Posts Tagged ‘Google’

The Post – 2010 in review

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meterβ„’ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,300 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 3 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 320 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 34kb.

The busiest day of the year was August 6th with 66 views. The most popular post that day was The Post – Extra! News on Preparing the Fiddler Crab Nursery.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were en.wordpress.com, google.com, search.aol.com, student-loan-consilidation.com, and mariaozawa2u.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pregnant crab, pregnant fiddler crab, fiddler crab babies, faith is believing when common sense tells you not to, and pregnant crabs.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Post – Extra! News on Preparing the Fiddler Crab Nursery February 2008
4 comments

2

The Post – Pregnant Scarlett O’Hara and the Proud Father February 2008
2 comments

3

The Post – Faith is Believing in Something When Common Sense Tells You Not To June 2008

4

The Post – How Long Do Fiddler Crabs Stay Pregnant? February 2008
1 comment

5

The Gift – A Fiddler Crab Extra!! Meet the Babies! March 2008
1 comment

The Post – Photos of Toto’s Grave Location?

November 17, 2008

My husband is a geek dude extraordinaire, a 21st century hunter in cyberspace with no peer. I always loved Will Robinson on the 1960s show, Lost in Space, and in my life, my husband is my Will Robinson.

As I’ve previously blogged, he and I started our quest for Toto’s grave, last Thanksgiving. With the recent information graciously provided by one of my readers, we’ve been able to learn about the California Gold show that talked about Toto’s grave, along with the graves of other TV pets, such as Arnold the Pig.

Well, my husband was able to take that information and track down what we believe are pictures of the apartment complex where Toto is buried. He then emailed me the results of his search

Since I see that my blog stats are running high for interest in what happened to Toto, I expect there’s at least a few of you out there who will enjoy this “cyber-journey.” So without further delay, I turn this over to my husband, the cyber-guide to pet grave pictures!! Here is his email describing what he found. Enjoy!Β  πŸ™‚

From Ed:

Here’s how I came to find an aerial photo of Toto’s final resting
place:

o I first read your post from 9-November where a reader says (in part):

“The property where Toto is buried lies behind an apartment complex
next to the Ventura freeway and the Los Angeles river. The
apartment complex is called Diplomat Park Apartments in North
Hollywood.”

o Ah — easy, I thought, and did a Google search for “diplomat park
apartments”. This gave me a number of hits. Here’s the first one:

http://www.thatrentalsite.com/Diplomat-Park-Apartments-in-North-Hollywood.html

From that page, I got this street address:

12360 Riverside Dr # 111
North Hollywood, CA 91607

o Hmmm — According to the Google Maps embedded in the first hit,
that’s close by the Ventura Freeway, but the reader said something
about a river… No water close by…

o Ah — Deb’s got another post, where she talks about a TV show called
“California’s Gold” that mentioned the Toto’s location. There’s a
link:

http://www.calgold.com/calgold/Default.asp?Series=9000

o Skimming that page for the word “toto” brought me to the entry for
“California’s Gold #9008 – PET CEMETERY”, which — sure enough —
mentions Toto. Hmmm — and, an interesting URL for “Steve Goldstein
– our guide”:

http://www.beneathlosangeles.com/

o Poking around the “Beneath Los Angeles” site, I finally found Toto:

http://www.beneathlosangeles.com/cgi/grave.cgi?crypt=1010

There’s a ground-level picture of Toto’s approximate resting place on
the page. But how to correlate this with Google Maps?

o Back to Google, looking through more hits on “diplomat park
apartments”… Oh look — here’s one for a “Diplomat Park
Apartments” with a different address:

http://www.apartmentsandrenters.com/detail.php?contact=687431

The address:

12360 Riverside Dr # 111
Valley Village, CA 91607

o Bringing that address up on Google Maps results in a large building
(Google Maps’ StreetView feature shows that the building looks like
it could be an apartment complex (and the swimming pool tends to
corroborate that):

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=12360+Riverside+Dr,+Valley+Village,+CA+91607&sll=34.151679,-118.367622&sspn=0.012182,0.019312&ie=UTF8&ll=34.156922,-118.403212&spn=0.001523,0.002414&t=h&z=19

o Wait a minute — there’s supposed to be a river of some sort
there… Oh — if I click on the “Map” button in Google maps, that
thing that looks like a recessed concrete roadway going behind the
building and under the freeway reveals itself to be some sort of
drainage system. So this might just be the place.

o But does it correlate with the photo from Beneath Los Angeles? Let’s
see:

– The photo has some parking spaces, then a fence, then more
parking spaces.

