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Haven’t done a tank update in a while, but I just added some new fish, so I guess it’s a good time.

Picked up a small school of seven neon tetras at Petco today. Pricier than the nearby LFS, but, to be honest, these looked healthier. Anyway, here they are enjoying their new home:

One of them tried to end it all by leaping out of the net as I was putting them in the tank. I didn’t notice he was missing for about a minute. Found him on the mat in front of the tank, quickly realized my fingers were too clumsy to pick him up, so I slipped him onto an envelope. So far, he and buddies all seem to be doing fine: good color, hungry, active.

One weird note: one of the platys decided she didn’t like these new guys, and so kept chasing them. In all my years of fishkeeping, I’d never seen an aggressive platy. I finally distracted them with some crushed flake food, and now everyone seems to play well.

Here’s the latest full tank shot:

I honestly did not realize how dirty that front glass was until I took the photo.

The plants are mostly doing well. The alternanthera is developing a good red color at its top now that I’ve started dosing iron, and the ludwigia repens is putting out new plants. Both may need trimming soon. Here’s a shot of the alternanthera:

It’s actually redder than the pic indicates: I think the glare washed it out.

I’m a little concerned about the E. Tenellus. Both original plants have put out runners with several daughter plants, but the mother plants are looking kind of pale, even yellowing a bit:

Some sort of deficiency? Also, I trimmed the algae-laden leaves after this shot.

The plants doing best are the cardamine lyrata. Lots of new growth, good color. In fact, their trying to take over the area held by the hygrophila stricta:

I regularly have to trim it back so the hygrophila gets some light. (You see some of it floating in the full tank shot. I hope to use the clippings in a new tank.)

And speaking of the h. stricta, while it has good color and lots of new leaves, I’m surprised it hasn’t grown. I had expected it to reach to 4-6 inches. Instead, it’s staying low and getting bushy. But it’s also putting out new plants.

That’s it for now. Fingers crossed the neons adapt well to their new home.

With California still caught in a harsh drought, aquarists must do their part to recycle water. PeckTec shows the way:

I may have to order a case. I wonder if they have “Sunset Platy Surprise?” 

Finally. At long last, after several years without an aquarium, after weeks of cycling and letting plants take root, after going fish shopping last weekend and being disappointed, we have fish.

Meet the first new inhabitants of JJ&J’s Seafood Buffet:

JJJ Buffet 017

(Letting the temperature adjust for 30 minutes, then in they go.)

These are from one of my local Petcos where, frankly, the fish looked better and the staff were friendlier than my local tropical fish store. These were labeled “Sunset Fire Platies,” and I bought one male and four females.

They’re out of the bag, now, exploring their new home, and pooping. If fish are eating and pooping, they’re happy. After some initial signs of stress, they’re swimming around and snacking on algae. The male seemed to take the longest to adjust, hiding in the Cardamine, but he seems to be doing fine now. I’ll give them and the tank a week to adjust, then go shopping for another species next week.

On the plant front, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that I’m still getting good new growth. Here’s a snap of the Cardamine and the Hygrophila Stricta:

Cardamine in the front, Hygrophila in the back

Cardamine in the front, Hygrophila in the back

And the Echinodorus Tenellus is sending runners. Both plants have several “daughters.” In fact, I may have to “harvest” some, soon. They’re invading other plants’ spaces.

That bad news is that my lovely Marsilea Hirsuta, which had been growing like wildfire, has had a major die-off in the central portion. Here’s a recent “before” picture:

It was a great start

It was a great start

Here’s how it is today:

What happened?

What happened?

This makes me sad.😦

At first I thought it was just old leaves dying during the transition, but even new leaves are rotting. I’m really not sure what’s happened here. I started dosing the full Seachem liquid fertilizer regime last weekend, including Excel. I’ve heard of other plants that have a problem with Excel, but I’ve not read of Marsilea being one of them. Maybe they’re unrelated. Regardless, I think this weekend I’m going to rip out the dead plant portions, snip off the runners that still seem good and replant them

Speaking of Seachem products, as I mentioned, I started the full regime last weekend, including Iron. I think most of the plants like it, especially the Cardamine. Even the Alternanthera is getting redder and showing new leaves. I’ve also noticed the algae that had been bugging me (hair and the beginnings of brush algae) looks like it has vanished. Frankly, I’m surprised.

