Knitting by the pool

Both Kevin and Mom ended up taking nearly identical photos, so I had to post one. The days ended up going by very quickly, especially since the first three were Christmas and two days of dress shopping. On day four, I found the spot on the deck that got direct sunlight in the morning, and knitted while waiting for the clouds to pass. Not much of a tan, but pretty and warm.

Comet did a good job keeping me company and warding off the geckos.

It took a while to get this project going on the right footing (no pun intended). Want a closer look?

It’s the New England pattern from Nancy Bush’s Knitting on the Road. Yes, a sock. When I finished my first pair a year ago, it didn’t look likely that I’d ever decide to knit another. But, I bought the book, and then the red sock yarn, and the prettiness of both has been wearing me down. I have slight reservations about my gauge, and I’ve had a few mental lapses with skipping the work-even row in the lace that have forced me to rip almost as much as I’ve knit, but in spite of that, I’m enthusiastic.

Here’s to friends!

Our friend Larry (former Seattle-ite and now missed by the fish) was back home for the holidays, and pushed back his flight, so we got to see him down in Florida!! Another MIT friend, Jon, came too, so with my brother and sister along we had quite the group for a night out at the (aptly) Boston-themed pub down the street.

And a shot of the three guys — Happy Birthday, Larry!

Post-storm photo roundup

This is mostly a pictures post… just to show the storm pre- and aftermath.

I tend to take tank photos a few times a week. I was so happy to realize that I took some on Thursday right before the power outage, even if they didn’t come out so well.

One of the most shocking transformations was the death of all of the horrible red algae. It covered the lower third of the tank, prestorm. Here you can see the gramma’s rock (not the best picture, but it does have the tang in it):

Whereas afterwards, there are only a few clumps on the ricordia rock and the gramma’s rock left. When we turned the lights back on, it had mostly changed from a maroon color to screaming orange. Then over the next day or so, it all turned from orange to clear and disappeared. Good riddance — lets hope it stays gone.

The tank actually looks shockingly similar, pre- (below) and post- (above) storm. The major difference at a distance is that the xenias are gone, as are the gramma, tang and shrimp. You can see the pom pom xenia on the far left of the tank — it looks like a large pink ball. The other (original) xenias are the blurry fuzz all along the ridge line.

The rest of the corals did pretty well. Here you can see our yellow plate coral (a montipora) with attendant hermit crab, and the pink branching montipora. Both look great. In the back to the left, you can see the top of the leather. One of our jets died and he looked miserable without the extra flow, so I raised him up in the tank closer to the light and with good current, and he perked up.

And then the same corals, but taken from the front of the tank. You can also see a part of our pink plate corals, as well as a limb of the monti that I accidentally snapped off a few months ago, that’s still happily growing in its new spot on the lower rock. Also, some of our orange zoos:

Our torch coral (and embedded barnacles) made it through without too many problems, which was a relief. It definitely didn’t like the cold, and pulled in all of it’s waving arms completely, but once the heat and lights came on, it was one of the first corals to look normal. They’re supposed to be particularly able to take down a tank if they die, so I was glad that this guy was more-or-less unphased by the ordeal.

The bottom third, or so, of the acro bleached. Very sad because it’s really taken off in the last month or so. I’m hopeful that once it gets over the shock, it will grow back. The brown parts are the “mouths” which feed off of organisms in the water, and it’s also very dependent on light, current, and good water quality.

Since the power outage, there’s been a dark algae growing on the dying parts of the acro. The teeny hermit crabs (who seemed to survive! Yay!) are so obsessed with it. There tend to be one or two in the acro branches at all times, munching away. In the picture to the right, you can see one, in its white shell, trucking towards the bounty. The zoanthids that it climbed up are deeply (and momentarily) unhappy. Instead of the open faces with fringe, they close up into pale purple tubes until the annoyance has passed.
And finally the ricordia rock. When the lights first came back on, both ricordias were stringy and losing their grip on the rock. They came back to 90% very quickly, but still aren’t quite as puffy as they were before the storm. We’ve been playing with flow, since I suspect that more would help them, and waiting and seeing. The sunflower and orange zoos on the rock were just fine. This is one of the two places in the tank that still has red algae. Not pretty. And you can see the top of Clack, hanging out in his cave behind this rock.

A long, sad post about the tank and the windstorm

You know when you kind of stall on communicating because there’s bad news, and saying it in writing seems permanent? That’s been the case for me for the blog since the storm. We lost power for forty hours, and the fishtank didn’t do very well. The three biggest issues were heat, current, and light. Over eight hours on Thursday night, the water temp plunged from 79 to 72 degrees. We cranked the (gas) heat, and even though the electric blower on the fireplace didn’t work, the room that the fish were in stayed hot and we were able to slow the temperature drop. However, that big a swing that quickly is extremely shocking to all of our tropical life. The current is important primarily for keeping the water oxygenated, but also for getting waste to the filters and food to the corals. Fish like the tang (and the gramma to a lesser extent) also require high current. And finally, the lights provide food to the corals, balance to the creatures used to their daily “sun”, and the fish won’t eat if they aren’t on.