– The fence has some dumpsters in front of it.

– The freeway (which we know is elevated, because the drainage
system obviously goes under it) can be seen beyond some
greenery.

– There’s a short palm tree with two trunks right by the fence.

– The photo’s caption mentions Toto’s resting place as being in the
general vicinity of the tall palm tree growing out of some other
greenery in the center of the photo.

o Ok, let’s look at the aerial shot on Google Maps, using the red “A”
marker behind the center of the back part of the complex as a
reference point:

– The angled entrance to the left of the building coming in from
Riverside Drive has parking spaces, and (if you look closely) a
fence (the pavement changes color at the fence line), then more
parking spaces.

– The fence has some boxy-shaped object to the left of it —
dumpsters, perhaps?

– The freeway is directly behind the apartment complex (and the
parking lot to the complex’s rear).

– Near the bottom end of the fence line, there’s a round green
blob — the double-trunked palm tree.

– A bit further to the right from the first green blob (and to the
right of a smaller green blob (which can be seen in the Beneath
Los Angeles photo to be a shrub of some sort) is a larger green
blob. If you look closely at it, you’ll see that a small round
part of it is above the rest (there’s a shadow there). That’s
the palm tree in the center of the Beneath Los Angeles photo.

o So… Toto’s grave is behind that palm tree; probably in the bare bit
of ground behind it.

____________________

As an addendum to Ed’s findings, I looked into the “Los Angeles River.” Apparently long stretches of it are actually concrete channels through the city. So I would guess that the concrete “drainage channel” he mentions above, is actually the Los Angeles river.

If you are interested in learning more about that river, go to Google and type in: Los Angeles river. You’ll get a long list of hits covering everything from images, to history, maps, to revitalization plans. For that list, just click here.

The Post: Under the Pier – Research Part II: Human Character R&D

March 5, 2008

If you’re writing about Abraham Lincoln, conducting research is pretty straight-forward. If you have a real person, you can find books, movies, articles, people who knew them or experts to interview.

How do you research someone who doesn’t exist? With fiction characters, a lot of times you first decide what your story is about and who needs to be in it, then you start hunting. A lot of the work is really character “construction.” You have to build the characters and give them a life to know what facts you need. Some research might go on as you craft the character, but for me a lot of it came after I had some idea who the people were.

For starters, I had to decide just what kind of characters this story needed – superficial or deep. If this was a plot-driven adventure story, the main change and action would take place outside of the characters. That means the characters, even the main ones, remain the same from beginning to end. So they just need their framework – looks, personality, talents, some backstory. It’s the adventure, the plot action, that changes.

Under the Pier is a character-driven novel. The real energy, drive and purpose of the story take place inside the characters. They will grow or regress, change for the better or worse, due to their personality and circumstances. It’s not about the story actions or problems, but how they REACT to those story problems. So this meant my characters had to have depth, history, psychology, family, emotional wounds, unanswered questions.

Before I could research anything, I had to pin down some concrete things about each character. As much as I hated to have to start picking traits and family backgrounds because to choose things is to exclude others, it’s the only way to have a true-to-life character. Nobody in life can have blonde, red and brown hair (unless they dye it that way), three different colored eyes, be both young and old, and do EVERYTHING you ever dreamed of doing. Neither can your characters. So for both sides of the story, animal and human, I had to create a character, build their life, and then relate their life to others in the story. Robert Frost said “way leads on to way.” In writing, character leads on to character.

