Fish Friday #2 The Dechlorinator Apocalypse

I have a small desk top aquarium that is tall and quite attractive. I’ve been running it for about two months and got it to the point where I wouldn’t mind trying to keep some animals in it that weren’t snails (all the previous inhabitants already died off). There was still an algae problem, but that was starting to resolve itself.

And then the apocalypse. My granddaughter dumped in my entire bottle of dechlorinator into the aquarium when I wasn’t in the room. When I finally got back to my room, I could smell something was wrong. The room smelled of garlic, celery, ginger and feet all rolled into one and the bubble-filter was spitting out foam. The color of the tank looked fine, so I thought this might be a result of the tank recycling after crashing two weeks earlier.


The next day, I went to do a water change and when I went to add some dechlorinator to the jug of tap water, I found the bottle was completely empty. I immediately knew what happened. I asked my granddaughter what was going on and she said she was helping me. She’s four, so there was no way I could get angry with her. I knew I kept the dechlorinator up high, but she’s added a new skill: using chairs to get out of reach items.

I talked to her and explained dechlorinator is pretty dangerous and that maybe the snail would die (didn’t happen, unfortunately). She promised not to do it again. Yeah.

I did a big water change, but the following day, the room smelled worse and the bubble-filter was spitting out even more foam than before. I knew the dechlorinator had triggered a die off someplace and that a big ammonia spike was under way. That means I have to do a few things:

  1. Put the Hang on Back (HOB) filter back on the tiny desk top aquarium;
  2. Put a chunk of ammonia reducing filter sponge (Acurel Ammonia Reducing Pad) in the HOB (quick acting, only good in emergencies);
  3. Do another big water change;
  4. Buy more dechlorinator (I like Prime).

I ran the HOB for two days and eventually everything cleared out, including the algae which is a problem since the snails eggs have hatched and there are a hundred or so of them in the tiny aquarium with nothing to eat. So, the tank looks great, but the snails are about to starve.

Maybe, I’ll throw in a leaf of spinach.


Orem High School Argus 2017

Tuesday and today, I spent my afternoons at Orem High School helping a great friend of mine and some students prepare their Literary and Art Journal.

I have helped on many of the Argus issues in the past and I am quite happy to help this time around. I don’t get paid, so this counts as volunteer hours. Volunteer hours are very important for UVU’s graduation requirement. Now, I have hundreds of non-religious hours accumulated, so I don’t have to do Argus if I don’t want to, but honestly, it is something I enjoy doing.

Essentially, it is fun teaching kids the nerd side of being an English major while producing a real literary journal. One of the most interesting parts of the process is watching these kids deal with some very real deadlines.

Tuesday, I went over the theory of page design. It was a fast explanation,  but we went over fonts, why some fonts are better than others, leading, kerning, master pages, the importance of a style bible, watching what other magazines and journals do.

Today was a short session. I showed the editor in chief and one of the associate editors how to set up a master page in InDesign. I showed them how to place the vertical and horizontal lines accurately. I also showed them how to switch the preferences from picas to inches. I ran out of time, so we didn’t go over numbering or setting footers and headers.

One of the nice things I do is have the editor in chief hand draw a master page and then to do several versions until one pops out that makes the most sense. Our editor did a great job. Going forward will be really easy, until we have to tweak things and do some hardcore copy-editing.


Fish Friday #1 Hamburg Matten Filter

I used to keep a lot of aquarium fish. I kept both freshwater and marine aquariums. My dad did, too. In fact, most of my fish keeping interest comes from him. In the past, I’ve been able to set up a tank and have it flourish within days. Because I knew marine tanks are far more involved, I took six months setting up my first and only salt water tank. Marine tanks are quite involved and if you are taking a low tech approach, then you have to take a lot of time. After a year and a lot of money, the tank pretty much took care of itself, only requiring the odd water change, top off, feeding and regular filter maintenance. That tank lasted seven years and only crashed when one of the heaters exploded while I was away at a conference, cooking all the fish, corals, live rock and invertebrates.

With freshwater fish, I never had a problem with a tank until recently.

dirted tank planted aquarium neon tetras

This is not my aquarium, just a nice image I found through google. This is, however, a successful “dirted tank” that is also dosing CO2.

