Category Archives: Life

Hot Debate about the Cold

Sea science is all about what lies beneath the ocean, particularly in the deeper depths. Sea life has always fascinated me and I have always wanted to share my passion with others. If you want to hear about anything from plankton to whales, stick around for a while. How salt water supports life is fascinating to say the least. What happens to different species when the environment changes is also of interest to me. Everything I do and think about seems to come back to this topic. It is a lifetime enterprise to learn even the basics.

As an example of my obsession, one night I was lolling in my friend’s hot tub and we got kind of relaxed. Soon a debate began about what happens to fish when water freezes. We know what happens to humans in warm water as we were experiencing it firsthand. We also have seen what happens to them when they freeze as we have found buried bodies on Mt. Everest. Fish are no different. They must have their narrow range of temperature to survive. When we catch fish right on our deep sea fishing boat, we gut it and freeze it on the spot to ensure maximum freshness. It is hard to eat everything you catch that night. Fish go bad quickly. So we know what happens to the critters when frozen. They look the same and thaw out quite nicely.

Is there anywhere in the oceans of the world where the water is so cold that it does this job itself? If a fish wandered into the arctic zone, would it freeze and die? Could it be revived? I ask myself these questions as I sip a glass of wine with my friend. He looks at me askance. “We are in a hot tub, let’s see what has to say” he explained. Of course I know that, I replied. We got into a tiff as we hotly debated about the cold. We were literally hot in the steaming water and also irate at one another. It was ridiculous. I had to know so I vowed to surf the net in search of answers.

Here’s the deal. Scientists in the field know that fish do not in fact freeze in the Arctic Ocean because they have a natural antifreeze in their systems that keeps blood flowing at the prevailing sub-zero temperature. Wow! This temperature is usually 28.6 F all the time (close to seawater freezing point) while fish blood needs 30.4 F. Do they go off course and ice up? No, my friends. They have this special frost protection protein in their blood. Through a chemical process, ice crystallization is prevented, otherwise it would be fatal. Fish do freeze as we know from our fishing expeditions in our ice chest, but if they did in the water, it would itself be frozen solid. There is more to the story but for lack of space, I will stop here.

A Day at the Shore

A day at the shore is no ordinary adventure. Sure everyone is propping up their umbrellas and laying colorful towels on the sand. Kids are filling pails with water to help make sand castles and mothers are getting out the sandwiches and lemonade. The water is populated with people of every age who need to cool off a bit from the hot, blazing sun. They ride the small waves right up to the edge of the sand. More adventurous types are swimming out to the buoys strategically placed every few hundred feet. It is a circus of activity: kids tossing beach balls, dogs running alongside their masters, paws barely skimming the ocean foam.

I like to check the tide pools myself and collect what I find, shells and the like. There is a world to explore that is hidden from the average eye more intent on riding waves and body surfing. You can wander off and find places all your own. I take a special beach bag with me to house my treasures. It has compartments to I can separate one find from another. It is lined and waterproof which is necessary given what I usually find. The bag always ends up full of sand and seaweed debris. There is always a cleanup job to be done when I get home. No matter. I love to sort out what I have collected so I can take a closer look.

I got the beach bag as a gift from someone who knows how I wander and explore at the shore. They got one that is sturdy and durable to withstand the sharp-edged shells that I frequently toss in. And there are a lot of shells. Not that they are the only item to garner along the sand, but that I like to make sculptures out of them. I make a rod out of a strong twig and I take small smooth stones that I have also found on the beach. I make tiny holes in them with a special jewelry making drill. The same goes for the shells. Then I layer the stones and shells in different sizes up the twig almost to the top. If I place more than one of these sculptures side by side it makes for a very nice item of decoration. So the beach bag houses the makings of home-made art work that is the culmination of my day at the beach.

