The red scourge

November 29, 2006

We've been having major problems with a red algae that's taking over our tank. When we went to seed the refugium, we went to the fish store and came home with Caulerpa, Chaetomorpha, and a little bit of pretty red stuff that we couldn't ID. The Caulerpa and Chaetomorpha grew quickly, and I was regularly having to prune it back, but the growth was nothing in comparison to our mystery red stuff. The red choked out caulerpa and killed it, and was nearly impossible to remove, since it's composed entirely of filaments that each cling to the surface and then fall away and blow all over when it's scraped off. After three months of amazing growth, I ended up spending a weekend completely removing
all algae from the refugium, vacuuming the sand endlessly, and finally replacing some of the scrubbed-off chaeto. Our refugium has stayed mostly clear since.

However, by that point, some of it had spread to our main tank. By early November, we were both feeling desperate. I'd called the fish store and gotten vague and unhelpful advice. We couldn't pull out the rocks and scrub them without losing lots of encrusting life off of them, pulling it off the rocks only seemed to spread it, and water quality, light, and current did not seem to have the slightest effect. We needed something to eat it, that hopefully wouldn't also go after our corals, but we still didn't have a name for it. I was spending lots of time pulling out the new growth, and even so, it was covering the bottom third of all of the rocks in the main tank and still spreading.

Not only did it cover the rocks, but it was taking over our leather and xenias, covering and killing our zoos, and encroaching seriously on the ricordias.

Here's a closeup of some growing on the cord for one of our maxijets -- you can see the filaments. Each of these bulbs are only half to three-quarters of an inch across, and if you squeeze them, the algae compresses down to nothing.

Finally, I turned back to the internet and started googling the description of the algae, since we still didn't have a name for it. I came up with the general family: red turf algae. Many also called it the red scourge. And then I found this article, which described our current straights to a T, and recommended using Mexican Turbo snails.

The snails are amazing -- about two inches in diameter and very heavy. By the time we got them, another two weeks had passed, and the gramma's rock -- the biggest in our tank -- was nearly entirely covered in red. We started with five, which is way under the recommendation of 1 per five gallons of water (we have 55 gallons in our main tank and 40 in our refugium), but they just seemed so enormous. We put them in and they started munching right away, but a week later it's clear that our tank can support more. Here you can see two of them on the gramma's rock -- look for the white shell at the top, and down on the left by the leather.

And, a closeup of the shell, with the threatened orange zoos and creeping red algae in the background.

We also picked up twenty blue leg hermit crabs, which are impossibly tiny. Here's one (in the long black shell) riding one of our existing snails. (You can tell that the snail has been in the tank for a long time by the purple algae encrusting its shell.) The hermit crabs live in shells about a quarter of an inch long. So tiny!

Snow Day!

November 28, 2006

As you can see, we are completely buried in snow:

(poor mint and chives... they look so cold.)

Microsoft sent out emails early saying the campus had been closed for the day and roads were unsafe for travel, so we both stayed home and worked from here -- similar strategy that everyone else used, apparently -- the servers don't handle such high volume well, and so we both keep getting booted off the connection. Definitely feels like a vacation day.

We've been watching cars and people slipping down the big hill on our street all morning, and even though the snow cover on the grass has mostly melted, it's still all crisp and pretty out. The snow on the pine trees has also mostly disappeared, but they were so beautiful earlier in the day. I tried to get pictures, but they weren't very good, so you'll just have to imagine.

Week Twelve

November 27, 2006

This week got off to a bit of a scramble, since I didn't realize that there would be pro games on Thanksgiving. Luckily, it was truly for the best, since Kitna (only 2 pts) was playing the early game, and was well-replaced with last-minute pickup Chad Pennington (14!). The Dallas crowd did well in spite of all of the muttering against TO and for the Eagles in the conference (we were still with Kevin's family for that game) -- Marion Barber had an amazing game. L.J. Smith held his own despite another abysmal outing by the Eagles, and I was pleased that I hadn't played Reggie Brown, as he had another unimpressive week. Sunday night, the fantasy score was 70-78, so as long as Deion Branch and Shawn Alexander (who's finally back!! my #2 in the league draft pick... I'm eager for him to make up for lost time.) didn't double team for -8 points, my winning streak would be extended to three matchups.

