Archive for February, 2012

Tiger Stripes Club

February 27th, 2012

Olivia and I joined a new club this weekend. We are now proud members of Tiger Stripes Club - or The Stripes for short.

It's the brainchild of our seven year old neighbor, who formed her own club after facing rejection from her big sister's organization, the Crazy Cats Club. Exclusive membership to the CCC is limited to the three BFFs, and not even a real cat can join. I asked if my cat, Ocho, could apply for membership - she being an authentic feline and at times, crazy-acting - but they said no. You have to be ten and into Justin Bieber, and Ocho is neither.

Hence, The Stripes. Kira formed the club and enlisted her schoolmate, Kea. Kira picked a club name for herself as Black Shadow. Kea's club name is Flamey Flame, in reference to the fiery orange of a tiger's coat.

If Olivia and I wanted to join, it was put to us that we had to select a tiger-themed name. Kira suggested to me that Pink Nose would be an excellent moniker for myself, so I immediately adapted it. She absolutely did not approve of Olivia's choice of name, Pink Sparkley. "Tigers don't sparkle," she informed us.

Olivia insisted that she had to have that name, and it being so close to naptime and all, was clearly obstinate. I realized I had to demonstrate good faith as a new member and step in to arbitrate this brewing situation.

After suggesting a number of possible compromises, it was agreed that we could officially enroll Olivia as Orange Sparkle, but she could choose to go by her preferred nickname of Pink Sparkley, please note there is a "y" at the end of that name. I'm glad we resolved this issue.

Now, to board elections. Kira dictated that she is the leader of the pack, though if she takes to adding Dear to that title I will have to gracefully recind my membership because I want to continue to enjoy my human rights. I was appointed Secretary on the qualification that I'm the only one who knows how to write.

As for club activities, our goal is "to meet at the playground as often as we can", and to sometimes pretend to play invisible video games, "like this, hold out your hands," demonstrated Kira.

"I can't, I am using my hands to hold my Razor," responded Olivia. Kira let it pass; we Stripes have a flexible agenda.

We also have a secret handshake, and by handshake, we actually mean dance choreography. The little chant goes like this: Turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, never to be found! You have to act it out as you say it. If the neighborhood boys are paying attention it will not be very secret after a few greetings; we'll have to think this through a little more.

Right now the club is pondering a serious issue that has long-reaching implications for the entire identity of the organization: Do we admit males? "Can my daddy join?" asked Olivia.

"But he's a boy," Kira said. Like, duh?

While our leader is deliberating this pending action, Olivia and I have already struck up a backroom deal. Should he be accepted, Claus' club name will be Leaf Glitter. We're currently working on teaching him the secret handshake.

Rehab victims

February 24th, 2012

Will & Bill are still alive and kicking as of this writing. Opae ula are very hardy, in certain ways.


I have stepped up my interest in shrimps and have read most every website about shrimp- not just the information about opae ula, but also about the types of other shrimp that people raise, as well as how to keep them. If one can get the water conditions correct, opae ula are certainly the lowest maintenance.

To that end, I've also started reading websites on measuring salinity and water conditions. I wonder how to get access to a hydrometer?

Ironically, though my father was an avid aquarium hobbyist with a dozen or so tanks during my childhood, his interest is really focused on fish, so my shrimp issues are of marginal concern to him. I think I've tired him with my talking.

I've turned to online forums. I've only joined one discussion thread, but haven't ruled out joining others. I have started recognizing terms people use in the forums (ie, CRS).

I've also called my shrimps' vendor to have her troubleshoot my system crash. She thinks I introduced a Marimo ball too soon without proper acclimation from fresh to brackish, which then released toxins into the water.

There's a breeder oft quoted on the web, Fuku Bonsai. I happen to have a bonsai from them, coincidentally. They invite people to stop by and see their farm in Kurtistown. "I want to go there," I told Claus.

My mother is maybe the most surprised by it all. "I can't believe you caught the bug," she chuckled.

"I know, it's weird," I acknowledged. I never thought I'd be this interested in anything aquatic, but the little shrimp fascinate me.

My best girlfriend Jen laughed to hear of all this. "You really are your father's daughter," she said. I guess in that aspect, she's right.


February 22nd, 2012

Sad news to report: the gallon tank of opae ula had a system crash. I transferred them from their flower vase to the new tank, and they died a few at a time, over three days. I tried to stop it but nothing I did worked.

Dead now

Dead now

This served to feed my compulsion as a shrimp owner. I would worry about them at work, talk about them to my friends, and research shrimps for a half hour at night, in my free time, before I went to sleep.

At first, we had a burial in the yard. Olivia and I took the first few shrimp out and had a mini-ceremony. Claus and Jul happened to be home and chose to attend the last rites. It was a decent turnout.

However, over the next couple of days more and more would die. One morning I woke up and six died overnight. I was quite bummed.

Two were left alive; one, barely. One big one was swimming around looking normal, the other was lying on its side, convulsing. (That's how the others looked before they died, too.)

I pulled them out and put them back in the old vase, which I hadn't cleaned out yet. I mixed a fresh batch of brackish water and put them in. To my relief, the sick one rehabilitated! From lying on its side paralyzed, it managed over the hour to stand up and start trying to do normal shrimp things (swim, eat).

When I returned home, it was doing even better. It was swimming more. I've been monitoring him in the days since and I think his nervous system is still (permanently?) impaired, as he swims erratically- jolting, like a stroke victim. To my surprise, he is a fire red and doesn't seem to change color anymore. I wonder if the trauma he suffered affected his ability to camoflauge?

