Oct 032010

Berlin Sealife The third trip to Berlin in 2010 turned out quite different than expected.

Business-wise the visit was very much OK, but other than that strange things were in much greater numbers than is common:

  • Managed to mis-reserve the hotel room for the first night (with graceful assistance from the travel agents involved).
  • Had to resort to on-the-spot reservation in Radisson BLU.
  • Which has a magnificent million liter aquarium in its lobby.
  • Witnessed the quality of german cars from the inside in a car crash. The Mercedes-Benz cab got rammed from behind by a small Toyota. Effects on MB: none, effects on the Toyota: totalled front.
  • Endured a ninety minute traffic jam caused by the discovery of a WW2 bomb near the road.
  • Ate a very american burger in a cuban restaurant.
  • Saw a drinks menu rendered as the periodic system of elements (@Sanatorium 23).
  • Saw Bugatti Veyron (in the ground floor of a Nokia office on Unter den Linden).
  • Bought an iPad (16 gig model).
  • Didn’t buy the newest issue of Amazonas (the usually trustworthy shop in Tegel had run out of it).
  • No schnitzel, just one Whopper.

In the picture, the mighty tank in the Berlin Radisson BLU (part of the local Sealife, apparently).

Aug 222010

Tank with swordplantsMeh.

The bottom pane of the tank seems to be both cracked (slightly, but worrisomely) and slightly loose (even more worrisomely).

Noticed both issues only today, upon a cleaning effort. The tank’s been fallow since the move, and figured that a warm Sunday just the day to deal with cold water.

Seems that the Trigon will not be making a return as a fish enclosure any time soon.

The tank had its good and bad sides. On one hand it was just the right size to fit the spare livingroom corner in the previous HQ. On the other the sixty centimeter height was ten centimeters too much, and the rear corner was painful to reach and bothersome to clean. Then again, the height of the aquarium was not enough for the swordplants on their way up and up as shown on the right.

Aug 092010

VasaDropped by two museums on the way to Skansen.

Vasamuseum holds the sole remaining 17th century warship. Vasa infamously sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. The ship is a familiar sight, and I only wanted to pick up a book on the salvaging of the ship. The courteous tickets officer let us in for ten minutes. Enough to purchase the book from the giftshop and to snap a couple of quick photos of the ship.

Aquaria“Watermuseum” Aquaria is a new entry in Djurgården. It is a smallish aquarium, which does pack a few interesting displays. Some of them are pretty much commonplace – after all, in public aquaria coral reefs and South American rainforests are dime a dozen. A swedish river and a mangrove swamp, on the other hand are far more interesting. The latter packed a big school of foureyes – finally managed to photograph the anatomically odd fish. The show was rounded off with an outdoors tank with a swedish catfish. The occupant was initially hard to spot, due to the fish being more than a meter long and sitting quietly on the muddy bottom of the aquarium.

Foureye fish (Anableps sp.)

Alllsång på Skansen

The entry to Skansen proper was surprisingly packed, and the reason presented itself on a schedule. The day was a day for Allsång på Skansen – a huge singalong festival with more than 15000 participants around the Soliden stage. The songs sung ranged from utterly swedish to covers rendered in unexpected fashion (my personal highlight was the opera bass taking on Britney’s Oops I did it again). According to the wikipedia article, the artists on stage included Salem Al Fakir, Gunhild Carling, Drängarna, The Real Group, Thomas Di Leva and Oskar Linnros.

Ring-tailed lemurHad to split miday through the festivities to be able to visit Skansen’s Akvariet before it closed at eight. Akvariet, like the tunnelbana, was one of the things I vividly recall from 1981. As far as I can remember the akvariet hosted the very first coral tank I ever saw. The akvariet had changed in the intervening thirty years. The biggest apparent change is the addition of a walk-through cage of ring-tailed lemurs. The funky primates were taking it easy in the cage. Despite visitors the animals did not seem to be bothered at all, but kept a safe distance. In some cases the distance was just a couple of centimeters when the lemurs bounded through the multi-level cage.

The Skansen aquarium was smaller than I remembered. And the truly awe-inspiring dark hall had been repurposed. The coral reefs were pretty, the crocodiles uncomfortably large and toothy. The snakes were more numerous than the last time (including this spectacular horned adder). The zoo offered a possibility to stroke a boa or a tarantula. The latter got far less interest than the big snake. The special exhibit on large spiders got only a fraction of viewers of the rest of the displays. The bird eating saucer-sized arachnids seemed docile enough, but panic would have ensued if one of the tiny terrariums would have been dropped on the floor.

