Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ramshorn Snails in the Aquarium: Good or Bad?

Ramshorn Snails as Pets and Pests - Guide on care, controlling population, pictures & forum
Snails in an aquarium are not to everyone’s taste, a lot of fish keepers regard them as a nuisance that gets out of control, other keepers believe that there are good points out weigh the bad points so therefore they should be included in the tank. I have an open mind on this as I have kept them and still do but I can see both sides to the argument.

Ramshorn snails can include a variety of species of snails that all get classed as one breed in the aquarium trade, the differences between the snails is negligible so many keepers are quite happy with this general classification. Their shells are planispiral, this means that they are similar to a coiled piece of rope or a rams horn, hence the name that they are given.

They all belong to the Family Planorbidae which is the largest family of aquatic pulmonate gastropods; they can be found on most continents throughout the world. They are lung breathers, having no gills they have a large pulmonary sac for the gaseous exchange, this is found on the outer whirl of the shell, and if you shine a light through the shell it should be possible to see the air filled space. The air is collected and trapped by large folds of skin. Another distinguishing feature is that they only have one pair of tentacles which host an eye at the base of each. It is reported that the Planorbidae species can be hosts to pathogenic nematode worms but whether this is correct I cannot say.

Normally these are found with two different skin colorations, either black or red. The red coloration is the color of their blood, unlike other snails that have a green coloration (this is caused by the presence of hemocyanin), these snails blood actually contains hemoglobin. The lack of melanin in the skin reveals the redness. Their shells can be found in a wide range of different colors, opaque right through to a dark brown or black, and with a mixed collection of these I think that they are very pleasing to the eye.

Introduction to the aquarium is often by them being brought in with aquatic plants as clusters of eggs or even juvenile snails, but they are also sold to keepers who purposely wish to use their tank cleaning abilities and prize them for this.

As I have just stated they will rid the tank of algae, also cleaning surface algae of the plants, in general they will not actually eat healthy plants apart from the delicate species such as cabomba or anacharis.

They will travel about digesting rotting leaves or even any fish carcasses that have been missed so they are to me classed as part of a good clean up crew. [...]

In a previous post about Guppies, I had linked to some posts by a Guppy breeder who had mentioned Ramshorn snails as providing beneficial infusoria to the aquarium environment, which lead me to want to know more about them.

Read the rest of this article to find out more details. I've been allowing Ramshorn snails in my tanks, and so far, so good. Some of the plants have had problems with algae on the leaves, I'm hoping they will help manage that.

Would we be better off with a CEO president, instead of an ideological one?

If so, Mitt might well be the man for the job:

Mitt Romney is not a flip-flopper
[...] Is Romney truly a man "without a core"? The simple answer: No. Romney has a distinct core -- not that of a politician, but of a CEO.

What do I mean? We have become accustomed in these highly partisan times to politicians who adhere rigidly to their ideological positions. They don't change their views to attract supporters. Rather, they want voters to agree with the positions they advocate.

In contrast, a CEO is not shackled by ideology. A CEO's success is measured by the bottom line, not by how many principles he or she sticks to.

To the CEO, if a product is not selling, you don't stick with it until the product destroys your business. Instead, you tweak it. You rebrand it. You try a new slogan or new packaging. And if people are still not buying it, like New Coke, you drop it. You regroup, come up with a new product and then start selling again.

Romney is first and foremost a businessman. In fact, Romney has repeatedly made this very point to us with statements like: "I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I only spent four years as a governor. I didn't inhale. I'm a business guy."

I'm not defending Romney's acrobatic flips on issues. In fact, if Romney loses this election, he would make a great circus performer. I can see the ads: "The Amazing Romney -- he can change positions in midair." At times, I truly wonder if Mitt realizes we have Google and can look up his record on issues.

But Romney's "evolution" on certain key issues does not technically constitute a "flip-flop," which is defined by Dictionary.com as, "A sudden or unexpected reversal as of direction, belief, attitude or policy."

Romney's changing views are neither sudden nor unexpected. Rather, they are astutely calculated by Romney the businessman to appeal to the customers he's targeting at that very moment. This is a man clearly driven by the adage: "The customer is always right." [...]

If that is true, then with Romney, we could end up with a non-ideological president who will simply work to give us what the majority of Americans want.

