Roadtrip: Seattle, WA

I should like Seattle.  It’s a quirky but urbane city with great food, lots of weird historic architecture, and many walkable areas.  But for some reason, this city gave me probably the biggest hassle of the whole trip so far, starting with the difficulty in finding a place to stay either via Airbnb or via traditional hotel.

Parking is free on Sunday, which was awesome; I was able to park my car really close to wherever I was going, and made up a little for the expensive hotel room.  However, everything else was also pricy, and even big-deal sites like the Seattle Center were oddly hard to find, with little signage and, more importantly, very unassuming road frontage so you’d be nearly on top of it before you realized it wasn’t just another apartment building.  I initially planned to see an outdoor Chihuly exhibit at the Center for entropyenator, but the admission fee was over $20 (I was also frustrated as it was hard to locate in the Seattle Center–I walked through half the grounds and most of a breast cancer race–got some free beads that stained my wrist from a cute kid–before I found it).  So instead I peeked at it from the outside.

Chihuly Garden and Glass from outside, Seattle Center

Chihuly Garden and Glass from outside, Seattle Center

Then via monorail, I went to Pike Place Market (saw the fish-throwing, was unimpressed, couldn’t help thinking that it must mush up the thrown fish so badly you can’t eat it), which had some really unique items like a deliciously icy apple cider slushie, but which was surprisingly low on actual produce?  It mostly seemed to be an artist’s and gourmet prepared foods area.

Next door was the Seattle Aquarium, which takes advantage of its location atop one of the piers by having some of its tanks sit right in the Puget Sound.  They also have displays more customized to their particular region than any other aquarium I’ve been to, except for the one in Honolulu, with even a mini salmon hatchery.  The tidal pool area had sea anemones, which were kind of flypaper-sticky if you ran a finger over their “fingers,” and they had a whole rehab section for native birds.  And yes, entropyenator, sea otters.  Sea otters which dove for clams at the bottom of the tank, and which were actually quite large, maybe close to entropyenator’s height if stretched out lengthwise.  And fuzzy.  So very fuzzy.

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Last, I went on the Seattle Underground tour, which explores some of the oldest areas of the city, now buried underground due to a historic fire that destroyed the city, and to the need to restructure the sewer system (if you believe the tour, most of early Seattle’s development was dictated by sewage).  The guide was energetic and funny, willing to vault a bar (like you sit at to drink) for applause, and full of ridiculous tidbits of history.  It was only a couple dollars cheaper than the Chihuly exhibit, but I’d bet it was a much better deal.

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Aquarium: Still going!

The past few weeks have been downtime so far as my free time has gone.  Work’s been busy so I’ve been using my weekends as recovery time and hanging out locally, and I have to admit to a little jealousy as to all the people I know who’ve been hitting the beach or other summery locales.

But hey, it has meant I’ve been able to do some “gardening” with my little shrimp aquarium, rearranging the plants a bit.  So short shrimpy lifetimes have meant I’ve had to swap in fresh shrimp–the ones that died off did get up to full length (about an inch), so I figure they had a good run.  I still have some of the original plants I started out with, and overall, I’ve kept it going for a year and a half.  Not bad.

Kuala Lumpur: Aquaria

I suppose I should have expected KL to have an aquarium. I mean, Malaysia is pretty much a nation of islands. But I was thinking more zoos–and it being so humid out, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to walk through a zoo although I usually love that sort of thing.

So aquariums, being indoors with the wonderful A/C, were just the ticket. The Aquaria KLCC is right under the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, not too far from the famous Twin Towers. Admission is 50 ringgit or about $15.50 USD–I initially thought that this was a little expensive for such a little place, but the Aquaria is surprisingly extensive for an inner city aquarium. It features several feeding “shows,” a touch pool (I refused to touch the sea cucumbers, no matter how fuzzy black they were), oceanarium walk-through tank, frog exhibit, and an otter exhibit.

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We stayed for two feedings, the piranhas and the Asian small-clawed otters. I, obviously, preferred the otters, causing Justtwomorethings to laugh at all my squees. They were cute! The otters obviously knew what time of day they got fed, because we could see them pawing at the door before the show, and the zoo keepers trained them to do little spinning tricks in exchange for shrimp treats. Only two otters were actually trained to do the tricks for the show, but we caught the trainer giving the rest (there were 4 otters total) extra snuggles in the back after the show.


