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Dash for Diwali!
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I just discovered an app called mCent that gives you free mobile airtime for trying apps on your phone. Give it a try:
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Snake In Hat

Depending on who you ask, a snake can be a wonderful or terrifying pet.

For some people those slithery armless animals are straight from the depths of Mordor, while others think they make great pets. Whatever your stance on reptiles, we now have definitive proof that owning a snake is worth it. May we present: SNAKES WEARING TINY HATS!

Such elegance! Such poise! The hat/mustache combo has significantly upped the proper gentleman score card of this little fellow. If only he'd stop sticking out his tongue at dinner parties.

Snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales. Many species of snakes have skulls with several more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes' paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung. Some species retain a pelvic girdle with a pair of vestigial claws on either side of the cloaca.
Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and on most smaller land masses — exceptions include some large islands, such as Ireland and New Zealand, and many small islands of the Atlantic and central Pacific. More than 20 families are currently recognized, comprising about 500 genera and about 3,400 species. They range in size from the tiny, 10 cm-long thread snake to the Reticulated python of up to 8.7 meters (29 ft) in length. The fossil species Titanoboa cerrejonensis was 15 meters (49 ft) long. Snakes are thought to have evolved from either burrowing or aquatic lizards during the mid-Cretaceous period, and the earliest known fossils date to around 112 Ma ago. The diversity of modern snakes appeared during the Paleocene period (c 66 to 56 Ma ago). The oldest preserved descriptions of snakes can be found in the Brooklyn Papyrus.
Most species are nonvenomous and those that have venom use it primarily to kill and subdue prey rather than for self-defense. Some possess venom potent enough to cause painful injury or death to humans. Nonvenomous snakes either swallow prey alive or kill by constriction.

The English word snake comes from Old English snaca, itself from Proto-Germanic *snak-an- (cf. Germanic Schnake "ring snake", Swedish snok "grass snake"), from Proto-Indo-European root *(s)nēg-o- "to crawl", "to creep", which also gave sneak as well as Sanskrit nāgá "snake". The word ousted adder, as adder went on to narrow in meaning, though in Old English næddre was the general word for snake. The other term, serpent, is from French, ultimately from Indo-European *serp- (to creep), which also gave Ancient Greek hérpō (ἕρπω) "I crawl".

There are over 2,900 species of snakes ranging as far northward as the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia and southward through Australia. Snakes can be found on every continent except Antarctica, in the sea, and as high as 16,000 feet (4,900 m) in the Himalayan Mountains of Asia.143 There are numerous islands from which snakes are absent, such as Ireland, Iceland, and New Zealand (although New Zealand's waters are infrequently visited by the yellow-bellied sea snake and the banded sea krait)


All modern snakes are grouped within the suborder Serpentes in Linnean taxonomy, part of the order Squamata, though their precise placement within squamates is controversial.
The two infraorders of Serpentes are: Alethinophidia and Scolecophidia. This separation is based on morphological characteristics and mitochondrial DNA sequence similarity. Alethinophidia is sometimes split into Henophidia and Caenophidia, with the latter consisting of "colubroid" snakes (colubrids, vipers, elapids, hydrophiids, and attractaspids) and acrochordids, while the other alethinophidian families comprise Henophidia. While not extant today, the Madtsoiidae, a family of giant, primitive, python-like snakes, was around until 50,000 years ago in Australia, represented by genera such as Wonambi.
There are numerous debates in the systematics within the group. For instance, many sources classify Boidae and Pythonidae as one family, while some keep the Elapidae and Hydrophiidae (sea snakes) separate for practical reasons despite their extremely close relation.
Recent molecular studies support the monophyly of the clades of modern snakes, scolecophidians, typhlopids + anomalepidids, alethinophidians, core alethinophidians, uropeltids (Cylindrophis, Anomochilus, uropeltines), macrostomatans, booids, boids, pythonids and caenophidians.

The now extinct Titanoboa cerrejonensis snakes found were 12–15 m (39–49 ft) in length. By comparison, the largest extant snakes are the reticulated python, the longest recorded specimen measured about 9 m (30 ft) long, and the anaconda, which measures about 7.5 m (25 ft) long and is considered the heaviest snake on Earth.
At the other end of the scale, the smallest extant snake is Leptotyphlops carlae, with a length of about 10 cm (4 in). Most snakes are fairly small animals, approximately 1 m (3 ft) in length.

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Are Dogs Are Better Than Cats?

Are dogs really better than cats? If pressed to choose, I will say that I am a "dog person." I have always loved dogs and cannot imagine life without at least one dog to follow me around, hog the bed and smother me with wet kisses. This being said, I am a lover of all animals and a definite cat fancier. I am also a cat owner who adores her sweet kitties. It is certainly hard for me to imagine life without the soft purrs, biscuit-making and gentle head butting. However, if I had to make a choice to live with only one species, the dog would be the winner (just don't tell this to my cats).