The majority of Americans are registered as "independant", and are not rigidly ideological. They are the swing voters that decide elections. A CEO president might suit THEM fine.

But Romney would have to overcome massive media bias against him, and the mistrust by the more ideological conservatives in his own party, who fear he is just like this article describes him.

As for me, well. The president we have now, said he was going to halve the deficit in his first term. Instead, he's tripled it.

He promised more transparency. Instead we got "We have to pass the bill before you can see what's in it."

He said my health care would not change as a consequence. I got a letter from my insurer, explaining that the sharp increase in rates was due to Obama care. It did indeed change.

I could go on and on, but the fact is, I stopped being a Democrat years ago, because I stopped believing what they were saying; they say ANYTHING to get elected, then they do whatever they want when they get power. I don't believe that the Democrat leadership says what they mean, or mean what they say.

Would a CEO president like Mitt Romney be better? I can't say for sure. But I can say that I'd rather take my chances with the CEO, than four more years of what we've had.

The Actual Problem with Pit Bulls

I've seen numerous articles lately, extolling the virtues of Pit Bulls. Here is a prime example:

Pit Bulls: What's Hype, What's Not
Do pit bulls get a bad rap? Experts weigh in.
Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, and German shepherds topped lists of dogs some considered dangerous in the not-too-distant past.

These days, pit bulls often make headlines and it’s rarely good news. If it isn’t about an attack on a child or a shooting by police, it’s a tale of neglect or abuse. The heat of such reports has forged a frightening image of the pit bull as having a hair-trigger temper and a lock-jawed bite.

But pit bull advocates and some experts say the dogs get a bad rap. They say the dogs are not inherently aggressive, but in many cases suffer at the hands of irresponsible owners drawn to the dog's macho image who encourage aggression for fighting and protection.

Indeed, the ASPCA web site gives the breed an endorsement that could fit a golden retriever. It says, “A well-socialized and well-trained pit bull is one of the most delightful, intelligent, and gentle dogs imaginable.”

In general, pit bulls aren’t aggressive with people but are “less tolerant” of other dogs than many other breeds, says Pamela Reid, PhD, vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center in New York. They also have “great tenacity. They put their mind to something, and they do it. That’s what makes them great dogs for sports like weight pulling. They are very strong, athletic animals," Reid says.

Owning a pit bull should not be taken lightly. Some cities and towns have banned the breed. You also may face rising insurance rates or cancellation of your policy, difficulty renting, and the watchful eye of neighbors and passersby. [...]

The article goes on to give a detailed, realistic, balanced and fair assessment of the pros and cons of owning a pit bull. I don't disagree with it. I was a foster parent to a pit bull for a while, so I know what they are saying is true. They can be wonderful, wonderful dogs.

BUT. I've yet to see one of these articles mention an important fact.

People who have gotten out of prison and are on parole, are forbidden to own weapons like guns or knives. But they are allowed to have pets. So frequently, they get a pit bull, and train it to be aggressive and use it like a weapon, or at the very least, to intimidate people.

I make this observation as a landlord. It's not the dogs I object to, it's the owners. Yet as a landlord, I'm not supposed to discriminate, i.e., treat some tenants differently than others. I'm not allowed to say to one, "You are a responsible and kind person, so you may keep a pit bull." and then say to another, "You are an irresponsible and cruel person, so you may NOT keep a pit bull."

I have to treat them both the same, so as not to "discriminate". So the answer has to be to not allow either tenant to have them. Not because of the dogs, but because of some of the people. And the law (and my Insurance!).

Here is a pit bull story with a happy ending:

Daisy the dog recovering after Gresham rock quarry rescue, tired but happy owner says
Daisy's home.

On Wednesday morning, hours after the dramatic rescue of the 3-year-old pitbull mix from a deep Gresham rock quarry, she was still asleep in Tammie Johnson's Gresham home. Johnson let a giant yawn escape as she talked on the phone.

"I hardly slept," Johnson said. "I kept getting up during the night and just petting Daisy. It's so good to have her back."

On the Internet and national cable news, the world watched as Gresham firefighter Bob Chamberlin rappelled down onto a ledge in the Knife River Quarry at 1339 N.W. Eastwood Ave., and retrieved Daisy shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Johnson believes Daisy, missing for a week, became stuck on the ledge days ago. "She was so thirsty and hungry," the dog's owner said.