Last year, I tried to set up a new type of planted aquarium called a “dirted tank” and failed miserably. The little plants never got going because I could never get the water from being as dark as black coffee. I think I know why I failed as badly as I did at that aquarium, but I’m just not in a position to dedicate the time required to get it going properly.

So I decided to do a small desk-top aquarium with a couple of plants, a betta, a snail and three cherry red shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. red). The girl at the local fish store said bettas and shrimp would work out fine together. It turns out she was filled with complete crap. Bettas love shrimp. They love shrimp for dinner, that is.

So within two weeks, the shrimp were dead. I decided then to add a couple of pygmy cory cats (Corydoras pygmaeus) to the aquarium, but they soon died, too. As the cory cats started dying, I noticed my aquarium was going through a cyanobacteria invasion. Eventually everything in aquarium died, except the small plants and the snail. I wasn’t doing anything odd and I had kept smaller aquariums before. I was very frustrated. I have never had so much trouble with a small, simple aquarium.

I decided to pull down the tank. I removed everything. I hand scrubbed each plant and got rid of half the gravel. Once I was satisfied, I reassembled the aquarium. A week later, I was having trouble again. This time I stuck a giant, hang on the back filter (HOB) meant for thirty gallon aquariums and blasted the system. That is when I noticed my tank was not getting circulation to several parts of the aquarium. The dead zones were the parts of the tank where the cyanobacteria was thickest.

The HOB didn’t have any filter material in it, except some poly filling I bought at Walmart. It’s the same stuff used to stuff plush animals and toys. Poly filling works as a great mechanical filter. Everything gets caught in it. After running the HOB for three hours, the cyanobacteria was gone as well as any detritus, dead-leaves and extraneous junk. It hasn’t come back. This still has not solved the problem. The only thing living in the aquarium is a red, rams horn snail. I would like some fish.

I think the problem is the aquarium. It is tall and narrow. It looks very pretty, but after some research, I’ve found out that tall and pretty doesn’t work well for aquariums. I have a bubbler-filter in it, but the bubbles are not where the oxygen cycle is happening. That happens at the surface in a tiny space fourteen inches from the bottom of the tank and those dead zones. Click here to see a video I made of the old tank.

To solve my problems (deadly aquarium and the need to keep more than four small plants and a snail), I got out the aquarium I tried to do the dirted tank in and I’ve started to do a new type of aquarium. A simple planted shrimp aquarium with the snail, the plants I already have, a school of ember tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae) and the most effective filter in the shrimp aquarium hobby: the Hamburg Matten Filter (HMF). Click here to see the video I made about my HMF.

The HMF is a thick sheet of poret foam at one end of the aquarium with a pump or bubbler pulling water out from behind the foam sheet and back into the main water column.

hamburg matten filter poret foam planted aquarium

Also, not my aquarium, but I hope mine will work as well as this one seems to be.

The foam acts as both a mechanical and bacteriological filter. It has a life span of ten years or more and is extremely idiot proof. There is only one poret foam supplier in the United States: Swiss Tropicals. The total cost was less than thirty dollars, including shipping. That’s fine. The cost is lower than the HOB or any other filter I’ve ever used except the DIY bubbler filter I have now in the desktop aquarium. The filter is kinda ugly, but right now, I don’t care. I only want success.

I will be taking a slightly different approach this time around: I am going to go very slowly. I set up the HMF in the aquarium today. In two days, I am going to seed the new aquarium with some water from a recent water change and a marimo ball (Aegagropila linnaei). Two weeks from today, I am going to add some substrate (hopefully Seachem Flourite Black Dark Gravel) and a chunk of drift wood. A week after that, I’m going to add everything from the desk top aquarium into this aquarium and a month after that, I hope to add some fish and some shrimp.

Longer than I have ever taken with a fresh water aquarium by well over a month, but not as long as with a marine tank. I really hope everything works out this time.


Comics; Expression Only or Also a Teaching Craft.

Part of my interest in comics is production, not just academics. Now I’m not necessarily talking about the production of my comic. I’m kinda weak and need a lot of practice. I lack a lot of the skill other artists seem to have in abundance, but that’s okay.

But what if I did? What if I got so good, I earned a living with my comic? Would this be a betrayal of the art, if I also taught others and studied it myself as well as practiced the art?

There are plenty of poets, authors and play-writes who teach the creative process and research it as well as work in the industry. There is an argument against artists pursuing their art as a money-earning craft or industry. An example would be Franz Kafka. He worked as a lawyer/bureaucrat rather than as a full time author, because he felt his art should not be influenced by money. That’s awesome.