I am not one of those dog lovers who thinks cats are aloof, selfish and overly independent. Cat personalities are as versatile as human personalities. Some are social and attention-seeking; others are quiet and timid. Some cats are pretentious divas; others are goofy playmates. But there are some undeniable truths about the differences between dogs and cats. Just for fun, let's explore some reasons why dogs may be better than cats.

Kitties, if you are reading this, let's just say that the dog made me do it!

I love my cats, but I despise litter boxes. No matter how well we keep up with them, there is a lingering smell. The litter tracks all over the house. It's almost impossible to find a good place to put the litter box in a small house. Scooping the litter is stinky and dusty. Hauling the litter around is a hassle. For me, the litter box is the one really negative thing about having cats. However, I don't like the idea of letting cats go outside (for the cats' safety) so I put up with their litter boxes (fortunately, I have someone else in the house who can take care of them most of the time).

Dogs don't need litter boxes. Sure, they make dog litter now (aimed at small dog owners in highrise apartments). However, you can choose whether or not to use a dog litter box. Dogs can be house trained, and most can stick to a schedule. They can use the yard or do their business during walks. I only have to pick up the poop (not the urine as in litter boxes). I use poop bags on walks and a poop-scooper in the yard. Is cleaning up poop fun? No. But I think this is the lesser of two necessary evils.

Personally, I find it much easier to clean up after dogs. However, the cat people in my life feel that litter boxes are easier to deal with. I just can't see it that way. This is one area where it just comes down to your personal preference.

I'm not going to try and say that cats are not playful. My cats love to play with string toys and bat around their little cat ball toys. Some frisky kitties will play a little hide-and-seek or peek-a-boo with their owners. But there is only so much you can play with your cat. Somehow it seems that when I want to play a game with a cat, that cat just wants to nap. Later, at three in the morning, kitty is tearing around the house chasing a jingle ball and I get no sleep.

Most dogs love to play, and often it is interactive play that they want. We can play a game of fetch with the ball or a disc. We can enjoy an exciting tug of war session. We can play chase in the yard. One can even train a dog using games. If you are tired of playing but your dog is not, you can give him some toys and let the fun continue. If your dog gets along well with other dogs, you can set up a doggie "playdate" and let your dog play with another dog (just be sure you know that the dogs are both healthy, will get along and that you can tell the difference between playing and fighting).

Yes, I know some cats play fetch. Yes, it is really cute when they do. However, I think cats that fetch are the exception to the rule, and it's usually on the cat's terms anyhow. And yes, I know housemate cats sometimes play together, but who would really plan to get two cats from different households together for some playtime? It's not going to turn out well and we all know it.

I used to have a cat that would need up to a week to get used to a new area rug in the living room. The dog would take one look at it and go about her business. But this cat would see it and jump a foot in the air. Then, he would walk in a big circle around the rug. Three days later, he would touch the rug with one paw (like a little kid testing the pool water with one toe). The same thing went with any new item in the house. Meanwhile, the dog was unfazed.

My point is this: cats are a bit more sensitive to their environments, while dogs tend to accept change more quickly if their owners act like it's no big deal. I know there are exceptions to this, as there are plenty of neurotic or fearful dogs out there (and plenty of chill cats, too). However, I will generalize for the purposes of this article and to prove my point (all in good fun, of course).

When it comes to introducing new people or pets to the home, bringing new items into the home, moving to new home or making other big changes, cats generally need more time to adapt than dogs. They don't automatically trust that all is well. They need it proven. One might call it a healthy, instinctive fear that has helped their species survive in the wild. On the other hand, most dogs will take cues from their owners. If the owner signals that all is well, the dog will often trust that all is indeed well.

Try to control a cat and you might just hear the tiny sound of kitty laughter. Most cats will go where they like, jump where they please, scratch where they want and mark what needs marking. Oh, and then there are the hairballs (which are most easily found while barefoot in the middle of the night).

Sure, dogs can cause a lot of destruction. But you can usually crate train a dog and keep him there while you are gone. It's for his safety (and your sanity). Most crate-trained dogs consider their crates to be their own special places. Try putting a cat in a crate or behind a closed door and you will have one unhappy kitty. In my house (where I am the servant of two cats) there is an open door policy. If a door is left closed, I'll never hear the end of it. I'm sure if I tried to teach them to accept closed doors, I would eventually get them to accept it (at least I think so). However, my cats get the run of the house, as do most house cats. That means they go where they want and leave their mark, scratch, scent, hairballs and whatever else for you to find. (Yes, all my wall corners have smudges at cat head height).

Note: Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety are an exception to the above comments. They can be destructive out of fear and anxiety when left alone. Crate training is an option for some of these dogs, but most will usually benefit more from behavior modification. You should seek the help of a behaviorist and or veterinarian if you think your dog suffers from separation anxiety.

Don't get me wrong, I realize cats can technically be trained. But even cat lovers have to admit that it's not as easy to train a cat to respond to cues and perform little tricks. Cats tend to do what they want when they want it. Even food motivated cats will get sick of training sessions and walk away (or just smack the food out of your hand and eat it anyway). When it comes to training, cats train humans better than we could ever train them.