Daisy has a mischievous streak. For instance, the brown and white dog likes to walk a quarter of the way down Johnson's long driveway just to tease Johnson's other dog, a Rottweiler named Angel that gets excited at the sight.

"But she had never left the driveway," Johnson, 49, said.

Well, not until June 27 anyway. That was the night Johnson returned home from her job at Oregon Health & Science University's customer-service department to find Daisy missing.

Worried that the dog had been stolen, Johnson spent countless hours searching the eastern suburb, calling Daisy's name and hanging up fliers.

Gresham police, neighbors and the local animal shelter joined in, calling Johnson whenever they had a tip. At one point, Johnson said, the police took a pitbull mix from a homeless couple that they suspected was Daisy.

"It wasn't her," Johnson said.

Last Friday, Johnson was supposed to head to the ocean to spend time with family members. She told her husband to go without her. She wanted to be home if Daisy came walking up the driveway.

It was actually Johnson's daughter, Jennifer, who bought Daisy as a puppy. Johnson didn't know what to think of her daughter's new pet.

"We said, 'What are you doing? It's a pit bull,'" Johnson recalled. "We had watched the news. We weren't thrilled that it was a pitbull."

A few months later, Johnson's daughter, a mechanic with the Oregon National Guard, found out she was being sent to Iraq for a tour of duty in the waning war. She asked her mom if she would look after Daisy while she was gone.

"She was shipped off to Iraq," Johnson said, "and Daisy was shipped to my house."

The two bonded. When Johnson's daughter returned from the war, she saw that Daisy had settled in. Taking her away would be unfair. Jennifer Johnson told her mom to keep the dog.

After a week of unsuccessfully searching for Daisy, Johnson was "feeling devastated" on Tuesday. Then she received a phone call about 3:30 p.m. from a Multnomah County Animal Services worker saying Daisy had been located.

Johnson asked, Is she alive?

Yes, the caller reportedly told Johnson, "but she's in a bit of a pickle." [...]

The poor little snookie. But it's a good story, with a happy ending.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Google's New "Kindle Crusher", the Nexus 7

Google’s Nexus 7 Tablet Crushes Kindle

[...] Google (GOOG)’s new Nexus 7 is aimed directly at the Kindle Fire, the seven-inch color tablet that was the runaway hit of the last holiday season. The Nexus 7 obliterates every reason for buying the current Kindle, and sets a high bar for whatever Amazon comes up with to replace it.

The Nexus 7 is Google’s first foray into selling a tablet under its own brand. It’s currently available for pre-order from Google Play, the company’s online store, with customer deliveries expected to begin next week. It costs $199 for a model with eight gigabytes of storage, same as the Kindle, or $249 for 16 gigabytes.

The device is manufactured by Taiwan-based Asustek (2357), and Google chose its partner wisely. Asus makes some of the prettiest tablets and personal computers this side of Apple, and the Nexus 7 is as attractive and smooth as the Kindle Fire is chunky and clunky.

At 7.8 inches tall and 4.7 inches wide, the Nexus 7 is compact enough to slide into a jacket pocket. A rubbery, textured back makes it easy to grip. Like the Kindle Fire, it works only over a Wi-Fi connection; while the screens are the same size, the Nexus 7’s has a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, compared to the Kindle Fire’s 1024 x 600.

More and Better

The Google tablet also has a more powerful, quad-core processor from Nvidia (NVDA), twice the internal memory and better battery. At four-tenths of an inch thick and 12 ounces, it’s also thinner and 18 percent lighter.

Go down the list of standard tablet features, and the Nexus 7 wins every one. Camera? None for the Kindle; the Nexus has a front-facing camera and microphone for video calls.

Bluetooth? The Kindle doesn’t have it; the Nexus 7 does.

GPS? Yes on the Nexus, along with a newly-enhanced Google app that lets you save maps for use even when you’re offline. The Kindle has nothing like it. [...]

Read the whole thing for more details.

I had considered getting a Kindle, but many of the reader reviews I've read on Amazon.com have said that the latest Kindle model has been plagued by "Freezes", making it unreliable. I was really put off by the customer complaints.

The Nexus 7 sounds interesting, but I think I'll wait for more reviews. Thank goodness for competition.