If I don’t find what I want to make my twig stacks as I call them, then I simply try a new location or wait for another day. But I am usually lucky; there are plenty of places to look for bric-a-brac from the sea. You sometimes find a really odd shape that can become a sculpture in and for itself when mounted on a bit of driftwood. I find this hunting for art makings to be a great instigator of fun at the shore.

One if by Air, Two if By Sea

Teaching people sea science from a blog is a bit ambitious as it can get pretty complex. Undersea life is a rather vast enterprise laden with personal and passionate issues. You can get pretty far afield. Since I love the subject, to help readers grasp essentials, Let’s narrow the focus today to fish tank water filters as a microcosm of a larger subject and see how carbon filters work just like they do in normal air purifiers.

If you learn anything, it is that the fish tank is a natural habitat that must be controlled and regulated if the fish are to survive. If this is your hobby, you will want to be knowledgeable and that goes for activated carbon charcoal pebbles that like their air purifier counterparts remove odors, colors, organic pollutants and the like to keep the water crystal clear and healthy for the denizens. Anyone who has lost a fish or two knows how important this is. Keeping the water clean is a regular chore; the more you know about it, the greater the chances for immediate success.

In effect, you are neutralizing and destroying toxic compounds from your tank, making it phosphate free and safe for both fresh and saltwater occupants, since you might well have some of each. It is easy to do, works fast, and is long lasting; so make sure you have some handy next to your tank at all times. You buy the carbon in bulk in a store or on line. Don’t be deterred by the hefty price. Follow the instructions by rinsing the carbon media through until the water runs clear before use. Make sure you buy aquatics carbon just for ponds and aquaria like the brand Aqua-Carb. It is a high capacity carbon media specifically designed to remove organic waste material from ponds and aquarium water. It will reduce yellow and brown tint, improve odor, and reduce overall organic levels in the water. If you have an air purifier at home that works with a carbon filter, this will seem like familiar stuff. When you buy such an appliance you have a choice of method of operation.

As for carbon, activated carbon is the porous material that absorbs volatile chemicals on a molecular basis. The absorption process must reach equilibrium for the machine to completely remove all contaminants. In other words, activated carbon is a process of changing contaminants from a gaseous to a solid phase, when aggravated or disturbed contaminants can be regenerated in indoor air sources. It can be used at room temperature and is often used in conjunction with other filter technology such as HEPA. In tandem with the latter, you can remove particles of all sizes, minute to very large.

The Honeywell air purifier is on all experts’ short list of brands to buy. Along with Holmes, the two make up 50% of all portable and console units. Honeywell is a mass-market brand with a “value” proposition. The brand is available at mass merchants, including Walmart and Target, and widely online. Choosing Honneywell is a vote for quality and solid reputation. The company gibes air purifiers indeed a good name.

My New Reptile Tank

I love the ocean and all its creatures. That includes fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. I like to spend time exploring all the ocean’s inhabitants, either through books, the internet, or up close and personal. One animal that I haven’t known much about is turtles. I do think they are pretty amazing, though! I decided that this was something I correct, and set out to do just that.

I thought about it, finally coming to the conclusion to simply get a turtle as a pet. I thought it would be fun to have around. It would also be a great way to learn more about these cool creatures. I chose a Red Eared Slider after talking to the reptile expert at the pet store and checking out the species available. I also talked to the store employees about what to purchase to create a good reptile habitat, and I wanted to pass the information along if anyone else is interested.

The first thing to get is an appropriate sized tank. Don’t believe the myth that turtles will only grow in proportion to the tank he or she is in. Some species of turtle can actually grow quite big, and sometimes the male or female can grow differently, so do some research or ask questions before you make your choice. Unless you want to continue to buy new terrariums, you will want to take this into account.

Something else to think about is whether your turtle will mostly be a swimmer or if they like to get out and warm themselves, or what’s called basking. If yours is a basking turtle like mine, they’re going to need somewhere to hang out and do what they do. Again, if they are baskers, you are going to need a heat lamp. It keeps them healthy and is vital to their care.

