Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Monday, July 24, 2017
I can't think of a single religion that preaches that God's purpose in creating the world was so humans would be happy every day of their lives. Actually, most religions recognize that suffering exists and that suffering is not ideal, but that suffering is part of God's plan somehow. In Christianity specifically, the interpretation is thatan all-powerful all-good God created humans on Earth so that they could develop character and “show what they’re made of.” Religions also generally come with some kind of reassurance that, after we humans have suffered through this mortal life, developed good moral characteristics, and “passed the test” we will be welcomed in to a good afterlife. Often the afterlife comes with the promise that there will be no more suffering. The existence of an all-powerful, all-good God who designed Earth as a “testing ground” for humans is an internally consistent belief that does not collapse due to the “problem of evil” and in fact actually requires the existence of evil in order for the testing aspect to work.
Thought Experiment: What would the world actually be like without any suffering?
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Here is some basic information about keeping bearded dragons as pets!
- Juvenile bearded dragons (< 1 year old) must be fed multiple times per day, and eat primarily insects. Adult bearded dragons (1 year - 14 years old) can be fed once a day, and eat primarily plant matter and vegetables.
- Bearded dragons absolutely require adequate ultraviolet light (to prevent metabolic bone disease) and adequate heat (so that they can digest their food).
- Bearded dragons can grow to be almost 2 feet long including the length of their tail, which means they need a large enclosure.
You should give your beardie as much space as you can. The minimum recommended amount of space is 4 feet x 2 feet. You can buy a used or new glass tank of this size, or you can build a custom melamine enclosure for your beardie. My husband and I built a 4 foot x 3 foot melamine enclosure for our bearded dragon and waterproofed the joints with silicone, so he has plenty of space. It also cost only $100, which a lot less than it would have cost to get a glass tank of equivalent size.
You can build a custom enclosure out of wood, but be careful when choosing the type of wood, as certain woods can release aromatic oils that are harmful to the bearded dragon's lungs.
Regardless of what type of enclosure you choose, it is also nice to allow your bearded dragon out of his or her enclosure occasionally to explore -- with supervision! Bearded dragons can move quickly, and can also hide themselves very thoroughly under furniture and in small spaces, so if you are not keeping an eye on them, they may be hard to find when you're ready to put them back in their enclosure. You should probably not leave your bearded dragon out of their enclosure for more than an hour, because their body temperature will start to drop too low.
You bearded dragon should also have items to climb (e.g. wood, fake logs, reptile hammock), and should have places to hide. My bearded dragon has three hides - one in his basking spot, one in the middle of the tank, and one on the cool side of the tank. The dragon should be able to fit comfortably in his hide(s).
You should also use reptile carpet (basically thick felt; that's the brown cloth in the image above) or tiles as the floor of the enclosure. Avoid using sand, crushed walnut shells, or other powdered substrates, because dragons can accidentally eat those substrates and become impacted.
Can I take my bearded dragon outside?
Yes, you can. Many of them love natural sunlight. However, be cautious: you should either put your bearded dragon in a reptile leash, or put them in an outdoor enclosure. If a bearded dragon is loose outdoors and gets spooked, the dragon can and will stand up on their hind legs and run away at over nine miles per hour, and you may lose your dragon. This happened to me once when Sunny got spooked by a shadow and sprinted off towards the forest, but thankfully I was able to catch him. If you put your beardie in an outdoor enclosure make sure there is a cold spot in that enclosure so they can properly thermoregulate and don't overheat.
NEVER feed a bearded dragon a firefly: it will kill them! More generally, do not feed your bearded dragon bugs that you catch outside, because they could give your beardie parasites.
I would strongly recommend NOT feeding your bearded dragons crickets as their protein source. Crickets are loud, smelly, fast, and can jump, so no matter how careful you are some crickets WILL get away and you'll find them in your house unexpectedly, probably dead in the corner of a room. Dubia roaches and various "worms" (e.g. superworms or Phoenix worms) are much easier to manage than crickets, and can provide excellent nutrition.
Should I breed dubia roaches?
Dubia roaches are a very popular feeder insect for bearded dragons, because they can't fly, they can't jump, they move slowly, they provide good nutrition, and bearded dragons like to eat them. I actually bred dubia roaches for about six months with great success.
However, before you decide to breed them, you should consider their allergenic potential. Cockroaches produce some of the most powerful allergens known, so if you tend to have allergies, either (a) do not breed them at all or (b) make sure you have a sequestered indoor area that you can keep the colony, and wear a mask while dealing with them. My allergies to the dubias meant that I eventually had to stop my breeding program and sell all of the dubias I had.
Tips for breeding dubias:
- They need to be kept warm to breed. If you live in a cold climate, you cannot keep them outside, unless you have a setup that will provide them with adequate heat.
- If you keep them inside your house somewhere, be very cognizant of the potential allergy issue. I ended up having to make the small room I kept their container in "off-limits" due to my allergies to them.
- To house the dubias, you can use a large Rubbermaid container, with stacked egg crates that provide hiding spots.
