’s leash to tie it up, but that she didn’t think that she was up to any more tussling with the gator. So the gator headed back to the water and Diane on up the bank and away.

Diane then went back to the van with Ritka, and called to find out about where the nearest medical facility that would treat a gator bite and take our insurance for payment was. She then drove there, to the Morton Plant Bardmoor emergency facility at Starkey and Bryan Dairy Road. Her parents and then I caught up with her there. Her bite wounds were cleaned and dressed, and somewhere around there she had a bout of nausea, sometime about two hours post-attack. The medical staff gave her IV anti-nausea medicine, morphine, and then Vancomycin. They decided she should have observation for the next 24 hours, so they arranged for admittance at Morton Plant Mease in Clearwater. On Tuesday, she received more anitbiotics, since gator bites almost always get infected, and the infections can themselves be fatal. The principal pathogen to be countered is apparently Aeromonas hydrophila. Two orthopedic surgeons had a look and concurred that she would not need surgery. Diane was discharged around 5 PM on Tuesday.

Diane has a couple of weeks of oral antibiotics to continue with, plus twice-daily changes of the wound dressings. We are watching for fever or any sign of infection in the wounds, but so far she is doing fine. She is sleeping a good chunk of the day. That is, when the reporters will leave her alone. She has marks from about two dozen gator teeth on her calf, ranging from scratches through scrapes, tears, and full punctures. She has a pretty big puncture on her left thumb. She had some cuts and abrasions on her right hand.

A second nuisance complaint from the same park was called in Wednesday. A trapper went out and found a gator that had no fear of people at the site of Diane’s attack. He measured it at 6′ 9″ and noted that it was missing about a foot of tail, making it overall about an eight-footer. In looking at past records of fatal attacks, those have been done by gators as small as 6′ 6″. Diane was very fortunate to have come out of this with as little damage as she did.

Here’s some of the coverage of Diane’s story so far:

BayNews 9, with video of their broadcast

The Lakeland Ledger

St. Petersburg Times. This one is slightly inaccurate in places, but was filed before Harwell did an in-person interview with Diane, so we are hoping for a better article later.

Diane says that she wouldn’t mind going to an alligator-free place for a while, so please go vote for our bid to blog an Antarctic trip next February.

Update: ABC News has taken the story to the national audience. Fox News had a segment, but I don’t know if that was regional or national.

Remark on Fine-tuning Arguments

Over at BioLogos, fine-tuning was mentioned. A comment asked whether they wished to do that, since fine-tuning was an “example of intelligent design reasoning”. Here’s my reply:

I’m not certain of the original provenance of fine-tuning arguments, but I know that they cannot be claimed to be the product of “intelligent design reasoning”. One can certainly find fine-tuning among the arguments of natural theology, as in the Rev. William Paley’s 1802 book, “Natural Theology”.

At best, the “intelligent design” creationism advocates can claim that fine-tuning arguments are consonant with their own views, not that they have originated any such argument. “Intelligent design” creationism is about as intellectually barren as the surface of the moon, having raided natural theology and earlier forms of religious antievolution for its content, adding technical epicycles to such standard objections as “what good is half a wing?” and “evolution is too improbable”. Of course, “intelligent design” creationism is simply a sham engaged in to inject as many religious antievolution arguments as possible into the public school curriculum, so it is not unexpected that its advocates would seek to borrow justification wherever they think they can find it.

Christians who embrace fine-tuning arguments would do well to look to the earlier and honest examples of its use as apologia for the nature and attributes of God, and to reject the associations with the inherently deceptive modern religious antievolution movement under any of its misleading labels — scientific creationism, creation science, intelligent design, critical analysis, strengths and weaknesses, academic freedom, and others.

Catching Up

There are things that get put on the to-do list and just seem to stay there. I’m dealing with some of that because there really hasn’t been much spare time for me to apply to clearing some of those off the list. For example, I just tonight got around to dealing with about three administrative items related to the TalkOrigins Archive, and I know there are at least a couple more TOA-related things left on the list yet.

Despite the length of the to-do list, the weekend is pretty well fully scheduled with family activities. We’ve lived out of state for 23 years, so it is no surprise that we’re looking to do more with family now that we are living closer. I’ll be headed up to Gainesville Saturday with my dad to see the season-opener against “Charleston Southern”. OK, I admit it, I’d never heard of them. Apparently, CSU is a Southern Baptist-affiliated university in South Carolina. They’ve never played against UF before. It is a night game, so I’ll stay overnight in Lakeland and return to Clearwater sometime on Sunday. There’s a pool party on Monday that we’ve been invited to, which sounds like a fine way to spend Labor Day. I don’t know whether I will chip away any more off the to-do list, but I do expect to enjoy the weekend.

I Feel Like a Hermit Crab

One who has gone through a molt and requires another domicile.

Diane has been looking at properties within about 40 to 50 minutes commute of my new place of work in St. Petersburg, Florida. Of course, she is restricting the search to things that (1) are within our current limited means to qualify for a loan on, which until Diane finds a job will be under $100K and probably closer to $80K, (2) that have a useful amount of yard (hopefully larger than 0.25 acre, ideally an acre or more), and (3) which we have some chance of closing on before the end of November so as to qualify for the stimulus package $8K tax credit. After work today, we went around to about four places this evening to check them out.

One has a pretty large yard, is situated in a nice neighborhood, and has a goodly amount of interior space at about 1500 square feet. However, over half that space has a nearly flat roof over it, and when I looked up there, about half of it was covered by a puddle left from the rain we had yesterday. We’ll check into how much a roof and ceiling repair would be, but the type of loan needed for including repair work itself takes about 90 days to process, which could mean we’d be out the $8K stimulus tax credit.

We looked at a house whose floors were obviously damaged and would require extensive repair. It had an odd layout and one of the two bathrooms was a large room situated in between the kitchen and a bedroom to the rear of the house. In addition to toilet, shower, and sink, it had what could become a small dance floor plus a washer and dryer on the opposite side of the room. Another house had small rooms and not much otherwise to commend it. The final one we looked at had a more normal layout and basic condition of a house, though the yard was among the smallest we were considering. It had some problems, including the fact that someone had almost succeeded in driving a car into the living room. There was not much obvious in the twilight outside, but inside there were scattered pieces of drywall and the studs had been obviously been broken and displaced inwards. The general conditions inside included a great deal of dirt and clutter, as it seemed that perhaps the previous tenants had been evicted or somehow came to leave the place full of their clutter and mess. There was a broken window in one of the bedrooms. However, the complete set of repairs needed would likely still fit in the strictures for an FHA loan, and most of the rest of the negative impression could be fixed by a thorough cleaning. On the down side, though, it may be a “short” sale, and thus unlikely to be one that could be closed by the end of November.

So the house hunt goes on. Diane looked at some properties in Tampa across the bay yesterday, including the exterior of a house on two acres. She’ll do a drive-by of a house in Manatee County across the Sunshine Skyway bridge tomorrow. If anyone has suggestions, drop a line in comments or email.