Thursday, April 25, 2019

In my years as anirline pilot

Despite being entirely different animals (sharing the order, but not a family), people often wonder about the difference between crocodiles and alligators. After all, they appear to be very similar. To the untrained eye, both look like prehistoric swamp lizards, but there are some tricks you can use so you dont make a faux pas the next time youre in Florida.

The quickest way to tell the two reptiles apart is by their smile: In both animals lower jaws, they have along tooth on either side. When crocodiles close their mouths, you can see these long teeth protrude from their faces. Alligators,杭州夜网 on the other hand, slip them into sockets in their upper jaw. As a general rule, the toothier thecrocodillian, the more likely it is a crocodile.

Other things to look for includehead shapeand skin color. Crocodiles tend to have V-shaped faces, while alligators sport shorter, U-shaped snouts. Gators also have darker, greener skin than their tannish brown counterparts.

In terms of geography, crocodiles are much more common, inhabiting a good chunk of the eastern hemisphere and Central America. Alligators are more modest in their population, living mostly in South America and the southern United States, with a tiny pocket in China.

There are23 species ofcrocodilians, so there is a lot of variation to consider. When trying to identify your giant reptile, the tooth rule is key. Like sharks, crocodiles and alligators can regrow their missing teeth, so the pointy indicators are very likely to always be there.

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In my years as an airline pilot, every armed person boarding our aircraft had to be introduced to the cockpit crewat least to the captain. The armed person was brought down the jetway by the gate agent ahead of general boarding. We would look at their ID and find out their seat number.

At a minimum, the senior flight attendant also knew so that if he or she somehow spotted the gun on the individual, they wouldnt freak out.

I mostly flew the Eastern Shuttle between Washington and New York and we carried a lot of famous people who were under Secret Service or State Department protectionso those folks made armed guards common.

Armed guards were also common because we carried billions of dollars in cash. You can imagine that with fresh cash being printed in D.C., and with New York City being the financial capital of the country, a lot of money was moved up there. And with us leaving every hour, on the hour, they knew we could get it to New York City while the ink was still wet. (These days, with so many of our financial transactions being processed electronically, theres probably not nearly as much cash thats being moved between the two cities.)

In addition to being introduced to the armed agent, we were also told how much money was in the hold. It was always at least $50 million. The most common load was $70 million, comprised of 50 standard bags of $1.4 million each. The largest amount of money I ever transported was $98 million in cash, which was spread among 70 bags. (And this was back in the 1980s, when $98 million was a lot of money; its just pocket change these days, right?)

Bottom line: it is illegal for any armed person to board a commercial U.S. airline without the captains knowledge. (In 2014,USA Todayreportedthat not all air marshals love this rule; they understand why they need to make their presence known to the captain, but worry that they could receive special treatment from the cabin crew that could give their position away.)

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In the mid-17th century, a creature of curious proportions wascaughtin Virginia and brought to the Royal Society in London for observation. The furry animal had a pointed snout, sharp teeth, and, most remarkably, a pouch in its belly. Unsure how else to describe it, those who saw it described it a cross between a fox and an ape.

This bizarre animal turned out to be the only marsupial native to the U.S. and Canada. Now, we know them asopossumsderived from theAlgonquianwordaposoum, meaning white dog or white beast. (Despite the vicious-sounding nomenclature, opossums are rarely dangerous. Theyre actually a boon to gardeners because theyeat pestslike beetles and slugs, and also help control tick populations.)

So where dopossumsfit into this narrative? You may occasionally refer to the pink-nosed animal trotting along the road as apossum, which is an acceptable truncated version ofopossum. However, the word without theorefers to something very different outside of North America.

Whilepossumis sometimes a synonym ofopossum, it can also refer to a completely different species that lives in New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, and elsewhere in the Pacific. Though possums and opossums have a lot in commonincluding the fact that theyre nocturnal, omnivorous, tree-dwelling marsupials that are known to play dead, or play possum, when threatenedthey look quite different. Heres what an Australian brushtail possum looks like (while the above photo is the more familiar opossum):

As for the pronunciation, its a common misconception that the firstoinopossumis rriam-WebsterGrammarly, andDictionary.comall note that the word is pronounceduh-possum, with the first vowel voiced. However, if youre opting for the shortened version,possum, then its fine to omit theosound. Unless youre speaking with an Australian, its likely youll be understood either way.

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