For the human side I wanted more than just birth date, physical description, or the meaning of their names – yes, I selected names that matched some aspect of their personality, but I also wanted sections for things like: strengths, weaknesses, goals, fears, driving needs. I took a lot of the information from my extensive journaling and wrote up personality profiles that gave each person a life story – traumas and triumphs, parentage or lack thereof, marital status, family dynamics, issues, problems, glaring flaws.

And by the way, for well-rounded, true-to-life characters, it’s important that the heroes be jerks about some things, and the villains be saints about others. NOBODY in real life is all good or bad. If you do that with your characters what you end up with is a stereotype or a caricature. At the very least, what you end up with is dull and boring. I read somewhere that when police interrogate suspects and witnesses, they expect some discrepancies between the various versions. That’s normal human nature. Everybody sees different things. When the stories match up too perfectly, the officers suspect the story being told isn’t real. The same is true with characterization. For example, General George S. Patton, Jr.’s grandson shared this observation about the man:

“My grandfather once commented that in his view a gentlemen should be able to curse for three minutes, non-stop, without repeating himself.”

At first glance one would never figure a gentleman would use such language, but flesh and blood human beings are full of inconsistencies. So create a character that “overall” is true to his nature, but do sprinkle in some unexpected traits. It makes for more real, interesting characters, and adds to the story action possibilities.

In any event, when writing my characters’ biographies, I started with the simple date of birth and description, then went on from there. For Rosa, the old woman who runs the diner in the human side of the story, the physical description went something like this:

She is relatively thin and wiry, but solid-boned, strong from years of physical work, with short whitish hair that used to be black. She’s about 105 pounds, in good condition overall from walking up and down stairs to her apartment behind the diner. Some arthritis and she is slowing down, but still is healthy and strong enough for being almost 80. She does have high blood pressure and sometimes forgets her meds.

That gave me enough of a picture in my mind – one of those strong old women who worked hard all their life, like many old women I grew up around in my very ethnic hometown. The thing about pinning down part of a person, though, is that it provides the bridge to the next piece of their puzzle. For example, just talking about her life of hard work suggests a need to explore areas like her background, level in society, personality, and attitudes toward life.

The beginnings of personality start to show in the additional information I put down:

She was born on October 29, 1929. If you know any history – this was Black Tuesday – the crash of the stock market and the beginning of The Great Depression. Unless she was born rich and lucky, which she wasn’t, this tells you how her life was going to go. To continue with my description, I decided her parents were immigrants from Italy, arriving just a year before her birth. Her mom died giving birth to her, something not uncommon for the time. Her father wasn’t around much, either looking for work, drunk or simply gone for long periods. She was shifted from family member to family member, often not a happy situation. She had to work from a young age and got out of her aunt’s house as soon as she could. She started working in a place called the Midway Diner, run by this handsome young guy named Frank Santelli, his grandmother, and his maternal uncle, Angelo Campelli. Uncle Angelo started the diner in the late 1890s with a horse-drawn cart and built it up from there. She fell in love with the diner and Frank, almost immediately. She married Frank by 18, revered Frank’s grandmother who took Rosa under her wing, and spent the rest of her life preserving the legacy of that diner, even after Frank’s death. She had 4 children – a daughter who died as an infant, and 3 sons, all still alive.

Okay. Right in this section, by picking the particulars of Rosa’s background, I’ve set up not only the rest of her life, but set up the bridges to the stories of her husband, his grandmother, his uncle, the diner’s history, her children, and raised questions like, why did she revere Frank’s grandmother, where was Frank’s mother and father, and what happened to Rosa’s infant daughter? Just by picking certain details, you create the thread to more questions, more characters, more life situations, conflicts, and relationships. You create….a real person with a real life. MOST importantly I’ve set up the question in the reader’s mind.. Why is all of this important with regards to Rosa’s relationship with Max, the story’s 12-year-old female protagonist? That’s the ultimate thing to remember. Not everything the biography will be part of the story, but if you make it part of the story, it better have a real good reason for being there, ie, how does it relate to the protagonist and the story’s main question?