I did some research before I went to the store and had decided to get both a full spectrum lamp and the best infrared heater that I could find. I bought a timer so that the infrared bulb can come on at night to keep the turtle warm but not create too much light. The full spectrum light replaces the infrared light during the day to simulate daylight for the turtle so that it feels more like a natural daylight/nighttime experience.

I got home and set it all up. I wanted it to sit for a day before I brought the turtle home. I take this very seriously and I really wanted to be sure that everything was working correctly. I was nervous that the timer might not work correctly and it could get too hot for the turtle, which would be incredibly dangerous. However, everything worked perfectly. The tank was warm but not too warm. The broad spectrum light did its job well, and the timer switched it over to the infrared bulb perfectly. The infrared bulb wasn’t bright but gave off enough heat to keep the tank at the proper temperature. I was very happily relieved after my test run.

I go back to pick up the turtle tomorrow. I can’t wait!

I Give Up!!!

We all appreciate convenience, all the more so when we are put out about something that monopolizes our time. Take my old humidifier, for example. I am particularly irked about finding replacement filters that don’t seem to exist anymore. Recently, I noticed that my unit was not operating at an optimal level and I figured it was the filter since the motor was still humming away nicely. I went to four stores to no avail. Then I went online. Surely I would find them there—you can get just about anything on the Internet these days. Nope, no luck.

I was aggravated to say the least. This search was taking way too much of my valuable time. I lost hours in one day. I give up, I cried. After a moment or two, however, I was not about to be defeated and set out to conquer the problem. I would get a new model, and one that did not require this elusive part.

What is a filterless humidifier anyway? Let’s look at Dyson’s hygienic humidification. That sounds enchanting. The appliance looks amazing. It is super modern and sleek featuring a cool oval shape. It is furthermore ultrasonic and cuts down on the breeding of nasty bacteria. (It seems that other models can evaporate water directly from a wet wick which can harbor bacteria.) What else is appealing? The filterless Dyson can kill it all off with ultraviolent cleanse technology. Sounds impressive, right. It means that every drop of water is exposed to a UVC light. The unit projects clean, hydrated air into your room quietly, safely, and effectively.

For your hard-earned money, with this wonderful machine you get humidity and temperature control. It adjusts automatically for the ideal climate, just the way you want it. Electronics are so amazing. You don’t have to oversaturate your environment at all. You decide.

Who wouldn’t want this humidifier in their home? There are other choices, of course, but this one stands out. Whatever you decide, you want advanced technology that eliminates the filter and its lack of cleanliness. The innovation gods have answered man’s need. Filterless systems can keep the air moist and eliminate dust and minerals in the air in a new way by means of an electrostatic charge. Thus, you get much cleaner mist. Wow! Because the humidifier can clean itself, in effect, it will run longer and become more economical. Even if it costs more, it is well worth the investment long term.

Honeywell is another top brand name to look for. No more searching for replacement filters! The cool mist humidifier ideal for Florida has many high points. You can run these babies for up to 30 hours continuously. They are quiet and don’t disturb one’s sleep. Plus, the antimicrobial treated water reservoir ensures a healthy mist injected into the air. If you want adjustable moisture control, you got it.

I think you get the picture, and I am glad that I “gave up” on my replacement filter. I forked over a modest sum to get a new unit.

Diamond in the Rough

My great-aunt died recently and she left me my great-grandfather’s desk. It’s a beautiful piece but it had definitely seen better days. My love of marine science has really taught me to respect even the smallest thing, and it bothered me to see such a nice piece of furniture showing its age so poorly. There were scratches and scuffs, and the wood had changed color slightly in some places where I imagine the sun used to hit it. Plus, as my aunt got older, she was less able to take care of things around her house and it had about ten years’ worth of dust covering it. I took some pictures and went to an antique shop to talk to them about it. The price they quoted me was a little more than I could pay to have it restored. However, the employee on duty was really nice and basically walked me through the whole restoration process, which was incredibly helpful.