Horned adder

Cheese platter in GubbhyllanHad a late dinner at Gubbhyllan, a very traditional restaurant located next to the aquarium. Chose an appropriately traditional dish: fried herring. The three medium-sized fish, plentiful potatoes and a surprise addition of lingonberries were just the thing pick off nagging hunger. The dessert – consisting of a trio of swedish cheeses, malt bread and gooseberry jam was a taste explosion on top.

Jul 042010

Tokyo TowerContinuing the long-drawn-out travelogue from Japan lands us today in downtown Tokyo.

Following the adventuresa in and around the Tsukiji Fish Market it was time to check out the Tokyo Tower.

The tower is a quasi-replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The structure is the same, but material is allegedly much lighter weight. And coloration, obviously is different as well. The peppermint colors comply with air traffic regulations much better than the dirty grey of the original.

The sightseeing platform at 150 meters offered a nice view of the city. The afternoon haze prevented Mount Fuji from being visible, sadly. The higher platform would have cost extra and demanded an extra wait of 30 minutes. Skipping that was not a hard choice at all. Fortunately the elevators were the only elements requiring extra waiting. And ice cream in the cafeteria arrived swiftly and was just the thing to quell the warmth.

Unidentified catfish in the Tokyo Tower aquariumThe basement of the tower houses an adventure park for children (Nopponland, whose mascots got rampant applause when they put on a show i front of the entrance) and an aquarium.

The aquarium turned out to be massively disappointing. The tanks were small and plentifully overcrowded. Some of the aquaria housed catfish so large they had no real means of moving in their accommodations. The lack of any hiding places only served to increase their stress.

Feb 192009

Sealife Helsinki:  Reef tankIt’s been years and years since the Sealife Helsinki aquarium was opened. Last Embarrassingly enough, last Saturday was the first time I visited it.

The aquarium is housed in a large building next to Linnanmäki amusement park, and is certainly easy enough to reach.

The selection is pretty much confined to fish and occasional invertebrates – no penguins, no seals and especially no whales.

Sealife Helsinki:  Shark
Inmates range from the typical (large swarms of cardinal tetras) to seldom seen (cold water rays), via oddballs (trumpetfish). This year’s theme is sharks, and there are a plenty of them on show – though they are from the small end of the range.

Compared to the likes of New England Aquarium and the one in Barcelona the Sealife Helsinki is a small establishment with around forty tanks. Twoof which are large enough to walk around (or even through). A few are embedded in walls with bulbous extensions providing visibility into the usually odd inmates.

Sealife Helsinki:  Tiger shovelnose catfish

Sealife Helsinki:  Bottom-dwelling sharks

Sealife Helsinki:  Baby ray

Nov 232008

Thursday Challenge 20.11.2008:  Hobbies

This week’s Thursday Challenge of hobbies wasn’t too easy to answer.

I seem to have too many photos of hobby-related things. In the end figured that this marine aquarium shown in the exhibition put out by Helsingin Akvaarioseura for Akvariets Dag 2004 fits the bill nicely. It doesn’t concentrate only on the contents of the tank, but shows the whole nine yards.

Nov 172008

Pooh the CatfishPooh the catfish (of Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps species), the longest-lived pet in the Lavonius clan has owned, moved to new quarters today.

And that’s not an euphemism for a relocation to a convenient body of water. Even though the hardy catfish have spread quite a bit beyond the original range of Amazon on account of the aquatic trade, the finnish winter would probably overwhelm them (though I do recall an article about a tropical catfish found in a swedish lake, but cannot obviously find it now).

Nope, the fifteen+ year old loricariid that had slowly overgrown its 250 liter quarters was given a new home by the friendly folks at Leppävaario. Eaxctly the place where I bought the pleco in 1993. Then its length was close to two inches, when measured a couple of weeks ago it had grown to twelve (tail omitted).

Nov 152008

This week’s photo thursday challenge is to provide a triplet of images of a single object.

Photo Thursday #108:  Aquarium (newly set up tank) Photo Thursday #108:  Pencilfish Photo Thursday #108:  Swordplant growing out of the tank

My choice is my two hundred liter-slice of Amazon river. The three images of the aquarium are: a picture of the tank just as the water had properly cleared after the setup in 2005, a close-up on a pencilfish and finally an image that shows how well the swordplant grew after installing the new lighting system.