I just don’t think it applies well to everyone. Sure, some of my best poetry comes from when I worked at Walmart, but should I work someplace that makes me feel like I’m not living up to my potential just for art? Or work in a bureaucratic maze like Kafka did, just for art? There are plenty of great artist who earned a living teaching their craft to others while practicing it.


Setting-up a Study Area

With allergies eating my sinuses alive (I went through the last of my Kleenex tissues and a roll of TP), I decided to delay setting up a study schedule and instead rearranged my bedroom to better facilitate studying. I’m not done of course, but I am closer than I was yesterday.

For those who don’t know, I live with my kids and grand-kids in the spare bedroom. I watch the grand-kids while their parents work. Until two weeks ago, that was most days for most of the day. My bedroom was set up for privacy and easy access to drawing stuff. Mostly the room was dark, sock be-strewn and cluttered–pretty much the way I like it, but not if I have to study.

The room looks a lot better now. It looks like a normal person’s room with two fish tanks, two book shelves, a World War II era navy crate holding up the twenty gallon long, a bed with mismatched linens and twenty-something year old pillows, a card-table for the laptop, white and colored milk-crate laundry hampers crammed into the closet under all the hanging clothing I can’t wear since I’m too fat, the largest desk-top scanner money could buy in 2010 under the card-table and the document shredder next to the dead six year-old iMac hiding behind the laundry hampers, machete, light sabers, Nerf ax and spare linen bag (none of those match either, but they’re clean). The drafting desk and drafting supplies I moved down to the play room, so I could draw when the babies were playing. I think it looks great.

I’ll tweak a few things like rearranging the books, violin, tool chest and do-dad boxes filled with crap no one but me would want.


Sorting Books and Comics

I’m going through my books right now and find what I need to reread before I get back to school. I am going to read all my Kafka stuff since my research focuses on that, but I think I need to reread everything I have on scansion and form. I prolly ought to read the crap out of a bunch of poets. Not just the ones I love, but some of the classics and some contemporary stuff, too.

I prolly ought to read some philosophy, too. Blah.

I prolly ought to read more comics to be honest. I have some comic theory and practice books, but there are some books I don’t have. I need to go back to reddit, be nice to the trolls and catch up on all the hot webcomics.

I also need to repurchase a lot of comic strip collections I used to have as well. You know: Shultz, Watterson and Larson. I have one of the Pogo collections. There are a bunch of French cartoonist I need to read or catch up on.

Wow. There’s a lot to do. If you have any recommendations for comics to read, let me know when you see me or in the comments below.


Driving to Ephraim, Utah

I love to drive. I particularly like to drive to Utah’s small towns. Yesterday was shopping day for Jim and I’m his wheels, unfortunately he had a family baptism to go to in the morning and then there was a lunch. We postponed his shopping trip to the only time that was available for the both of us: this morning at nine. It was one of those “ox in the mire” things since Jim has no car and we’re both scheduled to the hilt.

On top of that, my allergies have been acting up. One of the best things I do if meds aren’t working or if I don’t want to get stoned out on allergy pills is drive. Drive far.

I convinced Jim driving to Ephraim’s Walmart would be better than going to the Orem Walmart. The Ephraim Walmart is small with small crowds and the Orem Walmart is always evil. So I loaded up the grandkids, dropped Andy off at Doterra and grabbed Jim.

The drive was nice. I did just over the speed limit the whole way, enjoying the speed of I-15 and the twists of Sanpete County after we got off at Nephi. Jim hadn’t been to Sanpete County since he was a kid attending the Manti Pageant, so it was a good trip for him.

We shopped and got some pop at the Maverik Gas Station and the headed. It was a good day to drive and talk and I’m glad we went.


Comics and Utah Valley University

I love comics. Specifically, I love comic strips, political comics, web-comics and dense memoir comics. Most of the time, this means short form comics: stand alone strips or short runs of no more that six, four panel comics.

I haven’t liked comic books since I was a teenager. I’m working my way back into the swing of the big comic houses, but their stories are typically short on content and very predictable (often nice ink, though). I said this a couple of years ago when I delivered pizza for Dominos and nearly came to blows with a couple of the high-school kids who worked there. I get it: Dead Pool is the new messiah or at least the new Spider Man, Bat Man and Wolverine, but that still does not make Dead Pool a good comic book (to me).