I listened intently to all the instructions that he gave me. Once I got to my car, I wrote as much of it as I could remember down on a receipt I had in my car. I knew one day not cleaning out my car was going to pay off! Then I headed to a home improvement store to pick up everything I thought I’d need for the paint stripping process: sandpaper and paint remover. I used the paint remover and a brush to get the paint off the legs and drawers, but the top and edges needed a little sandpapering to buff out the scratches and dents of many years of use. It felt like a long time, but it felt like studying sea life. I know, I know. What I mean is that when I am looking at, say, an aquarium every day, I start to learn details about each creature’s habits and history. By spending so much time focusing on this desk, I’ve learned an incredible amount about it—little imperfections in its surface, the curves of the wood, the look and feel of the grain.

Once I had the old paint off, it was time to stain the desk. I decided to use my airless paint sprayer because I wanted a nice smooth finish with no brush strokes marring the surface of the stain. I’ve probably got the best airless paint sprayer around—I can just stick a hose into the gallon of stain and turn it on and I’m in business. It has a fantastic pump that forces the paint out at the perfect speed to get a project like this done quickly. It didn’t take long to get the first coat on and before I knew it, I was getting that second coat finished. Oh, it looked so great when I was done!

I put it in my study, replacing my old assembly-required-and-not-quite-wood desk. I very excitedly moved my trilobite fossil on the corner along with my coral reef desk lamp (don’t worry, its faux coral). The soft and warm tones of the stain practically glow under the desk light. It looks amazing and I think my great-grandfather would be proud.

Keeping Guns and the Ocean Clean

I own a handgun and have been cleaning it with an old kit I was given by a friend. This has been expedient as I am pretty busy and cannot just run out to buy a new one. I am not entirely thrilled with the idea of a toxic solution however. I see from the label that the ingredients are not safe from an environmental point of view. When it runs down the drain during the cleaning process, I have horrific visions of it seeping into the ocean. God knows the ocean has enough pollutants already and in point of fact, I have been personally fighting for this cause. A clean up is always in order, but why not prevent the damage in the first place.

I need a biodegradable, hazardless solution and am looking actively for such an animal on line. Of course it also has to be an effective cleaner. Household products have been revolutionized by promoters of more green practices, so why not gun cleaning products?Here’s what I have found. I came across on the Brownell’s website a jar of J-B non-embedding bore cleaning compound. The description says it cuts through the toughest bullet jacket and powder fouling. It is actually a paste more than a solution and thus has some abrasive action that won’t “eat” stock finishes. Now this item has been around since the 1960’s and is unlikely to be very green in spite of the testimonials given about its effectiveness. So let’s move on.

Next I see Break-Free CLP all-purpose cleaner in an aerosol can. It is also a lubricant and preservative. Yikes. This one contains specialized chemicals that displace corrosion, dirt, and firing residue. It may be a superior cleaner, but it will do no good to the ocean and its denizens. Is there no hope? I then come across at Cabela’s website Hoppe’s Elite cleaning kit that “removes all fouling down to the molecular level.” It promises superior lubrication for maximum performance. But at what price? It says it is safe to use on any firearm, but is it safe for the sea? I think I am going to prefer the Remington Pop-up Wipes that are pre-moistened and disposable. Maybe these will go to a landfill instead of into the ocean. The solution inherent in the wipes cleans dirt and grime from exposed metal surfaces on guns and protects against rust, corrosion, and fingerprints. Pretty handy!

I am at my wits end, however, and am about to go crazy when I find Slip’s 725 gun cleaner. Now we are talking. This is a super strength degreaser, but the real news is that it is biodegradable and considered a non-solvent. It is a water-based product that I think I am going to like. It has surfactants and emulsifiers in it, but no harsh chemicals. When you rinse your weapon, nothing horrid goes down the drain.

It is hard to believe that a gun cleaning product can do its job well and still be environmentally friendly. You have to give and take here a little. The point is that you can get closer to the mark of protecting the planet of you are careful about what you buy.