Chad Pennington, NYJ 14
RB Marion Barber, Dal 20
RB/WR Shaun Alexander 22
WR Deion Branch, Sea 3
WR Terrell Owens, Dal 17
TE L.J. Smith, Phi 8
D/ST Patriots 15
K Jason Elam, Den 4
RB/WR Laurence Maroney, NE 11
WR Reggie Brown, Phi 6
WR Reggie Williams, Jac 3
WR Keyshawn Johnson, Car 3
TE Jermaine Wiggins, Ari 5
D/ST Seahawks 10
Seneca Wallace, Sea 0
QB Jon Kitna, Det 2

It was a very frustrating game, due to the snow. I got home before traffic, and the plan was to go out somewhere in town to watch the game. (We dropped our cable two months ago! Not paying $75/month for basic service makes me constantly happy. I can't wait until Verizon finishes installing its network in our area and we don't have to deal with horrible Comcast anymore.) It took Kevin more than three hours to get home (a seven mile commute), given the snow and traffic. He had his Sirius radio with him at least, and so could listen to the game. I only ended up hearing the final 6 or so minutes when he finally got home. Bummer.

Despite the lack of visual or auditory status on my end, Alexander was great at 22 (wow!). Deion Branch is clearly suffering from a lack of practice with Hasselbeck (I called it, unfortunately), but I have confidence that he'll get stronger. And the Seahawks defense even rocked.

Notes for management: I dropped Jerricho Cotchery for Chad Pennington -- probably should have ditched Reggie Williams -- he's next to go. Cotchery was so unpredictable, though, that I'm not regretting the choice. Laurence Maroney was way better than last week, but now contends with Shawn Alexander again -- a daunting prospect for him when Barber is playing so well. If nothing else, he'll be a prime draft pick next year.

Two roadtrips, two days.

November 21, 2006

For some reason it's next to impossible to find cheap (or even reasonable) flights from Seattle to Philadelphia, so for the second year in a row we flew into a different city on JetBlue and then drove the rest of the way. Though 95 probably would have been quicker, we brought the atlas and wended our way through New Jersey on state roads. Driving in the northeast is always such an adventure, and being tired didn't help. We laughed and laughed when we saw this sign -- the only reason I got such a clear shot is that we didn't understand quite where we were supposed to turn and had to loop back for a second go at it. (Answer: we didn't want 514 E, we wanted 518 W. Oops. Clearly the navigator - me - wasn't all awake...)

Spirits were definitely high, though, especially with the constant sightings of old east coast favorites... Somehow I missed getting a picture of Wawa (a PA coffee/food/convenience chain that Kevin is devoted to). One intersection had a CVS, Dunkin Donuts and Wawa on three of its four corners, which fueled enthusiastic conversation for the next few miles. :-)

On Monday, we headed down to Maryland with Kevin's mom to see her mother. I was in the back, happily knitting my clapotis, when we ran across this gem:

Jesus recycles people?! I'm not sure if the sunbeams make that statement more credible (or at least relevant), or less so. Huh. Yay, roadtrips.

Week Eleven

Wow, what a great week for football. We headed back to the east coast for Thanksgiving week -- we flew on a redeye into JFK
first thing on Sunday morning, then drove to Kevin's parents just in time for the Eagles game. We were the only people in the room without Eagles jerseys on. (Though, thankfully for family relations, we cheered for the correct team.) The game was horrible (13-31!!), but my fantasy guys were fine (if a disappointing game from Reggie Brown), and everyone else enjoyed that TO had a lousy game -- there's no love lost from those Eagles fans.

Seneca Wallace, Sea 14
RB Marion Barber, Dal 15
RB/WR Laurence Maroney, NE 17
WR Terrell Owens, Dal 7
WR Reggie Brown, Phi 3
TE L.J. Smith, Phi 11
D/ST Patriots 17
K Jason Elam, Den 10
RB Shaun Alexander 0
WR Deion Branch, Sea 18
WR Reggie Williams, Jac 1
WR Keyshawn Johnson, Car 3
WR Jermaine Wiggins, Min 6
WR Correll Buckhalter, Phi 5
D/ST Seahawks 5
QB Jon Kitna, Det 3

My relatively recent pickups (tight end Jermaine Wiggins for week 9 and Buckhalter after week 10) proved not to do much -- good thing that I left both of them on the bench. I was very pleased with myself for playing Seneca Wallace instead of Kitna (who played Arizona this week) -- I'm sad that it's his last week starting. He's been a great player for the run of Hasselbeck's injury. Maroney is back to being great for points after quite a few off weeks, and Marion Barber had another good game. Jason Elam was very strong, and earned kudos, and then the Patriots D were awesome. 35-0? Not bad.