I really like indie comics. Quite often there is a lot going on and they verge on being literate. This is why I like web comics.

So how do I study comics while attending Utah Valley University? None of the classes I’ll be taking have anything to do with comics. I have to take five new creative writing classes. Three will be about poetry, because I love writing poetry and that’s my emphasis. Two of the poetry classes will be focused on production and craft and one will be based on theory. The resolution to my problem might mean shoehorning comics into poetry and what not. That could work, but not always and the instructor might not buy into it. One of my new classes with be about play-writing, so there might be a chance there. The last theory class will probably be about writing fiction, so again there might be a chance there. There might be another solution, however, a better solution.

My senior seminar is meant to package my entire college experience into a packet for grad-school applications. A big part will be my research paper which right now is about Kafka and is really long. Franz-Kafka-Revolution-Bureaucracy-Novelist-PortraitAnd I like it, but does it have anything to do with comic studies? Yes and no. It has everything to do with Franz Kafka, The Trial and reader textual interpretation. I’ve included no comics. I could have. I own a very nice comic version of Kafka’s The Trial, but it ultimately did not fit into the final paper.

I won’t be graduating for two years. That gives me time to redo the research and rewrite the paper into comic form. That won’t be too hard, but it will be time consuming.


(The comic shown here is a Franz Kafka portrait above something he said that I like.)


Matriculated Again at Utah Valley University

It finally happened. The last huddles fell and I am a student again at Utah Valley University matriculated in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. I am as optimistic as I can be.

There is some bad news. Because I lost my original matriculation status so long ago, there are a bunch of new classes to take. I went from only needing thirteen credits to needing thirty-eight credits for graduation. That’s a lot.

Some are language classes which I wanted to take anyway, but are now mandatory. Grad schools in English don’t see the value of any math past Algebra and since I’ve gone as far as differential equations they think I’ve wasted my time. But that was a different lifetime. I’ve decided I want to take French. I’ve already taken French 1010 once, but fought with the professor about how inherently sexist French was structurally (and often culturally) and that it needs cleaning up. It pissed me off that French was of more value than mathematics and I said so. My grade went from an A to a D overnight and stayed there. When I take French this time, I’ll keep my opinions to myself through all four semesters.

I have to take the Intro to the English Major and the Senior Seminar and a general grammar class. Because I do have a minor in Religious Philosophy, I need to take two final classes there wrapping up the minor (it used to only be one class).

The last few classes are all new creative writing classes. I have two new classes to take in poetry, one in play-writing and two creative-process theory seminars.

Thirty-eight credits (or forty-four if I want the minor) that can not be taken all at once. It is now four semesters I have to do. I was hoping at the most two semesters.

I am optimistic. I can do the classes and earn As. I’m just a little bummed that there is so much to do.


Finally. Utah Valley University . . . Guh!

Utah Valley University (UVU) finally came through and sent me the email they were supposed to two days ago.

I called yesterday morning early after getting the wrong email from the UVU Admissions Department and got a flunky who promised a new email showing I’m a current student and readmitted. I got an email saying I was admitted, but one insisting I go through the process I went through back in the 1990s when I fist went to UVU. They needed all my transcripts from BYU and elsewhere and my DD214. Yeah. They have all that crap. Oh, and I have to apply for a new student account. So, I called back for some more phone tree hockey.

The bureaucrat on the line this time had no clue, putting me on hold while she went for help. She came back and said she couldn’t find anything about my previous experience, my one hundred plus credits, my BYU transcripts and as far as she could tell, I’d never even attended UVU before.

I sent her back to look some more. Eventually, she came back and I could hear two supervisors behind her pointing things out. They told her to check off some stuff on a drop down menu and enter my matriculation date into another field. They said there was a hold and that I’d have to check with my academic adviser. I don’t mind. I like her.

And . . . oh yeah, I should be getting another email saying all is well. I got that email. I’m in and no hoops to jump through. Right?

Nope. I want to start planning my fall schedule and I can’t because the online tool that collates and analyzes classes taken and requirements left is broken. Only for me it seems. It works for everyone else. I spoke to IT about this before, but they wanted me to resolve my student status first. Now there is no excuse for them to fix a problem they could’ve fixed easily enough Monday morning.

More phone tree hockey tomorrow.

Ya gotta love it.