I feel badly about injuring sentient beings. I can't believe I killed 23 shrimp!

The gallon tank sits empty now. I'm sure I'll fill it up again soon, but not immediately. Let me see if Will & Bill make it through the week.

Sewing class

February 20th, 2012

I've decided to enroll in a sewing class to learn how to sew better. Why? Because for years, I've been sewing my own hems and darning my own rips and tears.

Now and again, I want to sew something custom-made that I can't find in a store (usually a cover for something) and at my few stabs at it, I've found it nearly beyond my skill level. My guesswork creations are rudimentary and hard-earned, if they succeed at all.

Simplicity pattern

Simplicity pattern

Lately, the mommy in me has wanted to sew pretty clothes with fancy embellishments for my daughter - and a little matching outfit for the dog and/or cat, because it would delight Olivia to wear an outfit that matches her pets.

I can do straight lines. My mom forced me to take it up in high school, so one summer I enrolled in a short course in which I produced a few skirts and tank tops. I was never that interested at the time, but she insisted it was a life skill.

Later, my junior year Home Economics class reinforced the skill by having us all make shorts. OK, score one for Mom. She was right to make me do this.

Decades passed, and my interest sparked in 2000. After 11 years of toying with the idea (who ever said I wasn't a procrastinator?) I researched a few sewing classes and enrolled in one that fit my schedule. (I actually had to take vacation to achieve this.)

I wasn't sure what to expect, but at this particular class, I found it to be more like a paid club of crafters who get together as their schedule allows, to have access to a nice workspace and a skilled seamstress who acts as a resource/ mentor.

The teacher doesn't stand at the head of any classroom and lecture from a lesson plan. In between helping students she works on her own projects as well as the store's other service, alterations.

I prepared my supplies and had bought a pattern for a girl's skirt. Once at class, I whipped it out and explained my background, my goals and what I was trying to sew for this project.

The teacher, a very nice Japanese lady, reminded me more of a mother, as she looked at the pattern and said, "OK, cut here and here." Over the next three hour session, we would have this back and forth dialogue in which I would say, "What next?" and she would tell me what to do.

The good thing about this method is that I really learn by doing. Without a lot of chatter, I was able to 90% finish a skirt for Olivia in the first class.

The drawback is that I don't have a comprehensive overview of what I'm doing. I could not independently sew another pattern without assistance. Each method has its pros and cons.

I'm sure that over the years, students drift in and out, while a core group remains. On my first day, there were four other "regulars." In talking to one of them, she mentioned she has come every Monday for the past four years because she likes to have the teacher there to lean on for occasional advice and feedback.

I enjoyed myself and was very proud of my progress - I had not expected to get that far in one session. I had fun, too.

The next day I was ready to return, but I was having a heck of a morning: I had found a huge box of supplies at my mom's and put it in her driveway. My intention was to drive up with my car, and load it up before I went to class.

However, it started pouring heavily, so by the time I returned, the cardboard box and first layers of fabric remnants were soaked. The box was heavy and in the two minutes it took me to get out of the car and put it in the trunk, I was drenched.

I also realized I forgot to brew myself coffee before I left. I drove back to my house to change clothes, dry my hair, and make coffee. Ever had one of those mornings when nothing goes right?

Then I decided I wasn't going to kill myself to get to class. I called to let them know I wasn't coming today, and after I dried myself, I sat down with my cup of hot coffee and the newspaper. That's just as good a morning, too.

Runaway snail

February 17th, 2012

I love the shrimp so much, I think it makes a perfect pet for kids. We've had two childrens' birthdays to plan for, and I asked the parents if it's OK to give their child shrimp as pets. Both sets of parents have said yes.

Each time, I run down to the store to buy shrimp. They come in a tiny cup of about nine or ten for $7 at Shirokiya, which is the best deal I've seen so far. The pet stores charge $1/shrimp.

I already have the bottle of spirulina, which I transfer to a small container with a toothpick to scoop it up with. I give food along with the jar of shrimp, and a strong suggestion to not overfeed. I've seen someone else's jar full of dead opae because they were overfed and the water got polluted.

At Shirokiya, there are little containers of snails alongside the shrimp. They're black nerite snails, or pipipi, found commonly in the tidepools of Hawaii. They're promoted as algae cleaners to discourage heavy buildup on the tank walls. Unless you are OCD about collecting shrimp, as I admit I am, in which case there will be two dozen tiny mouths scouring the tank walls for the first sign of algae to eat.

The most recent time I was at Shirokiya, I decided to buy myself a cup of two snails for $1. I had Olivia with me, and I handed her the cup to hold. She immediately shook it like a rattle. "Hey! That's not very nice!" I chided, and asked her to hold it gently.

We got home and I put the snails in the ecosystem. One flipped over and started crawling up and out of the water. Olivia named it Brownie, because it looks dark like the brownies we made earlier that day.

The other laid where it fell. I suggested we not name that one, because I suspected it wouldn't need a name. When it was still lying the same way on its shell the next morning, that confirmed it was dead.

I didn't think the living one would stray that far from the water, but in the morning, it was gone. My counter is black (and cluttered) so I didn't immediately see it, but I finally found Brownie a foot away from the tank.

I picked Brownie up and dropped him back in the water. He started crawling right up again. Claus got some plastic wrap to cover the top of the tank.

I mentioned this to the pet shop guy (who doesn't sell the snails), who'd heard similar things from other customers. It doesn't appear the snails like that type of environment. Apparently everyone's snails try to commit suicide.

I'm not sure what to do about Brownie. Maybe I should return him to the ocean rather than risk him continually running away from home?

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