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Aquarium: Shrimp No. Five

Unlike entropyenator, I got the fur allergies in the family gene pool, so I don’t have a ravenous cat waiting to greet me with its daily catch when I get home at night.  However, I still have the urge to have something living in the place (and mobile, so plants don’t cut it), so I have an aquarium with red cherry shrimp in it.  They’re cute, easy to see when I want to see them and don’t require much more than changing out the water when I don’t want to.

They also aren’t supposed to live longer than two years, so when I realized my current four were nearly a year old and I still hadn’t seen any babies, I decided I’d better rotate in one or two new shrimp–preferably males, since I’m 99% sure I have all females and it’d be nice if they just repopulated themselves.

So I tripped into Boston because the local stores didn’t have any.  But when I got there, the pet store only had one shrimp and it was clearly a female.  On the other hand, this one little juvenile was sharing a tank with three freshwater lobsters that were something like a hundred times its size.  It was clearly destined for a lobster stomach if I left it there.

I bought it and took it home.

Red cherry shrimp, saved from the lobsters

Red cherry shrimp, saved from the lobsters

Aquarium: Population Rising

The inevitable pond snails cropped up.  For now, I see three and they’re welcome since the shrimp can’t keep the barrel clean all by themselves, but I’m hoping the shrimp will eat any snail eggs.  I’m not overly thrilled about the idea of having to squish snails to keep them under control.

Speaking of shrimp, my initial pair have both molted, so I know they’re happy enough to be growing.  But I picked up another pair, as I’d like to see baby shrimplets in the future and I cannot figure out whether I lucked into a male and a female, despite googling images till my eyes bled.  So, to be on the safe side of statistics, two more went in.

Aquarium: Now With Inhabitants

Red cherry shrimp 3 circled

The barrel aquarium has two red cherry shrimp in it now.  Actually, I got them Saturday, but wanted to hold off posting for a bit in case something went wrong.  So far, seems good–they were hiding the first few days, but now they’re climbing up and down the plants and really exploring the barrel, which I take to mean they’re happy.

I know the photo is pretty crappy, but they were buzzing around so much that this was the best I got.  Can’t really blame them, considering they were still coming off a forty-minute subway ride.

Aquarium: Natural Planted Tank, Set Up to 1.5 Weeks

This is actually my second attempt at a low-maintenance aquarium à la the Walstad method.  Basically, you make a mini biome by using real soil and real plants to purify water, and animals like shrimp and fish to create the fertilizer that keeps the plants going.  I used a barrel-shaped glass kitchen jar from The Container Store (link goes to similarly-shaped product as it doesn’t seem like The Container Store offers it anymore); I can’t remember exactly what size I got, but judging from how many gallon jugs it takes to fill the thing, it’s closer to 5 gallons than 2.  Cheap potting soil, then aquarium pebbles layered on top, planted with dwarf hairgrass, water wisteria and anacharis, and a couple large rocks I found walking around the neighborhood (after I rinsed umpteen times, because any small object that’s been on a New York sidewalk overnight, you’d better assume somebody let their dog pee on it).

The best thing about these is that they really are low-maintenance.  Animals are optional (I’m hoping to get some red cherry shrimp if the water quality test strip comes out fine this weekend); if you don’t get them, then you can have a bigger variety of sizes and shapes.  My first one was a cookie jar a little smaller than a soccer ball.  So long as the plants survive the first couple weeks, then really, all you have to do is make sure you add water–treated to remove chlorine additives–to replace what’s lost through evaporation, and make sure it gets light (I have a reading lamp shining over mine.  Just switch it on in the morning before I go to work, and turn it off when I get home).  And there’s just something about having a miniature water garden in the room.  Good feng shui or just plain pretty, they make it better.

Side note: Something I realized while previewing my post: glass barrels aren’t easy to photograph.  I love how the textured sides bend the light and make what’s inside look all impressionistic–I think it’s much more visually interesting than plain clear glass–but that doesn’t come across too well.  Either I need to invest in a better camera, or develop better GIMP skillz.