Long tank post

September 27, 2005

(note: because this got lengthy, a lot of the pictures are tiny. As usual, clicking on them brings up a bigger version.)

Last weekend was a very exciting one for the fish tank. First we went to the PSAS frag swap, which turned out to be really fun. The host had amazing corals all fragged out, and told us (to our surprise and skepticism) that our 4.8 watts/gallon of light was sufficient for some of his SPS corals. He was growing several under comparable light, and then said that the others that he had under his halides were actually bleached because the light was too bright.

So now, we have 6 new corals. Three went straight into the tank because they needed to be superglued onto rocks. The flat two (orange and yellow) are Montipora Capricornis, which are now only about 3/4"x1-1/2", but which ultimately will grow into layers of plates or spiraled cones. These guys are supposed to be pretty neutral and benign corals, which is good after all of the stinging and chemical-producing ones we have in there now (torch coral, polyps, and zoos, all of which can kill each other and make humans sick if provoked or placed too near to each other).

The blue one is a bit of a mystery to me right now. I think it's an acropora (staghorn?), and the color is amazing -- a pretty baby blue. My camera's flash picks up more of the turquoise. The brown bits are little mouths, and again more visible with the flash than in real life. Paul (the guy selling them) also showed us corals that looked like brown sticks with slight blue at the tips in another tank. Apparently the blue disappears under the bright metal halides. Nice for us! This will grow up branching like this one.

I love the new colors. Our tank until now was all orange and purple, so the blue and yellow both introduce an entirely new palette. It's amazing.

Our other three are in the quarantine tank. The first is a silver pom-pom xenia. I think we fell for this one because the color (a silver-lavender) was so pretty and it looked like such a cute pulsing ball when compared to our current xenia. However, a week later and it's already growing like a weed (see the picture on the right). You'd think we would have learned our lesson the first time. :-)

The second is a leather. When it's unhappy, all of its tentacles shrink in and it really does look like a wrinkled, leathery mass. But, when it's happy, it sends all of them out to sway in the current. They're translucent and it looks amazing.

The third is what I've tentatively identified as Montipora Digitata. When happy, it becomes covered with velvety mouths, when not, the mouths retract and leave a smooth brown surface. This one will also be superglued to a rock, but is in quarantine now because it also came with a colony of aiptasia (a nasty stinging brown anemone -- small but quick-spreading). I cut off the base of the rock that the aiptasia was hosting on, and it's been in the quarantine tank since. After looking unhappy for a few days, it's coming back and we're seeing some new growth.

After buying all of the corals, we had to head to the fish store for food, bulb replacements, etc. While we were there (for an hour and a half... We do enjoy our trips over. :-)), we finally found a yellow tang!! He's just a baby (still has the paler yellow vertical stripes even), but has quite the personality and seems at home in the quarantine tank.

We had to take down the black backing on the tank because he kept trying to fight with his reflection. It took a solid half hour to figure out what was going on when Kevin and I got home from work -- our first guess was stray electricity in the tank from a pump or heater due to the jerky way he was swimming. Now that the backing and enemy tang are gone, though, he's all happy again. We've been feeding him Nori (seaweed, available in the supermarket for cheap!), which he likes, and he also goes racing after the Cyclop-eeze that we give the leather, which he *loves*. I've been trying to get a picture, but without much luck, as you can see above. He's very fast, so I need the flash or he just comes out as a blur, but the flash scares him. I'll wait a week and see if he's gotten braver. :-)

More progress

September 26, 2005

It's blocking!

The shoulder caps turned out to be a pretty interesting operation, and my pattern adjustments only resemble the book diagram slightly. However, they seem to work for my adjusted sleeves and body, so no complaints. The sleeves are either going to be a "cool" bit too long, or a good two inches... Seaming will tell, but until then, I'm in denial. :-) I don't want to rip them out now that they're blocked and lovely. Once this dries and is all seamed, I have to pick up along the back of the collar and along the pockets for seed stitch borders. I tried already on the pockets and was having a hard time figuring out an appropriate number of stitches to pick up -- I kept taking too many.