With dogs it's a different story. Most dogs enjoy training. It seems to give them a sense of purpose. It's job to do and most dogs love to work. Plus, many dogs are highly motivated by food and attention. They will gladly sit, stay, shake, lie down, roll over and do whatever else we can teach them in exchange for a little reward. Dogs seem to have a sense of pride in themselves when they have done a good job. In fact, when dogs "act out" it's usually because they are bored. They need exercise and mental stimulation. Training helps provide the latter. Cats need these things too, but they usually get them on their own terms.

When is the last time you saw a cat in a vest working hard to help people? While it's true that cats have a place in Animal Assisted Therapy, they are simply not suited to other lines of work. Just about as long as dogs have been around, they have been helping people. Hundreds of years ago, dogs were working on farms as herders and drovers. Today, many dogs still work on farms. (Some cats are used on farms to keep rats and mice at bay, which is great.) Yet some dogs serve an even more noble purpose as service dogs. They guide the blind, assist the handicapped, help police and military, participate in search-and-rescue efforts and comfort the sick. Some dogs can even detect seizures and sniff out cancer. That's some way to earn one's keep!

You are probably not going to see a cat defend your home. It's just not in their nature to defend your home and protect you. They are more likely to run and hide or just ignore outside noises in order to continue a grooming session or keep napping.

Most dogs will instinctively protect their owners and their territory. They bark or growl to alert you to the presence of strangers. Many will even ward off intruders. Dogs can often sense our fear and will respond if they think we feel threatened. A large dog with a loud bark may seem like the better watch dog, but small dogs are sometime even more alert when it comes to outside noises. The little ones may not be able to physically fight off intruders, but they will be able to alert you about the danger. When it comes down to it, the size and type of dog is not as important. Many would-be intruders will avoid contact with a dog for fear of getting bitten. They are more likely to just move on to another target. While having a dog is no guarantee of protection, it's good to know your dog might try to protect you from danger. No offense kitties, but protection is not your specialty.

Of course I realize that there are different breeds of cats, but we all know that they don't vary a whole lot in shape and size. Sure, you have your giant Maine Coon and your uniquely coated Devon Rex. Then there is the adorably naked Sphinx. Of course, most house cats are mixed-breeds (often called "moggies") and they are ones who need homes the most. Cats come in many beautiful coats and colors. Yes, cat personalities can be breed-related. But when in comes down to it, the differences between cats are subtle compared to the differences between dogs.

It's hard to believe that the tiny little Yorkie is the same species as the huge Great Dane. It's amazing that the a Puli, with its crazy dreadlocks, is even remotely related to the nearly hairless Chinese Crested. How is the thin, graceful, Greyhound genetically similar to the short, muscular Bulldog? But they are all dogs.

If you decide to get a dog instead of a cat, you still have lots of choices available. Do you want a giant dog, a small dog breed or something in-between? Would you like a herding dog with endless energy or a cuddly homebody lap dog? Perhaps a well-balanced mixed breed is your preference (mutts are definitely my personal favorite). There are even some dogs that can be considered low-allergen for the mildly allergic. Bottom line, there is a type of dog for just about any household.

Cats stay home and do their own thing. Or, they go out and do their own thing. Some people have been known to walk their cats on a harness through the neighborhood, but generally speaking that is not the norm. Cats don't want to get active with their humans the way dogs do.

Dogs need plenty of exercise, but so do people. We can even make them a part of our own exercise routines. Most dogs love to go on walks. Many enjoy running with their humans. Some can be trained to run alongside a bike. In addition, dogs can participate in dog sports like agility, flyball, disc and diving. Dog sports are great for fulfilling a dog's need for mental and physical exercise. You won't see a cat participating in organized sports.

Many dogs are also better at traveling with their owners. Though there are exceptions, cats do not generally do as well in cars and strange new places (see the section on adapting to change).

The term "man's best friend" exists for a good reason. Dogs have been domesticated for at least 15,000 years (though some historians think longer). One could even say that humans and dogs have basically evolved together. Throughout history, dogs have been the faithful companions and loyal helpers of the human race. The bond between humans and dogs is unmistakable.

Cats seem to know that they were once worshiped as gods. Perhaps they resent the fact that it ended, and that they are probably still holding it against us today.

I think it's fair to say that a dog's human is the center of that dog's universe. However, a cat is the center of its own universe. We humans are merely orbiting servants (willing servants, of course).

That means each cat is the sun in its universe. Humans are the planets. I suppose that makes dogs the moons. (Yes, this is the natural balance of things in my household.)

Let's get serious for a minute. Comparing dogs and cats is like comparing apples to oranges. Each species has pros and cons, but both are special in their own ways.

This age old battle of dog people versus cat people doesn't really need to continue. Can't we all just get along? After all, cats and dogs can learn to live happily together. Why choose? Just get both!

What's Your Opinion?

After all this, have I managed to convince you that dogs are better? (I'm not sure I have even convinced myself.) Do you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person? Perhaps you are one of the many who just can't take a side. If you had to pick just one species, what would it be? Just for fun, vote in the poll: Which Are Better Pets - Cats or Dogs?

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