- To dramatically speed up the beginnings of your colony by several months, invest in some adult breeding dubias, and get more females than males. You can also buy some "mid-age" dubias which will likely finish maturing by the time you have a lot of babies from your already-breeding adults, and then the population will truly take off.
- For more details on how to care for dubia roaches, see this website.
- If you decide you no longer want to breed dubias and you have too many of them to feed your reptiles, you can make quite a bit of money selling your extra Dubias on Craigslist.
You can prevent this horrible disease by providing your dragon with a tank-long UV light. Do NOT use a localized dome UV light because that will not disperse UV throughout the whole tank, and in some cases can damage dragons' eyes. Do NOT use a "tanning bed" light because that will be way too much UV and will harm your dragon. You should only use long tubular UV lamps that are specifically made for reptiles, such as the ReptiSun 10.0 UVB.
You should also dust your dragon's food with a powdered calcium and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement designed for reptiles. You can dust both insects and vegetables lightly with the supplement once per week, and more frequently if the dragon is a juvenile.
Why do bearded dragons need heat?
To achieve appropriate temperatures in the enclosure, you need to use reptile-specific heat lamps, or an adequate number of incandescent (NOT fluorescent) bulbs. The heat lamps should be about a foot away from the dragon so that there is no risk that the dragon will touch the lamps by accident and get burned.
Dragons need a "basking side" of the tank kept at 100 - 110 degrees Farenheit, and a "cooler side" of the tank kept around 80 degrees. You should get one thermometer for the hot side and one for the cold side of the tank so that you know what the temperatures are. You should never use "heat rocks" or "ceramic heaters" that go underneath the dragon, because dragons cannot sense heat from underneath very well and can get severely burned. Furthermore, the hotter side of your enclosure should also be the brighter side, because dragons will assume that more light indicates more heat.
One sign that a bearded dragon has reached optimal basking temperature is that he or she will sit with their mouth slightly gaped open, like this:
An alternative hydration method is to bathe the bearded dragon in warm (not hot) water every one or two weeks. The water should be deep enough to cover the bearded dragon's vent but shallow enough that the bearded dragon can stand and hold his or her head above the water easily. You can make the water deeper as long as there is some place for the dragons to stand, and you keep a very close eye on them. Here's a cute video of bearded dragons swimming in a bathtub (notice how the people are paying close attention to the dragons and keeping their hands in the water so that the dragons can climb onto them as needed).
What should my dragon's poop look like?
It should be well-formed, with a brown part and a white part. The white part of the waste is the urates, produced by the kidneys, and is basically a solid equivalent of mammal pee. If the dragon's poop is very runny or smelly, the dragon may have a parasitic infection, and you should take the dragon to a certified exotic animal veterinarian for a fecal test. Be warned that if you go to a veterinarian who is not familiar with bearded dragons, they may not be able to offer your dragon appropriate care. I've heard some horror stories of dog and cat vets mis-prescribing medications to bearded dragons and accidentally killing them. So make sure you go to an exotics vet who sees reptiles!
If the dragon goes more than about 3 days without pooping, the dragon is likely constipated, and you can give your dragon a bath or feed your dragon some pumpkin. I have found that for mild constipation, a few bites of pureed canned pumpkin works wonders. Letting them run around outside the tank can also help, but this has the risk that they will poop on the floor.
If your dragon is constipation, keep a lookout for the more serious signs of impaction, a kind of severe constipation that can lead to death.
They do not change color as dramatically as chameleons, but they can darken or lighten specific parts of their bodies for various purposes. They can darken spots on their skin to absorb more heat. They can also make their beards entirely black, and can form stripes on their underbellies, which are both signs of stress. If a dragon is extremely stressed, the dragon can puff his beard out and run away on his hind legs.
Do bearded dragons carry diseases?
Bearded dragons can carry salmonella, so they should not be allowed in the kitchen, and you should always wash your hands after handling a bearded dragon. You should also closely supervise any small children around bearded dragons, since small children generally have pretty bad hygiene and you do not want to risk infecting the child with salmonella. If you have a crawling child, the bearded dragon should not be allowed to roam on any surfaces that the child crawls on.
Bearded dragons can become infected with parasites or mites. If you notice symptoms of parasite or mite infection, you should take your dragon to an exotic animal veterinarian experienced in working with reptiles, to get the appropriate medicines.
How should I handle my bearded dragon?
When you pick up your bearded dragon, scoop him up from the front, never from the top, because if you try to grab him from above he may think you are a predator and become frightened. Make sure you provide support to his tail otherwise he may think he is falling and flail around. If your dragon struggles, gently do not allow him to escape until he has calmed down - otherwise you will teach your dragon that by squirming, he can get away. Once he has calmed down, then you can put him back in his enclosure. Make sure not to squeeze or injure your bearded dragon. Always be gentle. Over time, dragons will become familiarized with being held, and can become quite tame. If your dragon has sharp claws, you may want to put stone or other rough surfaces in his enclosure to wear them down, and if that doesn't work you may want to handle your bearded dragon with kitchen gloves (to avoid getting scratched).