I’ll be starting CO2, soon (“Do It Yourself” with citric acid), and I’ve decided to add a 2nd AC20 filter to the tank at the other end, to increase flow there. And the extra biological filtration couldn’t hurt.

That’s it for now, more when developments warrant.

Book cover the last moriarty

I’ve been a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories since I was in junior high, when I used to watch the old Basil Rathbone movies on Sunday afternoons. One year around 8th or 9th grade, someone bought me a volume of the complete stories for my birthday, which I devoured over the course of the summer. (“The Adventure of the Second Stain” being a favorite. ) I can truthfully say they’ve had an influence on my life, since, thanks to the “malign” influence of Rathbone and Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle, I’ve been a pipe-smoker since high school. (Don’t worry. I’ve stayed away from the “seven-percent solution”)

Since then, I’ve occasionally read modern pastiches on the Holmes stories. Some were excellent, such as Nicholas Meyer’s “The Seven Percent Solution”, while others were just awful. The good ones not only captured the feel of late Victorian London, but understood Holmes’ and Dr. Watson’s characters, how they would speak, and their relationship to each other. The bad ones were only “Holmes in name only” and often had the characters saying or doing things they just wouldn’t in “reality.” Some clearly had axes to grind or thought they were being edgy, making me wonder why the Doyle estate didn’t sue them for damages.

I’m happy to say, however, that “The Last Moriarty” by Charles Veley largely falls into the “good pastiche” category. In fact I’d say it’s very good and well-worth a fan’s time and money.

(Warning: mild spoilers may follow.)

The story opens with the discovery of a dead American floating in the Thames. First ruled a suicide, Holmes (naturally) concludes it was a murder. He then learns the victim was in the employ of the Rockefellers and was in London as an advance man checking into security for a meeting between the highest levels of the British government and the richest men in America: Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie. From there the plot involves multiple murders, terrorism, blackmail, Great Power intrigue, secrets from Holmes’ own past, not one, but two damsels in distress, and Gilbert and Sullivan. Famous characters from the time also make their appearance: not only the Americans, but Prime Minister Salisbury and the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte. And, as the title avers, Professor Moriarty himself is somehow tied up in this.

Author Veley paces the story well. Like a serial publication from that era, the story is broken up into many short chapters. The pacing is swift, but never rushed. An average reader could easily finish this over a weekend or even a single long night.

Veley captures the London of Doyle’s tales nicely: you almost hear the horses’ hooves’ clack against the cobbles and feel the cold wind off the Thames. The characters largely sound like they should, too. My favorite dramatic interpretation of Holmes was the late Jeremy Brett’s, whose performances in a British series from the 1980s and 90s set a bar I don’t think anyone will ever clear, even Benedict Cumberbatch. When reading Veley’s “Holmes,” I can hear Brett saying the lines. That to me is a mark of his success.

He’s less successful with Watson’s narrative voice, which doesn’t sound quite right to me, and I think he gets it wrong when characters address each other by their first names. It’s fine for the Americans, being a less formal people than the British, but for our two leads to call each other “Sherlock” and “John” with regularity, instead of “Holmes” and “Watson,” is off: acquaintances would say “Mr. Holmes” or “Dr. Watson;” male friends would address each other with last names without the honorifics. First names would only be used under moments of stress or emotional significance. This is a minor quibble, though.

Where I think the author really missteps is in his two final twists. No spoilers, but they involve Holmes’ past and, I think, go one step too far in reinterpreting the character. The revelations go against two of Holmes’ major attributes: his misogyny and, more importantly, the role of Irene Adler as “The Woman.” Veley handles the consequences of this well, but it’s a step I would not have taken.

Some might criticize the villain for being a two-dimensional caricature, but I think it fits fine with what is, after all, a melodrama involving the theater.

Overall, I highly recommend Charles’ Veley’s “The Last Moriarty” to fans of period mysteries in general, and Sherlock Holmes fans in particular. It’s enjoyable, fun, and even a bit gripping – a definite three-pipe read.