May 052008

Spent the morning of april’s last sunday in FISU 2008.

Saw two presentations, the first of which overlasted its welcome (and not only on account of technical difficulties) and the second one could easily have lasted way longer.

The first show of the day was the second presentation by Heiko Bleher, this time a travel report on Collecting fish in India. The trip concerned lowlands only, and the selection of fish improved a lot from the earliest slides (which showed a bunch of Tilapias in a garbage-strewn lake next to Mumbai).

The oddball-award goes to Horaichthys a non-livebearer equipped with non-traditional breeding habits. A far more colorful (and suprisingly variable) group of fish were the loaches, there seemed to be dozens of species captured on the trip. But both paled against the news that there seem to be permanent populations of freshwater stingrays in Asia as well (of Dasyatis genus), at least I was completely unaware of their existence. As of dwarf Channas, of which there have been lots of discoveries recently – the smaller fish have not turned out to be juveniles of larger species.

On the exploration front, the biggest news were the complete lack of leeches in India. Leeches are a constant plague in many Asian countries (Laos and New Guinea specifically mentioned), but fortunately nonexistent on the subcontinent.

Pertti Rassi presenting in FISU 2008The second presentation of the day was Pertti Rassi‘s 50 Years, 500 Species, 5000 Photographs, forty-five minutes of personal history in the wonderworld of catfish.

The slides packed with great photographs thoroughly covered three families, and touched upon half a dozen more.

I’ve never owned a catfish of the Mochokidae family. But based on the prettiest and most interesting shown here, that might very well change. Synodontis granulosa was the rarest of the species covered – it’s 300€ price tag reflects its habits (lives very deep in Lake Tanganyika). The european market is crowded with Czech-bred hybrids (which are unfortunately sold using genuine names).

Loricaridae and Callichthyidae (suckermouths and armored catfish, respectively) were described in long form as well. The most interesting bit was the coverage given to the “long-nosed” species of the latter family – as opposed to the snub-nosed fish, these seldom imported fish can actually be difficult to take care of. These days the batches are carefully scanned for rare species, back in the nineties there used to be lots more unexpected guests in the boxes.

The finale of the presentation discussed less well-known families – Auchenipterids has lots of interesting small species, but Bagrids and Pimelodids are better left to public aquaria. Mystus leucophasis was the strangest amongst the slides – an asian upside-down catfish that is waiting to be placed into a new genus.

Skipped the last two presentations of the day (both on cichlids) and went apartment-hunting instead.

May 052008

Last week was just plain horrible, when finding a decent slot to write was concerned Hence, this entry (and its soon-to-arrive brother) about the finnish aquarium conference are a week late.

Indeed, spent the last april saturday at FISU 2008 at the Haaga/Helia college in Pasila. The session was organized by the local fishkeepers’ club with a couple of other sponsors, and consisted of both domestic and international speakers.

A lush aquarium in PetExpoThe first presentation of the day was Heiko Bleher‘s on Discus and Angelfish and their Tankmates. Especially the bits on discus were interesting. Heiko Bleher recently published a massive book on the fish, and considering that the 800-pager is just the first volume, it’s not surprising that the knowledge just seemed to effortlessly flow off the lecter.

The first odd tidbit concerned the swarming behaviour the fish. They school in numbers up to a thousand, but retire to a lonesome existence amongst the fallen trees and acura-acu bushes after dark. Water conditions are almost always still, and never white.

The presentation cast severe doubts on any successful spawning of Altum Angelfish – the reports are usually about high-finned regular scalares, the real thing is extremely rarely imported (they occur only in Venezuela, never in the Brazilian Amazonia) and easily mis-identified. A fourth species in the Pterophyllum genus was discovered last year, it’s not scientifically described yet.

Of the tankmates the Mesonauta and Uaru species as well as geophagine cichlids were nominated as the best tankmates from the same family. An odd recommendation were the freshwater stingrays, who were called “far less dangerous” than usually stated. Corydoras tucano was the only namechecked catfish.

A long talk about two common mistakes rounded out the presentation. Discus tanks ought to be very lightly planted, and laid out for the fish and not the plants (contrast between Amano and Bleher-styled tanks). Discus are commonly fed with beefheart-based mix, but this is entirely unnatural, and especially considering the often vegetarian habits of the fish, should be avoided.

