Saturday, October 16, 2010

Impatiently Waiting for One Piece.... leads to monologuing about Corydoras Paleatus

Soooo, here I am waiting for the masses that just slammed my beloved "One Piece" site to slowly slide back into the seething ocean of Kaizoku fans. I would be in there helping to slow the site down too if I were currently allowing myself to watch the most current episodes of "One Piece", but I am not. Promises were established with myself, that I would not watch current episodes until I managed to get myself accepted into a college. A college I really really want to go to. As of yet, there has been no luck, which is partially my own fault. Ok... mostly my fault. The first application got lost somewhere between here and the college, and it was such a pain in the butt to get all the paperwork together the first time that I haven't done it a second time. :P

Which means no new episodes of OP for me! However, this does not exclude episodes that have watched before... which means I was happily watching OP all the way through for a 7th time, when the new episode was posted and the site got slammed. I can't blame them. There is some really heavy stuff happening with Luffy, and I know this because I stumbled across some damned moron's post conversation in which he gave no warning about spoilers. *grrrrrr* Thus, I have some knowledge of what is taking place. *sighs* I wish I could highlight and delete portions of my memory. Mom can do that. It's impressive.

Instead of sitting on the site and waiting for eons to pass before my page comes up, I have begun staring at my fish again. Specifically, I'm staring at my newer 6 gallon tank that I got several weeks ago. It now houses 5 Black Phantom Tetras, 1 Serpae Tetra, 1 (insane) Red Phantom Tetra, 1 Sunset Wagtail Platy, and 2 Pepper Corys (aka the Pepper Twins, aka The Peppers). There is also of course Little Blue, who is housed in the (cursed) 3 gallon tank, and is still recovering his fins. Which is going well by the way. They're getting longer instead of shorter, but I had to remove most of his fake plant life, as it was plastic and could do further damage. Little Blue is not at ALL pleased with me. Every time he sees me he swims quickly to the front of the tank where he gives me the fishy eyeball of disapproval, which is infinitely worse than the proverbial 'hairy eyeball'.

I know what you aquarists out there are saying. "YOU HAVE 10 FISH IN A 6 GALLON TANK!?" pauses for breath,"ARE YOU NUTS! THEY'RE STARVING FOR OXYGEN!!"

Before you turn blue shouting at your computer screen, please note that they're in a Marineland Eclipse system with biowheel. They have a Whisper air pump in there, and I change out the water (25% to 30%) at least twice a week. More often if I think the water looks even slightly weird. Actually the water looks pretty weird anyway. The pH balance was off the charts, and only had luck at leveling it off by putting driftwood in, so the water is the color of weak tea. BUT the point is, I am compensating for the space crunch until I am able to afford a separate tank for the Tetras. My Sunset Wag is getting the 6 gallon to himself and three ladies of the same species. The Peppers will also be staying because I'm scared to death to move them, or do anything to screw with the tank. I can keep anything else alive except Pepper Corys. Awful, awful luck with Peppers. I'm terrified of getting other species of Corys because I'm afraid I'm going to kill them.

The Peppers are wonderful to watch! Very active, and they keep my tank clean. So, when I started losing them, I tried doing some research on how to get them to stop dropping dead. Apparently I'm an anomaly. Everyone else has theirs for YEARS. Mine are lucky if they last a week. Because everyone has Corys that last for years, apparently keeping them alive hasn't been an issue... which means when you search for them on the net to find out how to keep them alive you get,"Very hardy fish. No extra care necessary." and "Are fine in any tank." and "Great for first time fish keepers." .... yeah... No one took me into account.

SO, here is my little information area for those of you who are having trouble keeping Peppered Corys alive. First off, the scientific name (not that this is necessary for keeping a fish alive) is "Corydoras paleatus". They are extremely peaceful in a community tank, but that doesn't mean other species in the tank will keep that in mind. As some of you will recall, I had a demon possessed Sunset Wagtail Platy that tore up every other fish in the tank. He tore a hunk out of my poor little Pepper, ate most of the tail off Little Blue, and ripped all of the head scales off his fellow Sunset Wag, who is now currently alone because I took the evil one back to the pet store. Where I have been assured that the Gourami have shown him the error of his ways. A lesson to me and everyone. Platys can be vicious, (actually, given the right circumstances any fish can be vicious... although I have a hard time believing that of a Cory) and are NOT always a perfect community tank fish. Most of the sites I visited said,"Platys and Corys make good tank mates!" Keep in mind that what they DON'T say is that if you are going to get Platys, make sure you've got a male for every 3 females. NOT two males and NO females. It makes demon possession possible. You have been warned.