The final piece of news is that Deion Branch had another awesome week. Such a pity that Seneca is due for a return to the bench, since that relationship is clearly great for fantasy numbers. And it might be time to trade away Reggie Williams...

A reprieve from the rain!

November 18, 2006

After setting a new record for November rainfall in the first two weeks of the month, we finally got a view of the Olympics. They are so pretty with their snowy tops!

Between the Olympics and the Cascades, the drive to work on Friday was amazing, and runs for last minute pre-trip errands today were equally spectacular.

While I was up at the top of the street to take pictures, I came across this guy:

It always seems a bit incongruous to see him at the end of the driveway of a 1.? million dollar house, but I've never seen him in his rain couture before. :-) Very stylish. It keeps making me laugh.

Twist front tank status

November 17, 2006

I've had a bunch of old projects that seem to just sort of be lingering, and now that I have a bunch of new things on the horizon, I've set myself to the task of finishing the older ones first. First up is the twist front top. I'm an expert in the lace pattern (finally lace that I can knit while reading!! Sweet!), but seriously mangled the decreases for the twist over the bust.

The top part got narrow way too fast, and everything looked messy. So, despite the fact that it had literally taken me weeks, I ripped out the entire section on the bias and started from scratch.

I'm still not sure how much it gained me. My gauge is dead on, but the measurements in the pattern do not match the ones I'm getting, and I'm pretty sure that there's an error in the pattern for the size I'm knitting. Very frustrating. I tried to do the math out on my own, but the combination of the row gauge over the diagonal perplexed me. When it wasn't looking right a third of the way in *again*, I started decreasing according to my own pattern (always on the bias line, instead of 3 out of every 4 rows, and one out of four on the edge instead of every right side, plus a few random ones thrown in for correction). The end result is definitely "good enough", though there is a bit of a pucker. Generally, I would say that it's completely blockable, but this yarn is cheap cheap, and thus about 85% acrylic. This project may end up being ill-fated... I'll have to see when I sew it up.

I was hoping to finish the front before leaving for vacation, but didn't quite make it. Now that I'm looking at it, though, I think I may also add side panels. Again, my gauge is dead on (as far as I can tell, though gauge vs. lace confuses me a bit), but the tank is quite narrow. I think it would fit better and I'd be happier wearing it if it wasn't so tight. It wouldn't take too long to knit up a cable panel for each side... and then, maybe it could be a coverup top for the beach on the honeymoon? :-) Wishful thinking, but maybe.

More pretty leaves

November 15, 2006

More amazing tree photos...

My camera withheld the downpour for this photo. I think this is a japanese maple... how pretty!

The leaves drowning in the puddle next to the walk were particularly neat. Our area has been getting so much rain, and there are flood warnings everywhere. It's sort of neat that in spite of all that, the gorgeous fall leaves pop against the evergreen background.

And, even better:

But, so sad, after lasting through all of the rain, a little bit of wind blew so many of the leaves to the ground...

By the next morning, they were all down... so sad to lose that splash of vibrant color amidst all of the grey.

Clownfish Through The Fog

We had been having major problems with a slow, creeping brown slime across our sand, when we turned to Fenner and realized we had an oxygenation issue. I assumed that given the surface area of water in our tank, the skimmer, and the refugium, it wasn't even something to worry about. However, the description ("smelly, brown bubbles rising to the surface") was too exact, and I'm convinced that's the problem.

In addition to using a venturi filter in our refugium (just the maxijet and venturi, no skimmer), I've been using a turkey baster to churn up the detritus in our water. After ten minutes or so, it looks like the picture below. Here are clowns in the mist:

It gets better every day, as the clouds of waste get churned up and caught in the skimmers, but I always feel like the fish hate me. In the sea, storms roll through and roil the sediment, and in our tank, it disapates after an hour or so. By the next day, the water is so clear it feels worth it, but I always have a pang of guilt seeing the immediate result.

Week Ten

November 14, 2006

This was a slow week for points for me, but luckily I was playing Bernard, who flouted conventional fantasy wisdom by choosing a team composed entirely of players for the Oakland Raiders (ouch). So, the mere 50 points I scored more than did the job against his 28. Game on!