How can I tell if my dragon is male or female?
Male and female dragons are roughly the same size, so size is not a great indicator. Males sometimes have thicker tails than females. One good method is to look at their underbellies. If you see two clearly separate bulges on their underbelly, you have a male. If you see only one bulge you have a female. This article has more details and photos about sexing a bearded dragon with a visual inspection.
I also recently came across the flashlight method, which I thought was very clever. All it takes is a bright flashlight, and voila:
Should I keep more than one bearded dragon in the same enclosure?
This is generally a bad idea. In the wild, bearded dragons are solitary and territorial, so it is best to allow them to be solitary and territorial in captivity. Keeping multiple bearded dragons together can cause stress. Bearded dragons may fight each other and even bite off each other's limbs or tails. If you put a baby bearded dragon with an adult, the baby may be eaten. If you put a female with a male, the male may repeatedly mate with the female, and she will have nowhere to go to escape, so this can cause severe stress. Sometimes people have multiple bearded dragons housed together and observe "cute" behaviors like dragons laying on top of one another. This is not "cute" -- it is dangerous. The dragons on the bottom cannot get enough heat or light, and have a hard time breathing. In general, if you want to care for multiple bearded dragons, get them each their own enclosure.
My bearded dragon is sitting with his leg stuck out weirdly. Is something wrong?
If nothing has recently changed, there is no possibility that they injured themselves, and they do not appear stressed, then seeing them sticking their limbs out in weird positions is no cause to worry. Sunny sometimes sits in weird positions for no reason, e.g.:
What is brumation?
Brumation is the reptile equivalent of hibernation. It can take place any time of year though often will happen in the winter, and typically only in dragons that are older than one year. During brumation the dragon's metabolism slows considerably, and he may entirely lose his appetite and spend all day hiding and sleeping. For a nice discussion of brumation and how the symptoms can vary among dragons, see this article (it has multiple pages - you should read all of it.)
There is still a lot more information I could include about bearded dragons, but I hope this was a helpful overview. There are a ton of articles available online, and multiple websites dedicated to proper care for bearded dragons. Bearded dragons make excellent pets that are low-maintenance and fun to watch and interact with. For more information, you should read "The Bearded Dragon Manual" by Philippe De Vosjoli.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
- I went to the full 3 hours of church every Sunday, even when I was sick with a cold, even on vacation, even if I had just gotten in to a bike accident – the only reason to miss church would be active vomiting due to the flu.
- I read the entire Book of Mormon several times, the entire D&C several times, the entire King James Old Testament once (and sections of it several times), and the entire New Testament three times. I annotated and highlighted all of them repeatedly. I read numerous books by General Authorities.
- I completed all of “Personal Progress” by age 13 (the Mormon female equivalent of an Eagle Scout).
- I went to all four years of Seminary and graduated with nearly-perfect attendance (this is a 6 AM – 7 AM Mormonism class every weekday for all four years of high school.) I memorized all the “scripture masteries” (~50 Mormon scripture passages) verbatim.
- I took notes on all 8 hours of the semi-annual Mormon General Conference every time it happened.
- I gave “talks” (mini sermons) in church on a regular basis, and “bore my testimony” (got up and told everyone I knew the church was true) on a regular basis.
- I was a Young Women “Laurel’s” president and YSA president
- I did my visiting teaching.
- I played the organ in sacrament meeting and played the piano in Young Women’s and Relief Society.
- I sang in the choir for about seven years. Choir practice was one hour long every week.
- I went to Young Women’s activities on Wednesday nights, and in college I went to YSA activities on Tuesday nights.
- I volunteered at the Mormon temple.
- I paid 10% of my income to the church in tithing.
- Overall, for decades, I spent a bare minimum of 4 hours per week doing church activities, and when I was a teenager and older it was more like 10 – 15 hours per week.
- I was so convinced of the truthfulness of Mormonism that I gave away copies of the Book of Mormon to a few people, and genuinely felt like I had to convert everyone otherwise they would be spiritually doomed and it would be my fault.
- I religiously avoided anything “anti-Mormon” and I was terrified of “anti-Mormon literature” or “anti-Mormon websites” or even just talking to “anti-Mormons,” because I knew that stuff was basically straight from the mouth of Satan and would crush me like a possum on the freeway.
I chose Christianity because I want to follow Jesus’ teachings, because I have hope that Jesus was telling the truth when He said He was divine, and (I have to admit) partially because it is most familiar to me. I also decided that I believe in the broad themes of the Bible (e.g. love your neighbor), and I do NOT believe in highly narrow interpretations of isolated words or phrases in the Bible.
If you are struggling with your faith, I hope this post has been helpful, and has reassured you that even if everything feels like a total disaster, there are ways to heal. Don't give up hope. Even though you may feel betrayed and angry, don't give up on God, because She/He will find you eventually if you allow it.