Another lush aquarium in PetExpoThe second presentation Nicaraguan Crater Lake Cichlids by Willem Heijns was a pure travel report. Very entertaining, often the travellers’ tales were more interesting than the fish discovered. The species described were on the common side, with the surprising discovery of Tomocichla tuba the biggest news of the trip. But the northwards-expanding wasn’t the greatest story of the day – that honor goes to the sudden arrival of a swimming sloth.

Spent the lunch break roaming the neighboring Helsinki Fair Centre where no less than three shows were organized concurrently. Skipped the one on children, and saw quite a bit of scale models and pets instead. The former was packed with good clues about there being but a thin line between a healthy hobby and a worrisome obsession. Radio-controlled models seem to be big still, plastic models, on the other hand, were far less popular than I recalled. The biggest chunks of the floorspace were consumed by model railroads – the one featuring equipment modded to look like finnish trains was a lot more interesting than the bigger Alpine railroad, which seemed to be just a collection of purchased components.

Walked through the pet expo without seeing a single feline. The cats were probably sequestered to a separate hall on account of birds, rodents and dogs all feeling threatened by their presence. The therapy-providing llamas and alpacas were the biggest creatures on display, but I found the smallest – poison arrow frogs the most interesting. Next to a aquatic design contest was a rabbits’ gaility contest, where the bunnies proved that the fence-crossing instinct has been bred out of some variants.

Missed all fish-related content of Kenneth McKaye‘s presentation, and was mystified by the almost preachy WWF-bits, including multiple references to Antti Tuisku.

The last show of the day was Markku Varjo‘s walkthrough of Tetras. It included both classics common for decades, as well as brand-spanking new data on yet undescribed species (a fourth neon tetra). The previous three presentations were accompanied by field photographs, here the bar was raised a lot higher by inclusion of lots of studio images. And like the previous sessions, this too was plagued by promotion, but it was far less thorough than in the first two.

The biggest news to me was piranhas’ diet (including lots of vegetable matter), the proof of hatchetfish not being able to really fly didn’t really surprise anyone. By far the best video clip of the day was of a drying stream with thousands of Brycon cefalus wildly leaping in the water (at least a dozen of the big tetras ended up on the boat).

Apr 192008

Quite out of the blue arrives a collection of quality aquarium-related presentations next weekend.

Fisu 2008 features mostly international speakers – including Heiko Bleher, who has travelled far and wide in his quest for yet more exotic fish. The two finnish speakers (Markku Varjo and Pertti Rassi) are in good company, and both have an interesting subject for their sessions.

I’ll attend, that’s for sure, and aim to take notes as well.

First thing, however, is to figure out whether this shindig needs a pre-registration – the site is not exactly crystal clear on the subject.

Sep 042007

Is a link valid until it is clicked?

Experiment with the following.
HD3 Complication Vulcania - A complex watch

  • My quest for a decent watch continues. Likely the eight listed under the heading of complex watches will not be the answer.
  • This film is not yet rated, but it’s available on google video. A supposedly great exposé on the history of the US rating scheme. Comments when I’ve finished watching it.
  • Sagrada Família may be finished by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Antoni Gaudi’s untimely death.
  • The pompously named Megapolis 2022 event in october seems to center on local issues more than what’s going on in the true megapolises.
  • Reef aquarium was the featured article in finnish wikipedia last week (and an impressively thorough treatment of the subject).
  • In october (in addition to the megapolis2022) is the fiftieth anniversary of the Sputnik, Mark Whittington’s article examines the possibilities what might happen in the next fifty. Considering the glacial pace manned spaceflight has been evolving the ideas may be way too much on the positive side.
  • Boingboing’s Cory Doctorow has a column in the Guardian – missed out on that. The newest installment deals with topical subject: the futility of DRM.
  • Bioware’s Mass Effect has an official release date. November 20th / 23rd. Sadly, the latter is the pan-european date.
  • Toscanini‘s black risotto ranks among the best meals of the last quarter.
Sep 032007

Missed the blog day on august 31st, but recommendations for interesting blogs are welcome any day…

  • Kalajuttu is the first finnish fishkeeping-blog I’ve run across. And a good reminder that I ought to pull mine out of hibernation.
  • Sentient Developments is a collection of interesting articles on science, singularity and other topics that skirt around transhumanism.
  • Kolikon Kääntöpuoli: there’s never enough said about games, comics and life in general – especially when accompanied with a decent amount of attitude.
  • Emily Short writes pretty much the only blog about interactive fiction.
  • Gamepolitics, because the two keep crossing each other frequently (and not only when herded by Jack Thompson).
Jul 092007

Indeed, the somewhat delayed Akvaariokalat is finally out. No link to the book, the publisher’s web page is stuck somewhere in 2006, and thus missing all pertinent information.

