Some Top Fives for Facebook

I’m not used to the idea of “favorites.” I definitely have favorites, but I don’t naturally catalogue things that way. As a child, I had to memorize lists of my own favorites for the omnipresent class exercises involving children informing the class of theirs, and only began to find the process natural once I started comparing things in detail, sometimes with written pro and con lists, to suss out the fine gradations of my own enjoyment. Most of the time, I am too aware of things other people put in the same bins as different from one another to try to quantify them with the same measuring stick, but associative games are another talent I have, and I learned to play them with the best.

So, I set myself a challenge, with a joking Facebook meme inviting people to ask for my Top Fives in categories of their choosing. My friends, being my friends, offered up a downright bizarre selection for me, with which I now do what I do best: give needlessly well-thought-out answers.

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Some Top Fives for Facebook
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The Eerie Sadness of China’s Paddlefish

China is home to a fish so rare that photographs of living specimens can be counted on two hands. Its lineage is so bizarre that it has only one close relative, found a continent away, and its skeleton straddles the anatomical cues that divide cartilaginous and bony fish. Even within its kin group, its habits and anatomy are unique.

The Chinese paddlefish or báixún, Psephurus gladius, is the only apparent preferential piscivore in the order Acipenseriformes. (The North American paddlefish is a planktivore, and sturgeons prefer shellfish.) Unlike its American sibling, its “paddle” is conical, and it is sometimes termed the “Chinese swordfish,” “white sturgeon,” or “elephant fish.” As an active, predatory schooling fish, it was once known for leaping across the surface of the Yangtze in large numbers. Rumor holds it can exceed seven meters in length and therefore rivals the beluga sturgeon for status as the largest freshwater or anadromous fish on our planet. However, the largest recorded specimen did not exceed a still-impressive four meters. Chances are, no Chinese paddlefish ever will.

CN veterinary imagery

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The Eerie Sadness of China’s Paddlefish

Making This Body Mine

My navel piercing was exhilarating.  I got it the last time I was in Miami, surrounded by my Miami friends who had no idea why I’d just signed up for such a feminine-coded body modification.  Having friends there made the event exciting; having Ania made it safe.  I faced the needle with enough nervousness that I had to fill out the “I’m the right age” form twice.

Ania has a picture of the face I made when it went in.  I’m not sharing it.

Afterward, though?  The soreness commingled with a heady endorphin rush that I should have expected but most definitely did not.  I was giddy with delight.  If we weren’t already at our financial limit, I might have signed up for another piercing then and there, in that euphoric haze.  I’m looking forward to that feeling again.

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Making This Body Mine

Fishy Redemption

It is a bad idea to enter the aquakeeping hobby on a lark.  Not only is this a recipe for any of various easily-avoided mistakes that beginners make, but it encourages a cavalier attitude about one’s new pets.  It is easy to treat fish and other small-animal pets as easily replaced decorative accents rather than animals with their own needs, behaviors, and beautiful uniqueness, especially since relatively few fish respond well to attempts to physically interact with them.

I started on the path to fishkeeping as a precocious child, and my parents and other adult models were not themselves hobbyists.  What I learned about the best practices for populating and maintaining an aquarium, I learned by reading every fish book I could find…and by trial and error.

There were a lot of errors.

Every fish that perished prematurely under my care stung my precocious heart.  I felt affection for every individual fish, even if I couldn’t tell them apart or if I replaced them quickly.  For every one of them, seeing them sicken and die as a result of something I did felt like a crime I was committing not just against them, but against their whole kind.  This idea stuck in my mind, each failed effort seeming like an un-redressed wrong as well as an unsolved problem.  I convinced myself over the years that I could assuage my conscience by revisiting each species and giving it, with that later effort, a home in which it could thrive.  There is no possibility of effecting restitution for the fish I killed long ago with my overzealous and poorly-informed attempts, but I can still do right by others.  Even if that reasoning is decidedly irrational, these stories may spare other aquakeepers from making the same mistakes and other fish from these often-gruesome fates.

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Fishy Redemption

Skepticism in the Aquarium Store, Part 3

In my previous two installments of Skepticism in the Aquarium Store, I looked at general advice about setting up and maintaining an aquarium and at common fish-stocking situations and principles.  This third and final visit to skeptical aquakeeping looks at some more specific situations that an insufficiently skeptical aquarist might encounter.
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Skepticism in the Aquarium Store, Part 3