Seneca Wallace, Sea 8
RB Marion Barber, Dal 12
RB/WR Laurence Maroney, NE 3
WR Terrell Owens, Dal 17
WR Reggie Williams, Jac 1
TE L.J. Smith, Phi 0
D/ST Patriots 4
K Jason Elam, Den 5
RB Shaun Alexander 0
WR Deion Branch, Sea 1
WR Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ 13
WR Reggie Brown, Phi 1
WR Keyshawn Johnson, Car 7
D/ST Seahawks 8
QB Jon Kitna, Det 7

Seneca Wallace was fun to watch again, but the points didn't add up. My Dallas guys did their jobs with aplomb, despite the quarterback hoopla. I wish Maroney got points for his run backs after the kicks, but since he doesn't, three points was generous. And L.J. Smith's goose egg was very disappointing. Luckily though (thanks, Bernard! thanks, Raiders!) none of this really matters too much. With a one-game winning streak under my belt, on to next week!

Yellow zoos

November 12, 2006

More tank pictures. These are the yellow zoos:

Each of the heads is probably about a quarter inch or less across. The fringe looks greenish in this photo, but is really brilliantly and richly yellow in person.

And, from a different angle, so that you can see what a dense mat they form, here's the 3" long zoo-encrusted rock:

The tang!

November 07, 2006

You ask, and I try very, very hard to comply, but the tang is one speedy little fish. I took 53 pictures, and the bulk of them looked like this:

or this:

Clearly, he's in a blurry mood today. When he was new, he was inordinately skittish about daily events like putting in food or cleaning the tank (it makes you wish you could sit him down and explain that it's all in his best interest). I assumed that he would settle down, but half a year later, he's as hysterical and scandalized by the sight of me as ever.

That said, he's a very smart and curious fish, and after 20 minutes of zipping about and hyperventilating, he stopped panicking and started shooting coy looks at the camera. He's very skinny, and so head-on and tail-on shots visually don't make sense (and with eyes on the side of his head, there are a lot of tail-on shots as he looks at the camera while zipping away). But then he stopped in what I think of as his "alert pose" -- dead still in the water (even with current), looking at something "alarming", and his fins fully extended in a vertical oval:

He may look like he's looking away, but I assure you that those eyes are on the vicious photographer. A minute and a few tank-wide zooms later, I got a more relaxed "alert" pose, though still with eyes firmly on the camera. The horizontal light streak down his side is a typical adult marking. This becomes more pronounced at night (when the yellow body color fades to a white/yellow) or when he's frightened (he can "lose" his colour then as well). You can also see the bright white "tang" at his tail, which extends away from the body and can be used to spike other fish in defense/pique. He's quick and wary, and our tank is hardly threatening, but I have seen him use it a few times on the clowns in what seems to be startled irritation. The gramma is too leery of him to get close enough for it to be an issue between them.

Finally, after 45 minutes or so, I got a more natural pose. The tang uses his tail, and upper and lower fins to steer and for speed. This is a mid-speed turn to his left. As is typical, you can see the gramma heading the opposite direction -- there's really no love lost between the two of them.

And, I know the color isn't true in this one (he really is that bright, full, sunny yellow), but this was such an unusual shot in that he isn't squared to the camera. You can see the shape of his body, his side fins, and the tiger-striped eyes that are very accurate identifiers of where he's looking.

Week Nine

November 06, 2006

Oh, Monday Night Football was a heartbreaker. I went into the game losing 35-68. I had Seneca Wallace and the Seahawks D left to play, and Martin had Darrell Jackson (the very hit-or-miss Seattle WR).

Seneca Wallace, Sea 12
RB Marion Barber, Dal 6
RB/WR Laurence Maroney, NE 6
WR Terrell Owens, Dal 13
WR Reggie Williams, Jac 2
TE Jermaine Wiggins, Min1
D/ST Seahawks 19
K Jason Elam, Den 7
RB Shaun Alexander 0
WR Deion Branch, Sea 12
WR Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ (BYE)0
WR Keyshawn Johnson, Car (BYE)0
WR Reggie Brown, Phi (BYE)0
TE L.J. Smith, Phi (BYE)0
D/ST Patriots (BYE)6
QB Jon Kitna, Det 15

Jackson came out of the matchup with only 3 points (a season low), and Wallace and the defense were awesome and amazing, respectively, but I still fell six points short. Argh. I should have played Deion Branch instead of Marion Barber, but I didn't because Deion keeps being middling and Barber keeps doing so well whenever I don't play him. I should trade him so that I stop being tempted. (Though, to be fair, I suppose I should threaten to dump Reggie Williams, since he was three times more dismal. For some reason -- perhaps Williams's one 21-point game? -- Barber gets my ire.) And not to harp, but Seattle had two calls that should have been interceptions run to touchdowns, that were instead whistled dead, and so I was completely robbed. Either would have been the difference between a 3-6 team and a 4-5 one. Argh!