Note on the Kindle edition: Too often reviews of Kindle books make no mention of the format or the quality of the translation to electronic media – and Amazon is far too tolerant of publishers selling error-laden Kindle books. I’m happy to report “The Last Moriarty” has no such problems: the formatting is clean and easy to read, and I could find no typos that I recall. Well done!

PS: Before anyone shoots me, I happen to think Benedict Cumberbatch does a superb job with his modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes (and his “Watson” is excellent). I just believe Brett’s is still superior and truer to the character.

So, a year after moving into my new place, I’m finally able to get back into one of my favorite hobbies, keeping tropical fish. Presenting “JJ&J’s Seafood Buffet:”

JJJ Buffet 01

Not much to look at right now, I admit, but it’s a start. The water in the tank has to cycle until there are enough bacteria to turn ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrate before the first two can poison fish. That takes a couple of weeks, at best. (I’m using pure ammonia and a bacterial additive to get things started, my first time doing the so-called “fishless” cycle.) I hope to add some plants this weekend or next, and then I’ll give them about three weeks to get acclimated before adding fish, some of which could otherwise uproot the plants.

Of course, one wants fish right now, but patience is best.

It might be hard to tell from the above photo, but the left side of the tank was quite dark. It was both unappealing, and the light was too low to grow more than a few species of plants, and I’ve wanted to try some new ones. So, I figured “in for a penny, in for a pound,” and splurged (for me) on a Finnex Planted + LED fixture. The advantages are several, first and foremost being stronger light and better coverage. (The bulb in the old fixture was just 21″, two-thirds the length of the tank. The Finnex covers the whole length.) It also uses less electricity and runs cooler. Win-win, as they say.

Here’s a pic with the Planted+ running. I think you can see the difference:

JJJ Buffet 08And, yeah, I expect to have to go to war with algae, eventually.

I like the pieces of wood I’ve chosen: they make for interesting spaces. Here’s a front shot of the two on the left:

JJJ Buffet 02

I plan to fill in that divot in the foreground, but it does make for an interesting cave for timid fish or those wanting shade, or cave breeders.

Here’s a view from the left:

JJJ Buffet 04Sorry for the glare, but  think you can see this gives the critters more places to explore.

And get stuck in when they die, making them impossible to get out, which always happens…

And, speaking of caves…

JJJ Buffet 03

I really like this piece of wood for the cave it forms, and it just seemed to go with this plastic wall (1) I found at Petco (2).

That’s it for now. I’ll post updates when something interesting occurs.

Footnotes:
(1) Don’t judge me.
(2) Please.

PS: Why “JJ&J’s Seafood Buffet?” That’s Jasper, Jersey, and Juno, the three cats who own my writing partner and his wife. They already want a menu.

PPS: Tech specs for those interested — Lights are the Finnex Planted+ LED, heater is a Visi-therm 100w, to be swapped out for a Fluval E-series 100w. The Filter is an Aquaclear 50. Aquaclear is a great brand of hang-on-the-back filter. Forty lbs. of Eco-Complete substrate. Water parameters as of last night are temp: 78. PH 7.2, GH 143 PPM, and KH 3 degrees. Ammonia is ~1 PPM, nitrite 5PPM (and that spiked suddenly overnight), nitrate 5PPM. The nitrite spike surprised me, but that might be the bacteria going to town. However, too high a nitrite can shut down the cycle, so, if it doesn’t go down soon and nitrates don’t go up (showing an active cycle), I’ll do a large water change.

If you’re like me, the annual sight of blissfully happy couples on Valentine’s Day makes you ill. Not because of their cloying sweetness and dopey “eyes only for you” looks (though that’s part of it), but because you never get to join in. If your romantic life has as boring as mine, you’ve often felt like that little kid looking in from outside the fence and wishing he could play, too, but never gets the chance.

Admit it: you envy these people their happiness, and every Valentine’s Day is an annoying reminder of that. Don’t deny it, revel in it — wallow in the mire you yourself have created! Give in to the dark side…

And, while you’re at it, enjoy this Valentine’s Day report from The Onion.

You’re welcome.

(Edited 2/14/16 to rewrite a portion the way I had intended.)

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a helluva party last night and that you have a helluva good year to come.😀

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