We lost power just after 10 pm on Thursday. We had candles at the ready, and Kevin quickly found his REI headlamp, and when the temp started to drop and the lights still weren’t on, we wrapped the tank in window insulating plastic (left over from Kevin’s apartment in Boston) and blankets, and cranked the thermostat. (which is aparently battery-powered. smart.)

We brought the futon mattress downstairs so that we could be there to monitor the pumps and siphons when the power started back up, since we have almost 100 gallons of water that needed to start flowing again — daunting. The hope that power would be restored overnight turned out to be wildly optimistic. Kevin made it to work on Friday, and called to say not to bother attempting the drive, since all of the power was out on the Eastside. He came back home, and we spent the day cut off — the cell phone towers were down, so even our charged phones didn’t do any good. The tang and shrimp died within the first day. It was incredibly hard to watch and not be able to do anything. We tried to pump a bit of air in with a turkey baster, but to no avail.

We went into Seattle for a while on Friday night to wish our friend Andi a happy 25th birthday, and to use her shower and internet connection (thank you, Andi!! for the company and the civilization!). Driving home across the 520 bridge and just seeing pitch black in front of us was incredibly depressing. Early Saturday morning, Kevin woke up with an idea stolen from beer brewing. If you pour water back and forth between buckets several times, it becomes hyper-oxygenated. The disadvantage though is that it also cools the water significantly due to the evaporation. So we started heating buckets and pouring water, and hoping that we were buying ourselves some time. An hour or so later, my mom called and a tower picked it up for long enough for the voicemail to get through — they’d been looking for solutions for us, and found that you can hook something called an inverter up to a car battery (or even better, a deep cycle battery) and it will provide several hours of energy. She called around until she found one in Puyallup that the wonderful Sears guy held for us, and we drove down to pick it up. We got it home, and were so happy to be able to power most of the lights, most of the pumps, the heaters and the skimmer. We’d been running it for about two hours when the power came back on. Great timing: we didn’t have to recharge it. Here’s the wrapped tank with inverter power:

And a picture of the poor clowns swimming together after the inverter power was turned on… It really was amazing to watch the two of them together. They are generally pretty independant now, and then check in with each other every five to ten minutes. When the power went out, they stuck side by side, swam together in unison, and the one would butt the other if they stopped swimming for too long.

Everything looked horrible for the first day or so. Click and Clack were both alive (but Clack was in pretty bad shape), we couldn’t find the gramma, the tang and shrimp were gone but I still kept forgetting and looking for them, and our corals looked so unhappy. We ended up finding the gramma the next day — he didn’t make it. The xenias all had to be taken out, except for the one in our sump that’s looking pretty happy. They were shriveled and grey, and xenias smell horrible when they’re stressed or dying.

Kevin and I were both very sad to lose the pom pom xenia, which has been growing like mad recently. The leather and torch coral had both retreated and wouldn’t come out — the torch coral took a day to bounce back and the leather finally started looking a lot better yesterday after I moved it closer to the light and into stronger current. Click and Clack finally started eating again on Monday afternoon, and are acting more like themselves by the day. Our two plate montiporas and one branching montipora are looking a lot better, but still not 100%. The acro about half died (another coral that had been growing like mad recently), but we’ve seen a few mouths out on the part that wasn’t bleached, so that’s hopeful. The zoos seem completely unphased — they’re adding a lot of color. The mushrooms looked pathetic, but are now about 90% back. The ricordia is still seeming up in the air — I’ve been keeping an eye on it. And, the one good thing to come out of all of this, the power outage killed about 80% of our red scourge algae.

So, it all could be worse, but it’s been a rough and nerve-wracking week. On one hand, I know that they’re “just” fish, and many people have had much worse things happen, but the livelihood of the tank is so important to me.

Fishtank lessons for future power failures:
1. Use blankets and plastic early
2. Have a battery-operated airstone on hand
3. Use water changes to improve oxygenization of the water, by pouring the over-heated water from bucket to bucket before putting it in the tank
4. Have the deep cycle battery and inverter on hand for backup power.

The lights are all flickering

Everyone’s leaving work in droves to get home before the impending Wind Storm of Aught-Six. Traffic has been a disaster all afternoon, so even though I want to go home to watch the Seahawks game, it’s probably better to let everyone clear out a bit first. They’re threatening to close the 520 bridge, power might go out to the traffic lights on the offramps to the highways, and everyone gets sort of freaked about driving here when there’s remarkable whether, so better to stay here for the moment. 🙂

Given that I don’t have much else to post, a quick blogroll of interesting things for anyone who’s also waiting out the traffic:

Laura posted great photos of the weather. Dismal, dark and rainy, captured beautifully.