Now. Research on Rosa. Well for one thing, I looked for anything I could find to “validate” her personality traits so a reader wouldn’t think I was overdoing things. I spotted an article in a Rhode Island newspaper about a woman in her 80s who would go out after snowstorms and not only shovel her driveway and sidewalk but those of her neighbors as well. She shrugged off the effort as “exercise” and viewed it matter-of-factly. She was home, her neighbors had to go to work, so she just took her time and shoveled everybody’s sidewalks. So, Rosa rings true to life. (If you want more of a feel for her, click here for the January 24th, 2008 post where I included a bit from the book describing Rosa)

Other people in the story. I know a bit about diners growing up in New England, and what the people were like who worked in them and ran them. I grew up in an ethnic town full of those early 1900s immigrants from Poland, Italy, Slovakia, Ireland etc. and knew the rules of the culture: hard work, no wimping out, not very much money, family and church were everything. Those people survived the Depression and World War II by helping each other even as they fought with each other and drove each other crazy. They didn’t mince words, but put it right on the table, usually in colorful language. For holes in my knowledge base, I researched books on diners, history, New England, did Google searches, and talked to people.

For example, Rosa’s son Vince, her eldest son, a war hero from Vietnam who is kind of a mystery character with a shrouded past, finally returns home after many years away. He works nights at the diner making doughnuts. I interviewed a number of people who worked in bakeries at night making doughnuts, so I’d get my details right.

For other characters in the book, I did the same thing – wrote the physical characteristics, figured out ages, started linking them to other characters in the book, and creating a “web” of relationships and lives. The more you added to the people and the web, the more possibilities for story action and conflict.

For example, the human protagonist, Max, lives with her grandmother, who also works at the diner. Max’s grandmother is dating Vince. For a number of reasons this both disgusts and scares Max. And Max views Vince’s shrouded past with tremendous fear and suspicion.

Just setting up that scenario, suggests questions like: “Why is Max living with her grandmother? How long has this gone on? What happened to her parents? What IS the deal with Vince’s shrouded past? Why does Max fear him and fear his dating her grandmother?

Then throw in a quirk. Here is Vince, a mysterious character Max fears, and a still strong and burly man. I gave him a small poodle as a pet. Not exactly what you would expect is it? And then there’s that pendant he has around his neck that he never takes off. Just what happened all those years he was away?

If I ran into problems or a block, I “talked to the characters.” You interview them, start a conversation, ask them a question about school, politics, the person they hate the most and why, anything. But having a conversation with a character is like talking to someone at work. The more they talk, the more you learn who they are. Most writing blocks come from either not knowing who your characters are and hence how they would react, or not knowing where the story is going. So…interview and journal, then go back to writing the biography.

The minute you put down one trait on a character then add a second, you set up a chain reaction that leads to more questions, decisions, more characters, more background, more dark secrets in closets, whatever. By the time I was through, I had two binders of character biographies. Some of the characters are background ones. For example, Rosa runs a ladies’ poker game in the corner booth of her diner – her booth – every Friday night. ALL the area ladies who run businesses along Main Street play, and even Sister Rita Luke from Our Lady of the Seas up the street shows up to win money for her outreach programs. Father Steve is the “chaplain” As one of the old ladies in the group puts it: “First we pray, then we play.” So I needed some cursory description of who the ladies were and what stores they ran.

Once you’ve got the real people, the research part is easy. For medical problems I did Google searches, hunted through medical textbooks, talked to an ER physician, and even pulled details from the book, The Perfect Storm. For a legal issue involving Max, I talked to a lawyer. For emotional problems, again, there was Google, psychology books, and a psychologist. I researched Catholic history, and ethnic superstitions, both very big themes in that culture. I researched the fishing industry and what kinds of research post-doctoral students were doing in Rhode Island for either universities, the military or the environment. And yes, I got books on the meanings of names, so I could accurately name my characters, not just pick something out of a hat. In the course of the research, I looked for interesting tidbits or colorful facts that I could incorporate to give my characters the “authority” of that life.