That said, I'm delighted that I picked up Seneca Wallace off of waivers (he's spunky and has a great arm, and ran 3 plays for 45 yards! And he throws for touchdowns! It's fun to cheer for the home team, too.), and Laurence Maroney continues to delight me. It's such a pity that kick returns don't count for running yards, or he'd be completely amazing. T.O. needs to do less talking and more catching, though for my sister's boyfriend's sake, it's hard to mind that Washington won. And my plucked-off-the-line tight end didn't do much at all. I can't wait till next week when everyone isn't out on their bye week. :-)

P.S. It's still raining...


November 05, 2006

The Seattle area has been experiencing one "storm system" after another blowing in from just north of Hawaii since Tuesday night or so. According to the weathermen, it should last through the weekend, and then abate. True to form, storm systems in Seattle (even constant waves of them) aren't really that exciting.

It just gets even greyer than usual, and then it rains. I've been waiting for it to stop for a few minutes all week so that I can take the recycling out.
Kevin's been gone all weekend for a trip back to Boston (where it's clear and pretty but cold) to see fraternity friends, and so I've been hanging out, drinking tea, and watching the rain. It finally got below freezing this week, and so we decided to turn our heat is on, so it's been comfy if housebound. One great thing is that there's a beautiful collection of trees visible from my computer table that are all turned. They're so bright compared to the weather -- it's gorgeous.

After taking this photo, though, I realized that it was dark enough at 1:30 pm for the neighbor's front porch light sensor to have turned on. Bummer. I miss sunny summer weekends.

Fish Politics

November 03, 2006

I haven't put up any tank pictures in a long time, so here's one of the gramma and clowns for Friday. :-)

Sorry about the flash. The gramma used to be the dominant guy in the tank, with the two clowns mostly trying to stay out of his way. When we added the tang, the balance shifted, since the tang and clowns tended to school together, and the gramma has a healthy respect for the tang's tangs. (The tang has a retractable white spike on either side of its tail which it uses, effectively, for defense. These spikes are called tangs. The gramma is smart to be wary.)

Recently, though, the tang has become a bit more independent, generally leaving the clowns as a pair. Without the big yellow defender, they've regained some of their gramma-skittishness, even though they've both grown larger than the gramma in the intervening months. Must be his crotchety attitude.


November 02, 2006

I'm low on time or news today, so here's a Xenia update:

The pink xenia (sold to us under the name of Pom-Pom xenia) recently decided to go questing for the light. It leaned against the rock above it, attached, and then started stretching upward. You can see it and its original footprint here:

I'm guessing that it has a month or so until the foot detaches and moves up to join the new base.

Our original xenia is still spreading, and still acting contained and tiny.

We had two failing offspring that we moved to the refugium, in the theory that the lower light would make them happier. One of them disappeared two weeks ago -- very odd, it wasn't miniscule -- but the other is a complete free-spirited pulsing creature, and it's already split off to make a twin. It really looks like the light is the difference, since all other parameters should be comparable.

Week Eight

November 01, 2006

Bummer about all the snake-eyes scoring this week, especially with a final score of 60-71. So many points for the taking! Reggie Brown did a nice job balancing out the 28 points last week, and Reggie Williams was disappointing at best.

Seneca Wallace, Sea 17
RB Leon Washington, NYJ 3
RB/WR Reggie Williams, Jac 1
WR Terrell Owens, Dal 13
WR Reggie Brown, Phi 1
TE L.J. Smith, Phi 1
D/ST Patriots 16
K Jason Elam, Den 8
RB Shaun Alexander 0
RB Marion Barber, Dal 16
RB Laurence Maroney, NE (BYE)0
WR Deion Branch, Sea 20
WR Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ 4
WR Keyshawn Johnson, Car 1
D/ST Seahawks 3
QB Jon Kitna, Det (BYE)0

I *love* Seneca Wallace, especially since most of his issues are on the receiver side. I snatched him off of the waiver list, and I'm delighted about it. Go Seahawks! Now he just needs a better connection with Deion Branch, and I'll be raking in the late-season points. :-P I should have played Barber, but at least I chose correctly between the Seattle and New England D.