Friday, September 24, 2010

Twenty Gallons of Belly Up

This post on Daddy Scratches brought back vivid memories of our first fish tank.

After spending a few petless months in our newlywed apartment, I complained to The Oracle that I wanted a pet. He worked days and I worked 3-11, and I wanted some sort of company during the day while he wasn't home. I'd grown up with all sorts of pets, and being without was lonely. The problem was our lease wouldn't permit anything with fur or feathers.

With the intention of coming home with a Dorothy-in-a-bowl setup, we exited the aquarium store an hour or so later with a couple hundred bucks' worth of stuff including a twenty-gallon tank, filters, stone, plastic plants, aerators and I forget what else.

So we set all the stuff up and waited a couple days as instructed before returning to the store for the thing I really wanted - the fish.

The same clerk who sold us the stuff led us to the freshwater fish. After lots of looking and indecision, I decided on a pair of blue dwarf gouramis, two little orange fish with spiky black tails, and a pair of something that looked like goldfish but weren't. I don't remember what they were except one was a red and black and the other was pink.

Anyway, we brought our little fishies home and put them in the tank. In less than two days, the gouramis went belly up. I called the fish store and complained. That same clerk THEN informed me that gouramis are somewhat sensitive and need a well-established tank in which to surive. Ours was only two days old and didn't have enough of the bacteria and whatnot in the water. I was furious! That jerk of a clerk had no problem selling us everything under the sun two days before; the least he could have done was tell us what wouldn't survive in a new tank.

Shortly after the gouramis died, the red and white fish started fighting. I'm not kidding. They were chasing each other around the tank and attacking one another. Mostly the red one was attacking the pink. It was frenzied and hyper, and not at all what you'd want in a fish tank. (And no, I don't believe it was some sort of romantic ritual, because it NEVER stopped.) I felt sorry for the pink fish, and finally swapped them at Petco for a few fancy-tailed guppies.

The guppies did something I didn't expect. They multiplied. I came home from work one day to a bunch of teeny-tiny fish swimming about the tank, trying desperately to avoid being devoured by the bigger fish. Off to Petco I go, and I buy a cutesy little netted box to isolate the baby fish.

BIG mistake.

Because those little baby fish grew up and made more baby fish.

(Several months later...)

With a cycling population of guppies, The Oracle and I were moving into our house. We rented a U-Haul and stuffed our belongings inside. Due to a last-minute flurry of paperwork from the bank, our moving date wasn't set until shortly before settlement. I didn't have a whole lot of time to consider the logistics of moving a tankful of fish.

On moving day, the last item out of the apartment was the fish tank. I ended up catching as many fish as I could and stowing them in a mayonnaise jar. I siphoned as much water as possible out of the tank and into two clean buckets, leaving four inches of water or so in the tank so we could move the tank onto the truck.

I'd originally considered dumping the water, but I didn't have clean water waiting for me at the new place, and four inches of water isn't enough to run the filters until clean water was ready. Instead, I put the two buckets of water on the passenger-side floor of the truck at my feet.

The ride to our new house, thankfully, is a very short one. The Oracle gently pulls out of the apartment complex and pulls up to a traffic light. When he makes a left turn, a hefty amount of 84-degree water sloshes out of the buckets and slops all over my shoes. Ewwww. At every stop the same thing happens, and by the time we arrive at the house the U-Haul smells and my feet are squishing inside my shoes.

We set the tank up in the corner of the living room, gently replaced the water still in the buckets, and returned the guppies and two orange fish to the tank. The guppies maintained a steady population of a dozen or so fish in the tank. The orange fish eventually died.

And, eventually, I got sick of the tank. Cleaning it was a pain, filter-changing was a pain, and it always smelled no matter how clean it was. When the detectives I worked with decided to set up a tank in their shared office, I offered my guppies to the new tank, and they accepted. When the tank was ready and their new fish were moving in, I bagged up the guppies and brought them in too.

Within a half hour, my guppies vanished. I didn't see that coming. At least it was quick.

I cleaned the fish tank and its paraphernalia and relegated the whole mess to the basement. A few years later we sold our couple-hundred-dollar investment for twenty bucks at a yard sale.

When Mighty B. recently voiced his desires for a fish as a pet, it was all I could do not to bellow the word, "NO!" in response.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"D" is for "Drat!" "Darn!" and "Dagnabbit!"

A few weeks back, Her Nibs got her mitts on my computer and irreparably popped the letter X off my keyboard. Fortunately, X isn't all that commonly used (fourth from the bottom behind Z, J, and Q). It's annoying, but I can adapt.

Yesterday, the little cherub picked off the letter D. Depending on which list you use, the letter D is either the 10th or 12th most-commonly-used letter in English vocabulary. I am not a happy woman. First, it's annoying to have my finger striking the springy plastic normally hiding beneath the key. Second, my keystroke isn't always noticed by the computer, so I have to keep going back to fix errors.

I guess I should be happy that she only popped the keys off; she didn't eat them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Our 15-year-old oven has been malfunctioning for quite a few months now. When you start it up, the element doesn't always switch on. For a while, we could get it to reset and work for a while. Eventually, though, it turned into a situation where you have to bake fast because it might not cycle on again to maintain temperature.

Well, during the height of summer, not having an oven wasn't so bad. It was too hot for hours-long oven usage.

I finally broke down and called a repairman.

After arriving two hours later than his promised time slot, he gave me the bad news: $440.00 plus tax. Ouch. It's going to take several days for the part to arrive. Yep, I said "part." ONE PART for $440.

The first thing I'm baking when it's up and running is a batch of chocolate chip cookies. That might take the sting away.