Now, back to the subject at hand. Peppered Corys. ... where was I... Ah yes. No really good information sites. At least not one that I saw. In my case, I wanted to know why I'd find the Peppers playing dead at the top of the tank. They DID look dead, hanging sideways like that, and the others would just be ill by the time I got home. Finally I just started stringing bits and pieces of information together and formed a rough hypothesis. Please understand here, I am a NOVICE at keeping fish and may give incorrect information. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS double check ANY source of information. Even if the person is said to be an expert! The people at the pet shop in the Aquarium department DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING! Do your own research!

1.) Almost every site when presented with the floating problem, or tilting problem, immediately said,"Swim Bladder problem!" Uh, your Cory does not HAVE A FREAKING SWIM BLADDER. You may have observed your Cory swim lightening fast to the top, and then back down leaving a bubble in their wake?? Yes? I call the little bubble, the "down bubble." What is actually taking place is the Cory is getting a gulp of air, swallowing it, and running it rapidly through its intestinal tract. Air is captured in the Cory's stomach and perhaps pockets in the intestines that allows it to stay upright, rise, fall, and swim with efficiency. What air it doesn't need is passed out the anal vent as it swims back down. Thus, the 'down bubble'.

2.) If your Cory is spending a lot of time at the top of the tank there could be two reasons. At least two reasons that I've confirmed with mine. These reasons do not include injury or illness due to disease.
**The first being that your tank may not have enough oxygenated water for the Cory to breath comfortably. He's up there hanging/resting in water that has a higher oxygen content. This happens especially with an overloaded tank (like mine. 10 freshwater fish in a 6 gallon tank is not big enough. And don't go pointing at the pet shop aquariums which are loaded with fish. They sell fish every day. They never have a constant number in those tanks. The good pet shops also do daily water changes on those, and work hard to maintain a good balance of beneficial bacteria to combat ammonia loving nastiness.) and can be alleviated in part (until you get another larger tank) with an air pump. Since I got the air pump, and run it for several hours before bedtime, I have not had the 'dead hanging Cory' syndrome.
**The Second reason has to do with diet. Corys eat everything and anything. That means they like a variety in diet, so if you're just letting your Cory eat Tetra flakes, you can expect a constipated Cory. Yes, even fish can get constipated. If a Cory is constipated, he can't pass air effectively through his intestinal tract, which will cause him to be unable to maintain stability. Ie, if you see your Cory floating on the surface, floating in general, tilting to one side, racing up to get a gulp of air and then sputter out on his way back down with NO 'down bubble', then you've got a Cory with intestinal distress. Solution? Cook some peas, shell a pea, smash both sides of what you find inside, and deposit pea in the tank. If your Cory had been constipated for too long, he will have no desire to eat... and then you're sort of out of luck. The best course of action is preventative feeding. Feed a cooked, shelled and smashed pea a least once a week. Make sure your Cory has access to sinking Algae tabs, and feed live food every once in a while if possible. Bloodworms will work fine frozen. Tetra flakes are fine too... just as long as it's not the only thing they're eating.

3.) Sometimes the Cory you get is just sick to begin with, and there is nothing you can do to fix it. Many of the pet shops order from places that breed these little guys in the thousands, and they're poorly bred. Think puppy mills. Lots of fish with genetic issues being bred back to other fish with genetic issues. This makes for a much more fragile Cory than expected. Currently I have two Corys that managed to survive. One is always active, always on the food hunt and hasn't mysteriously died yet. So pessimistic am I. Pepper 2, is not as active, was constipated when I got him, and although he has improved, I will not be surprised if I find him doing the 'hanging dead Cory' and it being a case of fact, rather than resting. All the Corys that have died have had a dark coloration rather than light, and I have to wonder if that is proverbial signal flare that, in my area at least, it is probably not genetically healthy. I am not saying that is a blanket truth, because I'm sure it's not. Corys in your area may be just find with any coloration given.