NotMartha posted such a neat link for constructing amazing things out of large cardboard crates. Since I have happy memories of inhabiting assorted boxes, including a house that my dad made circa the kindergarten years, and a substantial portion of second grade spent sitting in a moving box (with siblings nearby sitting in their respective boxes), decorating away with markers, I think these new high tech rivets are cool. 😛

If you’re going to be waiting for a while, this site is remarkably hypnotic. A collection of every puppy forward you’ve ever received, plus youtube links.

And, finally, a picture of the clowns. Any time Kevin or I approach the front of the tank (such as to clean it, or take pictures of it), the clowns zoom straight to the surface in case any food should manage to be dropped in. They’re very enthusiastic.

In the foreground, you can see one of the T fittings that’s an output for the PVC sump return that we made. It was all purple and covered with coralline algae after only six months — awesome. We have four other returns, and combined with a stronger pump and a bigger overflow box, they’ve added much better circulation to our system. Fingers crossed that the power stays on, and that the jets, pumps and heaters all keep working through the night!!

Our green mushrooms and the zoos

I haven’t posted about the green mushroom in ages. We bought him in October of last year, just as a single, floating mushroom. After several inept attempts to attach him to the rock (I’m not so coordinated with superglue in the best of circumstances, let alone under water), he finally latched on, and quickly started budding off new baby mushrooms. Once there was a colony of four or five (mid-spring), he detached from the rock and let himself be blown away! I was caught between exasperation and amusement. We lost track of him, then found him trapped under a frag of rock, which he attached to, left two more teeny green mushrooms on, and then again detached and blew away. Sensing a pattern, we waited to see where he would wind up next, and now have our answer:

Our green zoos, which I’ve always loved, are doing well and happily spreading. I’m delighted that they don’t seem to be losing their teal, orange and yellow centers (which don’t do well with the flash — the teal covers the full area from the orange to the fringe when seen in person) as they spread. Do you see the mushroom that’s embedded itself at the top of the frame?

Here’s a better shot, with Click and the Shrimp for even more visual interest.

(As always, click for bigger.) Yesterday, I noticed that there’s actually an even bigger green mushroom on the underside of the zoos, and thus not visible unless you’re almost under the tank. Such tank drama! I wonder if they’ve finally found a home or if we have mere days until they blow away?

Week Fourteen

What a mess of a day. I was playing Josh, and all of his players except the kicker played the first game on Sunday. When he came in with only 59 points, and the kicker left to play, I was delighted. At the last minute, I’d made some last minute pickups. Since neither Pennington (vs Buffalo) or Kitna (vs Minnesota) was slated to have a great game, I dropped Seneca Wallace (reluctantly) and picked up Jeff Garcia, the backup quarterback for the Eagles. While I was at it, I replaced Jason Elam (hurt) with the Green Bay Kicker, Dave Rayner. Garcia came through, and threw a touchdown pass to my tight end while keeping passes to Donte Stallworth (on Josh’s team) to a low ebb. Luckily, the Eagles barely managed to hang on till the end. Nicely done! The Patriots completely bombed, so that tempered the excitement a bit, but given that I still had half of my team to play, coming out of the first game with only 23 points didn’t concern me too much. But then the second game was also split. My new kicker was amazing, but Sean Alexander’s 22 carries only amounted to 76 yards. With a fumble and no touchdowns, that added up to a depressing 5 points from my “star” running back. Going into the late game, then, I needed TO and Marion Barber to outscore the New Orleans kicker by 18 points in order to win. Not such a tall order, given that they regularly score in the teens. But then New Orleans beat Dallas, 42-17 (that’s 6 extra kick points for John Carney), Romo only threw three passes in the first half, and Marion Barber touched the ball twice all game for a gain of negative one yards. Hmm. Final fantasy score, 52-65, thus dashing my hopes of fantasy championship greatness.

Jeff Garcia, Phi 14
RB Marion Barber, Dal 0
RB/WR Shaun Alexander 5
WR Terrell Owens, Dal 11
WR Reche Caldwell, NE 1
TE L.J. Smith, Phi 7
D/ST Patriots 1
K Dave Rayner, GB 13
RB Laurence Maroney, NE 0
WR Deion Branch, Sea 5
WR Reggie Brown, Phi 7
WR Keyshawn Johnson, Car 5
D/ST Seahawks 1
K Jason Elam, Den 8
Chad Pennington, NYJ 3
QB Jon Kitna, Det 4

The only plus side is that everyone, except for my new QB and kicker, played horribly, so I don’t have to feel like I outmanaged myself — just a crummy day for football.

Next week, I have a bye to mull my losses, and then a final post-championship game the week after that. Watch everyone turn in 20 point games this week. 🙂