Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Keeping my cool

In terms of personalities, I'm pretty even-keel. It takes a lot to make me angry.

"Lots" easily describes the last few weeks.

It turns out my boss is not a bad "substitute fish mom." He did exactly what was asked of him, and kept my fish healthy and alive. He was on top of things. His fish-sitting privileges have been reinstated.

So what happened in my tank?
Why was it nearly fish soup?
Why were lines detached?

Well, the answer is quite simple. Some idiot is trying to actively harm my little zebradanios.

At first I felt paranoid. The line must have snapped. The custodian could have easily unplugged the other line by bumping some furniture. The heater must have shorted due to technical malfunction. It was just a perfect storm.

So I tested my heater in a 5 gallon bucket. I could not get it to raise the water temp that high without pegging the thermostat. It's not a mechanical failure. The dial needs to be physically moved all the way to (+) or the heater won't run constantly at max wattage.

I also reattached the lines. The cut line was put back together with a cheap-o plastic valve. Anyone who's seen what I'm talking about knows that those are pieces of junk if you want to regulate air flow. The plastic screw isn't so much threaded into place as coerced, and tightening it to reduce air is a royal pain in the behind. When I left that evening, air was flowing. When I came back the following day, the valve had been forcefully shut. This cannot happen by accident. (I'm actually a little surprised that it could be effectively shut at all, so golf-claps there, I suppose.)

It was around this time that my boss called the cops. Our lab door wasn't closing because of the AC pressure. The front door to the building wasn't locking at night. It could just be idiot kids with nothing better to do than vandalize helpless fish. We filed a police report. Pictures were taken. Doors were repaired. I got to know the maintenance staff a lot better. Nice folks.

2 weeks passed.
Yesterday, I came in to find my new heater smashed with exposed electric coils in my tank water and glass littering the bottom of the tank.

It doesn't matter if the door is locked. Someone has a key.

We're moving the fish. I'm not telling anyone but staff and faculty where. My males from the effected tank all appear to be sterile, now. There's a strong chance their testes were permanently damaged. When you keep fish explicitly for their gametes (ie, eggs and sperm), if they stop making them it becomes really difficult to justify keeping them to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. If they don't recover by mid-October, I will be forced to sacrifice them (because ethics. There's a rant in there about fake ethical justification for the sake of a moral system based exclusively on how fluffy the animal is.)

I am legitimately angry right now. I'm in a lab that has a stated goal of ensuring reproductive success in species. Our whole perspective is that every animal is valuable, and that we do what we do to make sure that both individuals and populations are healthy.

And someone is trying to kill my fish.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In which I try not to kill someone with my bare hands. (Also, sweater)

I took my first real vacation of the summer last week. A dear friend came out and we drove to pretty places, looked at pretty things, and on the whole sat still and went to bed early. It was a very good and proper vacation. Because I am the sole caretaker of some 600 zebrafish (that is the real figure), I had to pawn the week's fish care on to my boss. I cleaned the tanks before I left, I bought spare food, and I walked away.

I came back to school on Monday to find what can only be termed a complete and utter disaster. I am not prone to swearing--I really don't get angry enough most of the time, and I try to be more careful with my word choice when I am, but let me tell you, I swore. If my boss had been there, I might have chewed him out, which, if you know me, is basically like saying I was insane. Fortunately he was out for the day and my temper has since cooled.

One of the tanks was so hot it was off my thermometer, which goes to 94 F/34 C. The fish are kept commercially at 70 F/21 C give or take and I keep them at summer breeding temps of 82 F/28 C.  It was so hot that the room felt like a sauna when I walked in in the morning. Fortunately no one died, but they were all at the bottom of the tank in the "colder" water.

Normally, the water down there would be cycled and evenly heated by the bubbling air. Unfortunately there was only 1 functioning air pump out of 4 attached to the tank. One line was unplugged, one pump is broken, and the last line appears to have been PHYSICALLY CUT. This was even more disturbing because hot water doesn't dissolve gasses as well as cold water, so not only were the fish too warm, but they were probably suffering from hypoxia. The door to the office/lab/animal housing room is not closing properly either. It no longer latches shut. I am feeling awfully paranoid.

So I blew my lid and spent the next 3 hours changing the water out 10 gallons at a time--remove, replace, acclimate for 30 minutes, rinse, repeat. Both the heaters are out of the tank and 3 of the bubblers are functioning again.

My work for the day was shot, so I went home and finished the sweater.

This sweater has WAY too much armpit. I'm going to rewash it and see if I can shrink it down a little. The hips don't actually fall at my hips, which makes the (correct) hip measurement too large (since, you know, no hips). Overall, I think it's very cute, but I don't know if it's something I'll wear. The buttons and neckline are charming, I didn't biff the crochet, and it does look exactly like the picture in the magazine, so I can't really say it's a bad pattern by any stretch.

Also, today when I went in to lab my research actually worked for the first time. Finally, after 3 months of 40 hour weeks I can finally get this bad boy under way.

So, not a complete loss on the fish front. (and no, it was not the 94 degree tank which produced good results. Those fish are on "bed rest" for a while, because seriously, I'm lucky they are alive. My boss is a bad substitute fish-mom.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I haven't had the stomach to blog for a while now. This is, in large part, because I have not been knitting. I have been working on my Masters research, which has been a bit of a total and complete spiral of nothing working, and when I get home from a day in the lab it's all I can do to make dinner and sit still for a while. I was getting tense, and when I get tense my hands get sore. Tired mind and sore hands do not a knitter make.

But that doesn't mean I haven't been knitting at all. I started the Victoria Yoke Pullover, which is yet again one of those projects which has been swimming around in the back of my brain for a few years. I have to really be feeling the drive to knit sweaters, though, and so I put it off. I think the Fresco yarn had always been intended for this project, whether or not I realized it. I cast on in mid July and set to work. The yoke was very interesting--the basket weave pattern was simple enough to memorize at a glance, but subtle enough that I never guessed the repeat.

Unfortunately, stockinette in the round is about as boring as watching paint dry. It's usually an activity I reserve for either reading or watching something with subtitles because frankly my brain needs to be entirely occupied with something else if I'm going to get any real knitting done.

I've been whittling away at it for a month and a half now and finally (FINALLY) I finished the knitting portion of the work. Unfortunately I cannot locate my 3 mm crochet hook (I found my 2.75 and a 3.5, as well as the case for the size 3 hook... story of my life), so it's not finished quite yet.

So the sweater is blocking, where it will languish for a while. I only really block my sweaters on the first wash--it's my "given that everything about this sweater is exactly as the designer has intended, do I actually like it?" test. If the answer is yes, I'll just lay it flat to dry from here on out. If the answer is no, well, back to the frog pond with ye!

Unfortunately, I started this project to use up my Cascade fresco. I have 3.5 hanks left.

Maybe I'll have to make some button-on sleeves or something awful like that.