4.) Now.. this last part is pure speculation on my part. I have brought home 5 Peppered Corys since I started my first (cursed) 3 Gallon aquarium back in June. The first was just fine for 13 days, and for totally unknown reasons died. This may have been due to an ammonia spike, because at the time, I was an ignorant moron where fish keeping was concerned, BECAUSE I HADN'T DONE ENOUGH RESEARCH. Later, when I got the 6 gallon tank, and cycled it, I got 1 Black Phantom Tetra, 1 Serpae Tetra, and 2 Peppered Corys. All fish concerned were just fine at the pet shop, AND in the car outside the pet shop. However, by the time I got home, one of the Peppers was nowhere near as active as his buddy. Four days later I took him back, still alive but unwell, and got 4 Black Phantom Tetras and 2 more Peppered Corys. Both Corys were active at the store, and in the car outside the store... but when we got home, one was barely moving and died later that week. The other was the one that is doing better, but it wouldn't surprise me if he kicked off. Now... The only thing I can think of that is different between the Tetras and the Corys is that Tetras have an air bladder and the Cory does not. Why is this significant? Because I live at 3,000+ feet, and the pet store is slightly below 1,000 ft in elevation. Keep in mind that I'm speculating wildly here. I think part of my problem is that the Corys have a much more difficult time dealing with a rapid change in elevation, while the Tetras can adjust more readily with an air bladder. Same with the Platys. The Peppers act sick because they take longer to acclimate to an elevation change that they'd never encounter in normal conditions. Even the active Cory was sick for about 4 days before snapping out of it. The other... well we'll see if he gets better or not.

Any Cory is get going to be something of a clown. The one I have that isn't doing as well as he could be, likes to stick himself in the weirdest places, and I'll turn on the aquarium light and panic because he looks like he's smashed underneath the driftwood, when in fact he's fine. They don't seem to have the same spacial reality that most fish have, which means they will swim upside down sometimes, especially when they go to get a swallow of air. But this should be very brief, and should not last for more than a few seconds. Keeping Corys healthy and happy is actually a lot more work than some would have you believe. But then I'm willing to bet that not a lot of people have the same circumstances I do. Anywho, hope this helps someone somewhere.

Now... I'm going to go see if my One Piece site is back to working. Perhaps it crashed. I rarely see that site get so sluggish. I guess I will also work on getting another application together for the college I was after. Then... I'll have to figure out how to pay for it. :P

... what a pain.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grover and Ernie

Today was a stay home day. No real place to go, at least not a trip that had to happen today. So, while sitting on my duff all day, I watched Torchwood and trawled the Internet for off the wall news reports. Not fake news or anything, just the weird and usual stuff, which is how I came across the spoof Sesame Street did of the Old Spice commercial. I laughed like mad. I haven't watched Sesame Street in years, because it went from being engaging to stupid. They redeemed themselves a bit with this skit. Grover was always one of my favorites, and the sad thing is no one remembers him. In the event that you don't remember or never knew, Grover was the skinny blue monster with the big pink nose who had a low sometimes squeaky voice. His doom was in introducing his nephew to everyone. I'm sure you all know him. His name is Elmo. Everyone loves Elmo. To me he's a bright red eyesore with an atrocious voice that firmly planted Grover's headstone. Talented little bugger.

Here is the video I was laughing at. It helps if you watch the original before watching this, but this is still wildly funny. At least to me. I'm sure many of you will be sitting there staring, wondering why or how I could think it funny.

After watching it a few times, I started thinking about Jim Henson. My family was still camped out in a motor home in the driveway of our earthquake damaged house when they aired the news of Henson's death. I cried on and off all day. Although I'd never met him, I'd grown up listening to his voice on Sesame Street as multiple characters, and on the Muppet show. Sort of felt like I'd lost a family member. In addition, he'd always been someone I would've liked to have met. Well out of reach now. His legacy lives on in Sesame Street for the most part and then there were the movies that he made. The Muppet movies of course, but he was a genius when he made Labyrinth, and the Dark Crystal. Absolute mastery of expressions and direction, in muppets which for the most part have no facial musculature. I'm impressed and always will be.

I think much of what he did was overlooked. Things like hiring Jeff Moss as a song writer for Sesame Street and other things. Jeff Moss wrote what is perhaps my favorite muppet song ever, with Jim Henson singing as Ernie. I remember hearing it when it first ran in an episode in the 80s and then sitting religiously in front of the TV for months after that watching Sesame Street armed with my trusty Fisher Price tape recorder in hopes of capturing the song so I could listen to it whenever I wanted. I did eventually get it, and I probably still have the tape somewhere carefully packed away. Perhaps not.

Here's the song. If I listen to it too much, I end up crying.

I've heard updated versions of this sung in concert with famous artists, but Jim Henson got it right the very first time, and for me his will always be the best.

Pitfalls of House-sitting...