Finally, I looked for things to use as character tags. Character tags allow us to quickly identify the character, tell us something about their deeper personality, and raise more questions for the reader to answer. Vince walks a poodle and wears a mysterious pendant. Rosa has her certain superstitions, Max walks around in the middle of the summer wearing a paint-stained oversized flannel shirt. Almost immediately, we associate certain things with certain people, then begin our quest to find out “why?”

Up Next: Under the Pier: Research – Animal Character R&D

The Gift – A Fiddler Crab Extra!! Meet the Babies!

March 2, 2008

fiddler-crab-under-100x-magnification.jpg

Okay. You’re wondering what in God’s name this thing is. Well, it’s one of the crab babies, at least my rough sketch rendition of one. (IfΒ  you want to see real photos of the zoeae and later larval stages of fiddler crabs, click here ).

It’s the best I can do. I’m spoiled because I am used to working in labs with good equipment.

In the lab I would have put an aliquot of liquid from the aquarium in a test tube, spun it down in the centrifuge, poured off the supernatant, and made a slide out of the sediment, which would be concentrated crab larvae, instead of chasing one unlucky soul all around the microscope slide trying to catch him long enough to see him.

I would have had nice stains to chose from to make the larvae show up better. Today I had McCormick’s yellow food coloring from Harris Teeter.

I would have had a nice Zeiss microscope with oil immersion lenses and fine optics. Instead, I have a Milben kids’ microscope, circa 1965, in a wooden case, with an EverReady 5 volt flashlight shining in the mirror to light the stage. (And if you want a kick, click here to see a similar setup to my microscope and wooden case. It even has the dissecting kit tool indentations in the styrafoam. I had those dissecting tools a long time ago. It says something when you search Google for Milben microscope and it’s listed under “antique sites.”)

I would have had a nice Zeiss microscope with a camera attached to photograph what I saw. Instead, I had to sketch it. I don’t have one of those neat electronic tablets to draw with. All I had is the “pencil” tool on my son’s Photoshop program that I barely know how to use.

So, I know, stop whining. I’m not in the lab anymore. Given all this, I still managed to catch one crab baby, watch him through my very “SUB-OPTIMAL” microscope, in food coloring stain, and draw you a WAY suboptimal sketch.

But still, what the sketch shows is the head part on the right, with two little “?claws” moving back and forth rapidly. It stretches out with the tail on the left. We could even see “material” moving through the crab from the head, out the tail. Yes, out the tail. My husband caught that one. So I guess we can assume the crab baby has been eating the food I served. πŸ™‚

In any event, minus all the fancy equipment, it’s the best I can give you, but still it’s something. I should note that this was a 100x magnification.

We have noted that Days 1 and 2 there was a fair reduction in numbers of larvae and my husband noted the blackened area that looked like a mass murder in one corner of the tank deep down in the gravel where many babies perished. Still, there are LOTS of babies swimming in the tank AND they are bigger than yesterday. If you hold a magnifying glass up to the tank, you can see tiny tails. So some are thriving after all.

If many many thrive, at least the guys at Fish Pros said they’d be happy to buy some from me for cash or store credit. That would be great. I’m always in need of new supplies. πŸ™‚

Salinity is almost “ocean” at 1.017. Should reach 1.020 later today.

Anyway, now you’ve “sort of” met the babies.

….about that centrifuge – it occurred to me I could take a small, capped plastic tube and tie a rope around it and spin it around my head. Then I thought, maybe even better – tape the tube to the inside of my washing machine and run it on the spin cycle. But leave it to my engineer husband: find a way to attached two capped tubes on a rod opposite each other, connect them to a power drill, and turn the drill on….THAT’S the best RPMs for the money. πŸ™‚

The Post – Scarlet O’Hara Lives! And How I Came to Love Fiddler Crabs

January 25, 2008

After almost 10 days without a sighting, FINALLY yesterday afternoon, I spotted Scarlet O’Hara. I wasn’t sure at first if she was just a corpse, dangling upside down inside the Live Rock with her eyestalk hanging down, but shining the flashlight into the rock’s cavity at 5 minute intervals, I was able to determine that a) she actually had moved her position, and b) on the second and third times, she reacted to the light beam and flinched. This latter point was important because it meant the movement was deliberate, not the result of her just being bobbed around in the cavity by the water’s movement.

