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“We Had a Delightful Crew in the Paddy Wagon” – The Russian Reader

Liudmila Vasilyeva is detained at an anti-war February 24 at Gostiny Dvor. Her placard reads, “No war, please” Photo: Artyom Leshko/Novaya Gazeta We met with Liudmila Nikolaevna Vasilyeva in between demonstrations. On February 24 she—a survivor of the WWII-era Siege of Leningrad and a Soviet veteran of labor—was arrested outside the Gostiny Dvor shopping center […]“We Had a Delightful Crew in the Paddy Wagon”: An 80-Year-Old Petersburg Anti-War Activist Tells Her Story — The Russian Reader

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Well that’s a bummer…

It’s something we all know is coming but not usually when or how. Despite that we aren’t always ready for the words.

Today I found out I have prostate cancer. I recognized it was a possibility when my PSA numbers jumped from my previous routine test, and then the follow up test 4 weeks later showed the numbers jumped again.

I had a needle biopsy soon after and today got the call. “You’ve got cancer.”

The doctor explained the possible treatments and so far I’m leaning towards the radiation. I took some time at work, made a list of things that are supposed to have anti-cancer properties and placed an order on Amazon. I don’t expect a miracle cure but want to fortify my cells to resist Ukrainian style.

I’m not too scared right now but acutely aware off what this means. Time is running out. It is always running out but now I can hear the clock ticking.

My main concern is my wife. How will she handle it? We don’t have a bunch of money. We still rent and she won’t be able to afford the rent on her own. My term life insurance expires in two months so unless I die quick she won’t be getting anything from that avenue.

I need to live as long as I can, and I’ll burn the candle at both ends to set aside whatever I can for my family before I go.

I won’t pray for a miracle. My life is no more valuable than those Ukrainian children and their families who were senselessly killed this week -or of any other of my fellow humans who have gone before. We all walk this path from the moment we are born. I will pray for strength to endure. To last as long as I can for the sake of those I love. Hopefully I have enough time to do some good.

Of course I hope that my treatment works but I learned early that life is an uncertain road. It is rife with twists and turns and sudden drops but also with moments of surprising joy and light.

I hope you take that time to tell the people in your life that they matter. Love them while they are living. Tears of regret shed after they are gone serve no one but yourself.

That’s all for now. Let’s see how it goes.

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SCAPE – Southern California Aquatic Plant Enthusiasts

If you are in Southern California and are interested in aquascaping, aquatic plants, aquariums, tropical fish, paludariums, freshwater shrimp or anything else related to the aquarium hobby you might be interested in SCAPE – Southern California Aquatic Plant Enthusiasts.

The members are helpful to beginners and there are regular meetings and auctions which pre-pandemic sometimes attracted hundred(s) of people. There are video seminars and meetings. There are a lot of members who breed fish and shrimp and propogate plants including hard to find items. There are also members who culture live foods and you can sometimes buy or get a free starter culture of moina daphnia, cyclops, seed shrimp, vinegar eels and other fish yum yums.

Members trade, buy, sell -and occasionally even give away- plants, fish, shrimp and equipment at the shows, via the Tradewinds subforum or the Facebook group page. Some local fish stores give discounts to members and you can request a membership card at one of the meetings.

That is a quick run down of the highlights. One of the things I personally enjoy the most is that most of the members are friendly and generous. I’ve been a member for a few years now and have given away and received plenty of freebies, met lots of nice people at shows or when arranging a pickup of something I traded for and had a blast one year at a Christmas party. Sadly I missed a couple of the meets that included barbecue but scheduling conflicts prevailed. :/

Forum: https://scapeclub.org/forum/forum.php
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/socalaquaticplants

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Fluval Canister Filter

The Fluval 07 Series canister filters are arguably some of the best filters of their type on the market.