The book clocks in around 700 species, with a very good hit ratio, only a couple of conspicuous omissions exist (mudskippers for one). The content is very catfish-heavy, with cichlids (especially middle american species) treated quite lightly.

The layout is pleasant, photographs well-selected and the textual bits actually contain useful information – clearly worth the fifty euros asking price.

Heavily recommended, and if it weren’t for the Aquarien Atlas, this new book would be very close to the top of its class.

(Yeah, resurrecting the long-dormant fishblog ought to happen soon, with a much more precise review of the book amongst its first entries.)

Apr 152007

No major disasters occurred yesterday, but two events today pounced back images of bad luck.

When retrieving a piece of fallen clothing, almost broke the mirror cabinet in the bathroom by bumping if off the wall. With my head. Caught the offending piece of furniture mid-air, and escaped with just somewhat hurt pride.

The second incident was of a more serious nature. The external filter of my trusty slice of Amazon in the living room corner failed to hold its water following a regular cleaning operation. Managed to stem the mini-flood after a few moments, but not before a couple of gallons had to be soaked in from the wooden floor. Unfortunately the filter’s malfunction seems to be permanent, so the fish will have to do without it for the rest of the weekend.

May 142006

Sunday edition of the Washington PostSlept rather decently late, and had a leisurely brunch at the hotel. Not exactly on the cheap side, but having the ability to pick and choose items from a selection of dozens is always good. Plus it’s always a pleasure to be able to order a two-egg omelette with “the works”, where that consists of more than ten toppings. And despite the local newspaper not being of the size of Boston Globe or the New York Times, it’d be quite a juggling feat to read this somewhere without a proper table.

National Aquarium LogoWalked to the National Aquarium, and spent an hour inside. The place was quite disappointing and not up to the standard of, say, the New England Aquarium in Boston. The location (basement of a huge treasury building) is not exactly optimal, and the tanks themselves were lacking attraction. First of all, quite a few of them were dirty, and their contents just nothing special. Highlights were the aquaria filled with native specimens – especially the marine biotopes, and I’ve never seen so many gars (of multiple species) as were present here.

All in all the place was indeed disappointing, and just seemed to be awaiting a major renovation. Or just consciously having been deprecated by the second National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Walked down to the Mall, taking a roundabout near the White House. Which proves to be very hard to photograph, having an extensive security perimeter and a thick tree cover surrounding it. I’m not the only one perplexed by the lack of a decent photo opportunity, as bunches of other tourists mill about as well.

Two species of gars
An anchor in a harbour biotope

Feb 242006

Had a semi-spontaneous day off.

No grandiose plans. No attempts to do anything extraordinarily nifty. No great weather enticing for a lengthy walk on the ice.

Nope. Just a generally lazy friday, spent without too much planning in advance.

Bought a Tucano second skin neopren-case for gromit the iBook.

Noted that there’s a new player in town for Co2-fertilizing the aquarium. Hydor’s systems are neatly priced between the cheap fermentation-based and the scarily technological Sera-systems. Bought an extra set of fermenters and will look into replacing them soon, not right now. Especially when the company website’s lack of infromation indicates that the product family is brand new.

Had the best pizza in absolute ages. La Famiglia Cellar is clearly a place to return to. Thin crust, lavish layer of toppings, and not at all drowned in molten cheese. Time to go for seconds soon, the list had quite a bit of variety on offer. And unlike the upstairs establishment, there was absolutely no queues. Nice.

Jan 082006

The usual disclaimers apply. All safe for work.

  • Last year in lists. Tons and tons of lists.
  • Flipperitutka shows the extremely few pinball machines currently residing in Helsinki.
  • SeatGuru takes out the random element of seat selection in airplanes. I will consult this before the next transatlantic flight.
  • A beginner’s guide to setting up a reef aquarium is yet another fine product hosted by the folks at the premier finnish fishkeeping site.
  • Twenty-sided fuzzy dice. Carrying these would not exactly pimp anyone’s ride.