September 22, 2005

I know I've been posting way too much about the zoos recently, but this will be the last one for a while. I moved the green zoos into the main tank, and they look awesome under the actinics. It picks up the bright (fluorescent, really) yellow, and looks just lovely.

But then, the lights switch into twilight mode (actinics only), and they are mesmerizing. The have six concentric rings of colour: a light yellow center, an orange smudge, deep teal, periwinkle/violet, dark brown, then fluorescent yellow. My camera doesn't pick it up without the flash, but I'll keep trying and in the meantime you can squint at this one:

Presents for me

September 21, 2005

Most of my Birthday gift money this year seems to be going to yarn. It's so fun. :-) I found some Cascade 220 superwash on sale for 25% off, and so it will become the purple cabled sweater from the Fall 2005 Vogue Knitting.

Yet again, I'm not a fan of the cropped look (or the makeup, for that matter :-P), so I'm going to see about extending the length a bit. A lot of what I liked about the sweater was the color, and so to find a superwash version on sale is exciting. :-)

The packaging was brilliant. Apparently LittleKnits had a few days delay in shipping it so they bumped it up to priority (always cool and appreciated), and then it came with a nice letter and FREE little bobbles of pretty yarn samples. What a smart way of distinguishing yourself.

More tank news

September 20, 2005

After cutting the orange zoos to separate the spreading ones from the original rock, Kevin and I realized that the idea of letting them spread in patches around the tank has a lot of merit. I love our two new little colonies that frame the gramma's cave. Such brilliance.

(You can also see the yellow polyps -- three and counting -- in the foreground. I moved them into the main tank last week. The first few days were kind of rocky because crabs kept knocking them over, but they're in a more stable position now and looking happy.)

So now here's a truly mediocre daylit photo of the new Zoo Exchange Program. We'll hopefully get a few more colonies of the orange guys and then we can sell or preferably trade the original rock.

Such fun!

Getting closer

September 19, 2005

Major sweater progress. They actually finally look like sleeves, instead of, as Kevin so kindly noted, like stumps.

I have about another two or three inches until I start the cap and I'm still on the first ball of yarn for each sleeve. (Isn't Cascade Sierra great?) I'm anticipating that working with the pattern once I get to the shoulder decreases will be another battle. The pattern calls for Rowan Denim, which was designed to shrink, but Sierra shouldn't and trying to compensate for that has been difficult. I can't find any notes on the anticipated shrinkage percentage for the Denim -- some sites say 5%, some say 20%, which is too big a discrepancy to be helpful. I'm going to try to wing some sweater math, so if anyone has good references for calculating the decreases and wanted to send them my way, I'd be grateful. :-)

I can tell my brain is ready to be finished with this. I keep waking up from dreams where I'm sewing up the sides. :-)

Some MIT Engineering

September 18, 2005

There's been a lot of action on the fish front. Kevin has been wrestling all of the pvc from the swirling mess at left to the amazing customized loveliness at right.

That's meant that we're getting closer to moving everyone over to our new set up. We should be able to turn on the circulation at the end of the week, once the silicone dries completely. We're both very concerned about the sand that we have in there now -- it's very swirly. We chose the finest grain, aware that some flying-about came with the territory, but the ensuing blizzard has exceeded expectations. Hopefully (though neither of us are holding our breath) it will be wild for a day or two with the extra current, but then settle for good. However, after over a month of attempted-settling, it still turns into a day-long sandstorm any time we add water or move the pumps. Neither of us would be comfortable putting any of our guys (except perhaps the ever-breeding snails) in there now -- it's too murky. It would be like breathing wet cement.

And, done.

September 17, 2005

I'm finally finished with Branching Out! The last few ends somehow took a week to weave in.