Relieved to know she wasn’t dead, I went ahead and did the water change. (More on that below) Then last evening, Scarlett O’Hara emerged from the Live Rock Cavity, and slowly started moving around. She resembled a patient just released from the hospital – someone tentative in her steps and tired after her ordeal.

Okay. Right about now, I’m sure anyone reading this is wondering what the hell I am talking about. Let me back up to the beginning and give you the Readers’ Digest version of events. I am contemplating setting up a separate blog – Crab logs – to capture all the events since the beginning of this endeavor, for those purists who only want the “lab notebook stuff.”

As I’ve mentioned I am writing a mid-grade novel called Under the Pier. At least that’s the “working title.” The protagonist of the “under” the pier side is a hermit crab. While I had no trouble pinning down facts about the creatures in that world, those chapters lacked “heart.” They read more like a nature guide. My husband read the first few animal chapters and noted that frankly, he didn’t care about the creatures. That’s a death knell for any book, whether the characters are human or animal. The whole point of reading a story is to feel what the characters feel, live through the story struggle with them, and stay along for the ride because… you CARE about them. If my husband didn’t care about them at chapter 2, I had a problem. So, back to research.

It occurred to me that I just hadn’t captured what it felt like to be an undersea creature. Since I can’t live underwater, an aquarium is the next best thing. I couldn’t have a marine hermit crab like the one in my story as a pet because that meant setting up a salt water tank, something reputed to be very difficult. PetsMart had something called “freshwater crabs.” A freshwater aquarium meant cheap, at least cheaper than a saltwater one, and easier. I’d had aquariums as a kid. I figured I could set up a small tank very inexpensively, get a couple crabs, and voila….live research that would teach me how to emotionally bond with something I normally eat in garlic butter. As I’ll describe below, “cheap” didn’t take place, but emotional bonding did. My husband noted that I bought myself $4 worth of fiddler crabs, and $100 worth of support gear. πŸ™‚ In reality, it’s been way more than that by now, but . . . more about that later.

Anyway, I bought two males, not through any particular strategy. Those 2 just happened to wander into the net the teenage employee swished through the store’s tank. I rushed home with my new “pets” and all my gear and rapidly set up the tank. Normally, when you set up an aquarium, they recommend getting everything established before bringing home your fish. However in this case, I figured why bother setting it up ahead of time when the saleslady made it sound like all these guys needed was some water and a bubbling air tube. Again, more later.

The larger male immediately ran around his new tank, explored every aspect, took command of the gravel hill (they need an area where they can be out in the air for up to 50% of the time), and showed no fear. Given his apparent “explorer” mentality, we named him after the South Pole explorer, Admiral Byrd. The smaller male immediately bolted under the water filter and stayed there for 2 or 3 days. Even when he came out, he skulked around in the background. My husband noted that he acted like the Peter Lorre character in the movie, the Maltese Falcon, so we named him Peter Lorre.

I’m going to skip over the travails of learning I should have set up the aquarium first before buying the crabs, the fact the people had us buy the wrong food (how are bottom-dwelling crabs supposed to eat krill shrimp that only float on the water’s surface and don’t sink?), and the many things that made me realize these crabs really do need more than a bubbling air tube if they were to live longer than the 2 weeks PetsMart’s written guarantee said they would.

As it turned out, Peter Lorre made it about 3 weeks before he died. I think his poor little body just wasn’t up to the stresses of toxic nitrite and nitrate levels, not to mention the fluctuating salinity levels (see below). By the time I learned about Live Rock and how it speeds up the nitrogen cycle in the tank and makes things healthy and non-toxic, Peter Lorre just stopped walking one day, tumbled off the live rock, and dropped headfirst to the bottom of the tank, dead. I was heartbroken…he was the quiet timid one, and I did like him. My husband couldn’t understand how I could care about him given that I ordinarily do not hesitate to go to a seafood restaurant and consume his cousins with great enthusiasm. Doing a twist on that line from the Godfather movie about things not being personal, but business, I said to my husband, “This is personal, not lunch.” When things get personal, you go to Google for answers.

