March 2009

Well, I’m a sucker.

I was reading "The Moon By Whale-Light" which has a section about the incredible service bats provide, not just as insectivores, but as pollinators for a whole host of species* and the immense destruction they suffer because of misinformation and general idiocy, plus a lot of largely inaccurate hyperbole about rabies. (My favorite tidbit was that more people die of food poisoning at church picnics every YEAR than have died of contact with bats in all of human history.)

Eventually, I succumbed, and went and joined Bat Conservation International.

I snark about Kevin’s acquiring of strays, but the fact is, I’m a complete sucker myself, just on a slightly different scale, particularly if it’s related to something I’ve been working on. The Nature Conservancy got me earlier this month when they sent me a request to help preserve sandhill crane habitat, right at the critical moment when I was drawing the cranes in Ninjabreath. I suspect that the coral reef preservation people are going to claim a chunk of my future income, particularly if Dragonbreath 1 earns out its advance (it involves coral reefs, so at that point I’m practically REQUIRED to donate part of the proceeds.) 

Let’s just hope this book doesn’t start telling me about whale-pollinated hardwoods or something, or I’ll be off donating my lunch money** to the flying banded night-whale. (Don’t laugh. When was the last time you SAW a flying banded night-whale? You can’t remember, can you? The species is obviously in decline, and they’ll take our hardwoods with them.)

*If you like fruit, support your local bat. Did you know that the domestic peach derives from a bat-pollinated species in China?

**I’m an artist. We’re not talking big sums here, believe me.

A Tank Named Bob

Ben is recovering nicely! Still not terribly into food,  but he’s now wandering around like a cat with a sore mouth, not like an invalid, and managed to sink his claws into Kevin’s ass during medication time this morning. So that’s good! (Except for Kevin, of course.)

I have been prowling the various reef-tank boards, and discover all the fascinating theme tanks people have, some by location (North Atlantic reef) or color (red) or species (zoo corals only, mantis shrimp, clownfish tank, etc) or just general thematic (Finding Nemo* say…)

In the spirit of such things, and to free myself from the need to come up with clever names for invertebrates, I have decided to name my tank Bob.

Everyone in the tank will be named Bob. In the interests of taxonomic ease, we will follow classic Deep South naming conventions. We now have Worm Bob, Bristle Bob, Tube Bob, Copepod Bob (Pod Bob to their friends) and will eventually have Shrimp Bob, Crab Bob, Fish Bob, and Snail Bob. (Actually, I located a Snail Bob last night, by sneaking into the studio at 2 AM with a flashlight. ID hopefully to follow.) Possibly someday there will be an Urchin Bob or a Star Bob. Clam Bob will likely have to wait until a bigger tank, and Eel Bob is a distant dream unlikely to be realized. Shark Bob is right out.

The Ball Bobs, not to be confused with Bob’s Balls — the so far six ball anemones I have located — may or may not be permanent residents. I know for a fact I’m getting rid of the Pest Bobs as soon as possible.

In the event that I ever acquire a sponge, it will be named Frank.

My buddy Otter–who names her fish much more imaginative names, like "Mister Horrible" and "Floyd"–has started up a blog as she gets her 65-gallon tank going. Go on over and take a look!

Digital Clownfish

*As far as I can tell, this one makes most of the other aquarists cringe. Sort of like getting Dalmation puppies and naming them after the Disney movie, when you see a clownfish named Nemo and a tang named Dory, one is forced to ask "Do you REALLY know what you’re getting into here?")

I have possibly the most tragic Ben ever.

He’s still waking up from the anaesthetic, a process slowed by being heavily drugged with some narcotic painkiller or other. He can barely walk–his back end doesn’t work terribly well at the moment–his pupils are huge, and there’s blood on his chin. His face looks narrower somehow–I don’t know if that’s temporary, or if the loss of the cheek teeth change the way his face is structured. One of his legs is taped up where the IV went in, and every now and again he coughs from swallowing blood. I’ve got him in the studio where he can recuperate for a few hours without being bullied by other cats.

But as they say, you shoulda seen the other guy.