One thing I absolutely hate doing is house sitting. This particular activity is when one watches over a house, generally full of animals that need care, while the owner(s) have gone on vacation, medical leave, or whatever happens to crop up at any given time. To those I have watched their house for, please note that I bear no grudges, and will watch your houses again if asked. But it makes me damned nervous. Actually I should rephrase that and say that I will be extremely picky about whose house I'll house sit. Some of you will get a yes, and some of you will get a no. The people who will get the 'no' already know who they are. If you don't know my answer, then you're probably safe in your ability to secure me for a weekend... maybe. >:)

The 'why' of how I came to hate house sitting began with a neighbor's excursion, the details of which I no longer recall, in which the entire family clambered onto their motor home and disappeared for a month. OK, so it was 3 weeks, but it seemed like an eternity. They had, at that time, a small menagerie of animals, ranging from chickens to goats. The livestock care was fine, even with the one small panic attack I had when I couldn't find their banty hen, regardless of the fact that the hen was in a very tight enclosure. I still have no idea where the hell she was sleeping at night, but no amount of searching in the dark with a flashlight revealed her sleeping spot. Every morning, she'd show up for food INSIDE THE ENCLOSURE. If someone can explain Houdini Hen, I'd pay a small fee to know her secret. I do mean small. Maybe $5.00. Aside from that, I had no issues with the barnyard.

In the house was a different matter, where I took care of a parakeet, a rat, two cats and the family dog. The dog was a malamute. Beautiful, huge, grey beast who missed his family. A LOT. This dog would pester me every night until I let him out, and then he'd sit in the corner of his run and howl. And.. it wasn't just once a night. It was ALL night. For two weeks I got no sleep. None. I was basically the walking dead. Week three, I begged someone to watch the house and critters for me, so my run of sleep deprivation did end. Thankfully the dog didn't go off his food or anything, but he was a wreck and so was I. I promised myself I would never watch a house again. Especially if animals were involved that missed their owner that much. Honestly I was a little annoyed. They could've taken him with them. The RV was enormous. But that's all in the past and I do try not to dwell on it.

Since then I have found myself watching relatives homes which were inhabited by the dreaded pets. I wasn't so worried about the youthful cat, but was terrified that the elderly dog was going to expire while my relatives were vacationing. Apparently my stars were in the right alignment because the dog is still alive today. The cat and dog both were actually a lot of fun once I calmed down and stopped watching them like a vulture eyes weakening prey. They both seemed to like music a lot, which I played while cooking dinners for the dog. You may think that's spoiling a dog, but the dog is still going strong, and I think she's coming up on 17 years of age. Something is obviously working for her.

In all of these cases I could tell you what went wrong. The miserable dog from my first explanation is fairly obvious. From the second, the cat broke something in the house one night, and we still haven't figured out what it was, but I definitely heard something shatter with great enthusiasm. She also knocked over a lamp, and did several other things that were way out of character for her. Yes, my subtle influence can probably be blamed. Generally though when I do something like this, I expect the worst, so am not too surprised when things like this happen.

Which brings me to my most recent escapade in the wide wide world of house sitting.

Somehow, I got talked into watching a friend's house. I guess she wore me down. Either that or the blatant bribery that was flung upon the table worked. I'm chalking it up to exhaustion personally, but whatever the reason, I found myself in a house with 3 cats. One is Orange, one is a Calico, and the last ... forgive me, but the last is a Fraidy Cat. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Fraidy is terrified of anyone she doesn't know. I couldn't rightly blame her given that I used to hide under tables myself when I was little, and people I didn't know showed up.

The other two are a different story. Mr Orange is quite affectionate and loves being held, petted, hugged, brushed, using you as a pillow, using you as a heating pad... using you to soak up the drool he excretes while you pet him. Basically I think you get the picture. In fact the first night I was there, he was so happy with me that he zipped out the cat door (which I was supposed to have locked the minute I walked in the door, so they could come in, but not out) and was gone for about 20 minutes. Then he was back, and he jumped up on me where I was reading a book, and dumped a small snake onto my lap. He looked quite pleased with himself while I scrambled to catch the small reptile before it disappeared into the depths of the couch, or worse the house. Once I finally caught it, ... it pooped on me, while I attempted to take it outside to let it go.

Perfect. I was off to a roaring start.

Day two wasn't nearly so eventful. In fact it passed by without too much trouble at all. Cats came in. Mr Orange came over for a snuggle, and Ms Calico took up position next to my chair so she could easily whap me with her paw;

"Hey." *whap* *whap* *whap*

"Yes, you. Get up and get me more food." *whap* *whap* *whap*

This was generally accompanied by mrrrowwwing. She's a .... portly kitty and I didn't think she should have more than what she ate that morning. Her owners have said that she does need to drop a bit of weight. So, this would go on for about half an hour before Ms Calico would walk off in a huff and pout in the living room. Mr Orange would eventually wear out my scratching hand and he'd go take up position on the back of the couch. Miss Fraidy wouldn't come in until late. She'd come in, give me a nervous look (You know the look. The one that you get when you say the word Vet in their vicinity and they've already figured out what that means.) and then scurry over to the food bowl. Wolf down a bunch of food, then throw me another furtive glance before hastily rushing across the dining room, down the hall and through the cat door into the garage.

