March 2009

Well, hello!

Was staring at the little mystery thingy, trying to figure out what the heck it was (if it’s a hydroid, it is a very pretty hydroid!) and a thin spotted thread emerged from a hole next to it and slid across the rock. This startled both Mystery Bob(s) and thelarge tube worm next to it, who quickly retracted.

I stared at the slowly curling tentacle for awhile, which eventually pulled back into the hole, and went to the internet. I had tentatively ID’d it as a micro brittle star living in my rock (good) when I happened to look over at another section of rock, noted some small white tentacles, and watched in mild amazement as a tiny white brittle star pulled itself out of its hole and strolled a few centimeters along the rock.

So I have at least one, possibly more Brittle Bobs in the tank.

Man, live rock is so awesome. Three weeks, and I’m still finding new stuff in there.


Everybody seems happy in the tank at the moment. When I come in and flip on the light, the snails wake up and begin noshing across the rocks, the ball anemones are fully extended, and the mushroom is blue.

He’s not blue all the time. During the day, he spreads out, the better to maximize his photosynthetic surface, shading the zoo corals directly under him, (aka zoanthids) and increasing his surface area by a good 50%. When he’s fully flopped out, he’s no longer blue and more of a deep maroon with a faint blue iridescence. He’s still pretty, but the maroon happens to be the exact color of the purple coralline algae that covers many of the rocks, so if it’s not just a stress coloration (and he’s only been there for two days, so it certainly might be!) at some point I may have to pick up a blue-green mushroom frag as well, to get away from the color uniformity in the tank.

I don’t see much of Crab Bob–he’s fond of hiding in rocks, and the tank is constructed in such a way that he’s got a lot of hiding space. Every now and again I’ll see him clinging to the underside of one of the big rocks. Hopefully he’ll get started on the bubble algae soon–that stuff is comin’ up like gangbusters. I see how it can take over a tank. Unfortunately, it’s sufficiently small that it’s really hard for me to get out–I’m a little too macro, and if you bust open a bubble, you get MORE bubbles (I suspect the latest crop is due to my own clumsiness.) 

On the algae front, the snails are kickin’ butt. The top of the big rocks in the back were a little forest of algae, and while it’s still a little forest, it’s a forest with paths cut through it, bare stretches of rock a snail-width across that are scoured absolutely clean. Given a few weeks, I’m guessin’ the little guys will have mowed through the bloom in fine style.

Tonga Bob, the Super Tonga Nassarius snail, is buried in the sand most of the time, although I can usually catch a glimpse of his little siphon and the side of his shell. It’s true what they say about food, by the way. I dropped in a flake of food just to see what would happen, and five seconds later, he was sliding up the glass like a glop of bread dough. I made Kevin come in and look at him. Kevin allowed as how he was a pretty cool snail.

"And look!" I said. "You can see his anal vent!"

"…I don’t need to see that."

"Sure you do! Look!"

Kevin dutifully inspect the snail’s backside.

"Now don’t you feel more well-rounded?" I said.

He made a maybe-yes-maybe-no wobble with one hand. "Ehhh…"

In other invertebrate news, there is still a Pest Bob somewhere in the tank. I saw him last night, made a note to kill him in the morning, and the little bastard picked up and moved somewhere. I see why people hate them. They’re annoyingly persistent. I’ve killed a bunch of them, but they have a remarkable ability to return from the dead.

I still haven’t identified my one mystery…thingy. I suspect it’s some kind of coral, but I’m not sure. It’s definitely split into two since I’ve had the tank–when I first saw it, it was a single disk with maybe a slight doubling in the middle, and it has slowly seperated into two distinct little stalks with a fringe of green lace, which have moved as far apart from one another as their limited space will allow. A kind of clove coral is my best guess, but it’s at such a bad angle that I can’t really tell. It’s been three weeks and some change, and reproduction in that time qualifies a coral as "fast growing," but it can also retract at astonishing speed, like a tube worm, which is what I originally thought it was . Unable to get a photo, I’ve drawn a little image in hopes somebody on a board can ID the sucker…

I was making oatmeal this morning in the kitchen, and suddenly it struck me. Out of the blue.

"You mean, "Buffalo Gals" is about Buffalo, New York?"

I mean, I had sort of resigned myself that it wasn’t about were-buffalo, like I thought when I was a kid, but I hadn’t really analyzed it past that.

Were-buffalo would have been much cooler, damnit.

Small Amusements

Went in to check on Kevin, who is sleeping the sleep of the heavily medicated, with the beagle snuggled up to his legs.

On the floor by the bedroom door, the border collie is laying down, and Smokey the Siamese has his head pillowed on the collie’s muzzle and one paw on his neck.

The cat is fast asleep. The dog is awake, and when I looked down at him, he gave me a wide-eyed "Crap, what do I do NOW?" look and thumped his tail. But he was careful not to move, so as not to wake the cat, since, y’know, he’s a border collie and such things are Not Done.

I left him pinned.

The stone hasn’t passed yet, but Kevin says the pain is less and lower, so it’s hopefully on its way out.

Well, that was an exciting evening.