As much as I liked the original pattern by Susan Lawrence, posted in the spring Knitty, I was afraid it would be too narrow. So, after much trial and error, I finally figured out how to chart lace. The key for me was realizing how not only the increases and decreases between rows had to add up, but they had to do so in pattern -- this took a lot of graph paper and pencil crayons. Clearly not rocket science, but it took my brain a little while to get all of its ducks in a row on this problem. The chart for just the even rows and excluding the edging (see the original pattern for details and the rest of the pattern information) looks like this:

I included color for the three vertical bars (one at each side, one in the middle), and for the diagonal lines separating the leaves, as this made the chart much easier for me to read. If you'd rather one without the extra green, try here. (Mad cool, free knitting font from Aire River Design)

I know that a lot of people had trouble memorizing the pattern. I found that taking pencil crayons and making the printed-out image look like this helped a lot:

I'm sure the more lace-adept will find this quaint. :-)

I used exactly two balls of Madil's All Seasons, color #202, on size 3 needles and once I had the pattern set it took three months to finish. The finished, blocked dimensions were 6" x 60". I loved this yarn dearly (which is good, because I wildly overestimated and have three balls left over), and I found the pattern satisfying if occasionally slow-moving. Having every other row off from the counting was nice -- I don't know if this is a typical feature of lace, not having done much before, but it always felt like a bonus round to get to purl wihtout interuption. Yay for finishing projects!

Something Fun

September 16, 2005

We have strawberries! This poor plant has been on the window sill in our bedroom for months (I say poor because I whacked it with the window when closing it and permanently bent one of the stalks. I still feel guilty about it.) It flowered in the middle of August, and now we have three berries. They've been growing for the last two weeks and the bigger two are finally starting to blush.

They're a nice, cheerful antidote to the other element visible in the picture -- that gloomy grey sky. We've definitely hit fall this week. The temperature is 50's -60's, and the view from bed each morning looks like this:

It clears up by mid-afternoon, but between the morning gloom and an interior office at work, I'm feeling sun-starved.

Butcher of Kirkland

September 14, 2005

As promised, I went after more of the xenia. Afterwards, with the peeved main branch and the three unhappy cuttings, I felt like the Butcher of Kirkland. The trunk furthest right is the one that was cut, and you can see it didn't overly appreciate it:

The first of these cuttings died by the next morning (it had squirmed most of its hands under the rock that I put in for it to graft to), but I'd put each of the three in their own red cups to heal in a more protected setting, and so it was easy to scoop out and the others didn't seem affected by it. The second bound to the cup instead of the rock, and so it needed to be coaxed to step up (less difficult than I expected).

They look so pathetic. And yet now, a week later, we have two more new happy baby xenias and the original trunk is healing well.

Additionally cool, I've finally found an aquarium society! The website is a bit out of date, but there's a pretty active discussion board, including information about a frag swap on Saturday! Kevin and I are both psyched, if slightly empty-handed. We'll bring the three little xenias (xenii?) to see if we can find them homes. We were thinking of bringing the orange zoos, and cutting them away from the mat that's been growing on either side of their current setting. However, we both spilled at the same moment today (after separating them from the rock) that we *like* those zoos and don't want to trade them away. So we're back to just the xenias. :-)

Yarn holder

September 08, 2005

After buying my new yarn, and prodded by plenty of recent stash-organization discussion in my knitting group, I finally bought a replacement for the Gap bag that's been faithfully serving as a stash-holder since college.

I'm a big fan of this. I think my yarn is so pretty, and so it's fun to see it every day. There's also space for the extra fabric from quilting at the top, which makes me happy as I have rather a bit hanging around... :-)

Bomber update

September 06, 2005

Motivated by finishing the first sock and Branching Out, I cast on for the sleeves for Bomber at knitting on Wednesday. I finished the first cuff at Eastside Stitchers, the second on the bus into Seattle on Thursday, and the rest in the car on the way down to Rainier for car-camping over the long weekend.

For less than a week's worth of knitting, I'm happy. Also, I love the way that the Cascade Sierra is knitting up in stockinette. I don't think that the ribs for the body were an ideal showcase for this yarn, but here the stitches are coming out so evenly and I can tell that this will have a great drape. It's so satisfying to see it coming out this way.

While we're on the topic of the fish tank

September 05, 2005

I haven't posted a picture of the mushrooms recently, and like everything else in our tank, they've been on a serious growth kick recently. We're up to nine separate mushrooms, though there could easily be more hidden under the bigger ones.

I managed to get one photo taken before the ever-inquisitive clowns came over to see what the flashes were about. I gave up when the gramma showed up to stare down the camera. :-)

Hopefully despite the intrusions you can still see their texture and luminosity -- so neat.