Now, for any aquarium geeks – a couple things. Live Rock, as mentioned above, is rock taken from a tropical coral area, and contains microscopic sea life and bacteria. By adding a1 pound chunk of cured Live Rock (ie has been allowed to sit in a salt water tank and age and no longer smells like a salt marsh) to the tank, it essentially seeded the tank with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. They speed up the establishment of the Nitrogen cycle. That’s where toxic ammonia and nitrites generated by the biologic wastes in the water, are converted to nitrates. Eventually the levels of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates drop to zero. The Live Rock also has the benefit of leeching calcium into the water. This comes in handy for keeping things like pH and calcium at stable levels. Crabs need high calcium for molting. Anyway, once I added Live Rock to the tank, the toxic conditions subsided rapidly. But not in time for Peter Lorre.

I also learned that the crabs I bought were “red-jointed fiddler crabs,” otherwise known as Uca minax. Sometimes PetsMart sells the yellow-clawed ones, Uca pugnax, or mud fiddler crabs, but I definitely got the red ones. While these crabs can survive in freshwater, it apparently shortens their lifespan considerably. I read somewhere that they can live a year or more if kept at the right salinity. I figured salinity meant “marine.” After all, if they weren’t freshwater crabs, then they were salt water crabs. I went out and bought aquarium salt and made it up to the regular marine aquarium specifications, a minimum specific gravity of 1.020. I eagerly added the water to the tank figuring my guys would react with glee. Instead, Peter Lorre went into a daze and foamed bubbles out of his shell. Admiral Byrd bolted out of the water like I’d just added sulfuric acid and literally tried to climb the walls of the tank to get out. I didn’t understand it. I’d followed the directions and they “should” have liked the water, but obviously they didn’t. Even fiddler crabs deserve not to be in pain so I added some plain water to dilute things. They settled down.

In hunting around some more on Google, I discovered that these crabs are in reality, brackish water critters. That is that “estuary” type environment where the rivers meet the sea. The water is neither freshwater nor saltwater. Brackish water has a much lower level of salinity. Further, I found a study of fiddler crabs in the rivers of Delaware that really illuminated the problem. Uca minax – the red-jointed guys – prefers water with a specific gravity of around 1.008 – 1.018. Any higher than that and the LD50 (the time it takes for 50% of the population to die) is 2- 3 weeks. Same if you put them in freshwater.

Interestingly, according to the study, the yellow-clawed guys LIKE the higher salinity. If I’d had Uca pugnax crabs instead of Uca minax, they would have loved the higher salinity water. But my guys hated it. They needed….brackish. That’s how it goes with me. I start out to have a simple freshwater tank, then accept I must make it marine, only to find out I have to actually set up a brackish tank…something by the way, very few people do probably because there’s no books on the subject. In any event it’s been quite the adventure, and I sure have learned a lot, becoming a bit of an expert now on maintaining a good brackish water environment, a source of pride for me. However, this should explain now, my husband’s comment about $4 worth of fiddler crabs, and a $100 worth of support gear. It goes without saying I needed a gauge to monitor specific gravity not to mention water conditioner, solutions to decrease the ammonia until the Live Rock bacteria kicked in, and test strips to check the water…a lot. πŸ™‚

Anyway, end of geek moment and back to the story:

Well, now that Peter Lorre was dead, Admiral Byrd was beside himself. He sat in his little cave tunnel near Peter Lorre’s dead body and just twitched. I thought he’d eat Peter Lorre given that they are scavengers, but apparently fiddler crabs don’t eat their friends. I removed Peter Lorre and gave him a proper pet burial in our front yard, next to the gerbils, hamsters, and pet rat buried out there. Then I set out to buy Admiral Byrd more friends.