I had to take Kevin to the ER–what seemed like an attack of cripplingly painful gas turned into vomiting turned into sufficient pain that Kevin said "You know, I think you need to take me to the hospital now." For the record, driving fifteen miles over the speed limit, in the dark, in the rain, while somebody whimpers in the backseat and you think "Oh sweet Ganesh, let this not be appendicitis," is not an experience I’m lookin’ to repeat any time soon.

Thankfully, nothing with the appendix. Turns out that he has kidney stones. Or at least one kidney stone deciding to make its way down the great river Ureter and into the promised land.

Growing old is a bitch.

On the pain scale, it’s hard to quantify these things, but my mother had one once, and said it was significantly worse than labor, and this is a woman who’s first (me) was badly breach and who’s second involved a broken tailbone and no epidural. According to Kevin in his few lucid moments, it was easily the worst pain of his life, ever, bar none, and oh god jesus motherfucker please let it be over.

The staff was awesome. It was a nearly empty waiting room, but apparently that was because everybody kept coming in through the ambulance doors. They finally got him into a bed, and a nurse who had had NINE kidney stones himself came in, loaded him up with drugs and fluids, and told him about what he could expect. This guy was great, the whole staff was very good, Chatham Hospital, should you ever be in this neck of North Carolina and find yourself curled in fetal position and praying for death.

(I, uh, might have fudged a bit about our relationship on the forms. For the record, we’re still not getting married, no matter what might have been implied to the hospital staff when words like "Authorization to Treat" are requiring signatures. Christ, gay rights aside, I want domestic partnership laws for ME.)

I got him home about five hours later, doped to the gills on morphine–he hasn’t passed it yet, but he says it hurts a lot less than it did. He’s got a prescription for one of the excitingly debilitating painkillers, and hopefully it’ll get worked out soon.

It must be love. I can’t think of anything else that would get me to help hold somebody up while they pee into a jar, and we won’t even get into checking the results for gravel afterwards.

Fortunately he has insurance, so everything will hopefully be okay on that front, it was just a long and miserable night for him.

And I’m very tired.

Crab Bob!

Snails acclimated. Water tests out good. Time for the next member of the Clean-Up Crew–the emerald crab!

Crab Bob is small and green mottled with ochre. In keeping with my Defective Wildlife problem, he appears to be missing a leg. (I think those regrow. If not, hopefully the other invertebrates will not laugh at him.) As there is bubble algae starting to come up from the live rock, he was a required member of the team.

The LFS (local fish store) had also just broken down their big, gorgeous pillar tank, and while I was very good, I was unable to resist a teeny tiny coral frag possessing a single blue mushroom coral, which is the kind of mushroom I wanted to put in. (The other frags were all multiple corals costing $50+, so the wee little single polyp for $10 was too good to pass up.) It also had a pack of zoos on it, which may or may not survive close contact with Mr. Mushroom, but seem happy so far.

Mushrooms supposedly reproduce quickly in the tank, so I may eventually be cursing the beasts, but they’re so damn gorgeous and I love staring at them in tanks, so I have to give it a try. They’re also very hardy, which is good, because…well…I have only the vaguest idea of what I’m doing, after all.

A stomatella snail came in on the coral frag as a hitchhiker, which I only noticed while drip-acclimating the frag. This pleases me, as they’re supposed to be a good little beastie on algae, and I was hoping to get one at some point anyway. Like the mushroom, they may eventually reproduce to the point of annoyance, but we’ll see.

ETA: The zoos have opened up, and man, this was quite a good frag for the money–there’s like forty zoos on this thing. (Otter attributes the price to the Super-D Cleavage Discount.) They’re not terribly showy zoos, being dark reddish brown with dark yellow centers, rather like tiny Gaillardia flowers, but they’re attractive in a subdued sort of way.


I do not have time and the world is not ready for a picture book featuring the epic journey of Squishy the Neurotransmitter

Meet Squishy

I really don’t have time. Really.

Much as I love the sketch of Squishy poised to jump across a gulf, titled "Squishy at the Synapse," I still don’t have time.

Two Things That Made Me Happy Today

Coral Reef Restoration

I heard a segment on NPR about this–according to one of the divers, the sponges are growing back, and in a year, you’ll have to look hard to tell where it was damaged. Since coral reefs are on my mind of late (can’t imagine why…) this made me very happy.

And in a completely random chain of conversations, I got to here: Carnivorous Plants For The Home and Garden

Either I convinced Kevin, or Kevin convinced me, or somehow we came up with the notion that since we’re in North Carolina, home of many of the species, we’d try a little carnivorous plant action in the new garden. The plan is to do a railing box of Venus Fly-traps in the back and a whiskey-barrel planting of pitcher plants in the front. (Much as I’d love to put them in the ground, we’re on clay and they require sand/peat/whatever. But I can at least do a little pot!) *

Since we do have a very boggy drainage area, I’m tempted to start looking for some native plants that do well in constant wet–I’ve already got spicebush, which is supposed to do well there (we’ll see how itdoes before I start planting it en masse) but I wouldn’t mind something else as well. It’s basically soggy shaded leaf-mulch at the moment, and while that’s a challenging environment, surely something would like it!

*Yes, I am quite aware of the plant poaching problem here in NC, and believe me, I would only buy from nurseries that do their own propagating.

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