The baby xenia

September 04, 2005

Remember, way back in the day, when we brought home our little baby xenia, compared it to an ent, and were enchanted by the pulsing? Well, it's grown a bit since. (The picture from the side shows the three big branches, the furthest left of which was too heavy for its own weight and collapsed against the back of the tank, where it has since attached and continued growing.)

Grown, in fact, to the point that hands at a time will get sucked up into the filter tube, and we have to go in and rescue them. It's not very smart, despite being large. So, in an attempt to keep it from doing itself further harm, and cheered by the success of the yellow polyps, I took an exacto to the poor thing and cut off the most damaged part. After three days of looking truly miserable in the quarantine tank, we now have an energetic, pulsing mini-xenia sending up new hands like mad, waiting for a bit more healing to the damaged hands and then to head back to the fish store for resale. Or, if there are salt-water aquarists from the Seattle area who are interested in a silver-tipped xenia cutting (now or in the future) leave a comment and we'll figure out a time to trade/sell. (We'd love zoos, ricordia, pretty mushrooms, or other interesting corals that don't require halides.)

I'm eyeing the massive sprawl of xenia that's left -- it's on borrowed time, especially where both the main body and the cutting responded so well.

Everyone loves the yarn store

September 03, 2005

I've been new-project-obsessive for the last week or two, mostly after seeing the surprisingly excellent Fall 2005 Vogue Knitting). Riding on the theory that the only way to get a song out of your head is to listen to it, and in an attempt to cut down on my yarn browsing online, I took the bus over to Weaving Works. I ended up with a bag full of Lamb's Pride Bulky (#M-77 Blue Magic) for the green cabled sweater in the Color Theory section. I had a difficult time choosing a color, but this one kept looking so pretty all the way home so I'm happy with it. (Though it looks completely different in each new light, and generally much more purple/periwinkle than this photo.) The yarn definitely sheds (prolifically), but I've used Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece before and really liked it, and the price was right, so I'm giving it a shot. Any ideas for cutting down on the shedding once it's done?

As for the sweater, I can't start until I've weeded down a few more projects, but it's definitely good incentive to knit faster. I don't like the cropped look, so I'm going to do a second panel of the cables at the bottom of the body to match the bottom of the sleeves. I'm also a bit concerned that it will be *way* too wide, but I'll have to sit down with a calculator and a gauge swatch before I decide whether to change it.

I also picked up a dark red sock yarn:

Clever me, I didn't realize until I got home that I'd picked up the skein that they used to knit the store sample... I think I'll have to go back and exchange it. Even with that nuisance, I love the yarn. The color is so vibrant and cozy, and the texture is very soft. Looks like the current (blasted) sock won't be the last one. I wish I enjoyed knitting socks more, because sock yarn is so pretty.


September 01, 2005

I haven't posted about our zoos in ages. They're thriving.

Clockwise from the top-left:
The original zoos are still spreading, and the two colonies have nearly merged. I'd love to be able to get a frag of these, but I don't know how to get them to grow on another rock from the vertical face. Unsolved problem for now.

The orange zoos (right next to the gramma's cave, so he came out to see what I was up to when he saw the first flash) have grown a lot. They've spread from the original rock onto the supporting rocks on both sides, so we may end up with three colonies if we cut the connections when we move to the new tank.

Our green zoos are still in the quarantine tank, and looking healthy. They've lost a lot of the green that we saw in the store, but I'm holding out hope that the brilliant lime will return once we get them under the lights in the main tank.

The sunflower zoos are also spreading like crazy. They choked out all but one of the yellow polyps almost a month ago, and rather than lose the last one, I cut it off with an exacto blade and put it in the quarantine tank in a tupperware to try to get it to attach to a new rock. The poor thing curled up tightly and looked miserable for the first few days, but finally attached to a rock fragment. I've been feeding it every third night or so since, and it's looking very healthy now. I took it out of the tupperware two weeks ago, since it seems firmly enough attached to handle the current. It's budded off two more heads (you can see the three in the photograph below. Sorry it's so blurry -- the fine fringe makes it very hard for my camera to focus.) and the plan is to keep in in the quarantine tank until we can get a larger colony.