I felt guilty, and I still have no idea why.

... perhaps I was getting a touch clairvoyant.

Day three arrived and I made the mistake of thinking that, "Maybe this House-sitting thing wasn't so bad." and let my guard down. Don't worry. Nothing awful happened... although that may depend on your point of view.

When I woke up, it was raining. Nothing heavy, but enough to get everything good and soaked without being a gully washer. Given the rain I decided that watering would probably be a moot point, but I did get up, to let the cats out. That day I was supposed to be going over to a friend's house to help her make dog beds for a donation to a shelter, so after getting dressed I grabbed my backpack and headed for the stairs. Keep in mind I was somewhat flanked by a feline contingent as I headed for the stairs; Mr Orange following and Ms Calico who decided to go into a different room and lay down. Thus, I reached the top of the stairs and started down.

From my vantage point at the top of the stairs I spotted Miss Fraidy sprawled on the stairs, so I started to pause not wanting to spook her. Which is when my partially braced left knee was taken out by a flying tackle from behind.

Why Mr Orange, I had no idea you played offense for an NFL team. Thank you for sacking the quarterback.

My knee gave way. I inadvertently send my backpack flying into the air as I whirled to catch myself from rolling down the stairs and crushing Miss Fraidy to death. My actions were in vain, as I watched from the corner of my eye, as my backpack sailed into the air and landed on Miss Fraidy. My backpack and Miss Fraidy crashed 4 or 5 steps to the bottom, at which point Miss Fraidy leapt with an indignant howl to her three feet and flew through cat flap and disappeared into the backyard.

The only thing I could think of as I watched her go was that she'd broken her leg, since she'd sped out the cat flap using only three legs. So, out the backdoor I went to see if I could find her, which was a long shot considering how high up I was on her list of favorite people. I was out there for a quite a while in the misty rain, which basically had me soaked through. Finally I started looking through the bushes along the back fence hoping that maybe she was hiding under one. She wasn't.

However, a flock of tiny birds had taken shelter in the bush I was searching. There were probably less than 10 birds in there, but when they're flying at your face and shrieking like a reenactment of Hitchcock's "The Birds" it looks like about a million feathered demons. Thankfully, it was quick. They were gone in a matter of seconds. It was still raining. I had failed to the find the injured cat...

... and now, not only was I soaked, but my head was covered in bird shit.

Slowly I slogged back into the house, and up the stairs to the bathroom where I hoped I would remove my new encrustation, and possibly warm up. Somewhere I found a plastic bag, in which I deposited my newly cristined, soggy clothing. Grabbing a towel I reached into the shower and turned it on. From behind the shower curtain erupts the object of my desperate search, and now she's just as wet as I am... and heading downstairs at speed. On ALL four legs. This actually presented something of a problem, as, if she decided to go through the flap into the garage, she'd get into the litter box and I had no idea if the litter was clumping litter.

Have you ever seen what happens to a wet cat that gets into clumping litter? They turn into a seudo sand sculpture, and its fairly difficult to rectify the problem. Solution?

Make sure soggy kitty never reaches the litter.

I chased the cat around the house for a while, before finally cornering her in the downstairs bathroom, where I trapped her by closing the door. My towel ended up drying a cat. Never fear, I did get my shower... and I removed all the bird crap. Somewhere in there I got a phone call from my friend to find out where I was. Quite honestly I had forgotten about the dog bed thing entirely during my romp upstairs and downstairs and all around the town. Before anything else could happen I left, and wasn't back until evening.

When I came in, I had two kitties in the house. Mr Orange and Ms Calico. Miss Fraidy was nowhere to be seen, and quite frankly I would have run too if I'd been on the receiving end of all that. So, I fed the cats, and waited until Miss Fraidy came in before locking the door completely for the night. No one in, and no one out. She ate, while throwing glances at me to make sure I wasn't sneaking up on her, then scurried into the garage. I did not see or hear her come back in, because I was watching a show on my computer. A very engrossing show.

I sneezed.

Miss Fraidy who had apparently been on the other side of the table where I couldn't see her, panicked and made for the outdoor cat flap at speed. The LOCKED cat flap. There was a loud *thwack!* sound and she bounced back about a foot into the kitchen, where she sat weaving slightly as the world realigned with her own reality. Having learned that this cat does better if totally ignored, I tried very hard not to snicker, and never looked directly at her. After a few moments she got up, drank some water and wandered away.

Thankfully, for certain creatures involved, the next day meant the end of my tour of duty.

And this is why I hate house sitting.