The vet came in, looked at me, and said "Lori owes me BIG TIME." (Lori is the referring vet who sent me to this guy, Dr. Muntz–he’s awesome, works with the rescue group Kevin’s part of, and is very highly recommended.)

"Oh no!" I said. "Was it bad?"

"This was the worse extraction I’ve ever done. His teeth…the roots were deeper than I’ve ever seen…they just kept going…"

"Oh lord…"

Typical. Entirely typical. However, the vet was great–he answered at long last the question of why tooth extraction was going to fix herpes.

Answer: It doesn’t, because Ben almost certainly doesn’t have herpes. What he’s got is stomatitis, which presents very similiar to herpes. But true herpes usually hits the eyes too, and they frequently have nose issues (rhino something or other.) and lysine helps a lot, whereas Ben’s eyes are fine, his breathing’s fine, and lysine never did jack.

That cat has had more diagnoses than a patient on a very special episode of House,* but since both Lori and Dr. Muntz concur on this one, here’s hoping!

What causes stomatitis in cats is apparently not entirely clear, but–for whatever reason–you pull out all their teeth and you get a 90%+ cure rate. (Dr. Muntz said that he hasn’t seen it fail yet.) 

He’s going to be miserable for a few days, but I’m armed with some fairly heavy duty painkillers for the big guy, and hopefully his life will be far better as a result.

*Two part with cliffhanger, during which House develops a severe methadone addiction, sells his best friend into slavery for a fix, and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Brief cameo appearances by Gore Vidal and Axl Rose.

Ben was just starting to wake up when I called, so I get to go get him in an hour. Yay!

I’ll talk with the vet then and get marching orders.

I am somewhat relieved. I’ll be more relieved when I’m sure this has helped!

Just spotted a male goldfish who’s obviously starting to molt for mating season–most of him is still olive drab, but he’s got a little bib of bright gold feathers. Lot of hardship visitors on the feeder today mostly the mixed sparrows, who only seem to come to the feeder when it’s cold or wet out. I’m sure if I had a heated birdbath, I’d get a lot more, but I haven’t quite gotten to that stage yet, and since Ben’s mouth is costing me $600, they may have to wait a little longer…

ETA: Goldfinch! FINCH! Not fish. Blargh…

Well, Ben’s off to the vet for his tooth extractions.

I’m fretting much more than I should. It’s not so much the teeth–he’ll be fine, he’s a tough cat, he’ll gum those pesky ninjas to death if he has to!–it’s just vague neurotic worries that he’ll be the approximately one in a thousand that dies on the table.

Probably I’m just gloomy from an unexpectedly rough morning–car doors were frozen, and I had to scrape ice for the first time since leaving Minnesota. The chief annoyance wasn’t the scraping–I’ve done so much of that in my life that it no longer even registers!–it was that I hadn’t seen it coming, even though I knew we had ice everywhere, and after ten years in the Great White North I really shoulda known better.

On the bright side, there’s a really spectacular purple finch on the feeder–the first purple finch I think I’ve ever had at a feeder, generally it’s all house finches, and you squint at the pictures in the bird book and sort of wonder if they’re house or purple. Then you see one of the purple ones and there’s no question. He looks like his feathers got washed in the same load as a red sweater.

There was also something that looked a great deal like a pine warbler earlier, but I’d like a better look at him.

At 3pm I can call the vet and check up on Ben’s status. Think good thoughts!

Two new things noticed in the tank!

The first is probably another tube worm (and thus GOOD!) It’s a different color than the others, having tricolored fronds–they have pale green tips, a hard white ring about halfway down, and then are blood red at the base. It’s very pretty, for something incredibly tiny. I say "probably" because while the fronds look pretty tube-wormy, there’s no visible tube, (although it could be buried in the rock, or the algae could just have grown over the rock, as it has to some of the other tubes) and they’re sort of bifurcated. It’s also FAST. The other tube worms pull in just barely fast enough to follow with the eye–this one is just poof! Gone. As invertebrates go, it’s quite paranoid.

I have not yet slain the wily Aiptasia pest.