I found this amazing aquarium store on the outside of Raleigh, NC – Fish Pros – Fishprosnc.com SALT WATER TANKS and ALL KINDS OF GEAR and PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING!!!!. In fact some of their staff are marine science students or professors at NC State University nearby. In any event, I left there with not just ONE more friend for Admiral Byrd, but three. And this time, there would be WOMEN!

I figured keep the numbers even, so I bought 2 females and one more male. The man at the store noted that having the females would produce some neat “claw-waving” mating behavior in the males – the crab equivalent of “Hey baby, check me out!” Also, since females weren’t territorial, it was possible to have more crabs in the tank without having fights. Needless to say, Admiral Byrd perked right up when he saw he had friends, and when he realized there were ladies, well, he hasn’t stopped waving his claw since.

In any event, the male struck my husband as the “Rhett Butler” type, so, the new guy became Rhett Butler. That meant following the Gone With the Wind motif for the ladies names. The larger female demonstrated an overbearing, fearless, almost aggressive streak. She became Scarlett O’Hara. The more timid, fragile female, is Melanie Hamilton.

Again, for whatever reason, we lost one of the crabs – Rhett Butler lay dead in the back of the tank. No outward evidence of “foul play” ie – Admiral Byrd killing him off for territory or women. Again, another pet burial in the front yard. However, since then, the remaining three crabs have done fine. Yes, the women get fed up with Admiral Byrd chasing them around. And Yes, Melanie Hamilton got tired of Scarlett O’Hara stepping on her to get to the food pellets. Melanie Hamilton spends most of her time living INSIDE of the Live Rock chunk. She does peek out the front or side entrances long enough to grab a food pellet and pull it inside, and every now and then she will climb out and wander around, but she’s very skittish and races back in the rock at the slightest provocation.

My Scarlett O’Hara concern started about 10 days ago. She enlarged the front entrance to the Live Rock, ie, pulled out a bunch of gravel and tunneled under it to get inside it with Melanie Hamilton. For a few days I could see them both crammed inside the Live Rock if I shined a flashlight into one of the rock’s openings. But for the last 10 days I could not find a trace of her. At first I figured she went in there to molt. Molting takes a few hours. So, I figured give her another day or so to rest and she’d be back out. No dice. No matter how often I shined the light into the rock, all I could see was Melanie Hamilton. By yesterday I’d decided Scarlett must have died and I needed to pull the rock out of the tank, if only to remove her dead body for burial.

However, just before I did that, I shined the light into the Live Rock and lo, that’s when I saw Scarlett O’Hara. She was clinging to the roof of the cavity, and I could see her eyestalks hanging down. Since she emerged from the rock, all is back to normal. Scarlett O’Hara and Admiral Byrd run the tank and wander constantly, seeking food. Melanie Hamilton peeks out of her cave and pretty much stays out of sight. As odd as it sounds – I am so HAPPY!!! I really felt bad at the thought she died. Seeing everybody doing their usual thing, it’s like “aaahhh, back to normal.”

Oh – one last geek moment, a moment of pride for me. I did a 33% water replacement in the aquarium yesterday – almost double the 18 % change the time Admiral Byrd freaked out about the salinity, and more than the recommended 25%. I didn’t have much choice given that the water really needed changing. I added the water and held my breath, keeping a close eye on Admiral Byrd. Apparently, this time I did it right. The tank water was at a 1.010 specific gravity, and so was the new water I was adding. Not only that, but the other parameters were great : pH 8.0, total hardness (GH) >300 ppm, total alkalinity (KH) 300 ppm, chlorine and nitrite 0, and nitrates “okay” at 20 ppm. (I’ve been using the Jungle Laboratories brand Quick Dip 6 Tests in One strips). And Admiral Byrd? He just kept right on eating through the whole thing. Never once climbed the walls…he never even left the water. SUCCESS!!!

Now I’m saving my allowance to buy …. two land hermit crabs!!!! Stay tuned soon for their adventures.

And stay tuned…working on getting pictures of Admiral Byrd, Scarlett O’Hara, and Melanie Hamilton…if she ever comes out of her cave!