My Setup
I have two Fluval 307’s on my 75 gallon tank. Why? Well, for starters I like redundancy. I also wanted to experiment with different filter media – one of the filters uses mostly chemical and mechanical media with foam pads and activated charcoal plus resin mixes i.e. Chemi-Pure, Fluval Clearmax Phosphate Remover and Purigen. The other filter also has foam pads, but I put in more biological filter media like Seachem Matrix and Marineland Ceramic Filter Rings. As you can see I like to use a mix of products. 🙂

As far as the filters go they are very well designed. I hadn’t had a canister in several years and this one is definitely a step up. Once it is set up the media is easily replaced without having to disconnect the hoses. The units have 3 trays to allow use of various filtering media as well as internal sponge filters to reduce particulate accumulation on the tray media. The canister’s head and seal are all easily opened and closed. The unit is quiet and uses very little electricity (about 15 watts for the 307) which meant I was able to use hook each one up to some old UPS battery backup units I had and have the filters keep running when we had a power outage.

The hoses are not the typical ones. These are ‘ribbed’ and accordion-like is the best way to describe it. They work well and the only gripes I’ve heard are from people trying to connect them to other items like inline heaters and UV sterilizers that have standard tubing. It can be done, you just have to sort out the measurements. Fluval has a new inline UVC clarifier of their own now but I haven’t tried it yet.

I set the filters up in an overlapping pattern and adjusted the nozzle directions to try to get the water flowing all over the tank and avoid dead spots.

The final result is a healthy tank that is forgiving of my occasional overly generous feedings.

I am very pleased with how well the Fluval 307 filters perform and the design excellence. If I ever manage to get some additional aquariums I plan to try out their other models and series.

As a final note let me say I am not independently wealthy. This equipment was purchased in stages over a year and I used some gift cards and reward points I’d accumulated. I also was fortunate enough to trade some tools I wasn’t using with a guy I met at a SCAPE club meeting which meant I didn’t have to pay for the aquarium, stand or gravel.

Since I am on the subject a quick plug for the SCAPE (Southern California Aquatic Plant Enthusiast) club. If you are in the area they have regular meets with auctions and trading. If you attend a meeting you can request a membership card as they have negotiated discounts with some local fish stores. The online forum has a Tradewinds subforum where people will seek to buy, sell, trade and even give away items; members will sometimes team up to negotiate group buys. The members actively trade and breed a wide variety of fish, plants and live foods. You can find them on the SCAPE Forum and their Facebook Group page. There is an unofficial Discord channel created by some members though it isn’t as active as the other two options.

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Where do we go from here?

Photo by Katie Godowski on Pexels.com

The last few years have been mad ones. Our interactions with each other, our national and international politics, COVID-19, Ukraine – and there is a load of other stuff tightly packed in and around those few. The world seems to be sliding off the rails. I hear John Noble voicing Denethor echoing in my head, “Abandon your posts! Flee! Flee for your lives!”

But where can we go?

We are all sailing through space, on a little glob of earth. On the surface of that glob are a few drops of water and the tiniest sliver of miraculous life.  The world is full of puffed up and angry people who imagine themselves giants when in reality we are all less than amoebas on the cosmic slide that holds the speck that is our Earth.

We should be working together to solve the great challenges of mankind. Each country has knowledge and resources that could fix problems elsewhere in the world. Instead we hoard our wealth and fight to gain power over each other.

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

I speak of the human race as a whole. This may not apply to you. You may be outraged, hurt or even offended by my words. That is not my intent. The truth is that I am talking to myself on this blog to see if it is any better than screaming into the wind.

There are good people on this earth but the ignorant are louder and their words and actions are contagion.

If we don’t do something differently then one day we’ll be gone. Every one of us gone. No more spring time, or Mardi Gras. No more concerts, Marvel movies, good food or babies. No more of anything. Good, bad, famous, unknown, rich, poor, black, white, tall, short, talented…. none of it will matter.

What a terrible waste that would be.