There’s also something in the tank that I’m stumped on–it is red-orange and quite small. I first saw little white balls or nubs, very very tiny, on a patch of rock. They were very regularly sized, a little spaced out, (still covering maybe a quarter of an inch, nothing large) so I noticed them, but they were really small, so I didn’t think much of it (and anyway, the rock is covered in specks of stuff.) Then I came back a little while later, and the little white balls had contracted together, and now had a small red-orange ring around them. A few minutes later, the balls were gone completely, and I realized they were the tentacles, or the tips of tentacles, for what is either a small red-orange polyp of some sort or a very very small anemone. (The two, contracted, look much the same.)

Either one is possible–on the assumption that bad things are more likely than good things, it could be a form of pest anemone called a majano. It doesn’t look much like the photos at the moment, but I didn’t get a good look while it was open. There are also things called ball anemones that it sort of resembles, but at the end of the day, I’m just gonna have to get a better look at it before I can get a positive ID.

And yes. I did just spend two hours looking at photos of corallimorphs on-line when I was supposed to be painting. Ganesh have mercy.

ETA: I have a ball anemone! Looks just like the photo, too. (The thing I was trying to ID may also be a ball anemone–still staring at it–but I found a second one on a different rock that could be a twin of the one in that photo.)

Depending on the site I read up, they are either a charming harmless hitchhiker or a fish-eating monster. Otter’s had them for years and hasn’t had a problem so far. Since it’s not even a centimeter wide, fully extended, and all reports are that they reproduce very slowly, I have no particular fear for my future hypothetical fish at this time.

I am also told that that was some amazing live rock, to have this much stuff on it.

It snowed last night. Despite the weather service warning of COMING ARCTIC APOCALYPSE, and the resulting major run on French toast supplies, toilet paper, and chicken, we only got between one and two inches. Which is sitting over top of mud,like white cream-cheese frosting on undercooked chocolate fudge cake.

…I should really start eating breakfast BEFORE I make these posts.

Since it’s already on the high side of freezing this morning, it’s complete slop out there. Kevin’s working from home, his kids are home for snow days, so there’s no reason for anybody to go anywhere until tomorrow morning, when I drive Ben in for his teeth pulling appointment. Hopefully the roads will be cleared by then, although honestly, it’s looking like the driveway is probably the worst of the driving.

Occasional flakes are still drifting down, but I’m pretty sure they’re being blown off the trees.

A dark soaking wet day. The rain is pouring down. Through the trees, I can see the low area of the woods, which is currently an inland lake. I’m told that in late spring, it’ll be a temporary marsh crawling with frogs. This makes me unbearably happy. Unfortunately, at the moment it’s just…rain. The little birds can’t hang out under the feeder, because it’s a puddle. I refilled the big covered platform feeder, and the cardinals perch there, looking grumpy.

It was pouring last night, too, and we were out at a book signing for my buddy Mur. While walking back to the comic shop, I spotted a nightcrawler on the sidewalk, a really big eight-inch earthworm who was booking down the street. This was a worm with a mission. The people coming down the sidewalk didn’t see him and almost stepped on him. I stopped at the worm. 


It says something about our relationship–or about Kevin’s unshakeable goodwill towards all living beings–that I can utter his name in a plaintive tone and look down, and the man immediately pounces on the wayward worm barehanded (I was gonna flip him onto my credit card, myself…) and places him in a planter that appeared to have sufficient drainage not to drown the little guy. 

I grant you, it’s a worm, but damnit, I remember that scene in Hounds of the Morrigan.

We made it back to the comic shop, and Kevin went to wash his hands. I was mentioning the worm rescue to our buddy Cmar and crew.

Now, Cmar is an infectious disease doctor at Johns Hopkins, and seems to work primarily with STDs. (Or at least, those are the bits he brings up in conversation.) This has skewed his worldview in fascinating ways.

CMAR: He’s washing his hands?
CMAR: Good!
URSULA: Why, can you catch something horrible from worms?
CMAR: Yes. Worm syphilis.
URSULA: …worm…syphilis?
CMAR: Filthy little earth-whores.
URSULA: …you know, it WAS walking the street. Well, crawling.
CMAR: And that’s why you wash your hands. Because when you handle a worm, you handle everyone that worm has ever slept with.
CMAR’s WIFE: (puts head in hands)

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