 

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Current State of My Aquarium

A few months ago my CO2 regulator valve died and almost took the fish with it. I decided to forgo the CO2. I have some bucephalandra and they started to get hair algae as the plants that required CO2 faded away. I added a few less demanding plants to suck up the excess nutrients and started using Seachem Flourish Excel which provides some bio-available carbon and seems to depress the algae a little. I also started using Seachem Flourish Advance Growth Supplement which has some plant hormones that can stimulate root growth.

It took a while to eradicate the algae. I had otocinclus, nerites and shrimp on patrol but with the excess light and nutrient build up it was an algae-tastrophy waiting to happen. It took some time and a lot of muttering but it finally turned around.

My tank is a little on the wild and disheveled side. I have never really had a carefully manicured tank like some of the incredible ones I see on the international aquascaping contest websites, but maybe one day I will. Still, the tank is healthy. I spend some time watching it every day. It is relaxing and I have always enjoyed watching the fish and other critters doing their thing.

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Amazon Reviews

I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon. A lot. Not a lot of big things but it has become such an easy way for me to find things I can’t easily find, get some reviews to help me make a purchasing decision, quickly send stuff to my son in college. In short it has made itself very convenient and useful.

Now and then I star rate or review products on Amazon. A lot of them are 4 and 5 star reviews because I do research before I buy. In any case I thought I will share some of them here as I make them. I will add affiliate links because if I earn a few cents it will offset the money I spend on Amazon if only by a penny here and there.

After a bit, if I see from the stats that people are visiting the reviews I made add a feedback form so you can recommend things to review in the categories of stuff I buy – books, aquarium stuff, mad science and the like.

Here is my review page on Amazon.

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Algae Eaters for the Planted Aquarium

Algae is a common problem in aquariums. It flourishes anytime there are enough nutrients and light to meet its needs. There are a lot of ways to combat algae; some revolve around making sure algae doesn’t get what it needs to grow. Others include targeting outbreaks with manual removal, or spot treatments with hydrogen peroxide.

Other things we can do:

  • make water changes to reduce the waste products they feed on
  • reduce our fish stocking density
  • check our lighting fixtures & bulbs
  • put timers on our lighting so doesn’t run longer than needed to ensure plant health
  • introduce plants that will compete with algae for the available nutrients
  • add inhabitants to the aquarium who love to munch on algae

We’ll talk about some of those other methods in future posts but for now, I want to introduce you to a few of my favorite algae eating critters for planted aquariums.

Note: the list of suitable algae eaters can vary depending on your tank setup and your fish selection. I have smaller peaceful fish including Rasboras, Neon Tetra, Rummy Nose, Pencil Fish, Celestial Danio, Guppies and a few types of shrimp in a densely planted tank. My recommendations below are based on this type of community tank.

Fish

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus vestitus
Otocinclus (Otocinclus vestitus)
Fremen [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Otocinclus are small peaceful catfish native to South America and often referred to as dwarf suckers, oto cats, or just plain otos.

I’m not sure what it is about otos, but like a lot of people with planted tanks I find them fascinating. I started with three in my 29 gallon and now am up to about eight. They scrape at the algae on the glass, suck at algae on the plant leaves and eagerly tackle any other food scraps in the tank. They are good tankmates for a variety of peaceful fish. They like clean but established tanks, with plants, some algae and biofilm.

Otos do best in established planted tanks, with peaceful tank mates and in groups of three or more. Remember that you need to make sure otos have enough to eat. People sometimes think suckers and catfish survive just on scraps and I have seen oto cats get skinny and die from neglect.

Tip: Some of my absolute favorite foods for Otos, other algae eaters and biofilm grazers -like Stiphodon Gobies- are Respashy’s Soilent Green and Community Plus gel foods. In fact these Repashy foods are so darn good I just decided I’ll be adding a post just about them.

Shrimp

Next on the list of algae warriors are the shrimp. I have a few types in my tank but two of the most productive algae grazers in my tank are the Amano and the Cherry shrimps – members of the Caridina & Neocaridina genus respectively (note: there are other family members and color variations of these shrimp species that may be just as effective, these are the ones I have in my tank).

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)
Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)
Seotaro [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

These are hardy and active shrimp and a good choice for first-timers. They tend to grow bigger than Neocaridinia and while I have heard anecdotally that big shrimp may prey on smaller species I have not seen this behavior; some of my Amanos are 1 1/2″ long and I haven’t seen them bother the tiny baby Cherry shrimp in my tank.

Having said all that – they are greedy! They are always on the lookout for food and when I drop tablet food into the aquarium the Amanos will grab it and try to drag it into a hidey-hole so they don’t have to share.

One thing to keep in mind with both the Amano and Cherry shrimps is that if you have lots of other food in the tank they won’t be as enticed by the algae. Why? Well just imagine if I gave you a choice between your favorite food, and a small hard biscuit that I told you had the same nutritional value – which would you rather eat? Don’t overfeed, and you’ll notice that as the day goes on the Amanos will be furiously picking at many types of algae and biofilm while they wait for your next feeding..

Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
TheJammingYam at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL]

Cherry shrimp are a peaceful, hardy and industrious shrimp from Taiwan which is very popular among planted tank enthusiasts. There are a wide range of color morphs that have resulted from selective breeding and culling which include red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet, black. Within those colors you’ll find yet more intense and brilliant variations with names like Blue Diamond or Sapphire, Bloody Mary and striped or patterned varieties like Rili. They breed readily and can be a fascinating addition to an aquarium.

Cherry shrimp are omnivores that feed on biofilm and algae. Like the Amano they’ll eat all of your prepared food gladly, so if you want them to help control your algae you’ll need to find a balance. I haven’t verified this with any sophisticated testing but if these things were as big as Amanos I think they’d eat twice as much algae. It is pretty amazing to watch how fast their tiny legs pick and shove food into their mouths.

Shrimp will scavenge and help clean the tank but be sure they are getting enough food! Two of the foods I use are Shrimp Fit and Shrimp Cuisine. The Shrimp Fit is a powder and will help grow biofilm and provide sustenance for the baby shrimp. I’ll add another blog post soon just about shrimp.

Zebra Nerite Snails

Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis sp. zebra)
Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis sp. zebra)

The Nerite Snails that are commonly sold for freshwater tanks are interesting and hard working. They are hardy though they seem to have a relatively short lifespan in freshwater aquaria of about a year.

One of the key selling points of these snails is not only how much algae they eat but that with their strong rasping teeth they are able to remove the harder spot algae from the aquarium glass. Another benefit of these snails is that they need brackish water to reproduce so you don’t have to worry about hordes of babies – unless you are adding salt to your aquarium. I’ve read that they can lay sesame seed sized eggs, attached to various objects in the tank but I have not had that occur in the 8 months I’ve had them.

Keep in mind that since algae and biofilm are primary food sources for these snails they will do better in an established tank with some algae growth. Probably best not to introduce them into a brand new tank.

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Here We Go Again

Burt Abreu, AuthorWell this is the typical “Hello World!” post. I’ve had several sites over the years focused on various interests. This particular domain has changed focus a few times from art, to writing, and other topics. It has been built using plain old static HTML, an opensource CMS and finally WordPress. For the last few years it has languished like a hallway closet with clothes that no longer fit anyone in the house.

Did I have a moment’s inspiration, or was it the hot dog I had for lunch? I’m not sure but I decided to have another go of it, using a blog format this time around and just see where it goes.

For the record I’m not one of those internet mavens who is suave and sophisticated. I’m not a snazzy dresser. My posts will not influence the stock market or world events. I also have a head the size of a prize-winning state fair pumpkin. I mention this because, unless you’re a pumpkin farmer, I have no idea why you’re here (or even if you are here!).

In fact, I may just be talking to myself. In public. On the internet.

Guess we’ll find out.